Friday, November 26, 2010

The Straight Poop

I went to a dinner party earlier this week, where a bunch of us sat around and talked poop for a few minutes. We compared notes on gas and times of day, on cramps and allergies, and then realized that the other guests were staring at us with a mixture of unbridled horror and repulsion. It had only been a few minutes, but we had clearly crossed a line.

In a weird way, it's part of a larger cycle in my life: the inappropriate conversation. It usually starts with someone's thoughtless overshare, but that moment of unedited honesty often leads, at least with my friends, with a sense of relief. We aren't alone! We aren't freaks! When I moved into my first co-op house, a building that housed fifteen university students and had only one kitchen, we talked about sex roughly 23 hours a day. Over ramen noodles, we discussed anal sex. While drunkenly eating burritos, post-Dance Cave, we slurred our way through a conversation about vibrators. We talked about porn as we passed the popovers at Sunday breakfast. It was liberating, though, to find out that we weren't alone in our mental obsession and weird preferences.

Now that most of that crew has settled into LTRs and we all know everything about everyone's vagina, we've flipped the script over to other bodily functions. Digestion's a big one, but when I took a medicine last fall whose side effects included making me produce a little breast milk (and oy vey, that was weird!), folks clamored to see. And, in some adventurous cases, taste. I know all about various allergies, and how they manifest in the ear, nose, throat, digestive tract, skin, eyeball, and, in the case of anaphylaxis, hospital room. Latex sensitive? I know all about that one. Susceptible to cat dander? Walk this way. Shellfish make you break out? And so on.

I guess what we're trying to do for each other is make it normal. While it's not really "normal" for someone to "poop liquid" as my friend Alexandra does (names have been changed to protect the innocent, although that phrase is so disgustingly evocative that I have to use it) if she drinks a glass of milk, that is Alex's normal. So it's become normal for us to have dairy-free brunches and skip the eggnog when she's around.

Like with sex, even if something is weird, the goal is to make it comfortable and fine. If you're GGG and your partner is into boot-licking, then you get to buy some slick knee-high boots. And if your boyfriend gets hives the second he pets a dog, then unfortunately your apartment isn't going to hear the pitter-patter of little feet until he knocks you up...which, given all those latex allergies, might be sooner than you thought.

Because that's what we're heading towards, anyway: the pregnancies. God, pregnancy is weird. Not bad-weird. Just weird. Your ankles get fat and you grow more blood. And no two pregnancies are alike. There are literally thousands of women posting on hundred of forums during their gestational periods, asking, "Is this normal?" and being relieved when the answers come back. Or alarmed. Or both. And after the pregnancies, we can all look forward to getting old.

The internet often acts as a digital version of the crowdsourcing we've been doing for years, especially when it comes to bodies. Asking our friends what they think about heavy breasts, his reluctance to orgasm, and if it hurts if you put it in your butt, is often way less intimidating than asking our doctors, and helps normalize the whole weirdness. I'm not condoning using your friends as a substitute for actual medical advice, and your smarter pals should gently say, "Friend, sounds like you should see a doctor about that wart/missed period/bald spot/allergic reaction/reluctance to orgasm," if faced with a troubling question. Health care is free in this country.

But I am condoning the occasional inappropriate conversation. Clear the air, ask about what's normal (take, for example, the appearance of vaginas in porn versus your average civilian sex-haver. Worlds apart), check yourself out, and make it normal to have the talks. That way, when we all inevitably get pregnant and have ridiculously weird/normal children, we can talk to them about poop, sex, and all the other magical, mysterious, and wonderful parts of our crazy, weird bodies.

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