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December 18, 2008

BehindTheMedspeak: Micturition and its discontents. Or, real men sit to pee.

A pet peeve of mine since med school, when I happened on an article in some medical journal which employed an agent which reacts with constituents of urine (the stuff they don't put in pools so that when people pee in them, the urine turns red and spots them out, hahaha, sorry to burst your bubble) to highlight that on bathroom surfaces and found that the entire floors and walls up to about 18 inches high were covered in urine which had been deposited there as a result of microdropules in the bouncing-off-the-toilet-bowl-water-surface mist in men's bathrooms —€” where the intensity of urine traces was many times that in women's rest rooms, where it was present in the same distribution though less concentrated, in this case the result of dispersal during flushing, which simply adds to the major standing-and-deliver mess resulting from men's insistence that "only women squat to pee," a worn-out axiom if I've ever heard one but I'm not here to comment on language usage, instead using this as a bully pulpit from which to argue that, at least in my house, if you are a man you will please sit down before using my toilets, since I have zero interest in using bathrooms I keep meticulously clean only to have them sullied by your ignorant , crude habit, and if you don't like it, well, guess what, there's an acre and a half out back where you can commune with the squirrels and deer and the solitary red fox that trots by every now and then, prancing ever so lightly and beautifully on her/his delicate feet and whizz to your heart's content anywhere you like —€” standing up, sitting down, lying down, I really don't care, though I'm reminded of how hard it is to pee while you're inline skating at 20 mph in rural Georgia, as I did about 10 years ago during the Athens-to-Atlanta Inline Marathon (87 miles) when I found myself 1) with an overpowering urge to go and 2) in the midst of a superb peloton that I knew I'd never catch if I let it go, so I dropped back to the last position (told you I was a nice person) and after a mile or so finally was able to overcome decades of training and imprinting and just let it happen, urine saturating my Lycra shorts and running down my legs into my socks and skates, not that it mattered since they were already sweat-soaked, but I digress, back to my main subject, oh, yes, how about this quotation from British journalist Rose George's new book, "The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters": "Aiming a stream of urine at a toilet bowl sends a fine spray around the room (as does every toilet flushed without the lid closed). Spray becomes vapor, which leaves a chemical deposit on anything surrounding the urinal. It can also change the color of wallpaper," well, guess what, I don't have wallpaper so that's not an issue but that oughta make my point clear if I haven't done so already, I should think, though Dwight Garner, reviewing George's book in the December 12, 2008 New York Times, asked, "Is it time for American men to engage in a different kind of sit-in?", I second that emotion and I just had a great idea, maybe I'll get some disclosing solution and spray it all over the floors and walls after I clean my bathrooms, then check after each use to make certain there's no telltale red, and that goes for women too, who have to give up their habit (I know who you are, don't pretend ignorance) of watching as the toilet flushes but just assume modern indoor plumbing's doing what it's paid to do, and finally let me point out that I don't necessarily have to write in my usual clipped manner with short sentences and all but do so simply to make things easier for everyone, what with kids from age three up occasionally tuning in here, and I do apologize to that wee crew for this post but promise it won't happen again for at least five years, OK?, but wait, there's more —€” from Garner's review, this about what he remembers about Nicholson Baker's 2003 novel "A Box of Matches": "His male narrator, when he uses the toilet at night, sits down to urinate. Why? Well, men sometimes miss, especially when sleepy or in the dark. 'Just because during the day you stand, does that mean you must stand during the night as well?' Mr. Baker's narrator asks. In a bit of post-macho sloganeering, he adds: 'There's no shame in sitting down.'", well, duh, I was there a long time before Baker and with a much more encompassing policy, as noted above, "All sitting —€” all the time," yes, that's we way like and yes, not that you asked but I am indeed listening to K.C. & The Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight" as I type and you can enjoy it right now yourself, just click here and you're there, you don't even need red shoes or anything.

December 18, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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I grew up with four brothers and have had numerous boyfriends, but up until now, I assumed that it was not just ergonomically unsatisfactory but physically impossible for the male human to twiddle on their twot.

I feel sullied, shocked and cheated by this revelation...

If men don´t start sitting down, women should start standing up in protest.

I jest but I´m earnest.

Posted by: wombat | Dec 20, 2008 10:18:54 AM

I think this is an example of where our minds have become too smart for themselves. We consider pee to be a bad thing... fine no problem... but now we have the tech to measure the minuscule amount of pee that most men have been spraying around for as long as there have been men... you would think we would have adapted to it by now.

Also, Penn & Teller: BullSh*t has an episode on toilet seats etc, i belive in the first season. Its a good tonic to the gut taking over brain effect that happens to all of us.

Posted by: AG | Dec 19, 2008 10:33:42 AM

First of all, Joe can write any darn way he pleases because he does this for free. Reminded me of Faulkner, only more amusing.

Second, this is nothing compared to the huge unspoken problem of women who stand up to pee. Yes. They are afraid to sully their bodies by sitting on a yuch toilet seat, I guess. So do they raise the seat? No. They just hover above it and spray all over it. It is the crudest thing I can imagine. This is why in some or many bar ladies rooms you will find written inside a stall door:
If you sprinkle when you tinkle,
be a sweetie, wipe the seatie.
Though I think much stronger language would be appropriate.

Obviously there is a book in this.

Posted by: majeanne | Dec 18, 2008 9:54:11 PM

I hope your declaration that you "don't necessarily have to write in [your] usual clipped manner with short sentences and all" isn't a sign of trouble brewing somewhere in paradise...

Sitting to pee for all -- manly men and girly girls: I like it. Unless, you could rig up men's stalls so that in addition to the toilet there's a big drain hole in the floor, into either of which a stream could be aimed, then a high-pressure hose mounted in the stall would be used to wash down the entire area, after which, dryers emitting strong hot winds would dry the place down. Actually, except for the hot winds, that kind of sounds a little like a regular old shower. Then, the idea of men going outside to pee sounds like it could be fun for them, what with territory-marking competitions with the squirrels, wolves, foxes, bears, etc.

I do hope, though, that there isn't some kind of "stand up to poop" movement (ha ha) working its way mainstream. Eeeeeew. It can't be. It could never be. Could it? No, no -- don't tell me.

I'm sure it is true, clifyt, that fresh hot right-out-of-the-bladder urine is sterile and probably has been overly persecuted, but my experience is that a few days worth of dried-on pee spray is a smell brewed up right in the corrupt, mephitic funk of Satan's bunghole. Forget the milk left in the back of the fridge for six months, forget run-over skunk or possum guts baking on asphalt or that awful thick, lumpy stuff that squirts out of an abscess -- old pee smell will make you want to claw your nose right out of your head.

Posted by: Flautist | Dec 18, 2008 6:51:06 PM

Same issue just came up for us. At 7, my son was still sittin' to pee. All the men around us insisted this was just not done! Too much like a girl, G-d forbid. I caved in, and in the name of masculine pride shamed him into altering the habit and standing. (He still doesn't lift the seat, claiming and rightly so, that his aim is perfect. I have yet to see a drop out of place, so I have to give it to him on this one) Still, this post makes me wonder, all those splashies in the name of machismo. Sheesh.

Posted by: Tamra | Dec 18, 2008 4:15:51 PM

I have just barely broad enough of literary knowledge to know that that whole post was done in the style of some famous author. (If it was indeed done with that in mind, and not just to be clever.) But not quite broad enough to know who. It makes me think of the gritty South in the 30's, male authors who drink far too much, e. e. cummings, I don't know what all. Grrrr, it's going to make me mad till I figure it out.

Posted by: Lilorfnannie | Dec 18, 2008 3:18:23 PM

Why, oh why, would a grown man want to sit to pee?

Alcohol abuse may have left me a shriveled shell of my former self, but DAMN! I still don't like to either stick my hands into the bowl to go, or alternatively, use my swizzle stick to stir up the water. You know what? This is why there are mops. Oh no, one of the most sterile liquids, most likely more sterile that the water that comes out of the bottles you consume...might splatter a little bit. Wouldn't want to get some of that anywhere else. Heck, the ammonia in it might even CLEAN the floors a bit...unless you have a urinary infection, urine is probably the cleanest thing you have in your restroom.

Beyond that, if someone specifically asks me to sit down to pee...and it is one of the rudest things a host can ask of a guest, I'm gonna stand up when I do it AND aim a little in the corner...you know the place their toothbrush most likely falls once a week...just for good luck.

Posted by: clifyt | Dec 18, 2008 11:26:41 AM

Interesting. I happen to agree with you on the sit and pee approach. With my now 4 year old, I found it unnatural in Potty training, to make him stand up while peeing. No matter the little step ladder and all the potty training gadgets I fell for, it seemed kind of strange to on top of everything else, force him to stand. And so I didn't. The kid sits to pee as he sits to poop. Problems with aiming properly and not falling off a step stool were thus eliminated quite easily. The other day, a teacher at his pre-kinder class asked me if my son never stood up to pee. No he doesn't I replied. I could see where this was going... well, all the other little boys might make fun of him for not standing up. Really? I said, so you force my kid to pee with the bathroom stall doors open. Is that it? Because I don't see how otherwise anyone would know what he is doing in there? No of course not... and we ended on an awkward pause there. The problem is that he's so accustomed to sitting down now that even he doesn't like to stand up for it. Hey, it's more comfortable. I get it. But as he grows up, he will probably have to pee standing at some point or get made fun of. Unless, and this is what I truly hope for, he is so comfortable in his own self that going against the pee tide is something he can handle on his own.

Posted by: Milena | Dec 18, 2008 10:51:32 AM


Posted by: Nick | Dec 18, 2008 10:25:01 AM

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