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by Abigail Van Buren

Opinion Splits Along Gender Lines Over Bathroom Decency

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing about the letter you printed from "Right or Wrong in Wisconsin" (Nov. 9). My co-workers and I had a field day with the issue of the father shaving while his 12-year-old daughter takes her morning shower.

The women here were pretty much unanimous in agreeing with your response, while the men mostly thought there was nothing wrong. As a man writing to you, my opinion may seem a little biased, but please try to keep an open mind.

I assume that this gentleman has raised his daughter since birth, and that he changed "Lia's" diapers and bathed her when she was younger. It's ridiculous that at the young age of 12 it is suddenly inappropriate for her father to have a conversation with her (presumably) through a shower curtain.

I could understand the mother (whom he never referred to as his wife) being concerned if he was simply in the bathroom to dish about the day's issues. But that wasn't the case. He was shaving. We don't see a problem with that. We men agree that if this wasn't an issue that Lia herself raised because she was uncomfortable, then it probably shouldn't be an issue at all. -- DISAGREES IN TOPEKA, KAN.

DEAR DISAGREES: I did not mean to start a war of the sexes in your workplace, so allow me to clarify the issue from my perspective. "Right or Wrong" appears to be a caring father, or he wouldn't have written me. He views his daughter as his "little girl." But at age 12, Lia is an emerging young woman both physically and emotionally. She is in transition, and her father may not recognize that fact. At 12, many girls start their periods and their breasts begin developing. Lia's mother may have noticed these changes in her daughter.

What this presents is a teachable moment -- and an opportunity for a family discussion to talk about what's happening. Among the issues Lia will face in the next few years are decisions she'll have to make about drinking, drugs, sex, respect and modesty. While other cultures have a more liberal view regarding modesty, ours is less so.

And remember, it's not as though sharing the bathroom in that family is a necessity. There are two bathrooms in that house, and I think it's time one of them began using the one downstairs. If that makes me a fuddy-duddy, so be it. It's still my opinion.