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Auntie SparkNotes: I'm Scared of Communal Bathrooms

Auntie SparkNotes: I'm Scared of Communal Bathrooms

Greetings, Auntie Sparknotes!

I have a teensy preoccupation on my mind, and I know that other people have to be worrying about this (I mean, I hope they are, so it doesn't seem as weird that I'm asking you this), but it's not something people talk about, you know?

Anyway, sorry for beating around the bush: I, er, was just wondering what to do about the college bathroom er situation?

You see, I'm going away to college in the Fall, and I already visited the school so I know the bathrooms are communal in all the freshmen dorms, and the dorms are co-ed by room. What do people do...when they have to... you know... poo, for lack of a better term? What if there are people in the bathroom when you have to go? What if a person comes in right after you finished, and they know... the odor... belongs to you?

Will it be awkward? Is there anyway to combat the awkwardness (besides trying to hold it until around four twenty-three in the morning when the bathrooms may or may not be empty)? And other number-two in a public-space-but-the-people-are-my-neighbors-so-I-can't-just-grimace-and-hope-I-never-see-them-again/spritzing-perfume worries you can think of?

Again, I apologize for asking such a...gross question, but this really does have me worried.

Well, okay, but you don't need to be! And you certainly don't need to apologize. I mean, geez, you guys—if you've learned nothing else from our time together, you should at least know by now that no question is too gross, weird, or otherwise uncomfortable for Auntie to answer. (You do realize that we've run entire columns about farting, boners, and do-it-yourself sexytimes, right?)

And now, let me put your mind at ease... because for starters, with the exception of the expected twice-daily rush hours, college bathrooms are generally pretty private places. Yes, even the co-ed ones. (And if you don't believe me, consider the fact that they're empty enough, often enough, to be a top location of choice for desperate horny people who need an unpopulated place to have sex.) So if you have to go, you've got a good chance of having the place to yourself—or at least being able to wait out whoever else is in there before you unleash the beast, so to speak. And since college bathrooms are smelly places, period, whatever odors you manage to produce probably won't be noticeable over the general olfactory noise of shampoo, toothpaste, soap, and hair products... as well as that of whatever's going on in the stalls.

Also, if you're sharing a bathroom with men, I've gotta tell you: the guys in your dorm will unleash horrors on the communal toilets that nothing, and I mean nothing, that comes out of your butt can compete with.

And hey, if that's not enough good news? Then allow me to give you some more, in the form of a quote from one of the most important academic texts of the 20th century:

Everybody poops.

Everybody! And in a civilized society, everybody poops with the expectation of privacy—which makes that closed stall door as much a social contract as it is a physical barrier to keep people from seeing your junk. And per that social contract, the vast majority of your dorm neighbors will politely feign unawareness of your bathroom activities, no matter how loud or smelly they get, because when they're sitting on the can the morning after eating six tacos, they'll expect you to do the same for them. So practice proper stall etiquette, remember to courtesy flush, don't linger by the sinks any longer than necessary, and you'll be fine.

Do you have the communal bathroom blues? Tell us about it in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at

Topics: Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, advice, bathrooms, stressful situations, college life, college freshmen, communal bathrooms, pooping

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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