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The Unbearable Lightness of Peeing (in a Gold Toilet on Facebook Live)

The best toilet experience is one where 2,000 people aren't watching you.
Image: Kristopher McKay/Guggenheim

Tuesday morning, I found myself in the curious predicament of being unable to pee into a solid gold toilet while live streaming myself to 2,000 people on the internet.

More often than is normal, I find myself thinking "why am I doing this," and it usually starts with an offhanded comment or thought that goes something like "wouldn't it be funny / cool / informative if I overdosed on tryptophan / took drugs and tried to type fast / fixed a coworker's expensive phone on Facebook Live / made cocaine / flew a drone in the desert?" And so when we were looking for a way to promote Luxury Week, I said almost without thinking: Why don't we go pee in the Guggenheim's new solid gold toilet and stream it on Facebook Live?


A few days later, it was so.

The plan was to talk to people waiting to use the Maurizio Cattelan's interactive "America" exhibit (read: 18-karat solid gold toilet) about the nature of luxury. Why wait two hours to use a toilet when there is a perfectly good porcelain one within eyeshot?

The shoot couldn't have gone better—Cattelan's piece was a good chance to talk about income inequality, the luxury of excess, the bathroom habits of the rich, and even toilet politics and access worldwide (as in, lots of people don't have access to sanitary sewage disposal systems), and the people we spoke with were candid, thoughtful, and personable.

Throughout most of the livestream, we had about 2,000 people watching, most of whom were waiting to see the golden toilet and the promise of me peeing in it. There was only one problem, really: I had absentmindedly peed when I woke up. Five bottles of water at the Guggenheim hadn't really remedied this. When it was my turn to go, I didn't really have to pee.

And so I walked into the stall, locked the door, and found myself face to face with both the most expensive toilet I've ever had the chance to use and an increasing number of anxiety-inducing factors.

Thoughts that ran through my head:

  • I hope the people I cut in line aren't angry
  • Why is the echo in here so loud?
  • Don't show your penis live on Facebook
  • It's very weird describing the act of yourself peeing to a crowd
  • Wow, there are 2,000 people watching me do this
  • Don't show your penis live on Facebook
  • Why is everyone standing outside laughing? Can they hear me?
  • I don't have to pee
  • I can't do this
  • Don't show your penis live on Facebook
  • I can't do this
  • What if I can't do this?

Comments were rapidly scrolling through the Facebook feed—some jokingly (sincerely?) supportive. Others more forceful: "DO IT" / "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU," and the like. My hands began to shake uncontrollably, my voice began to quaver. And then I peed, a little. Enough to elicit cheers and enough so that I didn't feel like a failure. I felt a wave of relief wash over me.

And then I realized that throughout the entire experience, I never once thought about the fact that the toilet is made of solid gold. It never felt luxurious. I felt anxious, and ridiculous, and embarrassed, and like, I guess it was kind of fun. But let me tell you: The most luxurious toilet is a private one. Any private one.

Luxury Week is a series about our evolving views of what constitutes luxury. Follow along here.

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