Monday, 30 June 2008

In which I mine a rich confessional toilet seam

As a bulimic, you get very familiar with ladies loos. One of the many reasons I am again finally resolved to kick this (and doing good! It's been about three months I think! Yay me. I think it's the blogging.) is the amount of stupid wasted time spent in small cubicles when I:
a) could have been doing more interesting things
b) more importantly SHOULD have been doing other things. Like, er, my job. Just for instance.

This blog isn't about the minutiae of eating disorders and I'm not planning to give you some blow by blow account of my lowest barrel-scraping moments in the style of a best-selling confessional memoir. It is emphatically not part of my master plan to draw you in with amusing trivia about turbans and trams and the like and then spew my inner torment at you. I have plenty of shallow still to offer! The sales start today and everything! And tomorrow I go to London where the streets are paved with bagels and Heat magazine and cheery Cockneys whistle merry tunes.

I was just reflecting as I lay on the floor of the 19th century ornately tiled cubicle on the corridor of ennui today (stomach thing. For two days I have thought that this was a hangover, but I've finally concluded I am actually sick, rather than suffering karmic punishment for going out and enjoying myself with my new friend Mr Mojito. Ms Dodgy Falafel may be partially responsible though) that I have probably spent several whole years of my life doing this by now.

It's not only the bulimia, actually. Ladies loos are my refuge when nausea or tiredness, or inadequacy or some euro-ego or work fuck up gets the better of me. Lock myself in, lie on the floor and rest my cheek against the cool tiles, cry a little, close my eyes, prop my legs against the cistern and recharge. Those of you who find this disturbing from a hygiene perspective are almost certainly right, but I have the constitution of an ox, and any child of 70s hippies hosts some of the most impressive gastric fauna in the known universe what with all the hideous parasite-ridden 'health'foods we had to eat. And our belief that housework was a bourgeois construct.

As a result, I can recall with pinpoint accuracy the toilets of all my workplaces and homes. And most were rather inadequate.

The Corridor of Ennui certainly has a certain historical grandeur, but horrible plasterboard paritions spoil the effect and er, no hot water? Is this legal? I doubt. Also, the signage, dear god the signage. If your grasp of English is insufficient to make comprehensible passive aggressive signs about the state of the cubicles, shutting the door, not using excessive water and so on, I suggest you do them in your native language. It will enable me to learn interesting Dutch words, and you to fully express your supressed rage in faux-politeness. Ok? Ok.

London Corridor of Ennui: Probably the best quality of my regular bathroom haunts. Nice marble floors, hot and cold water, proper partitioning. Probably lots of cocaine residue what with this being the glamorous, edgy City if we can believe what we see on tv. Space was however an issue as it always is in London. Either I had to balance the bin on top of the loo and lie with my head thrust into the resultant space at a slight angle, or lie with my legs up the cubicle door at 90°. Neither tremendously comfortable. This, by some accident of timing, has always been more of a weeping/pregnancy tiredness cubicle for me rather than vomiting cubicle, but it would have been ideal. My office was however stationed directly opposite the gents. That was nasty. Do the adjusting BEFORE you open the door gentlemen. I thank you.

Spitalfields flat saw a lot of action, due to coinciding with the 'extreme madness' period. Good toilets. Distance from living quarters very great, enabling me to evade suspicion. Plenty of space to sit and/or lie without suffering injuries. I have no instructions to issue to the new occupiers of the flat on how to behave in this loo. Which is big of me I think. Though if I remember rightly, the eurospawn took the flush button to use for a craft project, so you have to use a pencil to poke the flush down.

College toilets. Oh, so very very bad. Like everything at the dreaming gulag they were medieval and very very very far away. And cold. Seriously, three floors worth of splinter-tastic wooden stairs to descend to go pee in the night? Enough to give you some kind of bladder condition. Do they know the prevalence of eating disorders among bonkers perfectionist over-achiever girls at these places? Do they not think we might need a little comfort and convenience? No. Oxford - get better toilets. Seriously. Gazillions of pounds of donation and all you buy are LIBRARIES? You have enough of them! More loos.

Belgian toilets - oooh I haven't even told you about Dames Pipi have I? They sort of merit a whole post of their own, but tant pis. Belgium has solved the problem of isolation and unemployment in women over sixties in inner cities at a stroke by making the Dame Pipi an obligatory feature of Brussels culture. She is a crone who sits outside the loo in any public place with large empty margarine tub for your mandatory coin. Think 20 to 50 centimes. Some of them are lovely, most are terrifying, but I generally think it is a rather fine idea. I sort of feel I should be exploiting the system a bit more by asking them philosophical questions about ageing, long term relationships, loss, the female condition and so on. Or at the very least, recipes. They must be a hell of a repository of wisdom, you would have thought. But they are mainly too scary. They also pop up where you least expect them, not merely in fine art deco Brussels bars where they seem to fit in perfectly. They have them in Macdonalds, if you can believe it. And the cinema. Hospitals. Pizza Hut. Underground garages. Basically, never go anywhere in Belgium without a pocket full of small change, or face the consequences.

This is getting a bit strident isn't it. Sorry. But I have another loo problem - the vocabulary. It's just fraught, isn't it? I mean, 'toilet' is supposed to be a bit non-U and déclassé. And 'loo' and 'lavatory' are a bit posh for me, and despite all signs to the contrary, I am in fact a hardened class warrior in Louboutins, oh yes. The prog rock step dad says 'bog'. The belle famille say things like 'les water' or 'WC' ('waysay'). I need a new word. Suggestions?

Oh, and update: This article today isn't me, despite a number of similarities. If it was there would be more jokes. But I am all about the zeitgeist doncha know.


zoe said...

There is always "the Shithouse" when no kids are around - depending on how you talk to them, "the lav", "the Outhouse", "the BATHroom", for our friends across the pond, or I just say that "I need a pee."

Jaywalker said...

Yeah, but they're all awful aren't they? Shithouse as in 'Built like a brick shithouse' is ok I suppose.

Persephone said...

Some more (or less) esoteric suggestions from Canada: We always got in trouble from our teachers for referring to it as "the can". Not sure why. Canadian grown-up women usually call it "the washroom" ("Where's your washroom, please?") or "the ladies' " which are probably not exclusive Canadian terms, but fit in with the national delusion that we are all polite.

Jaywalker said...

Hey Persephone,
I rather like washroom. It's sort of utilitarian-chic. I might try that.

Jaywalker said...

Ooh, and Persephone, I have been meaning to ask, is your hair yellowy green, or is that just the background to the photo?

Persephone said...

That's my younger daughter's shirt. She's standing behind my chair in the original photo. My own locks, due to the cruelty of genetics on both sides of my family, are not what they were. Sigh...
Now that you mention it, I look rather like the back-up singer in a retro-disco act, don't I?

Jaywalker said...

Persephone - yes indeed, but in a very good way. You are definitely adding a disco touch to my Wednesday.

Léonie said...

I once referred to it as "the bathroom" in an attempt to be distreet, elegant and possibly American. The guy looked at me blankly and said "The what? The bathroom? Why? Do you want to have a bath or what?" at which point I had to explain that, no, I just needed the toilet, which somewhat negated the discretion and elegance I had been going for.

I usually say "loo" because I am a nicely, spoken, well-brought-up lady from the Home Counties. Shithouse indeed! Goodness.

Léonie said...

I was a little enthusiastic with my commas there! I meant nicely-spoken, of course.

Jaywalker said...

Leonie (your accent has gone on this English keyboard, sorry) - that does indeed spoil the effect you are right, and presumably the same might happen with 'washroom'. Curses. Back to the drawing board.

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