The Bowels

You might call this the inside story. It’s not my purpose here to break the centuries-old taboo about the subject of poop. Rather, the idea is to justify its importance since everybody does it. And many of us enjoy talking about it—despite others like my mother who found it disgusting.

I heard a lot of toilet humor growing up, much of it generated by my father. He once brought home a record album called “The Farting Contest,” which featured remarkable noises and bawdy British humor. For that moment, at least, shit brought us together.

A college friend, John, told how when he was young he set fire to the toilet seat while lighting toilet paper to disguise the smell of what he called “stinkies.” His father was not pleased. Kids, we know, are into poop from an early age. In high school, Ed remembered his sister’s son coming down to a breakfast of pork sausages: “Look, mommy, grunt-grunt for breakfast.” Such stories remain blithely commonplace. My friend Phil once described an aristocratic fat woman devouring hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party: “She was eating like she had seven rectums.” And so it goes.

Scatology in literature goes back to medieval times (see Pantagruel and Rabelais, for instance) and, before that, Aristophanes. In modern high-brow literature it became increasingly taboo, though not for present-day comedians. Serious writers have seemed to avoid it, though Nathaniel West wrote a crazy satire in The Dream Life of Balso Snell (1931) in which the hero journeys through the intestines of the Trojan horse.

Personally, as some of you know, I’ve been afflicted with Irritable Bowel Syndrome for many years. OK, I’ll invoke the taboo here so as not to go into details. But I will say that the situation has made me very aware of how our gastro organs work and don’t work. We still don’t understand much of this.

Sex and porn are now all over the internet despite the efforts of right-wing Christians and others to stop them. Scatology, I predict, will be the next meme because poop is part of our under-culture and, like all “bad” things, it cannot be suppressed. The whole idea of breaking taboos is part of what created the internet. Trump’s gold toilet could well become the new symbol of our age.