I’m going to admit something embarrassing. You may think a lot less of me after you read this, but my musings lately have been on the serious side. So I thought I’d mix it up a bit with a silly one.
I am one of those people who still burst out laughing at fart jokes. It’s sophomoric, I know. Childish, yes, but I’m a believer that a good case of the giggles promotes longevity.
I grew up with two sisters and we giggled in church, we snickered at the very thought of boy’s underwear and naked bodies and we most assuredly laughed out loud at anything having to do with passing gas.
What is so funny about a fart (a word my mother wouldn’t let us say growing up)? Why does a simple sound that you can replicate with your mouth still crack me up? I have to confess a weakness for Howard Stern, as often as he crosses the line; he is an equal opportunity offender. But without fail, when Howard makes a fart noise on the air, I still crack up like someone cut one in the back row of 4th grade homeroom.
I believe it’s important to spend a good amount of time with the corners of your mouth turned up. Laughter promotes all kinds of good things. It loosens up the gummed up, stuck stuff inside of us. It increases blood flow.
On a hike this summer with my girlfriend Liza we were grumbling about out teenage sons, our lack of info, their one–word answers to our textbook attempts at open-ended questions. Before we knew it, we were daydreaming fitting punishments for their narcissism and self-centeredness. Some of these alternatives would have gotten us thrown in jail. Or at least family court. And before we knew it we were howling, clutching our stomachs, we had to stop hiking as tears rolled down our cheeks. Laughter is infectious. Her laugh made me laugh even harder.
“Whew,” we exclaimed. “That was good.” And it was. Good like orgasm-good. You go along in life and unload dishwashers, take care of multiple people’s needs, fold laundry and the kid-wonder-like part of you just gets jammed up—that inner giggle kid part goes on mute. After we’d shared that doozie of a laugh we each felt like one hundred bucks. Which is pretty high currency at our age.
This is the same girlfriend with whom I can grumble and kvetch about aging. She and I were once two blonde 13 year olds who hung out on the lake in hot pink velour bikinis with baby oil and tin foil album covers. We had puka shell necklaces too. These kinds of friends take you way back. Nowadays, with kids the same ages, our conversations revolve around parenting and unwanted hairs, swelling joints, examples of excessive plastic surgery and broken blood vessels. Not necessarily in that order.
“I’ve decided you finally get to a place where you must not care,” said Liza. “Why else would there be so many people in the local Walmart in housecoats, curlers and sneakers?”
There is probably something very liberating about this feeling of letting go, we decided. Of finally giving up the ghost. Which, naturally, brings me back to passing gas.
As girls, we three sisters used to be mortified if we heard someone cutting the cheese. How could they do this in public? It was so personal, private and undignified. How did these people have the nerve to leave the stall and hold up their heads while we were still washing our hands? It was like a perp walk. We could now identify them.
Hat wearing matrons in church, young mothers with kids in tow, dignified business women in suits, all of this would generate infectious bouts of head shaking giggles where you try like hell to keep the cork in, which of course only makes you laugh even louder.
But then something happens. You get older. Things head south. Body parts migrate and morph. It’s all not so tight and spring chicken-ish. And then you spend concentrated time around older women, your mother, and your mother-in-law, doing day-to-day activities like making a meal or washing dishes. That’s when you realize that the sound of seasoned artillery fire, those little snaps going off around the kitchen are not food crackling in the pan. No. That ripping noise is the older women passing gas.
At first I wasn’t sure I could trust my ears. That can’t be coming out of my mother, I thought. She is about as prim and proper as they come. She hails from the people of the WASP.
And as my sister says, WASPS don’t pass gas. They don’t have that plumbing. This is something she has entirely convinced her own children of—that women don’t fart at all. But I know better. I shared a room with her as a girl. And let me just say this—the wallpaper was peeling on her side.
So it finally dawned on me. Older women worldwide were tooting away loudly, unconcerned, to the beat of their own internal combustion engines. Childbirth and age and gravity had given them a second wind, so to speak. But the most important part of this whole conspiracy, the thing that keeps a lid on it– is the mandatory poker face that follows. You have to make the other person believe they possibly heard something. If you cut the cheese, if you don’t own up, don’t move muscle or look anyone in the eye—then maybe it just never happened. It was something in the wind.
But when you really think about it…..so what? A little gas. Everyone does it. We are all ultimately all reduced to a giant mass of bodily functions in this world. Our bodies are mostly liquid anyway. Passing gas is really the giant equalizer.
Angelina Jolie does it. So do Sarah Palin and Tony Blair. Gandhi did it. Mother Teresa may have had a firmer pelvic floor without having given birth, but for Pete’s Sake, curry can do a number on the digestive track. Rock stars toot their own horns too. Bono and Bruce and the Nine-Inch Nails. Dan Fogelberg, Lady Gaga and Whitney Houston. Ozzy Osborne—heck—especially Ozzy Osbourne. Name a person. They have gas. They have to. What goes in must come out.
So if you cant fight ‘em, join ‘em. Pass a little gas; giggle a little, who cares. There are greater crimes. At a certain age we can simply rally around and embrace the fact that our bodies and our digestive systems are still working. Ain’t that something to toot about?