Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The Co-Ed Bathrooms at York University
I had decided to go to Canada for college, and I chose York University in Toronto.
So one fine August day, my parents drove me up there, and we loaded all my stuff in my large dorm room. Then my father said he was gonna look for a restroom and I said me too. It was a square hallway. So my father walked around and found a sign that said "Men" and I walked around and found a sign that said "Women." He walked in his door, I walked in my door, and we met in the middle. We immediately went back out our doors to make sure we had read our signs right. We had. It was a co-ed bathroom (although I never did understand why they didn't just label it that way."
Well my dad was surprised, but not outraged. I was amused. I was just so happy to be starting in on this new phase of my life that really nothing could bother me. And I had purposely chosen a co-ed floor. We walked back to the dorm room and my father said to my mother "Lenore, the bathrooms are co-ed!" "No!" she exclaimed. I smiled.
When I tell people about it today, they ask how I could stand having a co-ed bathroom - wouldn't it be weird? Well in my youth, it wasn't.
A few days after I arrived, I walked into the bathroom and there was a guy washing his hair in the sink. "Hello!" he yelled when he saw me through the mirror. "Hello!" I replied back to this shampoo filled head. "My name's Leigh," he said. I told him my name was Bonnie. That night there was a dance in our dorm. I was sitting there with my new friends and a gorgeous guy walked in. We were all murmuring about his good looks when he surprised all of us by saying "Hi Bonnie." I said "hi" in an uncertain tone, having no idea who this Greek God was. He realized I didn't recognize him and said "it's Leigh!" I said "oh!" I hadn't seen him upright yet! What a treat!
The bathroom had two showers with a wall between them that was about 5.5 feet tall. Well there was a guy on our floor named Garth, a very tall professional student. A few times I would find myself taking a shower next to tall Garth. He could see my bright yellow robe hanging and he would yell over 'Hi Bonnie!" and I would think "oh no, I'm taking a shower next to tall Garth, and with his height, he only has to look over and here I am in my naked glory." So I would converse with him as we showered, thinking it would stop him from looking over. I think it worked; I'll never know.
I was on the 13th floor of the dorm, and people on our floor befriended the people on the 14th floor. We were always going up and down those stairs. There was a guy on the 14th floor named Louis. Louis, like many students at York, was from Hong Kong. When the students from Hong Kong came to Canada, they took on American names. But, we American and Canadian citizens decided, someone over in Hong Kong must have had a very old book of names, because the names they took were from another generation - Louis, Arthur... And they never used the condensed version of the names - it was always the full name. Anyway, Louis was renowned for brushing his teeth for 10 minutes at a stretch. So you might go in to take a shower, and Louis would be there brushing his teeth. You'd get out of the shower, and yeah, there was Louis, still brushing his teeth. I still think about Louis and what amazing teeth he must have today.
Those who lived on the same sex floors were used to looking good all the time - they'd look like hell as they shuffled into the bathrooms in the morning and would emerge looking great. Those of us on the co-ed floors were used to seeing what we all really looked like, and it didn't matter. It somehow seemed symbolic in our friendships - we had nothing to hide.