My best friend and I have been talking about going to see Beauty and the Beast together for weeks. She even drug me halfway across town to experience the newest movie theatre. If you’ve never had the pleasure of watching a movie in the Texas Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain, let me enlighten you. The seats are assigned, so as you purchase your ticket, you can see a map of the theater and pick which seats you want. The chairs are luscious leather wonders that you sink into. Once seated, you can order food + drink from the most Texas of menus. (Yes, chips and queso are included.) The previews begin, complete with Alamo Drafthouse’s own humorous creations, which are the highlight of the previews. There is always a humorous video about turning your cell phones off and being kind to others by not talking and texting during the movie; except they really mean it. No really, they will ask you to leave if you talk or text during the movie. It’s bliss.
So you might imagine my surprise when I wandered into the new bathroom before my movie, to find myself staring at a dad and his son. I immediately exclaimed “oh!” And almost ran out, thinking I had walked into the men’s room. I stood outside the bathroom staring up at the one “Restrooms” sign, slightly puzzled and looking for a men’s or women’s sign. It was at that moment, that the a feminine women in a dress and heels with curled hair walked up and said “they’re unisex.” I replied in disbelief, “what?” And she turned over her shoulder as she walked past me into the restroom and said “yeah, they’re unisex.” Still puzzled, I followed her in, and glanced around. There was a sign with two arrows pointing in two directions. One said “urinals” and pointed toward a closed door. The other said “toilets” and pointed toward the long line of stalls and the sinks. (These were the same sinks where I had seen the dad and his son.)
Now let me tell you about these stalls. Like port-a-potty's, they have the vacant/occupied signs on the doors that swivel into place once the stall has been locked. They are solid, floor to ceiling rooms with a solid, floor to ceiling door. These were not traditional stalls where you can peer through the little cracks in the partitions.
There was something I admired about this bathroom; the designers literally thought about everything. Using this restroom was a fairly pleasant experience, once I figured out what was going on. It was private and I felt safe. Simultaneously, there was something that terrified me about this bathroom; the designers literally thought about everything. There was nothing to argue with. I would only engage with the opposite sex while standing in line or while washing my hands. My toilet seat would be kept clean because there was also a urinal provided. No one could see me through the cracks in the partitions. I could firmly lock a door and be safe and completely private while in the restroom stall.
The design of this room left no reason to argue. If this is going to be the future of bathrooms, well, I want that to be the future. It was perfect. But I want to take a second and mourn. I want to mourn the changing of culture.
There’s something wonderfully cliche about a woman on a date whisking herself away to touch up her lipstick and readjust her hair. If these bathrooms are the future, we can add that to the growing list of things our children will only learn about in old movies.
One of the last natural gathering places of women in our society is in the line waiting to use the women’s bathroom. As a woman, it’s one of the things I simply expect and slightly look forward to about any function with a large crowd. I want to mourn the fact that after a movie, women will now stand in line with their date to use the same restroom.
One day, I will stand with my daughters and sons and watch them wash their hands in a public bathroom with another mom’s daughters and sons. Teenagers will slip into stalls side by side and then slip back out and wash their hands together on a movie date.
Beauty and the Beast was everything I thought it would be and more. I hadn’t seen the movie in ages so I didn’t really even remember the story line. I sat curled up in my big armchair, smiling at my best friend; laughing at the wittiest moments, giggling over each other’s tears at this lovely Disney remake. I begrudgingly got up at the very end of the movie and missed the last ten seconds to make a mad dash to beat the line to the Ladies’ room. I grimaced as I remembered what I was about to experience again. As I quickly swept towards a vacant stall, a male waiter hurried to get out of my way with a muttered “excuse me” and some kind of strange other century bow. It was obvious he felt awkward. I nodded in his direction and while annoyed, chuckled at his awkwardness as I locked the door of my very private stall.
The first time I ever shared a bathroom sink with a man was after I married my husband. It was a transition, and it was sweet. The nearness to each other as we washed our hands or brushed our teeth was intimate. It was a closeness that I had never before shared with another man.
As we move towards erasing gender lines and boundaries, we also move towards eliminating intimacy and propriety. Everything becomes commonplace, natural, and baseline.
I went back to the movie theatre were my friend was still sitting. We chatted about the movie, watched the theatrical credits, and dreamed of days when we will take our future littles to the movies.
One day, I will take my daughters to see a Disney princess movie with their best friends. And they will wash their hands beside a little boy. And their childhood will be very different from mine. I will have to teach my sons how to wash their hands beside a lady. And how to respect her, and treasure her, because though society sees her as the same, she is in fact, quite different. I will have to teach my teenage daughters not to flirt with the cute boy at the sink beside them, but to have respectful, polite conversation as they awkwardly bump hands reaching for the soup dispenser.
My job as a parent will be more difficult; and growing up will be more confusing. While yes, we are only talking about bathrooms, there is something much larger at stake here. Our culture is once again shifting, taking what God perfectly, uniquely designed and believing it can improve what He made in His image. And for these things, I mourn.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” - Genesis 1:27