My son London can’t stand peeing. Not that he’s opposed to the act – he just doesn’t care to be upright during it. In fact, of necessity and under protest, he’s only stood to pee a handful of times in his seven-and-a-half years on the planet.
The first time was on a camping trip in northern British Columbia when he was three. With no outhouse in the vicinity, options for number one were two: hang out in the woods or pee in the pants. The call of nature foiled by nature itself. He was not happy about it. Anchored by my left arm, he dropped his pants – overzealously, in my experienced view – all the way to his ankles, arched his back and thrusted his hips forward while I tilted him just enough to direct his less-than-vigorous stream right onto his shoes.
A little more than a year later, in India, we were exposed to what could compete as the foulest toilet in the country. And, if you’ve ever had to hit the head in any of Old Delhi’s decrepit depositories, then you know that’s a tough title to claim.
Truth is, my son didn’t care about cleanliness. He simply wanted to sit. Again, if you’ve been there, you know that, outside of certain establishments – like hotels, embassies and some restaurants – that can be a challenge.
But, hey – when you gotta go …
With some support, he hung over a six-inch hole that hadn’t taken a bullseye in years. On the wall was a hose with a rusted nozzle – seemingly for rinsing away irregular backwash. Clearly, never used.
I explained the imperative and retreated to higher ground. The procedure took less than a minute; afterwards, he lectured me on the merits of sitting for nearly five.
The following year, in kindergarten, an older boy and budding misogynist directed a coarse remark at his relatively-long goldilocks and peeing mode. When told about it later, I didn’t bother broaching vertical integration – I simply asked if he wanted to cut his hair. “No,” he said. “I like my hair.”
So, at five-years-old, not afraid to put his foot down. Just never at a urinal.
Last summer, on a gruelling hike on British Columbia’s Unnecessary Mountain (a quaint and appropriately-named climb) – he again indicated a need to go. The trees had started to wildly whip in the wind and I’d just decided to seek shelter when a big fir snapped, shaking us and the forest floor.
I suggested expediency. He shuffled to the edge of the trail, dropped trou – again, inexplicably, right to his ankles – while I positioned him downhill to avoid runoff.
Unfortunately, that meant into the wind. And onto my hand.
Nobody’s ever pressured him to pee standing up. It’s his business and there’s boundless debate about standing tall or squatting. Some say sitting is an upright sign of a gentleman. In Japan, 30 per cent of men do it; Sweden and Taiwan officially encourage. There’s some debate in Germany – where a sitter is known as a sitzpinklert – but signs at some toilets warn that standing is verboten.
Larry David advocated it in his hit HBO show Curb Your Enthusiasm, at the same time alerting to the perils of leaving the seat up; I wonder, too, if Ryan Gosling still employs the prying maid who leaked his preference.
So what about the little guy? Well, I’ve adopted the neutral-parenting practice of ensuring that the seat is reasonably clean, secure and in the downright position.
But that all changed recently when my son sauntered into the bathroom and, without a word, dropped his pants and peed – standing up. Afterwards, he simply flushed the toilet, washed his hands and exited the room as coolly as he’d come in.
As I stood brushing my teeth, I looked down and felt a flush of pride. For my son had finally turned that figurative corner. With two firmly planted feet he’d taken the first glorious step on that long and winding road to becoming a man.
I’m not saying that because he stood to pee. I’m saying it because he didn’t get any of it in the toilet.