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      Men and Urinals

      November 1, 2009

      By Christina Kelly, Phots by Ed Zipco



      I have been minorly obsessed with urinals for some time now. There are many questions I have pondered for years. Such as: How is it that the males of the species just stand together in groups, with penis in hand, peeing? Is it not awkward to find yourself at the urinal at the same time as your boss or your dad? What is it that men at the urinal talk about? The whole idea of a urinal, especially in a workplace, is just bizarre to me. Are high-level corporate deals being cemented at the urinal, the last place where girls are not allowed? And I’m a little worried that the urinal is the glass ceiling. If so, can we, in fact, blame the entire financial crisis on the urinal?

      To illuminate the matter, I contacted a cross section of urinal users. The study was double-blind and highly scientific. Below, the data.

      Come on, isn’t it awkward being at the urinal with other people?
      “Yeah, it sucks,” says Mishka Shubaly, a writer. “One time, I had to use the stall next to my dad. He looked up, I looked down, and he insisted on carrying on a conversation. But, thank God, I resisted the urge to check out the size of his wang and see who was bigger. There are some things you’re just not meant to know. I mean, I think I’m bigger but it kind of doesn’t matter because Dad’s cock trumps your cock every time.”

      Where do you look when you are at the urinal, down or up?
      “There is generally an ‘eyes up front’ stance that is adopted at the urinal,” insists Geoff Brown, who works at a Canadian college. “It is strange, but once a dude has got his Johnson out and he has established that his stream is hitting the mark, then it is automatically ‘eyes up front’ and he stares at the wall ten inches in front of his face.”

      Not all our study subjects were in agreement. “I look down,” says Mishka. “I think guys like to look up to pretend that what’s happening (i.e., we are taking our dicks in hand while other men are present) isn’t happening, but I like to have good visual contact with my wang to make sure I don’t pee on myself or a candiru doesn’t leap out of the urinal and up my peehole.”

      Do you ever sneak a peek?
      “There is no peeking. Ever,” says Dan, an artist in Brooklyn. “That’s why there’s an unwritten rule that if you can, you always have one empty urinal between you and someone else. You never just sidle up to a urinal next to someone unless it’s crowded and you have to.” This opinion was echoed by many. “It’s sort of a ‘do unto others’ thing,” says Stuart, a shrink in Brooklyn. Steven Cox and Daniel Silver, the designers of Duckie Brown, are skeptical of this assertion. “I think every guy, gay or straight or whatever, is looking,” says Steven. Daniel adds: “But no straight guy is going to admit it.”

      Except for Eben, who owns a boutique real estate firm in Manhattan. “I think I used to sneak peeks when I was less secure of who I am and wanted to see what other people were packing, but now I don’t really care,” he says. “Maybe after doing martial arts for years and seeing a lot of dudes naked in the locker room, dick is no longer interesting. It is interesting how some dudes go out of their way to make sure that you do not see their business. I think that is weirder than sneaking a peek.”

      Josh Wolk, author of Cabin Pressure, shares this peeking anecdote. “The one time I did I was at the theater, and out of my peripheral vision I saw a guy pee, but then, in shaking the last drops out, he began wildly garroting his member; out of the corner of my eye, it looked like he was beating a snake against a rock. Then he’d stop and do it again. I’ve never seen someone so concerned with getting out every last drop.”

      Have you had any urinal mishaps?
      “Yes, I had a horrible experience with a urinal when I was in first grade,” says Daniel Silver. “And I don’t think I had ever used a urinal before. I guess I got my dick out to pee in the urinal, and I got too close, and it all shot back at me. My brother had to come get me, and he had to take me home, because it looked like I peed my pants. It was very upsetting.”

      This problem apparently does not completely resolve itself with practice. “The most awkward thing about the urinal, in my opinion, is judging the distance to stand back from the urinal pre-stream,” says Geoff. “Splash-back can ruin an outfit. Often the angle of the stream and the ‘convex’ nature of the urinal can cause a fine mist that will pepper the lower half of your torso.” This is something I had not been aware of. “If you don’t realize how much splash-back there is, it will blow your mind to use a urinal in shorts,” says David, a writer in California.

      Do you have conversations at the urinal?
      “It depends if eye contact is made and the exchange is mutual,” says Geoff. “If you do, then it is usually in an ‘outside voice,’ about really common stuff like HOW ABOUT THAT WEATHER? You definitely wouldn’t lean in to some bro and in a soft, ‘indoor voice’ say, ‘Where did you get your belt?’” Dan had this to say: “It’s totally awkward having a conversation at the urinal, and most people don’t do it. It’s usually guys who feel more awkward, not more confident, like two guys just out of a business meeting, one of them feeling insecure, or, in my experience, on a commercial job with someone you just sort of met but have been working all day with. If there is talking, though, everyone stares straight ahead. I’m surprised they haven’t put TVs above urinals yet. I’ve contemplated the details of typical bathroom tiling way too often.” Apparently, they do sometimes post newspapers above restaurant urinals.

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