When I first pitched this story to my editor, I felt the need to preface my thoughts with a simple question: “How opposed are you to poo?” To my delight (and possibly my downfall — not yet sure which), she responded immediately. “Not opposed at all,” she said, and then, “A good poo is very important and underrated.”
Which, LOL. Yes, hello, I love you.
I told her so. And I sent her this:
Because what is it about "poo” that prompted me to ask permission? What makes it so offensive? Is it the color, the shape? No, no, no. I’ll spare you the quick turn that argument could take. Is it the nature of “poo” itself? Is it what “poo” is? No, not really; waste matter from digested food — had to come out sometime. Is it the sound? Eh. Run some water. Wait for a third-party flush and you should be fine.
So that, my loves, leaves us with one thing: The Stench.
I've known about this "Poo~Pourri" for a while now. I've seen it in gift shops, boutiques, the occasional office bathroom... I happened upon the product's “GIRLS DON’T POOP” video long ago, giggled a bit, and forgot all about it. Nevertheless, I have been meaning to get a bottle of my very own — I’ve just yet to, shall we say, make the plunge.
(No, Rachel. No, we should never say that.)
And why haven't I? It seems a useful thing. We all, as we all know, poop. We all — girls, guys, whatever — have been in situations where we'd really rather not, whether that situation be at the office, a social gathering, or an SO’s house; the mall, a restaurant, a BFF’s SO’s apartment. Your own apartment, when there are Hot British Roommates involved! Wherever it is, no one wants to stink it up. Barring few exceptions, no one wants to be That Girl or That Guy. Right?
Right. Which is why I, for as long as I can remember, have made it a rule, verbalized as such in my 10-year-old mind: I don't poop in public places.
TMI? Maybe. I would be sorry, but I have a point to make.
In my last essay, "Confessions Of An In-Betweeny", I spoke of how alienating it is to grow up as “the big girl,” especially in an environment in which one’s “bigness” is brought to particular light: A girls basketball team. But there is more to surviving as “the big girl” than the kids vs. juniors, juniors vs. missus dilemma; there is the pressure one feels to be as “girly” as the "little girls" — to make up for all one’s “bigness” takes away. Not all “big girls” feel this pressure, and not all “big girls” care. I, however, did. I felt and cared very, very much.
For those of you who have never been on a girls basketball team, let it be known that, generally, they are not shy when it comes to certain bodily functions. And I’m not talkin’ periods, here, people. The menstrual cycle, strangely enough, remained a shy spot for most of the girls I knew until college — probably because many of our coaches were men, many of them fathers of our teammates, and a certain DL-edness felt necessary. In this shyness, I had allies. So no. I’m talking, yes, you guessed it, poop. And everything that comes along with it.
What exactly is “everything that comes along with it,” you ask? Oh, you know. Flatulence, burpage — just gas, in general. SO MUCH GAS. And then the poop itself: Talking about poop, having to poop, talking about having to poop. Pre-game poops, half-time poops. The very act of pooping — contests for who could poop the fastest, the quietest, the loudest. Screaming giggles emerging from locker room stalls amongst earth-shattering toots. Stinky carpools and mothers balking, fathers wincing, both declaring they never knew they’d “had a son.” Mind you, these are 12-year-old girls. (Duh.) And it didn’t stop there.
Not that I necessarily wanted it to stop. I mean, it was funny. For me, though, it never started. I never, ever, EVER, partook in their games. Not because I thought it uncouth, and definitely not because I didn’t have to “go.” It wasn't even because they didn’t “include” me; to be in the club, all one really had to do is “doo.”
No. I didn’t partake because when they did it, it was “cute.” It was “allowed.” Sure, it was gross, but it was hilarious! That came from THAT?! That pretty little blonde with the blue eyes and the braces? EL-OH-EL. But if I were to do such a thing — me who, take a picture of her alone: fine, good; take a picture of her with friends and WHO’S THE TEEN MOM?! Ha! HA! Good luck.
My great-Italian-grandfather used to say, "Better out'a then'a in'a!" — but don't get me wrong. I'm not Pro-Fart exactly. I mean, there's a time and a place, I guess. For me, the time and the place is when I'm alone, in an otherwise uninhabited (or inhabited only by immediate family — sorry, Mom) room. Because it's not that I wanted to fart in front of my friends; it's more that I wished I wasn't so gross to begin with — then, maybe, I could be "just one of the girls" and I, too, would be funny.
When I was 13 — around the time all of this was in full force — I came across an article in COSMOgirl! in which Anne Hathaway said, “Don’t be Cameron Diaz if you’re not Cameron Diaz. Cameron Diaz seems amazing — she’s funny, she’s sexy, and she’s one of those girls who can burp and fart and still look cute. I’m not one of them, and I’m pretty sure that most girls aren’t.” And then, highlighted there in the middle of the page, “CAMERON DIAZ IS ONE OF THOSE GIRLS WHO CAN BURP AND FART AND STILL LOOK CUTE. I’M NOT ONE OF THEM.”
And I remember thinking, “YES,” and “YES,” and, “NEITHER AM I, ANNE. Neither. Am. I.”
I also remember thinking, “I’m pretty sure Anne Hathaway could burp and fart and still look cute.”
Meanwhile, I was reading this magazine whilst sitting on the toilet. And if you told 13-year-old Me that 23-year-old Me would ever admit such a thing to the whole wide Bustle-reading world, she would have probably written a letter to her future self begging, pleading with her in metallic purple milky pen, NO, DON’T DO IT, YOU’LL NEVER GET A BOYFRIEND, ELIOT SOMETHING-OR-OTHER WILL NEVER LOVE YOU, YOU’LL RUIN YOUR ENTIRE LIIIIIIIIIFE.
But I mean. I haven’t had a boyfriend. Eliot Something-Or-Other never did love me. I’ve stayed quiet about such things for this long, and where has it gotten me? Over-sharing may not be the answer, but it will not ruin my entire life.
Oh, God. Eliot Something-Or-Other. He used to fart. I actually remember him asking me why I didn’t. On multiple occasions. “Come on,” he would say. “You know you want to.” You’d think he was offering me some sort of illicit substance — there on the eighth-grade cross country bus, you’d think he was asking me to take a hit, drop some E. But, no, he was just saying LET YOUR FART FLAG FLY! and I was too self-conscious, even, to joke. “I don’t fart on command, Eliot,” I could’ve said. I could’ve said, “You know it’s really not a good idea to force it...” Instead, I shook my head and giggled. Partly because he was very adorable when he asked me to do this, partly because I imagined (hoped, rather) that I was very adorable when I refused. Mostly, though, it was because I was sure, deep down, that if I did, you know, “let one rip,” it would be so disgusting, so absolutely terrible, that whatever made him sit with me in the first place would lose all value in comparison. He would never, I thought, sit with me again.
And yet once, as we passed a Peach Snapple across our lunch table and Eliot Something-Or-Other said, “You know, if you put your shirt over your nose while you’re pooping you can smell it better,” I stared at him for the splittest of seconds before exploding in laughter. “You can!” I said, unable to stop myself. It was a phenomenon I had only just discovered that week. “You seriously can,” and it was the hardest we’d ever laughed together.
And so I've come to find insecurities a sort of addiction. We know they're bad for us — How many times have we been told that confidence is the only way to get what we want in this world? — but we have them, anyway. We get comfy with them. We rely on them. We revel in them in an almost-perverse, This-Is-Just-Who-I-Am kinda way. And as with any addiction, there are enablers — the friends who listen to you, reassure you, tell you it's OK. There are aiders and abetters — frenemies who perpetuate the nonsense, Society with a capital 'S' who ensures said nonsense ensues. And then there are the interveners.
Eliot Something-Or-Other was an intervener if I ever saw one, and I've been lucky enough to befriend other interveners along the way. When you've got 'em, recognize 'em, and hold on tight. Because as uncomfortable as you may sometimes feel in their presence, they're the ones who help you grow.
This isn't to say change for people — this is to say don't be afraid to let them change you.
You could call all of this a personal problem. Fine. It is. But people wouldn't have these issues, these insecurities, if they weren't thrust upon them in such seemingly-subtle societal ways. Because the whole "I don't poop in public places" (at least, not outwardly) thing? Yeah, as the years went on, I came to find that this wasn't just me. Who perpetuated The Games? The decidedly "cute" members of my various teams. Who stood by the sink, pretending to fix her hair in the mirror as she waited for every other human to evacuate the premises so she could finally relieve herself and get back to warm-ups? The decidedly “big” ones.
But why? It's no secret that, like everyone else, tiny people have absolutely horrible farts. Flatulence does not discriminate! But once you’ve established a reputation as the one girl on the team who doesn’t fart, YOU CAN’T EVER FART. Doing so would be a literal event. And you don’t want that kind of attention. At least, I didn’t.
One argument is that it's a gender issue. We grow up hearing these sort-of BS phrases: “Girls don’t sweat, they glisten,” and “Girls don’t fart, they fluffy.” And, like, what? I know from ridiculous amounts of experience that neither of these things are true. First off, girls sweat SO much! Cold, slimy, slicky sweat. On their arms, in their hair, down their backs, between their boobs, and all up over their shinny shin shins. Salty sweaty nasty slickness. Slicky cold sweaty slime. I mean, we all know how the general population thinks about the word “moist.” AND WHAT ON EARTH IS A FLUFFY? It doesn’t even make sense! It is, when you think about it, even more disturbing than the mere passing of gas; it implies that something — something fluffy (a Furby, perhaps; maybe a marshmallow) — has happily emerged from its rightful hiding place and poof’d! itself right into your pink cotton panties.
You may have pink cotton panties, God knows I do, but I’m almost positive no such event has ever or will ever occur in their wearing.
But that can't be it; it can't be as simple as #genderproblems. I mean, almost nothing is. The people of Poo~Pourri know that. Despite their campaign's title, they know that girls most certainly poop. "Pretty" girls definitely poop. Even good ol' J-Swift, back in 1732, knew what was up with his most memorable line that "Celia, Celia, Celia shits!" This is the root of the comedy, the satire. I mean, if I knew how to make a gif — no. Scratch that. If I had patience enough to Google “How to Make a Gif,” and then, you know, make one — it would feature this probably fake-British gingah, perched upon her “motherload[’s] . . . porcelain prison,” shaking her head in smirking silence, the words “creamy behemoth” in italicized, too-small helvetica at her high-heeled feet.
Notice, though, how this ad campaign would never have worked if the leading lady weren't at her primmest and properest, which, to the vast majority of casting agents, means that sort of "cookie-cutter" thin. Poo~Pourri would never make their spokeswoman someone who was of "questionable" size, despite the acting biz being a heck of a lot more size-accepting than the modeling world.
Because that's what all of this is — it's a size issue. It's a body-shaming issue. Forget about "GIRLS DON'T POOP" for just a second, and look to pop culture. When the male “fat kid” farts in movies, everyone cringes away, whines his name, and the camera is frozen on the perpetrator, hunching over, peering guiltily over his chubby cheeks. Usually, he is holding a sandwich. When the “hot guy” does it? He gets a slap on the back, a wet towel-whip, and a hearty, “Good one, dude!”
We've all seen these scenes. We've all laughed at them. "Personal problems" are very rarely personal. And I'm not saying to be a tight-ass about it (no pun intended), I'm not saying to be oversensitive, and I'm NOT saying that we should boycott Poo~Pourri for perpetuating an ugly stereotype (because if this were a different kind of post, I could argue for how their campaign works against at least part of it). I'm not even saying what my great-Italian-grandfather used to say.
What I'm saying is that if you're going to "prairie-dog it," or refrain from flatulence, or use the apparent air-freshening godsend that is Poo-Pourri, don't do it because you're a girl. Definitely don't do it because you're a "big" girl. Do it out of courtesy to the noses around you, be they noses you know or noses you don't.
Do it because, let's face it, shit stinks.
Images: Diane Crittenden/Rachel Crittenden Photography; Giphy; imgarcade.com