As my wife was passing me in the living room recently, she informed me, apropos of nothing, “I think I’m coming around to the idea that farts are funny.”
I couldn’t see the look on my face just after this happened because my face is on my face, but I imagine it conveyed confusion, surprise, and a pinch of dismay. This is a woman who went to a finishing school. This is a woman possessed of a well-worn copy of Emily Post’s rules of etiquette (she referenced it so often when we were dating that I was certain she would leave me for a butler). My wife’s sense of propriety is deep and, I thought, unshakeable. It is the bedrock on which we’ve built the foundation of our social habits. Historically, that has meant that poop, farts, butts, pee, and penises stay off the property — verbally, anyway.
Why the about-face on flatulence? It was our 4-year-old, she explained to me. His complete and irrepressible joy upon letting one rip, she said, was impossible to resist. His joy had overcome her reservations (I never really had any). I myself have never heard a more pure laugh than the one that issues from my child prior to his exclaiming, “I tooted!”
I nodded. Then my wife told me something that stopped me in the tracks I would have had if I wasn’t sitting on the couch.
“Sometimes,” she told me. “I fart to get him to stop a tantrum.”
“I mean, I don’t do it every time,” she said. “But if I’m gassy and there’s one right there, I’ll do it. It totally works. He goes from tears to laughter in a second.”
To say that my world had been upended by this information would be an understatement. All I could do was imagine my wife kneeling down in front of our screaming and inconsolable 4-year-old on the time-out step and scrunching up her face in comical effort to push out a booty bomb loud enough for our kid to hear over his weeping.
I laughed for ten minutes. I’m laughing now thinking of it.
Once I’d found my composure and wiped my tears from my eyes, I realized that what my wife had given me was a gift. It was a tool of tantrum disruption that I had never considered and I was determined to give it a try. But for weeks after my wife’s confession, our 4-year-old was a perfect angel, much to my dismay.
I thought about this a lot before I finally had the chance to deploy strategic parental flatulence, which I obviously wanted to do. Then, one blessed night, my son melted down because he couldn’t wear his Spiderman underwear into the bathtub. Time for a methane intervention! I clenched. I focused. I searched my intestines for a bubble. But, I found that I had reverse choked. There was not a honker, ripper, or squeaker to be produced.
Thinking quickly, I turned my head, placed my palm against my lips as I’d learned in grade school and produced the loudest, wettest sounding fart simulation I could. The kid was too busy crying to see it wasn’t the genuine artifact. By the time he looked up, face bursting into a laugh and yelled, “You tooted!” I had hidden my deception.
I feigned shock and embarrassment and then laughed along. Our conflict was forgotten and bathtime went off without a hitch. It was the first time I’d ever been truly grateful for farts. Well, maybe not the first first time, but definitely the first time in any way I’d want to recount publicly.
This technique has continued to work in my favor. I use it all the time. I haven’t altered my diet, but I’m honestly thinking about it. The one thing I haven’t done? Tell my wife that fart simulations work. Will I tell her? Someday. But we have years of Emily Post to make up for before that happens.