Written by KR.
A woman’s life is full of many triumphs and challenges, but one of the largest challenges I’ve faced over the past 41 years is simply finding a safe and happy venue in which to poo. My entire life has been dictated by my bowels and quite frankly I’ve had enough! I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2014 which has my quest, ahem, more immediate…but the never ending search began long ago…
Although my memory of my childhood is undoubtedly bias and unavoidably foggy (age? Wine? children?) I can conclude three definite details;
I was adorable.
I was popular.
And I was ALWAYS WORRIED about when and where to poo. This worry, often morphed into fear when I could feel the ‘turtle poking its head out’. Panicked, particularly at school or my beloved dance studio where I believed I would be the next Karen Kain, one… poorly ventilated… stall in which to drop my bomb was not even an option.
The judgement or teasing that would result would cause me to choose the uncomfortable alternative of simply clenching in pain until the right throne became available – which was most often my happy, private, toilet at home. At which point, the previously ripe and ready poo had become a hard and horribly constipated monster to be painfully expelled.
This ‘performance anxiety’ stretched well into adulthood. Throughout University, boyfriends, part-time jobs and roommates I spent many a class, date, shift, or evening in discomfort as a result of my need for a safe-zone to do my deal. Admittedly, this may be due in part to my neurotic personality but I would argue that a great many women can probably identify with my issue in finding somewhere to Relax & Release (R & R) and the ridiculous double standard that lingers like a bad fart around Girls & Poo.
My mother was an excellent log laying role model. Following a daily regime of waking up, turning on CBC radio and sipping a black coffee she would proceed, practically kicking her heels towards daily regularity. Always a free spirit, she did not appear to suffer from the worry I did as I watched her freely pooping at shopping malls and farting in grocery store aisles (while laughing to herself!) How is it then that I arrived at such a poop-paralyzing point? Always inquisitive, I have arrived at a couple of massively unscientific conclusions thus far in my unofficial and entertaining life study.
First and foremost complicating things for girls is the relationships between bathrooms and school. You see, I am a middle school teacher and everyday I watch the faces of girls like me painfully holding it in through English class. I can assure you their faces are not a reflection of my teaching!
In most schools students need to ask to go to the bathroom at which point they have inadvertently let their entire class know they have to go. It is at this point that girls must make a decision; save the number two and their reputation or let ‘er rip and suffer the social consequences. If a girl returns to class having clearly taken time to fill the bowl and stink up a stall she is teased or gossiped about whereas if her male counterpart returns with the same time line it’s viewed as funny and openly joked about?
The same sort of concept applies, at least in my experience in the workplace. While attending University I worked at a very fancy brokerage firm as the world’s best receptionist. One of my responsibilities was to ensure the reception area was presentable, including fanning out the magazines and daily papers on the ledge in front of my desk. Women, would walk out of the main office, enter the reception room and mumble something about the weekend and occasionally come back looking as though they had just committed a crime. Men, on the other hand would waltz up to the desk, often with a coffee in hand and pick through my magazine display until they found just the right pairing of reading material for their daily deuce. I remember thinking then, Why? Why is it so different? Mind you, I also remember thinking, Why? Why did you bring the warm, germ covered business section back?!
Perhaps part of my quest for sharing my lifelong search for a peaceful poo is about warming the seat for young girls who might be causing themselves unnecessary worry and pain. In 2012 I was diagnosed with IBS-M and Proctitis, which became full blown hospitalizing Ulcerative Colitis in 2014 (I’m a bit of an overachiever) Prior to and during this process I really analyzed my relationship with my bowels. For my whole life, rather than relaxing and releasing for my overall well-being I chose instead to worry about what people would think? Overtime I decided to embrace my new IBD identity by ditching poo-shame and having a good laugh because quite clearly holding it all in did nothing for me. I now boast to those who have known me through my poo worries,
“I’m a public pooper!” Of course, sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity but in the (rear) end…does it really matter?
Eat, Love, Poop.