I recently spent time in Oslo attending a Women's Networking Conference. Now I'm not going to bore you with the obvious differences between these 'orderly to the nth degree' Scandinavian countries and our beloved mediterranean societies. After all, if we wanted order, we wouldn't have chosen a wonderfully chaotic place like Italy to live in in the first place. But, in (the only) country in which I discovered just yesterday that has more women than men in the Cabinet, where their (male) Minister for the Family and Gender Equality can state, "the opposite of equality is injustice", well, some things just sort of stand out. Like the bathrooms.
The Oslo hotel boasts unisex bathrooms (albeit temporarily, to accommodate the 700+ women guests here). And, as any woman the world over could attest, this very basic concept would go a very very long way in a country with stadiums and concert halls as big as in the USA. And although it might diminish gay-bashing politicians' pick-up rates tremendously, just think--not getting caught by undercover cops would allow them to keep their jobs and fabulous addresses. And, a few more of us women might just get lucky.
Italy also could go this route, and in clubs and restaurants, already do.
The only problem is, they use as their unisex toilet those ubiquitous 'holes in the ground', commonly called Turkish Toilets. There is no amount of explanation that will resolve the question as to why, in 2007, you not only can purchase these ceramic marvels new, but are still forced to use them. Men are obviously driving the purchase decisions in this niche market.
Italians of both sexes will inform you that the choice is purely hygienic; a case of living in such denial that they will actually argue that they are more sanitary. Ask an Anglo-Saxon, and absolutely no one can divine how wading through 3cm of...errr liquid, dropping your pants into that very substance, and then, ahhh, spraying your pants legs and ankles (even if you're a good shot) can, in the most optimistic of circumstances, be related to any form of cleanliness. At least dogs are still allowed in restaurants here. As far as I can tell, the bottoms of their feet are infinitely cleaner than the bottoms of yours.
But, I do know that this practice, like many others, is actually steeped in tradition. If you stop by any ancient ruin, you can often find a place called a 'Fullonica'. This was the public laundromat -- your sort of 1 day dry cleaners -- And the cleaning agents? Urine collected in little clay pots strategically placed throughout the city, some even right there (maybe you got a discount, or better yet, maybe closeted politicians got lucky). They say it really cleaned well, although I'm willing to offer that togas were never quite the white ones we think of, perhaps tinted a strange sort of yellow instead.
And, in keeping with tradition, I bet that back then, you probably still didn't get your tunic back within a week.
For your very own instructions for use, go here.