“And I, take it just a little bit, hold my breath and count to ten”

August 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

There are a few dozen markers a couple goes through in the span of a relationship: the first fight, the first I love you muttered (or shouted), the first introduction to the parents. But one milestone that seems to go most without recognition is one that all couples inevitably pass (pun intended): the first fart.

I understand this isn’t the most poignant of subjects, but let’s face it: I’m not a shining beacon of ladylike demeanor. But it’s a subject that often remains shy in conversation, simply because some prude (my mom? Queen Elizabeth? Socrates?), way back when, decided it wasn’t appropriate dinner talk material. But a fart is a fart and it is never delicate in nature, whether by smell or sound. Why tiptoe around in sensitivity when the fart itself never gives us that courtesy?

This seemingly innocent, often accidental deed induces all levels of embarrassment or humor, depending on the environment and audience. When we are in the safety of solitude, we don’t flinch, we don’t furrow our brows, we don’t twitch our noses in disdain. When we’re alone, we’re not afraid about the scent or decibel, even if it sounds like you’re ripping leather with your bare hands. Maybe you’re a side-tilter, maybe you’re not. Whatever, it’s your prerogative.

There are some great places, outside the proximity of you, where you don’t have to censor your gas. Airplanes? 35,000 feet in the sky is pretty much a fart haven, where you never have to worry about judgment or shame. Around babies/toddlers? They haven’t grasped the concept yet and can also be easy scapegoats (dogs as well).

Because we are a civilized people, we know when our buttholes must remain clenched. Like at the board meeting. At an interview. At church. At a fancy restaurant. At an un-fancy restaurant. In line at the grocery store. In line for anything, especially if indoors. Elevators (it’s generally very rude if you slip one in a space that gives people no chance of escape). If you ever find yourself asking whether you’re in the right place for a fart, just remember this simple rule: when in doubt, hold your butt sprout.

You see, when you decide to share your gas with others, an odd thing happens. You are immediately met with disgust (and even fury), shunned, and deemed barbaric. Suddenly, the recipients become incomprehensibly hypocritical, as if they are one of those magical human beings whose farts don’t ever smell. It’s impossible to truly understand the social psychology of a public fart, but we all overwhelmingly accept that it is an unwritten law, and we try to abide by it.

But sometimes our gas is beyond our control. Sometimes we are confronted by rebel farts that appear from nowhere and cause mayhem and humiliation in their wake. I may or may not let out silent puffers in bed, and when the Boyfriend asks in his half-asleep state what the smell is, I may or may not telll him he let one out in his slumber. That may or may not have happened a half-dozen times or so. I’ve farted in a public (and packed) bathroom at Costco. I’ve farted in yoga class. It happens, despite your best intentions. And you’re just left disgraced, wondering how your body could betray you so.

And that’s what happened the first time I farted in front of the Boyfriend. He had broken the barrier early, and had no problem ripping ass in front of me. Me, on the other hand, had grown up watching my mother holding it around my dad, despite 30 years of marriage. My mom was especially prim and proper before getting married, and though we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, her farting etiquette was something that stuck with me. So with Boyfriend, whenever I felt that recognizable discomfort in my lower abdomen, I’d excuse myself out of the room, plop my ass down in the corner of my closet, let it out sloooowly, and then rejoin him when the evidence had dissipated. In retrospect, I admit that this was silly and extravagant, but I wasn’t going to not do it.

But this charade couldn’t last forever, and on one fateful day, it came to an abrupt end. Boyfriend and I were both on our respective laptops in my living room, with him on the couch and me on the floor. I must have been really focused on what I was doing, because before I knew it, a blurt, something resembling a short note on a French horn, came out from under me. Even after it happened, it took a couple of seconds to realize what I had done. I looked up to the Boyfriend to see if the sound had miraculously escaped his ears, if I had been somehow saved.

Nope.

He was staring at me, his eyes agape and mouth growing into a crooked oval. He bolted upright and then yelled, “DID YOU JUST FART?” A clearly rhetorical question that only made my humiliation worse. And though I knew it was absurd to try, I began to vehemently deny his accusation, which only turned him into a giddy leprechaun, laughing and jumping around like a moron, pointing his finger at me and yelling, “YOU FARTED! YOU FARTED!”

Luckily, I was spared in a sense, as it was only deadly by ears and not the nose. But Boyfriend would later describe and reenact the face I had allegedly made when it happened, one that he described as one of “sheer horror.” It’s a story we now retell with zest and little embarrassment, as now I can just shrug my shoulders at something so ordinary.

Even after I broke the fart barrier, I continued to be reluctant to fart around him, simply from habit. He, on the other hand, makes it his personal pastime to trap me, whether by pinning me down, or locking all the windows and doors to the car, and letting the fart bombs go off (some men just want to watch the world burn). And when I’m not dry gagging, we’ll make nonchalant comments, such as, “why does it sound like that?” or “you had sausage, didn’t you?”

And so, much like that first fight or the first night spent together, the first fart reveals so much about the two of you, as individuals and as a unit. Though mine was initiated by accident, I suspect that it would have been a matter of time before I got there naturally and on my own concord. The first fart has to happen organically, never forced or urged (that’s where sharting happens, folks). It often happens autonomously, as your instincts take hold and acknowledges that a certain level of trust has been established. This is what I call The Fart Principle.

And as ridiculous as it may sound to use something as uncouth as farting as a metaphor in a relationship, you can’t really deny that it works. Farting is an exceptionally private act, and for most, it takes a certain level of camaraderie and trust for it to be yielded with others (except among dudes, cause you guys are disgusting). In a relationship, especially if you are a female, farting represents vulnerability, where you allow yourself to appear imperfect, much like the first time you allowed him to see you sans makeup, or pushup bra. We don’t think that you don’t think we fart. It just takes us awhile to show you that we do, and that we’re comfortable with you enough where we know we won’t die of embarrassment or shame. We acknowledge that it’s unnecessary that we feel the need to censor ourselves for as long as we do, but like many other things you males deem irrational about us, it just happens, and we don’t have a reasonable excuse for it either.

We spend so much time on ourselves – more specifically, how we appear to others. We cultivate a line that can only be passed by a select few, because the other side is everything that was meant to be kept private and exclusive. And it takes a certain level of comfort and a specific strain of trust – and not the kind you share with your friends (because no matter what, there are friends you just don’t fart around) for you to accept admission to your other side.

Or maybe not. Maybe for you it’s not about trust, just gas. In which case, whatever, let your freak ass fly.

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