DAVID'S COLUMN Male Chat and A Man's Quest
Male Chat and A Man's Quest
"Jenny, want to go to the bathroom with me?"
"There's something I have to tell you Heather, in the bathroom."
"Girls come with me to the bathroom."
"Let's go talk in the bathroom"
These are the invitations to "girl chat" heard on any given night in which something must be discussed, inexplicably to men, in the bathroom. Talking with several women who are experts at being female, I also learned that most invitations to go chat in the bathroom, if proper etiquette is followed, begins with the phrase "omigod!" So, in correcting the above examples, they would say:
"Omigod! Jenny, want to go to the bathroom with me?"
"O…mi…god! There's something I have to tell you Heather, in the bathroom."
"Omigod! Girls come with me to the bathroom."
"Omigod! Omigod! Omigod! Let's go talk in the bathroom"
Men puzzle their brows when they hear these kinds of statements and plenty more like them in the course of an evening. And then they do a very man thing and shrug it off to the mysteries of Female Lore and things best left unexplored.
Well, not this man, not last night, I was on a Quest. I was sitting in a night spot called Suki's and after about the fourth "girl talk" that just HAD to happen in the bathroom, I made the observation that this is something that men just don't do – socialize in the bathroom. Men don't chat in bathrooms, it's a pretty solemn sort of thing with perhaps a grunted greeting or comment, or maybe a joke or something, but nothing of any consequence gets discussed by men in bathrooms. There are certain unwritten rules in the bathroom for men, a healthy silence being one of them, no eye contact is allowed, except perhaps while looking at someone's reflection in a mirror, and no -- positively NO physical contact. Men do a carefully choreographed dance in bathrooms to avoid even the slightest brushes by an elbow or some such extremity.
Back to The Quest.
I was determined last night at Suki's to have a "man talk" in the bathroom, possibly the first one ever in the Collective Male History and – here's where I really had to bite the bullet in order to make this a truly momentous occasion -- it was going to be with three men. A "community conversation" of men in Suki's bathroom. I already had visions of a plaque on the wall to commemorate it. I had described my quest to some highly amused girls and one interested guy who could envision the worthiness of this Quest, and eventually I had conscripted the requisite Man #2. Now came the difficult part of recruiting Man #3: I was determined NOT to explain the Quest any more, but instead merely start asking Men if they would join the two of us, in the bathroom, just to talk. This would be the final triumph of the Quest, the invitation. At first, all did not go well at all. Candidate #1 was approached.
Man #1: "Hey, wanna join us in the bathroom?
Candidate #1: "Why?"
Man #1: "Just to talk. We wanna talk."
Man #2: "In the bathroom."
Man #1: "And bring your drink with you."
Candidate #1: "Nothing we can't talk about out here?"
Man #1: "No, it has to be in the bathroom."
Candidate #1: "About what?"
Man #2: "Just talk."
Man #1: "With your drink in hand."
Candidate #1: "You guys are creeping me out." [Exit Candidate #1]
Hmmm, this was going to be a hard Quest. Enter Candidate #2
Man #1: "Hey, let's go talk in the bathroom—"
Man #2: "Yeah, the three of us."
Candidate #2: "What?"
Candidate #2 gave us a face that looked like he had chewed up several lemons and then swigged a glass of overly warm milk. I've never seen a face that looked physically curdled before. Fascinating. And all we did was invite him to go talk in the bathroom. The remaining attempts pretty much met with varying degrees of these two responses: curdled face or "You guys are creeping me out". And eventually we ran out of men candidates. It looked like The Quest was going to fail. But perseverance paid off, and finally we had gained Man #3 for the First Ever Male Bathroom Chat.
I was so excited I had to be reminded to bring my drink with me. Bringing a drink into a bathroom is such a foreign concept. Somehow the drink seems to get violated being brought into the Men's room, but, I had to remind myself of this other foreign concept we were undertaking: We were going in just to talk. No bathroom business was being done. At all. Weird.
The next surprise that came was when two girls joined us in the bathroom for the talk! Apparently, females have some sort of instinct, some sort of hive mentality, some sort of community pack culture, something that lets them know from far reaches of the dark corners of public establishments that a bathroom chat is going to happen and they all zero in at the same place at the same time, and apparently gender difference did not create a barrier to this mystic calling. Not that they weren't unwelcome. Actually, I thought, they might be very helpful in giving us pointers and such in this new fledgling Male foray into something which is patently a female construct.
However, I'm glad that this happened as a sort of spontaneous event, it would have destroyed the original purpose of The Quest if the invitation was to talk to two guys AND TWO GIRLS in the Men's room. That is something built upon an entirely different dynamic and The Quest would have been lost. The first thing the girls commented upon was the graffiti on the walls, its sheer volume and scope.
Here's where I'm going to allow myself a little side narrative. Graffiti, I have observed, is ever-present in Men's public bathrooms, its content ranging anywhere from general angst, clumsy attempts at poetry or amatuer graphic draftsmanship, expressions of political and societal views, and of course sexual commentary and artistry of many grades of questionable maturity. Its frequency is often in higher proportion than in Women's pubic bathrooms, although I'm not in great authority of Women's public bathrooms, much less their graffiti therein. But I have asked upon occasion and found that for the most part that Men's rooms do get "tagged" more than do the Women's.
And this is another observation in the differences in gender that I have made over the years. It is a very Man thing to tag things, to create as sense of ownership, or at least to have made a mark where one has gone and been. This is not unlike male animals urinating on trees and plants and other parts of what they consider their "territory" and "marking" it. In the same rather symbolic way by writing graffiti men have "marked" their "territory". And, in other more literal ways, especially by not lifting up the seat when doing their business, they also "mark" their "territory" as well in the more traditional animalistic fashion and somehow think this is "okay" to "leave" for the next "person" to "find". In this regard, "Men" are "Twits".
And the other advantage to having walls heavily laden with graffiti is that it gives the man something to stare at or pretend to read over and over again when they are desperately attempting to avoid eye-contact or even acknowledging the presence of other guys in the bathroom.
All right, back to The Quest. Now here we are in the bathroom with three guys and two girls – who are currently admiring the graffiti – and a dilemma arises in that the whole point of men going and talking in the Men's Room is to create, or at least, reenact, that mystical event when Women do this in the privacy of their mystical Women's Realm. The dilemma hung in the air for a moment when, in what has to be described as a Mystical Men's moment, the Bouncer came in from seemingly nowhere and announced that the girls had to exit. While clearly this was entirely within the scope of the Bouncer's job description, I couldn't help but feel this was a higher calling he was answering to, a Man's instinct that was calling him to preserve the purity of the moment, the Man-ness of the occasion, The Quest was being preserved to its original, and I must qualify at this point, almost holy calling.
I tried to acknowledge this heroic rescuing of The Quest to the Bouncer by sagely nodding at him, or giving him some kind of manly grim smile to recognize his efforts to The Cause, but of course, this being the Men's Room and we being all men, he did not make eye contact with me.
Now, the Three Men could have their chat, drinks in hand, in the Men's Room. Of course, it was no female type chat, first the event had to be formally brought to order, and also a moment to reflect upon the momentous occasion, and then down to some actual talk. What was said cannot be repeated, of course, because that is also part of the etiquette, but I can tell you that not a single "omigod" was uttered, and there was a surprising amount of eye-contact, and if memory serves me correctly, possibly even some physical contact which went largely unnoticed by both parties involved.
We all exited in unison, more Men when we left than when we entered, and something within the Entire Scope Of Man Lore had been forever changed. I don't know if it will ever happen again, if this was a one-time venture, or if we have pioneered a path for other adventurous Man-souls to have bathroom chats, drinks in hand without fear of being "creeped out". Only fate knows and only time will tell.
And if Suki's doesn't put up a plaque upon the spot commemorating the occasion, maybe I'll just write something on the bathroom wall testifying to the event....
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O my God! Men don't talk in the bathroom! I didn't know that! Wait till I tell my friends!