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April 16, 2007

Really professional.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are forever and always dividing things into categories and those who are not.

Ya'll know what kind of people I am.

And there are two kinds of families in this world: those who feel just fine and dandy talking about poop and those who do not.

I am not from a family that talks about poop or even acknowledges that people do such vile and uncouth things, unless of course they are in diapers and not formed yet, and not Southern and well-bred enough yet to know that poop is a private and personal issue never discussed with other humans. Talking about poop in my family would be akin to just sitting at the dinner table and discussing armpit hair. In fact, you would be more likely to hear that subject analyzed at length (hee, length) than ever hear a single whiff of poo conversation.

Other families talk about poop. Other people talk about it, and some people even actually poop, which of course I wouldn't know a thing about. Being Southern and dainty and all. (By the way, discussing a sturdy Southerner such as myself with the word "dainty" is like calling Hillary Rodham Clinton "a sweet gal who married a boy from Arkansas.")

Anyway. Where was I?

Back in college Stefanie, my best friend and co-conspirator in all college-age crime, would start talking about some ailment or other concerning the lower half of human bodies and I would just go all squirmy and red in the face and squeamish. Stefanie and I worked at a little children's shop in the mall and we'd spend slow nights dusting the displays and re-doing our hairbows in the mirrors and chitchatting. One night the owner, Miss Judy, was there, too.

Miss Judy was one of those incredible Southern beauties I always hoped to grow into (it hasn't happened yet BUT I AM STILL HOPING) who have perfect hair and expertly applied makeup and everything about them is scented with Shalimar or something delicious, and they wear perfectly put-together outfits and play tennis. Her husband was a well-known judge in our little town and they lived in a large and warm and inviting house with a wrap-around porch. I still to this day remember how she would hug you and you'd smell her perfect smell and feel like she was warm and steel-strong and yet fragile all at the same time. It's a thing about Southern women.

Anyway, she was there at the shop one night doing the books and Stefanie started telling me some story about someone, Lord only knows who, and it had to do with something gastrointestinal and I went all squeamish and embarrassed and all "I do not speak of souch uncouth things!" Miss Judy'd had her nose in the books at the time and didn't see my total shame and discomfort at the subject matter and started telling me and Stefanie how she and her four best friends from school would go to New York every year for their girls' trip (I always thought this was the most glamorous thing I had ever heard, a girls' trip in New York City! with lifelong friends made at Vandy, or Ole' Miss or maybe a sorority at UT) and while they were off on their vacation watching broadway shoes and shopping and being glamorous (my interpretation, not hers) they never could poop the whole time, all four days. There she was, Miss Judy (!!!) saying how traveling could just disrupt your whole system, stop you right up, plumbing problems like nobody's business.


And she finally noticed the abject horror on my face and she reached her arm around me, comforting, like a mom.

"Oh sugar," she said. "You must not be from a family that talks about such things."

"NO I AM NOT," I said. "OH MY GOD."

"Well," said Miss Judy, after some thought. "You know, it's very natural, we all do it, there is no shame in such a thing." She could see I was unconvinced.

"I can't believe ya'll just talk about this!" I said. It was the Divide, I knew it even then, how some families can talk about politics and crazy old Uncle so-and-so like it was as easy as discussing the weather, others sweep all that under the rug. Some folks talk about the future, and some families are discussing the War of Northern Agression like it happened yesterday. Some folks never speak of money, or holy-rollers, or who makes the best dumplings, or poop.

And I just never imagine Miss Judy (!!!) was from a poop family. She seemed so well brought-up! I tried to explain, all tongue-tied and flustered in that way you do when you're the one embarrassed to talk about sex or admit you don't know how to pronounce a certain word.

"Oh, sugar," said Miss Judy. Always the Southern lady. "There is not one single thing to be ashamed of. Even Princess Diana poops."

I hadn't thought of these words of wisdom until recently, when I was in the ladies room at My Job, Inc. It is a very business professional place where women wear pantyhose and suits with princess seams, and closed-toed shoes and they have expensive degrees and know how to sit through a meeting without excitedly interjecting some crazy thing like I always do. It is the sort of place where people follow Robert's Rules Of Order and I love it, I love its sameness, I love how polite a place it is to work, I love that the people there seem well-heeled and well-behaved and I often hope desperately it will rub off on me. That I will someday be the sort of person who doesn't show up to work in black pants that have a fine sheen of cat hair from the knee down. The sort of person who doesn't get so excited she has to interrupt, the sort of person who can be trusted to speak to the board members without saying the word "porn."

I am not that person. But I have my hopes, ya'll know.

Anyway I was entering the ladies room last week at my very Professional and Proper Job and a couple of ladies came in right behind me, I didn't recognize them, they had on those stick-on Visitor badges and I assumed they were with the group of vendors doing some kind of demo in another part of the floor.

Anyway, I ended up in a stall next to one of the strangers who ... who made a noise. A bodily noise. A gastrointestinal noise. And I happened to finish my business and be washing my hands, and you know I have germ issues so I have to do the full 60-second wash, and she came out of the stall and we were standing right next to each other washng our hands and she looked a little embarrassed and apologized.

"I think I had something that didn't agree with me."

And I just smiled, because even though I used to be someone scandalized by such a thing, I knew exactly the Business Professional way to handle it. And I wanted very much to put her at ease and let her know I am also Well Mannered and a good representative of My Job, Inc.

"Oh gosh!" I said, "Please! No worries! I mean really ... even Princess Diana pooped!"

And with that I left the poor startled woman at the sink and tra-lala'ed right out of the restroom.

While it was awkward, yes, all I can hope is that one day she will pass this amazing information along, and it will free her as it did me. So thank you, Miss Judy, wherever you may be. You were right. Even Princess Diana pooped.

Posted by laurie at April 16, 2007 9:22 AM