Written by Lauren Dollie Duke.
Art by Daniella Manini.
I was eight, sitting on the counter of Grandma’s porcelain sink. She was getting dolled up to go to the golf club where she’d school everyone on the course. As far as I was concerned, she was God.
Our bathroom time together was a ritual filled with Ponds face creamer, eyelash curlers, rouge and too much Coco Chanel. She used one of those bubble pumps attached to the perfume bottle, called an atomizer. It sprayed the liquid with less mess. She’d squirt it all over me, on my wrists, in my crotch and on the back of my pants.
“Why do you use all that perfume?” I asked.
I was flapping my hand in front of my nose. She batted her eyelashes, looking like a queen.
“Oh honey, no one likes a stinky girl.”
She said it flippantly, unaware her words were sharp arrows.
I grabbed the perfume bottle, pumped the atomizer in my armpits, down my pants and in my crotch. I rubbed it so hard, it absorbed through my culottes like a fiery chemical douche. For the life of me, I did not want to stink.
I froze while watching her place a metal contraption over her eyes. “No one likes a stinky girl,” replayed in my head. If she said it, it must be true. I grabbed the perfume bottle, pumped the atomizer in my armpits, down my pants and in my crotch. I rubbed it so hard, it absorbed through my culottes like a fiery chemical douche. For the life of me, I did not want to stink.
After that day, I developed a surplus of misplaced toilet psychology. I got crafty with what I’d do inside the bathroom to eliminate my smells. I’d run the sink water, open and close the cabinet doors, pour chemical cleaner into the basin, and squirt Mom’s hair products through the air.
I would have done anything to make the smells disappear. I also discovered if I waited until no one was around, I could poop in peace and no one would hate me for my bodily processes. I figured out how to avoid smelling altogether. I was the perfect girl.
Years later, by the time I met my husband Chris, I had chronic stomach pain. I’d dated dozens of men before him and perfected the art of holding in my turd without anyone mentioning it. Not crapping was my superpower. It was also making me physically and psychologically ill. I was full of shit, but I didn’t stink. I was still in a good position to be loved.
Afterward, he asked if I wanted to get breakfast. But I couldn’t hold it anymore.
At the beginning of my relationship with Chris, I’d wake up early, and tell him I had to go open my yoga studio. I had a laundry list of excuses that got me out of his house. One night, we went to the Starlight lounge for Moscow Mules, then went home and had sex. I woke up the next morning with a gurgling stomach and poo begging to exit my body, pleading with me to stop the narcissism. I looked over at Chris, took a deep breath and told the feces to suck it up. We had to do what new couples did and have morning sex. Afterward, he asked if I wanted to get breakfast. But I couldn’t hold it anymore.
“I need to turn the heat on at the studio! We have full classes today,” I said.
I told him I’d be right back, and sprinted out. I sped to the studio and relieved myself in the men’s bathroom. The womens was locked. There wasn’t enough time to rifle through the metal thingamajigger holding the butt covers, so I even sat on the pube-covered seat.
Weeks turned into years, then finally marriage and I still hadn’t pooped around him. Meanwhile, I’d grown some friends down on my bum-hole which WebMD diagnosed as hemorrhoids. But I still didn’t stink, and someone even loved me enough to marry me.
The stomachaches persisted so I went to see a doctor. He told me it could be a variety of things. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s, and cancer. OMG, had I given myself cancer because I couldn’t take a crap in public?
I knew this needed to stop immediately.
“Is there anything else I should know about your bowels?” He asked.
I thought about my covert routines, and holding my fecal matter so long it could have reversed its gravitational direction and slungshot itself up my throat.
He shook his head, stumped.
“Well, you don’t want this to get worse,” he said.
It already was.
He gave me a prescription which I immediately threw in the trash. The only thing I needed to take was a normal bowel movement. I didn’t need a gastro-intestinal doctor, I needed to dismantle the belief no one would love me if I smelled.
I was full of shit, but I didn’t stink. I was still in a good position to be loved.
Five years into my relationship with Chris, he walked into the bathroom while I was on the toilet. I had the shower running so he thought I was bathing. I screamed, putting my hands over my face like they could erase what he witnessed. I was pooping! He pulled the door shut, then knocked a few seconds later.
“Everybody poops honey. There’s even a book about it,” he said.
I sat on the toilet with my pants around my ankles stewing in self-loathing. Grandma had already been dead for years, but I saw her ghost in the mirror with perfect whoopie cushion hair. She was holding the atomizer, shaking her head. I shouted for her to go away. I didn’t need her peanut gallery anymore, and she disappeared from sight.
Chris finally knew the truth about me, I was a real-life pooper! Would he still love me?
When I exited the bathroom, he hugged me.
“I love you no matter what,” he said.
I cried, squished my face into his shoulder. afraid to look him in his eyes. He repeated “I love you no matter what,” rubbing my back. It was hard to believe he smelled my odors and loved me anyway, but he did. We’ve been together eight years. Turned out, I COULD be a stinky girl and still worthy of love. That day, I realized the only one full of shit was Grandma.
About The Author
Lauren Duke is an entrepreneur, community activist and thought leader. She’s taught thousands of yoga students over the last 15 years, led dozens of retreats and training’s, and continues to push the edges between yoga, mental health and trauma. She founded a one-of-a kind modern community center called Gather Encinitas, in Encinitas, California. In a sea of corporate yoga, where most independent studios don’t survive, she created a thriving community, teaching and hosting a variety of sold-out classes, educational seminars and writing workshops. Currently, she lives in Ojai, Ca and just finished her first memoir “Shithouse,” coming out this fall.
Follow on IG: @dollieduke83