Bodily functions have been taboo for a long time.
But at some point our attitude toward numbers one and two turned from a natural and biologically correct repulsion, to shame at our own bodies for creating waste in the first place.
We exhibit behaviours like:
Waiting for others to leave before “going,” turning on the faucet or hand dryer lest someone should hear a splash or flowing stream.
“Because otherwise they’ll know what I’m doing in there.”
Some won’t go number two at work or a public washroom, only at home.
“Because then my co-workers will know it was me.”
Many women hold the belief that you shouldn’t go number two in the bathroom of a man you recently started dating.
“Because then he’ll know that I both eat, and have a digestive system.”
And don’t get me started on that spray, peddled by a smug British woman, which manages to not only perpetuate bathroom shame, but capitalizes on it. You are literally throwing your money down the toilet.
But as the children’s book correctly proclaims: “Everyone Poops.”
Why then do we stress ourselves out trying to refute that?
“Well Jane, urine and excrement have an unpleasant odour and we don’t want to be associated with unpleasantness.”
True enough. However, I’ve always observed that we make these smells in a designated zone.
Only a few hundred years ago before sewers and indoor plumbing, people often went in the street. Royalty kept chamber pots in every room so they could “go” anywhere they happened to be. The modern bathroom as we know it was a conscious move toward as-yet-unseen privacy
We essentially cut a deal: “This is the place where we shall do our smelly business. Nowhere else.”
Now, if you were to make such smells and sounds in the boardroom, well yes, then you’d have something to be ashamed of.
But humiliation over what goes on in the bathroom makes about as much sense to me as playing loud music to cover up the chopping and sizzling sounds of cooking in your kitchen. That’s what the room is for.
What’s the worst we think will happen if the next person in line smells or hears something? Will Ted from accounting send out a memo?
“Get this, Tracy relieved herself in the provided washroom facilities and the odour was unfavorable.”
It’s not news. Even Ted poops.
Besides, holding it in until you can get to the Subway across the street won’t shield you from embarrassment.
Holding back removes moisture from stool, leading to fecal impaction and constipation. Habitual stool holding can lead to anal hemorrhoids, or anal fissures.
A couple lungfuls of toilet fog doesn’t seem that bad now, does it?
Bottom line (pun intended), there are already more than enough ways to feel shame about our bodies. And while I’d consider using air freshener (should it be provided), I refuse to feel guilty about one of our most basic human functions.
Bathroom shame is total crap.
Jane Testar is a writer and performer with the Winnipeg sketch comedy troupe, Hot Thespian Action, an improviser with local improv troupe, Outside Joke, and the host of the CBC Comedy Factory Podcast.