Please heed me, Ladies –
– the divine gift of standing urination does not come without grave consequences – that is to say: urinals.
Few may acknowledge this, but many men suffer from a terrible psychological affliction, which I will call here urinal anxiety, to which I am no stranger (and to lend credibility to this term, Urban Dictionary has an entry for it).
Do not get me wrong – I love urinals. I would rather relieve myself in an environmentally-friendly standing receptacle than in the water-goblin we so affectionately call “Johns.” No, it’s not the urinal itself that frightens me – rather, it is the adjacent-urinal row that is so terrifying.
Allow me to walk you through a session in a men’s public restroom… you just began clutching your privates when, no further than a foot away, another man begins to clutch his own privates. This is what you are thinking…
Oh goodness… if I don’t start peeing now, he’s gonna notice…
…Come on, bladder, why so shy? …you can do it…
…Dammit! His stream just started! How long will it be before he awkwardly realizes I’m not peeing?
…Don’t let me down, bladder. C’mon, don’t let me down.
…Okay, now I’m just some guy standing here holding his dick in the company of others. Great, just great.
…I believe in you, bladder. Don’t be afraid. I said DON’T BE AFRAID!
…He’s almost done. What if I’m still just standing here silently after he finishes? What am I, some kind of sicko pervert who enjoys touching himself at urinals all day?
…DAMMIT, Bladder! What the f*ck is wrong with you right now?! You’re making me look bad!
…Oh good, he left. I can pee now.
It starts out as simple bladder-shy. But before you know it, the downward spiral careens into the infinitely deep septic of unreconcilable anxiety.
But no previous experience of mine has ever been as horrifying as today’s. I entitle it as a “lifetime” – surely it was mere minutes, but it might as well have been a lifetime. This is what happened:
Scene: an empty restroom. Two adjacent urinals (with a small barrier) crammed into the corner between a stall and a wall. A young man walks in just before I do. He takes one urinal. I approach the second urinal, and then stop myself.
Wait. If I take the adjacent urinal, I’m violating a major rule of urinal etiquette. …but if I don’t take the urinal, I’m exploiting a foolish luxury that does nothing but perpetuate the pretensions of American Dignity – pretensions that perhaps eat away at our willingness to socially collaborate for a better future. I have to take the second urinal. It is my duty. For my friends and family. For my children’s children. For America.
So then I saddled up next to the poor guy, and like clockwork, I started to get anxious. As usual, I waited desperately for his stream to start so I could hope to sneak mine into the collective aural ambiance.
Just one problem: his stream didn’t start. He was as bladder-blocked as I was. I didn’t count on that.
The situation quickly spun out of control. The longer it was, the worse it got. Surely he noticed I wasn’t peeing, and I definitely noticed he wasn’t peeing, and the longer we both didn’t pee, the more freakishly dysfunctional we assumed we appeared, judging ourselves through the eyes of our adjacent prosecutor. I could feel his growing disapproval just as much as he could feel mine, and ultimately, what began as just two guys standing next to each other with the intent of peeing (a normal situation) turned into the horrifying scene of two guys standing next to each other silently clutching their penises (a situation of utmost perversion).
I briefly considered fleeing. But no, that would be impossible. As it was, the situation was so fragile – had he or I made any sudden movement, either of us might never pee again. And yet… the stall… it was so close… so… close… surely he would forgive me if I admitted defeat. And yet… admitting defeat would be admitting error. Admitting error is admitting dysfunction. Admitting dysfunction is… is…
Oh Thank God, the first couple hesitant drops ushered in a flush of relief. The audio chamber of the bathroom filled with the glorious sound of urine, and the Cold War was behind us! Thank you, Bladder. Thank you.
We both finished at the same time, awkwardly washed our hands in the one sink one-after-the-other, and, avoiding eye-contact at all costs, quickly parted ways.
My goodness! What an absurd thing to get anxious about! Honestly, are we so proud as to fear admitting the less glorious aspects of our animalhood? Why the shame? Do I not pee eight or nine times per day? Why is it a source of such psychological discomfort? I should be celebrating it! Every time I pee, it should be worthy of public notice, and every passerby upon hearing my exclamations of joy should vicariously relish in the memories of when they, too, happily relieved themselves.
If people were just open with each other… If we didn’t vilify our grotesque animal necessities… If we didn’t shame the daily rites of our functioning systems, but instead accepted them as symbols of eternally recurring relief or peace …if it was something we all openly enjoyed instead of privately enjoyed, then perhaps we could begin to chip away at the ills of a repressed and neurotic society. We could strike down the barriers of fear and maybe even get to the heart of misanthropy.
As it was, that man and I in the bathroom – we were mere strangers passing in feigned ignorance of the other, pretending neither of us existed as we struggle with our own identical deficiencies and shortcomings. Is this what life has become? – a world of dreadful strangers standing together, but alone, clutching the vestiges of privacy they know but can’t admit no longer exist?