Thursday, April 21, 2016

It's only human

A pissoir with three stalls, Paris, ca.1865
I was talking to a couple of women the other day, who I will not identify because we were talking about peeing. The topic was where and if you can “go.” (For the purposes of this essay, we’ll just use the word “go” to differentiate from simply peeing. I’m polite that way.)

Anyway, I said that I can go anywhere--public, private--if there’s a seat with a hole in it I probably won’t have a problem . . . suspicious smells and flimsy locks notwithstanding. But even the lack of a lock won’t stop me if I really have to go. Holding the door closed or securing it with my purse strap usually does the trick. The other two ladies did not share my comfort level with this process. One of them said she could pee in most bathrooms but that’s it. The other one said she just saves it all up for home. I pictured myself knocking down pets and small children on my way to the bathroom if I tried waiting all day.

Maybe when I was younger and had to work in offices where there was a constant stream (pun intended) of bathroom users going in and out of the facilities, I might have been more private about my functions. As I’ve gotten older, the concern that others might know I’m peeing has waned to the point of being almost non-existent. I go in, attend to business, wash my hands and leave. I don’t pay much attention to my surroundings or to who else is in there because their business is not my business. Only recently have I become aware of others in the public bathrooms and that is because some people apparently can’t put down their cell phones even when they are peeing. The first time it happened, hearing another woman talking in one of the stalls, made me a little curious because I couldn’t imagine how two people could fit into that little stall and what were they doing in there anyway? Until I realized the woman was on the phone. That’s gross on so many levels, not to mention having to be the person on the other end, listening to what you can clearly hear. Nobody call me while they’re peeing, please.

But, here’s why I’m talking about this most basic of human functions: It’s a basic function. It’s not a political function or a social function. It’s a basic human function. If you’re a human, you have to go to the bathroom. Just ask Abraham Maslow. Maslow identified a hierarchy of human needs that have to be addressed in order for a person to thrive and grow. On the very first level, before anything else can take place, are the basic needs: Breathing, water, food, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion. Basic. That means everyone has to do it and nobody should be able to tell anyone else how to do it. That’s why we have bathrooms in our homes and out in public and everyone knows what to do when they get there.

The so-called bathroom bills that have stirred the latest pot of fear and controversy are discriminatory and dangerous and not in the way you think. Chances are pretty good that if you are worried about your son or daughter, you’ve been listening to some fear-mongers. Most of the people I know go to the bathroom like I do; with little in mind but to pee, wash their hands and leave. This includes the people I know who are transgender. To deny any person this basic human right is, in my opinion, outside of legislation.

Will there be the occasional ass/headline chaser who tries to create fear and panic by spreading stories about the dangers of “letting” people use the bathroom? Of course. That’s because asses live among us in every corner of American life. People act out of anxiety and ignorance because they don’t bother to find out about the other humans with whom we live alongside. It’s scary out there sometimes. I know this. But bathrooms aren’t what we should be scared of.  There are plenty of things we can turn our attention to before we start worrying who is using the bathroom. (And who are the guys writing these bills, anyway? I think I’m more worried about them.) Besides, if you’re that concerned about bathrooms, you can always hold it until you get home.

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