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Letting It All Out: Talking Taboo on Stage in LA

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Once upon a time, I flew to Europe to find true love.

I needed to confirm that the long lost lover I'd met in Miami was really the one who got away. Over five turbulent years, we'd always come back to each other, and this trip would finally be the clincher -- would we walk away married or just walk away? Since he was unemployed and living there with his family at 35, he had booked us into a -- wait for it -- hostel.

I can do hostels. And I don't think I'm materialistic. But for such a momentous occasion, I admit I was slightly disappointed. It was late, so we cuddled to sleep right away, deciding to catch up the next day.

And catch up we did.

I woke up to my possible future husband screaming for me not to move. Of course I shifted my body towards him anyway, and that's when I felt the warmth envelope my knee. He had crapped the bed. One side of my body was covered in warm goo. And my maybe-man was pacing around dressed in pajamas sewn from his own excrement.

And we were in a hostel.

There was no calling for new sheets, and the shower was a crusty spigot over the toilet. I knew I had to act fast, so I gathered the heart-print sheets and threw them out the window. That's right. I pitched those babies into the courtyard and watched the stained hearts sail to the snowy ground below. I took those stained hearts as a sign though, and I decided not to elope with this man that weekend. I promised him I wouldn't tell anyone about the unfortunate affair.

But during a writing class in 2008, I stood up and told the tale to 12 other students. It felt so right to tell this story. A relief. An awakening. A release of something I'd been holding in (too many poop jokes to choose from right here). Corey Podell, my friend and a fellow comedian, read after me. She stood up and told about how she had woken up one morning in a pile of poo. Her man hadn't fessed up to it. Instead, he blamed it on her, told her she was gross, and left in a huff.

We'd both been pooed on.

We knew this was a sign.

We started talking to other people and collecting poo stories. Everyone seems to have one, and once we gave them permission, they were happy to share it. One friend soiled himself on a drive during a cold Detroit winter and had to walk himself through an icy self-serve car wash. Another friend pooped in a French train and had to use his sock to wipe.

And so it was. We went along collecting stories, on the road to making the biggest poo anthology in the history of man.

But then I wrote this piece about my father's suicide.

It was also a story I had been holding in for so long, and writing it felt good. I realized then that poo stories are not so compelling because bodily functions are funny. Bodily functions are funny because nobody is allowed to talk about them. The moment we get permission, we're happy to share about all the things we've been holding in: suicide, fetishes, disease, obsession, whatever. If it's something you wouldn't normally share at tea time, it's taboo. And the more taboo stories you hold inside you, the more you feel 'wrong.' Nothing is actually wrong with anyone. We're all screwed up. We all just need to talk about it more often.

Corey and I decided to collect a variety of taboo stories. We put the word out around LA, and the submissions rushed in. Our inbox became a safe haven where taboos could congregate. People sent scandalous stories about smuggling drugs in maxi pads, fantasizing about entire boy scout troops, racist parents, and working as an escort. Nothing you'd normally hear at the dinner table, but everything you'd want to hear at the dinner table.

We chose eight brave writers and invited people to hear them read their taboo tales aloud.
Last Thursday was the Taboo Tales debut show at the Zephyr theater on Melrose, and it couldn't have gone better. Over 100 people filed into the intimate theater. It takes an open mind to hear and share taboos, and we had the perfect crowd of magical, interested, and uninhibited strangers. The storytellers rocked that microphone, and we read anonymous taboos from the audience as well. Lots of adultery. Lots of masturbation. Holy calamity-- I am still shocked at all the masturbation. So many people touch themselves on the 405.

In the end, we all felt closer. And relieved. And a bit more wary of freeway drivers.

Taboo Tales is a live, more detailed, non-anonymous, adult version of Post Secret for people who don't like to decorate cards. And it's here to stay. People need to share. Once we all admit to picking our nose in the car, then we won't have to hide it anymore.

It's an LA show for now, but it's also a movement. So, wherever you are, I encourage you to share your taboo tale. Maybe it's about how you secretly think your son is ugly. Or how you didn't feel anything when your mom died. Or how you love to fornicate in photo booths. Make it something we can laugh about. Because, even under the most dire circumstances, humans are terribly funny.

Send it to our safe haven email [tabooooooooo@gmail.com], and no matter where you are, we'll consider it for our live show (the next one's scheduled for January) or a show in print. Click here for more details, and please stop masturbating in traffic. I think that's what's causing rush hour.

2010-11-04-rahul.jpg
Rahul Subramanian tells his taboo virginity tale. Other storytellers were Jean Black, Liz Brown, Marilyn Friedman, Stirling Gardner, Melinda Hill, Vanessa Carlisle, and Michael Kass. (Photo Credit: Katie Carlile)