I was at a Moth StorySLAM in Cambridge last week and I found myself in a gender-neutral restroom, which I have used many, many times.
Men and women peeing in the same room. Stalls and urinals.
It was a little surprising the first time I entered this restroom and encountered women, but two years later, it’s absolutely, positively no big deal.
Except sometimes I get to learn something that I didn’t know.
Last week, I was using a urinal while two women occupied stalls to the right, talking to each other through the partitions. They talked for about a minute, engaged in a lively discussion, before one of the women said, “Okay, we need to stop talking for a second and just pee.”
And they did.
I found this amusing. Does this happen all the time, or was I experiencing a one-off moment?
It’s not unusual for two men to talk while using urinals, but we are presumably peeing while speaking. I’ve never felt the need to pause before speaking. Sometimes I'm even shouting across a crowded restroom in Gillette Stadium, asking my friend to meet me in a certain location once we’re finished.
So maybe this was an unusual and amusing moment, or maybe not. With more men and women occupying the same restroom space, mysteries will be revealed. The curtain will be pulled back.
Either way, it wasn’t a big deal, and it’s still not a big deal to me. Memorable and amusing but nothing more.
I know others disagree. Given that the Vice President doesn’t allow himself to have dinner with a woman unless his wife is present, I suspect that peeing in the same room as a woman might cause him heart failure.
But I also suspect that for Mike Pence and others opposed to these gender neutral restrooms, their historical lens is shortsighted.
Less than a lifetime ago, there were places in this country where the notion that African Americans and whites could sit alongside each other at lunch counters or on public transportation prompted outrage and violence. Not too long ago (and still in some places today), an African American man would be taking his life in his hands if he dared to date a white woman.
The Supreme Court decision allowing for interracial marriage was decided just 50 years ago. This means that the marriage that produced President Obama would have been illegal in many American states at the time of his birth.
What seems ridiculous or impossible or uncomfortable today will be commonplace tomorrow. As human beings, we tend to view the world through the limited lens of the present, and happily, progress often happens faster than we think.
Had you asked me 20 years ago if I would see an African American President, legalized same sex marriage, legalized marijuana, or gender neutral restrooms in my lifetime, I would have said no.
Thankfully I would’ve been wrong.