There’s a guideline in improv that suggests it’s useful to avoid sexual and toilet humor early in a show because once you’ve broken those boundaries it’s difficult to go back to jokes that are less taboo. The thought is that you set the audience’s expectations with your first few scenes and you want them to know you don’t need to rely on vulgar jokes to generate laughs.
I try to adhere to this principle on stage and in my writing, but I breached it last week with my post about Toes pooping on the carpet at my parent’s house. So I guess this week I might as well keep the toilet theme going and share another poop story.
This one is about a time that David was out of town (as so many of these stories go) and Toes had an incomplete poop. I noticed it as she was walking away from me in the garage–a little dried turd affixed to her butt.
“Toes!” I exclaimed. “You’ve got a poop on you.”
I didn’t want to handle the situation, but I knew it was my responsibility. I went back into the house and put on latex gloves, grabbed a plastic bag, and wet some paper towels with warm water.
Back in the garage, I moved with caution worried Toes might bite or scratch me. I held her in place with one hand and tried to work the poop free with the wet paper towel in my other hand. She gave me a low growl–one that indicated her displeasure but also seemed to be thanking me for my effort–the old lady knew she needed her butt wiped.
Assisting Toes in this way made me reflect on my own potential for being an old lady and needing this kind of care. Envisioning it scared me in the same way I used to panic in college about having to learn to cook for myself someday. Back then, I would try to keep from hyperventilating by reassuring myself that I could always buy prepared food.
I figured out how to cook pretty much right out of college, and I’ve built up most of the other skills of adulthood since then: budgeting, cleaning, communicating in relationships, taking care of my physical and mental health, etc. Now, at 36, what frightens me is losing these skills. It’s like I’ve hit an inflection point on adulthood–changing from being afraid of never acquiring skills to being afraid of losing what I’ve gained.
In the past, these fears would have easily overwhelmed me. But luckily one of the skills I’ve built up since leaving college is a greater capacity for residing in the present moment. This moment where I am a caregiver helping my cat out of a poopy situation and where I am a writer continuing to lower my reader’s expectations by a heavy reliance on scatological humor. (You’re welcome!)