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On Flatus, 'Kumbaya' Moments and Peace for All Nations

Out of My Head

Posted: March 3, 2008 6:59 p.m.
Updated: May 2, 2008 5:02 a.m.
After decades of nursing, family life and other interpersonal relationships, I have accepted something that many folks remain terribly uncomfortable with.

We all pass gas.

Yes, I'm talking about flatåus, cheese, rippers, putt-putts, chair-air, skunk bait, poofers, barking spiders, and that age-old favorite, farts.

Why is it that so many people are rigidly uncomfortable talking about flatulence, or worse, mortified should they accidentally slip one out amongst company? (Dog and cat bystanders not included.)

Such stigmatizing perceptions make for some of life's most embarrassing moments.

Ah, flatus. It's one of those bodily functions that all creatures with digestive tracts must do - yet we humans happen to be so, um, anal about it.

I once knew a woman who denied she passed gas.


"It's just not something I do," she told me through perfectly outlined lips.

According to her, she could eat everything she wanted (i.e., beans, chili, nuts, broccoli, onions, sugar treats, Middle Eastern food and dairy products) and never suffer any combustible consequences.

Being young and gullible at the time, I actually believed her fume-free status. But a cynical voice deep inside questioned how anyone could - short of some kind of surgically implanted silencer - be able to restrict those emissions.

Despite that inner voice, I was jealous.

My envy of her "I-can-eat-anything-I-want-and-never-gain-a-pound" body and coquettish charm (that turned manly men into pure liquefaction) now took a backseat to her greatest asset of all: The woman didn't break wind!

Over the years (and through others' more credible testimony), however, I have come to understand that her alleged flatus exemption was nothing more than just a bunch of hot air.

* * *

Studies show that every person, on average, passes wind approximately 14 times a day. No one is too good, too pretty, too rich, too smart, or too sexy to be exempt from such nitrogen-based racket.
Gas emissions happen to everyone - including supermodels, leading men, perky cheerleaders, and well-coiffed congressmen's wives.

Oh, I know. It's hard to imagine such colon ejections emanating from the likes Halle Berry or Jessica Alba. (Yet, it's so easy envisioning them snapping out of Rosie O'Donnell and Courtney Love!)
The way people view gas expulsion is very much a cultural thing.

In many Western societies, like ours, "open" flatulence is regarded as appalling and repugnant.
Others, however, find it no more humiliating than coughing or clearing one's throat. It happens. So what?
Often with that latter group, gas is more a source of laughter and camaraderie than it is revulsion. I recently read that in Israel, a "fart friend" is what you call your close pal - you are so comfortable together that either can let one go without fear of being dumped off the other's A-list. Better yet, you both giggle about it. (This acceptance must add a whole new audio experience to the Wailing Wall.)

How wonderful it would be if more people felt such ease and tolerance over bodily functions.

Take away our outer appearances, backgrounds and folkways, and we're all just human beings in the end - a bunch of synapses, sinew, red corpuscles, and bowel fermentations.

* * *

Don't get me wrong, I'm not telling you to rush out and start intentionally passing gas with hopes of making new friends. Although that works for some primates (and fraternity brothers), the bulk of Western society has just not evolved/devolved to that point yet.

Hence, do not stand before City Council, cut a juicy one, and then expect to be taken seriously on land use, possible ethics violations, or transportation concerns. (But should it happen "by accident," who can hold it against you? Remember, "Let he who is free of flatus cast the first stone.")

Nor should you attempt a one-cheek sneak on a first date. (I hear E-Harmony actually has strict regulations against that behavior!)

Nay, such emission-related comfort zones take time to cultivate.

Of course, a good old-fashioned whoopee cushion never hurt in speeding up that familiarizing process.

* * *

Apparently taking in that "fart friend" bonding phenomenon, my subconscious produced an interesting dream the other night.

In it, I saw how intestinal gas could ultimately bring world peace.

There at "Flatulence Summit One," leaders from around the globe - including those at war with one another - gathered together.

Filled with delicious, non-stop, gas-producing international cuisine and plenty of carbonated beverages to wash it all down with, the "He's Not Stinky, He's My Brother" event evoked lots of shared merriment and solidarity.

High from the giddiness (and fumes), one Palestinian ambassador said to his Israeli counterpart, "I love you, man!"

It was like being back in childhood again; passing wind made everyone crack up and feel united - reminiscent of the campfire scene in "Blazing Saddles" except instead of sidearms, the players had access to weapons of mass destruction.

What an inspiring, admittedly unusual, "kumbaya" dream that was. (The image of a chortling, hunched-over George W. Bush holding a lit match to his derriere as he shouted, "Now that's what I call smoking 'em out!" was especially humorous!)

To think that world harmony was made possible through our very own, very natural ... gas.

Maybe it could work! When you get right down to it, conventional forms of diplomacy have been blown off; why not switch to flatus power?

And who knows? There could even be applications here for alternative fuel resources! Heck, if flatus can clear a room, who knows what other energies it can harness?

Diana Sevanian is a freelance writer and Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own opinion and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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