Meeting in the Ladies’ Room

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Man, I wish I’d thought to write this piece. Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for taking the ladies’ loo seriously.

I have long been amazed at the camaraderie of the average women’s bathroom, even in anonymous settings like restaurants and malls. A wedding or party? Forget about it. There’s a reason we all pack up and go to pee together, gents: We’re having fun and laughing at y’all.

It’s nothing for a woman at the next sink, or even from a stall, to sing out with her own opinion when I’m chatting with a friend or just grousing about how my skirt won’t hang right. We give each other advice and tampons. We share lotion and lie about how our sink mates are not wearing too much eyeliner. I have yet to have a woman refuse to spare a square. Most of all, we compliment each other’s outfits and talk shopping: “Fierce shoes!” “75 percent off.” “No way! Where?”

It’s fun, though it’s no fun at all when the rest room is packed and there’s a line; I never hate women so much as when waiting to get back to my seat after intermission. Let’s just say this: Women take too freaking long peeing! I come out re-dressing when there’s a line, so as to minimize others’ wait. Other women routinely look at me, shocked, as if the damn thing was co-ed and they’d never seen another women tucking in her shirt. Oooooh, and the goddamn peeing on the seats! Even worse—not flushing, as if one’s own effluvia is more offensive to them than to us.

I make a point to shame any woman I catch doing it. My favorite tack is this: “Your highness! Majesty? You forgot your royal pee.” Or, “Oh, are your servants coming to flush for you, Princess?” I’ve also played the journalist card, whipping out the notebook I take everywhere and attempting to ‘interview’ them for the psychological study I pretend to be doing. Twenty years in, no one has ever done anything other than run. Sweet. Traveling in Europe once with local friends, the women finally got around to asking me why I approached each toilet stall as if it might contain a bomb, gingerly peeping around stall doors. When I explained, they were speechless.

But I digress.

Given my own non-traditional career path, I’d not given much thought to the professional advantages to be had when one slips out from a staff meeting for a potty break and ends up with the inside scoop on imminent firings, corporate strategy, and the like. According to the WSJ though, strategic bathroom use can often make important differences in women’s lives:

…for me, ladies’ room banter is an endless source of wisdom and comfort. My ladies’ room crowd includes a fashion maven, a globetrotter who knows every good cheap restaurant in Paris, Berkeley and Hong Kong, a marriage counselor, several cancer survivors and a bevy of super-moms. They’ve guided me about how to survive pre-school interviews and college tours and which internist to choose in my health care plan. They’ve advised me about where to get the best cocktail dress, haircut and beach house that won’t break my budget. The time I’ve saved shopping, searching for doctors and worrying about my daughter because of advice gleaned in my office ladies’ room has added up to months of work for my company and saved me from numerous multitask meltdowns.

…Some women who report to other women confess they have an advantage. When they are standing side by side with their bosses at lavatory sinks, they sometimes hold impromptu meetings—and get quick answers to problems.

One colleague on her first day back to work from a maternity leave retreated to the ladies’ room to shed some tears, not because she was sorry her leave had ended but because she didn’t like her job. Suddenly a former boss and mentor emerged from a toilet stall and asked “what’s wrong?” An hour later, the mentor appeared at my colleague’s desk to tell her she’d soon have a new assignment.

So, fellas, the next time your cubicle mate spends a half hour in the ladies’ room and comes back smiling, you might want to worry about your job. It’s not the men-only lounge at a fancy country club where all the wheeling and dealing is done, but it’ll have to do.

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