Suffering In Your Jocks: An Ode To Shitting Your Pants As An Adult
We may as well laugh at it before it becomes a daily occurrence in our elderly lives.
Words by Ali Schnabel. Header image via.
We’ve all been there. If you say you haven’t, you’re a big fucking liar. You’ve at least been close – lost a bit of control at a really funny joke, gambled with a risky amount of cheese, or bestowed an inappropriate amount of trust in a fart. Most of us will probably come to shit our pants in our adult lives, but it’s not often discussed.
Why are people so afraid to open up and share their stories? There’s generally a lot of understanding out there for the things that are beyond our control (depression, hereditary illness, enjoying the new Bieber album), but pants-shitting does not seem to be one of them. For what may be the funniest example of bodily betrayal and loss of control, there’s not a lot of love out there for these kinds of stories.
Maybe as adults, we like to perpetuate the illusion that we have dominion over these fleshy prisons of ours, and that shitting ourselves is the most embarrassing piece of evidence that we all fall victim to the whims of our neurons at some stage. It’s time to come to terms with it: if you haven’t already shit your pants as an adult, it’s almost certainly going to happen soon.
We may as well laugh at it before it becomes a daily occurrence in our elderly lives.
Despite having borderline Irritable Bowel Syndrome and being lactose intolerant, I never take it easy on cheese, or chocolate, or ice cream, or basically every other lactose-based product apart from milk (I have learned not to mess with that one). This blatant disregard for dietary requirements was especially true in my third year at Uni, where I ate with reckless abandon to quell the anxiety brewing in my guts. Due to a large amount of stress and my body being out of sorts after coming down from Depo Provera injections, my reactions to lactose were particularly bad.
On that fateful day, like most mornings on the way to Uni in 2012, I pulled into McDonalds and got a McMuffin for breakfast. I requested Sausage and Egg sans cheese. I noticed the cheese once I got back onto the main road. Already a few minutes behind and with a history of dietary recklessness, I wolfed down the muffin anyway. I sped to Uni and parked with around ten minutes to go. As I was walking to class, my guts churned painfully and very, very loudly. It sounded like the start of a very loud and very satisfying fart. I looked around a few times – I was all alone. Gearing myself for what I believed to be an impending sensation of (dry) release, I tensed the necessary muscles and let loose. Immediately, things felt wrong. But because I was wearing tight jeans, it was hard to be sure of how wrong. I stood for a moment, considering my options. I could assume the worst, go home and miss out on my fourth class for the semester (risking failure), or I could go and evaluate the damage. Ever the loose unit, I kept on my path and made for the toilets.
You know that movie trope where a character gets hit by a bullet, and they pull back the clothing to examine the gory damage while wincing? Imagine that, but with poop, skinny black jeans and boy leg underwear instead. It was grisly to say the least. I was able to clean up quite well, and chucked my undies in the sanitary bin. I decided that I was fine to go to class.
Now I’m not the type of person to tell anybody how to live their life, but I think that a good hard and fast rule that can apply to literally every person on the planet is: if you shit your pants, go home. Your day is ruined and completely done for. You need to go sit on the shower floor and cry a little. Don’t gamble with this, guys. Even if you risk failing and not being able to get into Honours and work at JB Hi-Fi for the rest of your days, it’s just not worth it. If for nothing else, it is impossible to concentrate on any task when you think that there might be some residual shit in your pants. It might be one of those ‘nobody-else-but-you-can-notice’ type situations, but that’s bad enough.
Now, when this first happened, my sense of self was too underdeveloped to embrace what had happened to me. I still believed that no other adult had ever shat their pants; somehow I was the only one. Like most things, it’s hard to cope if you feel alone in your experience. You need friends to hold your hand and laugh with you as you regain control over your bowel-based shame. I had never told anybody about the time I shat myself at school and had to stew in the remains until a year ago. As most of these conversations go, it was at four in the morning at someone else’s house when I asked my friend, in hushed tones, had he ever shat his pants past the age of thirteen? Oh, he had:
In 2012, Barry* had his first day at Bunnings Warehouse. By now, he had learned that just one glass of apple juice would send him running to the toilet, more or less propelled by a powerful stream of liquid poop. So each morning he would enjoy a glass of orange juice with his breakfast cig. But on this day, he came to a terrible crossroads: there was only apple juice. For reasons still unknown to him today, he just needed a glass of cold juice with his morning cig, otherwise everything would be off for the rest of the day. So, on this, the day of his first shift at Bunnings, he gambled.
Suffice to say, it did not pay off. Not an hour into his shift and Barry shit his pants. Simple enough – he went to the toilet, sorted himself out, crammed his soiled undies behind the s-bend (as you do) and returned to work. But then – a fart. Thankfully, not the bad kind, but way too close for comfort. Barry knew the ordeal wasn’t over yet. He approached the manager and told them that he needed to go home. “Go home? You’ve only been here for an hour, mate. What could you possibly need to go home for on your first day?” Barry told them he was feeling very unwell and needed to leave. “You don’t look very sick.” Barry begged and pleaded with the manager to please understand, to let him go. “Sorry mate, but unless you can come up with a good reason, I can’t just let you go home on your first shift like this.” Barry was sweating. He could feel another attack brewing. “I shat my pants, alright?” The manager did a double-take. “Fuck off. No you didn’t.” Barry replied that, he did indeed, and was at risk of it happening again. The manager’s nose crinkled and he turned his lip upward in disgust. “Jesus, mate. Get out of here.” Barry shat himself again on the way home, but was allowed to return to work the next day.
He was fired from Bunnings two and a half years later for reasons not related to shitting your pants.
STRAWBERRY FIELDS WILL STAY WITH YOU FOREVER
Strawberry Fields 2013 was a filthy affair. Of course, there’s the usual camping festival grottiness to be dealt with: black snot, dirt everywhere, etc. – and yes, there’s a level of filth in the toilets that you must deal with, but the toilets at this particular festival were just fucked; MD-shits are to be expected, but actual poop smeared on the walls, piss all over everything, gas demons moaning as they escaped the vents...
Despite the filth going into my body, I absolutely refused to relinquish my poop into those toilets. I couldn’t find a seat without shit on it, let alone one I could sit on long enough without vomiting all over myself. So I held in my faecal matter like a toddler experiencing conflict in the anal stage of psychosexual development. By the third morning, as the haze of the three day bender started to clear, I made my morning sojourn to squat-piss in some nearby trees. The issue with this particular festival location was that it was an open plain with very little cover, and the bounds beyond were barricaded with wire that I didn’t trust my jelly legs to jump. I opted for a risky piss at a tree near a few tents: based on the fact that the sun had just come up and I could hear Inspector Norse playing from the main stage, I figured that everybody who was still up was likely to be having more fun than me, far far away.
I pulled down my dirt-caked jeans and bent over, but nearby rustling in a tent signalled that things were about to get really bad. My precious little bowels didn’t enjoy the surprise revelation that people were close and could potentially walk out on us at any moment. This anxiety, combined with the bodily stress of not pooping for three days, resulted in an awful turn of events: my bowels relinquished their hold just as I made a move to straighten up and zip up my pants. This was not your traditional shit-in-pants tragedy; this was a shit-on-pants-and-all-back-of-legs tragedy. Three days of addled poop everywhere. It was bad – real bad.
The rustling got louder and more intense as I did what I could with the eight squares of 1 ply paper I’d nicked from my friend. It wasn’t enough. As I heard a tent unzip from somewhere, I leaped back into my shitty pants while bolting away from the scene of the crime. While my friends slept or partied elsewhere, I dacked myself and, sniffling, poured a bottle of water down the back of my legs while the brilliant Aussie sunrise illuminated the glowing bushland around me.
CLEAN UP IN THE TRAUMA WARD
Obviously we’ve all shit ourselves a little bit in the club/at a festival (right, guys?!) but the worst time to shit one’s self is not when everybody else is too loose to notice, but in a situation wherein you could experience some very serious professional repercussions and suddenly, the squishy feelings in your pants becomes very serious indeed. In approaching friends for their stories, I asked for the bare details with the hopes of rewriting them into something more coherent. But Sacha’s* story was too good to be edited:
“It happened in 2013. I was working in Wyong Hospital and normally wore professional work clothing: button-up shirt, tie, well-pressed pants, Florsheims. Earlier that week I had tried to replicate my mother's chicken soup which I dearly love. Well, my effort was serviceable. I ate it and stored it in the fridge, not the freezer; had the soup for dinner once more. The following morning my gut was killing me. I find myself in a 50 metre hallway, walking, when I feel a particularly vigorous rumble. Then it comes. Warm and watery shit - into my pants as my walk becomes a waddle.
I'm so fortunate that no one was behind me. I assume this because I didn't dare look. It was so much, and so wet. It was trickling down my pant legs. Luckily for me, I could change into scrubs. Unfortunately, the surgical change rooms were another 200m away. Wyong is a small but looong hospital. I waddled all the way there and am still not sure if anyone was behind me, watching me and my tainted trousers. I know there had to be. It was a hospital at midday. Anyhow, I finally changed into my scrubs, found a plastic bag and dumped my shitty clothes in it. My colleagues couldn't figure out why the hell I was in scrubs for half the day seeing as nothing we were doing was remotely surgical. I threw that fucking soup away when I got home and haven't attempted making it since.”
For every person (and I’m sorry that I couldn’t include all of your wonderful stories) I spoke to who shat themselves, and for the grotty trip down memory lane that I personally embarked upon, I’ve learned a lot. It’s so easy to catastrophise when we find ourselves in a less than positive situation, like when you shit your pants past the age of 12. But what I’ve learned is that it rarely results in anything worse than some internal shame and a really funny story.
For myself, I had no repercussions: I made friends in Honours year who never knew that I had shat myself at school, and now have a good story for why I don’t go to camping festivals anymore. In all of the stories, there were barely any tangible negative consequences: even for a friend who shat themselves on the side of the road after being refused service of alcohol in Aldi after attending a friend’s funeral (because they were wasted and hysterical in the store), he was eventually able to ditch his shitty trackies, obtain some more beer, and have a good night. Even the girlfriend who shat her boyfriend’s bed after some bad Subway made it to the other side, and they’re still together to this day.
Yes, it is quite unpleasant when you shit your pants as an adult. It’s probably okay to have a cry and sulk about it for a few hours. But in an ideal world, we would be able to acknowledge that it’s happened to a lot of people before, and that every story is hilarious – because there’s just never a good moment to poo yourself. If I could tell teenage Ali one thing, it would be to reassure her that, yes, one day she will shit herself, but it will be funny, and that she could use her stories to empower others to accept the humour in their own experiences (of pooping themselves).
So go forth, and spread the good word: let ‘er rip.
* not their real names. Pussies.