Affixed to almost every vertical surface in the modern public ladies’ room are helpful written reminders like “Please do not flush diapers, sanitary napkins, or other feminine products.” “Place paper towels only in the trash can.” “For public safety, please wash your hands after using the restroom.” “Dispose tampons here, not on the floor.”
It leads one to wonder just what type of clientele these signs are attempting to target. Their specificity assumes a frightening lack of basic hygienic awareness on the part of their readers. What hordes of feral, filthy women are descending upon these communal bathrooms?
“Let me see, let me see…do I place my used menstrual pads here, carefully in this waste bin? Or should I fling them against the wall?”
“Please do not flush anything but toilet paper down the toilet. Do not shove entire pizzas into the bowl. Ladies, please stop flushing purses, coats and shoes down the toilet, as this is bad for the septic system.”
“Do not fling menstrual aids, which are designed to absorb liquid, into the U-bend, where they will absorb all of the liquid.”
“Please do not menstruate directly into the sink. Do not splash your neighbor with dirty toilet water. Do not defecate onto the handle of the toilet.”
“It is very important that you do not hide stolen treasures inside of the hand dryer.”
“Remember, these paper towels come from trees, and also it is absolutely unacceptable to flush live cats and dogs here. You wouldn’t flush them at home, so please don’t bring that into a public environment.”
“It’s one thing to try to catch someone’s eye in the mirror when she’s blocking the only available sink after she’s finished watching her hands, but you don’t have to be such an asshole about it. You know the face you’re making at her. You can see the face you’re making. Knock it off.”
The days of the common-sense bathroom, when adult women were trusted to enter a cold, tiled room, dispose of their own waste, and clean up after themselves without detailed, written instructions, may be over. If that’s so, it may also be time to admit that toilet seat covers are nothing but a flimsy, comforting lie. They can’t protect you. Nothing can protect you. The enemy is yourself.
Illustrator: Esther C. Werdiger writes, draws, and podcasts in New York. She’s not quitting her day job, because that’s how she has her visa.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.