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Childish and lavatorial?

As a child I remember some awful public conveniences: a particular damp stink, tracing-paper toilet roll, non-existent or impossibly heavy penny-in-the-slot door locks. And then as a teenager, maybe less tracing paper, but the same old stink to accompany the reading of cryptic or more often downright crude notes carved into the backs of the doors, for all the (female) world to read – naming and shaming, no doubt more in misplaced jealousy than outright disapproval, those of our sisterhood who dared lower their knickers for activities quite other than spending a penny. One place you did not want to see your name – on the back of a toilet door.

Later, as a young mother, no visit to a restaurant or other public place would be complete without at least one trip to the Ladies with my daughter. She was a particularly demanding child in that respect – delightful in most other respects, naturally – and if possible I would willingly accept assistance from other less irritable female family members, my mother-in-law being a favourite who apparently willingly spent many hours with her young granddaughter inspecting the facilities (it did seem to contribute to the strong bond they developed). When we were not accompanied by Gran, I found that although the facilities were somewhat more fragrant and less slut-shamy (or possibly I just never had a moment to myself to notice or indeed see past my small companion), but were almost inevitably too small to accommodate both a wriggly child and a baby-weight-retaining mother. 

My husband always did his bit, and our son’s generally less demanding needs were mercifully thus catered for without my involvement (although I do recall having to send a male Dutch friend to the rescue when our then roughly 8 year old boy had been missing for about half an hour and had become locked in the Gents in a restaurant somewhere in the Netherlands, but that’s another story).

On a hot evening in central London this month (June 2021), we visited my daughter at her new place of work – a lively brasserie, where she has recently taken up the position of General Manager. My maternal pride knew no bounds, as we were served by her colleagues and treated with ridiculous (but rather lovely) deference by all. Before returning home, in one of those typical mother/daughter girlie cliché moves, we together retired to the Ladies room where, to my horror, I found her name writ large on the back of the cubicle door! Of course, I should have read the small print – but I may have had a glass of red by this time. (She was quick to point out this was all something to do with her being responsible for the venue and thus the person to whom any complaints etc should be addressed – hmm, well, let’s hope so.)

Still reeling, and only slightly reassured, I scuttled home.

Perhaps even more unsettling was yesterday evening, whilst attending a production at the Bridge Theatre in London. Having consumed most of my prescribed three litres a day of liquid (see earlier blog post) I set off in search of a pre-performance wee. To my middle-aged, middle-class consternation, I was directed to ‘gender neutral’ facilities and was consequently accompanied there by my 28-year old son. I’m sorry, I do not truly believe this is wrong – but it is just overwhelmingly weird. 

I’m not entirely sure which of us felt the more perturbed. Although these facilities have always been gender-neutral, there are two of them and each normally is favoured by just men (right) or just women (left). The right-hand one was out of action, I know not why.

Mind you, at least I couldn’t find any trace of a Jillings inscribed on the back of the door this time.

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