Sunday, 23 September 2012


Come on, even if you wanted to, it's impossible to skip past a post with a title like that.

I am, at heart, a four year old. Although I am perfectly capable of appreciating the humorous undertones of Dickens' tongue-in-cheek social commentary on Victorian society, nothing makes me cackle like an ill timed blowout. Perpetrated by someone else, of course. I don't fart. But I've heard other people do.

Farts are just stressful all around. Starting with what to call it. If you were my Grandma, the solution was simple. Farts never occurred. Ever. Except by terminally ill people. But even then, you didn't refer to them by name.

My mom referred to them as 'toots' or 'fluffs', which made you think that the escaping air was coming out in pink, bunny-shaped clouds reeking of cotton candy and strawberry lip gloss. Her other term was 'passing gas', which simply brings us right back to Grandma's terminally ill breakers of wind.

I, for one, do not mind the term 'fart' escaping the orifices of people over the age of 12, but something about my darling 2 and 6 year olds using the term makes me twitchy. It's cute coming out of the mouths of tweens, and crass when uttered by toddlers. Odd. Then there's 'flatulence', which makes you feel like the gas you passed isn't good enough or smart enough... it's enough to make a person cry.

And how long, exactly, are you supposed to know someone before you can fart in front of each other with impunity? Elementary school children seem to be able to cope with each others' minor embarrassments with a modicum of class and good manners (after a prolonged bout of giggling), but let one rip in the middle of a quarterly budget meeting, and you will never get past it. They will never speak of it, but every time you push back your naugahyde chair to stand up and begin your presentation, people's noses will involuntarily wrinkle. I have tattoos with less staying power.

Is mutually comfortable farting age-dependant? In your forties, is it completely inappropriate to fart in front of anyone, but the farther you travel on either side of the golden age (be it 15 or 83), the more acceptable it becomes?

Or does it depend upon the level of intimacy? Once you have known your best friends for more than twenty years, is it acceptable to just fart and NOT spend the rest of your evening running outside to 'check on the kids' every time the urge approaches? Should you trumpet your successes, or hide your face in shame? (I tend to straddle the fence on this one, announcing "Wait for it....wait for it...." then developing stage fright, impeding my desire to thoroughly gross out whichever best friend is currently sitting next to me.)

Or does it depend on the sex of the person next to whom you are farting? I had a relationship (a long, LONG time ago) with someone who flat out refused to fart in front of me, preferring instead to percolate silently until they thought I was asleep, at which point the sudden cacophony of flatulence made it seem as though all the demons of hell were making a break for the only available escape hatch at once, screaming in frustration when they were forced to squeeze their way out, one tiny banshee at a time...

Or should you simply let it all hang out, as do some of the people I am married to, gleefully celebrating every vapour, as you surreptitiously watch to see which one of your children will vacate the room in response to your gift? Jason has actually EMPTIED THE OUTDOORS with a camping fart of such nauseating proportions that the children in the playground next to the outhouse were forced to re-enter their respective trailers. That is a shame which I, as a wife, will never live down. He has done grosser things, but I will not discuss them here. (At least, until I run out of ideas...) (No seriously. That one will never get talked about. I'm still irritated. So those of you who know it can keep it to yourselves.)

My grandpa, who I miss dearly, was always very careful what he said and did in front of his granddaughters. As I get older I am finding out that there are things he was far more likely to discuss with the boys (war, for example, and what happens on leave) than he was with us. Any time he let his guard down in front of us, therefore, was a moment to be cherished and recapped over Thanksgiving dinner for years to come.

As we get older, our muscles naturally start to relax, and our hearing naturally starts to fail. Grandpa had this issue, with the result that sometimes he farted when he didn't mean to, and when he did, he didn't always hear it happening.

After Grandma passed away, Grandpa slowly came to the realization that he might be happier in a seniors complex rather than the three story condo they had lived in for so many years. It took time, but eventually he had my mother list it and start to have  a realtor show it in the interests of downsizing. Although I don't remember whether or not the realtor did most of the showings, or whether they were always left up to us, on one occasion a couple wanting a second visit called to see if they could come back as they wanted to take a more in depth look at the place. Grandpa told them that he and his daughter would be there to answer any questions, and over they came. I had already been at mom's house with the kids, and decided that I would come with her and we'd have a little family lunch afterwards.

At this stage of life, Grandpa was starting to get more comfortable saying what he was thinking, and my mother started to get flustered immediately when the couple asked about condo fees and property taxes and Grandpa began a rant about highway robbery. As she was trying desperately to let the couple know that the condo fees were, in fact, quite reasonable, I noticed my son, who was 8 or 9 at the time, and standing beside my grandfather, turn beet red and start to giggle. It turned out that Grandpa was getting so worked up discussing the government taking whatever they could in property taxes from old men on a fixed income, that he was beginning to punctuate his sentences with a machine-gun like rat-a-tat-tat of farts. The more mom tried to steer the conversation in another direction, the more fixated Grandpa became, and the more sustained the fusillade. It eventually got so bad that my mother derailed the conversation altogether and suggested we start by looking upstairs. My mother led the way, in case Grandpa fell, as he had been having trouble with stairs lately, and grandpa, eager to show off his home, followed her. The poor couple, who had no idea what they were getting into, came next, and I, after smacking Isaiah across the top of the head and threatening him with sudden, violent death, brought up the rear.

After a few steps, it was apparent that we should have thought things through. With each step, Grandpa expelled another fart bullet, and my mother, oblivious, kept on with her tour. The couple was holding it together as best they could, with only a few grins escaping the husband's iron-rigid face every now and then. My son, on the other hand, only made it to the first landing, where he literally collapsed with glee and had to be physically removed from the condo and deposited into the car where he could howl to his heart's delight. Oddly, this is one of Isaiah's favourite memories of his grandfather. I love that.

No matter how you look at it, farting is a natural part of life. it happens to you, it happens to me (rarely, if ever), and it happens to your friends and family. It is my hope that this blog will stimulate dinner conversations worldwide, bringing children and their parents closer together. Farting should be celebrated, perhaps with its own civic holiday. It unites us in our shame and brings us together as a society and a species. It even works as a sales pitch.

They bought the condo.

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