I was at a trendy bar recently. I'm pretty reclusive these days and very much the healthier, older, side of my partying years. I'm no longer used to nightclubs and I'd forgotten something important: dancing is great fun! I spent a couple of hours boogying alone in the corner of a room, and two separate hipsters approached and asked to buy drugs from me. "I don't have drugs," I informed them to astonishment. I'd had a coupla beers and a shot of tequila. Shoreditch, for some of us, that's enough to have a good time!
But it wasn't the presumption of drug use that made me feel an irrecoverable distance from the party scene: it was the toilets. This trendy East London bar, full of wild people having a wild time, had a problem with the john. Searching for somewhere to pee, I found one walled cubicle containing one normal toilet, but attached to the cubicle door was a sign reading "Women" and next to this, hand written on a piece of paper, an order for "no men to use women's toilet". OK, I thought, I must've missed the men's. And then I noticed, a few steps away, a pair of swing doors (like in a Western), decorated with a male silhouette. I pushed through and discovered two urinals, barely 30cm apart. Woah, woah, woah, I thought. I'm too old for this.
Urinals. How are urinals still a thing?
I'm going to address anyone here who isn't a urinal-using man: imagine trying to relax enough to urinate with a strange man stood, his willy out, a few centimetres away. Imagine feeling the misty sprayback of a stranger's urine float over your hands. Imagine his shoulder rolling into you as he bounces about. Imagine him farting. Imagine him shaking and pulling (I do mean pulling) on his johnson in what would ordinarily be your personal space. Imagine this man putting his damp penis back in his pants and imagine how many drips must soak through his underwear. Imagine the world telling you this is how you're expected to behave.
Why does society presume that women require the privacy and toilet paper of cubicles, but that men are fine without it? Why do trendy nightclubs presume men won't poo, especially when trendy nightclubs are filled with people on the kind of drugs that are regularly cut with laxatives?
Real men don't poo, real men don't wee in private (or sitting down) and real men don't dab the urine off their penises with toilet paper. That is the undeniable opinion of trendy nightclubs all over East London.
A toilet cubicle, even a dirty, smelly, one, offers a moment to unwind, relax, and feel alone, whether in the middle of a work day or a casual evening out.
As an anxious man, it's rare for me to leave the house other than for work. (Anyone want to give me a six figure sum to base a movie on my blog? No? You sure?) When I'm with other people, I need regular solitude to hold back the panic attacks. Smokers get the excuse of their addictions to achieve peace, but my only excuse is the bladder. The cubicle gives four walls, an optional seat, temporary nudity (always calming), and the chance to relax literally every part of my body. In a cubicle, I can forget the stress of the exterior world. And once I've urinated - sitting or standing, it's my choice in a cubicle - I can ensure my willy is drip-free using toilet roll. (NB: every single man I've directly asked if they do this has told me they do, though to be fair I've only asked two men and one of them was Austrian.)
Public urinals are another of those butch, macho, cultural ideas that shouldn't exist in 2017, especially in liberal Hackney. I understand urinals are cheaper to install than cubicle-ed toilets, but doing so is an aggressive act, stating that those who identify as men must feel comfortable with public urination.
Now, I'm not ashamed of my own nudity (check out my YouTube channel) or the fact of my bladder ("we ain't nothin' but mammals") but I don't feel it's right for nightspots to make me feel inferior for not wanting to hold my todger while bumping shoulders with a stranger. It's not that I always want to sit down or constantly need to poo, but that I want to be alone, and relaxed, when I squeeze out wee. Please, hipster cocktail bars of East London, make me feel it's OK to want to pee in private. It's not that I can't or that I won't go in public, but that I don't want to. Why do you feel the need to tell me what it means to be a man?