Toilet Habits in the USA

15th February 1999

This is only about male toilet habits. Obviously I haven't the opportunity to observe any female toilet habits. Nor have I heard any stories. Yet.

I was most taken aback when I started visiting the toilet in the building I work in. Strange goings on.

First of all, I was amazed at how American men have done themselves such a disservice by the use of that most stupid item of underwear - the boxer short. Over here, most boxer shorts are entire. They do not have a slit down the front for the obvious reasons. So if someone is wearing a pair of boxers and they decide to visit a urinal, they can't do what most of us do, which is to unzip the zip, flip out the equipment and drain the kidneys. No, they have to undo their belt, undo their trousers, let the trousers slide down a little bit while they hang on to them so they don't slide all the way down, then while hanging onto the outer gear, they have to slide down the boxers, and then while doing this balancing act, they have to find the equipment and then aim and perform nature's task. What a waste of effort! What a waste of having a fly! And then, when they have done their duty, they have to jiggle and flip and flop and get the boxers up, then get the trousers up and then zip and buckle up the whole shebang. It takes them ages to perform this juggling act. Many of them have learnt that it is far better to undo everything and just go and sit. They wouldn't want to be in a hurry, because this whole process takes ages to perform. I can be in and out in the same time it takes them to get ready to perform.

And after this juggling act comes the second amazing thing. They have a narcissistic relationship with the mirror. There are several categories of this behaviour. There is the worker at the bottom end of the work spectrum. He stands and primps and does his hair and washes his hands and views his lack of sartorial elegance as long as he can. But I suspect that this is to stretch out his toilet break as long as he can. There is one variation to this, and that's with black men who wear Bob Marley type headgear. It takes them ages to get this right every time, to make sure that every curl is under cover, that the headgear is pulled over the ears in as saucy a manner as is possible. Then we have the more executive kind of guy who does interesting work and doesn't have to worry about wasting time. He is usually well-dressed, dark trousers, white shirt, tie, neat hair. These guys check their hair and their appearance and then stand there for up to a minute at a time staring at their reflection, and basking in their glory. Maybe they are being narcissistic? Maybe they are reciting self-help mantras? Maybe they are practicing for their next pay rise application? Whatever they are doing, it's pretty weird.

I go in, do what has to be done, wash my hands and leave. And I do this through a throng of three or four of these guys who are grunting while they juggle their clothing, or staring at themselves in the mirror. And they don't seem to care about how many people see them do what they are doing. It's kind of scary so I'm in and out as fast as I can. I don't want to catch it.

And for all those Australians guys out there who have taken to wearing boxer shorts - don't be so bloody stupid. And for those women who occasionally suffer from a lack of common sense when they give boxer shorts as presents - find something else that doesn't make the guy look like a total dickhead when he has to use them.

18th February 1999

I've seen more examples of the staring into the mirror habit. I've seen several young black men staring at themselves, and being very upset and jumpy, clicking their fingers, gesticulating at the mirror, quietly mouthing things. I reckon they are practising, getting their courage up, getting ready to say something to someone who is giving them a hard time. Or ask for something awkward. I can relate to this. I do this sort of thing in the car when I am alone. And now that I remember a bit harder, I have done this same thing at home in the bathroom looking in the mirror too. So it's not such a strange thing to do. But it is a bit strange to do it in a public toilet with other people watching.