Camaraderie in the ladies’ room

by Kristin on June 28, 2007

in Everyday life, everyday people,Small town in the midwest

Last night, Jason and I went with Nic and Heather to hear a 14-piece psychedelic rock band called Dark Meat. They were playing upstairs at Mike and Molly’s, and we had to stuff pieces of bar napkins in our ears to combat the regular screaming into the mike and general chaos on the ears.

While I was downstairs fetching materials for the hand-crafted earplugs, I figured it was a good time to use the restroom. The regular need to pee is, I’m pretty sure, the bane of my existence, so I take preventative measures whenever possible. A handful of other women apparently had the same need, so we stood together outside the single-toilet ladies’ room, waiting our turns.

Women are unpredictable in many ways, but one thing I’ve begun to count on is a certain “restroom camaraderie.” I find the phenomenon really fascinating.

Women, who might otherwise feel threatened or suspicious or simply shy around one another, seem to let down defenses and find reasons to connect when they have to pee. It’s like an acknowledgement that we all have something in common. We’re sisters. We tend to pee more often than men, and we need a stall to sit down in, and we have our purses with us because we need lipstick or tampons or mints while we’re in there.

Strangers fix each other’s bra straps and tuck in shirt tags and compliment one another’s haircuts or shoes. It’s like the need to pee is a social lubricant. Once we’ve gathered in the bathroom with a bunch of other women, we seem to know just what to do.

The other, more commonly-known social lubricant probably plays a part too, since I notice this phenomenon more often at bars, late at night. And if there’s music, the sense of connection seems to be even stronger, like we’re going through some larger experience together—we have a common starting point because we all chose to come listen to the same music.

Last night, when I joined the three women waiting for the restroom, the camaraderie set in immediately. At first, two of the women were talking about their height: if they were wearing heels, how they felt about heels, and so on. When I walked up, I smiled and made some comment about how using the bathroom was such a popular concept. They turned to me, smiled, and asked how tall I was. Boom. We were off.

Our conversation found its way to the band—how loud and amazingly short all 14 members were—then to my homemade napkin earplugs, before turning back to the topic of our own heights and how glad we were to have found tall men.

One woman took her turn in the bathroom, almost reluctant to leave the conversation, then another person joined the line. I showed them my shoes, sandals with a three-inch wedge, and we talked about shoes for a while—where we buy them, how we hate sacrificing comfort, heels versus wedges, and so on.

The woman at the end of the line got impatient and went to use the men’s room; upon opening the door she discovered a man peeing (the lock was broken), so we all shared for a moment in that trauma/hilarity. Finally, she and I made a pact to take turns guarding the door of the men’s room for each other, as soon as the peeing guy was finished. We were suddenly in cahoots, recklessly peeing in a men’s room without a lock.

When it was all said and done, probably a grand total of eight minutes later, this trip to the bathroom had netted not only bladder relief, but four new friends. It’s the kind of small moment that makes me happy to be a woman in the friendly Midwest.

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  • Chuck

    Great post. I couldn’t help but laugh that you wrote this, though: “pee as social lubricant.” : D

    The times when we’re forced into situations with random people from other walks of life often prove to be the best experiences of people if you let it go that way.

  • Kristin T.

    Chuck, glad I could inspire a laugh! And you’re completely right—those unexpected, unplanned, unimportant moments can be the ones of greatest connection with strangers. Good to see you here!