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The bathroom design I’ll never get on board with
Hygiene habits will make me gladly lose friends
Like fashion trends, every home decor trend is not ideal for everyone. And one home decorating trend I could never get on board with was something that my real estate agent (at the time) thought was the coolest thing ever: “a Victorian style bathroom.” While the toilet and shower were behind a closed door in my “bathroom,” my sink was inside of the bedroom hallway instead.
The Chicago agent tried to market it as a way to allow one person to wash her face, style her hair and get ready for a night on the town while another person showered. I cringed, thinking of bacteria on the doorknob every time someone used the restroom without washing their hands — unless I left the bathroom door open all the time. I despised this idea and kept my bedroom door closed at all times so I never had to close the bathroom door unless company came by.
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In addition to a suspicious roach infestation problem in this apartment, the sink location was yet another reason I should’ve ran (not walked) out of the door. Still, I liked this place enough to sign the lease and tolerated that sink for three straight years. (My first off-campus apartment in college was bigger than this apartment, had two porches and cost two-thirds less in rent. I miss the $225 monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Missouri.)
For some, that sink is no big deal. For me, it made my skin crawl. Even before the handwashing craze during coronavirus, I’ve always been a stickler about washing my hands. I cannot wrap my mind around only 49% of people washing their hands with soap and only 28% using hot water, according to a Puronics poll. Curiously, 63% of people wash their hands longer or more frequently only in public restrooms versus at home. Again, I’m confused.
I genuinely will never understand the Adrienne Bailons (co-host of “The Real”) of the world who don’t wash their hands at home, or “forget” to wash their hands at night if they’re sleepy. Even in the case of the bathroom I hated, you physically have to walk past the sink after using the toilet. How can you possibly forget? Whether in private or public, your vagina is your vagina, poop is poop, urine is urine and flush handles have approximately 83 bacteria per square inch. Wash your hands. It’s not that deep.
That time I lost a friend over her hand hygiene habits
Sometimes people come into your life for a reason or a season, but the most peculiar friendship fallout I ever had was over handwashing. In college, I’d gone to a party with a retail work friend. As women often do, we (along with another one of her friends) all made a bathroom trip together and I found out there was no soap in the bathroom. In my mind, it was time to leave this club. If there was no soap in the restroom, that meant the bartender had dirty hands so I no longer wanted to drink or eat anything. That also meant everybody dancing next to me had dirty hands. More importantly though, that meant I now had dirty hands.
I rinsed my hands profusely underneath the water. (Antibacterial soap and ointment just weren’t the “in” thing to keep in your purse or keychain in the early 2000s the way it is now.) And then I remembered I had alcohol in my purse. I smacked my hands together and felt like that’d make do. My friend? She strolled right out of the bathroom. I yelled after her to rinse her hands. She shrugged and said, “There’s no soap” and kept on two-stepping her way out of the bathroom and back to the dance floor. I watched a side eye from other women in the bathroom, and I couldn’t even blame them. Birds of a feather flock together, and I wanted out of this flock.
Even worse, when I hesitantly went back to the dance floor, she grabbed my hands to two step with her and I yanked them back, running right back to the bathroom. I was over it and wanted to go home. Luckily, we did leave soon after.
The next day at work, she kept nagging me about why I didn’t try to get any numbers or get a boyfriend at that club. (Side note: Even in my late teens and early 20s, I was fully aware that long-term relationships weren’t built at night clubs.) I quietly turned around and went back to working, only for her to double down on me being “such a prude” and not “seeming like the type to have any fun or one-night stands.”
After the third or fourth time, I finally snapped, “Girl, you need to stop worrying about my dating life and start worrying about your hygiene.” Her neck reared back. She stared at me. Then she took her work jacket off, grabbed her purse and walked out of the automated double doors. We were on the retail floor alone, and no one heard me say this but her. Managers came by shortly after, asking me did she take a break or lunch. I shrugged. An hour passed. Two hours passed. Three hours passed. My shift ended. She was still a no-show. She never called a manager to say she quit. I never saw her again in life. I regret nothing.
The only thing more bizarre than her leaving her job over my clapback was one of the (white) managers coming over to crack a “joke” about me “scaring off the poor white girl.” I’ll never understand why he felt comfortable enough to make that comment nor should it have been an issue with race, but I guess he thought he was being cute.
White, Hispanic, Asian, African-American or otherwise, I simply don’t understand why people are so hell bent on not washing their hands. In the past two years, I’m hoping people are more conscious of hand hygiene. At this point, not doing so is deadly. But even before coronavirus, washing hands keeps you healthy and prevents the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infections from one person to the next.
As much as anti-hand washers love to point out healthy bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn’t going for it. Wash your hands after using any toilet, along with before and after preparing food, eating food, after sneezing/coughing, after blowing your nose, touching garbage, and picking up after pets.
I admit that this is a fairly awkward conversation to have with adult women (and men). And the college friend is unfortunately not the first time I’ve had to address bathroom hygiene. (In the college dorms, one of our suitemates would repeatedly forget to flush used tampons. I put up a huge sign reminding her to do so, but my roommate said I was “being mean.” During my time as a receptionist, also in my early 20s, a handful of women were pissed when I sent a company email reminding all female staff to flush the toilet after using the bathroom. One woman repeatedly would pee and head right back to her desk, bypassing the toilet handle and the sink. Again, I was met with scowls by women at work. The pee-and-go woman reported my email to the Operations Manager, who walked to my desk and thanked me, stating he was stunned that grown women were doing this in the first place.)
As much as we like to believe women are “sugar and spice and everything nice,” sometimes it’s just flat-out untrue. And if telling them the truth makes them walk right out the door, wave goodbye and keep it moving. Don’t put your own health on the line because someone else doesn’t care about theirs.
Did you enjoy this post? You’re also welcome to check out my Substack columns “Black Girl In a Doggone World,” “Homegrown Tales,” “I Do See Color,” “Tickled,” “We Need to Talk” and “Window Shopping” too. Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter to keep up with all posts at once.
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