I’ve been in a lot of men’s bathrooms in my three decades of life, and by association, that means I’ve seen a lot of weird shit. Choosing one thing to share with you was a tall task and a tough decision. I mean, I had so many options.
Was it the vial of baby teeth my high school boyfriend kept by the sink as a “memento” of his youth? The patch of black mold that grew so aggressively inside my friend’s shower that he named it “Fast Jeff”? The cum-crusted copy of the Rocky Mountain Astrologer my best friend kept on top of the toilet with so little shame or discretion that his mom had to tell him to stop ejaculating on her magazines once and for all?
Nay. It was something else entirely. In fact, the weirdest, most unsettling discovery I’ve made in a man’s bathroom wasn’t actually a thing at all — it was the absence of a thing. Of anything, for that matter.
In college, I met my friend at her boyfriend’s house to pregame before a night out. When I got there, she was showering in his bathroom and he was on the phone, so I helped myself to a beer and busied myself by snooping around. It was a typical “college guy apartment” — beige carpets, popcorn walls and a whole lot of Target Dorm Room Essentials™. Between the peeling black leather couch, the misplaced wrought iron and glass coffee table and the neon Pabst Blue Ribbon wall sign, it exuded the familiar dirt and disarray of any dude’s first place, a busy, mismatched two-bedroom permeated by the scent of spilled Red Bull and Febreze.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I found my way to their roommate’s bathroom. He wasn’t home and I had to pee, so I let myself into his room and flipped on the lights. As soon as my eyes adjusted, I realized I was standing the sparsest, brightest and most immaculate bathroom I’d ever seen. It wasn’t just clean, though — it was empty. I’m talking like, nothing in it empty, like IKEA-showroom empty, like so empty that the light made a loud snapping echo when I turned it on because there was nothing in the room to absorb the sound.
Confused, I glanced over at the shower. No curtain. No bath mat. Inside, there was no shampoo. No soap. No razor. No damp towels hanging nearby to signal recent use.
I whirled around. The toilet, a gleaming porcelain beauty, stared back at me, challenging all logic with its absurd lack of seat and handle. There was no toilet paper. There was no trash can. By the sink, no soap to wash up with; no towel to dry your hands.
A dread crept over me. It felt like the walls were closing in. Was I about to get Dexter-ed in here? Is this where he did his quiet slaughters? My heart was pounding out of my chest as I flung open his medicine cabinet to find nothing but a single piece of floss decaying in a low corner. How did he bathe? Where was his toothbrush? Did he poop? How did he wipe? Did he… ?! No. He couldn’t. But could he?!
Reeling and aghast, I hover-peed in his barren toilet, bounce-dried and ripped the door open before French exiting into the night, too buzzed and weirded out to bring it up. Later, after a stronger drink, I found out that he only bathed at his parents’ house, and that his private bathroom — a coveted rarity for college guys — was “just for emergencies.” He’d taken the handle off the toilet to dissuade people like me from using the bathroom that he didn’t use.
Fucked up. I know.
But as weird as these things are, they can’t possibly be as weird as what the rest of the MEL staff has found. I mean, have you read these people? We’re a Noah’s Ark of depraved journalists; an overcurious lot who snoop for stories behind the hair-crusted shower curtains of our one-night stands, the depths of our father’s medicine cabinets and, if we’re really starved for pitches, the one, pube-laden hollow behind our toilets where no one has cleaned for 40 years.
With that in mind, here’s what some of us have found…
Stacks on Stacks on Stacks of Yeast Infection Medication
Sovereign Syre, Contributing Writer: I will never be able to shake the memory of the guy who had all of his ex-wife’s toiletries and medications stored under the sink like a shrine to their failed marriage. I’m talking stacks on stacks of boxes of yeast infection medication collecting dust along with a hot roller set, expired makeup in department store totes and a forest of half-empty shampoo bottles from every salon between Williamsburg and Chelsea. He also had stacks of photo lighting books on the back of the toilet and a couple old copies of the Wall Street Journal, which was doubly weird because he didn’t have a bank account and had never opened a line of credit.
A Pile of Dirty Dishes
Miles Klee, Staff Writer: This is going to sound like a brag, but I swear it’s quite the opposite: One of the weirdest, most haunting bathroom situations I’ve ever encountered involves a foursome.
On a long-ago Friday night in New York, through a combination of alcohol, drugs, youthful exuberance and plain old horniness, I wound up entangled with two women I knew well, and another guy — a boyfriend I’d never met before. All of us feeling hot and high, we decided to leave the club and hook up in the closest available apartment: his.
The place was a cramped tenement studio on the Lower East Side, and an absolute sty. I was afraid to walk around in it for fear of stepping on dirty underwear or a slice of moldy old pizza. Before I could register having second thoughts, the dude said something about going out for condoms: Were Magnums okay for me? Ugh.
When he left, the three of us remaining tried to get in the mood, though with little success. I excused myself to the bathroom, which turned out to contain… only a scummy toilet. No shower, no sink. Again, this was a tiny studio apartment. What the fuck? As I emerged, I said something like, “I’m so stoned, but, uh, is there no sink in this place? Where does he shower?”
“Oh,” said the woman dating the fellow who lived here. “Pull back that curtain.”
I stepped to a corner of the room with a white curtain, which I’d taken to be covering a window. When I grasped it, I realized it was a shower curtain. I pulled it back to reveal a raised metal basin connected to a spray nozzle by a length of hose. The basin itself was jammed full of dirty dishes and wet chunks of food. The mind reeled: His shower was his kitchen sink, and vice versa. And it looked as if he’d used it as neither for the last month or so. I almost barfed on the spot — which, truthfully, wouldn’t have altered the state of the sink very much.
The worst part? When he came back, we all still tried to go through with the orgy. I convinced myself I could ignore the chamber of horrors I’d gazed upon. But we didn’t get anywhere. To this day, nothing in life has killed my boner like seeing and smelling that fetid washbasin. And I’m grateful every day that I don’t have to shower in a sink.
A Condom Dispenser
Brian Smith, Staff Writer: The early aughts were peak Craigslist M4M years for me, which meant I spent a fair amount of time in strangers’ bathrooms throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Still relatively new to the gay hookup scene, and having come of age at the tail end of the AIDS epidemic, I was absurdly reticent to get involved with anyone whom I deemed to be too promiscuous. So imagine my horror when, upon scaling a fifth-floor walkup, I asked to use the facilities of the nameless twink I’d matched with on Craigslist to discover a WALL-MOUNTED CONDOM DISPENSER next to the bathroom sink that looked to hold 100 condoms at capacity but was less than a quarter full. “That thing in your bathroom is hilarious,” I said as I entered the bedroom, giving him the opportunity to explain it as a joke gift from a zany friend.
Nope. He’d just gotten sick of having to walk all the way to the Duane Reade whenever he wanted to have sex and found the dispenser on the internet at a second-hand restaurant supply wholesaler. Now, he never ran out. While I was mildly pleased to learn of his devotion to safe sex, I politely excused myself, vowing to limit my sexual partners to those who could fit the number of condoms they needed for a month in their nightstand.
Mountains of Empty Beer Cans and Cigarette-Singed World War II Paperbacks
Magdalene Taylor, Staff Writer: When I was in high school, my father lived in an underground bunker of an apartment complex off the turnpike called “The Toll House.” Western Massachusetts-heads will know. The apartment, as you might expect, had no windows, and the other men who shared the floor with my father were all single alcoholics and heroin addicts. Lucky for me and my childhood trauma, my dad was both. It’s fine, though. He’s sober at the moment.
Anyway, as both an alcoholic and a heroin addict, I assume my father spent a lot of time in the bathroom. The alcohol makes you need to pee, and the heroin makes you take hours to shit. So in his bathroom was an absolute mountain of empty Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, accompanied by a pile of cigarette-ash ridden paperback texts about World War II. None of this is really all that strange, though I do still have many questions about it. Was he drinking beers on the toilet? If not, was he using the bathroom as storage, despite the fact that his apartment was technically a one-bedroom and he slept on the living room couch? In other words, he had the room to keep them elsewhere.
Eventually, the basement of the apartment complex was condemned, so my father and his fellow cellar rats were forced to leave. It was all for the best — no doubt my dad would have eventually died down there. I’m certain, though, that he didn’t clean up those cans before leaving.
Better Skincare Products Than My Own
Lauren Vinopal, Staff Writer: I think all of the gross bathroom experiences I’ve had in New York over the past eight years have blended together into a single nightmare I’ve tried to block out. There was that time in a Brooklyn dive when I walked in on a girl in a unisex, single stall bathroom doing coke while she peed. I think her capacity to multitask startled me the most. Then there’s the countless floaters I’ve stumbled across in exes’ bathrooms, and the few dudes who boldly left McDonald’s and Taco Bell wrappers in their bathroom trash cans.
But it wasn’t until I attempted to pivot from dating mid-20s dirtbags (i.e., comedians) to early-30s scumbags (i.e., advertising guys) that I found the most upsetting thing I could uncover in a man’s apartment — better skincare products than my own. This particular guy was a Kiehl’s man who I didn’t have much in common with, but I was also out of eye cream and broke, so we kept hanging out. Looking back, I’m ashamed of my opportunism back then. I’m also not proud of how it’s forever warped my judgment of straight men who use toner. If anyone should be encouraged to up their skincare game, it’s straight guys. In my defense, though, having moisturizer mansplained to me almost immediately after sex wasn’t an experience I could ever mentally prepare for — or one that I’d recommend.