A Middle Aged Woman Laughs at (and Laments!) the Ladies’ Room
By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Despite what we’re taught by the history books, women have always been hunters.

According to those who profess to know these things, we women have long been assigned the role of gatherers, placidly picking berries and tender leaves from plants to compliment the side of beef the guys drug home from the wild to feed the young ‘uns. We accepted the offerings from the men, never straying to search for our own food, content to tend the home fires, while the fellas did all the seeking, finding and, literally, bringing home the bacon.

But I’m certain, that even in our pre-PETA, natural fur-wearing days, we gals were always on the prowl for some elusive prize. Back then, the objects of our womanly treasure hunts were likely rocks, sticks, the whereabouts of the family wart hog, and, in a quest that knows no age, a bathroom.

Modern women may have added soccer spikes, car keys, phone chargers, etc., to our daily searches, but females have been hunting down bathrooms since the beginning of time. The structures may have changed physically over the years, from a private tree in the woods to a public restroom that looks like it’s in the woods, but the need to go never changes and finding a place to get some relief has always been a woman’s domain, for a multitude of reasons.

Beginning with adolescence, women approach the bathroom as a social adventure, going in herds with girlfriends to share secrets after taking care of business. Ladies’ Room walls have borne witness to countless stories, scandalous and sweet, throughout time. Entire relationships have been built up and torn down. It’s like the U.N., with stalls.

Then, as young mothers, we frantically scour every environment for a potty to unburden our children of the “But I have to go now!” syndrome, which strikes like clockwork whenever it’s most inconvenient, as when everyone is called into the photographer’s studio at Sears after the entire clan has waited for two hours in a room filled with other jaw-clenched families toting screaming kids. Pull down the tights, unhook little suspenders, unbutton, unzip and reverse the whole process only to have kid number two pipe up “Mom, now I have to go!” as you slink past the glares of the other detainees.

Once we finally have everyone going potty on their own, you’d think we’d get a break from the never-ending hunt for a bathroom. But no. It is precisely at this point when Mother Nature decides it would be hilarious for us women to now be the ones who always have to go. First half of married life looking for a bathroom for the kids, second half looking for one for ourselves.

Generally, though, finding the euphemistically termed “Rest Room” isn’t as difficult as one might think. (There is never any “rest” in these dens of misery, aside from the thirty seconds one is actually…well, never mind.) In any public venue, simply look for a line of women about fifty deep, which usually winds around at least two corners. At the beginning of said line, you will find the portal to heaven, a.k.a. the Ladies’ Room door.

However, lest you believe you will be in the space where you actually make use of the facilities, let me disillusion you. You’ll find yourself in the ante-room of the Ladies Room, with the actual facilities in yet another room which you reach only after standing in yet another line. (Anyone who has ever been to Disney World will recognize a Ladies’ Room line. You stand in it for twenty minutes, thinking you’re almost at the front, when suddenly you turn a corner, smack into another line of people and look up to see a sign saying “Wait from this point—30 minutes”.)

Of course, even if you get to the actual front of the line, you may never get to complete the task at hand, especially if you’re on the mezzanine level of the Forrest Theater before a performance and just as you get to the door they flick the lights, whereupon you sprint back to your seat keeping your legs crossed through the entire first act only to find yourself eighty-fifth in line at intermission. (Three stalls for an entire second floor? C’mon guys!)

It’s enough to make a gal borrow the Men’s Room, which I’ve seen braver women than I do on more than one occasion. But I don’t see a change coming any time soon. So we women will continue to hunt, trolling the landscape several times each day for an acceptable place to do the unacceptable. Whether it’s for our kids or for ourselves, we forever scan the horizons seeking, not yet heaven, but when you’ve got to go, a pit stop that surely feels like it.

What’s the longest Ladies’ Room line you’ve ever stood in?  Click “comments” below, in red, and share!