DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was at a gas station where there were two bathrooms, marked “Men” and “Women.” There was a single line of both men and women, presumably waiting for their gender-assigned bathroom.
While I waited, one father allowed his young daughter to use the men’s room. When the women’s bathroom opened up, I went to enter, as I was the next female in line. I was stopped by the man in line in front of me, stating that it was his turn. I pointed to the sign that said “Women,” but he ignored me and went in.
I did not make a scene and did not say anything, thinking it was perhaps an emergency on his end, but was I wrong to presume that it was my turn?
Do people nowadays ignore the gender signs on the door? Granted, I’m of an age where gender fluidity was not as prevalent as it is today. If they were gender-neutral bathrooms, why did the signs not state so?
What is the etiquette? The man made me feel like I was trying to butt in line, which I was not.
If this is the new social norm, please advise. I don’t want to be the elder lady who is not up on the times.
GENTLE READER: Regrettably, these gas station owners do not feel the same. Miss Manners has long believed that such single bathrooms should not be concerned with the private parts of their occupants, but rather with efficiency and ease of use for all.
Unfortunately, without signage to that effect, chaos is the result.
While the father’s reasoning was understandable, he broke the current social contract -- and the man in front of you took advantage of the precedent.
Not knowing that this was the new protocol, you can hardly be blamed for not following it. We can only hope that bathroom signage will continue to change to prevent more of this kind of needless confusion.