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I’ve had trouble with my bowels my whole damn life. When I was 15, my mother announced to the people gathered around our Thanksgiving table that I was "born constipated." At family gatherings for years afterward, when I emerged from the bathroom, I had to endure earnest inquiries like, “Did you have any luck in there?”
Thanks a lot, Mom.
The flip side of my condition is that when I finally do have to go, it’s very urgent, and it’s always at the worst possible time. I also have a knack for getting into awkward situations. (I once fell on top of a guy I was trying to do a lap dance for and knocked the wind out of him. Sexy!)
My awkwardness and my bowel issues converged one fateful day last year.
My boyfriend, Tom, and I had just returned from a blissful four-day weekend together at a bed and breakfast in the Virginia countryside, celebrating my 30th birthday. Everything about the trip was wondrously romantic — except, of course, that I was unable to go to the bathroom the whole time. By the time I returned to my office on Tuesday, I was seriously backed up.
I was sitting at my desk around 10 a.m. when the cramps started. I should have raced to the bathroom at that moment, but I foolishly put it off for a few minutes to finish writing an email.
By the time I finished it, I was having major poop contractions. I started fast-walking down the hall to the restroom, but I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I was wearing a skirt with no pantyhose, and I had a terrifying vision of losing control and leaving a stain on the office's new carpet.
In utter desperation, I bolted into a conference room that no one ever uses, locked the door, grabbed a small metal wastebasket, and relieved myself.
I know it’s gross. I’m human. I had no choice.
I was squatting there, looking around for something to use as toilet paper — an old memo about parking spaces looked promising — when I heard a doorknob turning behind me. I also heard some male voices in the hallway talking about something that happened in a football game.
No, no, this can’t be happening…
To my horror, the door at the other end of the room opened and two of my coworkers, Pete and Adam, strolled in and switched on the bright fluorescent lights. With them was a dignified-looking older man in a three-piece suit, carrying a briefcase.
The men saw me and just stood there, open-mouthed, as if my bowel movement had robbed them of the power of speech. To make matters worse, they were just a few feet behind me, giving them an unobstructed view of my rear end.
Oh Lord, what have I done to deserve this?
Finally, Pete managed to stammer, “J-Jessica?” And there I was: a 30-year-old woman with a master’s degree, pointing my naked buttocks in the direction of three extremely surprised gentlemen, none of whom I was in an intimate relationship with (until that moment, I guess).
I was still squatting precariously over the garbage can, with an elbow on the conference table to keep my derriere aloft and my green underwear around my boots. This tableau went on for probably two or three seconds, but to me it felt like a month.
What does a lady do when she finds herself in such an indelicate situation? Sadly, Emily Post never told us the etiquette on what to say when you’re caught launching a butt torpedo in public, so I was left to improvise.
I craned my neck around as best as I could, looked up at the gents, and said, “HEY, THIS IS THE LADIES’ ROOM!”
At that, they immediately turned and left, closing the door behind them (thank you!).
With my heart pounding, I vigorously cleaned everything up, disposed of my waste in the ladies' room, sprayed some air freshener, and went back to my desk.
I remembered, when I was in high school, my friends and I had a big laugh reading a newspaper story about a woman who flushed an airplane toilet while she was still sitting on it and somehow got stuck on the thing. I'd said, “They should have published a photo of her like that, just for the total humiliation of it.” Karma, anyone?
That night, after some hesitation, I told Tom about the latest adventures of Awkward Girl. He almost passed out laughing — but then we actually had pretty mind-blowing sex. Tom said later that he thought, If she’s willing to tell me something that personal and embarrassing, we must be very comfortable together.
He was right. Tom and I got married in May. The wedding was perfect. My only anxious moment came during the best man’s toast at the reception, when he said, “Tom told me this really funny story about Jessica.”
Oh no, please God, not here, not at the wedding...
It turned out to be a harmless anecdote about how Tom and I fight over a crossword puzzle. Whew!
Neither Pete nor Adam ever said anything to me about this incident — not even jokingly. Pooping in front of an audience (especially the opposite sex) is so contrary to the expectations of modern civilization that we all just decided that it couldn’t possibly have been real.
I never found out who the older fellow was, but I like to think that after they had their meeting, he went home and told his wife, "That company doesn't have a bathroom for women! They have to go in a conference room!"