Wednesday, 2 September 2009

We aren't getting THAT intimate, honey.

Tonight husband is watching Once Upon a Time in Mexico. It has Johnny Depp in it, so I am not complaining.

Husband says: "Wifey, I am sorry, but I would"- (talking about Salma Hayek of course, not Johnny Depp) and I nod in appreciation. Oh, and William Defoe is in it too- this movie is exciting on so many levels.

This might seem like a bizarre topic for a blog. But then again, you know me by now. I like bizarre topics.

During my (younger and fitter) years I was a member of the university dancing group.
We would occasionally get invited to visit international youth festivals hosted by other universities abroad but our uni of course, could not afford to send us in style.

So, our very first trip to Turkey had to be in a bus, via Georgia, for about 2 days. The Soviet Union had just collapsed and it was a dodgy time to be traveling across the neighboring borders in anything other than a tank. But we were young and brave, and eager for adventure.

In the end, my worst memory of that long journey was not the fact that we had to be escorted to the Turkish border in the pitch black of the night by a convoy of two Georgian police cars (one in the front of the bus and one behind) And not the suspicious guerrilla types with Kalashnikovs who stopped our bus in the middle of nowhere to check who we were…..But the toilet experience.

I remember us taking a toilet break somewhere between Azerbaijan and Georgia. Please don’t test my geography here- I have not got a clue where we were, or whose territory (technically) that was. It was a wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere. Holding my breath, I glanced inside and ran right out. My brain was telling my body I had to consider using the facility while I had a chance. My body said: No, thank you. I am fine, honestly.

My dislike of public toilets goes back to the nursery summer camp when I was about five years old. A few days after my parents had dropped me off, they received a phone call. I would not do a poo in the camp toilet. It was one of those Asian style toilets- the squat type, with no toilet seat and a big open hole where, if you looked down, you could see stuff no civilized human being should ever get to see.

The Soviet teachers tried everything. They threatened me with an enema (quite commonly used on constipated children back home, which still horrifies my husband) but- nope, no poo. My parents had to take me home.

But it is not just the dislike of the filthy public loos that is the issue for me. I have always had this worry of needing to go to the toilet somewhere else but my own house. I do not like to do it anywhere where other people might suspect what I am up to.

Which creates a lot of uncomfortable situations in life. A weekend away with a new boyfriend, for example. Hotel rooms have bathrooms separated from the room by a flimsy little door and a very thin partition. Not my idea of a romantic atmosphere.

Or the western house layouts.

Back home in my Baku flat we had a corridor leading into a bathroom lobby, where another door was separating toilet from the bathroom. So if you were in there, you could enjoy some proper privacy.

In the UK, it is pretty normal to have one or more bathrooms upstairs, one of which is normally on suite of the master bedroom. Sometimes, it has a proper door. Sometimes- a symbolic folding type, which does not close properly. And a friend of mine bought a house in the states, where there was no door at all between their master bedroom and the toilet. I mean-no door at all????

So we were discussing whether it is a cultural attribute, or more of a personal choice and attitude towards bodily functions. Is it a sign of intimacy soooo advanced that it is just beyond my grasp? Does it depend on how long you have been together? Do you reach the stage where you are happily brushing your teeth whilst your partner is on the toilet?

If that is sign of a healthy relationship, then I am in trouble. But also lucky that even though we were brought up in such different cultures, I had never had to explain certain personal boundaries to my husband.


  1. Haha, this is a funny topic, and sad at the same time. I have the same recollection of a summer camp toilet in Azerbaijan when I was 4--the smell and the sight haunt me to this day, I swear! Talk about public hygiene, right? YUCK...Luckily, that was the last time I ever went to a summer camp back at home. But I did have to use public toilets on the border between Az and Russia--those you had to pay for looked much cleaner, of course. These days, when I have to use public restrooms in the US and I complain they are filthy, I try to remind myself that they are WAY cleaner than the ones we grew up with at summer camps and other public places at home.

  2. As it is usual, my class went to a field trip to various Peruvian cities in the mid 80s. Many places in the Andes, many hours in a bus... only latrines to be used, placed literally in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, I am not that picky when I have to go. I just go.
    Now, about being at the toilet while your partner washes their teeth... well, that is a different story.

  3. I was probably 20 before I would poo anywhere but my own house. I carry super-mega-alcohol hand sanitizer with me in case I must use a public bathroom, ewwww.

    The worst bathroom I have ever seen is an even toss-up between a bar on the Lower East Side and the bathroom on the trans-Siberian RR. The railroad bathrooms weren't particularly befouled, they were just WET because every smelly train passenger (except me, I was not staying in there any longer than absolutely necessary) would take a shower in there with a bottle of water and leave the place a gross, soggy mess.

    I used a squatty potty for the first time in Krasnoyarsk, paid 13 rubles for the privilege, too. I was very proud that I managed not to tinkle all over my pants.

  4. Interesting post.

    In the army while on bivouac, we would sometimes have to dig our own holes when "nature called." And this was far superior to asian squat toilets. Those things are just atrocious.

    On the other hand, in Baku in proper western-style toilets, I like how the toilet and the shower/bath are often separate rooms.

    Also, the little sprayers that are found next to the toilet are very useful if somewhat messy if you are not careful. I often wonder how I will install one when I get back to the States. I don't think the plumber would understand what I was trying to describe. Probably have to do it myself.

  5. Hmm...Looks like I should have split this posting into two parts:

    Part 1- Filthy public loos
    Part 2- Your views on toilet sharing with your partners...
    Because nobody seems to say anything about Part 2? :))

    @Fab Cook- what is the little sprayer???

  6. LOVED this post! I'm not alone in the world!!! I just can't "go" at a toilet that it's not my own (unless I've been away for DAYS) and can't even think of the idea of doing it in front of my husband...! Noooooo!

  7. Part 1 - As an American (and retired military officer), I was truly horrified at the "squatty potty" hole-in-the-ground concept and the general level of filth at public facilities I encountered in my travels in the former Soviet Union. Made the camp latrines I've encountered seem pleasant. The "hang-on-for-dear-life" strap on the door at my wife's aunt's garden "facility" in the Crimea was the exclamation point on this topic!
    Part 2 - When we built our home several years ago, we selected a master bathroom where the commode is in its own little room - just like back in Baku. Modesty isn't a bad thing and there is certianly nothing to prove by spouses being this "inimate"!

  8. The ass-washing device

  9. We now have a solution for the "filthy public loos" problem. You've got to admire modern civilization - there's now a website that shows public bathrooms on a Google map! They can even be rated, LOL!

  10. I am not sure, but I think I read once a book about a couple living somewhere on a tropical island and they had a bathroom with two toilets (johns?. The couple had bought the house like that and never intended to use the bathroom together until they both had diarrhea. The author describes how they were sitting next to each other... May it be Tropic of cancer by Henry Miller?

  11. fab cook isn't it called sanitary shower? a good substitution for aftafa:)

  12. One of the most horrific memories in my life is a toilet in the bus station back in 1989 (Sheki, Azerbaijan):). It's a place surrounded by walls and all (I mean ALL) surface was covered with puddles of urine and poop:(( I still feel nauseated only re-imagining this place in my mind. Outhouses in Russia, eg Kuokalla (Repino)near St. Petersburg had been much-much cleaner but had also this terrible hole with floating waste and some insects, larva and worms teeming down there. I just remembered that being on summer practice (a tent camp near Guba's village of Nugedi) we , biology students, had to rescue our friend's glasses from such a latrine, literally dug it out from the hole with a twig:))It was not funny at the time and the poor girl had to wash in in the river and wear!