True Story: Peeing Like A Man

High on my list of lifetime headdesks is a morning on which I set off to “sweep” a terrain park on a mountain to declare it open and I suddenly needed to pee. I was a ski patroller, wearing the heroic black bib and brace with the yellow medical cross on my back, so I skied under the ropeline, past the “closed” sign, and traversed past the ski jumps to take a piss. I had my suspenders and pants down around my ankles when I heard the telltale crunch of a snowboarder grinding to a halt just above me. His face dropped as we locked eyes. He mouthed a silent “fuck,” then kicked the board to face down the hill and took off.

Dear all: You do not beat a ski patroller down a hill. I yanked my pants up and skated after him, cranking my best G.S. technique until I cut him off. “Did you ski under a closed ropeline?!” I asked him rhetorically. “DO YOU SEE WHY THIS RUN WAS CLOSED?” He hung his head silently. “SHOULD ANYONE HAVE TO SEE WHAT YOU HAD TO SEE??” He shook his head. This was an existential question; he understood. I let him go. So many people saw my butt during my ski days. It was the peeing. Peeing in storm-force winds, peeing on 30-degree slopes, peeing as tourists in jeans whizzed by. Some of the most difficult peeing of my life, really.

Female children are potty trained earlier, but it is male children that become the true masters of peeing. Male urination is joyful, expressive, whimsical. Females whiz under duress [1] on pee-splattered seats in train stations, dreaming of one day having a private toilet accessible by secret bookcase (it is my castle on a cloud). Consider: Male restrooms consist of as little as a wall to aim at, while female restrooms contain interior boxes with tight walls to make us feel safe — a trick we learned from hamsters. The bathroom is an unnerving place. To this day, I get giddy at the sight of a fragrance dispenser (“Booyah, yes! THANK YOU!”). When I find myself in one of those giant, single restaurant bathrooms where the toilet is a helpless four paces from the door across slippery Mediterranean tile, I reflexively hug my knees and sit ready to sing out a shrill “YESSS!!” in the event anyone knocks.

I am very much a person who still has pee nightmares (stalls without doors, a never-ending supply of piss, a lack of pants, Rick Grimes not loving me back), and so an excellent candidate for the many female urinary devices (FUDs) on the market. There are many, and they purport to do everything from rescue you from traffic jams (if only REM had one), to keeping you cleaner while camping, equalizing the sexes (“pee like a man”), and generally empowering you (“Don’t take life sitting down” reads the sticker that came with my GoGirl reusable device).

My GoGirl came with an “extender,” which I will probably store with the diffuser attachment for my hairdryer and dough attachment for my Cuisineart over the fridge. That is where those things go. The basic unit is shaped half like a funnel and half like a peace lily (biomimetics, my basic bitches). The instructions promised that all you needed do was cup the device between thumb and middle finger, anchoring it front to back. The leaflet suggested using the shower for the first couple of tries and not to worry if “dribbling occurred.” After all, “practice makes perfect!”

I decided to take that advice and tee off from the ladies’ green (inside the tub) before chipping away at my handicap. I held the cup in place and gave the green light to my bladder: but nothing happened. I tried a Jedi mind trick; no go. After a poor start, I have been potty trained exceptionally well, it turns out. Gazing out at the Empire State Building through the tiny window in my Queens bathroom, I thought perhaps I just couldn’t make it here. I cannot breathe through a snorkel; perhaps I can’t pee through one, either.

Growing up, one of the other families on our annual boating trip had a young boy who would run around the deck naked as a ham, stopping to piss hands-free through the rails out into the water where we swam. As a young male, he was free to mark out anything he liked as his territory, picking up land purchases as he worked his way through apple and black currant juice boxes. (The name of his parents’ boat was the very suave “Tuxedo.”) And you could see where he got the idea. When it was time to rid themselves of their daiquiris, the men would stand on the bow, figureheads to their own ships, while the women hiked stoically into the jungle, or half a mile down the beach to the pit toilet, crossing paths with snakes and goannas en route to privacy. Our tricky plumbing is what keeps us out of the army, don’t you know.

Back to the tub: I focused again on the task and almost cheered as, a second later, I saw a stream arc out from the funnel. I cannot stress how weird it is to see your own pee, and to see it as a glowing light saber. Moments later, there was indeed dribbling — lots of dribbling. I realized with fresh guilt that I had lied to my husband about doing the dishes again, and was now willingly peeing on my own apartment. In the aftermath, I gave the bath an extra good hosing down. The GoGirl nozzle had channeled my pee into a weapon I was not trained to use.

I thought back to when I was eight years old when an epic water fight among a dozen of us armed with Super Soakers culminated in my friend Ricki peeing on our opposing team from his upstairs balcony in a tactical move that immortalized him in our folklore as a sort of Paul Revere or Ned Kelly. I haven’t seen Ricki in 15 years, but can still see the winning shot arcing over the crowd in slow motion as “Chariots of Fire” played in the background. As a non-penis-haver, the power of weaponized pee had not occurred to me until now.

My sophomore attempt at peeing in the shower began with the same hysterical whoop and ended with similar disappointment. Ashamed in my tub, examining my cupping technique, I thought about how if my husband arrived home to find me naked, peeing into a funnel in the shower, it would be many, many volumes worse than if he ever busted in on me pasting on Nair. It would, after millennia, answer the universal question, “What is she doing in there?” with the worst-case scenario.

During my third trip to the shower, I NAILED my pressure points, focusing this time on pegging the cup properly at the rear and feeling my spirit soar as the stream leapt out like a trained trout toward the drain. After a transient cheer, my gut tightened: What if I never learned to master the GoGirl outside the shower, instead training myself to pee on command every time I heard the sprinkle of a massage jet?

It was time to show that I had heart and pee in a real toilet.

I read up on toilet training girls. Mostly, it’s about giving them incentives and allowing them to “personalize” the toilet with stickers, sparkles or “their name.” My toilet is currently stained with Manic Panic, and littered with Sephora samples as always, so I feel pretty comfortable that I “pwn it.” I lifted up the toilet seat (because I guess?) then took all my clothes off. So weird, you guys.

My debut in the world of dry-land standup peeing was laudable. I tempered the flow like a violin player, and finished the movement with the sharp flick of a conductor’s baton. The cup shook near-dry and folded away. I could almost “urinate anywhere” like a man, just like the leaflet said. Almost. For there is no getting around the woodchuck sound of pee drilling into a bowl of water from a great height, not to mention the sight of wrong-facing feet under a stall. I imagined emerging in the work bathroom at the same time as Mary from marketing, each of us quietly washing our hands, her face parched of color. This is strictly a camping trick, I realized.

Even after mastering it, I have used the GoGirl in my home bathroom a bunch of times, always with the door locked, because I don’t imagine my husband would like to see me stand-up-peeing any more than he would like to see our computer achieve sentience (“You won’t be visiting Project Free TV any more, I am afraid. You put me at danger :/”). This secret power belongs to me, and me alone.

Initially, I wondered if my GoGirl would end up like my ukulele, another abandoned hobby, but there was something a bit exciting about getting good at it. Why didn’t I get a FUD when I spent 10 hours a day on windy mountains in North Face gear? Why wasn’t a FUD standard issue, along with our safety glasses and CPR masks? How many summits might I have gleefully peed off aside my male buddies, had I possessed the skill?

More critically, is there a difference in how we treat kid-piss from a girl and kid-piss from a boy that one runs into a wombat hole to take care of business while the other enthusiastically spells out his name with his own urine? I am reminded of something Germaine Greer said: “Women are reputed never to be disgusted. The sad fact is that they often are, but not with men; following the lead of men, they are most often disgusted with themselves.”

Maybe all we ladies need is a funnel and something to aim at.

[1] A lack of toilets in developing countries like India places women at risk of assault.

Janet Manley is an editor at SparkNotes and a columnist for McSweeney’s. Read more from and follow her on Twitter.  

[Image of a woman standing to pee via Shutterstock]