“Butt” and “poop” are my 4-year-old’s favorite words. For a while, if he was upset, all I had to do was put my face right up against his and whisper “butt,” and he’d burst into delicious giggles. Just the other week, he told me he wants to be a proctologist when he grows up so he can say “butt” all day long.
But those are potty words. Schoolchildren get chastised and sent to the bathroom if they want to talk about poop and butts and are reduced to saying those words in feverish whispers on the playground. By the time they reach middle school, just when their bodies are beginning to do new, interesting, and frightening things, bodily functions have become a serious taboo. Taking a dump in the school bathroom is embarrassing at best, traumatizing at worst. Farts go from hilarious to mortifying, and a spot of period blood on a pair of jeans is the end of the fucking world. Farts, poop, and blood–the trifecta of embarrassment and, perhaps not coincidentally, central to my cancer.
Would my cancer have been caught earlier if I had talked more freely about my bowel habits? Why are we so selectively reticent to speak about our bodies and our bodily functions? Why are some bits less embarrassing than others? As a teen, I was never embarrassed to talk about sore boobs and cramps, but I’d never confide to my friends about an episode of diarrhea. Have I ever complained to anyone besides my spouse (ok, and my co-teacher) about constipation? If talking about poop was socially acceptable, would someone have encouraged me to talk to my doctor about my irregular bowel movements and general GI discomfort? Would I have caught the cancer two or three years ago, before it became devastating and incurable?
Sigh. As a wise man once said, wish in one and and shit in the other; see which hand fills up first. All we can do is move forward. So I move that we destroy the taboo. After you’ve asked your children what interesting thing they did at school that day, ask them if they pooped. Ask them what color it was, if it was hard or soft, if it hurt coming out or if it felt good. Let’s talk about blood and mucus and gas in neutral tones, taking away the ick factor. Let’s talk about colon cancer and rectal cancer as freely as we talk about breast cancer. Let’s save the titties and the butts and the guts! Let’s talk about testicles and cervixes and prostates and anuses with as little shame as we talk about arms and legs and noses.
I mean, boobs are seriously cool; they’re definitely one of my top three favorite body parts. Sexy and functional! But have you thought about your colon, rectum, and anus lately? Next time you take a dump in the toilet and not in your pants, say “Thanks colon, rectum, and anus! You guys are awesome!”
Let’s create a culture in which all body parts are equally valued and no body part is associated with shame or disgust.
NOTE: The adorable colon and rectum above can be yours to snuggle, along with other organs, at iheartguts.com. (Not a paid advert, I swear.)