Over the past several weeks, I’ve been on both coasts. I delayed this post by a few days so as to leave some question as to which coast I’m referring. This is to maintain a vow of confidentiality, which will make more sense as you read on. The genesis of this writing project, The Mantastic Revival, was a realization that the authentic man is an endangered species. Moreover, an endangered species that continues to be ruthlessly hunted by those who would just as soon it become extinct. Since then, these suspicions have been confirmed in a thousand small ways. Until voilà, definitive proof, on a recent business trip on one of the two American coasts and an unexpected conversation with the manager of a local pub.
I had finished the day’s meetings a bit early, purposefully, because I was meeting an associate for a drink after work. He and I happened to be in the same city for different reasons and were going to discuss some potential business between our two companies. I arrived at the pub a bit early and ordered a drink only to received a text that he had been detained in a meeting across town and would be an hour late. Knowing that I had a business dinner starting in just over an hour, we decided to meet by phone in the next few weeks. Having already ordered a drink, I asked the waitress to point me in the direction of the restrooms but to leave my table as I would be back to finish my drink and collect the bill. To my surprise, I found myself standing in front of two doors one with a sign that said “Women” and the other with a sign that said “Human”. I stood in surprise, having never seen anything like this before in my life. I’m a fairly bright guy, so I knew which room I belonged in so that wasn’t the issue. I was just astonished by what I was seeing. I didn’t get my own room? Now I know what you are thinking. That’s on “the coast” and whichever one, we all know that crazy stuff happens on the coasts. My friends, while much of the crazy does indeed originate on the coasts, in time, it works its way toward the middle. That is a fact. Dumfounded, I took out my phone, took a picture of the signs, then entered the ambiguous room labeled “Human”. I’ve never been happier to see a urinal in all of my life. I returned to my table with a half-hour to spare before diner. No sooner had a sat, than a man in his late twenties came to my tableside. He introduced himself and we awkwardly shook hands. From here on, I will call him barkeep or BK for short. Taking notes would have been rude, so this is not an exact transcript of our conversation – but it is close and to the best of my recolection.
Me: Can I help you?
BK: The waitress noticed you taking a picture of the bathroom signs, I’m just wondering why?
Me: I’ve never seen anything like that before, I knew people back home wouldn’t believe me.
BK: So you’re not going to post it online anywhere?
Me: Perhaps. I hadn’t thought about it. I suppose I’ll wait and see.
BK: Bro, can you help me out. I don’t need the drama. I swear the owner is going to fire me if we have any more drama. This whole thing is ridiculous and every time someone from out-of-town posts it, the whole thing blows up again. I’ll tell you what, I’ll comp your tab if you’ll just let it go … one guy doing a solid for another guy.
Me: I’ve only had one drink … not much of a deal. But here’s what I’ll do. You sit down with me and tell me the whole story, and I’ll delete the picture. You can watch me delete it.
BK: You don’t have time for the whole story but I’ll hit the high points.
Me: Deal … there, picture deleted, I’m listening.
BK: So this is a small place in a historical building, what you see is what you get, I mean really, we barely have room for the two restrooms we have. So for some reason, that none of us knows, someone got pissed at the owner, he was a former employee and claimed he was discriminated against. The owner of this place is a nice guy, about your age, but he is a little old school. The former employee was into cross-dressing, which we all knew, but eventually started dressing like a woman at work. Dude, none of us cared … the owner didn’t care … the customers didn’t care, it was a non-issue. Until he wanted to use the woman’s bathroom. From there, things got really weird. The owner told him he couldn’t. I thought, dude, it’s a single, what’s the big deal. But they made it a big deal and it all blew up from there. Protests, lawsuits, the whole thing was a mess. So they ended up having something called a mediator. The first thing they tried was to just turn the restrooms into unisex. They just put signs up that said “restroom one” and “restroom two”. But the problem is that restroom one had a seated toilet and restroom two had a urinal and a seated toilet. So they weren’t really unisex, and adding a urinal to the other room wasn’t an option … I don’t know why. The a group of women customers got together and basically said they would not come back unless there was a dedicated “women’s bathroom” The owner didn’t want to lose business but he wasn’t willing to back down. He said having woman parts makes you a woman, not wearing a dress. I though we were going to go out of business, I really did. But then the mediator said, what if you have a dedicated women’s restroom and on unisex room. The former waiter/waitress agreed as long as it didn’t say “men” anywhere on the sign … and the “human” restroom was born.
Me: Now I need another drink. Is that true? That can’t be true.
BK: Yea, it is, I was here for most of it. Anyway, things are just starting to quiet down now and you were the second person today to take a picture so I got a little paranoid.
Me: So do any guys ever complain?
BK: Straight guys?
Me: Okay, I guess?
BK: Gay guys won’t complain because they would sound like total hypocrites and c’com, straight guys complain … who would listen anyway? No offense, I’m just saying …
Me: I kinda want to be offended, but I think you are correct.
BK and I chatted for a few more minutes, and I told him about my blog and asked if I could write about our encounter. I told him that the picture was deleted, I would wait about a week, and I wouldn’t name the bar, the city, or him. He was reticent but resigned that he really couldn’t stop me if he wanted to. He had said too much already, but I think he wanted to tell his story. Now I’m not writing to take a position on some sociopolitical hot button … that’s not my deal and would be counter productive to the cause at this juncture. I write for guys and about guys and bring this up as proof positive of a society that totally devalues males in every way. What struck me most was how every fiber of my being wanted to get angry when BK reminded me of what I already knew … males have lost our voice in some areas of the world, and are heading that direction in others. We don’t even get our own place to use the bathroom anymore. It is just one obscure pub in one town on one coast, it’s certainly not a trend; however, every male alive should sit up and take notice. This is a symptom of the greater illness, which is the slow but sure erosion of authentic manhood. From bronies to barroom restrooms, I’ll keep telling these stories because every time I do … more guys wake up and join the revival.