Dilemmas: I hate this bathroom invasion

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Kitty sometimes visits her boyfriend and has a bath in his flat.

There is no lock on the door and he always comes in and goes to the lavatory - and not just peeing.

She finds this repulsive, but her friends say she is hung up about it.

Is she?

What Virginia says

THERE WAS a time when a man would never dream of being in the same room as his wife when she was getting dressed or undressed. I doubt if my father ever entered the bathroom when my mother was having a bath, and vice versa. Barbara Cartland claims she never allowed a man - any man - to see her without her make-up on.

Even now, although I am happy to be visited in my bath by a man I am close to, my son would never come into the bathroom when I was bathing, nor would I go into the bathroom when he was taking a shower. Going into a bathroom where a girlfriend is bathing gives me the creeps. I think it is something about the nipples. It is fascinating to look at our own inhibitions, many of which we take so much for granted that we are hardly aware of them, though they are extremely strong.

However, there is one code that I would have thought does not change a lot. Going to the loo. I could hack a man I knew well having a pee in front of me, though I would probably prefer it if he turned his back. But having a crap? Never!

Although dogs are quite prepared to poo whenever they feel like it, even the more sophisticated cat appears exceptionally embarrassed if you catch him squatting in the garden. His ears go back, dignity invades every hair on his body, and he usually gives you a baleful look as he neatly covers over his traces. "Excuse me," he seems to be saying.

What is Kitty's boyfriend up to that every time she has a bath he seems compelled to go to the loo in front of her? Is he saying, subconsciously, "Take me, take my shit"? Or is there a hidden agenda, which Kitty obviously feels, of hostility about the whole matter? A woman recently stabbed her husband when he deliberately farted in her face, and, without condoning it, one can understand why. "Shit!" is a word we use when annoyed; describing an object as "crap" is a term of abuse. When neighbours are at war and shove excrement through each other's letterboxes, it is not a friendly "Lets-have-a-coffee-together" move. It is full of hatred and venom.

So I can understand why Kitty feels abused when her boyfriend behaves as he does. But what can she do about it? Were she to object, he would doubtless argue that she was refusing to accept him, warts and all. Her answer should be that although we all have unacceptable sides to our natures, we do our best to protect our lovers from them. No, she does not like it. She does not like the smell. She does not like anything about it. Nor, she could add, would she like it if he picked his nose in front of her and ate the contents.

Of course, she gets round it all by never having a bath in his place again, but it seems to me that unless he is prepared to listen to her and in future not pop in for a crap, there is something wrong with the relationship, and this is what Kitty is spotting. Which is partly why she finds it all so particularly offensive.

I do not think she is hung up at all. I think that, in a subtle way, she is being abused. And if, in fact, she is not and he is just an uninhibited dog-like chap, he would appreciate her disgust, when she pointed it out to him, however unreasonable he felt it was, and desist from doing it.

What readers say

Get him under control

Kitty's boyfriend sounds revolting! He is either this insensitive because he grew up in a large family with no privacy, or else he is simply too bashful to say what he really wants: to get into her bath.

Kitty must bear in mind that all men are, to some degree, repulsive (just think of the jokes they laugh at) and, like the majority of women in long- term relationships, she must develop subtle techniques for controlling behaviour that is unacceptable to her. What her friends may think is irrelevant.

CLARE

Pontypool

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

Kitty's boyfriend should learn some manners. I suggest that she tells him to stop his dumping antics or he'll get dumped. Failing this I think that she should go out with the girls, have 10 pints of Guinness and a large vegetable Madras, and give him a taste of his own medicine the next day.

GEOFFREY MORGAN

Malvern, Worcestershire

Marking territory

Is Kitty's boyfriend marking his territory so that she does not entertain thoughts of moving in on a permanent basis? Or does he come from a family where this behaviour is accepted, whereas Kitty obviously does not? She could try asking him whether he wants to use the lavatory before she has a bath, as she would like to take this opportunity to relax.

Personally, I would throw the soap at him - and aim well.

ANON

Tyne & Wear

Lock yourself in

Invest in a travel lock, available from any camping store. These clever little devices are designed to give the traveller protection from dubious foreign types in shady pensions with lockless doors and should suit your purpose admirably. They will fit any door that opens inwards, can be carried in your pocket, and cost less than pounds 5.

J FALLOWS

Toxteth

Liverpool

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I have my A-level results and a place at university. My problem is that I want a year off to travel, but my parents are insisting I take up the place right away. They say things such as "Strike while the iron is hot" and say I can go when I've finished. They are education-mad. What should I do?

Geri

Letters are welcome, and everyone who has a suggestion quoted will be sent a bouquet from . Send comments and dilemmas to Virginia Ironside, Features Department, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171-293 2182, or e-mail: dilemmas @independent.co.uk - giving your postal address.

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