Culture and Excrement - September 11, 2012

I recently saw a picture of a Japanese woman holding an empty juice bottle out, so her young son could pee in it, while they were out in public.  The picture was bunched together with several others, all involving parents who should be tracked by CPS: a dad pretending his kid is doing a keg stand, a baby sleeping with a penis drawn on the side of it’s face, a toddler wrapped in a boa constrictor and a preschooler with a butterfly, tramp stamp (temporary, I hope).  The kind of pictures you feel guilty for laughing at.  They’re posted for their shock factor and they are all absurd, but it’s hard to look away.


The picture of the bottle-peeing boy was taken in Japan, which sparked me to think about cultural differences and what really is considered right or wrong with respect to public displays.  In Japan, maybe it’s an oversight to whip out a bottle and let your kid empty their bladder.  None of the onlookers in the picture appeared the least bit distracted by the incident and it’s a time saver, I guess.  In America, most parents would be staring in shock, whispering and displaying dumbfounded looks of disapproval.


Being first-generation American, I have been given the opportunity (not by choice, of course) to see both sides of the cultural barrier.  In fact, I’ve been victimized by it, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to appreciate cultural differences, as well as similarities and forgive my parents for embarrassing the heck out of me.  After all, they were doing what made sense to them, not catering to the culture of their current residence.


When I was around 8, we took a tour of the Grand Canyon.  It’s definitely a glorious wonder of the world, but my memory of it is overshadowed by an incident where I had to poop and the porta potty was, well…words cannot describe it enough.  I’m pretty sure the porta potty company forgot they dropped this one off because it was disgusting.  The contents looked like they hadn’t been emptied in a decade and the smell probably would have broken through a Vicks Vapor Rub barrier.  Keep in mind, there was no sanitizer or Clorox wipes to make these situations manageable back then.


Instead of jump in the car and head to the nearest gas station or restaurant, my mother took me to the side of the canyon, only blocked by a few trees, to pop a squat and poop.  This was not off the beaten track or away from human traffic.  This was smack dab in the middle, where other tourists were walking around to catch a view of the canyon and catch a view of my bum.  Remember, no one was worried about pedophiles back then.


During our visits to India when I was a kid, you would pee right out in the open, out in nature, passersby, monkeys and even oxen the frequent audience for the performance.  To my mom, there was nothing unnatural about finishing up my business while others took in the sites. I, personally, was mortified.  I guess I was too embarrassed to go, because my body just wasn’t responding.  I just couldn’t follow through.


My mother, angry and fed up, finally let me use the disgusting porta potty.  When I got back into the car, I felt a trickle of what I hoped was water, slide down the middle of my lower back.  I can only hope, but I’m pretty sure it found my skin from inside the porta potty.


The moral of the story here is to make sure your kid poops before you leave and if that’s impossible then drive, drive and drive some more, until you can find some place that is a little less traumatizing for them to let it out.


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