In Praise of Outdoor Peeing

When nature calls, you should go in nature. Here's why.

A few years ago, I went hiking in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, three hours inside the Arctic Circle and three hours south of the Arctic Ocean, a beautiful, majestic place with a pure, pure river snaking through. I scooped a drink from this river, and tasted water fresher than any I'd ever tasted before. I scooped again.

Then I pissed in it.

America's founding fathers sought liberty, and so, in our own way, must the men of America today. Those "huddled masses yearning to breathe free"? They're our dicks wanting to break their cotton shackles. Look, men should be civilized. One should take pride in keeping a clean, classy, well-stocked bathroom. But men who become too civilized are no longer men. True men should not fear escaping their porcelain-lined, lavender-scented domestic prison cells to water lawns, turn dirt to mud, or light-saber their way through snowdrifts.

Great men piss outdoors. In 1707, during the Great Northern War, John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, whizzed all over a Swedish king's castle wall before a discussion of international affairs. When General Patton wanted to show the other Allied leaders who was boss, he crossed the Rhine ahead of his British counterparts, then pissed in it before they could cross. LBJ used to whiz in the Capitol parking lot as he chatted with fellow senators and lackeys—while facing them. Ozzy Osbourne pissed on a shrine to the fallen heroes of the Alamo. David Lynch pees on trees on set when he's too busy to hit the head.

But as men became increasingly domesticated, many of us grew ashamed of our piss. In his 1891 tome Scatalogic Rites of All Nations, American army captain John G. Bourke distastefully described foreign men who, "when they make water, they squat down like women, for fear some drops of urine should fall into their breeches." Men today are even worse. When they're out of doors and they feel the urge, they rush to the restroom. Once inside, they often can't go because they suffer from "shy bladder syndrome." Half the commercials on ESPN are for pills to make you go less frequently.

This modern urinary burden is best laid out in the seminal 1966 book The Bathroom by Alexander Kira, a Cornell architecture professor, who observed that the practice of going indoors was adopted only recently, and is hardly natural. In keeping with the incipient environmental movement of the time, he further noted that eco-minded men should reject a system of toilet flushing that wastes so much water. (Scientists have also proven that urine is basically Miracle-Gro for plants.)

Today there are some signs of hope. In the new film The Extra Man, Kevin Kline offers an outdoor pissing tutorial to a young protégé. In recent years both Jonah Hill and CSI's Gerald McCullouch have been caught with their flies down by the police. Like Lynch, Chris Pine reportedly relieved himself outdoors while filming Star Trek. Prince William got photographed with his willie hanging out during a break in a polo match. English soccer star Wayne Rooney caused a furor after supposedly unzipping on a golf course in South Africa during the World Cup. Viggo Mortensen has said that he prefers to pee outside of his house—preferably at night, while gazing at the stars and smoking a cigarette.

But while this may represent progress, we can do better! Maybe we need to start by letting out the wild creature within. "Throughout men's lives, they are becoming increasingly aware of rules and mores that are strict. It's about a lot of shame and punishment. There is constraint associated with sophistication and professionalism," said Glenn Good, professor of counseling psychology at the University of Missouri. "It may feel liberating to howl and piss. There's a constant balance between the animal we are and the animal we aren't. We're not the man in the machine, roped by rules; we can go and piss wherever we want. It reminds us we're alive."

Of course, there's a time and a place—which means don't go in your elderly neighbor's rosebushes on your way home from happy hour. Being a dick does not make you a man. Still, peeing outside is something we were meant to do. "We've been conditioned out of who we are," explains Jayson Gaddis, a counselor specializing in male psychology who works in Boulder, Colorado, where he spent as many as 200 days a year on outdoor expeditions with men. "Freedom cannot be conditioned. The opposite, actually. So we have to relearn freedom. Spend more time outdoors and less time indoors. Remember that a bathroom is just another miserable cubicle where people have told you that the only way you can do your work is to play by their rules."

Men, it's time to sack up. There's a Facebook group called Peeing Outside that's 13,000 members strong. Join. It's time for a new golden rule: Don't piss unless you can see sky. And if you do insist on pissing indoors all the time, don't feign dignity by standing up.

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