Herman: When it comes to bathrooms, I take my wife’s opinion

A reader asked me to ask someone something. So I did.

This has to do with a topic we’re done with, at least for a while: bathrooms, specifically, who attends which one.

As you know, the special session of the Legislature ended last week with no action on the push to require folks, when in government buildings, to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.

In my never-ending effort to find solutions (even where there is no real problem — that’s where I do some of my best work), I have endorsed the notion of one bathroom for all. Among those that have gone that way is the Alamo Drafthouse theater at Mueller, where there is a single bathroom with individual, fully enclosed stalls and a common area with sinks. Problem solved, right?

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Wrong, said American-Statesman reader Chris Sale, who in a recently published letter to the editor challenged the one-bathroom-for-all concept. It is, she said, a security issue.

“Have you seen that funny email that asks why it is that men can go to the restroom alone but women go together?” Sale asked. (FYI, no, I haven’t seen that funny email.) “Well, this is the answer. Men are bigger and can take care of themselves if an attacker lurks in the restroom.”

Oh, so it’s a safety issue. Never having been in the women’s restroom (except ever-so-briefly by embarrassing mistake corrected as soon as I noticed the lack of urinals), I’ve long wondered why women sometimes go in couples or groups. It’s a security issue, reader Sale says. So I guess each woman takes a turn on lookout as the others do their business. Sounds like a good idea. Who knew?

More from reader Sale (whose readership of this newspaper and interest in this topic is appreciated): “Ken Herman needs to ask his wife what she thinks about this. I’ll bet she will agree with me. The restroom is one of the places where women and girls are most vulnerable. I vote for leaving the restroom policy as it has been for generations.”

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Asking my wife always is a good idea. So I did. Here’s what journalist Sharon Jayson, a lifelong user of the female bathroom, has to say: “Chris Sale’s letter asking my opinion on whether women and girls are more vulnerable to attacks in restrooms surprised me and every other woman I asked about Sale’s theory. I’ve never felt vulnerable in a restroom nor have I worried that I might be attacked in a restroom and neither has anyone I know.

“If two or more women happen to go to the restroom at the same time, it’s not part of a plan to ward off attackers. It’s as simple as when someone mentions it, someone else might say they might as well go, too. Protection has nothing to do with it. Worrying about being attacked has nothing to do with it. No one I know has ever been attacked in a restroom nor have they expressed a concern about it. Sorry, Chris Sale. I cannot agree with you,” she said.

And I agree with my wife. Always do. I recommend it to all husbands.

Recently, as Sharon and I arrived at the Austin airport from an out-of-town trip, we engaged in the first activity we always enjoy after a flight. Sadly, it’s something that draws us apart.

We both noted how nice it will be when we can both go to the same bathroom.

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