I hate poop. Everything about it grosses me out. While some people use their time in The John to catch up on reading and phone calls, I try to keep my visits short, sweet and private. As a child, I held on to my poop like a precious secret while my mother attempted to coax it out of me with castor oil and assure me that everyone had to let it go at some point.
My parents were convinced that my problem was rooted in some attachment disorder and that I was afraid to let go of something that was a part of me, but I had no problem flushing things down the toilet – I often thought about flushing my younger brother whenever he broke one of my favorite toys. I’ve just always thought of pooping as one of those things that other people assume you do, but that you never actually want to get caught doing – like having sex or singing in the shower. Because once you’re caught doing it, people begin to look at you differently. You go from being the nice girl in the Marketing department or the cute guy from the bar to the disgusting pig that had too much fiber at lunch. Therefore, it’s best to make sure no one has any solid evidence that you’ve ever produced any solid waste.
Throughout my life, my contempt of crap has created a lot of inconvenient situations for me. I avoided anything in the school cafeteria that could possibly incite an embarrassing trip to the toilet, which in the eighties was just about everything. I’d witnessed too many kids being christened with embarrassing nicknames for things like dropping their books or falling out of their chairs. There was no way I was going to let a stupid bodily function force me to join their ranks.
As an adult, logging long hours at a demanding job made it almost impossible for me to delay doing the deed until I was in the comfort of my own home. Instead I opted to sneak to a restroom I’d found three floors above my office to avoid the condemnatory stares of my coworkers.
My paranoia even managed to wreak havoc on my personal life. On dates, I steered clear of spicy food so that I wouldn’t have to run out of the restaurant before the Chicken Vindaloo ran through me. I can’t even tell you how many romantic evenings I single-handedly cut short because I’d rather run home unexpectedly than respond to nature’s call at a hot guy’s house.
But my anxiety soared to a whole new level when things began to get serious with the man who is now my husband. I’d successfully gotten around pooping in his presence for months, but the more time we spent together, the more difficult it became. When we decided to move in together, I knew I would have to devise a plan to poop discretely. So I scheduled strategic trips to the toilet during times I knew he wouldn’t be home or when I had to take a shower to make sure he wouldn’t accidentally discover me in the act. I was determined to keep him thinking I was April fresh all the time until we were 80.
But it was the birth of our daughter that finally forced me to come face to face with my disdain for dooty. She was either unaware or unconcerned with my psychosis and refused to warn me when a poopy diaper was imminent (which seemed to be a pretty regular occurrence). I was up to my knees in baby boo boo and trying to control my gag reflexes. Then somewhere around three-weeks-old, things changed. All of the baby books I’d read suggested that I should be changing at least one poopy diaper a day, and it had been three days since I’d seen one. While you might think I’d be jumping for joy, I actually made myself sick with worry. Had my little girl inherited my ridiculous complex?
By day four, I was convinced something was terribly wrong. I scoured the Internet for home remedies. I pleaded with my little girl to let go of her insecurities and her bowel movement. I even promised that I wouldn’t judge her afterwards. Our pediatrician reassured us that there was nothing wrong, but I knew in my heart that it was my immature anxiety that had caused the whole thing.
On the fifth day, my daughter produced what still goes on record as the messiest diaper I’ve seen in my life (you know the kind that manages to make its way out of the diaper and up the back, completely ruining the changing pad and one of my favorite dresses in the process). My husband laughed hysterically as I blubbered a tearful prayer of thanks. Since then, I’ve had no problem getting up close and personal with my daughter’s dirty diapers, dutifully reporting the frequency and consistency at each doctor’s visit.
My daughter helped me face my fear and taught me a valuable lesson. Pooping is a natural part of everyone’s life and nothing to be ashamed of. While I’m not completely comfortable with it, I no longer feel the need to hide from my husband. In fact, our trips to the oval office have become something we can joke about – sounding a warning signal when the other should steer clear of the area. Yes, poop gross and definitely smelly, but holding on to it can be a whole lot worse.