Battle of the Sexes, Part 1,267: Bathroom Anxiety

I would hereby like to add another footnote to the ongoing annals of the differences between men and women (and this one truly astounds and befuddles me). Why is it that men are so incredibly comfortable letting everyone in the office know that they are heading into the bathroom to take a crap? This issue seems particularly salient to me right this minute because my office is on the path to the men’s room on the 29th floor. Which means that every single day, I am treated to the charming spectacle of an endless parade of men armed with what should be embarrassingly copious amounts of reading material marching proudly into the shitter.

Women, on the other hand, exhibit appropriate levels of modesty and discretion when it comes to such things. So much so, in fact, that I’ve coined a term to describe a frequently-encountered phenomenon in the women’s restroom at my office—Silent Poopers.

Allow me to describe. At least once or twice a week, I walk into the women’s restroom on my floor and observe the following:

(i) eerie, almost forced silence; (ii) the smell of pooping in progress; and (iii) a pair of immobile feet on the floor of the spacious handicapped stall in the far corner of the office. Using my well-honed powers of deductive reasoning, I immediately conclude that the pair of feet in the handicapped stall belong to a woman who is in the middle of voiding her bowels. And yet, during the time it takes me to empty my bladder and wash and dry my hands, the Silent Pooper remains completely still and soundless. No flushing, no rustling of toilet paper, no throat clearing. Instead, the Silent Pooper sits catatonically, like a deer in headlights, waiting until she is alone again to finish up her yucky business. Oh, and there isn’t just one Silent Pooper. Using sophisticated shoe identification techniques, I have concluded with certainty that there are many.

As strange as it may sound, I truly appreciate the extremely polite—albeit somewhat bizarre—efforts of the Silent Poopers. In fact, if I’m being honest—and there’s no reason not to be, given the delightful freedom bestowed upon me by the veil of anonymity—I might as well just admit that I was unable to ever utilize the women’s restroom on my floor at the office for bathroom visits involving more than one flush during my first year as an associate. I don’t really know what latent childhood trauma contributed to my neurosis (I suppose I should discuss that with my therapist). But during that year, I wasted hundreds of dollars and many otherwise billable hours taking taxis to and from my apartment if and when I was hit with a need to go “number two” and couldn’t wait until the end of the day.

I know that is completely weird, shameful even, but I couldn’t overcome the fear of being discovered in flagrante delicto by a co-worker on my floor. The good news, however, is that I was ultimately able to drop the costly taxi habit after my first year. Thanks to my discovery of the desolate restroom on the 28th floor (my firm only occupies half of that floor, and the only firm employees down there work in HR and Accounts Receivable and thus are complete strangers to me), where I’m actually able to relax and use the toilet like a (semi) normal person. Clearly, I haven’t completely conquered my fear, but I’ve at least been able to tone down the crazy a bit.

Who knows—maybe after a few years of therapy, I might actually be able to use the restroom on my own floor at the firm. But no matter what, I will never, ever understand the in-your-face comfort level that men are capable of in this arena. I guess I just need to accept that WSJ-toting poopers are from Mars, and silent poopers are from Venus.

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  • Guano Dubango

    This is interesting. LF10 being very self conscious about “dropping a deuce” (a term I learned while writing my LLM thesis).

    It is funny LF10 has this phobia; in my country, there are no closed stalls to evacuate in. Instead, both men and women merely go into the velde or behind the nearest bush to let loose. I was in fact introduced to the differences between men and women by being observant as a young child of seven outside my Aunt Ooona’s villa.

    What is also interesting is that in my country, the name GUANO means “brave lionhearted leader.” It was only when I came to your country did I consider using my middle name, once I found out you refer to pigeon droppings as “GUANO”. Unfortunately, most non-Ghanians do not correctly know how to pronounce my middle name, so I am sticking with Guano. It provides for some good banter with the pretty women when they find out I am not mere pigeon droppings, but a brave lionhearted leader.

    If the LF10 is interested in meeting me, I am sure I can arrange for her to be amused from head to toe.

  • evil lawyer

    She should turn on the water before heading into a stall. Many women find water noise sufficient cover for voiding/pooping/taking a dump, sparing them the agonizing that someone might hear them and make light of it later.
    (if anyone asks, tell them someone else left the water on).

    But this is a woman thing: only women think that anyone cares all that much if they take a dump and make noise doing it. women always think life is all about them. men know that no one cares: many of them couldn’t care less and make even more noise then is necessary.

    It may be more pronounced in women with vestigal neuroticism from Catholic School. No one would want a nun insistent that the bathroom break be a quick one to be mad at you for making noise too.

    And no, Guano, after telling you she is worried about making too much noise while voiding, she is not going to want to meet you.

  • Rance Stoddard

    I’m with you 100%. Nothing worse than being in the middle of a shit and someone you know walks into the bathroom. Unfortunately, my floor of the building only has a few males on it, and we all share one urinal and one bathroom stall, so any man that walks in while I’m doing my business is someone I know.

    To avoid this, I have also made the emergency drive, ten minutes away, back to my apartment to take care of middle of the day business that absolutely cannot wait. But most afternoons consist of me uncomfortably clenching my cheeks until I can bail for the day and find sweet relief from the privacy of my own home.

    Actually, even when I’m taking care of business in my apartment, I get self-conscious about whether my neighbors can hear me through the walls. So, even when shit gets done at home, shit still gets done as quietly as shit can get done.

    As long I’m rambling, those rare mornings where I am fortunate enough to wake up next to a member of the opposite sex present a real challenge. About 30 minutes after I wake up every morning, my bladder suddenly wakes up and shit starts to hurt if it doesn’t get evacuated fast. But there’s no way I’m doing my business until after she’s left. It’s really a problem. Hell, I won’t even take a shit after a night of hard drinking until after my buddies have cleared out. But at least with my buddies I can push them out without feeling bad about it.

    This was a great post, this website needs to publish more commentary about this important issue.