Once I stayed in a hotel so ‘intimate’ that if your lover was lying in bed, you could technically look them in the eye while you had your morning shit. Upon arrival in this hell-hole, I realised there wasn’t a loud enough megaphone in the world to adequately amplify the force of my ‘Fuck no!’, but luckily for me my partner is understanding, and equally reluctant for me to see his dump face. We established a toilet etiquette system, so neither of us would be forced to see things we would never be able to unsee.
It’s hard to describe the room layout, but essentially the main problem with the bathroom was the the doorhandle consisted of a simple hole in the only-very-slightly-frosted glass door. You place your fingers in the hole to slide the door across to open it. But no matter how thoroughly and carefully you slide the door closed, you’re still left with the problem that there’s a hole right in the middle of the door.
Rather than stare at each other through this gaping abyss of horror, in the morning we took it in turns to pop outside the hotel for a cigarette and a coffee, then as one person came back upstairs to take their turn, the other would leave the room so as not to hear any startling noises.
I think there are two types of couple in the world: those who are comfortable shitting in front of each other, and those for whom the very idea fills them with horror. I’m not going to tell you that one of these types of couple is better at intimacy than the other: it’s just a personal preference. You might love each other enough that an open door policy is the most loving form of bathroom etiquette, whereas I think if someone loves me enough they should let me keep the damn door closed.
It’s not a general squeamishness about bodily fluids. I am happy – even delighted – to gobble my loved-one’s jizz. I just draw the line at being in the same room while they defecate. But a recent conversation with a friend led me to wonder: just how standard is it for long-term couples to do this?
Toilet etiquette: open or closed?
It’s definitely surprised me before to find that other couples don’t seem bothered about the toilet etiquette thing. I’ve watched episodes of Grand Designs where their bespoke house comes inexplicably underequipped in the bathroom wall department. Smiling architects and their partners show Kevin McCloud into their master suite, where he comments on the space and light and how ‘open’ the whole thing is, somehow forgetting to grab them by the lapels and scream “BUT YOU’RE BASICALLY SHITTING IN THE BEDROOM!”
Not just because of the smell, it’s the sound too.From a piss-play perspective, the sound of someone pissing can occasionally be incredibly horny. If I hear him go for a massive, long, and copious wee then the act itself is full of promise. Other way around, though? I am not listening at the bathroom door and thinking nice things about his cock.
Let’s ignore for a second the noise of splattering the morning after six pints and a curry, and consider instead: anal sex. Those of you who’ve been jizzed in will know that – particularly if there have been satisfying quantities of it – afterwards it’s kind of handy to pop to the bathroom and rid yourself of what’s there. The leftovers. The jizz-and-lube-and-whatever-else-got-dislodged. Santorum, as I believe it’s called now.
It’s par for the course, of course, and my partner understands that sometimes we have messy fucks that require a bit of clean-up. I’m just not sure I want him to hear each squirty detail.
Toilet etiquette and other secrets
The question of whether or not to close the bathroom door isn’t just a fun excuse to cram toilet-humour into a blog post: it’s also a neat – if unpleasant – metaphor for privacy in a more general sense.
While I’m a bit surprised by the toilet thing, I’m even more surprised by couples who tell me they have ‘no secrets.’
“Oh, we tell each other everything,” they say, explaining that they have reached a stage of intimacy where all their secrets are shared. Their worst thoughts and their cruellest deeds are locked in Pandora’s box, but they’ve got matching sets of keys to access it.
Really!? While I appreciate the sentiment – that two people can fully trust and love and understand each other – I think secrets are often really bloody important. The mundane, day-to-day desire to shout ‘PUT YOUR FUCKING SOCKS AWAY’ is often best kept locked up tight in your chest. More intense things, too: does my partner really need to know the sordid detail my mind wanders into when I see a hot dude on the train? Does he need to see me cry each and every time I give in to misery, or would the sheer weight and frequency of my tears exhaust and terrify him?
There’s no right answer to these questions: sometimes being fully open in a given situation is absolutely the right thing to do. Other times it’ll be a massive mistake. Intimacy, I think, is about more than just exposing everything and then expecting your partner to accept it with a cheery grin: sometimes it’s about judging when to keep things private.
Everyone’s got different limits to what they do and don’t want to share – but I don’t think anyone shares everything.I don’t think I’d be a better lover just by ripping the bathroom door off it’s hinges and talking about my latest hypothetical affair – I believe every good relationship should always have some secrets. Some privacy. Whether it’s just in your own head, or in a few select thoughts that you only share with friends or family.
For me intimacy is about recognising which secrets I should keep, as well as which ones to spill.
Knowing when to keep the bloody door shut.