Months ago at dinner with my boyfriend’s family, someone offered me garlic bread.
“No thank you,” I said. “It will make me sick.”
Across the dining room table, my boyfriend clamped his lips together and ripped a loud fake fart. Everyone laughed. Including me.
I have to laugh at my IBS. If I don’t laugh, I’ll start crying. I haven’t had a slice of pizza in three years. Ice cream? Almost two. I can’t digest it. It gets lodged in my gut, ferments and gives me chronic farts that can last as long as two weeks.
Hello everybody. Here I am. Farty Girl. Nice to meet you.
“Everybody farts,” said my dad, when I first told him about my, ahem, problems.
“These are not regular farts,” I replied.
These were burning, painful farts. They demanded to be released into the environment, and when they were, they clung to the air. As oppressive as they were persistent, they chained me to my house, my bed, where I lay bloated and lethargic. There the pungent clouds wrapped around me; I felt like I was bathing in a sewage treatment plant. Eventually, my boyfriend started sleeping on the couch.
I know what you’re thinking: Oh no, she didn’t fart in front of her man!
Yes. I did. I had no choice. They hurt that bad.
It all started when I got hired to teach at this private college outside of Boston. The school offered profs free cafeteria meals. Kick ass! I thought, and loaded my plate. An hour later, I looked pregnant. Not from the amount of food, but from the amount of gas it expelled in my guts. All day, I dropped bombs across campus. I perfected my trademark “fart-and-run” that kept me as comfortable as I could be. Still, it took a few weeks for me to realize that something wasn’t quite right; that these were not normal farts.
Three years later, I found a diet that left me fart-free. The Caveman diet. High fiber. Mostly vegan. I allow myself honey and yogurt, which are good for digestion, but no other animal products. I eat only whole grains. Bread is a treat. I don’t eat any refined sugar or high fats. I don’t eat any artificial flavors, additives or preservatives; I even try to stay away from products made with natural flavor. I can’t have any hardcore spices, and for some reason, Triscuits.
The diet works because it’s all high fiber. The food moves through me quick. Nothing sticks. Nothing ferments. Nothing farts. Plus, fiber is a natural scrub brush for the guts. So if I screw up and eat a small slice of birthday cake at a party, it’s easily scrubbed away by the next day.
Friends and family groan when I run down the short list of permissible foods. They say, “How can you live?”
I laugh, tallying up how long it’s been since I’ve had “real food.” I can’t believe it either.
But I’m human. Sometimes I mess up. Brownies. Bagels. Philly pretzels. Christmas cookies. The consequences of a tiny slip range from minor to extreme, and there’s no way for me to tell which way it’s going to go. I can expel a single, soft, silent-but-deadly, and be done with it. Or I can endure two weeks of never-ending ass bombs.
Ultimately, there’s no way to know what’s going to happen. Every day is a challenge, but I don’t mind trying to figure out the puzzle that’s my digestive system. What I do mind is the social stigma placed on farting. It’s helped make careers for comedians like Leslie Neilsen, Mike Myers, and Howard Stern. Guys do it and it’s funny. Girls do it and it’s gross. Even I think that it’s gross. I don’t advertise it. Close friends and family know about it, because they tried to help me figure it out at the beginning. But I don’t plan on telling future friends, boyfriends, boyfriends’ families. I don’t plan on ever releasing my identity onto this site. I mean, is there anything more unattractive than a girl who farts?
A girl who farts and can’t laugh about it.