The One Washroom

Growing up, I was subjected to a number of hardships, such as manual dish-washing and basic cable. I mean, I didn’t even have a TV in my room. How did I endure adolescence? There were a lot of things I went without, aside from the dish washer and the television: I went without a cell phone for a long time (and had a flip-phone track phone until a year and a half ago), I went without a puppy (I didn’t necessarily want a puppy, but I sure as hell didn’t have one), I went without a walk-in closet (which is something I wanted desperately growing up, so that I could hide in it). It was a rough time. But one of the greatest hardships I endured was this: our household provided only one single bathroom.

I’m not exactly sure how many houses that a.) lack a dish washer and b.) have only one bathroom exist in America today, but it has to be close to seven and my childhood house was among them.

And I didn’t live by myself during my childhood, which would have made this “one bathroom” deal a whole lot easier to cope with. No, I had a mom, and a dad, and everything. And to boot, I had a brother! That’s four people sharing one bathroom! That’s a four-to-one ratio! That’s like, insane! And if we do some rough estimating (because it’s all relative), it’s really like I was sharing a bathroom with forty people. Forty people and only one loo!

Despite how bleak this makes my youth appear, there are actually a number of lessons I learned from only having the one bathroom until adulthood. Allow me to share the knowledge I gained from my sufferings:

1.) I learned how to deny my body its natural processes.

By this, I mean I learned how to not pee my pants. And even this took some trial and error for the first several years. Imagine, my young self awoken in the middle of the night by nature’s inconsiderate call, and lo and behold: my father, who wakes up sinfully early every day for the past couple decades to go to work, is taking his early early morning shower. But my bladder abounds, Father! Hurry!

2.) Others’ timing is always the least ideal.

So, every time I ever thought to myself, “I’m going to take a shower,” the universe would send very specific urges to the members of my household to leap into the bathroom and stunt this task of mine. I would be sitting by myself in the living room, resolve to bathe, and immediately–immediately–I would hear the acute slamming of the bathroom door. Sometimes, the universe would be lazy and drag its feet (or maybe it was just toying with me), and I would have time to get up, grab my clothes from my room, and be en route to the bathroom before I heard that slamming shut of the bathroom door. But every time, I would drop to my knees and shout at the heavens, “Whyyyyy?!?!”

3.) I will always be the one who changes the toilet paper.

This doesn’t necessarily relate to having a singular bathroom, but it’s worth bringing up because even now, I am still the designated Toilet Paper Changer. I don’t even live there anymore and I still wind up changing the toilet paper. I visited over Christmas, and my first post-drive trip to the bathroom left me with an empty cardboard tube that I had to switch out. How do these people manage without me around to replace that shit?! (Er, for clarity’s sake, by “shit,” I mean “toilet paper;” close enough, but big difference.)

4.) Some things I just need to do in my room, i.e. everything that doesn’t involve a toilet.

I know a lot of people get ready in the bathroom (like my mom), but when your bathroom honors only a first-come-first-served policy, you just learn to avoid using it as much as possible. Therefore, I did everything possible in my room: my make-up, brushing and straightening my hair, showering, getting dressed, cutting my bangs, checking myself out. That way I avoided the traffic, especially at high-traffic points of the day, namely 6:30 AM.

5.) My mom will always be Bathroom User Priority #1.

My father, brother, and mine’s need for the bathroom is minuscule compared to my mother’s. There is no competition: the ranking goes Mother’s Bathroom Needs come first, and all others may fend for themselves in a battle to the death. Mom needs her daily morning shower and her post-shower hour of preparation. Nobody is to interfere with this. In fact, nobody is to interfere with Mother at all until she eats her bowl of Cheerios after her bathroom needs are met. The rest of us scrounge for any other bathroom time, careful to allow Mom priority access lest we all suffer.

6.) Sexism is real and alive.

I just mean that at least if my dad or brother had to pee but the bathroom was busy, they could easily discover an alternative means of relieving themselves by consulting our backyard. I don’t think they would readily utilize this option, but it’s there for them.

7.) Disappointment.

I guess by “disappointment,” I really mean “sharing.” Sharing and disappointment kind of go hand-in-hand in this case. You’re all, “Hey, it’s a bright sunshine-y day and I am going to pee!” and then you skip around the corner and see the bathroom door closed, and you’re like, “Hey, it’s a bright sunshine-y day and my expectations have been obliterated!” so even though you’re bummed as hell you are sharing the bathroom with some undetermined member of the household who you could probably ID from the sounds of their bathroom experience, you’re used to being let down by this and you just sort of roll with it and practice aforementioned Lesson #1.

8.) I learned that I morally differ from people who didn’t share this limited bathroom experience.

This sounds a little dramatic, but hear me out. When I went off to college, I started off in a very fancy dorm in which I shared a private bathroom with my roommate, who was an only child and had her own bathroom and her own mansion probably and likely even her own village, because let’s face it, she was an only child and her parents were well-off. So in her eyes, sharing a bathroom with me was horrific and seriously slumming it. But in my eyes, I was stoked as hell: suddenly I went from sharing a bathroom with three people to only sharing a bathroom with one person. It was awesome! Like I was on vacation. Only, on this vacation, I had to do hours upon hours of homework and endure the cold Ohio winter and not see my loved ones often and deal with the frigid passive aggressiveness of a roommate who despised me for many reasons, among them being that I was a body that occasionally occupied “her” bathroom.

Anyway, since then I’ve shared a bathroom with a handful of other people and it’s interesting to see how the dynamic works out. Living with people, you get to understand their routines, and generally, as I did with my mother, I learned their routines and stayed the hell out of the bathroom during their standard bathroom usage points. So I guess I just learned to be intuitive and sort of work around others’ needs. Flexibility I think is a good trait. And to think I wouldn’t be considerate or flexible at all if I had been burdened with a household that boasted two bathrooms– or even, god forbid, three bathrooms!

9.) Baths are just a no-go.

Yeah, that shit is way too time-consuming when you’re in a house of bladders.

10.) You are just going to have to clean Mom’s hair out of the drain.

I mean, I’ve got hair too, but at least I stick it to the shower walls like a civilized human being. Mom was always forgetting to clean her hair out of the drain, so it’s just something everyone got used to doing. It’s the one thing in the whole house that we can say she doesn’t clean up for herself– that, and all the rogue Cheerios that leap out of her bowl on her walk from the kitchen to the couch to watch the morning news and eat cereal. And I’m pretty sure she eventually gets around to vacuuming those.

In the end, I made it out alive. Would a second bathroom have been nice, so that I could have utilized it individually instead of playing an impromptu game of Twister with my entire family when we all seemed to need in the bathroom for various purposes? Yes. But why would I ever want to eliminate those precious memories of total irritation and blind frustration with my beloved family? And so it goes: the best gift you can give your loved ones is a single bathroom. Time to convert some johns into walk-in closets!

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