We have all experienced it – you have a stomachache and you want to ask someone what to do. Or you are out with your friends and you need to pee, but you are ashamed and hold back. Why are we afraid to talk about going to the bathroom?
Sanitation is one of seven basic needs of human beings. The rest, sleep, shelter, food, water, sex, are readily discussed with peers and relatives (well, maybe not the last). But why don’t we discuss about bodily elimination?
Generally when we are in a group setting with semi-strangers we are reluctant to admit that we need to go to the bathroom. Add in people of the opposite gender, and the likelihood of mentioning going to the bathroom drops. This is just for peeing, we never ever mention that we are going to do a #2.
Why are we afraid to let our family/SO/friends hear us pooping? I went to a youth seminar turing my JC days. It was about 3 days in and amongst us there was a girl who let slip that she hadn’t pooped since we had arrived. At one point she quipped “hey girls, tonight don’t come near the (shared) toilets”. Maybe it was more to make us laugh, but she did seem genuinely shy about it.
We often demand the maximum possible privacy when we need to go to the bathroom. Some people drop sheets of toilet roll into the bowl to minimise the ‘splash’ sound, some people leave the shower running, some even banish their S/O to the other side of the house for half an hour. My cousin for many years now, still leaves the shower running when she goes. Perhaps it is ingrained within us that one’s potty habits are akin to their darkest secrets, hence we don’t discuss it.
But still, why are we reluctant to talk about our bathroom habits? We talk about how much/ little we sleep, or even how much/little we ate last week. Do we have a lower threshold for this particular basic need? We can control our hunger, thirst etc for a relatively longer period compared to when we need to use a bathroom. Some people even plan their schedules keeping their bathroom breaks in mind. But when the push comes to shove, we often hurry to find the nearest toilet.
One theory is that us going to the toilet reminds us about our mortality. After all, we are banishing something that was a part of our body during the process. People with certain ailments might feel pain when they go, which serves as yet another indication of their limited time on earth.
Another theory is that pee and poop are essentially unwanted things. We know how smelly they are, how much bacteria they contain etc. That’s why we cover our noses when people fart. And we all inherently recognise this. That’s why we feel that we might offend others if we start talking about the unusual colour of our recent emissions, because we would be literally talking about shit.
Perhaps that’s why we also prefer to do our poops at home, on the comfort of our own porcelain thrones. The one place we have been doing it for years, and where (almost) no one can hear you (and judge you) for the undignified mess you create regularly.
So where does toilet humour fit into this puzzle? Why do we laugh when we hear a toddler (or even your grandpa) fart? Is it an indication that they ‘cannot control’ their poop properly hence they are weak? Then again in that same vein, why does your dad think it is funny to fart loudly when the entire family is trapped in a lift? Is it because he revels in that temporary moment where he alone had the power to make everyone feel disgusted? We humans can be cruel at times, but we are generally kind to our loved ones.
I guess we all want our private space and this is, in some way the only time some people get privacy. Those who share rooms with their spouses and siblings will know. We don’t have to talk about what we as a society aren’t comfortable about, but we also shouldn’t hesitate when we need to ask for advice.