I am happy to announce that we are now beginning to release some of the footage from our highly acclaimed World Toilet Day New York event this past November 19th, 2011. For your viewing pleasure, I give you Ms. Megan Gerlach and Mr. Justin Lang, "Nerds and Turds." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyxLJNDSv-M
In other celebrity news, Oprah poops. I understand that this may not qualify as news. Oprah and her creation, Dr. Oz, are pioneers in promoting poop-positive TV programming. Nonetheless, it turns out that Oprah's own fame has forced her to become what Dave Praeger, in his book Poop Culture, describes as a 'shameful shitter.' More on that soon.
In the clip, she says:
"This is me, who does not take public bowel movements, okay? I am not gonna go, like, Number 2 in a regular... (Someone else: "In a stall...") Oh my God, no."
At first I was offended. Perhaps it was the tangible disgust and horror in her tone, or her choice of the word "regular," as if her derriere deserved much better. Poop, like death, is a great equalizer; you can eat from a diner, a dumpster, or a deluxe 12-course banquet, but then the lines blur into a mighty blast of brown. Of course, money can buy you a nicer place to deposit your doo. $6,000 recently bought American Idol host Ryan Seacrest a luxurious birthday bidet (the gift that keeps on giving), while in the developing world, only the wealthy can afford the privacy of a home toilet. So what about privacy for the super rich and famous?
"[laughing]...the only thing anybody's going to do is go home and say, 'Guess who was in the bathroom today?' No!"
And you know she's right. Oprah can poop in a public potty just like anybody else, but it could just make 'the splash heard round the world.' Sure, your curry vindaloo explosion might make you the office laughingstock by the end of the day, but by the end of her day, the lady who's iPhone recorded Oprah playing the butt trumpet would have her own reality TV show on Fox. The audio clip, in equal parts delightful and disgusting, would be downloaded in droves and remixed for the dance floor, hitting the pop charts and the elevators at Harpo, reaping royalties for Oprah long after the reality star had faded. At least that's what I think; you can see Jimmy Kimmel's take in the video below.
The Urban Dictionary (clearly an irrefutable source of accurate information...) defines Dave Praeger's "shameful shitter" as someone who, "will hold it in for hours before daring to go into a public restroom." If they must use the toilet, "they will do it in a continued state of terror and anxiety that someone will come in and smell their aroma or hear their farts..."
While we all know somebody who talks regularly about their colon health and strolls into the bathroom proudly carrying a newspaper, most of us struggle with shameful shitting to a greater or lesser degree. We might walk in to an occupied bathroom and pretend to be there just washing our hands, or tell the date who's been waiting at the table that it only took us so long because the restroom line was unusually long. We're worried that someone will find out what we all already know, that as pretty and put together as we may look, all sorts of icky things ooze out of us once the door's been closed. We deny poop because, as the "dirtiest" object with the lowest status, it has the magical, Midas-like power to pollute and bring down whatever it touches. When the pedestal's been placed at celebrity height, the counterweight of poop can mean quite a fall.
Consider the case of Paris Hilton. She made headlines in 2007 when she was sentenced to 45 days in prison for violating a reckless driving probation. Three days into serving her term, and Paris wound up sedated in the medical wing after having refused to eat or drink since she arrived. Apparently the toilet was placed opposite a window through which the court guards could see everything. A Hilton insider quoted in the article reports, "'She was absolutely terrified that one of the guards or staffers would get her with the cell-phone cam and it would wind up on the Internet.'"
Norbert Elias' classic text, The Civilizing Process, quotes old missives on manners to show the complex social maneuvering that first led Western Europeans to adopt now-common, "civilized" behaviors. Unlike Adam and Eve, who learned shame in the time it took to eat some fruit, humans 1,000 years ago had to be conditioned over time to look down on those who blow their snot onto their sleeve, eat with their fingers, or poop in the hallways. Lest you accuse me of exaggeration, consider this passage culled from the Brunswick Court Regulations of 1589:
"Let no one, whoever he may be, before, at, or after meals, early or late, foul the staircases, corridors, or closets with urine or other filth, but go to suitable, prescribed places for such relief."
If it was necessary for someone to write this, obviously there was a problem. But that's exactly it--these ideas are only obvious to you and me because society learned to be disgusted by such acts, and to shame those who committed them into seeking privacy for such things. Modern society gives the responsibility of molding well-adjusted citizens to Mom and Dad, yet Community Led Total Sanitation programs are just now convincing rural communities in the developing world to feel shame and disgust over outdoor and/or public defecation. (For more information, read this article by The Last Taboo co-author Maggie Black.)
In reaction to our former animalism, we may have learned the rules a little too well, allowing for few shameless ways to shit. But if Paris and Oprah ever want to ease their bowels, we may need to ease up on a cultural stigma in which we're all complicit. We wind up shaming anyone who makes us aware that poop exists, paradoxically stoking people's interest through censorship, and thereby giving Oprah's poop the potential to make international news, whether she likes it or not. But if Oprah pooped in a forest and everyone heard it, maybe we'd understand that she's really just like us. And if we're all just like Oprah than we're all just like each other. We'll beat swords into plowshares, doves will soar overhead, and Oprah's poop will leads us to an era of world peace.
Prosperous Pooping in this New Year,
Shawn "The Puru" Shafner