The weekend shift: Bathroom soul-bearing


People love to confess their secrets anonymously, and have long done so with the time-honored tradition of vandalism. Public bathrooms are still one of the best places to immerse ourselves in the philosophies, love confessions, poetry, sadness, and humor of people we don’t know. It’s also hands-down the choicest spot to get the phone number of an allegedly horny stranger.

Before the website Postsecret.com started publishing people’s secrets written anonymously on postcards, we had markers, pens and keys with which we carved jagged letters into paint. In the privacy of the bathroom, we confessed all manner of feelings; who we loved, who was a skank, that Shannon would be our best friend forever, that here we sat, broken-hearted. We wrote vulgarities, hateful things, and inspiring messages. We shared insecurities and our love for marijuana. We drew penises.

This pervasive tradition can be found all over the world, yet it's largely ignored, or at least not much discussed. For instance, if we’re the, ahem, artists, we might leave our friends to go the bathroom, scribble some current thought or feeling, and rejoin our friends, never mentioning that we just wrote on the bathroom wall.

Alternately, if we are the captive audience in a private stall, we peruse the messages and drawings done by strangers. We may chuckle or roll our eyes, or feel sad about a message that screams of depression; but once we leave the bathroom, the moment is over, and we never really think of it again. Yet for a fleeting moment we were connected to a stranger while we peed. Kind of weird, and yet, such a regular thing.

I’ll admit I’ve written on some bathroom walls, fo’ sho’. What self-respecting 13-year-old hasn’t? The brazen act of writing that I hearted someone on a bathroom stall made me feel all nervous and excited. Breaking the rules has its allure. Besides, I was too shy to actually admit I liked a boy, so to write it on the wall in a sort of public announcement was pretty ballsy. Except the part where I did it anonymously, like the chickenshit I really was.

As I’ve been an adult for a good long time now, the need to wax poetic on bathroom walls has dissolved. But I still really enjoy seeing what’s going on in the minds of drunk chicks.

While bathroom graffiti doesn’t belong everywhere, it definitely adds just the right amount of seediness to any bar, gas station or music venue. It’s punk rock, baby, and as long as people have secret yearnings, hate a bitch or want to spread a little sunshine to a defecating stranger, we’ll have bathroom graffiti. Let’s embrace it. 

(Image by quinn.anya via Creative Commons.)

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