I used to think poop was hilarious. And vomit, too. And snot. And whatever else whatever else flows with force from the body and can be flung about by monkeys.
How could I help it? Body expulsions are the original humor. They look funny, they smell funny, they sound funny, and old ladies really want you to stop talking about them -- a recipe for perfection when you're a little kid. Some people grow out of it, the poor souls. I didn't.
Why would I? Toilet humor has many benefits, not the least of which is: an instant and deep connection to a community. As little tykes, you gather in corners and laugh at the body's output. Then, as time (and gas) passes, you do this with other teenagers. And soon, with other college attendees in cramped dorms. And then, with other 20-somethings perched in cubicles. And then, if you're lucky, with other middle management sitting in conference rooms. Crap humor helps you find your tribe and create lasting relationships.
And it connects you to the past, as you know your forbears, the primitive peoples, were guffawing and pounding stone surfaces whenever somebody passed gas in the cave. Can't you just hear the chortles echoing up through the millennia?
Sure you can. But I can't. Not anymore. Because lately, I've had to face a rather unpleasant truth: that being a parent - a label that has applied to me for the last 2.5 years -- slaps the poo humor right on out of you.
Not possible, you say? You will always laugh at orifice-related hi jinx?
Oh yes it is. And no you won't.
I am the living example. One of my goals for as long as I could remember was to compile a collection of top-notch essays on doody and its first cousins. For years, I was devoted to the idea, hoping to use David Sedaris's "Big Boy," about an unflushable poo he encountered at an Easter get-together, and my own essay "Strange Bedfellow," about waking up to find a mystery turd on the pillow next to me when I was little. I relished the idea of digging through the literature to find out who else had waxed poetic about expellings over the eons.
Instead I've been digging through actual shit and its associates. I was just standing there one day, and suddenly someone handed me a baby and right away the wall of a huge dam lifted and I got knocked over by a rushing and ruinous river. I'm still flapping my arms around in it and gasping for air.
The river, at first, was comprised of vomit. Formula vomit. During baby Eve's first several weeks on the planet, she released great torrents of it down our fronts or backs or legs, depending on how we were holding her when reverse peristalsis hit. At first we thought it was funny. Hey, look at this! We have a baby! And it's vomiting! A vomiting baby! But then the doctor said it was way too much vomit, and our clothes told us pretty much the same thing. (A formula change did the trick.)
Then there was all the poo. Babies poop. And that's ok. Initially, it's cute - We have a baby! And it's pooping! -- but then very quickly, the loads get bigger and bigger, and more and more unpleasant to behold and handle, necessitating that you shut off huge sectors of your brain just to properly care for your child. Otherwise, you'd fall to the floor in disgust.
There is the snot, too. Babies don't possess the motor skills to get their fingers up near their faces, at least not with purpose. Thus, you as the parent are required to move past firmly held boundaries and pick someone else's nose. Without throwing up. Usually, you have to use devices you never knew existed. Often, you have to squirt salt water up said nose to moisten things first, or the device's sucking action won't work. Again, an awful lot of lobes of the brain must discontinue operations in order to do this. Sometimes there is cell death.
It all gets worse when they become toddlers. By that time, the vomit isn't just a tame white stream; instead, it features chunks -- chunks you are required to get close to and analyze in an effort to understand what made the child peaked. (What did she eat that was blue and shaped like Al Anbar Province?) Sometimes the vomit comes at you with fire-hose ferocity in New Jersey restaurants, causing waitresses to blanch and then not return to take your order after you have sopped it all up off the vinyl booth, your appetite totally intact. Your appetite is intact, see, because you have gone dead inside.
Then there are the times when you find yourself wondering hmm, what sorts of car-detailing instruments do I have in the shed? Because the child has released a foul geyser straight into the unfortunate grooves in your dining-room table (Damn it, Pier One, why would you put those there?). You want to clean it out for the sake of future dinner guests. But not for yourself, really. Because, you? Well, you don't care anymore.
And the poop? Here's the best part: Not only must you avoid passing out in the presence of a toddler dump, but you must hail its very arrival. Your kid has copped a squat in a Tupperware contraption not connected to your sewer line, and the bigger it is -- the more it looks like a truck driver stopped by and left it -- the more you must jump up and down and produce high-pitched chants and elaborate dances. It is of the utmost importance that you do not gag or even let your eyes well up at this time, lest Junior's triumph be dashed. Along with his/her of self-esteem. Possibly forever.
Sometimes, when said child is really unwell, you will be required to gather their dung and dig around in it with little clear sticks, scooping big hunks out and into vials containing clear chemical solutions. Then you must put the cap on and shake until fecal matter and solution are completely mixed. At the same time, other vials containing no solution must be filled to the rim with crap, preferably the sickest looking crap you can find, the pamphlet says. And then you must put it all in a bag and take it to Lab Corp. In order to remain conscious, you are singing la la la! in your head and astral projecting yourself to St. Barts. There is no other way to handle it.
It was the ill-diaper diving that dealt the final blow and sunk my dream of being the Mark Twain of Turds. If any small, dried up shard of poo humor was still alive in me when I woke up that day, it had fully flat lined by night. And now I am alone, untethered, having lost my connection to my peers and my ancestors, as well as the ability to enjoy Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow movies. An era has ended, and I am lost.
But it's not too late for Eve. She can still walk in the light. And so, I am already taking her hand and leading her there. Whenever the dog farts, or I burp, I try to publicly and loudly blame Eve -- Eve! Why did you do that? -- coaxing her into the low-brow hilarity of that. Pretty soon I'm going to have her start pulling our fingers, before the river of shit that is life washes all of that away. I can't laugh at it anymore, but she can. That part of her life is just beginning, and what a glorious thing that is.
Makes me want to pick my nose in celebration. Or maybe I'll pick someone else's. I'm able to do that now.