03rd Aug 2019
Louise Bruton explains why the small act of having a downstairs toilet in a friends house can make a monumental difference
“Guess what? You’ll be able to pee in our house!”
To many people, this is the kind of statement that would evoke a Billie Eilish styled “DUH!” but, for me, this means that the next phase of my life – or adulthood, as some of you seem to refer to it – won’t be choosing between hanging out with friends or getting to pee.
If you aren’t already privy to this information, I am a wheelchair user and as I move through the different milestones in life, I encounter new obstacles.
My latest challenge is choosing between my bladder or visiting friends at home.
When I was in my early 20s, my main concern was where could I drink without having to be hoisted up the stairs, fireman style. Not just focussed on fun n’ games, I also concluded that employment would be a tricky thing to obtain due to many work opportunities being shut down thanks to the absence of a lift in the building.
Having figured out the boozing thing quite quickly – I can give you a map of Dublin that’s entirely made up out of accessible bathrooms in four-star hotels – and opting for the self-employed route so that my couch is my office, the next stage in life is all about settling.
When you hit your thirties, you either get an itch to travel or that thudding need to lay down your roots. Quite happy to scratch my own travel itch, a vast majority of my friends are now buying – or attempting to buy – their first homes.
With so many of them being pushed out of the city centre and deciding not to go for the commuter route, fixer-uppers are en vogue.
With fixer-uppers come the standard 1960s to 80s design of having the toilet upstairs. And not just any set of stairs but a very steep and narrow flight.
So, of course, as we age oh-so-gracefully, the huffing and puffing of whooshing me upstairs don’t come as easily as it did in our twenties so, to save us all some stress, I skip out on the invites to my friends’ inaccessible homes and wait until it’s my turn to host.
The joy that comes with a “Downstairs Lou”
That is until two friends who recently signed the final dotted line told me that their new homes come with a downstairs loo or, as we’ve come to call it, the Downstairs Lou. Not splashing out on extra cash for a new build, they simply had access in the back of their minds when they were looking at different properties. So when a house that fell into their price range also had a downstairs bathroom, thanks to the renovations of previous owners, it was a small tick on their checklist.
It may seem small but something like this is monumental in how I’ll spend the rest of my life socialising. Even though I can’t see myself dropping off the festival or clubbing circuit until I’m barred or dead, dinner parties and boozefests disguised as book club meetings will soon become the norm and where do those things happen? In your home.
With the pitter-patter of tiny baby feet now overtaking the pitter-patter of doggy paws in my friend group, home socialising will overtake town outings. This means my map of four-star Dublin loos will soon be no use to me, but fixer-upper downstairs loos? Yes, please!
Of course, with the absolute haimes that the Irish housing market is in, not everyone will have the options so clearly lined out for them – not everyone will get to draw a satisfying tick through every box on their checklist. But I’ll take my successes where I can get them.
It’s better to have two more places to pee than sit at home alone in a state-off with my dog.
So, not only do I have the warm fuzzy feeling of being taken into consideration by my dear friends as they make big life decisions, they’ve cleared this obstacle for me. Things are on the up. My social life won’t die as the rest of you commit to a mortgage.
Main photograph: Unsplash
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