The Unwritten, (but Understood), Laws of the Men’s Public Restroom


A clear violation and possible capital punishment

A clear violation and possible capital punishment

I’m not sure if you girls out there have your own set of secret rules of public bathroom etiquette, but we men do.  I might be breaking several regulations of ‘maledom’ here by sharing these secrets which have been guarded for centuries, but my story blog site is about growing up and when I started this venture I promised to share all aspects of my growing up.

Unless you come from one of those progressive families where the parents have the sex talk, (for example), most of these rules aren’t verbally shared with us, we’re just expected to assimilate, to learn them via osmosis.  We go to the bathrooms, we witness a protocol and we’re expected to repeat it.  Violating a couple of these more important protocols can deliver serious consequences, (shudder), I don’t even want to think about it. 

Here goes:

The Unwritten, but Understood, Laws of the Men’s Public Restroom.

·         If all urinals are empty, take one on an end.

·         When choosing which urinal to occupy, always select one that will leave a space in between you and another man.  Examples:

o   4 urinals, someone is standing in #2 spot – you take the #4 spot
o   5 urinals, spots #2 and #4 are occupied – you take #1 or #5.  You never take #3!
o   3 urinals, someone is standing in middle spot – if you witnessed another man walking out, occupy spot 1 or 3.  If you saw no one, take a stall!
o   5 urinals, #2, #3 and #4 spots are occupied – wait outside until the bathroom is empty as there is mass confusion inside.

·         No talking at the urinals unless there is at least one open space between you and the next person.

·         When speaking inside the bathroom with another person, you always make constant eye contact.  It is customary for the discussion to end as soon as a stall door closes or the first person unzips in front of a urinal.

·         Spitting into the urinal is customary but not mandatory.
– Explanation – if you are occupying a urinal directly next to another man, spitting is mandatory.  All other scenarios carry optional spitting.

·         If standing next to another person, you look straight ahead.  Under no circumstances do you look next to you and down!  (Note: breaking this one can get you killed or get you a date)

o   If at all possible, reapply the spacing rules to stalls.
Exception – 3 stalls, #1 is occupied and #3 has water on the floor – taking stall #2 is acceptable.

·        Before entering a stall, if the activity to be performed inside of the stall involves sitting, you always verify there is a sufficient supply of toilet paper.  Under no circumstances do you consider ‘gambling’ against a short supply of paper.
·         Stalls are sanctuaries – you do not speak from them to anyone and if you are speaking to someone who enters a stall, the conversation ends immediately upon that person crossing the threshold of the stall.

·      If you must spell out your name while urinating, do it inside a stall behind the closed door.  (Note that it is acceptable to target pee at the urinal – for example, peeing into one of the tiny holes of those little plastic urinal guards designed to prevent objects from being flushed down – this is ok and in fact, expected in some cultures).

·         We just don’t wipe off the toilet seats with toilet paper – if no paper toilet guard is provided, we improvise by completely lining the seat with sheets of toilet paper.

·         CF Always – the courtesy flush rule is in effect always.  Note that even if the bowl is presently empty, it is often customary to give a token flush to alert others that you are not in violation of the CF rule.

·         Use feet to flush toilets whenever possible.

·         Hand washing is optional if no one is present but mandatory if another person is.
o   It is always mandatory if you had been inside a stall.

·        Picking of the nose is always to be performed inside a stall.  Always use toilet paper for this function.  Note that if you must wipe the booger on the stall wall, do it in a place easily accessible for the cleaning person.

·        Adjusting the testicles, (aka scratching the balls), is never performed inside the restroom unless behind a closed stall door.  (Note that this activity is socially accepted in public as long as the hand does not go inside the clothing.  For reference, playing ‘pocket pool’ is not acceptable in public, but adjusting over the clothing in plain view is – this removes the possibility that one is simply playing with oneself.)

·         Peeing in sinks and garbage cans is permissible during extreme emergencies (such as after ingesting a 6-pack while at a concert or sporting event).

The urinal on far left would rarely get used - only in extreme emergencies

The urinal on far left would rarely get used – only in extreme emergencies

For you curious females out there, well now you know – see, we’re civilized, we have rules of conduct!  If you are wondering whether these rules apply to gay men, the answer is yes.  Another unwritten rule is that we do not ask other men whether they are straight or gay and we certainly do not do this inside a restroom.  Again, getting this rule wrong could carry serious consequences.

For you younger men who are now fathers or will become one someday, you might want to help your boys learn these rules (single moms are given permission to print these off – just don’t pin them to your boys’ backpacks).  These rules should be shared several years before the big sex talk.  One of my boys had a habit of telling me that he loved me whenever I took him to the public bathroom.  While I very much enjoy hearing those words come from my children, hearing them when I’m helping him to pull down his pants is not optimal timing and may in fact get some undeserved and unwarranted attention from the local child protection agency.  As I did, feel free to modify these rules as you see fit for your unique scenario – I had to inform my two-year old that it was illegal to utter those three words inside a restroom.

It’s all part of growing up…..

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