Cumberland Times-News

June 23, 2012

What are you doing in there, young (wo)man?

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— There are certain areas in which men and women are unlikely to achieve agreement, let alone understanding.

One involves bathrooms and all things related to them ... like what part of which shelf the man will be allowed to use for storing his meager accoutrements.

It starts early in a man’s life, with his mom.

“What are you doing in there that takes so long?” she calls from outside the closed door. (Dad said that once when his mother wanted to know, he hollered back, “Sssssshhhhhaaaavin’!”)

I don’t know about other guys, but I probably was reading a comic book and lost track of time.

Little kids have their binkies. I had comic books. I even read them at the dinner table ... until my father decided it was a habit that should be discouraged.

As we grow older, the situation is reversed. Then, it is the man who wants to know why the woman is spending so much time in the bathroom. (“I’m getting ready,” she says, if he asks. “Ready for what?” he is tempted to ask, but he knows better, so he just accepts things the way they are.)

What’s particularly mystifying is when the woman emerges looking no different than she did when she went in.

I once dated a woman whose hair always looked the same — regardless of the circumstances — even before and after her trips to the beautician. I came to the conclusion that she’d had it molded. A mutual friend knows her and agrees with me.

One of my friends was caught up in the woman/bathroom phenomenon years ago during his senior class trip to Ocean City.

He and some of his compatriots were out doing whatever it is kids do on their senior trip when three girls decided to return to the hotel and freshen up before they all went out for dinner. This involved a walk of several blocks through unfamiliar and potentially unsafe territory.

My friend and one of his buddies did the gallant thing and escorted them back to the hotel. They would wait in the girls’ room until the girls were ready and then walk them back to rejoin the others.

He was telling his mom and me this story. We have been like brother and sister almost since the day we were born, and when he said he and his buddy figured the process wouldn’t take very long, that’s when she and I looked at each other and started to snicker.

Hours passed, he said. Eventually, he and the other guy stretched out on the beds and went to sleep. Not one of the girls had so much as poked her head out of the bathroom.

“I have no idea they were doing in there all that time,” he said. His mom and I chuckled a bit more, and I suggested there are some things men aren’t supposed to know.

When he said the girls stored their makeup and associated paraphernalia in “pink tackle boxes,” his mom and I began to howl.

“It’s called a ‘kaboodle,’ ” she gasped. I added that  “pink tackle boxes” was as good a description as any because they did, in fact, contain items that were used for bait.

Mothers traditionally have a hard time getting their sons into the bathroom when it’s bath time.

My mom always wanted me to wash my feet as soon as I came in from playing in the yard ... particularly before dinner.

Only one time did I suggest to her that I didn’t plan to eat with my feet.

Whenever a man and a woman have mutual access to a bathroom, there will be conflict. It can even involve closing the door or leaving it open while the bathroom is occupied. I am serious about that, and don’t ask how I know.

Aside from the amount of time spent in them, the biggest source of male-female turmoil surrounding bathrooms involves the toilet seat.

Men truly do not understand why some women make an issue of having to put the seat down, even to the point of being enraged by it. No guy I’ve ever talked to has said he minds putting the seat down when he has to.

“Did you ever try to sit down in the dark and find out that the seat was up?” was what one woman asked me (through ferociously clenched teeth, I might add).

“Only once,” I said. (Not the right answer.)

I am convinced that those fluffy things women put on the tank cover and the lid for the seat aren’t there for decoration, but because it is impossible to leave the seat up with them in place.

For a man, one of the biggest mysteries involving women and toilets is this: Why does it take two women (or more) to go?

My buddies and I first noticed this phenomenon at high school basketball games.

Entire bleacher rows full of girls would get up almost simultaneously, as if in response to a command that only they could see or hear,  and march off in a column to the restroom. Most of them were carrying shoulder bags that would hold more than a Boy Scout’s knapsack.

I have asked a few women about this ... women I believed and could trust — like my mother, who always told me the truth, even (and especially) when I didn’t want to hear it.

Mom told me that: (a) There is safety in numbers; and (b) It allows women to communicate freely in the absence of any male listeners. Reasonable explanations, those.

Captain Gary and I were sitting at one end of the bar at Gettysburg Eddie’s while three 20something women were sitting nearby.

All three were busy texting and paying no attention whatsoever to each other or anything else, except at odd times when they resurfaced to converse briefly between themselves or with the bartender. They continued to text with the thumbs of both hands even while drinking, by bending over to sip through straws.

The thought crossed my mind that, “There is nobody on this planet that I want to talk to that badly.”

Suddenly, all three got up at the same time and went one after the other into the restroom.

They were texting when they went in, they were still texting when they came out, and they were in there for quite a while.

What they were doing in there that took so long, I have no idea, but then I don’t want to know. I’m a man, and I realize that I’m much better off not knowing some things.

Besides, how much fun would life be without a few mysteries?