A first grade field trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific yesterday occasioned me to stand in line with a couple of six year-olds to allow them to make use of the "family friendly" toilet facilities on premises. These "gender-neutral" (meaning they’re open to both men and women) public restrooms rate very high on my short list of things for which the term "gender neutral" adds to the benefit of mankind. Mothers of sons and fathers of daughters know exactly what I mean. There comes a point at which the dragging of the offspring into the restroom of the opposite gender is no longer, well . . . shall we say, prudent? And yet you can’t just send them off into the "God-knows-what" oblivion that one who watches too much local media is bound to believe represents every public restroom in Los Angeles. Sanity tells me that I fret too much. But one never knows, however, and there’s no reasoning with a mother’s fears. So I say God Bless the "gender-neutral, family friendly" toilet!
After this long segue, let me make a short point. In line I am behind a father and his young daughter. As we are waiting our turn, the door to the restroom opens up and out comes another father with his young (3 year-old, I would guess) daughter held aloft with her pants and her undies down all the way around her ankles. Because I’m a mom, however, and never shocked by much of what happens vis a vis children and toilets, it did not occur to me to be surprised or to ask the fellow why he did not pull up her pants. I simply assumed that there had been an "accident" and he was setting about remedying the situation as best a poor father might be expected to do it. So I politely looked away. However, my son, his friend, and the other father in line immediately began shouting to the unsuspecting man about what he was doing. "Hey, buddy!" the other father said to the man with the unwittingly exposed little girl, "I think you forgot a step!" Sure enough, that’s exactly what had happened. The grateful father then assisted the even more grateful little girl and all was right with their world. But it strikes me . . . perhaps this little vignette offers some insights into the natural limits of "gender-neutrality."