The first time I went to uni, it’s true. We had co-ed bathrooms. I remember The Mom being a bit shocked to see that, but quite frankly, I didn’t give it a second thought. Growing up, I had always had very close guy friends, and besides which, there were two shower curtains that would separate me and my nether regions from what were not the braying masses.
The thing is, you see, that my generation, and probably all generations after, is that we’re just not that bothered.
There are several things that stand out for me from those wonderful days. The first of which is what I would now call the Fresher’s Fair, but which was probably called something else, as I first studied back home in Canada. Anyhow, you know the drill: marquees set up on the lawns around the residences, where companies – eager to attract students and their loans – set up shop and gave away free things. A friend of a friend’s boyfriend proudly arrived sometime of an afternoon having been to the OB tampon tent, wearing an OB branded t-shirt and brandishing a free box of tampons. To say that this man was met with admiration and many phone numbers does not sum it up.
In fact, whilst we’re on the topic of tampons, can I just say that I had a boyfriend once, who didn’t bat an eyelash at all when I sent him out for tampons. Things are a bit different nowadays.
But back to the co-ed bathrooms.
For reasons that are unclear, though given what we ate that first year at uni they shouldn’t be (our ‘meal plan’ was basically a pre-paid card for food court food and as most of us were veggie then we basically ate a lot of fried food – we may have been the only first year cohort that lost ten pounds rather than gained it) being able to go to the bathroom without having to stop talking was great! Particularly since most of us had what we called ‘bad bum’ pretty much every day. One friend, who shall remain nameless, wouldn’t go to the bathroom for her daily bout of bad bum unless she was accompanied – because she spent so much time in there, it was sometimes the only way you’d get to talk to her between classes and studio time.
And keep in mind, though the uni wasn’t specifically an art school everyone in our dorm was in Fine Arts. We were cut from very different cloth. I’d be colouring my hair, along with some guys who were colouring theirs. Someone would be shaving his face, someone else plucking her eyebrows, someone else making noodles. There was a level of openness that was really lovely. To this day, we’re all still the best of friends. We often, especially in Toronto when we have Evil Heat, just walk into one another’s apartments, and shout, “Shower!” helping ourselves to a clean towel and hopping into the shower. Sometimes we remember to close the door, sometimes not.
It’s a bit different here in England and so these new communal bathrooms are really quite revolutionary. Though, the uni dorms or halls as they’re called, aren’t the first place I’ve seen them. As ever, the pub is the harbinger of all things modern.
One of my favourite pubs in London – The Dove, in Broadway Market – has had communal toilets since I’ve been going there. It’s a space saving thing I think. Just a row of stalls, and a row of sinks. It gives me no end of pleasure to be standing in line with a man behind me. Because it’s then that he realises why it takes girls so long to go pee. It’s the queue.