Didn't we all agree to pee in the ocean? I thought we as beachgoers had come to a happy understanding on this issue, but when my friends and I were wading in the Atlantic Ocean, one of them got out to (gasp!) use the pavilion bathroom.

"Why don't you just pee in the ocean?" I asked, gesturing to the wide world of water.

Her face scrunched up. "I don't think I can do that," she said, as if it were foul or somehow uncivilized.

Agonizing over whether or not to do it would be like worrying that your dandruff might flake into the desert."Why not? Hell, I'm peeing right now!" I said, stretching out my arms into a leisurely sidestroke. And the surrounding swimmers shirked away, because all of a sudden I was the weird one—sort of like when I casually mentioned to some friends that, at night, it's comfortable to lie with your hand down your pants, and they were all, "You mean, like, sexually?" and I was said, "No, just because it feels safe, you know?" They didn't.

Anyway, here was my understanding of society's unspoken pact pertaining to urination in various bodies of water:

Pools: Rarely

Kid peed in the pool
Everyone agrees pools are for drinking, not for peeing.
Pools are definitely a pee-free zone. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Unless of course the "if" is, what if I wish to seek revenge on the owner of the pool; the "and" is, and on all of the swimmers in the pool; or the "but" is, but they peed in my pool first. Then, it's disgusting, and as a society we don't condone such behavior, but that's kind of what you were going for in the first place, so pee if you must, and we hope the owners treated the pool with the chemical that turns pee green and that you are humiliated and exiled from all future block parties.

The other exception for pools is if you are an Olympic swimmer who has earned more gold medals than any other athlete and is worth billions of dollars. In that case, you can admit to peeing in Olympic-sized swimming pools surrounded by fellow but inferior Olympians. Hell, you can admit to peeing on the Olympians themselves, and we will all laugh, because you are the closest thing to a Greek God we'll ever know, yet you are also kind of like a Labrador marking your territory, and that's adorable, you rich Aquaman.

Lakes: Maybe

Kid pee in a lake
Even children can calculate the lake pee formula.
The allowable pee in lakes depends on the circumference, depth, algal density, population of human bathers, and distance to the nearest toilet. If you can't determine an algorithm to include all of these variables, a personal judgment call will do, as long as you consider dilution potential and the effort that would be required to pee outside of the lake. Just to outline a general principle on the matter, any lakes whose names begin with words like "Great" are probably pretty pee-able, and any lake that your high school friends used to lifeguard at are most likely not. There are no tides or outlets in lakes so, just to be safe, err on the side of holding it in, or go find a tree to squat behind that is far enough from the lake that your pee won't run off into the water along with the next rainfall, but not so far that you get poison ivy in all the wrong places.

Oceans: Absolutely

Guys pee in ocean
Perhaps a minor proximity violation, but as long as no one makes an announcement, A-ok.
Oceans, as far as I was concerned, are considered full speed ahead. Open the floodgates. Yellow is mellow. When a body of water has millions of sea creatures the size of school buses floating around and shedding their waste, little old me with my little old pee is the least of your hygienic worries. Plus, I like to stay pretty hydrated and I eat a lot of pretzels, so what's the inherent difference other than temperature, really? Either way, before you know it, a wave comes along and dissipates the concern into oblivion.

(Note: By this logic, you might assume I'm implying a permissible poo, but assuming makes an ass out of you and the sea. I am not suggesting you defecate mid backstroke. I repeat: I. Am. Not. So, please, do not be so moved. The properties of pee oblige it to be so diluted by its generous host that its presence becomes negligible. It nearly ceases to exist. It's almost like it never happened. But the poo? The poo stands alone. The only time you are allowed to poo in the ocean is if you are stranded in the ocean. And I'm talking the Castaway no rescue boat in sight so you might be there a while kind of stranded. Then it is a forgivable offense, but don't ever speak of it.)


The social pee contract also states that, as a courtesy, we should not alert nearby swimmers to the moment that we are relieving ourselves. Although peeing in the ocean is an acceptable practice, it's still icky to think about, and nobody prefers to be made aware of the urine in their midst. Even I, a citizen who understands the appropriateness of such an ocean release, wrinkle my nose when I hit a suspiciously warm spot, and kick away from it as if an octopus tentacled my legs. What I'm trying to say here is that what swimmers don't know won't hurt them. This is the "Ignorance is Piss" addendum.

I respect the IIP code of honor and, when nature calls, I always establish a safe perimeter from my peers. The people I came with are like, "Where are you going?" and I say, convincingly, "Oh, I'm just looking at some ocean stuff over here." But the truth is, I respect most of my friends too much to pee in their vicinity. I was kidding earlier; I wasn't actually peeing as I was talking to my gal pal. I had peed like way more than five minutes before.

So while there certainly are caveats to bear in mind, I was under the impression that peeing in the ocean is a socially bona fide practice. Agonizing over whether or not to just go ahead and do it would be like worrying that your dandruff might flake into the desert.

But I'm beginning to think that I forgot to read the fine print on the yellow memo because, of all my companions at the ocean that day, only my husband backed me on the urination situation, and I've seen him stick his face into a finished bowl of frozen yogurt to lap out the creamy residue, so perhaps I shouldn't use him as my barometer of social propriety. Also, we're the type of people who slow down to inspect the old furniture that people drag to the curb, so I wouldn't claim to be of the highest brow.

Is it possible that there is an age cap for ocean peeing that I've outgrown? Can you be too old to pee in public, even when you are immersed in 17 quadrillion million gallons* of salt water? Have I reached an age at which I should (gulp) get out and use the pavilion bathroom?

Also, does posing this many mundane questions in a row make me sound anything like Carrie Bradshaw?

*This approximation was provided by wiki answers, so you know it is accurate.

And now a quick joke...

“The only way out is through.” —Me, forcing myself to finish the expensive iced coffee that I bought but don’t really like.