A Porch to Pee On

The pissing contest in Washington has left me with a particularly pointed case of penis envy.  Now, I’ve never actually wanted a penis, per se.  Women learn early on that those appendages are readily available for loan should one ever be needed.

pissing 2
Mine is Bigger

What I envy about the penis is its peeing power – the ability to take a brazen stand and relieve oneself of pent-up frustration or this morning’s coffee.   It is, I suppose, the essence of proud potent masculinity:  Here I am, me! Lifting my leg at every fire hydrant I pass to piss, me! Marking my territory, me! Spouting off at length, me! Proclaiming my presence, me!  Here I am, and how much don’t you like it?

Women cannot make these sorts of bold physical statements (although giving birth might arguably qualify).  When, barefoot, I step into puddles by the toilet, I rage at the three males I live with.  I pee in pantomime to demonstrate that I am not the one to blame: I squat down and waddle about, pretending to lift my skirt, clearly illustrating the difficulty I’d have in actively trying to water the floor.

They roll their eyes at these histrionics.  They shrug their shoulders and deny all responsibility.  The implication is that no male anywhere ever dribbled on any bathroom floor, and that I am coarse and vulgar and insensitive to even suggest such a thing. Since they never noticed these puddles, they deny their existence. They hint that perhaps Girlfriend of Son #1 is to blame.

Pee on this porch
…. but there was no room at the inn.

So.  You see the cabin to the right, right at the bottom of this icy hill?  When next you find yourself in northern Colorado heading toward the Wyoming border, I want you to look for this cabin and stop to pee on its porch.  This includes you women.  Have lots of coffee or beer first, in order to make a real political statement.  I plan to go back there myself and do so, at least once, but have decided it might be more fun without six inches of fresh snow.  Perhaps we might make a mountain festival out of this.

You’ll have heard a lot about Colorado’s close-knit mountain communities in the wake of last month’s flooding – how those people were all there for each other and took care of each other and went to extraordinary lengths to be kind and to accommodate strangers.  Such stories renew my hope in humanity.  Such stories offset the ones about Syrian snipers deciding that Tuesday is “shoot pregnant women” day — this, per a surgeon who volunteers his services in war zones.  This doctor says that the first injury carted into his hospital every morning indicates what the Wound of the Day will be – groins?  left chests?  gravid bellies?  He says the snipers get bored, and so up the ante of their daily game with very specific target practice.

I had a dinner party debate just lately with someone who claims that humanity has improved since it first managed to lift its knuckles off the ground.  He maintains that intellect and grace and civilized manners and education are prevailing, and that we as a species are evolving into higher-minded creatures.  The others at the table nod sagely – they’re all affiliated with the local university in one way or another, and are people who deal and dwell with ideas and ideals.  They do not deal and dwell with prosaic puddles of pee on the floor by the toilet.  Things beneath their feet are beneath their contempt.

Me?  I snort my soup.  I can’t keep my mouth shut (this will shock you).

No, you can't use the bathroom.
No, you can’t use the bathroom.

Every day, I wake up filled with innate optimism and hope.  And I keep that white plume handy – it’s only slightly singed by the fact that the world is a smoldering hellish mess, burning with hate and atrocity and cruelty and ignorance.  Dante really didn’t have to look too far for his model of the Inferno – he lived in it, as we all do. His was no grand and glorious feat of the intellectual imagination.  He just reported the facts, m’am.

I don’t quite dare tell all the English professor types at the table that I think Dante is an over-rated gossip.  And I don’t quite dare reveal my naked self (even in candlelight) as a cynical skeptic (although I prefer “clear-eyed realist”).  The snorted soup made its own statement;  I have no need to elaborate.   We head into dessert replete with satisfaction at the thought of humanity’s progressive climb through hell, beyond purgatory, and into the Paradisio.

Sometimes, paradise as I imagine it looks like a bathroom.  It certainly did last Friday, when the company I work for decided to hold a Departmental Team Building Retreat at a remote mountain cabin.  This retreat coincided with the first snow of the season.  This snow meant that a winding trip of an hour and a half wound up taking four hours for the five of us traveling together.  This snow meant repeatedly digging our vehicle out of ditches and pushing it up switchbacks covered in ice.  This snow meant long delays by narrow mountain roadsides, waiting for other vehicles to get towed into or out of the road so that we could have our own shot at the culvert.

"We're Off to See the Wizard"
“We’re Off to See the Wizard”

Here we are, early in the trip during one such delay, trying our best to maintain cheerful dispositions and a degree of contagious enthusiasm.  This is hard to do, since we are freezing our asses off with no certainty of ever being able to move anywhere.  This is hard to do, since the folks who organized the retreat are already safely ensconced at the cozy cabin, relaxing by the fire and sipping hot chocolate (they let this slip during a moment of sporadic cell phone access).  This is hard to do, since in addition to being hopelessly stuck we are also hopelessly lost.

Here we are, early in the trip, unable to back up the ice-glazed hill and unwilling to go any farther down it, since beyond the corner and up the next hill a bunch of vehicles are stuck off the road.  We wait.  And wait.  And wait.  All the coffee we drank early on to gird our loins for this whole madcap adventure becomes a pressing problem.  The men excuse themselves from felicity and find trees upon which to relieve themselves.  My colleague Rita Johnson and I decide to head down the hill and throw ourselves at the mercy of whoever owns the cabin there.  We decide to risk falling on the ice — risk, in other words, immediate, total and public loss of bladder control.  We bond over the prospect of peeing – either happily, in that cabin on the horizon, or unhappily, horizontal in the wet snow.  This is team building at its best.

Peace to All Who Enter Here
Peace to All Who Enter Here

We engage our pelvic floor muscles and manfully make our way down the road, arriving with a great deal of relief at a friendly-looking porch.  A warm WELCOME! sign hangs there, beside an old-fashioned dinner bell.  We knock politely, not wanting to spoil the serenity of the scene by clanging the bell.  No-one answers the knock.  We clang the bell; we are not serene.  No-one answers the bell.  We walk around the corner of the house, looking for another entrance or perhaps a private tree.  There is nothing.  Turning back, we find a woman standing on the porch, arms crossed, scowling.

Undeterred and desperate, we explain our plight and ask if we might use her bathroom.  We do not look like terrorists.  We do not look like vacuum cleaner salesmen.  Our fellow female rolls her eyes and snorts and throws her head back.  We stand there.  She uncrosses her arms, raises them in disbelief and says, “I have a Day Sleeper in here.”  She rolls her eyes again, and sighs heavily.  As one — we are a team! — Rita and I turn on our heels and stride purposefully away, if women with overfull bladders can ever be said to stride.

Too Little, Too Late
. . . and the Day Sleeper
you rode in on

The witch on the porch then starts screaming at us. “Where are you going?  I don’t BELIEVE this!  I SAID you could come in.  What are you doing?  Get BACK here!  I don’t believe this!  I TOLD you you could come in.”

She did like hell.  She screams at us all the way down the driveway.  She’s probably still screaming.  And what of her Day Sleeper?

I don’t ask for much – just for the occasional offhand kindness.  I know it’s unrealistic to expect Syrian snipers to abandon their guns and take up social work.   The Taliban is not going to abandon its guns and start teaching girls to read.  The Klu Klux Klan is not going to abandon its guns (or its Obama toilet paper) and rally to celebrate diversity.  The Tea Party is not going to abandon its guns, either, even after shooting itself in the foot.

I don’t expect miracles.  But surely it’s not beyond our  Neanderthal nature to wave our white plumes, to care for each other in seemingly small ways,  and to practice the Golden Rule instead of just preaching it.

You see this porch, though, you pee on it.  That’s my other Golden Rule.

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Oh, Sweet Buttermilk Jesus!

Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 is still with us, despite apparent depression, fin-rot and neglect.  I felt sorry for him this weekend and (once again) changed his water.  He sits in my living room, after all – bad Feng Shui to have the slow-motion death of an ailing fish on display.

I just turned 55, and am feeling a bit of depression, fin rot and neglect myself.  Is my bowl half full or half empty?  How shall I part the waters of my attitude?  To my right,  “All right! I probably have 20 more good swimming years!”   To my left, “All that’s left is probably 20 more good swimming years.”

one fish two fishYou’ll notice that I’m ever leaning to the left, although Husband would say (if I were out of earshot) that I always have to be Right.   But here’s the thing:  I usually am.  I don’t crow aloud about this, mind you – I crave outside approval far too much for that.  I just wait, biting my tongue until it bleeds, until the time comes when I might say, “See?  I told you so!”  Then I bite my tongue even harder and leave that unsaid, too, so that I can roll my eyes in secret smug superior self-satisfaction.

I am at least not blind to my faults.

I fear that Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 is blind now, though.  He guesses and gulps at where his food might be – even when the water in his bowl is clean and clear.  He has become my metaphor for life.  I, too, guess and gulp.  I, too, will one day be at the tender mercies of Girlfriend of Son #1, who in all likelihood will be choosing my nursing home.

Then again, my fledglings might never leave home.  In my declining years, Son #1, Son #2 and Girlfriend of Son #1 might just deposit me down in the basement, where they’ll forget to feed me or change my water.  The pale finless ghost of Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 will then haunt me, saying, as my father is wont to do, “And how much don’t you like it?”

I tend to think we get our heaven and hell right here and now, you see.

"Set out runnin' but I take my time A friend of the devil is a friend of mine"
“Set out runnin’ but I take my time
A friend of the devil
is a friend of mine”

I must, however, disagree with Supreme Court Justice Scalia, who said in a formal interview last week that he believes in the devil – and not as an allegory or a symbol or even an immortal being.  “Yeah, he’s a real person,” said Tony.

This is a man who holds a lifetime position on the highest court in the land. This is a man who deliberates over the details of words and the nuances of words and the intricate involved meanings of words, a man who knows that words stand for far more than themselves.

And this man says that the devil is, yeah, a real person.

I am right about this:  Justice Scalia is bat-shit crazy.  I cannot bite my tongue and wait for this truth to be universally acknowledged.  Is it any wonder that sociopathic outrage is the order of the day in the United States?

When the nuns taught me that Jesus became a real person, I became very troubled.  If Jesus was really a person, that meant that He pooped and peed and farted just like the other people I knew.  How was I to reconcile this dismaying thought with that of a perfect gleaming God?  And what became of His divine poop?  Did Jesus think His shit didn’t stink? (another fine  phrase of my father’s, without the Jesus.  My father has discretion, which I’ve been told I lack).

Remember that I was also taught not to chew the host after receiving it in Holy Communion, since that amounted to masticating God.  The sacred cardboard wafer would adhere like cement to the roof of my mouth, where I was supposed to let it dissolve.  But what then?  The body of Christ goes through my body and winds up in the toilet?  What becomes of the divinity in that humble poop of mine?

Did she jump or was she pushed?
Did she jump or was she pushed?

I wanted very much to believe, and was too afraid to ask such questions. In my younger years, I lacked conviction in the fact that I was Right.  And one never wishes to seem unduly preoccupied with bodily functions – I’ve already mentioned my horror at learning that a guardian angel watched me even in the purported privacy of the privy.  But that’s the crux of the whole thing:  we’re a cross between the sacred and the profane.  We somehow have to come to terms with the fact that while divinity lies within us, coarse hair grows out of our noses and ears.

Or at least starts to when we turn 55 and develop fin rot.

My doctor tells me I am not old – and I’d love to believe her, but she’s bat-shit crazy, too.  I have to find a new doctor.  A letter arrived from her office yesterday, announcing an “exciting change” in the way she chooses to practice medicine.  She’s a general practitioner, “helping people through life from birth to death.”  She has decided to help women by offering instruction in the rhythm method of contraception.  That is all very well and good, since the rhythm method as I understood it meant crossing your fingers and saying, “Oh, what the hell.”  Reliable medical advice should certainly be readily available.

Her words then get judgmental, handed down from a higher court.  She goes on to say that she will no longer discuss, endorse, or prescribe any other form of contraception.  Period.

"Walking in Rhythm  Singin' my song Thinkin' about my baby"
“Walkin’ in Rhythm, Singin’ my song
Thinkin’ about my baby, Tryin’ to move on”

I will bite my tongue.  I will wait until her young Catholic-school daughters come of age, and see what happens.  Perhaps one of them will get pregnant at 17 and have to give up college plans.  Perhaps one of them will have 5 kids and find herself carrying a sixth, when she hasn’t the resources to raise even one.  Perhaps they will grow up believing that sex is dirty and sinful, and spend their lives fighting the devil of their humanity.

New York Magazine:  Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?

Scalia:  You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore. 

New York Magazine:  No.

Scalia:  It’s because he’s smart.

New York Magazine:  So what’s he doing now?

Scalia:  What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way . . . I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.

Oh, sweet buttermilk Jesus!  MIRTH at its most outrageous could not invent something like this.

No doubt the devil grew bored with making pigs run off cliffs.  He’s smart — he realized it’d be a lot more fun to make the people who run the world do so.


Credit for the wonderful turn of phrase “sociopathic outrage” must go to Husband, outraged himself at being furloughed as a non-essential federal employee.  I tell him that he is essential to me.  He snorts.

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