We need to talk about urination. No, seriously. Think about it. Everyone does it, but no one never taught you how to do it properly, besides your first few trips to the big-person-toilet when you were three. Mum and Dad taught you to pull your pants down, sit on the seat, wipe your ass and flush. Good to go, right?
But then you went to school, and all of a sudden you were expected to navigate these toilets that all the other kids used, and the other kids weren’t as highly skilled or as hygienic as you. Trips to the loo turned into an obstacle course of filthy lids, unmanageable toilet paper dispensers that would only let you use TWO SHEETS (HOW?!), highly questionable stenches, and pee EVERYWHERE. So you’d hike up your gingham dress, pull down your stupidly thick tights, and pray that you didn’t feel the tell tale wet-patch that meant that you’d just sat in someone else’s urine. What a nightmare.
From there, things only got worse. In came puberty, out flowed the blood and gore of your very first period—and everyone else’s. Now public toilets stalls had the added fear factor of maybe containing used pads and tampons not properly disposed of, or even blood on the seat. Do you wipe it away? Do you crouch over the bowl European-style? But oh shit, you just shaved, and now the stream is going to go everywhere so you HAVE to sit (yes, this is a thing for some) but… ew… let’s find another stall.
But now your peeing neighbour is on a phone call to some gal-pal about something that couldn’t wait till she was out of the toilet, such as dinner options or dream getaways. It’s not that you mind listening to a Hawaii-vs-Tuscany debate, it’s that you don’t want to serenade her with the symphony of your excreta, which will no doubt be twice as loud as usual because you have an audience and your bowels love to perform. Better suck it up, and let it out… but you accidentally fart really loudly, and there’s a pause in the conversation next door mid-sentence and you KNOW they smelt it. Shit.
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Then after all this, you go to wash your hands, and there’s the girl with blue hair who peed in your stall before you. But now she’s hogging the centre mirror, doing her make up. Do you make eye contact? Do you mention the dirty tampon sitting on top of the bin instead of in it? Do you ask her about her foundation and complement her flawless skin, or is that just creepy? And why did she have to go and pick the CENTRE mirror… now everyone has to awkwardly shuffle around her, pretending that they didn’t just take a massive dump half a minute ago… or, during a rowdy night out, that they didn’t just puke their guts with varying degrees of neatness into the porcelain receiver-of-all.
Honestly, sometimes, it’s better just to hold it until you get home.
But friends, colleagues, proud owners of vaginas everywhere, it is time for us to open the conversation and proudly accept that we’re not always neat, we’re not always tidy, and we can’t always hold it. It is time to talk about public toilets and agree on some rules that will help improve everyone’s experiences, not just our own. Let us rise up from the depths of our own waste and realise, nay, embrace the idea that public toilets are not our enemy, but a shining beacon of hope and relief.
- Urine is sterile
Yes, it smells. Yes it did come out of someone else’s urethra. But urine, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing to be afraid of—it’s entirely harmless. All urine is, in fact, is water mixed with waste from the bloodstream, including ions and trace metals, proteins, sometimes blood cells (depending on various things). So if you get it on you, as icky as it is, just wipe it off and you’re good to go. Promise.
- Menstrual blood less so
Period blood is as harmless as regular blood. So unless the person who left it behind has a bloodborne illness, you’re probably safe. The problem is that you have no way of knowing whether or not aforementioned person does or not and in any case, it’s a tad gross to be covered in someone else’s period. Use another toilet if there’s blood left behind, or spare the cleaners and wipe it (hero!)
- That being said, CLEAN UP
Everyone has accidents, honestly, don’t feel embarrassed! But if you leak, spill, overflow, miss, whatever, CLEAN IT UP. Yes, even off the floor. Use that toilet paper they denied us in the early 2000s with those stupid wooden dispensers and wipe it all away. Try to leave the toilet seat dry as a courtesy to the next person. Follow the easy instructions on the provided bin and DISPOSE OF YOUR BLOOD-SOAKED PRODUCTS. This isn’t your personal bathroom where you can not give a shit (or shit as much as you like). Be a tidy kiwi and a role model to women everywhere. You’ll be thankful when the person before you cleans up for you.
- Don’t give a shit about shits
Look, everyone shits, ok? There’s no point worrying about other people judging your number twos. So what if you think yours are the splashiest in the world? Or the biggest? Or the runniest? On second thought, if your waste is alarmingly different, go see a doctor, but the point is everyone poops. It’s a fact of life. So go loud and proud, and respect the person in the next stall who does the same.
- Just like a theatre
Think of the public bathroom as a sacred space, where people of all colours and creeds come together as one to relieve themselves. It’s a meeting point of plot-lines and dramas, an intersection of all sections of humanity, and a safe place to be your best while doing your worst. That being said, respect the performers. Find somewhere else to take your phone call. Unless you just found out a relative is dying, or your best friend is giving birth, all business can probably wait until you’ve finished your business. No one else wants to hear about your life while they’re pooping, they just want to poop.
- Share the space
Sometimes, you have to touch up your face. Or give yourself a little pep-talk in the mirror. Or even rehearse facial expressions for your upcoming audition where you have to act enthusiastic about laundry powder. Whatever it is, it’s all good—but not if you’re right in the middle of the bathroom, and in everyone’s way. It’s not that you shouldn’t be confident, it’s just that people don’t want to shuffle around you with pee on their hands, trying to find a free sink. Take the corner mirror. Do it for all womankind.
- Conversation time…?
If you bump into your best mate, feel free to have a yarn. But strangers? That’s tricky. The bathroom is sometimes the best and worst place to strike up a conversation because some people might really be feeling it, some might not. The rule of thumb here is the stages of the restroom. If someone looks open to a quick chit-chat while waiting in line for the loo, go for gold. But after they’ve come out of a stall? Probably not the best time. During the hand-washing-and-drying phase, talking is still a bit iffy. But on the way out, people will be more open and receptive to whatever it is you want to impart—assuming you wish to impart anything at all. Silence can be golden too. But if someone talks to you, be receptive! You never know what might happen. The bathroom is a mysterious place.
HOW TO PEE
The safest, most hygienic way to use a public toilet is not the European squat-and-go, surprisingly. It’s actually covering the seat with toilet tissue and sitting down. The idea behind this is that if you squat over the bowl, your urine will hit the toilet water hard and splash back up to your bare butt. The risk of this happening is reduced if you take a seat.
Furthermore, pee is harder to control if you’re crouching. For some women, the flow is impossible to control right after shaving themselves bare, or getting a Brazilian wax. Pubic hair can help direct the stream, whereas once removed, your urethra may decide to imitate a sprinkler. Whatever the case, wet wipes or baby wipes are your best friend here—keep them in your bag or purse, use them for a quick, refreshing clean up and feel like a Goddess in control of your life.
IN A ONE-PIECE SWIMSUIT
According to an ex-competitive swimmer and swimming instructor:
Pull the bottom to the side and hold it there firmly while you go. Once you’ve finished, use the other hand to wipe up, and only release your swimsuit back into place after you’re done. If you’re just about to jump in the pool and the pool is highly chlorinated, just go through the material. Who cares?
IN FANCY UNDERWEAR
According to a professional stripper:
If you’re wearing a teddy/leotard, take the whole thing off. Some teddies and leotards come with butt flaps you can undo, use these. If you’re wearing a garter, wear your underwear over the garter—easier to take off (to pee and to strip, actually). Whatever you do, do NOT just pull everything to the side, fancy underwear is too fancy to risk!
IN A ONESIE
According to a wannabe professional onesie model:
If the onesie has a butt flap, use it. If not, undo the buttons or zip all the way, take it off from your upper body, then tie the sleeves around your thighs. This should keep your onesie out of the way, but also stops you from having to take it off. Magic!
IN A BALLGOWN
According to an ex-debutant:
Pull all the fabric—make sure it’s ALL the fabric—up around your waist. Triple check that none of it is in the way before you go.
IN A WEDDING DRESS
According to the movie 27 Dresses:
Get a friend to hold the excess material out of the way. Seriously, this is one item of clothing you do NOT want pee on. Unless it’s after the fact and you’re a kinky vixen. No judgement.
IN A SARI (OR ANY LONG DRESS WITH AN UNDERSKIRT)
According to a girl who has attended many Indian functions:
Pick up the bottom of your petticoat, then use it to hold up the sari material—like the petticoat is a doughnut and the sari is the jam filling. Ta-da!
IN A WETSUIT
According to some dudes who surf:
Get yourself into the ocean, and then just go. Yes. Just go.
Good luck, friends. Go forth and pee with your new-found knowledge. Your vagina is now in safe hands.