Busting to be a man

From babyhood to old age the bursting need to pee is one of the strongest human sensations. At one level it’s something we tend to find humorous. Who could forget the days of primary school, when a classmate’s plea to use the facilities would cause the room to erupt in laughter? And who doesn’t find the sight of an ageing pensioner needing to excuse himself twice an hour a comic feast? At another level, though, it is a necessity we’ve learnt to live with. We can’t control our body’s intricate functions. Needing to relieve ourselves of fluid waste is merely a symptom of animal life.

I am not exempt from the occasional call from nature. In fact a frustrating line of family history has confined me to being a regular restroom visitor. It’s become an ingrained daily routine, and while I haven’t quite ‘liked’ it on Facebook yet, I certainly don’t feel shy to call myself an expert. Well, at least that’s what I tell the ladies.

Just days ago, my body decided to phone me in the midst of a lecture. Squirming around in my seat – in the most subtle manner I could muster – I impatiently waited for those magic words, “That’s it for today, guys”. With five minutes left the sounds of books shuffling into bags and clicking desks signalled the lecture’s imminent conclusion. The soft murmur excreted from the masses overwhelmed the infuriated lecturer, who reluctantly surrendered. The magic words came to the fore. I dashed from my seat and hurried towards the exit. There are no prizes for guessing my next point of call.

Thankful for Melbourne University’s toilet-entrance-proximity policy I pushed my way into the little’s boy room with gusto. For a moment I feared my enthusiasm had got the better of me, however the sight of urinals reassured me that I had in fact pushed my way into the correct toilets. There’s nothing more awkward than discovering you have incorrectly deciphered the cryptic black stick figure on the door. I often have to remind myself: triangle pants means female, no pants means male.

Like a marathon runner eyeing the finish line I raced past the graffiti towards the urinal closest to the wall. I positioned myself, unzipped and took aim.

And then nothing.

Stage fright is probably the most uncomfortable and emasculating situation a man can succumb to. Not only is your body scoffing at your natural human instincts, but your neighbouring urinalists are silently judging you. They may refuse to acknowledge your presence but the men standing two metres away are perfectly aware of the embarrassing predicament you’ve walked into. There’s no sympathy from these icons of brute strength; your failure is destined to become their topic of conversation at the bar tonight. You wish that you’d taken the ever-reliable cubicle option. But it’s too late; conceding defeat in the competitive dominion of the male rest room would demote you to a place in lavatory infamy.

I persisted with my challenge. At the corner of my eye I noticed the sight of my furthest neighbour succeeding. With pride gleaming from his face he pulled the flusher and made his way to the sink. Then there were two.

Having invested twenty seconds for no return I attempted new tactics. Psychology is often a powerful tool in such situations, so I let my imagination run wild.

Waterfalls flowed through my mind.


A leaky tap filled my consciousness with constant dripping.

Still nothing.

I cast my mind back a year. It was raining, I was eating watermelon and I was surrounded by lake. Alongside five others I had been sitting in a raft for the past three hours. A discreet number one would have come with deadly consequences. Not only would I face public humiliation but this lake was synonymous with disease. Apparently worms lurked beneath the waters. Worms with swift and precise swimming capacity, if you catch my drift. Shivering like hell and fidgeting like a child I couldn’t help but paint an agitated expression on my face. But then I saw land. Land! With permission from my rafting instructor we parked our vehicle and I hopped off with glee. What followed was the most satisfying two minutes of my life.


In true masculine fashion I hid my pleasure, my deadpan facial expression revealing nothing.

Careful not to move my head I shot a peek at my neighbour two urinals across. His mature beard screamed of intimidation; his brawny frame dwarfed the urinal that opposed him. He didn’t seem like the kind of person to bail. But he had had enough. Hiding his disgrace the man pulled the flusher and left his otherwise empty station. Beside the sink he amplified an extensive hand-washing procedure, bathing away the evidence of his failure.

I knew that he had not produced the goods. And he knew that I knew that he had not produced the goods. We didn’t need to make eye contact or exchange words for such communication to take place. By flushing he effectively gave the universal sign of defeat. It was as if he came up to me, patted me on the shoulder and whispered ‘I got stage fright. Please don’t tell anyone’. Thankfully he didn’t, because toilet confrontations never fail to be awkward.

Half a minute later I left the bathroom with a smile on my face. Yet my smile did not signify pride, nor accomplishment. On the contrary I was comforted, knowing that the seemingly invincible bearded male that stood beside me was no stronger, no more confident, and no more masculine than me.

Stage fright gets the best of us. That goes for the bulletproof jocks, the confident Casanovas, and the metrosexual pretty-boys. Man’s biggest secret is that he is all talk and no walk, but of course we’d never admit it. Real men, complete with all their flaws, can only really be found in the smelly depths of public bathrooms. And even then, we still have the option of hiding ourselves in the vacant cubicle around the corner.