If you’ve read my letter to my body you’ll know I find this kind of talk deeply uncomfortable. Yet it has to be said, there is some truth to the phrase apparently written in loo cubicles: There’s nothing so overrated as a bad fuck, nor so underrated as a good shit.
When I was pregnant I was embarrassed because people would know that I had ‘done it’. Dear god. I mean, I was in my 30s. I thought of myself as an emancipated, independent, educated, modern – possibly even bolshy – feminist. Haha. Who was I kidding? It is possible to hold all kinds of contradictory thoughts at the same time. Cognitive dissonance.
My husband had another way of putting it. When just after he left I presented him with the card he’d given me a few weeks earlier on our 20th anniversary, declaring his love and looking forward to one day celebrating our 50th, the couples’ counsellor asked ‘How do you explain this?’ He looked up and shrugged (he did an AWFUL lot of shrugging at that period) and said just one word: ‘Doublethink’.
So I guess I was also guilty of doublethink. I thought absolutely that people should have happy, healthy, uninhibited sex lives. But not me.
Though it pains me to do so, I am going to talk about bodily functions. I have been giving a lot of thought lately to eating, shitting, fucking.
When I was first dating I remember I never wanted to eat with my boyfriend. He might think me a greedy pig. (WTF?!)
When I was dating the man I married, I started cooking. For reasons too particular to mention here, he moved in with me immediately after our first date. (Advice: do not do this.) I suppose I enjoyed playing house. Cooking things he would enjoy. Later this took up far too large a part of my attention and time and resentment. And made me and him far too large, full stop. And I’m ashamed to admit that while he now treats his body as his temple (he met his new squeeze in the gym, and these days nothing but expensive protein from rare breeds crosses his lips) I am home alone being a greedy pig.
We went on holiday together that first summer. I think I may be the only tourist in India who went to a doctor for laxatives. I had become so stressed about the loos as we travelled in less than luxury that I didn’t go at all.
Yet, gradually, during my marriage it dawned on me that I seemed to have had an upset tummy for an unusually long time. I’d tried the Atkins diet; it was very popular around that time. I remembered joking with friends who complained of constipation on the diet that it seemed to be having the opposite effect on me. I don’t know if it was anything to do with Atkins. I do know that the problem persisted for years. It must have done: it started in the house before last, which we sold over 15 years ago. Every so often I did a bit of googling. Once or twice I asked my GP to refer me for tests for IBS or something, but I never followed it up. Not sure why. Lethargy? Embarrassment? Fear?
When my ex first left everything in me seized up. I couldn’t eat, sleep, speak, think. My hair fell out. I lost control of my bladder/bowels/sphincter and my digestion rebelled. Half an hour after swallowing anything I had to rush to the loo for it to squirt out of my bum. I remember a city break with the children spoilt, not just by my wailing on a continuous loop ‘what a shame Daddy isn’t here’, but by needing to be never more than a few minutes from a loo. My kids had to hang around places pretending to want drinks etc while I made a beeline for the ladies. There have been times when I didn’t make it. I can’t be the only person with this problem, but there is a conspiracy of silence. It’s just too mortifying. I turned up late and drenched in wee to a parent evening not long ago. (This is turning into some kind of tourettes of embarrassing admissions: the floodgates have opened. Sorry.)
I did recognize a while back that it was a largely psychological problem. Why else would I be fine until I actually got to the loo, but not able to wait till I’d pulled my pants down? When I was investigated for regularly mixing up my words, and I explained to the doctor that although I was stressed because my husband had just walked out on us, the symptoms had started before, she gently asked: ‘But if he left, maybe there was stress in the marriage before?’ That came as a huge shock. Silly me.
Well, I don’t have a sex life these days. Yet I still maintain that it improved immeasurably the day my ex left. Lots of bad fucks. He was not a good lover. Nor was I. Both too bloody fucked up, and too British to talk about it. He did once say that one of the reasons he married me was that I seemed to enjoy it. But it was downhill from the moment he proposed. Funny, that.
God knows I have a lot of problems still between my ears.
But progress is being made: after I got divorced I enjoyed – for the first time in years and years – a formed stool. A pleasure not to be taken for granted.
So much for this being about my supposed career shift.
Maybe it could be worked up into a story for The Moth?! Title: ‘A Formed Stool’. Haha.