Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Rules of Bathroom Etiquette

            I wonder, when Emily Post first penned her rules of etiquette, if she would ever have imagined a society that needed specific rules or guidelines for proper behaviour in the bathroom. Going to the bathroom should be a private and personal act but with so much of our day spent away from home the 'call to nature' must be answered using more public facilities.
            Public washrooms are usually designated male or female. Female washrooms tend to have multiple stalls with multiple sinks and usually a large mirrored area. That unknown territory that is the men's room has fewer stalls, fewer sinks, less mirror and a wall of urinals.
            The number one rule, for workplace bathroom etiquette, is 'No Business in the Bathroom'. No talking to anyone in the stall, no passing of files to be perused, no conducting of any business. The next few rules are basic whether you are at home or at work; flush, cover up your stink, wash your hands, tidy up and don't take your time as someone else might be waiting to use the facilities.
            Now all of that seems like common sense, or common courtesy, regardless of the setting. I like that rule of no business, while doing your business. Can't you just picture it?  A co-worker chasing you into the bathroom with a file, passing it under the stall door and asking you to initial the form, approve the changes or whatever.
            There should be the same such rules at home.  How many mothers are never allowed those few minutes of privacy behind the closed bathroom door? Mom, where's my red shoe? Mom, can I have a cookie? Hon, when is dinner going to be ready?
            What I find interesting, as it's outside my bathroom experience, is the complicated set of rules for Men’s Room Etiquette. Many men may be unaware of the intricate set of rules for their bathroom behavior, and many have suffered the consequences of not following these rules. 
            The first and second rules are part of the same behaviour. Men should maintain the space of one urinal, or one stall when relieving themselves. There's a Sims on You Tube giving all possible scenarios for proper urinal selection. If a man is the lone occupant in the washroom he should select a urinal on the far end. The next man to enter should select the urinal farthest from the first man. It gets complicated when the urinals all are put to use. In the eventuality that a man finds himself standing shoulder to shoulder with another man, holding his own and looking at the wall, there are very important rules to keep him out of trouble.
            First and foremost, do not talk, anything you might have to say can wait until you're at the sinks or better, outside the bathroom. Do not have any eye contact what so ever; basically do not acknowledge the other's presence. And most important, do not, under any circumstances, let your gaze wander, never look at another member's member. 
            This is not the time or place for male posturing, leave the male ego outside the door and never get into any kind of competition. None of that, my thing's bigger than your thing...kind of thing. Because male restrooms have become a site for lewd and illegal activity, any behaviour that does not conform to the rules could be open to interpretation, or misinterpretation.
            Women have suffered from penis envy, as relates to going to the bathroom, for…well...forever.  Any women who has been group hiking in the woods or out on a frozen lake in a one piece snowmobile suit has wished she could relieve herself without having to strip and squat.                                         
            This may be the origin of the unwritten rule that women must go the bathroom in pairs, you need a buddy to watch your back. In social settings women tend to go to the bathroom for reasons other than bodily functions. It provides an opportunity for sharing titillating tidbits of gossip, for refreshing makeup and for that all important girl bonding.
            Men don't migrate to the washroom in pairs for that would be a definite 'no-no' in the men's bathroom etiquette list of rules, as previously mentioned. In no way should men appear to be heading to the bathroom together.
            As society has changed, the rules of bathroom etiquette also had to change. With the increasing number of parents raising their children alone, and the increasing number of lewd acts taking place in public bathrooms there had to be a solution that could meet the needs of all. Well, not the needs of those creeps waiting to commit lewd and lascivious acts on the unsuspecting public, but the needs of the single parent. 
            I remember being in restaurants when my son was small and having to take him into the ladies room with me. This was not a big deal as we would be in a stall and have privacy. When he got older, and refused to go in the women's washroom, I sent him to the men's room alone, while I waited near the door and counted the minutes until he came out OK. My ex-husband had a more difficult time with our daughter as it really wasn't proper for him to take her into the men's room. 
            The introduction of the Family Washroom was a blessing for parents, single or not. Parents, who had to tend to the needs of a child, could do so safely and away from the general public. Having a child of the opposite sex to their own, a child who whined, “I have to go pee” is no longer the dreaded ordeal that it had been previously.
            All rules aside, I'm sure Emily Post would agree, when it comes to going to the bathroom, go in, do your business, get out, and don't forget to wash your hands.


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