I was a freshman in college in my first serious relationship. Like most first serious relationships the learning curve was steep. Andrew, although he now goes by “Buck,” followed in the tradition of many white, rich boys from the pacific northwest who want to rebel against their parents financial stability and liberal private school education by selling drugs, buying confederate flag belt buckles, and reading James Joyce while loudly telling people they are reading James Joyce. Andrew was the kind of guy who would said things like “I don’ t want to tell you you’re beautiful often because it will like, kind of wear off, you know?” and when I told him I loved him, said, “I know,” and promptly fell back asleep.

He didn’t eat my pussy.


I dated him for a year and a half.

I even bought him a fucking book, a physical, bound book, on how to eat pussy, and instead of taking that as any sort of catalyst for some self reflection or change, it literally was his new favorite thing to show his friends and laugh. Which is a good example of how the male ego works to sustain itself, and also how to be a dumb idiot. I guess I just assumed in all relationships it was normal to be a hole before you were a person. Also his dad died while we were dating, so I guess that was my justification - he won’t make me cum, he clearly doesn’t care about making me cum, but his dad died, so like, it’s normal, it’s okay, he’s just hurting!!! I guess you can only eat pussy if you have two parents or something.

If all these red flags weren’t enough, the biggest one was that I couldn’t poop in front of him. If you are so uncomfortable being yourself in your relationship that you can’t take a shit, you have got to get out.

Andrew also loved going on road trips - open air, the mountains, a stick shift car I didn’t know how to drive so he could fulfill his male power fantasy of control, and of course  his mom’s credit card fueling the gas refills.  At the end of my freshman year, he asked me if I wanted to drive with him back to Seattle from New Orleans.

Meanwhile, I hated camping and road trips, but I said yes because, I mean, his Dad died.

As soon as I had agreed to go, my thoughts turned to my shit. How was I going to take a shit on this road trip? We had gone one smaller ones before, and I also never took a shit. But this road trip was going to be 9 or 10 days. 9 or 10 days without potentially taking a shit. 

I told myself, this road trip would be different. I would take a shit on this road trip, and my ailing relationship would be rejuvenated and reach new heights.

The weeks leading up to our departure, I was consumed by the thought of pooping. I practiced breathing exercises. I tried to practice by pooping in unconventional places, by which I mean any bathroom outside of the one in my dorm which my body had apparently identified as the only place I could relax enough in to poop. I have one of those bodies that somehow go on high alert anytime I try to poop somewhere other than my “home” bathroom is. It’s as if the second an unfamiliar toilet seat appears, the fecal matter inside my body begins to worm its way upward, instead of down.

7 days into the road trip, I predictably, have yet to take a shit.

I am in pain. I pretend to doze off while Andrew drives, meditating on my GI tract and visualizing, a la the Secret, the shit exiting my body. Every time we stop at a Burger King o ra Subway and I eat, I can feel the semi digested food stacking up on top of each other, and wonder when it will back up all the way to my stomach, then up my esophagus, then through my throat, and finally, my mouth. I imagine opening my mouth to speak and shit literally pouring out of it in the middle of a subway in Wyoming. I would have been grateful for that to happen. I would have said thank you. 

Day 8. There is no relief. We have made it into the beautiful desert of the Southwest, and every time we stop to take a photo next to a saguaro cactus I imagine impaling myself upon their majestic spines to feel at least a second of sweet release from the pressure inside of me before I am taken by death.

Oblivious to my inner turmoil, and to the fact I was too embarrassed to tell Andrew anything was wrong, Andrew continues  ask me if I want to shoot his shotgun at a tree in one of the national parks or to pester me to give him road head. While I longed to impale myself upon the cactus, a penis would not suffice to end my suffering and the thought of a foreign object entering any orifice of my body was truly unimaginable. I refused.

Finally, on day 10, a beacon of hope arrived. We stopped in small town somewhere in Nevada and while Andrew browed through the hunting gear that he had no use for or knowledge on how to use, I slipped away to the pharmacy aisle. Discreetly, I purchased one single pack of “Western Family Brand Laxatives” and took a dose in the parking lot while waiting for andrew to check out. In 8 hours, the exact amount of time that was promised to me via the “Western Family Guarantee,” I would finally poop.

Fifteen minutes back on the road, my stomach starts to move. There is no other word for it. With the poise and skill of a trained assassin, I maneuver my body to release what I hope will be a silent fart - after all, a loud unfeminine fart would definitely impact my compliment allotment from Andrew for the trip, and like, at this point I felt like had at least 2-3 beautifuls left.

I feel something wet. Something, that is, quite unmistakably, shit.

I did not silently fart. I just started to silently shit myself.

Do you want to stop at Arby’s? Andrew asks me, pointing to a sign on the road ahead that reads, "ARBYs, Exit in 1 Mile," and then menacingly underneath in all caps, "LAST REST STOP FOR 100 MILES. "

Yes I want to go to Arby’s. Get me to Arby’s right fucking now, I want to worship at the altar of beef.  Arby’s at this point, is the only thing that will help me hide the fact that I shit myself, and therefore is my savior. I will spend $2,000 on curly fries if we could just pull over into the Arby’s parking lot. SAVE ME, ARBYS.

I feel the shit begin to escape my underwear and trickle slowly down my inner thigh.

Andrew pulled into the Arby’s parking lot. I sprinted to the bathroom, ignoring any attempt to hide how badly I have to go. The thought of trying to disguise my haste or the fact I shit myself did cross my mind, but given Andrew’s total unfamiliarity with female genitalia, he definitely was unable to tell if I had to pee or shed a labia or some other myserious female bathroom activity.

I ripped off my shorts, which were kind of Nike shorts that have built-in underwear. I was also for some reason wearing another pair of regular underwear, an act I can attribute solely to divine intervention.

Squatting over the toilet, I peeled off my underwear, a pair that I had had since middle school that my mom had bought me. They were emblazoned with mid-2000s girl power phrases like “you go girl” and “you’re a star!” and now also, crusted in my shit. I threw them into the trash and cleaned up my asshole-taint-vagina area with poor quality 1 ply toilet paper. As I exited the stall, I looked back to see if I had missed anything. Sticking out from the bathroom garbage, I could just read one last phrase from my underwear - “believe in yourself.”

I walked out and ordered some curly fries.

Clare Austen-Smith