Girls and boys can’t share loos

Daily Express - - NEWS -

WHAT do teenage girls need in pub­lic lavs? Roughly what all women of any age re­quire – pri­vacy, clean­li­ness, a feel­ing that their hor­monal bod­ies are treated with sym­pa­thy by other women us­ing the loos. Dig­nity, I sup­pose.

So what has the head­mas­ter of a Cardiff sec­ondary school, where pupils are aged 11-18, pro­vided for his charges? What else but a gen­der-neu­tral lava­tory block for boys and girls.

The stu­dents hate it so much that they’ve al­ready staged a quiet revo­lu­tion – the boys all use the left hand side of the toi­lets, the girls grav­i­tate to the right. Marc Belli, the head of Bishop of Llandaff School, tries to laugh this vol­un­tary seg­re­ga­tion off.

“It’s as we an­tic­i­pated… if this is how chil­dren use them, this is fine,” he jovially tells the press. And of course he de­nies that the loos were de­signed to be “gen­derneu­tral” (like gen­der-fluid, the new PC kid on the block), but that’s ex­actly how he de­scribed them in his orig­i­nal proud tweet to par­ents.

So, back to toi­lets. We all need them and we don’t es­pe­cially like vis­it­ing pub­lic loos. There’s some­thing deep in the psy­che that de­mands this most pri­vate yet es­sen­tial func­tion, for cen­turies deemed too shame­ful to per­form in pub­lic, should be dis­creet; al­most anony­mous. Now imag­ine if you are a 13-year-old girl at the Bishop of Llandaff School. You’ve just started your first pe­riod. You need the loo. I have no idea if san­i­tary tow­els or tam­pon vend­ing ma­chines are avail­able but if they SO, you can talk the talk… but can you walk the walk? So went the an­noy­ing and largely id­i­otic 1980s rhyming cor­po­rate co­nun­drum. But 30 years on, the wa­ter­cooler wise­crack has turned into some­thing more solid.

So-called “walk­ing meet­ings” are be­ing given the thumbs-up by Pub­lic Health Eng­land. They say that in­stead of sit­ting around ta­bles, of­fice work­ers should go for a stroll to dis­cuss ideas. I couldn’t agree more.

Walk­ing is a won­der­ful way to con­cen­trate the mind and prob­lem­solve. I get some of my best ideas are, and you have to use them, and there are boys hang­ing about (be­cause yes, there is a shared open area which all pupils must cross to get to the cu­bi­cles) can you hon­estly imag­ine the blush-in­duc­ing shame of shar­ing your monthly prob­lems with a gag­gle of snig­ger­ing boys?

Or, you need to do a num­ber two, as we del­i­cately put it. And you have an up­set tummy. You make – er – noises. Cue lumpen youths out­side your cu­bi­cle burst­ing into rau­cous laugh­ter and point­ing at you when you re­turn to the class­room.

No. Like mixed wards, mixed toi­lets are an abom­i­na­tion. Even for grown-ups. I’ve worked in many of­fices and I can­not re­mem­ber the num­ber of times the Ladies has played host­ess to a sob­bing sec­re­tary whose boyfriend has just dumped her, while sym­pa­thetic friends pat her back, of­fer tis­sues and sooth­ing words.

No man should be al­lowed to wit­ness that. And ac­tu­ally, no de­cent man would want to.

These pe­cu­liarly pri­vate fe­male as­pects of women’s lives, whether they’re linked to pe­ri­ods, menopause (swab­bing your face with cold wa­ter to cool a hot flush), or rush­ing to the loo be­cause you’re preg­nant and have to pee every five min­utes, are all in deep­est women’s ter­ri­tory.

I’ve noth­ing against lads but as so many girls will be quick to tell you, in La­va­to­ry­land they are messy, loud and smelly.

So re­mem­ber, head­mas­ter – men are from Mars, and women from Venus. Es­pe­cially in pub­lic toi­lets.

walk­ing the walk and talk­ing the talk

when I’m on the move, whether it’s cross­ing a Cor­nish cliff-path or pac­ing a Lon­don park. A friend calls it “walk­ing your way to wis­dom”. Keeps the pounds off, too.

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