Mind your pees and qs
Posh Spice and David Beckham are thinking of installing 'his' and 'hers' loos in their bathroom. Has privacy finally gone down the pan? wonders
Aside from The Independent, Annalisa Barbieri writes for the Economist's Intelligent Life magazine, and the New Statesman. A former contributing editor of the Independent on Sunday and fishing correspondent of the Independent, she is also patron of Rights of Women
Sunday 21 February 1999
Oh dear, I thought when I read this nonsensical sentence. You'll learn. You say this now and it may seem like a lovely, natural thing to do at the moment, but in five years time when you start to annoy each other, that sharing of intimate moments will precipate the contempt that will inevitably creep between you. Marked, perhaps, by the pinging of toenails being cut a deux. No, Victoria, peeing in front of your partner, or in any way being too open in your ablutions with them, is a very bad idea.
Many years ago, I was told that my grandmother never let anyone see her get undressed let alone go to the toilet and, because my grandmother was really cool, I decided this was a good way to behave. "Always retain something just for yourself," my mother said. And I did. Now even if five gallons of liquid were pressing down on my bladder I could not let go in front of my partner. Nor do I brush my teeth in front of him, or wax my legs or struggle into tights or let him see my pop socks. As for childbirth in front of my beloved! Heavens no. I think if you plan to spend the rest of your life with someone, the more mystery you retain the better. If I could, I would even have my own bedroom for nights when I feel full of period pain or indigestion. You could argue, at this point, that loving someone means them knowing all of you, warts and all, and if they love you they will love you even if they've seen you vomit. I say no. That's what what mothers are for.
Naturally, not everyone agrees and I know I stand alone with my views. "Saying 'You have to keep a bit of mystery' is so 1950s,'" says Sandra, 32, who does pee in front of her boyfriend of three years. Where would she draw the line? "There's very little I wouldn't do in front of him. After all, if you're going to have a child by a man then him seeing you go to the toilet is no big deal." (Funnily enough, the question of childbirth spontaneously cropped up quite a few times when the subject of bathroom etiquette was mentioned. "Childbirth," says Nicholas, 30, who is currently single, "put me off having anything sexual to do with my girlfriend ever again." No doubt Nicholas is a shallow boy but Victoria could do with chewing on that thought before she allows David into the delivery room.)
Interviewing 50 people for this piece showed some interesting trends. Men, on the whole, thought openness in the bathroom was fine while double the amount of women to men do not and would not dream of peeing in front of their partners. It also elicited some unexpected responses: folk I was somewhat cautious of approaching with the "Do you pee?" question, thinking they might be offended, could then barely contain themselves from reciting bathroom anecdotes. "We have our best chats then," said one 55-year-old, very straight-laced woman, proving you can't tell who would or wouldn't just by age or appearance (although as a rule the younger you are the more likely you are to feel relaxed abut the issue).
Perhaps to famous people like Victoria and David, whose personal lives are regularly splashed across the world's newspaper pages, insisting on privacy is pretty irrelevent. As for the rest of us, I'd like to see a return to a little more modesty in all things and strongly believe that bathroom doors should always come between partners and their peeing.
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