Having already written my “way too much information” essay with, “Middle School Erections,” I thought I’d have another go at an embarrassing secret. I’ve found, with each post, an emotional weight lifted from my consciousness. Additionally, I feel such satisfaction and joy that these memoirs are bringing you laughter, insight, and/or entertainment. My goal here is full transparency. Each week I wipe my sleeves on the muddy windows of my life and clear a new space for others to see in and for me to see out. I haven’t figured out if there’s a level of exposure that is too much. For you. But really, for me. I haven’t encountered that point yet, so I’ll continue to clean these windows and improve the clarity of my vision. And if you end up seeing my ugly bits and shameful parts, so be it. You’ll keep coming back (I hope). Or you won’t. In either case, I’ll keep writing.
Okay, here goes…
(Many of you will understand this…perhaps personally and intimately.)
I’ve shit (shat? shitted?) myself three times as an adult.
Kind of in public.
I almost got…nay, should have been caught each time.
But…I responded quickly and surprisingly calmly and ultimately emerged undetected each time.
NOTE: Moving through this document for the fourth or fifth time in the revision process, the thought *just* struck me that perhaps I didn’t emerge undetected. At all. Perhaps my mishaps have been the foundation for tales of cringe-worthy hilarity among the kind-hearted people near whom I shat. (Apparently, it’s the U.S. convention to make the verb shit shat in the past tense.) How would you indicate to a friend or colleague, “Dude. I know you just shat your pants,” without negatively impacting the relationship? Perhaps I should thank the people about whom you’re about to read for neither directly chastising me nor removing me from their lives in silent incredulity.
The first two times I shitted myself (…I’ve always been partial to Britishisms, and apparently blokes across the pond use shitted…) occurred during one fateful and formative vacation over two consecutive days. I was in graduate school, and had very recently been plunged into a seemingly unending depression and self-reflection after the first woman I ever truly loved, Carolyn, broke up with me. I drove to Atlantic City with two classmates, one of whom was a married woman and the other the only other male in our class. I knew neither of them beyond professor gripes, happy hours, and abbreviated conversations during class breaks. His family, a lovely conservative Jewish couple, owned a little property near the boardwalk and were there when we arrived. So we begin this tale with a big, “What the fuck?” As a 40-year-old grown-ass man, I would never put myself in such an unpredictable situation. But who turns down an essentially free vacation to the beach in their early 20’s? Even if the social context is ripe for any number of uncomfortable scenarios? I’ll tell you who, NOT this guy.
After Carolyn unequivocally broke up with me just before my plunge into graduate school, exposing my flair for drama, immaturity, and emotional instability (…oh boy, that’s a story for a different post…), I shrunk myself and entered a lonely but essential period of hibernation. I became a vegan, a Buddhist, a journal-keeper, a meditator, and an insufferable bore. I was in my head fully and nothing could get me out of there. As I began graduate school, I was full-on “Emo Greg.” Not surprisingly, I found The Cure and Morrissey and Depeche Mode during this period. I chanted, “Om.” I did yoga. I read religious and self-help books. I was phenomenally interesting, but only to myself. It’s possible that my two classmates nudged me into the Atlantic City vacation, but at that point I could have been strong armed by an osteoporotic little person. I was waifish with my minimalist vegan diet and my emotions were as sturdy as wet chalk.
So off to the New Jersey coast we go. Upon arrival, R’s (…this is the male classmate…) family indicates that they realize I’m a vegetarian (…I didn’t correct them…) and will be making modifications to the menus for the weekend. (How lovely, right?! I didn’t have the guts or the wherewithal to be honest with them. Who the fuck was I?! They were really trying, and I didn’t aim to offend.) The menus, it turned out, consisted primarily of pizza. I hadn’t eaten cheese in months and my body had grown accustomed to this fact. Over the next two days, I would consume enough melted cheese to perhaps make up for those months without.
“Oh, thank you so much. You’re incredibly kind.”
The Buddhist in me overpowered my better judgment, and besides…I was stuck in a small house with people I didn’t know well. So it was pizza or nothing. (Hell, I hadn’t even driven. And there was nothing to drink. I was completely stuck.)
I ate the pizza, and the pizza was good.
The next morning, while the rest of the vacationers went to the beach, I had a jog on the boardwalk. About a mile in, my stomach foreshadowed what was to come with a lurch.
I turned immediately, one mile closer to the casinos yet still entirely too far from a bathroom. I couldn’t run, so I walked. And soon afterward I found myself with my running shorts full and my dignity empty. I walked awkwardly back to the house, attempting to keep in that which was cradled by the inner elasticized portion while trying to look as normal as possible. I made it to the house, used the key I’d been given, and I carefully shuffled to the bathroom. As I took care of business, I heard talking and laughter, at first distant. Gradually, the voices amplified. It was them. I hurried with multiple plastic bags, cans of Lysol, wipes, and paper towels. The bathroom was perfectly, I felt miraculously stocked for the job at hand. By the time they were in the house and aware of my presence, I’d completely cleaned myself and any traces of the horror. The running shorts had to go…for practical and emotional reasons. But I had another pair that looked similar enough to not attract unwanted attention. Furthermore, I made it out the back door and threw the multiple-bagged mess into a nearby dumpster. Crisis averted.
One can’t imagine what a body will do with a food group it hasn’t experienced in months until one has walked a mile, shamefully yet determinedly, in a man’s garment full of barely-solid shit. That night I was offered more pizza, and I ate it.
The next morning I decided to go to the beach with the crew. We walked approximately ½ mile to the beach and as we approached the water my stomach again lurched. “Hey guys, I need to get back to the house. I forgot my Walkman. I’ll be right back.” Walkman was apparently my euphemism for “ability to control my gastro-intestinal system,” but how could they have known that?! (…but maybe they did. Holy shit, maybe they did…) On my way back up the steps to the boardwalk I dropped load number 2 of number 2. It really is the loneliest number. Also, it’s amazing what I learned from that first experience. I walked back to the house much more confidently, unworried about how to dispose of my accident. I took care of business this time with no panic, nor really any personal embarrassment. Like Russian nesting dolls, my tighty whiteys, now frowny brownies, were encased in Clorox-soaked paper towels and 10 or more multiple-tied plastic bags. Into the dumpster, and I was back to the beach. I had become, in just one day, a veteran of shorts-shitting.
The rest of the vacation moved forward without further incident, and I quickly returned to my vegan ways back in Pittsburgh. I never told a soul about this, until a drunken evening at Primanti Brothers in the Strip District of Pittsburgh with a close friend known for his ability to tell hilarious stories of gross and unbelievable proportions. After I finished my story, Damon claimed, “Dude, you’re my hero.” It was high praise from a man who consistently reduced groups of people to breathless and painful laughter with his tales, particularly “Runny Hulk.” (Perhaps I’ll get him to guest write for D2D and share that story. Better yet, maybe he’d tell it on a D2D Pod.)
Well…such are the trappings of young men. And surely this tale is over.
(It is not.)
Fast forward approximately 20 years.
Now a successful and self-employed speech/language pathologist. Now for real a grown-ass man, with a wife, step-child, and a mortgage. Now large and in charge. In complete control.
When push comes to shove, our gastro-intestinal system is really the boss.
One ass to rule them all.
It was Summer. High Summer. I was at Mark Maloney’s (…not his real name. I’m transparent, but I’m not going to be transparent and break confidentiality…) house, outside…hanging with the neighbor’s cats. We were having a lovely session, relaxed and communicative. For his entire life, Mark had been prone to significant worry and anxiety. Also, he carried an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. The cats really helped. It was exceptional to see how gentle, how calm, how connected he became…and they flocked to him. He really was a cat whisperer of sorts. Also, he was able to communicate directly with me, using appropriate perspective and pronouns and visual regard, in guiding me through my introductions and interactions with the initially hesitant cats. They seemed to support him as much as he them. On this occasion, Mark was 11 years old, and I had never experienced him this socially and pragmatically calm and successful.
Alright, I’ve set you up with that lovely, heart-warming anecdote…because the shart is coming.
I felt it. I moved to the left so that I could release the stink away from Mark and with the direction the wind was blowing. (I’m sure this fact saved me the embarrassment of Mark, a bluntly honest chap as children with ASD are prone to be, pointing out the stench.) I was sure it was a run-of-the-mill fart.
So I pushed.
…and I dropped a deuce in my shorts.
(FUUUUUUCK! Okay, think quickly.)
“Hey Mark, I need to use the bathroom, I’ll be right back.”
Fortunately, the cats mattered way more than me, so that transition was easy.
I entered the house, and encountered my next problem. Mrs. Molly Maloney.
“Hey Molly. I just need to use the bathroom!”
She was upstairs at the time. There was a nice-sized powder-room/half-bath downstairs.
Thanks be to the gods of good fortune.
(Okay, work quickly.)
I was able to get everything I needed to get into the toilet…into the toilet, clean myself, wash out the skivvies in the sink and wring them dry(ish), sanitize the entire situation with the disinfectant and paper towels that the Maloney’s so graciously and presciently left for me under the sink, flush, redress, spray Febreze, and get back out to Mark in approximately 2 minutes. I fucking swear to you. My underwear were damp, but my shirt was long, and I smelled so fresh, so clean.
Nobody knew a thing.
Well, except me.
And I handled it. (Boy did I handle it.)
We’re all going to shit ourselves at some point in our adult lives. That’s a cold, hard fact, Jack. Just like we’re all going to have a doctor probe our colons with a gelled-up, gloved finger. I’ve had both of these experiences, several times each, much younger than one might expect…and I came out of these adventures with most of my dignity intact, a stronger sense of self and humor, and a deeper understanding that we’re all just humans roaming around the planet with a deep-seeded misconception that we are in control. We’re not. And it’s not some lofty concept like God that is. No. It’s the plumbing. The pooper. The shitpipes. Our incredibly complex digestive system and gastrointestinal tract. As I mentioned before…when push comes to shove, the ass always wins.
Folks, be kind to your guts.
(And when you’re not, be near your home toilet.)
(Please don’t feed me cheese. You wouldn’t like me when you feed me cheese.)