The Bathroom Craze

I will start today by telling you I have no problem whatsoever with sharing the bathroom with a male, provided he’s clean and thoughtful, and skillfully manages the toilet seat issue. Which, luckily enough, is my case here at home. If we have the slightest intention of mingling public toilets in the future, I would advise establishing a significant penalty to avoid these possible misdemeanors, and we’ll be all set. I would not care to eliminate this kind of old-fashioned bathroom prejudice, which has ended up being such a disturbing issue.

Now, since we’ve chosen to settle down in South Carolina, a mere 20-mile drive from the North Carolina border, I guess this might turn us into borderline fascist pigs, oops, sorry, pigs. It does not matter we moved here because our son lives in Charleston, or because Greenville is a city on the rise, with a highly-praised quality of life. What’s essential is that North Carolina’s governor is a bigot, a despicable monster who hates gays — yes, I chose this hateful, highly prejudiced term (or is it not?) for a reason. You may speculate on this, I don’t care. In terms of the governor, I assume by now it’s common knowledge that he has just passed legislation forbidding transgender people from using the bathroom assigned to the gender they are aspiring to, or at least that’s what I have understood. But I could be wrong, since it could be just the opposite, right? We must agree this is a quite controversial subject for everyone involved, and also for us non-LGBT outsiders.

In fact, any conclusion in this prejudice direction would be utterly mistaken, since I consider myself reasonably open and willing to respect other people’s individuality, provided it does not affect my own. This would also include, of course, some level of tolerance of opposing political views. In my intimate circle of family and friends, for example, we range from conservatives to Bernie Sanders supporters (not me, not yet), passing through various degrees of moderation.

Not in Brazil. If you believe the U.S. at this moment to be a highly polarized country, you should know what’s happening back there, where people on opposite sides are perilously on the verge of direct confrontation. Which, on a personal note, is not the worst. Take, for example, three people whom I greatly admired in the past, some sort of literary mentors, if I may say so. One of them ended up publicly opposing the State of Israel based solely upon widely spread propaganda slogans and a B.D.S ruling; another has just positioned himself strongly in favor of the P.T. Party, which is now struggling to discredit the judicial proof of a deeply ingrained network of kickbacks and other corrupt practices that had been established as a norm for government institutions. So far, this has resulted in an unprecedented economic, political and moral crisis that, according to the Washington Times, places Brazil “on the brink of unraveling,” with no solution in sight. I felt so sad concerning my former friends’ standpoints that I would have a hard time describing what happened without falling into a depressive episode, aggravated by my feelings of inadequacy and inability to react in a way that could show them how wrong they are.

This reminds me of a dream I had more than 40 years ago, shortly after my father’s premature death. I had taken a relative to the airport and was driving on a straight, clear highway, heading home. Suddenly, a huge truck came up from the opposite direction, sporting a “Do Not Enter” sign in place of the rearview mirror. Not by coincidence, that’s the exact description of how my father died: In a car accident, hit by a truck coming from the opposite direction operated by a drunk driver. In my dream, I was then stopped by a policeman in a French Revolution uniform, who told me to step out of the car.

He asked me if “I had a child or a sick person to take care of.” I knew the answer was “no,” but felt so confused I began to cry and was unable to utter the word.

Back to real life. Interestingly enough, my third friend came up this week with a description of how he’s been facing his own friends, who, like the one I mentioned above, show unjustifiable support for the Brazilian government and officials who have been accused of corruption and money-laundering crimes, among other things. I was surprised, and also emotional, because it was so close to my dream of the past. My friend also accused ex-president Lula of being responsible for forcing him into the right against his will, a crime he found himself incapable of forgiving. And so do I. Fortunately, my 24-year-old nephew told me the other day that although political discussions are pretty violent on Facebook, in real life people rarely mention this topic, limiting themselves to drinking and having fun.

Therefore, it might not be coincidental that I’ve unconsciously chosen to live in a conservative state, although I totally ignored this fact when we bought the property on Paris Mountain: All I was tempted to consider was the beautiful view, the proximity to our son, and the nice friendly weather for most of the year. Blame me if you will.

Honestly, even if it’s not fair to be stealing the slogan from a much more painful situation — the latest terrorist attack in Belgium —moi aussi, je suis sick of this… state of affairs. Not to mention a priest was allegedly crucified in the caliphate on Good Friday. Or maybe he wasn’t.

In my daily life, I actually praise diversity: I have to confess I eat cereal at night, before going to sleep, so what. And I won’t even dare accuse a particular group of immigrants for making a mess in our condominium’s laundromat, since I have not caught them in the act. Yet. It could well be a Brazilian like myself, though I’ve never met one around here.

As for my own “immigrant status,” I seem to be getting a thicker skin, finally. At least I was spared the allergic reaction to Spring that was terribly disturbing last year, my first on U.S. soil.

About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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