I don’t enjoy “Going” in public. I hate it. Doesn’t everyone? “Going” in public is like having Richard Simmons read your diary aloud at a city council meeting. It’s something you’d prefer to do alone in private.
I’ve spent a lifetime trying to convince people that I don’t do this one thing. Of course, everybody knows that everybody “Goes,” but social convention dictates that we all pretend nobody “Goes.” The most important rule of “Going” is you don’t talk about “Going.” To anyone. This is what separates us from animals.
But in public, the narrative that nobody “Goes” and nobody knows that everybody else “Goes” is forcibly wrested from our clinging grips. The inescapable truth is that when we “Go” in public, people sometimes find out what we’ve done. That’s what’s so irksome to me about “Going” in public: I’m forced to perform no matter what. No matter if there’s a line of women waiting, no matter if someone knocks on the door, no matter if I’m practically brushing shoulders with the girl on the opposite side of a thin partition.
The only people who escape “Going” in public are Homers – people who are too shy to “Go” anywhere but their own homes. These people hold it – through church services, museums, and weekends at the beach – they hold it until they get home. They will go all the way to the grocery store only to drive immediately home once they realize they have to “Go.”
Of course, the grocery store is one of those places where you’ll always have to “Go.” It’s something I just accept. I’ll start thinking I have to “Go” in frozens, and by the time I’ve hit cereal, “Going” is inevitable. Then I’m stuck rushing off to an unfamiliar, unclean room, where someone will knock on a door that doesn’t lock properly, and suddenly I’m onstage. Because that’s the ultimate audience – the one that isn’t going anywhere. The one that has an interest in listening for the flush and the sink and the hand dryer, because it wants to know how much longer you’ll be.
But, as excruciating as that is, I’d rather have an audience of strangers than friends. At least the strangers won’t be sitting across from me at a dinner party someday remembering that time I excused myself from their living room for far too long. It’s just uncomfortable to “Go” among friends. I always feel like I’m still in the middle of the crowd, “Going” amongst the festivities, hearing footsteps and laughter and “is there someone in there” inquired just outside the door.
You can try to cover up your “Going” with the sink or a fan or a few well-placed coughs, but everyone knows. And if they don’t, they will after you try to cover your tracks with an air freshener, because it’ll be a loud-mouthed aerosol can that sprays like a fog horn to alert the entire house that someone has “Gone.” It’s an agonizing business, but it’s just human nature…adult human nature.
When my brother was two years old, he would bolt up from a dinner table and announce shamelessly, to whoever happened to be sitting there, “Gotta poop!” Adults would stare after him, aghast, as he raced gleefully to the toilet. I always wondered why they looked at him like a hero, but now I get it.
Children aren’t held back by constricting social norms. They don’t care about embarrassment or maturity or getting kicked out of someone’s dinner party. They don’t care about lines or audiences or air fresheners or saying the word “poop.” Adults could use more of that freedom. Try to remember that the next time you have to…”Go.”