spend a penny

April 13, 2020

My fascination with loos began in early childhood, when a trip to the powder room felt like a flirtation with independence. I’d skip through the restaurant to the sound of clinking glasses, music and chatter. Once in the loo, (I rarely needed to pee) I’d watch women with pouffy hair-dos adjusting their tortoise-shell combs, applying a scarlet lipstick or spritzing their wrists in some decadent scent. And I’d listen to their conversations with a hawk’s ear. Sometimes, they’d engage with me, ask me what I liked to do at school or compliment my dress, and that was a thrill. The really fancy loos had a bathroom attendant who’d give me a plaster or a packet of cotton buds to take away with me. That was a thrill, too. In those days, you could smoke everywhere, even in the ladies’ room. Silver ashtrays sat on every vanity. I found that so chic. Very often, I’d stay so long that all the ice would have melted into my Shirley Temple when I’d return to the table. But I didn’t care. My trips to the loo were an adventure. An experience. An education. I’m still kind of potty about loos. And I never miss an opportunity to check out a really lovely one. It’s the one room we get to explore alone, take in the details –– a wallpaper, a vintage toilet paper holder, the lights, linens, soap –– with no interruptions. Guest loos are so private, and yet so public. It’s one of the reasons why I find them so intriguing.

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