I can't believe it, but I've reached the point in my life where whenever I get together with my girlfriends, the conversation ultimately turns to aging parents and poop.
Not aging parents and their poop. No one wants to talk about that. But our poop. How often we go. The crazy places we've gone. The longest we've ever gone without going.
And it doesn't matter if we've known each other for years or are relatively new friends, like the moms I hang out with at rugby. As soon as we've dispensed with the kid-related conversation -- stuff like "That's quite the shiner Will's got" and "Is practice the usual time on Tuesday?" -- it's on to a group therapy session that starts with our 70- and 80-something year-old parents, none of whom it seems can be convinced to take care of themselves and, pardon the pun, goes from there.
"My dad needs a valve in his heart replaced," I say, "but he keeps putting it off. I can hear him panting every time I call."
"Maybe you caught him fooling around," Coco jokes, adjusting her elephantine umbrella to protect us from the rain.
"Every time?" I laugh. "He's 86!"
"Parents just don't understand that we need them," Becky offers. "That we don't want them to, you know, go."
"Ooh! Are we talking about 'going'?" Jackie asks, popping her baseball cap clad head between me and Coco. "Because that I could do all day!"
"Go, or talk about it?" I ask.
"Both!" they respond. All three of them. At once. And we're off.
Who's had to stop her car and race to the bushes? Who leaves her house half an hour early for everything to make up for the two, sometimes three, pit stops she makes at gas stations and fast food places? Who knows where the restrooms are in every major retailer, outlet mall and restaurant up and down the East Coast? Who -- and this is the craziest thing I've ever heard -- has to take Imodium A-D before hitting happy hour?
"You're telling me there's such a thing as drinking induced diarrhea?"
It's awful, they say. Terrible. Such a pain in the ass.
Are they kidding?
It can take as many as a dozen different over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, gallons of prune juice, and an ocean's worth of water for me to have any kind of quality time with my commode. On top of that, I can wait as long as 10 days between such events. By the time the earth moves, I'm so bloated I can't zip my skirt or hook my bra, I'm reduced to wearing yoga pants and my husband's tee shirts, and, just to add insult to injury, despite all the juice and water and pills and powders, it's still like passing a pine cone.
Now that's a pain in the ass.
You poor thing, they say. You go through that every 10 days?
Sometimes longer, I respond. If I'm traveling.
The three of them back just the teensiest bit away from me. It's Sunday afternoon. We've been in Pittsburgh for a rugby tournament since Friday and I can tell they're wondering just where I am in my Countdown to Pine Cone. Frankly, I'm wondering, too. With all the driving lately -- to practices and matches at far flung locations -- I've lost track. The good news is that I'm not yet sporting my afore-described "constipation couture." The bad news is that I have a five-hour ride home ahead of me, and there's every possibility I'll bloat, writhe in pain, pray to die, and curse myself for not getting the Bed Pan Package for my BMW.
I know, I know. There's no such thing. But there should be, and not just for people like me who can't use public restrooms. To be clear, I can use them to pee. But when it comes to the Passing of the Pine Cone, I learned long ago it's best to do it where no one can hear my moans and screams and sobs. And call security.
Yeah, that was fun.
"You know what I think?" I venture, eager to distract them from wondering how effective Coco's umbrella will be as a shield should my bowels suddenly burst right there on the sidelines. "I think car manufacturers should offer a commode option. I mean, if they can give us auto pilot, why not auto potty?"
"Put it in an SUV and I'm sold," says Becky.
"Minivan for me, please," requests Coco.
"Minivan, car, I don't care. I'm in for a fleet," quips Jackie.
Would you look at that? I launch an imaginary car company and already I've made three sales. I think I'll call and tell my dad. Who knows? Maybe I can even convince him to finally fix that valve.
Or at least be an investor.