The industrialized West came up with the saying “First World Problems” to remind ourselves that compared to the rest of the global population, and the vast majority of humans who came before, we have far less to gripe about. Yet it is our very comfort and convenience that can tangle us in a higher form of misery. For instance: Anyone would agree that indoor plumbing and private bathrooms are luxuries that feel miraculous in the greater context of the species.
Shitting before you get in the shower? Ah, now that’s elite. It’s like you’re coasting on autopilot, everything smoothly scheduled. Once you’ve wiped and flushed, soap and warm water are there for a thorough wash. You’re lighter, fresher, smelling sweet for whatever comes next.
Scrubbing and rinsing yourself that way, then stepping onto the bathmat to realize your bowels have mobilized for movement… abject horror. It’s a bodily betrayal, the failure of complex systems you cannot directly control. Guts going Joker mode. You’ll have to sit your wet ass on the toilet, still dripping, and lose the satisfaction of squeaky cleanness. Easy come, easy go.
You can try to prevent it. Everyone does. Drink your coffee at a certain time, meditate, establish the rhythms of routine, eat a stable and nutritious diet. Sooner or later, though, the post-shower dump will strike — it could always be the next one you take. This suspense is part of the torment: not a matter of if but when. Long periods of uncertainty that are suddenly punctuated by the crashing awareness of the disaster about to unfold. And you must face it alone.
Any vision of progress that doesn’t include a fix for this is unserious and inadequate. Imagine the number of people afflicted in a given week, thrown off their game for hours to come. Unable to concentrate on what matters because the shame of that woeful shit is following them around. The collective toll of these misfires: incalculable. In fact, they might be what’s holding us back. For now, set aside the missions to Mars. To conquer space, we must first master the colon.
If forced to put a positive spin on after-shower defecation, I have none except the vague relief of solidarity. We’re in this compromised position together — and so we hate it together. While we may withhold complaints from family, friends and colleagues for the sake of politeness, we share the burden anyway. Thank god there remains a subject, however obscene, on which we agree.
Fucking hell. That’s what I deserved for my ounce of optimism. I need another shower.