We had to run by Target the other day. Emily needed (and I use the term loosely) kool-aid packets for dying play silks for Nina and Target is the only place around that still sells it in packets. Anyway, we’d been driving around for a while and I really needed to go to the bathroom. While Emily preferred, understandably, to leave me and Nina in the car while she ran in, I really needed to go. So we all went in and split up at the door. I went to the right, towards the restroom sign. Now, I usually avoid having to deal with public restrooms. Mainly because of having to choose either or and not wanting to. But as I’ve said here repeatedly, I really needed to go to the bathroom. This particular Target was recently remodeled and the bathroom area re-done. As I turned the corner I was pleasantly surprised to see a “unisex” bathroom in addition to the other two. The door was open, and a sign was posted that it was unavailable due to cleaning. I heard rather than saw a cleaning person in there. So I proceeded past and turned towards the women’s bathroom. A rough hand grabbed my shoulder and spun me around. I stood slightly taller than the cleaning woman with the death grip on my arm scowling up at me. “NO! you no go there! You go THERE!” she yelled pointing at the men’s room. It took me a moment to respond, but I shook my head and said, “Um, no, I go in there. (pointing to the women’s bathroom) Thanks.” I pulled out of her grasp. But she was behind me before I could turn around and, bracing herself between the door jambs, physically blocking my way. “No,” she said, “No for you this one. That one (pointing emphatically to the men’s bathroom)!” By now women were trying to get either in or out of the women’s bathroom and the heat was rising in my face. I was feeling a bit awkward, but for some reason, I started smiling. Suddenly the whole thing seemed sort of funny, or amusing to me. The poor woman blocking my way looked totally confused at this point. I held up my hands in submission. “Ok, ok, no sweat. You can have your bathroom. I was going to use that one (pointing at the unisex one), but I couldn’t get in there either.” She smiled and nodded. She continued to block my entrance to the women’s bathroom and the closed-for-cleaning sign blocked my use of the unisex bathroom. I shrugged, turned and walked away. I’d lost the urge to pee anyway.
It really was so interesting. I’m aware enough and familiar enough with my shame to know whether I was feeling it and I can say with certainty that I wasn’t. Truthfully, I just found the whole exchange interesting. It wasn’t the woman’s fault that she could actually see me. And seen, was ultimately what I felt. I wasn’t going to complicate things by confusing us even more by choosing the extremes of what I’m not.
We left Target and went to friends’ house. Of course I raced past them in the door to make a bee-line for their bathroom. Emily said, “I thought you went in Target?!” When I recounted the Target story Sarah said, “What!? That’s ridiculous!” Then she looked at me, taking in my work-boots, jeans and baseball cap and said, “Well, I suppose with the way you’re dressed…” And Emily said, “Yeah, that ugly 80s leather bomber jacket is hideous! I wouldn’t have let you in either.” I love that woman.