After decades of struggle to achieve fair and equal treatment in every arena from the bedroom to the boardroom, women finally are edging ahead in the room that matters the most: the bathroom.

At least 20 states have passed so-called “potty parity bills,” which require that any new or renovated public building have two-to-three times as many toilets in the women’s restrooms as the men’s. It’s about time. Every woman knows the torture of waiting in long, slow-moving lines (often with our young children in hand) while men file in and out of the men’s room with speed and regularity.

For decades men have been speculating as to what we’re doing in there that takes so long. They think we’re making new friends, gossiping, exchanging recipes, and complaining about our men. Sometimes we are. But the real time-consuming activity is the tedious manipulation of zippers, buttons, snaps, and hooks, followed by smoothing, tucking, and straightening. Add to that struggling with a sobbing toddler who has already wet his pants. That’s followed by the freshening of makeup and handwashing (a step I suspect is skipped by many a fellow in the men’s room, although I can’t prove it).

In urgent situations, women have been known to post a guard and commandeer the nearest men’s room. I confess I’ve seen the inside of a few men’s rooms. I’ve observed a few cultural differences between women’s rooms and men’s rooms. Other than the urinals, of course. Men’s rooms are much dirtier than women’s rooms, but the graffiti is funnier. Also, as expected, the vending machines hanging on their walls offer different products than ours. Here’s a tip for fellas making a purchase from those in hopes of an evening of romance: condoms are not meant to be glow-in-the-dark fluorescent lime green. If a woman wants to do a little under-the-covers reading at a time like that, she can bring a flashlight. If she does, you need to do a better job in the foreplay department.

Potty parity can be an issue in the home as well. A one-bathroom household can be a source of great marital discord. At issue is the replacement of supplies, the importance of good aim, and whose urgency takes precedence (here’s a clue: ours. You can always take your business outside. Any time I’ve tried that, I’ve ended up with wet shoes and socks).

Great strides have been made in potty parity since the days when it involved a hike through the backyard with a flashlight and a Sears catalog. Now if someone could just come up with an easy, stress-free method to potty train a toddler.


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