Years and years ago, a book called ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. It was a bestseller though I never really could work out why. All it did was take hundreds of pages to tell you what everyone already knew: men and women are different. That wasn’t rocket science, so why write an entire book about it and have it translated into a million languages?
Until I was about five, I had the bladder control of an eighty-five year old man. Which meant that whenever I was out and about with my mother, she would routinely need to bring me into the ladies’ toilet.
“Honestly,” she would sigh, “I asked you when we left the house if you needed to go and you said no. Do you have any idea how disruptive this is to my shopping?”
“But I didn’t need to go then!” I remember telling her. “I need to go now!”
“Well, this is the last time I’m taking you shopping with me!” she would threaten. “You can go with your daddy the next time!”
But here’s the thing that I’ve always remembered: The ladies’ toilet was always so clean. And the minute the door opened, you got hit with a distinctive antiseptic smell. The men’s toilet, on the other hand, stank of stale pee with puddles around the urinals.
Once, when my father took my four year old sister out on an errand and she suddenly announced she needed to pee, he had to bring her to the men’s. Years later, she said she’d never recovered from the trauma.
“My God, the smell! And that was the first time I realised that men have the worst aim ever especially considering what they have to work with. With a woman, I get it, but what excuse does a man have?” she wondered to the world at large.
So, really, if it’s one thing that separates men from women, it’s their toilet habits. Which is to say that we guys, according to the fairer sex, don’t have any. Which, if we were the sensitive type (and, again, we’re not), would be a highly offensive accusation.
In the prosecution of their case, women inevitably trot out the toilet seat as Exhibit C (Exhibit A being the smell of the men’s loo, and Exhibit B, the bad aim).
On the first morning after I’d moved in with Saffy and Amanda, I remember being accosted in the corridor by Saffy. She looked up at me severely, her flimsy nightgown doing little to hide the rhythmic heaving of her pneumatic breasts. “Excuse me, but can I just say that I got the shock of my life last night when I went to the loo?”
“Really?” I asked politely, vaguely wondering where this was all leading.
“Yes, I sat down on the icy cold rim of the toilet!” Saffy exclaimed. “You left the seat up! I nearly wet myself!”
“Well, if you had, you couldn’t have been in a more appropriate place to do it,” I pointed out reasonably.
For days after, it was all I heard about. “He leaves the toilet seat up!” Saffy complained to all her friends, including complete strangers she might meet in the lift.
The thing that has always struck me is that I have never once heard a guy complain, “Jeez, why do women always leave the toilet seat down!” Never. Never. And why? Because, we just bend over slightly and lift the seat up. It’s no big deal. It’s just a simple flexing of one finger, two at most. It takes barely a second and it really doesn’t warrant a moment’s thought. Besides, we’re thinking about other things during that one second of flex and lift – like why the bathroom smells of lavender oil, and why there are fluffy doily things wrapped around the spare toilet rolls.
But somehow, women find it a task roughly equivalent to building the Suez Canal to flip the damned seat back down. Now, if we really wanted to be difficult, we could just as easily whip the accusation right around and say, “Uhm, why are you women always putting the toilet seat down? Why can’t you just leave it up? Seriously.”
But we’ve never done that; again, simply because we cannot be bothered. We’re lazy creatures by nature. And besides, it occurs to us that we’d be in much bigger trouble, on account of our notoriously bad aim, if we actually left the toilet seat down in the first place. Then, we’d really never hear the end of it.