Dare to Ask: Question about bodily function is not for
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Why is it when someone does a common bodily function, we are offended, but
when we do it ourselves, it's no problem? Also, why are we usually embarrassed
when we do it, even though everyone does it?
I'm an American with a weak stomach. My husband is from a culture where many
bodily functions are handled differently. He farts loud at home and burps. He
rarely says "Excuse me," and I often feel sick.
Kitty, 39, Caribou, Maine
If someone is unwilling to discreetly alleviate their affliction, it leaves
me wondering if wolves raised them. The offending sound or scent tells me the
perpetrator is more focused on his or her own discomfort and its relief than on
those around them. That's why it's unpleasant to be around a person who freely
belches, farts and snorts. It's also why I refrain from letting fly when around
other humans. In the company of my poor, dear dog, on the other hand ...
Cheryl, New Haven, Conn.
It is the fact that when you come out of the bathroom, a toxic cloud follows
you that melts the paint off the walls for the next 20 minutes. Do us all a
favor and get an MRI to find out what died inside of you and continues to burn
the very hairs of our nostrils. It's either that or I'm filing for workman's
comp next time you use the restroom.
I.M. Gagging, Pensacola
In addition to now knowing what Jay does that bugs "I.M." at their mutual
Pensacola workplace, we promise even deeper stuff is wafting your way if you
But we'll understand if you're so offended you simply can't read another
Now that those two people have stopped reading, let's talk with Paul Spinrad.
He wrote "The RE/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids" after studying all the gross
things everyone was reading about above until those two stopped, even though
they've started again.
People in many other countries also try not to perform bodily functions
around others, but it's more from a desire not to offend, he said. Here, it's
from a need to not embarrass oneself. "It's shame-based in other countries, and
guilt-based here," he said.
The puritanical history of the U.S. also led to a mindset of separation from
nature, denying bodily functions and even referring to them as ungodly, Spinrad
Believe it or not, this "anti-animal" view shapes societal views on laws and
practices, leading to denying things like evolution or opposing practices that
show "human weakness," like contraceptive use or needle exchanges for drug
users, he said.
"It's a detachment from biological reality," he said. "If we were more
connected to nature, as they are in rural areas ... there's a lot of power in
that. You see yourself as part of your environment ... it might make you process
the environmental effects of other things a little more."
Is he saying...?
"Yes. Denying farting comes from the same place as denying auto emissions.
... If we farted more, we could save the planet."
ADD OR READ MORE COMMENTS
This is your column. You can help it grow! If you like "Dare to Ask,"
please call or e-mail your favorite newspaper or web site and urge them to start
running it. It's syndicated by
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his