word of the day: loo

by erika

Hi Friends,

It’s Nightswimming time again. September coming soon, and all that. This is the first summer where I never really left the office so I don’t have the angst and the anger about going back. I am thinking about my opening talk for the retreat next tuesday and what note I want to strike, what bell I want to ring, what trouble I want to cause.

But I can’t stop thinking about bathrooms. When I am particularly stressed out, I have toilet or bathroom dreams. Usually really nasty and disgusting dreams,  like cleaning public toilets with my bare hands or having to share communal toilets under terrible lighting or toilets overflowing to no end. According to the  World Wide Jungians, these dreams are powerful symbols of cleansing, letting go, of relieving emotional patterns. The other reason I am thinking about bathrooms is because my favorite room at work is the faculty dressing room–a one stall bathroom that also stores a fridge, a microwave, and a.v. equipment. A funny room to love, with its pink door and random brown towel that has been hanging there for who knows how many years, but I love it. Mannequin heads and hoop skirts have lived there, a certain red dress and and a pink bowl laced with glitter. If you are someone who gets selfies from me, you have definitely gotten one from here–such good light through the frosted windows, such good privacy to show off first day of school outfits or first meeting with the dean nervous face. This is also where some of the best thinking of faculty has happened: pre-meeting meetings that got us focused or post-meeting meetings where we hashed out what we wished we would have said more clearly. This is where Miche and I have plotted our next artland excursions, where Gesel and I have laughed while she heated up an Annie’s frozen-vegetarian-something while I peed,  and where I have cried and cried and cried and cried.

word of the day: loo

The “loo” in England is the toilet, and so named because the water closet was typically located in Room 100 of a building and 100 and loo look similar.  “This Timeline of Toilets” also declares that it’s also possible that this charming nickname came from the French when they would cry,  “Gardez l’eau” [gar-day low] when they threw their chamber pot waste out the window. That’s French for “watch out for the water” and l’eau, some believe,  sounds a bit like loo.

Loos have been a big part of my job this summer as well. For years, we have been working diligently to get a gender neutral bathroom in our house and have been plotting an over-all redesigns of all our restrooms with that in mind. The heat has been turned up on this project thanks to a donor who is eager to support our Transgender and gender-fluid students.  One would think it would be simple–just put a sign outside the door that says, “Whomever,” but it is far more complicated than that inside a university system and it takes money and resources to make it happen. This summer, I walked the building with folks from the foundation and from facilities management, examining every bathroom, empty nook, and dressing room that could possibly be converted. What we needed to make it happen most inexpensively and quickly was a one stall, one door access space. I knew just the place. And I panicked inside.  “What’s behind this door,” the foundation lady asked. “Oh nothing, nothing to see here,” I wanted to lie in order to hide my favorite room, my mid-ballet getaway, my student escape pod–secretly knowing that this room would be perfect. “It’s the faculty dressing room. We’ll look at it later,” I stalled and took everyone down to the theatre dressing rooms where I knew there was another seductive one-stall stallion of a loo. I then proceeded to detail an impossibly intricate plan that involved knocking out walls and new headers and joint access during shows…”It could be great,” I hoped inside. The specs came back outrageously expensive-it was a “no can do loo” and I knew I had to give up my ace in the hole (my ace of a hole, as it were) and I quickly revealed the best room in the house. “It’s perfect,” they all exclaimed. I know, I sighed.

Change. I think I’ve written about it before. Letting go. Yep, that sounds familiar.

Plans are now (and finally) underway to convert the faculty dressing room into a gender neutral bathroom. I am really, really happy that we are making this happen. And so grateful for the work that has occurred to make it so: the incoming gender-non conforming student who brought us the donor and the heightened awareness; the advancement team who see what a crucial investment this is in student well-being; facilities folks who are getting it done; my colleagues who are tireless in their desire to make everyone feel at home. I’m working with my family in the costume shop to see about granting access for faculty to use the theatre dressing rooms for privacy –yep, that very same space I tried to sell like a bridge I didn’t even own…No, it’s not convenient, no there’s no window, and nope, no selfies will be coming from there, but none of those things matter when you stop to consider the gift to students of a space that says not just “You can pee here” but that YOU CAN BE HERE because they feel seen and safe and welcome. I’m embarrassed that I hesitated at all–that I put my own needs, nostalgia, and convenience first, “in loo” of others, even for a minute. But change makes us uncomfortable, and sometimes it takes being uncomfortable to change. Whether it’s learning new pronouns or giving up space, I have work to do, we all do. And it’s messy, tireless work, and I will make mistakes…and continue to dream of toilets. loo.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e