The Unbearable Lightness of Peeing

I went to the bathroom by myself today. It was in a bookstore in Brooklyn. The store was crowded. There was a line. I had to pee. I had locked myself out of the apartment earlier and drank a coffee in the front window of a Bodega hoping one of my roommates would walk by. No such luck. In line I made sure to look at the floor. It was my first time in a public restroom in a week. I didn't want the other women to feel threatened by my presence. I realized recently that I almost always stand with all my weight on my right foot, which I broke a few years back. It has begun hurting me significantly at the end of the day. So I tried standing on my left foot. Which I am sure made me look unusual while I waited. After the bathroom, I read three short stories and last chapter of three nonfiction books from the 'thought-provoking' section of the bookstore. Apparently, the traditional literary categories have been erased and now books are either thought-provoking or something else entirely. In this case all the books spent many chapters going into great depth about what is wrong with the world and spent one chapter talking about how to change it, so that is what I focused on. The security guards followed me with their eyes. Apparently it is unusual to read books from more than one section. For example, people either pick things from the Malcolm Gibson Table or the David Sedaris Table, from the Holiday Table or the Chanukah Table, the Science Table or the Art Table, but not both, or in my case all. Outside the bookstore I asked three awkward teenagers for a light. Which made them act more awkward. The lighter said "Coors King of Beers" on it. They shifted their collective weight as I tried to use the Coors lighter with my left hand. I don't know why I tried to light it with my left hand. I mean, I am not left-handed. It took longer than usual, so they had to shift longer, reflecting on the circumstances that might have led a person of an older generation to walk through the red tape of American social decorum and address a member of a younger age group without the pretext and correlating social laws of a classroom.Then I rode the bus home. Careful when I got off not to walk the same way as the woman in front of me. Lest she think I was following her home.

Comments

cutny 12 years, 4 months ago

hmmm. I am wondering why you think your presence would just inherently make people so uncomfortable? Standing in line to pee isn't a typically threatening situation. Nor is asking for a light.

billy 12 years, 4 months ago

@ cutny - The bathroom tends to be a dangerous place for me. Check the profile pic.

TheEleventhStephanie 12 years, 4 months ago

Errrrr. I've seen you in person, Billy. I used to chat with you outside the boring old office sometimes. I still don't get why you think people are scared of you. I sure as heck was never threatened by you. (Well, until I heard that you thought I always looked grouchy. THAT made me feel awesome!) Other than that, I thought you were nice and funny too. I think you may have even asked me for a light once, and I didn't tremble with fear.I think you may scare yourself more that you scare other people. Don't be so hard on yourself.

DOTDOT 12 years, 4 months ago

I hereby declare it safe for you to pee wherever you want whenever you want.Your welcome.I take no credit, though, for the fallout that may occur due to the cultural stygma attached to dudes peeing in the woman's room. Said cultural stygma stemming not from the urinary needs of the gender liberated, but from the very heterosexual tendencies toward perversion and victimization. If I saw a dude (even one as cute as you) going into the bathroom while my daughter was in there, I have no doubt what I would do.I share your desire that the world be a different place.

TheEleventhStephanie 12 years, 4 months ago

heterosexual tendancies toward victimization....hmmm, I think Billy is the one playing the victim here, thinking someone is always out to get (insert gender appropriate pronoun here. I do not know what you prefer, and I honestly am not trying to offend anyone here.)I don't care what gender you are, what gender you look like, what gender you think you should have been, what gender you really are, or what gender you present to the world, acting like someone is out to get you ALL THE TIME, is not cool. I believe you that you have encountered many intolerant people in your life. I have no doubt that it sucks to be you sometimes. I'll grant you that. HOWEVER, acting as if the entire world is against you might be preventing you from making connections with people who actually like you and value you as a person no matter what gender you are.Awkward teenagers will be awkward teenagers, no matter who is asking for the light. You aren't even 30 yet, are you? They probably weren't nearly as bothered by it as you seem to have been.

DOTDOT 12 years, 4 months ago

Well, what I meant was MALE heterosexual tendencies toward perversion and victimization (meaning victimizing - not being victimized).Distrust toward males is well deserved. I tell my kids that if they get lost in a crowd, go find a MOMMY, preferably the busiest one they can find.Billy, I love you. If for no other reason than the name of this post. But GODDAMN it is frustrating to hear you take on a bias as if it is your own when it doesn't even belong to you. Isn't life hard enough?

TheEleventhStephanie 12 years, 4 months ago

Dots, though I misunderstood you, I stand by my post.I just don't think Billy is as weird as Billy thinks Billy is.

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 12 years, 4 months ago

I just think there need to be lots and lots more of those "family" bathrooms like you'll see at sports stadiums. Little private bathrooms with their own, contained toilet and sink. Beautiful inventions for all sorts of freaky folks, from those who feel that their appearance may make those of their natural gender uncomfortable, to those who don't want to pee with members of their gender who don't look like members of their gender, to those of us who simply don't want ANYONE hearing us pee, under any circumstances. Myself, if I were in line to use the pissoir with a person who looked more masculine than feminine, my thoughts would run more along the lines of, "Heh, that ignorant sucker thinks the shitters in the ladies room are going to be cleaner. This oughta show him." or "Is that a guy? Is that a chick? I'm certainly not going to say anything about it, how embarrassing would that be for them?" But then, I don't read enough of the wrong kinds of books or watch enough of the wrong kinds of television shows for my thoughts to immediately go to, "OMG, that lady doesn't look like a lady, IMMA GONNA GET RAPED!!!" or otherwise into scare mode.

billy 12 years, 4 months ago

Sorry to weigh in so late. I am not taking on the role of the victim. Notice I did use the bathroom and I did ask for a light and I did get off the bus at my stop even though it was dark out and a lone woman got off at the same stop from the seat in front of me. I wasn't afraid of the women in the bathroom, or the awkward teenagers, or the woman from the bus. I did not think I was going to be victimized by them. I am just aware that when I interact with folks there is a thing there, an unusual-ness, a fear, sometimes, much less frequently, but somewhat regularly, a distrust or even an outright hatred. Also, I believe my fear of the bathroom is well-warranted. Just last week, while peeing in the school I teach at, several students ran from the bathroom screeching when I entered. They went and got four male co-students who came in the bathroom and pounded on the door, demanding to know why I was in there. Of course there was no lock or latch on the door, so while holding the door with my hand and having diarrhea I explained to them in a calm voice that I was a teacher and that they should move along to where they are supposed to be. There were 12-14 kids waiting outside the bathroom when I finished. They had put together a show of force, just in case I was a pervert that had snuck into the school and they needed to jump me. I again calmly explained that I was a teacher and they all needed to go to where they belonged. I didn't feel threatened, physically, by them. But it did make me, well, sad.@ theeleventhstephanie - I don't remember saying you look grouchy. But you are a bit of a lovable curmudgeon (as am I).

billy 12 years, 4 months ago

I would also like to point out that A LOT of trans and gender queer people have been assaulted, raped or murdered in bathrooms. I haven't been physically attacked in a bathroom, but I do get verbally attacked, without exaggeration, almost every time I used a public restroom. I don't use women's bathrooms because I identify as female. I use them because I feel safer in them, less likely to be physically assaulted. This is not paranoia. I am by no means paranoid. It is reality. It really happens. Walk around with me for one day and you will experience it two or three times (I get bladder urgency). i think the important take-away for the average gender-conforming, straight ally is that if you have a trans friend, and they ask you to go to the bathroom with them, it would be very nice of you to go and be their buddy.

TheEleventhStephanie 12 years, 4 months ago

Glad you came back. Remember, all that most of us know of you is what you write here. So that's all we have to go on. It did seem victim-y to me, but your point is well-taken that you did go ahead and do what you needed to do despite what others might think. I would totally accompany you to the bathroom, Billy. Just remember that us average gender-conforming straight folks aren't ALL bad.

TheEleventhStephanie 12 years, 4 months ago

A curmudgeon's reputation for malevolence is undeserved. They're neither warped nor evil at heart. They don't hate mankind, just mankind's absurdities. They're just as sensitive and soft-hearted as the next guy, but they hide their vulnerability beneath a crust of misanthropy. They ease the pain by turning hurt into humor. . . . . . They attack maudlinism because it devalues genuine sentiment. . . . . . Nature, having failed to equip them with a servicable denial mechanism, has endowed them with astute perception and sly wit. Curmudgeons are mockers and debunkers whose bitterness is a symptom rather than a disease. They can't compromise their standards and can't manage the suspension of disbelief necessary for feigned cheerfulness. Their awareness is a curse. Perhaps curmudgeons have gotten a bad rap in the same way that the messenger is blamed for the message: They have the temerity to comment on the human condition without apology. They not only refuse to applaud mediocrity, they howl it down with morose glee. Their versions of the truth unsettle us, and we hold it against them, even though they soften it with humor.- JON WINOKUR http://www.concentric.net/~marlowe/curdef.shtml

DOTDOT 12 years, 4 months ago

Billy,You make my point. Most (not all, but most) violent behaviour comes from heterosexual men. So, yes, I see that you are fucked. Pee with them and suffer ridicule directly, or use the women's room and suffer the mistrust of being mistaken for one.I think i get it, and so I will gladly pee with you any time. ________Stephanie,I have never been so proud of being an asshole as I am right now.(might as well ask, shouldn't that be "suspension of belief?")..

Terry Bush 12 years, 4 months ago

As I kept telling my parents most of my growing up years, "Just because I am paranoid does not mean they are not all out to get me!" LOL. Yea, the buddy system works well in many situations. That and being over the top friendly to all - especially you crumudgeon types (I do love a lot of that sort of person!). I learned early that acting (or being) half crazy and half super-friendly is generally a good attitude to have; it helps avoid a lot of types (not all) of trouble. Great writing, as usual, Billy.

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