Image from Flicker.

In most public places, when you look for a bathroom, you’ll find two options.

One is labeled with a non-descript stick figure. It has two arms, two legs, and appears to be wearing a onesie pants. Obviously this is meant to be a man, right? Like how could we miss that? This is the “Men’s Room.” Mythical. Odorous. . . . Urinals.

The opposite door features another stick figure. It has two arms, two legs, but wait, what’s this? It’s wearing a dress. Obviously this is the universal sign for femininity. It’s the “Women’s Room.” If you didn’t catch the sign, you can usually tell that this is the “Women’s Room” (also coyly referred to as the “Ladies’ Room”) because there is a line to get in. It’s VIP access only. Nope, women can’t use the “Men’s Room,” not even if they really really have to go. It’s the “MEN’s Room.” They have their room. Women have their own. Thank God everyone falls into this socially constructed gender binary so neatly, otherwise we’d have a big problem!

Oh wait, a lot of people don’t fit neatly into the gender binary. Because of this, more and more college are opting for gender-neutral community bathrooms. Freaking out at the idea of brushing your teeth next to someone of another gender? Chill out. It’s no big deal.

Do . . .

  • Be respectful of others’ privacy. Like, duh. Don’t go barging in on people in the shower. Is that so hard to understand?
  • Clean up after yourself. Did you squirt toothpaste all over the counter? Wow, thank God we have these magical inventions called “paper towels.” Use one. Unlike suites and apartments, community bathrooms are generally cleaned by a custodial staff. Leaving them extra messes to clean up isn’t cool. You’re not “creating jobs” by throwing used floss all over the place. You are just being an insufferable brat.
  • Flush. Is this really so hard? It’s a very simple process. Step one: dispose of waste in toilet. Step two: flush. Shouldn’t the ability to flush be part of the admissions process? How can you function as an adult in a place of higher learning if you can’t flush the toilet? I’m genuinely concerned.
  • Share sink space. I get it. I do. I take forever to do my hair in the morning, but I realize that other people need the sink too. Just try to be respectful and accommodating. You don’t own the bathroom.
  • Wash. Your. Hands. Everyone has to touch the door handle to leave. Everyone. I don’t care if you’re late to class. I don’t even care if your dorm room is on fire. If you have time to do your business, you have time to wash your hands. I don’t want to touch things you have touched until soap and water have worked hard to make you at least slightly less disgusting. It’s common courtesy! This is Kindergarten-level stuff, people.
  • Lock the stall door. No one wants to walk in on that. Trust me.

Don’t . . .

  • Hotbox the bathroom. It makes everything smell like weed and your hall mates don’t want to get secondhand-high while brushing their teeth.
  • Leave your crap in the showers. This includes empty shampoo bottles, glass bottles, contraception, pregnancy tests, cigarette butts, and even hair. Maybe especially hair. It’s gross. You’re ruining everyone else’s morning and the glass bottles will inevitably break and (for some reason) not everyone wears shower shoes.
  • Actually crap in the showers. It’s happened before.
  • Take forever in the shower. You do want everyone else in the hall to bathe right? Of course you do! That’s why you need to cut your karaoke session short. Ten minutes is a decent time to shoot for.
  • Throw up anywhere outside the toilet. Especially if it’s a weekend. The poor sweet custodian (who does not need you making their lives harder) doesn’t come in to clean up Friday night’s mistakes until Monday morning. Needless to say, things will smell pretty ripe by Sunday afternoon.
  • Make a big deal out of the fact that the bathroom is gender neutral. Are you twelve? No? Then get over it.

The bathroom is a shared space. Believe it or not, you’re not the most important person to grace its moldy tiles with your presence. If you don’t want to make literally everyone in your hallway hate you, then be respectful, conscientious, and smart. This isn’t rocket science. Just treat the bathroom like it’s your own bathroom at home. One that you clean yourself. Easy enough, right?

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