I used to joke that each bit of dignity I lost got me that much closer to freedom. One day I’d shit my pants in public — then I’d be truly free.
Crude, sure, but it’s nice to know that each time something happens that is so embarrassing surely I’d die from the shame, well, it’s really not that bad. I have a whole litany of horrendously shameful experiences that would curl the pages of Seventeen Magazine and their silly Traumarama. And I’m only 30, so I’m looking forward to several decades of horror to come.
This is why I am so confused when someone refuses help out of shame. You’ve made it to 82 and are too prideful to use a bedpan in front of me. Really? You must have lived a boring life. I have peed in front of strangers in multiple countries. Get over yourself.
The thing is, the more I’ve made this joke (you’re wondering how I get invited to parties, I know), the more times strangers gleefully confess that they have beat me to the punch. Shitting your pants? They’ve been there, done that. On road trips. At work. On first dates. At weddings. Life goes on and it becomes a story to laugh about.
Which is how I keep myself from freaking out when something particularly cringe worthy happens. When my dad walked in on me having sex with my boyfriend in high school I kept reminding myself that one day this was going to seem hilarious. So let’s just pretend I’m narrating this to a bunch of new friends over drinks at a party. It kept me from dissolving into a puddle of shame. And today it’s not even funny enough to make the repertoire. I’ve had so many other more embarrassing things happen to me since.
I have little sympathy for people who would rather suffer privately than accept help. If that’s what they want, fine, less work for me. I’m not going to beg to clean their dressings or wipe their ass. I’m also decidedly not flattered when some charming family member wants me to dote on them constantly because God forbid a stranger help. If you treat strangers better than your own family, you’re doing something wrong. Your secrets are much safer with the kindly home health aid, who at least is required to maintain some sense of decorum. I’m not.
Scott Stossel shit his pants in front of a Kennedy and not only lived to tell the tale, he wrote a book about it and is wildly popular. They’ve had however many decades to become comfortable in their skin — Today is as good a day as any to stop being silly and grow up.
If I’m too sick to do things by myself, I may not be particularly thrilled to be taking care of my bodily functions in front of an audience, but I’ve got bigger things to worry about. Everybody poops, guys.
I live off of food from Trader Joe’s. I spend my life in a cubicle, a la Office Space. I’m kind of obsessed with the internet.
Confession: I take care of people but don’t identify as a caregiver.