It was 3am and I was sitting in the stall furthest from the door in a communal summer-camp bathroom. I was practicing a deep yogic breathing exercise and praying to God that this time I would be able to take a shit. I was twenty nine-years-old and it had been exactly twenty four-hours since I had last unloaded, and I had a deep knot of dread that I wouldn't be able to poop for the rest of this “vacation.” I made a promise to myself then and there that if I ever got married, I would demand that the first thing on my registry be a colon cleanse.
I was a bridesmaid in my best friend Margot's wedding. For the ceremony and reception, Margot and her lovely fiancé, Andrew, had rented an entire summer camp in northern Michigan for three days.
It was a beautiful wedding. I was constipated for the whole thing.
I'm a very open person. Most of you know this as I've been pretty public about the gross parts of my own sex life. I've written about getting a tampon pulled out of me and I've already shared my anal-lingus story. I'll even confess here and now that I have an ungodly amount of nipple hair. I have so much nipple hair, in fact, that sometimes I won't groom them on purpose to keep me from hooking up with someone—the same way Bridget Jones wore granny panties in order to try and stop herself from taking her pants off. Of course, this never works, and there have been a couple of one night stands where I've rushed into the bathroom drunk and tried to rip out as many of those little suckers as I could, before going back into the bedroom and turning off the lights hoping the guy wouldn't notice.
Despite how seemingly shameless I've been, I still have one embarrassingly neurotic habit that I've kept a secret for a long time: I can only poop in my own bathroom. This secret has kept me from staying over for breakfast at many a dude's house. And when so many of my girlfriends complain that their man left the next morning in a hurry, I always think, “Well, he probably just had to go home and do a number two. Cut him some slack already!”
You see, I am literally anal retentive. But I don't posses any of the qualities that a figuratively anal retentive person has. I'm not high strung or inflexible or worried about perfection. My old roommate was a figuratively anal person, and even kept an Excel spreadsheet of her grooming habits so she would know exactly when to freshen her roots and get her chin hairs threaded. I can barely figure out my TiVo.
Back in my stall in the woods, my exposed ass was getting eaten alive by the vicious Michigan mosquitos. I had moved positions from sitting to squatting on the toilet seat because I'd read somewhere this helped to dislodge things. It wasn't working. I closed my eyes and tried to do my visualization exercise.
Before going to the wedding, I'd asked my therapist for advice on how to handle this delicate situation. She got excruciatingly quiet for a few minutes, and then told me to envision a crowd of loved ones, standing all around me, clapping and cheering me on. She'd said, “Close your eyes, and think about an audience of people, everyone you care about giving you a standing ovation.”
That night in the stall, I closed my eyes like she'd told me and tried to bring up an image of a crowd of comforting people. But just like when someone tells you to visualize everyone naked in the audience and then all you can do is imagine the one girl you know who has a perfect body (the kind of body that looks exactly the same when she's sitting down as when she's standing up) all I could do was imagine Brad.
Brad was the bad boy groomsman who had ridden his motorcycle all the way from Alberta to Grand Rapids. He'd shown up to the wedding with a black eye and very tight pants—pants that were so tight they confirmed his legend as a ladies' man. It had been pre-determined by the whole wedding party that we would get together. After all, I was the sassy sex columnist, and he was the dude with the big dick—we were a perfect match! Then when we finally met everything went perfectly, and we flirted up a storm with each other. I wanted him with every bone of my body. And yet the last thing on earth I would ever want would be for Brad to witness me squatting on a toilet seat at 3am, praying that everyone was asleep so I could fart in private. I didn't even want him to know that I farted in the first place.
Twenty minutes of squatting on the toilet proved fruitless. I gave up and walked back to the cafeteria where I pulled out the kale that was going to be used for the salad the next day. “Good roughage,” I thought. I wished I had remembered my smooth move tea, but I hadn't because I'm not figuratively anal retentive. In fact, I'm such a flake that all I had packed for this very outdoorsy wedding was a curling iron, a pair of high heels, a tooth brush, my bridesmaid's dress and a pack of condoms. My heart sank thinking about those condoms, I could forget about having sex with Brad. I was in no condition to be doing the dirty—either dirty.
This whole experience was bringing me to the point of an existential crisis. What did it all mean? My whole identity as a femme fatale sexpert was being tested. I always thought I had a body meant for pleasure. I was used to being a body positive role model who was sexually confident—in and out of the bedroom. Yet there I was suffering from an inability to do one of the most basic human functions. Sure, I can have multiple orgasms at the drop of a hat, but ask me to poop in a public restroom and I'll run for the hills.
The next day, the wedding took place and all us bridesmaids gathered in the one cabin that had a mirror. I gotta say, for having slept on the ground, we all looked great. Even I wasn't feeling too terrible. I'd been drinking champagne to try to take the edge off and it was working; I had almost forgotten about the dull cramping in my lower abdomen. Then we noticed that one of the bridesmaids, Erin, was missing in action. But, before anyone could start bitching about what a disaster she was, Erin burst in with armloads of McDonald's. “Happy Fucking Wedding!” she screamed. Erin took the cake as the crazy one. (This is a role I normally play, but my bowel issues were forcing me to be more composed than usual.) All the ladies put beach towels over their dresses and dug into the hamburgers, french fries and milkshakes. It smelled delicious, but I knew if I ate any of it, this wedding would be the most painful and gassy experience of my life.
“Lacy, you aren't going to have even one tiny bite?” Erin asked me.
“No, thanks. I don't really eat things like that,” I said.
“You know, you could stop being such a stick in the mud,” she hissed in my ear.
I thought about saying, “Yeah, well imagine pulling that stick out of the mud and shoving it up my ass, because that's about how I feel right now.” But instead, I just angrily applied more lipstick.
Then we all walked down the aisle.
For a couple of blissful hours my need to poop became a secondary concern. I was too wrapped up in the wedding, in all the tears, and all the love—though I did pass on the beer-soaked beans that were served with dinner.
Finally, it was time to prepare the wedding tent for the bride and groom. I had been given this special task along with the maid of honor, Amy. Amy was a beautiful blonde goddess that spent half her year traipsing around the world working for different aid organizations. It also didn't hurt that she had the physique of a yoga instructor, and Children-of-the-Corn-yellow hair down to her ass. Standing next to her, I looked like Danny DeVito.
We packed up all the special bedding needed for the bride and groom and drunkenly walked the half mile through the woods to the new couple's wedding chamber: an army surplus tent we had put up hours ago in the daylight. Once there, we lit candles, covered the blow up mattress in rose petals, and even hung a Chinese lantern inside. We stepped back to admire our work.
Then Amy let out the longest, loudest fart I have ever heard.
“Oh my god I am so sorry!” She squealed in horror. “It's that goddamn McDonald's we ate earlier. I have been so farty, and I couldn't let anything out when we were on the dance floor.”
“Please don't apologize,” I said. Then I grasped her hands, “In fact I'm having a similar problem. I can not...” I took a deep breath. “I can't go,” I finally whispered. I looked in her eyes, and hoped she could read my furrowed brow and infer my meaning.
It took her a moment to register what I meant, but then she nodded. “Ohhhhh. Yes, communal bathrooms are difficult. But, you know, cabin 18 has a private bathroom. Just go now. If anyone asks I'll make something up about you looking at the stars or something.”
I have never been more grateful to a person. (Amy, if you ever read this, you are welcome to my first born.)
I ran to cabin 18. Finally, alone without any pressure and with a door that went all the way to floor, I released.
When I got back to the party, Erin ran up and grabbed my arm, “Where were you? Were you with Brad? You were! My God, you're practically glowing.” I didn't dissuade her. After all I had my reputation to keep.
The night was almost over, the bride and groom had left long before for their love tent. The parents had all retired hours earlier. There were only the true partiers still drinking from the open bar. I got on the microphone and announced, “Guys, skinny dipping in the lake in ten minutes!” The crowd went wild.
Down at the lake, clothes were discarded and left by the bonfire. We ran fast and wild to the dock and jumped off in all our youthful splendor. With the night sky above us, we floated on our backs and formed a circle, holding hands and touching feet. We were drunk on the love we had witnessed, and also we were just drunk. We all pledged that next year we were coming back and celebrating their first anniversary together. I made a secret pledge to myself that next year I was going to be rid of my poop-phobia so I could then be free to sleep with Brad. I looked over at him, and we made eye contact over the flickering flames of the bonfire. He raised his eyebrows ever so slightly, and I smiled back. Maybe I wouldn't have to wait till next year. With my bowels finally empty, the night seemed very young indeed.