For years, I believed that people actually bought that. That's why I would never go near a public toilet with the intent of doing anything more than a quick, easy No. 1. I still remember my first day of summer-school driver's ed, sitting in the classroom, then in the driver's seat, in agony because I knew it would be hours before my big brother would pick me up and take me home, where I could relieve myself in complete privacy.
One night, years later, I broke down in a New York City nightclub. I had to go. But the locks on all of the stall doors in the bathroom were broken! Too keep anyone from accidentally barging in, I made my boyfriend stand guard in front of my stall. We'd been dating for more than a year by that point, so I figured it was okay to let him in on my dirty little secret. Too soon? Although I know the relationship probably wouldn't have lasted anyway, I wonder sometimes if I hastened its decline by letting myself go like that.
Then there were my bathroom habits at work. I couldn't do what I'd done in driver's ed, since my job required a certain level of concentration that I couldn't maintain when my body was wracked with discomfort. So I developed a plan: I'd go to a mostly deserted floor, where nobody knew my name, and my colleagues would be none the wiser.
It worked for a while, but either the floor was more heavily populated than I thought, or everyone else in the building had the same idea that I did. Once a little boy actually crawled on the bathroom floor on his back, poked his head into my stall and started laughing at me. I was horrified, but I tried my best to keep quiet as I nudged his head out with my foot. I considered complaining to his adult supervision, but it wasn't like I could do that without giving myself away.
When the men's room there started to see more traffic than Grand Central Station, I knew that it was time for Plan B -- or 2? That's when I started walking to Saks Fifth Avenue, which was one block away. The bathrooms there were spacious and clean, and although I wouldn't be protected from pint-sized intruders, nobody from work would ever think of looking for me there. (Aside from my best friend Lori, who was the only person I ever told about my Saks habit -- until now.)
I knew it was a lot of work just to maintain my silly secret, but it's not as bad as the lengths that the guy a friend of mine used to date went to. When he was a kid, he had such a crippling fear of doing a No. 2 outside of his home that he once held it in for an entire week-long camping trip and ended up in the hospital. I'm not sure how he lasted that long, but then, I'm still trying to figure out how someone who once told me that he never even does No. 1s on airplanes -- he's afraid of unexpected turbulence while he's in the john --- managed to make it from Australia to Africa without needing medical attention.
Speaking of doctors, perhaps I should have studied to be one, after all -- or maybe even a nurse. Then maybe I'd be a lot more relaxed about such things. Another friend once told me about an ex, a nurse, who would do No. 2s with the bathroom door wide open, wipe, examine the contents of the toilet paper and then smell it. Smell it!
Naturally, the romance didn't last. I mean, how could it? After that kind of openness, there's nowhere left for it to go but down... the toilet.