This isn’t going to be easy for me to write, but I resolved when I launched Mendel Illness last fall that I would address even the most uncomfortable aspects of our common humanity. My mother was neurotic about a great many things. Elimination was near the top of the list. When she used the toilet, she would always turn the cold water in the sink on full blast to prevent anyone’s hearing what she might be up to in the bathroom. I was taught from infancy that the whole subject is profoundly shameful.
My wife visited me in Los Angeles early this month. We had only one bathroom between us, so naturally I became woefully constipated, but of course constipation comes quite easily to me. All I need do if I want to get, you know, painfully backed up is eat a lot of fruit, this in contravention of the common view that fruit makes one, uh, regular.
But back to my own humiliation. The greater one’s constipation, the harder one works to eliminate. The harder one works to eliminate, the more likely he or she is to incur hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids make it excruciating to work hard to eliminate, with greater constipation resulting. The viciousest of cycles! And we’re supposed to believe that God created us in, uh, His own image?
I presently have a hemorrhoid that feels to be about the size of an infant’s head. It seems to like it down there, as it shows not the slightest sign of leaving me.
You haven’t any idea how hard this is for me to write, so I think I’ll take a breather, and tell you about a programme I used to enjoy watching in the UK — You Are What You Eat, hosted by a little Scots woman called Gillian McKeith, who may very well have been one of the great charlatans in recent British cultural history. (Her principal qualification was a diploma in nutrition from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, who were discovered to award similar diplomas to anyone who sent them a checque that didn’t bounce.) McKeith quite reasonably counseled the poor devils featured on her programme to eat less crapola and more foods that probably all of us would regard as Healthful-‘n’-Nutritious. My fav(u)rite part was what I came to call The Sniffin’ o' the Poo. It was McKeith’s view that the…how can I put this with maximum delicacy…excrement of crapola-eaters is more malodorous than that of better-informed diners. I’m sure I wouldn’t know, and equally sure I have no great yearning to find out.
During my wife’s stay, I drank a great deal of prune juice, 99 cents per bottle from the 99 Cents Only store. Mostly, my, eliminative system just snickered at me. But then, spiteful little bastard that it is, it decided at the very worst time – when else! — to remind me to be careful about that for which I wished. We were driving through my old Malibu stomping grounds at the moment of its capitulation, speaking vaguely about stopping for lunch. At the sight of a Subway sandwich shop, I made a very sharp left turn, parked, and virtually sprinted in. I tried to sound casual as I asked the cashier, who was busy taking someone’s payment, if they had a restroom. The look on her face suggested that I hadn’t done a great job of sounding casual. Indeed, I think she intuited that if she hadn’t handed over the requisite key, I might have tried to strangle her.
Blessed, blessed relief, though it came at the price of using a public toilet, something with which I’m enormously uncomfortable. (I’m also pretty iffy, if you must know, about anal intercourse.) My blessed relief lasted well over an hour, after which I resumed feeling as though I might explode at any second. And so the day went. I realize now that it could have been much worse. I could have had a hemorrhoid the size of an infant’s head. The one I, incurred, a week later, the one on which I’m sitting as I write this.
Things got back to normal when I regained exclusive use of my bathroom. For around 16 hours, after which my eliminative system shut down again, for reasons it made no attempt to explain. Some people live and learn. I just live. I ate a lot of fruit. It got worse. I went to the local CVS and bought their version of Metamucil. My eliminative system got a real kick out of that. “As if!” it giggled.
My hemorrhoid hurts.
A quick Bing (Safari seems to believe that Google and I are no longer an item) reveals that there are some extremely graphic photos of hemorhoids on line. You will note that I have reproduced none here. You’re welcome.
Pray for me.