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Dispatches from the Toad’s Bathroom

Situated beneath a dance floor coated in liquor and pheromones, the Toad’s men’s bathroom lacks the sterility of other men’s bathrooms on campus. I’ve only spent a few moments in there, and whether by chemical aid or brute force alone, I’ve successfully repressed most of them.

The access I have to the Toad’s men’s bathroom because I’m cis-ish and have a dick (score!) is a privilege that I must wield responsibly. And so, on November 2, I descend into the bathroom corridor in the basement, pass the dapper, human-size, pork-pie-hat-sporting toad encased in glass in a nook in the wall, and enter the men’s bathroom, where I will stand, in a stall, listening, for the next hour (with occasional breaks on the dance floor).

The bathroom is not as repulsive as it could be. It has three stalls, two of which lock, and six urinals. There are no dividers between the urinals. As most men’s room frequenters know, this profoundly alters the psychic terrain. Dividers offer privacy and lessen the intense homophobia that arises at the occasion of male genital proximity. Without them, adjacent urinals become fraught with this tension. Only the foolhardy stand at adjacent urinals without dividers.

The access I have to the Toad’s men’s bathroom because I’m cis-ish and have a dick(score!) is a privilege that I must wield responsibly.

I know that simply scrolling through my phone by the sinks will not be an option—people will get suspicious, and in a space like the Toad’s bathroom, I want a door between the straight boys and me. So I stand in a stall—one of the two not glazed in urine—facing the toilet. I am a full head taller than the door, so I know that people can see the back of my head, which feels awkward but is a necessary price to pay for investigative journalism.

Gaze is particularly dangerous in all male spaces, as it carries the potential of erotic desire, so occupying a men’s bathroom usually entails blinkering oneself, though normally not for the length of time I will spend at Toad’s. I resign myself to staring at the tiles in front of me, as so many men have done before, and get to listening. I hold my phone to the side so that it doesn’t fall in the toilet. I am fortunate to have a terrible sense of smell.

11:48 pm: I hear a spraying sound. I am unsure of the source—it sounds like Axe, maybe, or another brand of spray-on deodorant. I don’t smell anything, though, except the faint aroma of urine—very curious. I recall the existence of lethal odorless sprayable chemicals, though I can’t name any, and hope that I will be okay.

11:52 pm: Two boys walk in. One boy says to the other, walking towards a stall: “I would not wipe the seat to take a fucking shit here. Are you taking a shit dude?” I panic, thinking he’s talking to me, but he’s not. He’s talking to his friend in the stall next to me, who isn’t taking a shit, but is peeing, like I’m pretending to be doing. I think about how friendship heightens the awkwardness of using adjacent urinals, as there is the expectation of continued conversation as you urinate side by side.

11:55 pm: “She’s winning gold medals, I’m sitting here drinking my ass off.” One boy yells to his friend. They don’t seem that close. “You’re getting too dark for the Toad’s bathroom, dude.” They change topics, and leave.

11:57 pm: I hear the spraying sound again. I realize it’s the sound of the faucet. I feel relief that I won’t perish in this bathroom stall, but also note that I’ve heard the sound of the faucet many fewer times than I’ve heard the sound of flushing.

11:55pm: “She’s winning gold medals, I’m sitting here drinking my ass off.” One boy yells to his friend. They don’t seem that close.  “You’re getting too dark for the Toad’s bathroom, dude.” They change topics, and leave.

12:01 am: Two boys exchange ‘sups.’ “This is the fourth time I’ve been down here. Pretty copious.” As someone who pees a lot, I feel a kinship. They begin talking about how much they’re sweating. “I should have worn my Yale cheerleading tank,” one says. “Why has my birthday hat not gotten any females?” the other laments. I no longer feel any kinship.

12:05 am: After four minutes of silence, I begin to feel deeply silly, and I leave the bathroom to take a dancing break upstairs. Self-care is important.

12:17 am: Someone walks in talking about not receiving a Snapchat from a girl. “Bitch,” he says.

12:20 am: Two boys walk in and go to separate urinals. “Can you see my dick?” “No.” “Good.” There are three urinals separating them.

12:22 am: Someone is vomiting in the stall next to me and I feel grateful that at least my knees don’t have to touch the floor.

12:27 am: “I’m completely blacked out. But I’m having a good night.” “Cool!” I whisper to myself.

12:29 am: “Lip Gloss” is playing, and the boy in the stall next to me is loudly singing along, but he doesn’t know any of the words. I am angry.

12:34am: “Do you ever do this? Put paper on your dick when you pee?” shouts one boy from the stall next to me to his friends, drunkenly. “I don’t do that,” his friend responds. The boy defends himself: “Because you don’t want your underwear to be sticky!” “You don’t even have a girlfriend.” “I’m always prepared.”

12:22 am: Someone is vomiting in the stall next to me and I feel grateful that at least my knees don’t have to touch the floor.

12:37 am: Sometimes I hear boys come down and use neither the urinal nor the stalls. When I cautiously turn my head just enough to see into the bathroom over the top of the stall door, I see boys looking at themselves in the mirror, or at their phone, simply needing some space from the occasionally overwhelming party upstairs. Seeing these boys in their quiet vulnerability gives me some of my few moments of warmth.

12:46 am: Two boys walk in. “Are they actually dating now? Are they for sure dating?” one of them asks. “I don’t even think she’s that hot,” his friend reassures him. They high-five, I think.

12:48 am: At the hour mark of my entrance, I decide that I’ve spent enough time in the bathroom, and turn to depart. When I do so, I accidentally make eye contact with someone at a urinal. It is a genuinely uncomfortable moment. I wash my hands and leave.

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