“May I Please Use the Rest Room?”

“May I please use the rest room?” Oh, the countless times I heard this request as a school teacher in decades gone by. I’m certain I uttered it myself as a student on many occasions, too, my bladder yearning for relief from the building pressure.

One ashen-faced high school student voiced the same request to me one afternoon just before the bell, then proceeded to regurgitate his lunch all over the classroom floor. Unforgettable moments.

We are a delicate society in many respects, I suppose. Most kids my age did not grow up on a farm, so we were unaware of many of nature’s surprises until a late age, e.g. how babies are made, etc. We were taught to keep “private parts” private, and to “do our business” without an audience. Those who did not do so were considered crude and inappropriate, and were often punished for it by parents and school officials.

I’m not sure we are always better off as a society with our niceties; in fact, I could easily make the case (I think) that our ignorance of natural things has often intensified and abetted an unnatural interest in things natural. But . . . that is a separate discussion.

Growing up in my generation the boys were always intrigued and fascinated by the difference between them and the girls. We all wondered what it was like in the girl’s restroom, and in what way it might be different. The mysteries that surrounded sexuality fueled the quest and fanned the flame. On occasion, some boy willing to risk behaving inappropriately would venture into a girl’s bathroom in an attempt to rend the curtain of privacy and mystery. But that was rare.

Kids in school today live in a very different world than the one I just described. One has only to go to the internet to see in HD quality what it looks like for a man and a woman to engage in sexual intercourse. Or to watch two gay men having anal sex. Or to watch two lesbians imitating vaginal intercourse. One can see shemales on the internet. One can watch what used to be called “bestiality,” too.

In fact, on the internet ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is taboo. You can watch people as their throats are cut, and see them as they expire; watch people blown up in explosions and see the aftermath.

The problem now is not the sheltering of children as they mature; rather, the absence of any shelter at all. Presidential candidates insulting one another, insinuating that the size of the others’ penis is small. We certainly aren’t called “the land of the free” for nothing, are we? We have become so free we almost no longer have any constraints at all.

There is no mystery any longer.

There is no surprise.

But instead of experiencing relief due to this knowledge of all things natural, instead of awareness defusing unstable and explosive intrigue, we have exacerbated the problems of maturing, and have created expectations as unlikely as a siting of Sasquatch.

We have learned to prefer the counterfeit to the real; the imaginary to the factual. That is “how we roll,” as we now say. We are taught how life is to be lived by watching any one of a number of countless TV channels, or by streaming video on the internet, not by the wisdom of those in our family who have lived it before us. [I say that, but realize that now we are fast approaching a time when many of those who have gone before us have indeed tried to live life by what they saw on their electronic devices].

But now our issues are more complex than just male and female, boy and girl. Our sexual identities, we are told, can be different from our physically determined genders. So, we might be male physically, but female in our sexual identity. Or we might be female physically, but male in our sexual identity. Or we might be male physically, and male in our sexual identity, but we prefer male sexual relationships. Or we might be female physically, and female in our sexual identity, but we prefer female sexual partners. Or we might be either male or female physically, and male or female in our sexual identity, and prefer both male and female sexual relationships. Or . . . .

Can the list go on, perhaps? I think it can.

You see, things have gotten very complex.

Now, when a student says, “May I please use the rest room?” the teacher can’t really be sure which rest room the student wishes to use. Why does it matter? When I was teaching I was encouraged to be careful not to allow two students in the same bathroom at the same time (to help make sure the bathroom request was legitimate, and not just an effort for two students to skip class together).

Granted, the more crafty boys and girls could ask to use the bathroom around the same time, and thereby create a time to rendezvous as a couple. But now the situation is much more complex. Because the teacher doesn’t know if it’s a boy wanting to go into the same restroom as a girl . . . or a boy wanting to go into the same restroom as another boy . . . or a transgender person wanting . . . .

Does anyone just go to the bathroom anymore? Or does it ALL have a sexual undertone?

I had a psychology teacher in high school who used to begin class by individually asking students, “Who are you?” Once a response was given, he would rapidly ask the same student again, “Who are you?” He would do this several times, undoubtedly in an effort to peal back layers of identity, for no one gave the same answer twice.

Identity is an odd, yet many-splendored thing.

But it must surely be determined before one chooses which bathroom to use.

Or maybe . . . that can be just as changeable as the weather. And why not? Who’s to say it can’t be, or shouldn’t be? Who, indeed?

The United States government is suing the State of North Carolina because it has allegedly violated the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against transgender persons, and North Carolina is suing the U.S. government over the effect of its new and unique interpretation of discrimination with regard to “sex” (i.e. to include chosen sexual identity) and the resulting legal action. This conundrum is a proverbial Gordian Knot.

Corporate business in a number of sectors is taking sides, and the public at large is doing so as well. Our country is splintering.

So, let’s just take the name MEN and WOMEN, or BOYS and GIRLS off the doors of our restrooms. It just doesn’t matter anymore. I came out of a MEN’S bathroom at a coffee shop a couple of weeks ago, only to trade places with a WOMAN. And I have seen MEN coming out of WOMEN’S restrooms at my place of work, too. Maybe we should just make all public restrooms with a single toilet and a lock on the door. Would that take care of the issue?

And, more importantly, all the while we are wrestling over the sociopolitical issues and implications of this dilemma there is a more serious issue facing us, much like the oft mentioned nine-tenths of an iceberg that sits below the surface of the frigid water.

Not only are our CORE VALUES changing as a society (being brought more up-to-date, in the opinion of many), but there is no longer any agreement as to the SOURCE of our core values. It’s as if we’re flying by the seat of our pants . . . and the pant material is getting dangerously thin.

We are flying the massive 747 Airplane of LIFE with a Cessna engine. And friends, I don’t care how plush it is in the passenger area right now – THIS PLANE IS GONNA CRASH!

I was listening to NPR the other day and was struck by a couple of topics that were paramount that day; one will suffice for this blog entry. The discussion was over the rising problem of female sexual assault on college campuses, and the expert being interviewed was harping on the injustice that would be exacted on any perpetrator whose record of college sexual assault was made public. The expert explained that type of “branding” would potentially stick with a student for the rest of his life. And that would be –  unacceptable, of course. No case was made for the victim’s branding, or the injustice done to her.

Has our social focus changed so radically that we are passionately motivated to protect the reputation of those who violate others?

Yes. Such is the measure of our moral resolve these days.

About ivanbenson

I am a singer, guitar player, writer, story teller, voice over talent, and heart attack survivor in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
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5 Responses to “May I Please Use the Rest Room?”

  1. Lisa Pettu says:

    Good article. I believe what you say is true. It makes me very uneasy; the world our children will have then they are grown.

  2. ivanbenson says:

    This past week there have been numerous media discussions about the conviction and light sentence of rapist, Brock Turner. There is notable public outrage, but at the same time this is the outcome of the kind of society we ourselves are creating and defending. We can’t have it both ways.

  3. Suzanne Doublestein says:

    You raise many good questions with this…you are right that it’s falling apart…or getting better depending on where you sit on some of these issues. Thanks for continuing to seek into all of these things – not an easy world we live in.

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