Claire Nelson investigates an unsettling phenomenon in the library toilets…

Photo credit John Wilkerson


This past week I have been, like many of my fellow students, spending a bit of quality time in the library. In this time I have been reminded of a certain peculiarity that appears to be specific to the building: girls silently locking themselves in the toilet stalls. Now, with the exception of a few unfortunate first years, we are all legally adults here. We should be familiar at this point with the concept of bodily functions. If I decide to shell out that extra twenty or thirty pence for a larger iced coffee, I know that several things are going to occur: my hands will be twitching uncontrollably, my energy might actually last long enough to put in a few hours of reading criticisms before I go on to work a ten-til-close Lizard shift, and I am definitely going to need to pee within an hour of consumption. I have been peeing every day, multiple times a day, for the past twenty wonderful years of my life. I am experienced in this area.


It appears, however, that the rest of the girls who visit the library are still coming to terms with this particular method of disposing of waste. Perhaps they find urination to be something that is not feminine enough, or maybe they have somehow managed to get through life thus far without ever actually using a public toilet. I can understand the hesitance to use public bathrooms if there is a hygiene issue – mastering the hover technique is crucial. But it seems that the issue runs deeper for these girls, more personal than keeping clean. They believe it to be a secretive process, and appear to be trying to convince the rest of the library-goers (or perhaps themselves) that they do not actually pee. They are, in fact, so feminine and pure, that urination is not part of their daily routine. These girls will, however, inconveniently lock themselves in the toilet stalls and remain remarkably quiet until one of two things happens: the bathroom empties of everyone willing to admit that they pee (what happens when three girls lock themselves in at once? A Mexican standoff of silence?), or someone uses a hand drier to drown out the noise of tinkling.


I’m not entirely sure why this phenomenon (and believe me, I have encountered it enough times over the past few years to label it a phenomenon) is specific to the library. I know that girls don’t poop or fart, but I wasn’t aware that we are also on a mission to convince the world that we don’t pee either. I go to the bathroom because I need to use the toilet. I know peeing isn’t graceful or girly or what have you, but if you’re in a toilet stall, unless you are hiding in it to do a line of coke before you crack on with staking out the short loan section, there isn’t much mystery to what you could be doing. It isn’t going to surprise me or offend me, I expect you to be peeing. In fact, I would much rather get on with it so that I can pee too. There isn’t much standing room in the library bathrooms, and I definitely don’t want to be seeing what I look like in the mirror after five hours of trying to teach myself the Bible.


What I’m saying is, girls: you needn’t feel ashamed. Stranger things have happened than allowing others to hear you pee. Just the other day I was waiting for a stall (two girls silently locked in, allowing only one stall for its actual purpose) and a girl stepped out who had left the seat up. What could she have been doing? Maybe using a further precaution to the hover technique?  Who knows. I will tell you that I did not use the toilet as a thinking chair to ponder what I had just witnessed. No. I put down the seat, peed, and got on with my day.


Claire Nelson