Thursday, July 23, 2009

“Take My Wife…Please”

My dad was a mild-tempered man. He made Jimmy Carter look like a rowdy spitfire.

In fact, I only remember my father snapping or lashing out on the rarest of occasions during my childhood. I remember him getting upset one time when his three monkey children were blowing really big, loud bubbles in their glasses of milk at a Howard Johnson’s. I remember him—we all froze--slapping my brother when he had been breathtakingly disrespectful to my mom. I remember Dad trying not to clonk my brother and sister’s heads together during their constant bickering (*typed the angel child who docily observed from the corner*).

And I remember him pulling the car over to the side of the road one time when his three monkey children started a game of yelling “FART FART FART” as loudly as they could, escalating the game as only a herd of “Holy Chachi, but has anyone in the history of the world ever been as funny as we are?” pre-adolescents could.

With the car idling on the side of the highway, the message we were given was, “We. Do. Not. Use. That. Word. In. This. Family.”

Because Dad’s displays of ire were so rare, they carried force. To this day, not only do I refrain from blowing bubbles in my drinks; I don’t go to Howard Johnson’s or drink milk.

And, for sure: I don’t use that word I’m not allowed to use, even though my dad’s been dead for 6 ½ years (like, what’s he going to do if I mutter the offending word—reconstitute his ashes into bodily form so he can then pull his gravestone over to the side of the cemetery and give me a lecture by a shepherd’s hook holding a basket of plastic geraniums?).

Fortunately, my husband was raised in a home with similar standards of manner. This commonality is largely responsible for the success of our marriage. We chip away at the crossword puzzle, hug each other when Ruth Reichl releases a new memoir, sigh contentedly when we put garlic scapes and kale in our eggs, and are generally, mutually, quietly couth.

When we’re not busy licking each other’s necks.

Truly, though, we don’t use the verboten term (“der fartein”) at our house…to the point that our kids first heard it from a neighbor boy (who also regards Garfield as the epitome of fine humor). Rather, after much casting about for a suitable synonym—it’s not that we want to ignore the realities of the body; we just don’t want to get grounded or lose our telephone privileges—we landed upon the word “toot,” which, frankly, gets waaaaaaaaay too precious waaaaaaay too fast. But in the absence of a better choice, it’s what we use.

All of this is preamble to the household crisis that reared up last night, as Groom and I carried out our nightly ablutions (that’s how the couthies roll; we ablute).

I stood at the sink, scrubbing my teeth, when Groom stepped up next to me, ready to spit. As his presence neared, so did a certain--how you say it in your country?--stank.

“Hey, uh, so did you just toot? Because if you didn’t, then you need a shower,” I noted, sniffing delicately, adjusting my bustle.

Sometimes when you’re brushing your teeth and sniffing delicately and adjusting your bustle all at the same time, you get a little toothpaste up the nostril, which set me to honking and snorting so loudly that I nearly missed Groom’s response of, “I did toot. I don’t need a shower. Oh, and, by the way? It’s time for a new line. You use that one every time. It’s officially old. If you’re going to call me on my reek, you need a new line.”

Not only was I struggling to get toothpaste out of my clogged nostril, now I was struggling to get this latest piece of information into my hollow skull. Whaaa? One of my tried-and-true, patented humor lines (carefully calibrated to a point of understatedness wherein the humor reaches shore gently, almost unheeded) was old? Was this how all the classic Vaudevillians felt when the moving pictures came to town? Suddenly needing to up their game and add a little soft shoe to their seltzer bottle gags?



Reeling, I realized with great rapidity that I lack the “better line” that my audience now demands. Without that hackneyed line in my repertoire, I have no way to convey to my beloved life’s partner—with freshness and originality—that he stinks, and if it’s not a gaseous emission, then he has larger problems.

I've been mulling on it, but all I’ve got so far is,

“Did you toot? Because if you didn’t, then you might need to write a letter to the folks at Right Guard about the fallibility of their product.”

AND

“Did you toot? Because if you didn’t, then you might want to check your knee pits for skunk nuggets.”

AND

“Did you toot? Because if you didn’t, then it’s time for us to get a pitch fork and turn over the compost heap inside your pants.”

AND

“Did you toot? Because if you didn’t, then I think your torso might be caked in dried fecal matter.”


Clearly, I’m hurtin’ here.

HELP.


Whoops. Sorry, Dad. What I mean is:

HELP. Please.

(if you don't, you're a big fart-head)

30 comments:

Jeni said...

Hmmm. Let's see. Rummaging about in my mind of years and years of times when this issue cropped up here and with my ex-husband and three kids who can be quite polite and mannerly in public but at home -well, they're pretty much record holders for the uncouth of the planet!
My ex-husband's pet line would be "What crawled up your ass and died?" My kids though, as a general rule always were true believers in practice makes perfect in the fine art of tooting so there was no such thing as a "silent but deadly" one being passed on to the rest of the family. They still take great pride in seeing how loudly they can do that without having a bit of an accidental presence accompanying said noises! They also enjoy belching -very loudly -entire sentences too! All of this inherited from their father's genes, of course.

secret agent woman said...

I'm going into a Victorian swoon over just being adjacent to this conversation. I got nothin'.

actonbell said...

LOL, funny as usual:) The mention of Howard Johnson's gave me pause (paws, the way I'm typing!), because it brought back a hard to explain memory of how we PezKidz started saying, "Those pooooor people who hafta eat at Howard Johnsons" everytime we passed one. I spent large portions of my early childhood in a car, or at least feel as if I spent large portions of my early childhood in a car, so this is just one of those weird little rituals. And see? You don't go there, anymore.

FART's a bad word? I put a FART cup in Ekim's stocking one Christmas, and we and all of our family got bellyaches laughing over the sounds we were scentlessly making. In fact, just thninking about it is cheering me up:)

F words can be bad, though--it's a pity that the flying fickle finger of fate tagged FART for you. It's a great word!

Shania said...

I would try "Dearest Groomeo, thou countenance has but a faint whiff of a malodorous content. Please but do try to correct this odiferous error with a proper airing out of thoust hindquarters. Or, if thy sneaky passage of deadly scent is not the problem, please repair to the washroom and kindly WARSH YOU STINKIN A$$!

(The teacher in you is just DYIN' to correct that sentence, amiright?)

Patois said...

"He made Jimmy Carter look like a rowdy spitfire." Hilarious! Totally sucked me in right then and there.

I got no good zingers for you. My are all trademarked and are to be used only by me.

Jazz said...

I got nothing for you. I'm uncouth and use fart (sorry for making you read that).

However, Shania's offering seems to fit the bill quite nicely.

Becky Cazares said...

You had me at the "household crisis" that "reared up"! But the rest was funny, too.

Pearl said...

We actually were not allowed to say "shut up".

As for the farting business, all I can think of is my grandpa's old line, sure to follow any "toot": "Humph. Had to kick him out. Wouldn't pay the rent."

Pearl

Bob said...

in my house, there is no need to even ask. unfortunately, we all know the difference between flatus and other malodorous sources.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

One of my kids always does the silent but deadly kind - in church or in the car when all the windows are up.

My mom and dad tell a story of how they came to agree to "fart" in front of each other. After six months of marriage, my dad had gone outstide to check the tires on the car perhaps 150 times--winter weather included. Finally, they agreed it was okay to fart away.

jess said...

Ha ha!!! We were a tooting family too. The F-word was highly frowned upon. In fact, my loving parents nicknamed me Little Toots when, as an infant, I became famous for my, um, gaseous emissions (my father still loves to mime a baby shooting out of his arms as he stands there with a shocked look on his face. Har dee har har, Dad.)

When I was 9 or 10, he painted "Little Toots" on the wall in the midst of a re-papering job to torment me and I still live in fear that the current owners had a good laugh at my expense when they stripped the wallpaper off.

jess said...

I like Shania's idea

Becky Cazares said...

I'm gonna use Pearl's grandfather's! That's a classic! Oh my.

Liam said...

Good lessons need never be forgotten.

Jill said...

Fart is an uncouth word? Really? Here I was being uncouth and not even realizing it.

Reminds me of a period of time in my childhood when my mother decided that my brother and I would not use the word "snot." We were to use "mucous" instead. Heh.

(snot snot snot)

Sue said...

I don't think my dad ever yelled at me. Instead he would lecture me. For hours. until I wanted to die.

Yelling would have been much less affective.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This post brings up unpleasant memories. When I was 11, I attended my first slumber party one week after my appendectomy. The other girls engaged in a rousing game of Fart in which they tried to outdo each other with loudness and smelliness. Little priss that I was, I was offended and refused to play, for which I was thrown in a cold shower. I had actually never heard the word before and didn't know there was one for that particular bodily function. (It could be argued that my mother's cooking was not interesting enough to produce any gas.)

The next day, she asked how the party was and I related the farting game to her. She slapped me for using uncouth language and led me to my father, who spanked me without disturbing my stitches.

It was a vocabulary lesson I'll never forget.

Yo is Me said...

holy CROW, this cracked me up. i didn't want to get out of bed this morning (is it a day that ends in Y?), kept hitting the snooze button. so i rolled over and checked my blogs through my phone.

you GIGGLED me awake.

FART FART FART!!

compost heap in your pants?!!

skunk nuggets??!!

who SAYS that?

i love you.

phd in yogurtry said...

As my hubs likes to ask, "A little cheesy?"

flutter said...

STANK!

geewits said...

Why do you feel compelled to mark the occasion at all? Just curious.

chelle said...

LMAO! You guys are so funny. You need to put a microphone in your bathroom and create a special prepare for bed podcast! hehehehe

Pam said...

Great post and comments! When I was teaching little children,I turned the page of a book I was reading to them, and a picture of two Oriental warriors appeared."Do they fart?" asked one little boy.Trying to appear non-plussed and world-weary, I answered this perplexing question with"Probably - everyone does - you, me, everyone in our families". The little boy earnestly continued "Do they fart with their hands or weapons? It would be fierce farting, farting with sharp swords...". Oh dear.I'm obviously used to the good old Australian intonation of "foighting" when describing battle....oh, and how good is that Grandpa description of not paying the rent, so had to let it go!!!

Lisa (Jonnysmommy) said...

We weren't allowed to say "fart" or "crap" in our house. Not even "snot" was allowed...which is why one time at dinner when Mom said: "Now, whose tissue is this?" And my dad said "Snot mine," we all burst into laughter, only to be hushed by: "Ronnie, what kind of word is that to teach our children?"

Imagine my horror the day my brother (after attending a Christian college) said to my mother: "I don't talk to those kids because they are all assholes," and she shot back, "well, maybe they are all assholes because you are an asshole."

I'm pretty sure that is the first time my mother ever uttered that word because she burst into tears and locked herself in the bathroom.

(By the way, in my family the terms are "passed gas", as if it has passed away somehow, bm'ed for bowel movement, and urinated, not peed. Thank you, very much.)

Lisa (Jonnysmommy) said...

Hey, who removed Geewits sense of humor gland? Dang, girl. :-)

geewits said...

To Lisa:
I have a sense of humor, it just doesn't extend to bodily functions. In all honesty, my husband has never made any smells in my presence in 14 years. If it happened, I might ask, "Are you okay?" but I probably wouldn't say anything. I just seriously wondered why Jocelyn wants to say something at all. It's no big deal, I was honestly curious. Part of the fun of blogging is spying into the lives of people that are not exactly like you, don't you think?

lime said...

did you toot or did something crawl into your rectum and expire?

kmkat said...

The saying around our house -- I have been outnumbered by a husband and two boys, so couthness is pretty rare -- was "the fish are singing." I believe this came about when one of the malefolk farted loudly when he was standing next to the aquarium. So singing fish have been our alibi for the past 15 years or so...

LiteralDan said...

I also come from a house in which "fart" was verboten. Also "sucks", "crap", and on down the line towards The Gutter. This made conversations with friends in elementary school pretty awkward, until I realized that my parents weren't at school.

For whatever reason, though, I still can't usually bring myself to say "fart", and instead struggle for words. We always said "gas" but very often other people, for some reason, had no idea what I was talking about whenever I'd bring that one out.

I need help.

cathy said...

I have just remembered that my father used to encourage us to use the expression "pass a motion" for defecating. It has had a lifelong effect on my opinion of politicians.

As for passing wind might I suggest that you use the polite and impersonal passive voice to express your feelings on the matter. The rest I will leave in your capable hands.