I have a confession to make: I’m a sitzpinkler. That’s the German word for men who sit down when they pee, and it’s a bit of an insult — like calling someone a wimp or a “soy boy.” Real men do it standing up, apparently.
But the reason there’s a German word for it is because the majority of Teutonic men prefer the sedentary position. According to a recent international survey, 62 percent of German men said they usually or always sit down to pee, compared with 50 percent of Swedes, 34 percent of Italians and 23 percent of Brits. It’s particularly true of older Germans — with just 9 percent of men over fifty-five saying they stand up. There is even a bestselling book about the eccentricities of the Teutons called German Men Sit Down to Pee.
Admittedly I’m fifty-nine, so have an excuse. In 2014, a group of researchers from the Department of Urology at Leiden University found that the seated position not only makes for a faster “voiding time,” but the “favorable urodynamic profile” means the bladder empties more completely. That can be an issue for the older man, particularly one with prostate problems (although I’m not in that boat yet, thank God).
Physicists say it’s impossible to ensure every drop of urine ends up in the lavatory if you’re a ‘stander’
But the truth is, I started sitting down in my early twenties when I had no need of a “favorable urodynamic profile” to syphon the python. My road to Damascus moment was reading an article in a scientific journal about why women have a longer average lifespan than men. According to the author, one of the reasons may be because they sit down to pee. If you assume we urinate seven times a day, spending about a minute each time, that works out at 2,555 minutes a year, or 191,625 minutes over a seventy-five-year lifespan. That’s about 133 days, and if you spend that time on your bottom rather than your feet, you live longer.
Unfortunately, I cannot find anything on Google Scholar to corroborate this hypothesis. Either my memory is playing tricks — it could have been a theory put forward by one of my mates in a pub — or the author was talking balls and no respectable scientist has ever repeated it. Now that I think about it, it isn’t very plausible. Isn’t time on your feet supposed to be healthier than remaining in a sedentary position? My “smart” watch certainly seems to think so, since it’s constantly telling me to get up.
Caroline, of course, is a massive fan of my sitting-down habit. It’s bad enough living in a household with three teenage boys without me adding to the deluge.
Physicists who have made a study of the subject say that it’s impossible to ensure every last drop of urine ends up at the bottom of the lavatory if you’re a “stander,” however good your aim. “Splashback” has two causes, according to these experts. One is the sheer velocity of the stream when it hits the water (pee = wc2). The other is that after the yellow liquid leaves the urethra it begins to break up into droplets and these collide with each other, sometimes veering off in unexpected directions. Not great for bathroom hygiene.
But there’s a catch. The inevitability of splashback means “sitters” end up with a few drops on their bottoms. Indeed, that’s the reason I’ve often fantasized about getting a Japanese “bidet-toilet,” which cleans your nether regions with a jet of warm water after you’ve done your business. If you have one of the more sophisticated models, you even get a nice blow dry while you’re sitting there. I tried one in the restaurant at the top of the Shard a couple of years ago and it was heavenly. But the downside is you won’t get much change from £2,000.
Is there something unmanly about sitting down? I think I’d feel more like a beta male if I was incapable of using a urinal, but I can stand with the best of them in a football stadium or a motorway service station. And while I do sometimes wait for a stall to become free in a posh restaurant, rather than take my chances standing between two men, it’s not because I suffer from “shy bladder syndrome” but because I want to check my messages.
One of the pleasures of being a sitzpinkler is that you get these little time-outs every three or four hours, when you can just shut the door on the rest of the world and noodle around on your phone for a couple of minutes. But I’d advise you not to linger for too long. Caroline has started to refer to the downstairs loo as my “office,” which isn’t a good look in front of our dinner-party guests.