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tfw: Someone Pees Next To You

tfw is a mini personal essay series I’m try to do on Tuesdays to recount second-person experiences of feelings and experiences we all have. Or maybe I’m the only one who has them?

Urinals are weird, aren’t they? They’re an assertion of the male gender, that they can stand when they pee, that sitting is not for them, that they can hold their wees and spit while releasing a little stream from their midpoint. Men are weird and urinals are weird.

You think this a lot when you pee, which is usually done at a urinal. You spend your time looking at redundant tiles with these thoughts or you stare at the grating that your body juice slides into or you look at your hands. You never look at your own penis. You never look at anyone else’s penis. You never look at your phone. There are certain things you cannot, should not do while using a urinal.

One of them is standing next to someone. Even if there are two urinals and the stalls are full, you wait. You don’t pee next to someone else. This isn’t your rule and you willingly break it—but other men don’t. You stand there, doing your thing, little wet drops bouncing onto your thighs—which is disgusting, BTW, and a hazard of standing peeing that no one talks about: the piss backsplash, which you know all about because your thighs are usually uncovered unlike most panted men.

A man walks up, he scoffs, and waits. Another walks up, laughs, “I think I’ll wait.” Another hums and just knocks on stall doors. No one pees next to you. Is it the shorts? It’s the shorts. It’s the very outwardly gay thing. Whether at work or at whatever random not-gay establishment, people don’t pee next to you. It’s similar to people not sitting next to you on the bus. Are you a gay plague? Are you a walking AIDS billboard? Are you the queer monster you were warned about? Part of you feels a bit relieved and excited but you also find it entirely unbelievable that a man-who-doesn’t-like-men would be that scared of you, a gentle man-loving-man in an environment where you parts are out. But you get it. You remember that one time a coworker—and semi-friend—flatly told you they weren’t going to pee next to you. It didn’t hurt as much as it felt so weird, like you literally got outed with your pants down.

But then someone stands next to you when you pee and you wish they never had. You wish you had that space. You wish you had that buffer, that you would have scared them away from you, that they wouldn’t be violating your personal space. Granted, if there is a partition dividing your pee space from their pee space, it’s all good: pee in the next urinal forever. Without the partition? Mind the gap. Do the One Urinal Rule. Don’t get too close.

But, also: get too close. Part of the fun of peeing at the urinal is that which scares all men-who-don’t-like-men: seeing another penis. You’ve seen them before, mostly when you were younger and could get away with staring around like an impolite, potentially intellectually lapsed troll. You saw lots of urinal dick then. You don’t see them anymore because you cannot blatantly stare. You wish the days hadn’t changed and that you hadn’t gotten older but, also, ew. That’s nasty. But also: show it. Everyone is curious how everyone else looks naked. Why would using a urinal dissolve that?

So you pee alone. You abide by the One Urinal Rule. You try not to use by anyone else and, if the opportunity is available, you just pee sitting down. You’d rather do the less manly alternative, the one where you get to stare at your phone while doing duties. That’s more your style. Why stand when you can sit? It’s much less and much more exciting in the bathroom of your own.

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