I was reading a friend's blog yesterday, an entry about a bit of bathroom graffiti that he'd seen and enjoyed.
I, like many people, enjoy a great deal of the bathroom graffiti that I encounter, not only because sitting in a stall is boring, but because its a way that each of us individuals communicate with each other when we privately share a public privy.
Yeah, so bathroom graffiti is neat, but the real boon of my friend's blog was that it got me thinking some more about the 'wide stance'. As you probably know, Idaho Senator Larry Craig was busted in a Minneapolis Airport bathroom for soliciting sex from his stall neighbor. And later during a police interrogation he defended his gestures by claiming that he was "picking up a piece of paper" and, quite famously, that he had "a wide stance."
Given Senator Craig's political leanings, the episode is both sad and amazing. But the real tragedy of this tale is that Senator Craig had to resort to such half-assed, feeble, gesticulatory subtlties simply in order to get laid.
Now, why is it that a U.S. Senator has to resort to stall-side toe-tapping just to make friends? Is there something particularly American about this episode of sidelong glances and Miami vice? Would something like this happen in a different country, a place where people could just have their hypocritical gay tryst without resorting to toilet humor? I think what I’m really asking is: Does America have a wide stance?
Bear with me. You'll have to admit that here in the USA, we boast of a supremely individualistic culture, where each of us is granted the opportunity to remake ourselves from the ground up. With each new boatload of immigrants, Americans became people that believe in the possibility of renewal, in revolution, who believe that somewhere, out there across the ocean, greener grass grew round golden cobblestones. We’re a nation of speculators all eating our revolutionary All New Diets of SPAM or TV dinners or vegan food or Paxil-burgers without buns in our half-acre nouveaux faux-Tudor Ranch/Colonial where nobody knows you’re a dog. We’re a country where it’s not hypocritical to be an anti-gay closeted senator because nobody’s the same person for very long anyway, and we’re able to maintain this kind of revolutionary fervor because our lives are so compartmentalized.
Here, there’s nothing more sacred than private property, and no property's more private than private parts. What with all the detached homes, picket fences, car windows, grey cubicles, teevee screens, air-conditioned skyways, eye-pods, and mirrored sunglasses... here, the only possible way to communicate is with the occasional nervous twitch, the merest flicker of a hand, hopefully glimpsed through the crack in the door or under the divider, but probably mistaken for a scratched bugbite or involuntary spasm. Instead, we have bumper stickers and blogs, T-shirts and skywriting... all vain attempts to reach the unreachable communication. Instead, we have bathroom graffiti and internet comments, with all their reciprocal snark... O, the dashed hopes of Charles Lindbergh in June! Or, to put it another way, aren’t we all self-loathing closeted Senators sitting in our stalls, reaching out for a helping hand? Isn’t there a little wide stance in all of us?
Find more photos like this on Bathroom Graffiti Project