Urination is not, I realize, only a women’s issue, but I’ve spent too much of my life with crossed thighs, jiggling up and down, to ignore its urgency. I’ve always been a frequent player in the wee wee game, but as I rounded 50 I began an increasingly habitual attendance on the porcelain horseshoe. BBC News recently reported that people go to the bathroom on average six times daily, so – being a chronic over-achiever – I’m way above average.
With all that global urine, things could get out of control. I was disconcerted to read on the Johnson Space Center website that there’s a lot of astronaut drizzle floating around in the cosmos. Their spaceship toilets use air flow to send the poop for packing while the liquid is “vented into space.”
I bet rockets have unisex facilities but I wish local theaters and museums would pay attention to the reams of studies that show that time and space per use all indicate the need for twice the toilets for women’s restrooms to achieve parity with men’s. Partly that’s because we sit down to piddle; partly that’s because we have a richer range of bathroom activities to cover.
Clearly, there has never been gender parity in urination, particularly in the Department of Stand-And-Spray-Anywhere. My niece and her man lived without running water in a house in the woods. In the winter her partner would stand out on the second floor porch and take a whiz down onto the snow. She soon joined him, achieving perfect aim. “The trick,” she says, “is to pull up and separate the labia majora, although it probably depends a bit on the configuration of your parts.”
To give less adventurous women that upright opportunity, a British company is marketing the SheWee, a plastic funnel-like gadget for women to use standing up or squatting. You pull aside your underwear, put this thing against your privates and direct your pee. Good for avoiding nasty toilets or bushes of poison ivy, apparently. And it’s reasonable. Just ₤5 British pounds, plus ₤1 for the Flexible Outlet Pipe (if you like your spouts long) and ₤1 for – are you ready? – gift-wrapping. Still looking for that perfect Mother’s Day gift?
But it’s not just a question of gender posture during the act. One health authority says that “Women experience incontinence two times more often than men” – especially older women. It’s all about the muscles, they say. Perhaps that’s why so many women are advised to do Kegel exercises, contracting their pelvic floor muscles a gazillion times a day. What muscles? Think the pubococcygeus muscles. Okay, think stopping mid-stream.
I wish I had done my Kegels before that day of the big storm last winter, when I got hung up in a traffic jam for hours. The pee-pee pressure built beyond bearing. At last, in desperate, bug-eyed need for relief, I saw a Starbucks. I parked and ran in shrieking at the startled young girl behind the counter, “Help me! Help me!” She understood immediately, grabbed a giant key holder and charged the rest room door. My savior.
There’s a whole new approach gaining popularity – again in Britain. (I see a pattern here, but I’ll say no more.) It’s most informed proponent is Jean, the self-styled Drip Dominatrix. She told me that despite improving her muscles with a plethora of Kegels, she still suffered from “urge incontinence” – the inability to hold it any longer just as you put your key in the front door. Because these dribbles or floods inevitably happen on your approach to release, there appears be a huge psychological aspect behind the urge.
The Drip Dominatrix says, “It’s all about who’s in charge – you or your bladder. This urge incontinence must be resisted at all cost. I hold a dialogue with my bladder, saying ‘No, bladder – I’m in charge, not you.’ What a spectacular success!” She converted a mutual friend of ours who told me that now, when she gets off the bus and turns the corner into her street (her personal urge trigger), she stops, looks down at her crotch and screams, “No! No peeing!” And it works. Unfortunately her neighbors now shun her and the kids on her block gather to watch her in fear from the other side of the road. Imagine if she whipped out her SheWee, instead, and made use of the little park at the corner.