“Everyone poops,” blah blah blah, yeah right. No one is that mature and nonchalant about twosies. Why must we humans complicate something that all animals do? Now, I will be the first to say that I really cannot talk about Number Two with anyone, not even doctors. But my mind does boggle at why it has to be that way. I am not saying that I would prefer the state of things to be that anyone can pop a squat wherever they like in public and just let it go, like other animals, because that is just not sanitary. I like sanitary. But we can’t even talk about it. It’s traumatizing.
Three years ago when I was still living in Egypt, I took a trip to the US and Canada. The night before I left Egypt, I had a salad at The Bakery, a restaurant I would come to boycott after this salad. I came down with some sort of stomach virus that basically caused me to have what I cannot refer to any more politely than “frequent explosive diarrhea” for almost the entirety of the three weeks I was gone. In its first days I was going pretty much every 10 to 20 minutes.
Besides the stomach virus itself, writing about this is not the most traumatizing aspect of this. It’s the fact that while I was in Canada, my parents had me talk to a doctor whom they know personally over the phone about my frequent explosive diarrhea.
I now think that four degrees of separation are minimal when discussing medical conditions involving poo.
I described my symptoms and was recommended some medications. We discussed the precise details of the condition of my explosive diarrhea. We talked about the frequency, the consistency, the appearance, and we compared and contrasted this with normal bowel movements. The doctor laughed at me for avoiding coffee which is a diuretic, which sounds like diarrhea, but diuretics make you pee. Still, I defy anyone not to poo after drinking lots of coffee.
This was less humiliating than it would have been in person since we were talking over the phone. I took comfort in this, as with most embarrassing medical discussions, and that I would never see or talk to the doctor again.
What I didn’t know was that the next day, I would meet this person face-to-face at a gathering my family had with some relatives and friends. A personal, social non-clinical setting. I was then asked the paradoxical question “how is your diarrhea?” by dozens of people, many of whom I had never met in my life.
How are you supposed to answer that? “It’s good.” Good at being diarrhea? Bad because it’s good at being diarrhea? Good because it’s no longer explosive diarrhea, so it’s not actually diarrhea anymore and it’s just regular poo? “My diarrhea is poo, thanks for asking.”
More recently, during my trip to Egypt last month, I also became deathly ill and bedridden with some sort of stomach flu. I thought it was food poisoning because I had both diarrhea and nausea that I thought would turn into vomiting, but then I had a mysterious fever as well.
Again, my mom asked a doctor–who is my aunt–about my symptoms. Then she relayed a question to me, which she said was “purely scientific,” about the way it smelled, as if some particularly illuminating description of that would explain what was wrong with me. It just smells like, you know, regular diarrhea. Not really spicy or teriyaki diarrhea, just original diarrhea. If you smell closely, it might vaguely resemble the enchilada I had for dinner, but mostly it smells like shit because I shat it.
I may not be able to face many of you after posting this, but that is exactly what I am talking about here. The fact that now that after forcing myself into this traumatic public discussion, I am embarrassed about it, much unlike a discussion about pee would be.
Lots of people talk about pee explicitly all the time. I live-tweeted a pee emergency not long ago, but maybe I’m no longer the best example of someone who has shame.
Many ladies say “I have to pee,” specifying what they’re going to do in the bathroom in a way that they never would if they had to poo. In fact, any lady who says “I have to pee again” any less than 15 minutes after using a bathroom actually pooed the first time she went, but she’ll never admit it.
Unless that lady is me, of course. Because ladies don’t poo.
*Image from Once Upon a Potty by Papa K.