Picture this: you’ve arrived at a swish hotel for a weekend away with your new flame. You’re looking forward to a few nights of relaxation, sleep-ins and, well, fucking. You tap the key card, wheel your suitcase inside and then both stop promptly in your tracks, aghast. The toilet doesn’t have a door.
If you’ve entrusted hundreds of your hard-earned dollars to a hotel lately, this scenario might be sadly familiar to you. Hotels not putting doors on their toilets is now officially A Thing, a design trend that’s apparently emerged from the idea that open plan rooms “look bigger”. Or photograph nicely in fancy magazines. Or something.
So where a sturdy, soundproofed piece of wood should be, you might find a sheet of glass that reaches neither the floor nor the ceiling (so you can both see and hear everything that goes on inside!). Or just… an empty archway. Architects went to school for this.
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I never thought I would have to explain why someone might not want other people to see them shit, but here goes.
In new relationships, matters of the toilet operate on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ basis. You know that by dating a fellow human being, that person inevitably must fart, piss and poop just like you. But you don’t want to think about that, let alone admit it out loud. Navigating going to the toilet in your regular, day-to-day life together is hard enough. Sharing the confined space of a hotel room makes the situation even trickier. Sharing a hotel room with an al fresco toilet is enough to stop a budding romance in its tracks.
At the very least, it smashes that delicate don’t ask, don’t tell truce. Even if you don’t hear each other go to the loo, you have to acknowledge that steps are being taken to not hear each other go to the loo. On a recent trip to Melbourne, my boyfriend and I had to resort to taking in turns waiting in the corridor outside every time we needed to pee. We might have saved each other the trauma of hearing anything but we’d had to own up to the fact that our bodies require waste disposal, which is almost as bad.
Image: Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Miami
Of course, it’s not just new lovers who have to contend with their urine stream reverberating around the literal echo chamber that is a tiled room.
I’ve heard horror stories of freshly-wed couples on their honeymoon arriving to find the toilet within view of the bed. Someone recently told me about a motel room they shared with two mates, in which the toilet was separated from the rest of the room only by a plastic curtain. Another group of friends booked a hotel for a kick-on, only to find the loo encased in a barely-frosted glass box you could see straight through.
Because that’s the thing: most of the time, people don’t travel alone. Whether for cost cutting or sex-related reasons, hotel rooms are usually shared. And even when you’re on the road solo, there are obvious benefits to being able to close the door after using the toilet. There is no type of traveller for whom an open-air toilet is preferable.
One can only hope that in ten years or so, doorless toilets will be looked back on with the same shame and disgust we now regard plastic plants or GHD curls. Until then, I’m staying home.
Katie Cunningham is a freelance writer from Sydney. She is on Twitter.
Feature image: Beijing Renaissance Hotel
Katie Cunningham is the former Features Editor at Junkee. She's currently travelling around the US and Central America.