Separate but equal–worth another shot?

Don’t get me wrong, doing away with “separate but equal” thinking was entirely appropriate, necessary, and too long coming in terms of race relations (and I actually remembered it was Brown v Board of Education that did away with it — shout-out to my constitutional law class). But I think it might be worth another look in that other even more longstanding and volatile vortex — gender relations.

I ask you females-who-live-with-males, does separate but equal sound like a good thing in terms of bathrooms?

Is there a woman alive who doesn’t long for her own bathroom? (And if you have one, are you eager to give it up?)

And, dare I say it, doesn’t the idea of separate (but equal) beds — even bedrooms — sound good once in a while?

My sister sent me this article earlier this week — don’t ask me what prompted her to send a 3½-year-old article, but so be it. I was particularly drawn to this passage:

“Dr. Neil Stanley, a sleep expert at the University of Surrey, said: “It’s not surprising that people are disturbed by sleeping together.

“Historically, we have never been meant to sleep in the same bed as each other. It is a bizarre thing to do.

“Sleep is the most selfish thing you can do and it’s vital for good physical and mental health.

“Sharing the bed space with someone who is making noises and who you have to fight with for the duvet is not sensible.

“If you are happy sleeping together that’s great, but if not there is no shame in separate beds.”

So practical, this Dr. Stanley. And as you’ll see, the gist of the article is that sharing a bed is even worse for men than for women.

It’s a topic my sisters and I have discussed many times before. That it’s just so darn hard to share these spaces with men. No matter how much you love them (and yes, I love my husband to pieces).

Consider the “olden days.” Visit Clayton, the Henry Clay Frick mansion here in Pittsburgh, or Biltmore, the Vanderbilt mansion-to-end-all-mansions in Asheville, and you’re treated to a tour of the separate (but equally lovely) bedrooms of Mr. and Mrs. Frick and Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt — and of course their separate but equally lovely bathrooms.

Too Victorian, you say? Too prudish? Too upper-class? Too convenient for midnight dalliances with people other than one’s spouse?

Let’s come a little closer to home (and social stratosphere). Ever see the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Deborah, with Ray’s blessing, claims their bathroom for her own while he shares with the kids? Within hours, she transforms the space with soft lights, candles, rugs, until it oozes with femininity. Even her constant nemesis, mother-in-law Marie, is delighted for her (and jealous). Unfortunately, and naturally, the new arrangement doesn’t last long (not because Deborah wanted it to end, mind you).

Or how about even closer to home, when, a couple years back, Mike’s parents were thinking of selling their home to move into something easier to maintain and on one level. After visiting one possibility, my unenthused mother-in-law confided, “I don’t know about you, but the idea of sharing a bathroom…”

Fifty-plus years of wedded bliss can’t be wrong.

I even remember reading somewhere that director Tim Burton and his wife, actress Helena Bonham Carter, actually live next door to each other in separate, but connected, homes.

I have to say that thought has come up in my sisterly discussions as well — sort of the Holy Grail of living arrangements to some of us. (Not me, honey. Really. Hardly ever.)

Now, of course, I know what a pipe dream most of this is — who has the spare bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate “his” and “hers”? Although a friend of my husband’s recently completed his dream home — including separate bathrooms for him and his wife, that lucky, lucky woman. And a king-size “sleep number” bed in the (shared) bedroom — nice compromise!

But if there was the opportunity, ladies…if there was: Would you want your own? (Go ahead, tell me, it’s completely anonymous.)

How about you, gents? This is a (separate but) equal opportunity forum. No one’s saying that women are ideal to share with either. (I come from a long line of female snorers, sad to say. And I might not keep my side of the sink tidy all the time.)

What say you? It’ll be fun to find out.

Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other.
Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.
~ Katharine Hepburn