I come from a big family – big immediate family, big extended family, overall large-ass family (yes, large-ass). I’m one of seven siblings, with about forty cousins on my mom’s side and sixty-and-counting on my dad’s. Also have a brother-in-law, two sisters-in-law, three nephews and six nieces (with another bambino on the way).
We’re also really close, the whole family, which means that on multiple occasions throughout the year, we all get together for big family parties: Christmas parties, New Year’s Eve parties, big barbecues for Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor day, etc, etc ad infinitum.
Quick note to anyone out there who thinks this post is not about the bathroom: hold your horses, of course it’s about the bathroom. That’s what I do.
The parties are a blast. Rain or shine, hell or high water, the family gets together and has a good time. Drinks are drunk. Drunks are drunk. Drunkards are drunker. And with all the good-hearted socialization and all the liquid being ingested, the bathroom is a popular destination.
Thinking about it now, I’m realizing I won’t be able to fit all this into one post. So consider it my introduction, the first of the five-part series: the bathrooms at family parties.
As a method of introduction, let me describe to you now what a trip to the bathroom at a party is like for me. Perhaps then you can begin to understand the real power of my childhood experiences in this department.
You know what it’s like when you go to the bathroom at a party: your laugh and smile stay glued to your face for the first few seconds, inexplicably, while you close the door behind you and muffle the sounds of conversation and music to a hum. Then, right about midstream, you sigh, shake your head and feel how buzzed you are and then maybe you giggle. Anyway, I do. “Ahh, I love parties,” you think, and then you try to hurry up so you can get back out there sooner and probably jet blast a little too hard and splatter a couple tiny droplets out of the toilet bowl.
And you go to the sink, look in the mirror, suck in your cheeks like a fish and say “ahkkowakkha!” in a fishy voice and then giggle again.
But here’s where I’m a little different (you were with me up until then, right?). Here’s where I’m unique. Here’s where my usual self-assuredness goes right out the window, and my calmness under pressure is forgotten.
I have a paralyzing fear that when I come out of the bathroom, someone (probably one of my aunts) is going to ask me skeptically, “did you wash your hands?”
And worse, I’m afraid that when I respond “of course I did,” NO ONE WILL BELIEVE ME. They’ll all start gathering around me, moving slowly like hygiene-obsessed zombies, and asking “Really? You did? Really? Prove it. Uhh, what color is the soap? What color is the towel? Did you dry your hands? Let me smell them.”
Has this ever happened to me? No. In all the years at all the parties, I’ve never experienced that particular adventure. Is there a Freudian explanation? I don’t know.
All I know is that I can’t get rid of this phobia. All I know is that every time I’m in the bathroom, I obsessively check the brand of the soap, I smell the scent, I check for monograms on the towels, I crack the medicine cabinet to see if they use Listerine or Scope. I’m frantic, trying to memorize every detail, leaving the sink run so it sounds like I’m still washing my hands, and hoping to God that Aunt Alice isn’t waiting outside to ask me, staring into my soul with a sideways tilt of her head, “which direction do the stripes on the wallpaper run?”
“Damn it! Shit! I didn’t check, Aunt Alice! You got me! Balls noooooo!” and everyone will laugh and laugh, and send me out to the back yard to play with the dog.
Never mind that this has never happened. Never mind that I don’t have an Aunt Alice. Never mind that remembering the stripes on the wallpaper has nothing to do with washing your hands. Rationality has no place in the desperate compulsive’s mind.
I’m not like the rest of you.
Coming next: This is why bathroom doors should have locks.