By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Whoa boy, here’s a touchy topic.
Health care? Commercial airline traffic at Paine Field? Nope, it’s nothing that significant. Some may see Robert Barrett’s complaint as plain silly — until they consider how they’d feel in his place.
Where am I going with this? Straight into the men’s locker room, that’s where. Not really, I wouldn’t do that.
There are women who do, Barrett said. He was talking about mothers who boldly go where few women would, all the way into the men’s locker room at the Lynnwood Recreation Center.
The 55-year-old Lynnwood man frequents the weight room at the facility, which also houses the city pool.
Parents are allowed to take children ages 5 and under, regardless of gender, into dressing rooms with them. Older kids are supposed to use proper changing and showering areas — boys in the men’s locker room, girls in the women’s.
Barrett has recently complained about women who peek into the men’s area to check on young sons. One woman, he said, has often come in all the way.
“I complain to management, but nothing gets done,” he said Tuesday.
How angry is he? “I live in the city, I pay taxes,” he said. “The next time it happens, I’m going to call 911.”
About now, are you wondering what this mom thinks? Well, everybody ought to respect the rules and remember common courtesy — and common sense. And calm down, that’s always smart.
Barrett acknowledged that one center employee has tried to help. “Joel, he actually listened to me, and put up a sign,” Barrett said.
Joel Faber is a customer service supervisor at the Lynnwood Recreation Center. “We did recently put up a sign at Rob’s request, ‘Men only beyond this point,’ and on the other side, ‘Women only beyond this point,’ ” Faber said Wednesday.
The Lynnwood facility, like many pools, has a family changing area. Faber said it’s small and doesn’t have showers or bathrooms. “We don’t have adequate family space,” he said. The fix will come with a $25 million recreation center remodeling project. Work will begin in January. The new center will have five family changing areas, each with a shower and toilet.
It’s puzzling to Faber why Barrett gets upset. “It’s not an issue of catching him without his clothes on,” said Faber, who explained that Barrett doesn’t change at the center. He believes Barrett is irked by what he perceives to be a double standard.
“He thinks that if men were peering around the women’s side, it would be a much different story,” Faber said. The staff, he added, actually handles incidents similarly, wherever they occur.
Barrett’s complaint raises cultural issues. Faber said the woman Barrett has complained about most is an immigrant. Women complained when she took her school-age son into their locker room, Faber said. So she wants to check on her boy in the men’s area, he added.
We all have different backgrounds and ideas about modesty and privacy. Herald travel writer Rick Steves recently wrote about a German spa where nudity is the norm. Lots of us Americans aren’t used to that.
Barrett worries that in not letting capable children dress on their own, women are teaching kids to fear men.
As a mom, I’ve known the trepidation of sending a little boy alone into a public men’s room. Most men seem understanding when they see a nervous mother right outside the men’s bathroom door — and they understand why she’s nervous.
I swim at Everett’s Forest Park pool. My son is 10. I quit taking him into the women’s locker room years ago. Sometimes, if he’s goofing off, I’ll stand outside his locker room and shout for him to hurry up.
The gender issue also comes up when elderly people have caregivers of the opposite sex. They are allowed to use staff locker rooms in private, Faber said.
Barrett wants more done. Not just a sign, but “a big red stop sign.” And he wants the rules enforced.
Following the rules — makes sense. And there’s always this rule, the golden one: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, email@example.com.