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Are you too scared to use public or office toilets?

PUBLISHED: 20:30 25 March 2019

Ah, the joy of a familiar toilet. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ah, the joy of a familiar toilet. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Actress Jameela Jamil's recent loo stories have started a social media frenzy, but our columnist thinks we should all (her included) get over our phobia of toilet talk.

We all have a relationship with the toilet.

Actress, presenter and celebrity Jameela Jamil, for instance, recently admitted she almost broke the loo while (successfully) auditioning for US sitcom The Good Place.

Joining Phoebe Robinson on her podcast Sooo Many White Guys, Jameela said: “... and I was like, ‘I need to do a nervous poo, so I went to do it and there’s only one toilet and it’s shared by the casting director and all of the actresses. I went to flush it, the flush came off in my hand... I’m like, ‘OK, I’m just going to climb out of the window, leave and go back to England,’ which was genuinely my first instinct.” Jamil then climbed on to the toilet, thinking she might escape humiliation by dashing out of the window, only to realise there was a 20ft drop.

Reassessing the cistern she discovered a way to use the flush without the handles and was thus saved.

Jameela Jamil, whose toilet anecdote has won plaudits for its truthfulness,, arrives at a film premiere in 2009. Picture:  Zak Hussein/PA WireJameela Jamil, whose toilet anecdote has won plaudits for its truthfulness,, arrives at a film premiere in 2009. Picture: Zak Hussein/PA Wire

It isn’t only Jamil who is self-conscious about those totally normal bodily functions, we all are, and maybe it’s time we stopped being so sheepish about... numbers one and two − although I confess to being a bit coy about such things, myself.

The fact is, that in the main, I do not like using any toilets other than my own. In this bracket I put loos in cinemas, theatres, train stations, workplaces, parks, trains, public toilets, stores, pubs, restaurants, other people’s houses etc. Of course, there are times when I am compelled to use them but only in extremis (extremis being just before the point of going cross-eyed with the effort of restraint and being unable to safely laugh or cough). The thought of someone listening is part of the problem.

I am not so nervous about ensuite facilities in hotel rooms and the houses of very close friends.

I imagine psychologists everywhere will be putting this down to my potty training or some childhood event but I think this is all of my own making, born of having seen the interiors of toilets that do not live up to my exacting standards.

“Ah,” some may say, “but many places provide you with a sheet of flushable paper that you can place over the seat.” It can be hard to get the paper to stay in place, however. I have known it to float away just before I settle. Others will advise: “Hover,” ie do not actually make contact with the seat.

My preference is my toilet at home. The one I know, with the soft-close seat, the small roll of toilet tissue; the warm water; the nice soap; the clean towel; the proper, good flush; and the pleasant-smelling room spray.

When I come across an establishment that offers lovely toilets, individual hand towels and hand cream, I make a note for future reference − especially if they play soothing music and have excellent cisterns.

Maybe it was my experiences of outdoor pub loos in the 1970s that fed my antipathy. I need to woman up.

Although I am not alone in my aversion to other toilets, conversely, I know people whose first action upon entering a new venue is to locate the toilets because they definitely will use them. I have even known people to actually try out the best route between their theatre seat and the toilets so they are not thrown into confusion come the interval. Some will go before, in the interval and after a performance... and I’m not talking about a five-hour Hamlet, here.

We need to be more upfront about what goes on (down?) in toilets, get over our embarrassment and embrace the bog.

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