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December 13, 2015

Who designed these bathrooms and what should we do about this?

A Letter to Women’s Restrooms Without Receptacles for “Feminine Products”

Dear Women’s Restrooms,

Long time user, first time writer. I’m a fan of your services, particularly at my office, my favorite bar, and the airport. Much like a home, you provide comfort and sometimes even have a painting of a flower or a duck! For this, you go above and beyond.

But other times, you test me. Indeed, women’s restrooms, when I’m not busy resting or sitting in you, I am often asking: where should I put my “feminine product?” Where is your pedal-lift trash can? Where is your side bin? How did we get to a place where we have no place to dispose of our “feminine products,” and what are we to do about it?

I mean, I’ll defend you until someone throws rocks in my mouth, but women have always had periods (right?). So how could this have happened? Ah! Maybe it all started with a child, unaware of the functions of a woman’s body. Picture it: it’s 1500 A.D.. A little boy is in a public Italian market with his grizzled architect father, hardly recognized in his community of masons and goldsmiths.

“Papa, I need to use the bathroom!” the boy cries.

“You can’t, we aren’t home. Eat a lamb leg,” the father replies, examining a pendulum.

“But I need the bathroom, now!” the boy squeals.

Then boom! A flash of inspiration. What if everyone could go to the bathroom in public areas? Markets, theatres – anywhere! The tortured architect scrambles for the nearest parchment and scrawls down his idea. One restroom for men, one for women. Toilet here, soap here, wash basin here.

“Honey, I think the women’s bathroom could use a –,” his wife, Magdalena, marquis of Mantua, begins.

“Shh, I’m thinking of ideas!” He interrupts.

Poor Magdalena, marquis of Mantua, lady of many sheep. If only she had been allowed to voice her opinion, we wouldn’t be standing here today, in a stall, full-handed, without a side bin.

Unless … is this a challenge? I love challenges, women’s restrooms! I knew we could still work it out. This is great. This will be fun, even.

So here’s what happens: I’m in a meeting – the meeting – when Feminine nature calls. I wait for a sophisticated time to excuse myself. When I get to the bathroom stall and conduct what’s known in the biz as a “clean and swap,” I suddenly realize there is no tiny trash can. There is no side bin. I’m left full-handed with a “feminine product.” The cartoon with all the items you cannot throw into the toilet says not to flush it. Do I get embarrassed? Do I falter?

No! Challenge accepted! I will do Magdalena proud.

“But wait, you just closed a major account for Ford Motors, you shouldn’t be holding this, just flush it!”

No. I didn’t get to become C.E.O. of Ford Motors (the modern-day Mantua) by “just flushing” anything. I got here because I know how to get creative when the cards are stacked against me. So I hold my head high, leave the stall, and toss that thing in the trash – surrounded by witnesses who matter. I don’t pay them even the slightest glance, though. I just head to the sink, knowing I made my company $1.2 million. I think about buying myself a nice dinner, not as a “reward,” but because I deserve nice dinners on a daily basis. I think about all the communicative sex I’ll have that night – the romantic kind, too. I think about my Mustang (modern-day sheep). Why? Because the solution to your quandary is to be unstoppable. It is to be me.

Wait, no paper towels? Seriously, what’s wrong with you?


Rekha Shankar