Effective Toilets

One thing I love about the Europe in which I lived is the practicality of concepts and mentalities.  The main example of this which comes to mind right now is that of toilets.  Public toilets, specifically, I mean.

At my campus in Toulouse, France, was my first experience of the idea of one set of sinks for toilets of both genders.  There were the individual stalls, as in any US bathroom, though with doors and walls that closed off each stall more effectively from outsiders’ views.  However, each stall was labelled as for male or female users. Then, over to the side, was the countertop sink area.  Just one sink area for everyone to use.  It was practical, efficient, and sufficient.  It was odd, at first, walking into the same bathroom as the guys, and even talking with them while in line in the bathroom and at the sinks.  But I never felt uncomfortable, because I still got my own, private little space to do my private business.  The privacy part was kept even more private than the stalls in the US, where we have nonsense structures that require us to avert our eyes whenever we enter the bathroom, because we get that one-inch-wide view all along the length of either side of every stall door, and, whether we like it or not, leaves us knowledgeable of the color of everyone’s underwear.  (No joke here.  We totally have trained ourselves to look away as fast as possible, and also not to remember what we see, but it doesn’t change the fact that we totally see it and on a regular basis.)  (Also, the urinals were still kept for the men, the  private trash bins by the toilet were kept for the women’s stalls, and girls didn’t have to worry about guys urinating on the seats or floors around where we’re dropping our pants.)

When I was in Germany most recently, I was using the toilet in the airport just before my flight.  When I walked out of the stall to go to the sink (in the women’s bathroom), a male cleaner walked into the bathroom with an indifference nonchalance.  He walked to the trash bin and emptied it to his cart outside the bathroom, and refreshed the bag.  Then he swept the floor a bit and wiped down the sinks, checking the soap and paper towels.  Not one person flinched during this process.  No one was embarrassed.  But there were other women in the bathroom, coming and going as though all was well and normal.  And, for some reason, I was delighted and warmed at that fact.  I think I even giggled when I left the bathroom, because I was imagining how people back in the US might have responded (and, potentially, panicked like no other).  Again, just like in France, he wasn’t in the actual privacy portion of the bathroom, so it didn’t really matter so much that he was there.  He was only passing through – it wasn’t like he was hanging out in there all day or anything.  He cleaned up and got out, just as he probably did in the men’s restroom.  So what that he was a man?

In the US, our restrooms are shut down from use whenever someone of the opposite gender cleans them.  And that really sucks at times.  Really.  Because, sometimes, you’ve just got to go.

However, one restaurant in Houston gives me hope for our city (if not quite our country yet).  It has regular-looking entrances for the men’s and women’s restrooms, on opposite ends of this one wall.  Upon entering either of those doors, one will discover a beautiful wall of sinks between those two entrance doors.  That is, both doors lead to the same room of sinks.  From that room, continuing in the initial direction, there is a second door, which will lead into the separate-gendered toilet rooms (men’s and women’s).  And, in those, the individual stalls are like their own little rooms, with real privacy to handle one’s business.  (None of that eye-averting necessary.)  It’s wonderful.  I ate at this restaurant with my dad once, and he and I specifically left the restroom from the opposite doors – he went through the women’s and I through the men’s – so that we might surprise the person with us at dinner.  She didn’t notice, of course, but we had fun being rebellious in a way that didn’t actually matter.  😛

Anyway, I really like that kind of bathroom, and I really like the general mentality of efficiency I have found wherever I have lived (and visited) in Europe.

Post-a-day 2018

 

Advertisements

Tying up dirty boys with grammar

Changing laundry from the washing machine to the dryer (It’s a machine, I know!!!!!!!*), I saw a towel on the floor between the two machines.  It was originally intended for the load of red shades earlier today, but the load was too large for comfort, so I pulled out the towel.  I left it on the floor, because a towel load needed to be done today or tomorrow anyway, so why bother bringing it back upstairs just to bring it back down only hours later?  But that isn’t the point.

The point is (sort of) that I saw the towel sitting there, and I had an almost-urge to pick it up and put it in the dryer with the laundry I was transferring.  Not that I wanted to put it in with the clean laundry, but that, usually, whenever something is on the floor there, it is because it has fallen in the transfer between the two machines.  So, I simultaneously wanted not to touch the towel, to put it in the dryer, and to move it to the dirty towels upstairs (since I wasn’t doing the final two loads tonight, but doing them tomorrow).  And, for a good moment, I was worried that I would pursue the final of the three, and accidentally fulfill the second in my tiredness and in the middle of routine muscle movements, and then wish for the first.

I managed to let go of having to deal with the towel now, and I left it on the floor, for fear of the second result.

As I thought about that possible second result, I was practically distraught at how it would ruin the fact that I had already put the load of clothes on to wash.  By putting one single towel in the dryer, I thought, an entire load of laundry would be considered dirty.  Now, why doesn’t that work the other way around?  Why does one piece of clean laundry not make a load of dirty laundry clean, when mixed together?  The dirty still win out.  And how come a whole load of clean laundry can’t overpower the one dirty article?  The clean just can’t overcome.

And then – now, this is the point of this all – I wondered about what is life is like this, if anything.  Almost immediately, I thought about gender pronouns (and particularly in Spanish and French, because I learned those first).  It’s just like guys and girls.  A group full of guys, the dirty clothes, is (let’s use French) ils.  Add one girl, the clean clothing, and it stays ils.  A group full of girls is elles.  Add one boy, and it becomes ils.

So, no matter what, if there are any boys, it is ils, dirty.  The only way to keep it elles is to have only girls – no boys allowed.

And how odd that the boys are the dirty laundry and the girls are the clean… so like life, and I hadn’t even intended it to be so.**

Anyway, isn’t all of that fun?!  Towels to grammar to life comparisons – I do lead an extraordinarily interesting life, huh?  😛

 

 

*Japan doesn’t exactly do dryers.  People are expected to hang clothes outside, because every has a stay-at-home wife, you see… not.  Everyone used to have a stay-at-home wife, but the lifestyle hasn’t changed.  It just takes days and days to do laundry as a solo-liver, because weather can decide to soak your clean clothes while you’re off at work, or hide the sun from them, or be too humid for them to dry at all until they start to smell of mildew…  I just hung mine all indoors, because I’d heard too many stories from my brother’s issues.  Plus, supposedly people steal women’s underwear from the drying clothes in Japan.  I didn’t need to deal with any of that nonsense.  So, I set my air conditioner to a daytime setting to keep the apartment mildew-free, which also helped dry my clothes!

** I once wrote a poem about how boys are dirty.  I didn’t exactly believe any of it, but I knew that people thought boys were dirty and smelly, and I rolled with the idea.

Post-a-day 2017

clothing’s expression

Did you ever hear that 2006 song by Adam and Andrew, “Emo Kid”?  (We always called it “The Emo Song”, but it looks like it is actually called “Emo Kid”.)  A few friends and I loved it back in high school, because so much of it resonated with us, and for various reasons.  Yes, it was meant to be a parody, but so much of it rang true in our lives.  Anyway, I recently found myself singing one of the lines from it over and over again (though I hadn’t listened to the song in years):

[…]I feel real deep when I’m dressing in drag.
I call it freedom of expression,
most just call me a fag[…]

Somehow, the line stuck with me.  For days, it looped around in my head, the boy singing that line, taking up shop as one of the regular horses in the carousel of my mind.  Eventually the following resulted:

one (ひとつには)

At one point, I recalled a recent discussion of why girls needn’t be called “Tomboys”, but simply “girls”, because it is just part of who they are.  If they like sports or wearing baseball caps and loose t-shirts and shorts, then they like it – it has nothing to do with whether they are truly girls or not.

At first, I didn’t like the feeling of that discussion, because I, myself, was a Tomboy in my early school days, and I was proud of it.  Even now, I still throw on loose sweatpants, a baggy t-shirt and jacket, and a crooked cap from time to time… and that’s completely normal.  But then I understood a new side of what the discussion was aiming for. It is entirely socially acceptable for me to do that, to act and dress as a boy.  But not the other way around, because girls can be like boys, but boys can’t be like girls.

As women, we have three general genres of clothing: Regular, Girly, and Tomboy/Comfy.  Depending on the girl, the frequency of each can be drastically different, and sometimes is affected by the matter of being at home with friends and family versus being out in public.  On average, though, we all wear all three. (Do recall, this is purely my experience in life, so might not be accurate in other people’s lives.)  I know that I tend to go much more the Tomboy/Comfy route whenever it gets cold out, and super Girly when it’s hotter weather.

My entire life, I have experienced that it is fine for girls to wear men’s clothing. We do it all the time.  ‘The boyfriend t-shirt’ has even become a marketing strategy, making specifically for women t-shirts that mimic the style of a man’s t-shirt.  (I think it has even gone into ‘Boyfriend Sweaters’ and a couple others now…)  Any day of the week, it is acceptable, and often even appreciated, for women to go out in their low-down, comfy clothes, which really are just clothes that look like, and might even be, men’s clothing.  So why is it not okay for men to do the same with women’s clothing?

People tend to have a mini freak-out even when they see a man dressed in clothing that is not strictly and traditionally male clothing, let alone actual women’s clothing.  ‘He’s pushing the gender line with that outfit,’ I’ve heard too many people say.  But why does that have to be so?  Rather, does that have to be so?  Can a man not wear women’s clothing the same as women are allowed to wear men’s clothing?  I think he can – the observers just have to do some rearranging of what we think it means for a man to wear women’s clothing.

two

How can we expect men to be self-expressed in their clothing, when they have so few options?  I want to see variety in men’s clothing choices.  I remember several years ago, walking through the Gap, wondering why men had so few style options, and women so many.  “What gives?  I would be so bored as a man,” I thought as I perused the entire men’s section in two minutes, after spending 45 in the women’s (before taking a break, because there was just so much stuff!).  The only time I have seen true variety has been here in this duality of style that Japan (particularly Tokyo, where I am) is.  Men either wear the standard button-up collar with a suit, or they are walking the streets in God knows what.  You can imagine which ones have me beaming with delight and interest when they walk past.  (On that note, so far as gender boundaries go for street dress here, there is a fabulously large and exciting gray area like I have never before seen.)

three

When men spend time to fix their hair, is anyone opposed to how good it looks as a result?  Definitely not.  What’s the difference between doing hair and doing makeup?  Makeup is just one more thing that enhances one’s appearance.

I don’t wear makeup almost ever, not because I dislike the effects, but because I’m lazy, and I’m happy with how I look without makeup (though I do occasionally make myself up real nice).  However, no one has ever declared that I am pushing the boundaries between male and female by not wearing makeup.  So why do people have to comment when a man does wear makeup?

Some students informed me one day that a male student wears makeup.  My easy and thrilled response was a simple, “I know.  Doesn’t he look great?”  And they were baffled.
“Isn’t that weird that he wears makeup and is a guy?” they inquired.
“Why would that be weird?  It enhances his appearance, making him even more gorgeous than he is without it.  And he likes looking his best.  So why would he not wear makeup, if that’s how he feels he looks best?”

Does it really matter, if the only difference is that a guy looks better?  I can’t see it any differently than a guy spending time fixing his hair – it merely enhances his appearance.  Women wear makeup to enhance their appearance, so how about letting men do the same, since it also enhances their appearance?

four

Men and women alike wear makeup, and look fabulous for it (well, so long as they do it well, of course, because it does take some training to get it to do what you want it to do (again, why I almost never bother with it)).  And other men and women, like myself, don’t wear makeup, and also look great.  Lady Gaga showed up for a photo shoot dressed as a man (and a totally gorgeous and classy one at that), saying that he was a certain expression of a part of herself.  What if we were to allow and encourage people to express themselves in their appearance, similar to how photographers had to do with Lady Gaga (and then even advertised it to the public)?  Even though she was not dressed as they’d anticipated, they rolled with it, because this man is part of who Lady Gaga is, and they were there to capture the essence of Lady Gaga.  So they did.

Rather than being rigid about things being ‘only for boys’ or ‘only for girls’ to wear, what if we allowed people to dress as they felt empowered, self-expressed?  Most days, I don’t feel like wearing a skirt right now, so I wear pants.  Can not a man do just the opposite?  He certainly can.  The question is not whether it is possible for men to do it.  It is instead a matter of our accepting him for who he is, rather than who we think he should be.

.

Now, I really think I could expand on all of this for a reallyreally long time… really.  But, I’ll continue with those thoughts on a different day.  For now, I’ll end with this: If a skirt or makeup is part of your self-expression, then wear a skirt, do your makeup.  If it’s not, then don’t.  If you have an issue with this, please reconsider, and ask yourself why you have a problem with it – is your reason really worth causing people pain and suffering, or is it simply something you were told, and you rolled with it without too much consideration?  And, finally, fashion people, could we get some variety for men’s clothing, please?  I feel like their self-expression must be totally suppressed with such a simple wardrobe.  I even feel somewhat suppressed on their behalf, and I already get to wear whatever I want.

Yeah… thanks for reading, folks.  Whew!  🙂

I'm part of Post A Day 2016