Seat Down, Please

Friday, February 01, 2008

Question

I'm a healthy middle-aged man who has a secret that makes me self-conscious. I don't care to urinate in a standing position. I prefer to sit. Public urinals horrify me. I feel that when I wait for a stall, I draw unwanted attention to myself. Using the stall occasionally is socially acceptable—one's friends or co-workers assume you have to do more than just take a piss. But when I use the stall repeatedly, I feel that other men notice and gossip about me. I am not interested in changing my habits, for at my age I feel that they are fixed. But have you heard of other men with this preference? Is there anything I can do to make myself feel less embarrassed?

Answer

When I last traveled in Eastern Europe and Germany, I was surprised to see a number of signs urging men to sit down to pee. There seemed to be a revolt against the possibility of urine splashing the all and floor around the toilet. Standing up to piss has become one of the major demarcations between male and female in Western societies. But like most of these barriers, it's an arbitrary one that isn't actually dictated by biology.

I say, go ahead and sit down. It certainly makes it easier to do a crossword puzzle or read a book. If other people are gossiping about your behavior in the restroom, they must have awfully small lives. It's none of their business. Polite people's imaginations halt at the door of the bathroom. One does not speculate about what an acquaintance may be doing beyond that portal. You are probably not drawing as much attention as you think.

Yes, I have heard of other men who sit down to urinate. I have friends who need to catheterize themselves because of diabetes, the side-effects of HIV medications, or other medical problems. I've also heard other guys, men with no health issues, confess that the public urinal is an emotional ordeal for them, and they prefer the privacy of the stall. You're just in the vanguard of hygienic progress, that's all!