IN MY SCHOOL, the nearest boys’ bathroom offers two styles of toilet: one is a Western, “regular” style; the other, squat-style, common in Korea and across Asia. These two roads diverged in a white porcelain mark, for me at least, a significant leap in cultural immersion, and for weeks I wilfully ignored the issue altogether.
I can’t remember the exact moment I lost my squatting-virginity—it was probably in a Seomyeon subway washroom, against my better judgment—but I can remember my apprehension. And I remember that the moment I gave the squat a shot, I was hurled into a frighteningly stark realization that enveloped me all at once in terror and intrigue.
I fucking love squatty-potties.
I have not used my school’s Western-style toilet in nearly a month. In fact, I just used the squatty-potty in between writing that last sentence and this one right here and it was awesome.
There are three reasons for this adoration, and I’ll note here that some specifically apply to publicrestrooms. (I’m not saying I’d necessarily pay US$150 to purchase a squatting apparatus to install atop my home toilet, but the option would be nice.)
- Hygiene. Yes, it is a hole in the ground. But it’s not an outhouse. The poop and piss gets flushed down the same sewers as everything else. I still recall my mildly germaphobic father instructing a younger me, upon my first visit to a public restroom: Son, always—ALWAYS—put toilet paper on the seat, or else you’ll catch something you’ll wish you hadn’t. His words haunt me to this day, and the thought of my bare bum on a seat freaks me out as much as the thought of my penis touching the inside of the toilet bowl rim. (To any men reading this: you know exactly what I’m talking about.) I still abide by my father’s rule, especially in subway bathrooms and elementary schools, where a child’s notion of “cleanliness” is to high five his friend in lieu of using soap and water. Whilst squatting, my bum ain’t touchin’ nothin’—squat, drop and flush. (Plus, the flusher is right by your feet—no hands necessary! Brilliant.)
- Shit falls out easier. Some sort of science has proven that the squatting position makes pooing easier. I can’t explain it myself, but I hypothesize that it has something to do with a purer spreading of the ass-cheeks, as opposed to when one is sitting on a toilet seat, and one’s ass-cleavage sort of gets pushed up against itself sometimes, y’know? (…Y’know?) Simply put, toilet paper records prove that my anus is consistently less brown after a squat than a sit. Less time spent wiping my ass = more time spent reading webcomics at work.
- I won’t get colon cancer, maybe. As Wikipedia’s entry on “Squatting Defecation Posture” (a sub-section of “Human Defecation Postures”) points out, squatting while pooing reduces the likelihood of getting colon cancer and constipation. It kind of makes sense, when you think about it: all your digestive organs work best when you’re standing, because we’re not built to sit all the time, and if you want something to fall out of your ass you’d best smooth out all your tubes first.
I concede two of the squatty-potty’s failures: one is that, if I’m having a really bad number two, and it’s super-messy and not at all very pleasant, I would rather sit down so I can just hold my head in my hands and feel shitty about everything that’s happening right now. For at least 20 minutes.
The other concession is that I sometimes like to read while I poo, and that’s pretty much impossible to comfortably do while squatting. But on the plus side, no one else can do that, either. Case in point: I once lived with a guy who would spend literally a half-hour in the bathroom, sitting and reading on the toilet, while I’d be too polite to knock angrily on the door and instruct him that I would fill his pillowcase with my feces if he didn’t get off the fucking toilet in the next three seconds.
Now, if he were in Korea? That shit just wouldn’t fly here.
This essay originally appeared on Busan Awesome in November, 2011.