Hostesses With The Mostest > Entertaining and Hospitality

Asking for the bathroom

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Softly Spoken:
I have to admit I laughed when I read this thread title because it reminded me of one of my grade school teachers. If we asked her "Can I go to the bathroom?" she would respond with "I don't know, can you?"  ::) It was a snarky, PA way of telling us to say "May I?" that we all secretly thought was stupid, especially when we had to pee! :o

IMHO, only children ask permission for the restroom - adults excuse themselves. Now I agreed with PPs that say that may be taking "permission" too literally, but it is an important distinction. This is why I avoid "asking" language.

I would also like to offer what may be a slightly different POV: I always felt going to the bathroom was about excusing yourself from the social situation you were participating in. So if you are in a conversation/eating together/watching tv etc., you would say "Sorry BRB/Excuse me, I need to use the restroom" just so people know what's going on. If you don't know where it is you ask. I was always focused more on finding the most polite way to segway/interrupt than on "ask v. announce." I would assume a hosts bathroom was open and available to guests, and that if it wasn't or if there was some other issue they would say something when I indicated I had to use it.

Obviously everyone has their own word preference, but FWIW I haven't said "Can I" or "May I" in regards to the bathroom since I have been in school - even if I was in an adult situation that required "permission" to use the restroom I would say "Excuse me please, I need to use the restroom" - in my mind, the excuse me was an apology for interrupting and the 'please' would be a nice politeness cherry on top to let the other people involved feel like I was deferring to them - even if I was doing something I was determined do to whether I got their permission or not! :P

Basically my intent is always to keep things polite but low key and unobtrusive "Sorry, but I need"/"Excuse me, where is?" because I know that interrupting is rude 99% of the time, and I always felt that the important social aspect of using the bathroom was discretion - no discussion of why you are going you-know-where or what you plan on doing when you get there. From an etiquette perspective, I wouldn't think anyone would want to make a bigger production out of their or anyone else's bodily function than is necessary. So yes, speak up and excuse yourself but keep it brief and polite.

I was brought up to always say "excuse me." when leaving a group conversation.  If you know the house and where the bathroom is, nothing more needs to be said.

As a first time visitor, when the need arises, I would quietly ask the host or hostess, "where might I find the powder room?" or "where could I wash my hands?"  They might prefer you use a particular bathroom because of traffic flow, or children sleeping upstairs, or whatever.  It also shows respect, that you are not going to go tromping through their house opening doors and looking in rooms you were not invited to use.  Even when you have company, some parts of the house are public and others are private.

But of course, I would adjust the wording depending on my relationship to the host- a friend my own age, I might say, "and the bathroom is...??" or just "powder room?" while with my parents' friends I would be more formal.

Also, it's a quirk but to me the term "restroom" sounds like a public facility.  "bathroom" or "powder room" feel more natural to me.  And in my part of the country, nobody would ever refer to the "toilet" unless they were talking about cleaning it!


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