Friday, September 27, 2013

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The Covered Wagon (Why is my husband so proud of his farts?)

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Alison from Utah asks: "What's the deal with flatulence and why, oh why, does my husband feel he needs do it in enclosed spaces i.e. the car or our bed? Why does he choose to do it when I am the only victim? If he could do it in front of his family, at least I would feel like I could talk to somebody about it, but he WAITS until it's just me. It's like he's saving his whopper gas from lunch until 11:00 at night when we climb into bed together. Then he let's it go and wafts the covers in my face." 

Thank you Alison for submitting your Man Mystery. For the next three posts I will attempt to answer it through essay. 

If you have a Man Mystery you'd like answered through essay, email me at

The Covered Wagon (Why is my husband so proud of his farts?)

Amanda Johnson was my first elementary school crush. We were both seven-years-old and in first grade. She had long blond hair and cute little dimples. She often made eye contact with me, smiled, and then flipped her hair back, casually. She was a sly and subtle fox with a mature understanding of how to make a boy go wild. I thought she was amazing, and so when she asked me about my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunch box, I told her the most interesting thing I knew. A topic that was sure to impress.
“I’ve got a fart in my lunchbox,” I said. “Would you like me to open it? It’s really fresh.” 

            Part of the problem was that a few weeks earlier my older brother showed me that farts could be collected and stored in mason jars. I had several farts stored under my bed at the time, and when friends visited, I was sure to show them my stash. And, not surprisingly, they were always impressed. And, indeed, there was a fart in my lunch box. Along with a peanut butter sandwich, banana, and juice box.
I thought what I said to Amanda was really charming. I thought it was funny and interesting and that she was going to find me entertaining and attractive. But instead, she opened her mouth wide and started to gag.
“You are stupid and gross,” she said.
Then she kicked me in the shin.
I should have learned a valuable lesson that day about how to talk to girls. But I didn’t. In fact, I thought there was something wrong with her. She obviously didn’t understand funny.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Lunch Box: '88

It took years (I was in my late teens before I figured it out) and about a million girls calling me disgusting, gross, or yucky, for me to realize that talking about farts was not a good first line.
It was around my senior year of high school that my priorities changed. When friends asked me what I wanted in a girl I told them she needed to be beautiful, sweet, and charming. That I wanted someone who had the potential to be a great mom and a good wife. But I never gave them the last, secret item on this list. I wanted a girl to talk about farts with. I wanted a girl who was willing break a little wind and then laugh about it. I know, this sounds ridiculous. It makes me sound sick. But I don’t think I am alone in this desire. I think a lot of men want to feel comfortable enough with a woman to fart around them. In fact, the whole process has a name: Breaking the Barrier.  
Mel and I had been dating about five months the first time she cracked one off around me. We were at her apartment, snuggling on the sofa, and watching a movie. A crisp stink slowly, and slyly, drifted into my face.
“Ugh…” I said. “Did you fart?”
Mel let out the smallest little giggle. Then she smiled at me, her index finger touching her bottom lip.
I was a little shocked at first. But once the smell went away, and the awkward quiet that follows the first time your girlfriend passes gas was over, we both had a good laugh.
“So it happened,” I said.
“What?” she asked.
“We finally broke the fart barrier. Our love is finally real.”
I said it sarcastically, and we both laughed and kissed, and went back to snuggling. But sarcastic or not, I did feel a little closer to her after the fact. I felt the bond I once felt with my childhood friends.
Farts have always been a way for me to bond with other boys. Early on, I learned that the best way to make other boys laugh was to make a fart sound with my armpit, or to place my palm to my mouth and blow, or, if the moment was right, to let out a rich genuine fart. The stinkier the better. Before I knew to talk about girls. Before I knew to talk about money, monster trucks, pro-wrestling, or comic books, I talked about farts. They were the topic of my secret conversations. They were mentioned in whispers, between one boy and another, in basements and bedrooms. I took pride in naming my farts: The Old Whistler, The Wet Dog, The Spicy Pig, The Bubble Tornado… At Sunset View Elementary, each clique of boys functioned like a separate discourse community with their own fart codes, phrases, and jokes. Very few of the jokes made sense in the real world, surely a fart couldn’t rocket someone to Uranus, but it didn’t matter. All of it was imaginative, funny, and most importantly, a way to bond. 

Sunset View Elementary: an institution known for fart education
Sadly, when Mel broke the barrier, I think she bit off more than she could chew. About two months into our marriage, I farted while Mel and I were in bed together and then pulled the blanket over her head. As a kid, I called this the Covered Wagon. It was the scourge of sleepovers and Boy Scout camps.
Mel choked, and coughed, and gagged as I laughed and squealed with delight. Once I let the blanket down, she breathed in deeply, like she’d been underwater for a long time, like fresh air is as good as hard cash. Then she looked at me with a scowl that seems to say, Do you have a gallbladder problem? 
Over the years I have described my farts in detail, told her fart jokes, and asked about her farts. Next October, Mel and I will have been married for nine years. Earlier this year, as Mel and I were driving to the store, I made sure the windows were rolled up and the heater was on before I broke wind. Then I raised my open palm and said, “Yeah, buddy.  That was amazing. High five.” But she didn’t give me a high five. She called me disgusting and gave me a look that said, Are you punishing me? I hate you.

And I suppose what I’d been doing with all this fart talk was trying to bond with her like I did with my childhood friends. I wanted to let her in on my secret fart language so we could have secret conversations in dark rooms and basements. I wanted to feel the same level of camaraderie that I felt with other boys. But sadly what my childhood friends found charming and entertaining, Mel found disgusting. Sometimes I look back on my life and realize how much I’ve matured: I tuck in my shirt. I have a good credit score. I don’t speed. I understand the difference between the democratic and republican parties and vote accordingly. But when it comes to farts and jokes and my overall sense of humor, I am as mature as a prepubescent child. 

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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University.