Some people have the kind of digestive system that allows them to be selective with the places they use the bathroom… I am not one of these people. Folks who say snooty things about how they “never use public bathrooms” or “only go number two at home” are foreign animals to me. But statements like these reveal less about how discerning and picky people are with where they poo than they do about a person’s natural ability to prolong pilgrimages to the potty. Some of us are cursed with gastrointestinal systems with a mind of their own… A G.I. that plays to the beat of its own drum. Some people are poo camels… If conditions are not perfect, they can simply postpone it to a later date. I am one of those poor fools whose body can, and will–at a moment’s notice, and regardless of where I happen to be–let me know that 1) I will be pooping shorty, and 2) Time is of the essence. My body is never like, “Hmm… Me thinks I’ll be requiring a bathroom visit sometime later this evening.” It always seems to be conveying a message that says, “ATTENTION: This is going down with or without your approval. Find a bathroom, STAT. Or don’t… Whichever. But either way, this is happening.”
It’s easier to avoid public bathrooms when this situation only comes up every day or two… But for me, this is an issue that demands to be handled multiple times a day. And before you feel embarrassed for me, you should know that I’m not alone. There are many people out there who are on this same schedule. This is just the way my body has always been, and I’m not the least bit ashamed of it. Also, it should be noted that the sort of people who wreck a whole wing of a house with their stench are the sort who only go every couple days. So my condition affords me more than your average fodder for stories involving the third part of this blog’s tagline: Bathroom Humor.
There has been a lot of talk about bathrooms lately, and almost none of it has had anything to do with humor. Most of the bathroom talk has been centered around fear. And when people want us to be REALLY afraid, they focus on our children. Which sucks, because then–either overtly or subconsciously–we convey that fear to our kids. Last week I was coming out of one of my less-than-infrequent trips to “Ye Olde El Baño” (as my many medieval Spanish-speaking friends call it), and as I was walking out, a mother and her (roughly 10 year old) son were walking in. They had already parted–with him walking toward the men’s room and her walking toward the women’s room. He was walking in as I was walking out, but when he saw me, he stopped. He nervously turned around to look back at his mom, and she said, “It’s okay, sweetie. You can come in here with me.” Which he did. And which–somewhat ironically–made ME feel a little bit uncomfortable, because my 11 year old daughter was in there using the bathroom.
Now, maybe this story has nothing whatsoever to do with all of the “bathroom danger” hypothetical stories that have been slung at the LGBT community lately… But something tells me they are very related. Bathroom danger is this year’s ebola. And I hate it. I hate how all these horror stories are infecting my brain with worst-case-scenarios. And now news stories about bathroom abductions from four years ago are getting shared like they just happened. Never mind that those stories could have never been prevented by putting any sort of “gender-at-birth” requirements into law. And never mind that NO CASE EVER has involved and actual transgender person harming a kid in a bathroom. And never mind that (as I said before) you are probably 1000 times more likely to have one of your kids sexually abused by a family member or a church youth group leader than a stranger in a bathroom (by the way, please read this amazing article). What I hate is the fear. I hate this narrative that keeps getting written, and passed along as if it were true, that YOU ARE NEVER SAFE.
I suppose it’s partially true… I guess it depends on your definition of being “safe.” There are two kinds of “You are never safe” out there: There’s the kind of “You are never safe” that results in BE AFRAID, and then there’s the kind of “You are never safe” that results in a healthy understanding of reality, a lack of worrying, and an acknowledgment that we can’t control every situation. Growing up with the first kind of “You Are Never Safe” as a core belief has real consequences. The first kind of “You are never safe” is the stuff of phobias. It is the stuff of Marlin (Nemo’s dad) saying, “I promise to never let anything happen to you, Nemo.” I mean, you can insure that you never, ever get attacked by a shark by staying out of the ocean… But then you are a person who doesn’t know what it’s like to be in the ocean, you know? It reminds me of this kid I watched climbing a rock wall a couple months ago. He got near the top, but then he refused to sit back in his harness to be belayed down. He wasn’t able to climb down, and he was too afraid to trust the rope, so he just stayed there. After a few minutes, his fingers became sore and exhausted, and he started crying… But he refused to let go. Because–in his head–letting go meant falling. And trusting. But the only thing he trusted were those holds he had in his hands… Those things he could touch.
And it feels to me as if the number of people who are landing on “BE AFRAID” is growing. I guess it makes sense–We are people who are fed a steady diet of “BE AFRAID,” because “BE AFRAID” is a big seller. And like mother birds, we regurgitate that diet to our chicks. For many, this idea of “safety” means being able to control everything… So we feed our kids “Not safe at school” (and teach them at home). We feed them “Not safe at parks.” We feed them “Not safe in bathrooms.” We feed them “Stranger Danger,” and “Don’t trust anybody,” and “Not even safe at home” (unless you have a gun). It’s not enough to have a gun in your house… Some people even need to have a gun trap-doored in your headboard. “It’s time for bed, kids… Put on your kevlar vests.” What could go wrong?
And before long, we have pre teens who see a person they don’t know, assume they are in danger, and turn around and walk into the lady’s room with their mothers.
But I believe deeply in the God of “DON’T be afraid.” The God who declared those words in every Bible story where God showed up… And this is precisely the reason why it is so heartbreaking to me that such a large portion of people who identify as Christians are so filled with “BE AFRAID.” It’s completely incongruent with the God I have come to know. And the God I am able to love. These “BE AFRAID” people are unrecognizable to me when stood next to Jesus… People who talk of building walls… People terrified of Muslims… People fearful of an imaginary Gay Agenda… People who cling to their guns as tightly as that kid on that rock wall clung to those holds (It is, by the way, so ironic that the people who supposedly have the most security in life after death are the ones who are most committed to keeping themselves alive at any cost). But once again, just like in so many Bible stories, we have God’s people choosing a golden (haired) calf–something they can touch–instead of trusting the God who keeps telling them over and over… “DON’T BE AFRAID.”
My oldest daughter went for a plane ride in a little four-seater this week, and she got a chance to fly the plane for a bit. She’s eleven. To be honest, we were were a little scared. But then we remembered that she is way more likely to die in the car ON THE WAY to the airport than she is to die in a plane crash. I know there is a difference between lack of fear and carelessness (fear is based on emotion, and carelessness is based on ignoring actual facts, science, and statistics). And sure–we could try to insure that she never dies in a plane crash by never letting her go up in a plane… But then she wouldn’t have had the chance to take a picture like this:
Hear the voice of God, still proclaiming, “DON’T BE AFRAID! Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid…”
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Interesting tactic: Bait with some juicy potty humor, and then switch to something serious. I saw it a mile away (there is really no other reason to write about bathrooms), but you know someone is going to feel tricked, he/she will panic, and will just have to make an inflammatory comment about how you didn’t think about the children.
Many realists succumb to that adage “You are never safe,” and from their perspective, it is true. I can NEVER be completely safe. Life does not assure me safety, ever, and my status as a trans woman makes my dangers much higher than average. On the other hand, I agree with your sentiment, “Don’t be afraid.” Why? Because at a higher level, beyond the daily vicissitudes of living and the risks that I take living with intolerant people, I am completely, 100%, absolutely safe. Whenever I doubt this (and I frequently do), I pull up up a video of Bill Hicks, sit back, and relax. Everything is going to be okay.
I like your point about those who have the most security in life after death being the most committed to keeping themselves alive. It’s funny because the religion I was raised in (Jehovahs witness) used that as a point that others religions were false, at least when I was younger. No idea what they teach now that the Armageddon they’ve been preaching since I was a toddler still hasn’t happened and I’m now 45.
Wonderful post, as always