Privacy, Please

Director, producer and Valley dweller Garry Marshall on the unsavory subject of co-ed bathrooms

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    Garry Marshall


There is a trend going up and down Ventura Boulevard that I do not like. It is very hip and appears to be the latest thing in restaurant design. It is called the co-ed bathroom. I’m not talking about a bathroom that’s for boys or girls, but the ones where both genders use them at the same time.

This modern invention of same-sex toileting is on the rise from bistros and sushi bars to delis and diners. Now I consider myself, even at the age of 79, a pretty hip and trendy guy. I direct romantic comedies with people named Ashton and Sarah Jessica in them. 

I don’t Tweet, but I follow some people on Twitter. I don’t have a Facebook page, but I admire some of the family photos my kids post. And while I still do not own a cell phone, my assistant has a Blackberry and an iPhone, so I figure I have all of my bases covered. 

But I have to draw the line at the co-ed bathroom. I find them intimidating. To be specific, the toilet and urinal part of the bathroom is separate, but when you come out to wash your hands and use the sink, that part is co-ed.

Firstly, it is simply not cool for any age group—but especially my age group. After dinner the bathroom should be a place where one can retire to in order to either clean their dental bridge or dislodge something from their teeth. This is certainly not something you want to do in front of a hot woman across the sink. 

The same goes for young people. If you have too much to drink or eat something funny, the bathroom should offer a safe haven for throwing up or cleaning yourself off, surrounded by like-minded people of the same sex. So the co-ed bathroom makes the toileting experience horrifying for all ages. 

Second, I think the long-standing, fascinating tradition of makeup/mirror-looking chatter is lost in a co-ed bathroom. For example, two women standing side by side with their powder puffs, talking about their dates, or the potential for a date they met at the bar, is a lovely picture. Just as two men, standing side by side washing hands, making a business deal for a new start-up company is also a nice vignette. 

But with the introduction of the co-ed bathroom, this kind of girl-girl and boy-boy camaraderie is lost. A girl re-applying her mascara is not going to take kindly to small chit-chat with a man zipping up his fly.

Are there advantages to a co-ed bathroom? I suppose. You might be standing across the sink, side by side with a girl, look over at her, have an aha moment and say, “Hi, my name is Garry. I’m a Scorpio. What sign are you?” But if I’m taking my bridge out of my mouth and she is trying to shove in a contact lens that has fallen on the floor, the situation is not the most conducive for romance.

Is there a place for co-ed bathrooms in the world? Yes. Keep them on the Westside; make Westwood, Brentwood and Beverly Hills the land of same-sex bathrooms. I would prefer that the Valley, where I have lived for many years, make a pledge to historically preserve and protect the single-sex bathroom. 

We can be hip. We can be trendy. But we can still do it with one sign on the door for “women” and one sign on the door for “men.” Separate bathrooms are the salvation of a marriage. I think it could also be the salvation of the 818 area code and the Valley.