DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m uncomfortable with the all-gender bathroom stalls at work.
I was used to the traditional setup, where men and women had separate bathrooms. Having an all-gender bathroom space seems too intimate for me, and it’s a bit embarrassing when I need to use the restroom while someone of the opposite gender is in there. I can’t help but feel like we’re invading each other’s privacy by sharing this space.
It makes me anxious every time I go into the restroom because I don’t know who might be in there.
Speaking up about this probably wouldn’t go over well, as gender inclusivity is one of the company’s key values, and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. What should I do?
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: Perhaps some perspective will help you here. In many parts of the world, public bathrooms are open to whoever wants to use them, regardless of gender. The thinking is, this makes it convenient for everyone to use the facilities when they need to do so, and the energy around it is neutral.
This concept can work well for you as well. For one, it cuts down on lines, particularly for women. It also makes the experience of going to the restroom convenient for all.
I totally understand that since the idea is new for you, it feels awkward. Honestly, I have had occasions when I wished nobody was in the bathroom at the same time as me when I had to take care of business.
Do your best to remember that the room is for one use that we all need. Take time to get used to it, and you may no longer feel the desire to complain.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I want to help my friend out financially this Christmas so that she can give her children the holiday they deserve. She lost her primary source of income this year, and she is a single mother.
I know that money is tight, and I don’t want her to feel embarrassed or offended if I offer it, as she has a great deal of pride.
I love my friend, and I love her children, so it hurts me to see her struggle. She never asks for help or accepts when I offer it. How can I approach this in a way that doesn’t offend her?
DEAR CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: I received your letter too late to help with purchasing holiday gifts, but I wanted to answer anyway. Given that you know your friend is suffering, why not give her a gift anyway?
Get creative so that it doesn’t offend her sense of pride. Perhaps a family membership to the children’s museum in her town or monthly meal vouchers from a food delivery service to relieve her of the stress of cooking every day. Or even an anonymous gift card that she can use in any way she chooses.
Remember, too, that reaching out to talk to her, letting her know you are thinking about her and want to support her in any way, can be worth more than anything.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.