Stinky Bathrooms

green ladies and gentlemen bathroom sign

“Ugh, the ladies’ room smells HORRIBLE.”

She’s standing outside my office door, interrupting my concentration.

Once I’ve registered what she said and that it’s not related to a job task, I resume planning on projects.

“REALLY gross,” she repeats.

I figure she’s doing some kind of performance for my office neighbors.

“Like something DIED in there,” she says again.

I remember that this wing of the office suite is empty today, one coworker out sick, my boss working remotely at a job site for the day.

I make eye contact with her and laugh politely, not sure what else she wants me to say. She shuffles off, seemingly disappointed.

It only occurs to me once she’s gone, what I should have said if I wanted to risk offending her: “Well, what did you expect? Don’t you know what they do in bathrooms?”

*

Four days a week, I spend roughly 10 hours in one of those soulless office parks. You know, the ones where not much has changed since the 70’s, where beige is all the rage and everyone’s stealing as much time as they possibly can, trying to get others to do their work for them. My actual job is not so bad, but the environment is bleakly depressing, and I face constant interruptions from people who have masterfully dodged work so well that they’re bored and wander around looking for others to entertain them.

They complain constantly. About anything. About everything.

They narrate their home lives in a kind of complaint-speak. Gifts from others are never what they wanted, never useful, never good enough. Everything is an imposition. Their romantic partners are clueless and obnoxious.

I surreptitiously play with a desk toy a girl I dated gave me, stare longingly at a sweet text from my husband.  I run through possible scenarios at a party I’m excited to go to over the weekend.

I stick to work when chatting with them, careful to tell enough jokes that I carve out a respectable coworker friendliness.

“His clothes never match.”

“I don’t like what he watches on TV.”

“Ack, it’s raining again.”

*

On the tougher days, I’m quieter, when I’m struggling with a problem they don’t have the scripts to understand, like:

  • envy that my husband’s girlfriend grew up in a free-love commune and is probably better at poly than me because of that
  • worry that he’ll meet a girl that is the magic height that will enable him to effortlessly have every manner of stick-figure kama sutra sex position instead of having to futz with sex furniture and the pioneer spirit like he and I do, thereby banishing me to obsolescence
  • concern over whether I’m making the right call on the “okay fit” with someone re: seeing how it goes versus ending it before anybody gets hurt or they feel like I’ve led them on

 

Meanwhile, they’re commiserating down the hall about how their husbands never load the dishwasher  in the exact configuration they would like.

It’s inappropriate for significant others to have friends of the opposite sex, they loudly agree.

I’m authoring an adulterous flirty text to a sexy girl we went to bed with the weekend before.

*

Distress tolerance refers to our ability to deal with negative emotions or states. People with low distress tolerance become overwhelmed at relatively mild levels of stress and react with negative behaviors.

I have found high levels of distress tolerance to be a very good predictor of how well behaved people are in polyamorous situations. This is not to say that people with low distress tolerance can’t be poly – on the contrary, I’ve known multiple polyamorous people with lower distress tolerance. However, they certainly ran into problems, and they were supremely bad actors when stressed.

When the going got tough, they acted out. And those around them catered to their whims or ran into problems. They were the squeaky wheels who got the grease. As a hinge, I ran into huge problems with a couple of low-distress tolerance partners. One would lash out when she felt ignored or slighted, which would make me not want to spend time with her, perpetuating the cycle. It was easy to develop an aversion to spending time with her.

Another of my partners was so unable to deal with discomfort that he never challenged himself, never grew. He was about as responsible at 30 as he had been at 20, with devastating results. We grew apart.

*

There is plenty good to be found in this present moment. Not all pain is bad. The right amount of anxiety is needed to grow. And life isn’t always going to be comfortable.

What did you expect when you went into the bathroom? Don’t you know what they’re for?

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