News & Politics

“Exposed” Bathrooms Interest Times, Disturb Us


Our Uncle Dennis used to go into the bathroom with the paper, an apple, and a paring knife, and not come out for a half-hour at least. The privacy and isolation of the crapper is one of the few luxuries available to poor people, so it stands to reason the rich would have no use for it, as is shown by the recent Times article about a trend of exposed bathrooms.

A number of their examples are, oddly, found in hotels, which seems to us to us the last place we’d want to feel exposed; a designer says that picture-window bathrooms “help guests orient themselves in an unfamiliar environment.” We’d say it sounds like a good set-up for a scene in a French farce or a homoerotic Spring Break movie but a bad way to make a weary traveler feel oriented. (As EV Grieve says, “Last time I stayed in a place where everyone could watch me go to the bathroom, I was in jail.”)

The article’s photo of a tub at the Standard Hotel, set next to a window overlooking the Hudson, makes slightly more sense: if you can have a good view and privacy at the same time, why not have it? But we fear that when this trend spreads, it will do so in the manner of those glass-box apartments that have sprung up around New York in recent years, through the windows of which we sometimes see the rich toffs idly standing in various states of undress. Their seeming unconcern with their exposure may be an enlightened lack of what one of the exposed-bathroom advocates considers “prudery”; but we are an inclined to find it instead a type of depravity — a presumption that the people below are not quite human, so the toffs need feel no more modesty in their presence than they would feel in the presence of a dog.

Probably people in our income bracket prefer unexposed bathrooms because we retain some sense of shame. It’s not always and entirely a healthy feeling, but at least it’s a recognizable part of the human emotional spectrum, and if it sometimes trammels the spirit, it also serves on a check on some of our anti-social impulses. This city’s overclass, on the other hand, is completely unacquainted with shame — if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that. From the bottle club to the bailout request, wealth does not blush at anything. Maybe young Catholic schoolkids can stand to shake off some shame, but we think the kind of people who can afford exposed bathrooms should actually be encouraged to acquire some shame. Any kind will do for starters. If they can’t get their trainers or life-coaches to inculcate it, then perhaps we can try show-trials. Photo via Ohio County Crafts.


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