November 8, 2000

On the Campus

For women only (please?)
Sharing a bathroom takes coeducation two feet too far

In the past two months, hairy ankles have become my least favorite sight. This is because hairy ankles mean boys' feet, and I see them in the most uncomfortable of places: my bathroom.

The bathroom on the fourth floor of Edwards, exactly 125 feet down the hall from my door, is supposed to be a women's restroom. "Supposed" is the operative word here. At one point there was actually a W-O in front of the M-E-N painted on the door. Unfortunately, last year's mostly male hallway, tired of the continuous trek down to the second floor to visit their own bathroom, decided they would be better off without those two pesky letters and took a scraper to the windowpane. Things haven't been the same since.

My roommates and I actually discussed this matter in some depth last spring, when we learned of the scraping-off of the W-O. We would take a hard line early. We would put our collective feet down together so no one person would take the heat. There would be no coed bathroom in our hall.

Things didn't go exactly as planned. At first we credited the steady flow of boys into our restroom as part of moving in. They had just lugged couches and chairs up four flights of stairs, as had we. Everyone was tired. Everyone was dirty. No one wanted to be the one to say, "Guys, hike it downstairs, please." We figured we would let the bathroom slide for a few days and when things settled down, well, then we would really take our stand.

We didn't realize our moment was already over. The boys wouldn't leave.

I must admit that in some (limited) ways, the boys aren't all that bad. They take shorter showers. They spread the daily newspaper out across the floor to read should the need or occasion arise. They suggest that we use the conservative magazine for toilet paper. They are funny. But they are still guys. They leave the seat up. Always. The first few times I encountered an upright seat I actually thought to myself, Oh, that's nice; our bathroom's just been cleaned.

Not exactly.

I have a hunch that a blind vote on our hallway would favor a single-sex bathroom by a margin on the order of 80/20, with all of the girls and a surprising number of the boys voting for one gender only. Some are already voting with their feet. My roommates plan strategically: Firestone, Frist, Woody Woo - all with good single-sex bathrooms. The guy across the hall hasn't put in a fourth-floor restroom appearance for weeks either. Why, then, hasn't anyone spoken up? This is probably the first and last time I wish I had paid attention in social psychology.

All I know is, every time I walk into the bathroom I pray I won't see hairy ankles under the shower door. Before this bathroom experience, I thought I was cool, confident about the whole mixed-residential thing. After all, I'm the Princeton student of the year 2000. I just didn't know hairy ankles were part of the deal.

Anne Ruderman (ahruderman@princeton. edu) writes: It is inevitable that the senior On the Campus writer, charged with completing a book in order to receive his/her diploma, will bring his/her thesis into the content of this column, usually in the form of a gripe. I am not going to continue this practice. Instead, I will offer you a running count about my thesis at the foot of every column: Number of Pages Written vs. Dollar Amount of Library Fines Accrued. Right now the score is 0-0. (And, yes, I have a topic.) Game on.

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