By: Shannon Ralph
There comes a time in any marriage—particularly lengthy marriages—when a conscious decision is made that we will no longer hide our perfectly natural bodily functions from one another. This is not particularly a decision we are proud of, but it is a decision we all make at some point or another. It may be a decision based on logistical necessity. It may be a decision based on fundamental laziness and sloth. Either way, it is a choice we make and a decision we stand by through thick and thin.
We all belch and fart. It’s just a fact of life. If we did not belch and fart, we would spend our lives in doubled-over agony trying desperately to hold in noxious gas that wants nothing more than to be let out. We would be nothing short of incapacitated. That is no way to live.
Luckily for the married among us, we are free to let it all out.
When you first met your spouse and were trying to win his or her affections, you would certainly never consider farting in front of them. Or belching. Or clipping your toenails. Or waxing your mustache. Or peeing with the bathroom door open. You took special care to hide all of the vile things you did in private from the object of your affection.
Marriage, however, is a completely different story. First and foremost, “private” doesn’t really exist anymore once you tie the knot. Healthy boundaries disintegrate sometime shortly after the honeymoon–specifically if you are married with children. You shower while your spouse is brushing her teeth in the same bathroom. You dress while discussing your checkbook. You pee while your child shows you his latest math test. There is no privacy. At least not in my house.
If I have already spent my day showering, dressing, and peeing with an audience, what is there to keep me from letting go of all that gas while lying in bed with my spouse? What shred of dignity could I possibly have left? Why torment myself and tie my stomach into knots by trying to hold it in? Why disengage myself from my warm and cozy covers to excuse myself to the chilly bathroom to fart? She’s already seen me pee. She has to know I fart, as well. Right? Is it possible that she thinks my body is the lone exception to the laws of biology? That this temple is somehow immune to the side effects of the Chipotle burrito? Surely not.
When you are in the office or sitting in a coffee shop or hanging out with friends, there are certain social mores that surround the belch and the fart. If one happens to slip out, we understand that the farter or belcher will undoubtedly be mortified. Therefore, social norms suggest that the belchee or fartee (the one who is belched or farted upon) ignore the incident. We pretend it did not happen. As our eyes water and our noses scream out for relief, we completely ignore the rogue bodily expellant.
In a marriage—in an environment of communal showering and dressing and peeing—these same social mores do not apply. Therefore, Ruanita feels free to screech and hold her nose and swat at the air dramatically when I pass gas in bed. And I feel the same prerogative to leap (perhaps a bit overzealously) at the unsuspecting dog resting innocently at the foot of our bed and selflessly fling my body on top of hers to protect her from Ruanita’s pestilent fumes. Though we both know that belching and farting are natural bodily responses to excess gas, we do not let the belcher or farter off the hook so easily. No, we call obnoxious attention to the act while secretly finding solace in the knowledge that Ruanita loves me enough to fart in my presence and I love her enough to belch in hers. Isn’t that what true love is all about? The good, the bad, and the stinky?
A lack of basic social boundaries is one more ways that my marriage is just like your marriage.