Abby Kaiser

I love UVM’s communal bathrooms

August 30, 2021

Before starting college, I had one fear: pooping in a residential hall bathroom.

The whole bathroom situation in general seemed slightly daunting to first-year me.

I wasn’t ready for the highly anticipated awkwardness of walking down the hall in a towel or someone hearing me on the toilet. On top of that, I’m UVM’s biggest germaphobe; I won’t even touch the bathroom door handle without using a paper towel.

The communal bathroom gave me a weird sense of community I hadn’t anticipated.

With the added COVID-19 restrictions of last year, the bathroom became an occasional hang out spot. 

Last years’ first-years had it hard; it was such an unconventional year with so much additional stress and uncertainty that most first-year classes don’t face. 

The most normal part of college dorm life last year was the bathrooms. It was the only time I really got to see my peers without their masks covering their faces. It was our opportunity to really let down our guard — and our masks. 

We used every bathroom opportunity we had — including spontaneous trips — to connect, relate and empathize with each other. We didn’t have much, but we had the bathrooms.

Before I settled in, I stared at the shower for a minute before stepping inside. I was intimidated to say the least.

I had to build up courage to enter the shower. I scrambled to grab my body wash and shaving cream from my shower caddy, which was inconveniently located outside the shower.

My head practically hit the off-white grimy tiles as I bent down to shave my legs in the claustrophobic stall. I was in such a rush to get out of the germ-infested shower pit that I didn’t even consider washing my hair.

Instead of wrapping myself in a towel like a normal person, I would put my clothes on over my sopping wet body, jump out of the shower and run back to my room as my shower shoes squished on the carpet.

The first day or so was an awkward adjustment; however, before I knew it, my hall’s bathroom became a place of comfort.

Communal bathrooms create a shared common area among residents, while students who have private bathrooms may never interact with others in their hall, according to a September 2015 Odyssey article. 

My bathroom was only shared by eight girls. None of us were in the same friend group and we didn’t hang out, but the bathroom was the place where we all came together. 

I started to look forward to seeing who would be in the bathroom every night when I went to brush my teeth.

Those bonds and feelings of trust were made in the bathroom; the same place I had been so scared of just a few months prior.

The bathroom is a vulnerable place. Everyone sees each other at their barest — literally.

You become a permanent resident to a place where you will witness your neighbors, your friends and strangers experience their first taste of independence and go through some of the best and hardest moments of their lives.

I can vividly remember seeing the sink stained bright pink after my hallmates dyed their hair, followed by their big smiles as they eagerly showed off their new hairdo. 

I also remember hearing my floormates in the bathroom after partying a little too hard that night and trying to dance around the vomit.

As embarrassing and awful as it may sound, someone will probably walk in on you crying, dancing, singing, vomiting or taking off your makeup, but nobody cares because they know that the next day it could be them you see in that exposed spot.

Most humans don’t enjoy being vulnerable; however, vulnerability draws others in. This vulnerability is the key to human connection, according to a PsychAlive article.

Make the most of your time sharing a bathroom; it’s a unique experience that you are only granted access to for a few short years. 

Welcome strangers who walk in, dance, cry, connect, laugh, make memories and find happiness in your hall’s bathroom.

You never know who could be waiting behind the bathroom door. Maybe you’ll meet your new best friend, or at least a shower party buddy.

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