Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Jan 03, 2012

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

Take today's polls:
- Secrets poll (males | females)
- Humor poll

About this chat:
At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out.

Good afternoon.


Today's polls:
- Secrets poll (males | females)
- Humor poll


I fully expect today’s introduction to win The 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

We shall be publishing original research on a fascinating issue of human physiology  never before subjected to the rigor of  intellectual scrutiny.   If there has been a purpose to my life, I think, it is to have developed the unusual matrix of interests and abilities – biology, writing, colorectal curiosity  –  to bring me to this place at this time, with the scientific and narrative skills sufficient to do what I am about to do, and the public forum in which to do it.   You are most welcome.

Several months ago, in a poll, a majority of you said you were familiar with a certain  biological phenomenon:  That under duress, the human body seems to have the ability to suppress the urge to poop until bathroom facilities become available, but that in the final moments, perversely, the urge becomes intense and almost overwhelming; further, that this curious phenomenon is almost infinitely elastic however long the required delay has been -- but that whatever the time period, the corresponding last-minute drama is equally intense.    This all  implies either a complicated nexus between bodily functions and the subconscious mind, or --and I make no claims here, but am only noting alternative possibilities --  the very existence of God who is REALLY intimately involved with our lives.  

My curiosity about this general subject was recently piqued after seeing this great Conan O’Brien segment, in which comedian Nick Kroll discussed the time he pooped his pants.   The entire thing is a scream, largely for Kroll's thoroughly revolting yet hilarious comparison of this process to childbirth (“my butt baby”) but also because Kroll thus became the SECOND beloved American humorist to publically address the late-urgency phenomenon we are explaining here.  

My initial search of medical databases was fruitless; no one seemed to have scientifically addressed this issue.  (Must serious inquiry ALWAYS fall to the comedians?) And so I turned, as I so often do, Dr. Bruce Orkin, my go-to guy in matters of this nature.   Those of you who follow my oeuvre may recall that Dr. Orkin got a  half-chapter in “The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life.  And Death,” a section devoted to a description of various items surgically removed by Dr. Bruce Orkin from embarrassed persons’ rectums.  These included a nine-inch railroad spike, a rubber penis the dimensions of a meatball sub, two light bulbs, and bottle of underarm deodorant.     My point is, in terms of rectums, Dr. Orkin is a stud. 

But when I called him, Dr. Orkin could not explain the delayed-poop-urgency phenomenon.   He was familiar with it, of course, and even coined a term for it, right on the spot: “The Almost-Home Phenomenon.”   But he didn’t know what caused it.  

Dr. Orkin, however, did what doctors do best:  He gave me a referral, specifically to Georgia physician Satish Rao, who is president of the Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society of America.   Yes, to be precise, Dr. Satish Rao is greatest living American expert in the field of how poop moves through the body.   Experts come to him for advice on how to fix their patients’ poo motility problems.   That is the man I telephoned on Saturday for you, the Chatological Humor connoisseur, as well as for the Nobel prize committee.

We talked for a long time. Dr. Rao confirmed that there is no literature specifically addressing this subject because, shockingly, no one has ever studied it.  The closest thing was a study about ten years ago in Sweden (note local connection, Nobel Prize people) in which medical students were asked to eat normally and maintain a “stool diary,” and were paid in amounts directly proportional to the length of time they could postpone pooping through willpower alone.  With this incentive, some managed to constipate themselves for more than a week, proving a clear mind-body ability to affect motility.   But that’s as far as the study went.  The idiots took no note of poop urgency. 

Together, however, Dr. Rao and I applied our knowledge and talents to this subject and came up with an answer to the Almost-Home Phenomenon.  It is not 100 percent conclusive, but it’s as close as Science has come.     With Dr. Rao’s explanation, some additional research, and my uncanny Pulitzer prizewinning ability to analyze, synthesize, and explain the complex to simple, primitive organisms such as you, here we go:

There are two types of nervous systems in the human body.  The autonomic system controls actions of which we are not consciously aware, such as our heartbeats and movement of food through most of the alimentary canal.  The voluntary system  controls deliberate ry muscular action, such as walking, talking, and whatnot.  There are very few places in the body where these two systems must try to coexist.   One of these is breathing:  We breathe automatically, but we can also regulate our breathing ourselves.  Another area of collision is at the very end of the alimentary canal: The rectum. 

We have no conscious control over most of our alimentary canal – it has no sensory nerve fibers, for example, which is why a doc can snip off a polyp during a colonoscopy without your going through the roof.   Most of the digesting food is propelled through this system via three to eight daily contractive, peristaltic  waves that sweep through it every day.  We don’t feel those, but they are potent – as strong as a blood pressure cuff when it is constricting your forearm at maximum pressure – sweeping poo through your body and down to the rectum.

The magic rectum!  It has both types of neuronal control – voluntary (for obvious reasons) and also autonomic.    When these systems coexist in one place, they thend to coexist fitfully, because we are not yet evolved to be a perfect machine.   (Think breathing, and hiccups.)  

In fact, the voluntary portion of the rectum is probably a rather late adaption of the human species:  It only became important when we formed societies and families and had needs to be careful where we pooped.   Interestingly, one of the few other animals with sophisticated rectal control are dogs, who had to adapt this if they wanted to cohabit with people, which they very much did.

Are you as fascinated with all this as I am?  Good.   We proceed.

So, the two nervous system types collide in the rectum, and conspire to make it a truly amazing organ.   Because we have no conscious control at all over 95 percent of the alimentary canal – and no sensation to react to – and because the Almost-Home Phemomenon requires at least a subconscious conspiracy with the brain after receiving sensory input, Dr. Rao and I professionally deduce that the phenomenon occurs in the rectum, in its entirety.  And the amazing physiology of that wonderful structure explains how.

The rectum is only four to five inches long, but it is remarkably versatile.  It is, among other things, an expandable reservoir:  Ordinarily, it can hold up to 12 ounces of poo, but its muscles – acting strategically, with the subconscious mind – can distend themselves to accommodate up to 18 ounces, should we have a temporary need to withhold evacuation (example: we are wearing a white gown at the Academy Awards ceremony.)   More important, and more fertile to this discussion, the rectum also has the ability to utilize two muscles, the anal sphincter and the higher pubo rectalis muscle, to push the poo back up into the descending colon for indefinite periods of time.     This all happens automatically, because of God or possibly something even more complicated.

Now, let us review where we stand.

The poo has been squeezed back up into the colon because you are at the Academy Awards, or perhaps in a car on a highay.   But this is a difficult decision your body has made.   All things are not equal: The default position on poo is to let it out, since constipation is not a good state of being, in general.   In short, what is happening is that your rectum has pushed back against the poo, secreting the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which clenches the muscles.  But your body is not happy with this state of affairs.  It is whining.   Your body wants to secrete nitric oxide, the opposite neurotransmitter that relaxes the muscles and releases the poo.   Your body (be ready for an aptly brilliant, Pulitzer prizewinning metaphor here) is like the kid in the back seat, yelling “ARE WE THERE YET, DAD?” until you have to smack him upside the head.

Your poor rectum is trying to make peace in the family.   It WANTS to be authoritative and parental, but it also wants the kid to shut up.  And because we are in this imperfect, not-yet-fully evolved area where the two neuro-muscular systems coexist in one place, the timing isn’t always perfect, the way, say, heartbeats tend to be.   Competing squirts of neurotransmitter juice get jizzed out.   

Is it EVER perfect?  Sure.   But we tend not to remember those circumstances where after a long car ride we sat on the pot at the very instant the pubo-rectalis releases.  We remember the desperate lunge for the potty, where, to borrow a disgustingly ingenious line from Mr. Nick Kroll, out butt baby is “crowning.”    That is also a medical phenomenon, a psychological state based on “confirmation bias,” where we impute causality at inappropriate times.  It’s why we think that it rains every time we wash the car.

That’s it.   The Nobel committee knows where to find me; I will graciously share the award with Dr. Rao.

I want to thank you all for trying to help me win an AK-47.  Somehow, even with your help, I did not win.  I immediately suspected chicanery, but after an entertaining back and forth with site administrators, I decided they were honest.   Plus, had I won, it would have created a dramatic problem:  The site administrators contend that the initial Spam that I responded to, announcing the contest, was not from them but from a contestant who misrepresented himself as representing armslist.  The url he subsequently gave me -- and only me -- was showing your votes as counting for him; so had we won, armslist would have had to parse the numbers and try to figure out which of us to give the gun to.    He didn’t win; he finished 18th, probably entirely on the basis of your votes.  

Why so low?   The problem was that my column didn’t appear until the last day of the month-long contest, and other folks simply had too much time to build their votes.  Alas.   After talking with these guys, who seem legit, I am convinced that HAD I won, they’d have given me the gun.   (Which had not been my assumption previously.)

The clip of the day is this one taken a week ago.   It is Molly’s dog, Mattingly Weingarten, singing “Clementine,” accompanied by me on the harmonica.  Watching impassively in the background is Dan's dog, Lucille Weingarten.
If you haven’t yet taken the poll, take it now.   We’ll be discussing it early.  Man, as a species we sure do have a lot of sexual secrets, don’t we?

There’s a whole thread of questions below that derive from my chat update a couple of weeks ago,  I confessed to a dreadful bit of fan disloyalty to the New York Giants, and asked you to come up with appropriate punishments.

Okay, let’s go. 

Okay, on the humor poll.   The good news is that you are mostly doing well.   The bad news is that you are seriously failing to recognize one of the best.  

"Wit" is not easy to define.  It's humor and cleverness, with a tilt toward clever.  It's pretty much what the Empress values above all else. 

Yes, Kim Kardashian-father is excellent, marred only a little by its obviousness.  She really walked into that one, and if you knew who her father was, that snipe was pretty easy. 

NASA apes: Very clever.   That's one of my three top choice.   The second is Nickelback, which made me snicker, the highest compliment for Wit. 

You saw all of those.  How did you NOT see the McRib as being worthy?  Very funny. 

Funerals -- yes, funny. 

Worst of these was the one about drugs.  It's not humor so much as a weak observation of an uninteresting truth.   

I suspicion we'll be discussing the Secrets poll throughout the chat.   The answers are interesting, but I have one question to throw back at you, particularly the ladies:  Almost one in five of you said that your Secret was not defined by any offered.  I really tried to think of every possibility: What did I miss? 

(In explaining, feel free to say that you are writing about a "friend.") 

Magic rectum? Those words appear in your column. I am just noting that fact.

I wonder if they had been a googlenope.  Can someone check? 

I have a question, maybe more for Molly than for you. What Mattie is singing/barking, is Mattie doing so because Mattie's ears hurt and Mattie is trying to tell you that you are hurting Mattie's ears? Should you not be hurting Mattie's ears, or are the ears fine?

We have asked ourselves this question, and conclude that this is not a pain reaction simply because the animal does not vacate the premises.   Mattie was free to go. 

I am a young woman and an inveterate oversharer. I have no secrets, mainly because I tell them to everyone, and because I have woefully few to tell - I'm a virgin, have never stolen anything other than the odd downloaded mp3 back in my college years, and limit my wild side to maybe one drink a month, so in my case my sobbing-to-a-friend-at-midnight confessions are "I was mean to someone in a moment of anger, how can I seek their forgiveness?" However, I do have one karmatic retribution for my anal-retentiveness, about which I do suffer in silence, enough so that it may be my one true secret: For most of my life, I have had trouble pooping. Not constipation, per se, because I poop about two-to-three times a day, but for whatever reason, I almost always have to use a finger to scoop out half the contents, because it gets stuck up there. My mother knows but just tells me to stop sticking my finger up my butt, and my doctor knows but just tells me to try probiotics. But it's not a consistency issue - hard or soft, it's almost more like a problem with the mechanics down below. I have a poop shelf. I go about my life cringing as acquaintances and friends shake a hand that's just spent five minutes under soap and water to try to scrape out all the gunk from under the nails. Gene, as a Master Evacuator, you gotta help me. What's going on? What can I do? If I found a magic lamp, my wish wouldn't be for true love or wealth or fame, but for the lifelong ability to sit down on a toilet and know that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY.

I love this chat. 

And thank you for sharing this, seriously. 

Serious suggestion:  Talk to Dr. Rao.   He is easy to find online.  Reference this chat.   THIS IS HIS AREA OF EXPERTISE. 

Gene, Last week we accidentally watched Access Hollywood. Heavily featured was PR expert Howard Bragman.

Yeah, we've visited him before in this chat.  It's a great aptonym. 

As a Philly fan, I would recommend watching this 100 times every day of your life: 

Note that 1) in 1978, the game was so over CBS was RUNNING THE CREDITS during the play in question and 2) Tom Coughlin's reaction to the second series of events. Alternatively, you could just sit in the upper deck of Lincoln Financial Field one week wearing both a Santa suit and a Giants jersey over it. Let me know which week you plan to do this, and I'll help fish your body out of the Schuylkill River the day after the game.

Okay, this is my punishment.   Thank you. 

This is unbearably horrible.   The first moment was the final 30 seconds in the last game of the season between the awful Giants and the awfuller Eagles.   The Giants finally had a game won.   All they had to do was take a snap and take a knee.   But noooooo. 

The second is too raw for me even to reprise.  It killed the Gents entire season.    And yeah, no one quite looks as unhappy as Coughlin does, when he is unhappy.    

Friends are filling up my FB space with holiday-themed haiku, and I don't understand the attraction. Haiku never fails to feel incomplete. I read a one, and I feel like I do when my car engine continues to sputter after turning the key. Haiku doesn't have the satisfying conclusion that a limerick, double dactyl or rhyming couplet has. Consider Emily Dickinson's... The Pedigree of Honey Does not concern the Bee -- A Clover, any time, to him, Is Aristocracy -- The rhyming helps complete it. But so does the rhythm. In Haiku, we're to believe there is poetic magic in the rhythm created by 5 syllables, then 7, then 5. But do you ever finish a haiku and think, "Thank goodness there weren't 8 syllables in the second line?" I enjoy the 5-7-5 syllable progression about as much as I enjoy watching an odometer hit 99999. Oscar Wilde's Haiku on Haiku sums it up for me: This would be haiku If it had just one fewer Syllable in this line Perhaps my problem (if it is a problem) is cultural. Haiku is a Japanese poetic form. And perhaps it can only be truly appreciated in that language—which begs the question, when Japanese haiku is translated into English, if the 5-7-5, translates to 5-8-5, does it cease to be haiku?

Gonna answer the only honest way I know. 

I also do not get haiku, and never did.   Never saw the magic.  Never got the feel.  It always seemed pretentious.   Part of my feeling, as I have written before, was based in intense resentment; as a kid in 7th or 8th grade, we were assigned haiku.  I was marked down because I wrote this:

As death draws nearer

Like an eagle hunting prey

Life becomes dearer. 


I was marked down because it rhymed.  The teacher was an idiot.   

Anyway, I never "got" haiku until one day 12 years ago.  I was the editor of the Wapo millennium package, a two-day special section.  It was very artsy; one of my favorite projects.   For the end, I asked the great Henry Allen to write a poem that summed up the millennium.  He said only haiku would do, because of the breadth of the job.  I didn't get it until he turned it in.   This, I think, is great. 

My husband tucked this little gem into my stocking this year: Stuck Up, by Drs Dreben, Knight, and Sindhian. It's a collection of cleaned-up x-rays and stories involving things inserted into the human body. Some things are swallowed, but most are inserted. You can guess where. It's a scream.

I've heard of this.  One of my favorite quotes, from a famous gastroenterologist: 

"Anything that can be inserted into a rectum has been inserted into a rectum."

I'm surprised you didn't have a category for my secret (academic cheating). Also, I'm not sure where you would categorize dreams, including the one I had last night about a couple of my wife's friends. I know I didn't do anything wrong, but I won't exactly be discussing it with anyone either.

Both interesting!     

My sexual dreams tend not to dream about real people, so I have nothing to confess except the existence of sexual dreams, which I don't feel merits a confession. 

Hi, Gene. I took the poll about secrets. I don't want to give mine away...but I was wondering, could you post a link to that photo of Michele Bachmann eating a corndog in Iowa? Not that it has anything to do with my shameful, embarrassing sexually deviant secret or anything.


All your talk of holding poop in made me think about my very unhealthy relationship with poo. I have gone 3+ weeks without pooping and did not go see a doctor. The first time this happened I was a counselor at a camp. Well, I was also a recovering anorexic who toed the line with the calorie limits placed on me by my doctors, but I really was too embarrassed to poop since I shared a bathroom in a room with three other counselors. Since my body didn't make a lot of poop due to restricting I think I was able to go that long without toxic overload but I was miserable. I finally eeked out a tiny turd a few days before the month was over. I thought, never again! Until it happened again when I went on a trip to Malaysia at age 20. Fortunately I did seek out a nurse and she gave me a suppository. Hallelujah. Well, this is all quite unhealthy and unnatural but you had me remembering those terrible times.

I like "eeked out." 

The only think that is ever "eeked out" is a living, when one runs a haunted house at a carnival.   

Is Mattingly Weingarten named for Don Mattingly? Or Virgil Mattingly, the longtime, but now former, general counsel of the Federal Reserve Board?


312 results, including "Puff the Magic Rectum, "Black Magic Rectum," and a (not sure if it's really) Ron Artest posting about Pittsburg residents attending clubs with names such as "The Magic Rectum"

Thank you. 

Gene - my boyfriend and I are at odds over a bet and could think of no better third party to solve this than you... On the way home from a weekend roadtrip, we decided to bet on how long it would take us to get home. The clock in the car was at 4pm, so based on the mileage we had left to drive, I said we'd be home after 7:30pm and he said before 7:30pm (he's driving). About 2 hours later, he brought up the point that the clock in the car is fast. I keep the clock in my car 6 minutes fast to help keep me on time. So he asked whether the official time should be the car clock or the *actual time* (based on the cell phone). A huge debate ensued, with both sides equally confident in their positions. He argued for the cell phone clock because that was the actual time (and would give him 6 extra minutes to work with). I, of course, argued for the car clock time because that is the clock we used when we initially made the bet and had based our predictions accordingly (and would give me 6 less minutes). It ended up not mattering because there was a lot of traffic and I won by a landslide, regardless of the clock used. But we still wonder -- which clock should have been used for the final time???

This is to prove there is no question too boring, wordy and trivial for me to answer.  The answere depends entirely on the moment the bet was placed: Did both participants clearly understand that the current time was being judged by the dashboard clock?

If so, yes -- that is the measurement to be used.   If not -- if, say, you made that assumption but it was never overtly mentioned or tacitly understood -- then the default is real time.  Time, after all, is not relative in this context: There is an agreed-upon time at all moments of our lives, based on cesium atom vibrations in Greenwich, or something.  

I have worked as a nurse for 30 years, a profession routinely subjected to sexual harassment from patients, visitors, doctors, housekeepers, and anyone seeing me on the street in nursing attire, even baggy scrubs. You have no idea how discouraging it is to think of oneself as a professional when a receiving a leering, jeering comment from a potentially nice man at a cocktail party when I respond to "what do you do?" with "I'm a nurse." How awful it is to see "sexy nurse" garb at Halloween, or to be assumed to be sexually loose and available just be virtue of breathing air. Yes, men do still make those comments. Yes, it is easy to spot the subtext, and easy to validate with others present when the remarks are made. And it makes me angry to know that my bachelor's, master's, and PhD, all in Nursing, mean nothing except that I am perceived to be an easy lay. We haven't actually come all that far, baby.

Several years ago I wrote this column.  I expected blowback from the religious right (this was during the Terry Schiavo absurdity.)  But the only vituperation came from an intense letter-writing campaign organized by nurses.  They were offended by the end.  Of the column.   And it provoked this response. 

In a conversation with another Eagles fan on Sunday, we agreed that we had to cheer for the NY Giants in the night game. Cowboy coach Jason Garrett was likely to keep his job regardless of the outcome, while a Giant loss might have gotten Coughlin fired--and as Philly fans, we appreciate Coughlin and would like him to stay around.

Interesting.  Coughlin is a good coach.  Often, gets a lot more out of his team than the sum of its parts, which to me is a definition of a good coach.  Why do you feel he is bad?   

I am a lady. I clicked "Other." I told a lie when I was 14 and in 9th grade. I swore up and down that I had turned in a huge, ugly project I hated, and gee, Teacher, it was there on your desk I swear! (when really I had procrastinated and done a half-assed job and eventually just smuggled out the remains and threw them in a dumpster somewhere). I didn't classify it as "criminal" because at most I would have gotten a few days of detention if the lie had been known at the time (or, God forbid, a bad grade), but 30 years later it still haunts me. So, "Lies and Dishonesty" (non-criminal) ought to be another Secret category.

Lady, you are one major guiltbucket.    (I am assuming you are a lady because they seem to be showing more remorse on this poll.)   This haunts you, seriously?


Gene, Who are the 30+ percent of people who found the Secrets poll disturbing? Did they not realize they had Secrets before the poll? Did they sleep with a hooker and then forget about until this very moment. Yes, I have done and thought sleezy things - but they bother me on a regular basis. If anything, seeing that so many males are naughty sex fiends gave me some comfort.

I contend that everyone has sex secrets.  Everyone.  If only the full, unexpurgated nature of what they pleasure themselves to. 

Your daughter's dog was wagging its tail. I had four cats in the room when I turned on the video. After startled looks when the harmonica play began, all four left.


My ("Other") categorized secret: I was treated (all the way to laser surgery) for a STD, genital warts. It's an insidious STD, many many many people have it and pass it along, and never show symptoms, and it's not possible to pre-emptively test for it, even in the "full battery" of STD testing, it can only be confirmed once symptoms show. In my consensual-nonmonogamy social circle, STDs are a hotbutton issue, and being "clean" is paramount. Others finding out that I'd had the disease (even though I had to have *gotten it* from one of them) would have had really unpleasant social complications. I wrestled for months with revealing/keeping the secret. I kept it.

yep, I missed "medical."  Sorry. 

You're joking, right? 'Cause I've easily gone over that many times after a long multi-day road trip. There's no place like home.

That's what the doc says.    You know, a pound is a lot.  Think about a half-pound burger, and double it.  

The Almost Home phenomenon happened to me for maybe the first time last week (or maybe I never paid attention to it before). I was ignoring the urge/it wasn't present at all, for the 4 days I was visiting in-laws over Christmas. Then, the moment I stepped in my door, well... you know.

Near as I can tell, it is almost universal.  

In the past you've made statements to the effect that gay marrige is fundemental right that is so obvious that it doesn't even need to be debated (or something like that). Can you elaborate on that? I'm for gay marriage, but I understand why some people aren't. If someone falls back on the Bible or their religion as their reason for being against it, how would you respond?

If their religion requires that sort of naked bigotry, they need to get a new religion.  Sorry, but that's sort of obvious, no?   You have a crappy religion if it compels you to be a bigot, and hiding behind it doesn't make you any less of a bigot. 

If you feel that gays are a group that does not deserve equal rights, then you feel gays aren't as good as other people.  You can dress that up however you wish, but you can't escape it.  

So if you use the toilet immediately before showering, do you bother to wipe? Seems like a waste, but I can't not do it. I'm female, if that matters.

Yes.  Yes, I do.   The idea of pooping and failing to wipe is abhorrent.    

Or are you asking about peeing?  Men generally don't wipe after peeing, something ladies dislike very much when they find out about it.  When men say they wipe, they are lying.  

Noticed today that the box in my cabinet says "Unscented tampons". ?!? Are there scented tampons out there somewhere? With what? And why?!

The only two scents are know of for tampons are hamburger and Chateaubriand.    One company tried mackerel, but it was a horrible mistake.  

Gene, This is worrisome. See, I'm a regular guy, in the sense that every morning I sit on the same special seat at the same time every day to take care of a certain bodily function we'll call Number 2. The other day, I took my seat and started looking at my iPhone while waiting for the inevitable deposit to transpire. I started playing a game on the phone and really got into it. After 10 minutes, I came back to reality and realized I couldn't remember if I'd pooped or not. I checked. I had. I'm your age.

My God.  I need to lie down. 

Like most east coast democrats, I have always found the idea of Iowa going first to be outrageous on every level not the least of which is the evangelical craziness. But this article from Sunday's Post gave me pause.  What do you think about Iowa?

I'm answering this only because I'd like to engender some politics here. 

I think Iowa is fine.  I was there for the 2000 primaries.  Nice people.   Conservative, but nice. 

This is my personal rave: I hate academic cheaters. I was one of those good students who never cheated. I wanted to learn and enjoyed learning. Yet, I had a moment of truth when I was 0.5 points from a grade and the teacher wouldn't round up to let me have the grade. I felt like there was no reward for those of us who work hard, while those who cheat get away with better grades. I may be wrong, but I suspected the teachers had to have the suspicions, yet this teacher would not give a break to a (hopefully) obviously non-cheater who had to contend with a skewed grade curve by those who cheated.

I find all academia silly.  

You can't win the Nobel Prize for your rectal theory until you have a long and incomprehensible title for the research summary.

The Ontological Basis for the "Almost Home" Phenomenon -- A Hermeneutic Approach to Clinical Methodology

Check out the name of the person in charge of the Town of Vienna water quality.


I saw some of the x-rays and must say that my favorite was the string of Christmas lights -- oooh, festive. I keep wondering if they still lit up.

It does give new meaning to the expression "put one's christmas decorations up." 

Dr. Orkin had great pictures.    

One was an x-ray of a penis, with a snapped chicken bone in it.   Snapped. Chicken. Bone.   Inserted into urethra. 

I suspect that in addition to what the famous gastroenterologist says, there are many cases in which a thing that CANNOT be inserted into a rectum has been inserted into a rectum.

In my book I advised people to draw the line at anything the size of an unabridged dictionary. 

My mother knows but just tells me to stop sticking my finger up my butt

The whole post was fabulous. 

I was going to try to be funny, but she seemed so earnest.  

First of all, bless you for taking my question - I knew you would be one of the few people for whom this would be right up your alley (only slight pun intended). Second of all, is there any way you could call upon his good graces again and ask him for a follow-up, maybe in a chat update? Aside from the fact that I have one of those full-name e-mail addresses and feel mortified to contact a renowned physician out of the blue and say "HELP ME POO," surely I'm not the only one suffering from this ailment. An answer like this should and must be shared with the world. I tried Googling it but all results for "digital manual disimpaction" just return the answer "DON'T DO THAT, EVER." FIX THE RESULTS, GENE, PLEASE, I BEG OF YOU.

Okay, sweetie.  Deal.   I will ask.  Look for an answer in next week's chat update. 

Gene - As a recent follower of you on Twitter, I saw some post you made about how all meateaters feel guitly about eating meat. Do you really think that?!?!?? Do you know how out of touch you are? I love vegetables, but I also love meat and have no guilt whatsoever when eating a former animal.

I have a column in the works on exactly this subject. 

I don't think all meat-eaters have a sense of guilt.  I think all meat-eaters should have some degree of guilt.   We are paying others to torture and kill sentient beings.   How can you feel NO guilt about that? 

If I shot and killed wild game, and did it expertly and humanely, I can see having little or no guilt in eathing it.   But factory farms are torture. 

In California near San Francisco, there is a bridge that charges tolls and also gives out speeding tickets based on when you entered and exited. Now the new ICC in Montgomery county has all the sensors it needs to register vehicles when they start and know every time they speed. Can the local governments resist using this data? Doctor Gridlock says there are no plans to do so. But when did that ever slow down a government from making money?

I hate all speed cameras and devices of any sort, as you probably know. 

This seems particularly ridiculous.   You could drive through at 100 miles an hour, pull over at the end for one minute, and not get a ticket. 

They won because my husband left the livingroom (and our tv) to have sex with me, at my suggestion, when the Giants were 12 points down with 5 minutes left. Some time later, he went back into the livingroom to see the final score as I was falling asleep (I know - completely the opposite of how men and women are supposed to feel post-coitally.) I heard his whoop of excitement and he rushed in to tell me what had happened. Because he hadn't changed the channel, through the miracle of Time Warner digital cable, he was able to rewind the (non-DVR'ed) tv and pick up where he had left off. He watched the entire game, timeouts included. He said that it was a little like the rabbi who got a hole in one on Yom Kippur, because he doesn't really want to tell his Giants-supporting friends why he left the livingroom for so long.

I so love this discussion.   Thank you.  

In the Post recently was a discussion of fecal transplants; how the healthy digestive system helps control immune responses, and that such transplants are used by veterinarians in specific circumstances. I have read that susceptibility to mange is an immunity problem. So, in short, why don't they catch that poor mangy fox again if it's still alive and give it a transplant from a healthy fox to see if that will cure it? A Non-Mouse

Poop transplants.  It's not just for animals!  It's for people, too!  The subject of one of my favorite columns EVER. 

In a disgutingly related development, a pizza place in Iowa has named one of its salads "The Santorum Salad."   Not good judgment! 

I realized the "almost home" affect occurs because, as I near the toilet, I have a sense of "almost there" and I feel relaxed, which relaxs the wrong muscles, too, so I then really have to re-tense the muscle that need to be kept tense. I have discovered I can "fool" those muscles. When I am near a toiler, I pretend I am not there. I will think about anything else: George W. Bush, North Korea. It works. I don't let my mind relax until I am "ready".

I had to read the sentence three times to realize "toiler" was a typo. 

"Toiler" should be a word for constipated people on a toilet." 

"My sexual dreams tend not to dream about real people, so I have nothing to confess" Who do you dream about? Jessica Rabbit? Sims? Heroines of 18th Century British literature?

Strangers.   Made up people.  I cannot explain this, but it is true, about 90 percent of the time.   I think it might reveal something bad about me. 

"When men say they wipe, they are lying." Not since a certain chat in 2006 we are not.

Good for you! 

I remember this.  A lady wrote in saying do it or no more bj's, buddy.    

Your poop research seems to assume that all people have the ability to hold their poop. I cannot hold it for more than a few minutes. Once I feel the urge, I need to get to a toilet ASAP. My husband is the opposite, he can hold for hours until it's convenient to go to his "office" for many, many minutes. Did you discuss with the experts where people fall on the poop-holding spectrum?

I did not, but he specializes in helping the incontinent.   He's a really good guy, actually.  Funny, too. 

I, too, once had a dislike for haiku, but I think that's the fault of how they're taught to us. "Three lines, 17 syllables" does a disservice to the form as treating it as just a meter (or whatever the term is when talking about a poem's form), and ignoring the various philosophical and spiritual aspects that traditionally go hand-in-hand with the form.

Well, Henry's brilliant piece underscores that:  It's about thinking, concepts, etc.    

The think about traditional haiku is that it is also absurdly self-limiting.  Correct me if I am wrong, and I might be, but my recollection is that it HAS to be about nature.  

Do you also appreciate geographical aptonyms?


I love GW, don't get me wrong. But as I expressed at the time, the fact commuters don't stop dead in their tracks at an unexpected violin solo doesn't have the significance he seemed to think it did. As I pointed out at the time, very few people can hear the difference between a good violinist -- of the kind you hear every day on the NY subway -- and Josh Bell. And NOBODY, as this new scientific study reported in the Guardian demonstrates, can hear the difference between a Stradivarius and a good violin made yesterday.  A.S., Michigan

You know, it is a common misconception that this story made fun of people for being musically unsophisticated. It specifically did not do that.  It said you could deduce nothing of value about these peoples' tastes.  The story was about our pace of life: How we are so hurried we can't take the time to stop for genius.  

Here's a test for you Gene: can you pick the strad?

Interesting!   My ear is not good enough.   If I had to guess I'd say the second, because it sounds a little more like Bell did.   Is that right?  Haven't read piece. 

On a crowded subway about ten years ago, I saw a man, very subtly and discreetly, pluck a woman's wallet out of her open backpack and walk off the car. I didn't say or do anything, and have never told a soul. Had successfully repressed the whole thing until your stupid poll.


You know, I have this weakness.  My impulse is always to shrink away, not get involved.   I like to think I would have yelled.  But I am not sure.   

I'm a straight, middle-aged married woman and I live my life pretty much in the open. I had a lot of difficulty with the Secrets poll. There are things that I would rather not have the world know, but nearly everything about me is available for discussion. The only things that no one but my husband knows relate to our sex life and how we spend money. Both are on the normal spectrum (ie, we have more credit card debt than we should, although it gets paid off at the end of the year, and we're not coprophiliacs or fetisihists, he just likes me to dress in a certain fairly mainstream but surprising way to help him get in the mood) but would be somewhat embarrassing if our friends or families found out. I'm guessing that his former girlfriends have an idea about the dressing to get into the mood issue, because it came up right after we started seeing each other, and I kind of got the impression that he had done, or tried to do similar things with them. I'm not sure how successful he was with them, and it doesn't matter to me because it was all so long ago. These did not occur to me until I was halfway through the poll. I indicated that I have two secrets, only because I felt that I had to have some, I just couldn't think of anything that qualified based on your definition. In general, I found the way the questions and choices were organized to be very difficult to respond to accurately.

Dang, and I was trying to be very clear and inclusive. 

I think a great question for your poll would have been "Are there entire websites full of other people who share your secret?" My secret is a sexual fetish. It's not one that would horrify you but neither is it one often portrayed in the mainstream media. Back in the pre-internet days I thought I was really weird, but nowadays I know of web forums with hundreds of other people just like me. I'm constantly amazed by the internet's ability to show us just how normal our 'weird' really is.

Would you share what it is?  

I was amazed not long ago to learn there is a very popular balloon fetish. 

If you fantasize about people who don't exist, you search for a world of your creation and you wish to avoid the realities of the world you live in. This probably explains why you are a writer, as you wish to use your brain to create things as you wish for them to be. Actually, I am just pulling your leg. I don't know what it means. I never even took Pscychology 1.

My assumption has been that I long for sex without baggage.   But I don't.  I like intricacies.   I like being in love, and all that implies.   

So I dunno. 

I answered "Other" because my secret is really a combination of a few: criminality, abberrent sexual preferences. My father was a pedophile (dead now). He never hurt anyone so far as we knew, but was investigated, almost arrested, and the 'issue' was well known by a very few (2 of us) in the family. You were going to write a piece on pedophilia a few years back I remember, but said you abandoned the project. Did you ever say why?

I could not get the subject to cooperate, and I didn't want to work around his non-cooperation. 

This should be interesting. I think you assume too much on the part of the general meat-eating population. There aren't that many meat-eaters who have the slightest idea how their meat is raised and slaughtered. For most Americans, meat is the stuff that's wrapped in plastic in the "Meat" section of the supermarket, and that's the end of the story. I've always had more respect for hunters who kill and prepare their meat than for people who say "I just don't want to think about it" as they load their carts at the local Giant.

Well, my point is that we all sort  of know.    We differ only in how much we let ourselves think about it. 

This is the central hypocrisy in my life.   Maybe my only real hypocrisy, but it is huge. 

There is a way to find out someone's true secret: Find the porn stash. Once you find that, you know the real person.

Do people still have porn stashes? 

Sorry I'm late to be reading your Nov. 29 chat, but I have a question. In answer to the reader who asked "Squirrel: one syllable or two?" you wrote: "Dictionaries say two syllables. I say two syllables. Tongue-palate communication says two syllables." I agree! And yet . . . in your Nov. 10 column, "See GOP run: Explaining simple truths, one syllable at a time," in the VERY FIRST SENTENCE of the explanation in words of one syllable, you include the word "world." Explain to me, please, how it is that the word "squirrel" (pronounced "skwerr-ul) has two syllables and yet the word "world" (pronounced "werr-uld") has only one. The column also includes the word "girls" ("gerr-uls," rhymes with "skwerr-uls"), as well as "our" (compare "flower"), "ours," and "riled" ("rye-uld"). Words of one syllable my trochaic foot! Cheers ("chee-urs")!

I'd love to know where you are from.   Or, in another expression, from where you are.  You say wurr-uld?   "World" is clearly one syllable, as it "girls."  There is no glottal stop.  It is a simple one syllable.    You say girlz.  You do not say skwirl.    You say swir-il.      

You've mentioned that you think the drawing is among the worst on the comics pages, but the December 30 "Close to Home" make me I'm not sure "edgy" is the right word, ain't Billy and Jeffy.

Yes, here it is. I thought it was remarkable, because of how raw and visceral it is -- deeply close to the experience of cancer sufferers.  That's usually a taboo area.   

That's dumb. Does the lady think using toilet paper will remove all bacteria/urine traces from his member? She obviously just doesn't want to give bjs and should just say so.

If I recall correctly, she said there is a taste.  I go here as far as we went last time, and no further.   As I recall, other women and a gay man agreed.   

To what extent does it bother you that people seem willing to take advice from a professional humor columnist than seeking out, oh, I don't know, a doctor?

I am a highly knowledgeable professional humor writer, which is actually more dangerous.  I speak with authority about things I barely understand. 

Here in Pittsburgh we speak of the Santorectum. Goes well with the Google on Santorum.

I LOVE it that he is now considered a front-runner. 

He is a little boy.   He LOOKS and SOUNDS like a little boy.    I think he may not be a hypocrite, though.  He announces that he is a bigot, and that's just the way it is.

My secret is that I had lice for almost a year in high school and never did anything about it. I was too old for the school nurse to come through and do a periodic inspection and catch it, and I was to young to realize that there would have been no shame in asking the nurse what to do. That's why she's there. Eventually they just went away, but I still get the skeeves a little thinking about it.

Yeah, that's pretty bad! 

You are seriously a hero to me right now. And please, feel free to be funny about it. I have a strong sense of the absurd (you have to if you're a woman who's spent her delicate formative years digging around in her own rectum), so I appreciate the insanity of what I've written, but it's just this major problem that I have no way of solving. I can't even talk to a trusted friend about it, because then every handshake and baked good I've ever given over the years would be immediately suspect, no matter what sanitizing efforts I've taken.

Repeat: Watch for next week's update.  If Dr. Rao is willing to give advice, I will repeat it.    

I admire you. 

Because it's tasty? Seriously, a pig's purpose in life is to provide people with food. Shy should I feel guilty about that? Do you feel guilty walking on grass?

You disgust me. 

No, seriously, you do.  

Pigs are as smart as dogs.  They have feelings.   They are treated horribly.   

I appreciate you and I apologize to people who read my submissions. I have dyslexia and dysgraphia so often I type words wrong or use the wrong word. I also have a problem checking myself as my brain, especially when typing fast, fails to register a typo. Yes, "toiler" was "toilet",although, if you prefer to envision someone toiling over a toilet, be my guest.

I do, and thank you! 

It gives new meaning to one of the old comic strips, Tillie the Toiler. 

You know that would be a great strip for an alternative paper.   A strip about a constipated person. 

It's that I am completely kink-free. You can't get more vanilla. I've tried pretty much everything but I'm strictly a meat and potatoes kinda gal. Would be nice to find a man who's the same way but they're probably hiding in the kink-free closet like me.

I love the concept of being embarrassed by not being kinky. 

I don't have many kinks, either. 


When I was young and my mom was away at a work conference my dad got sad-drunk and came to my room very upset. I was lying in bed and remember him crying and telling me about how he was molested as a child. Unfortunately he did not remember that he told me. Years later when I told my mom she said he didn't know I knew about it, and then he did end up telling me about it. Well, I didn't tell him I already knew. Should I have?

Depends on him, and how he would take it. 

Just for the record, this ranks as one of the ten most profoundly interesting moments on Chatological Humor.   You just wrote a novel in a paragraph. 

Hey, this chat started about poop.  Then it got EVEN BETTER.  

For decades Florence "Carol Brady" Henderson kept the secret that she got crabs from a one-night-stand with New York City Mayor John Lindsay.

This made me laugh out loud. 

Is this for real? 

That idiot Lindsay nailed Flo? 

Angioplasty. Angioplasty, oh my. Angioplasty.

Very nice. 

Hey, if your lst name were O'Plasty, it would be funny to name your daughter Angela. 

Here's my secret, maybe you can tell me I'm making too big a deal out of it. When I was a teenager, I got in a number of "tickle fights" with a friend of my (younger) sister. Being young, stupid, and curious, I more than once "accidentally" grabbed a handful of boob. It gave me a thrill at the time, but I've been living with the guilt ever since. I can't help but feel like a horrible child molester.

That would bother me, too.   Especially if you had any sense that it bothered her. 

If life (as you have often contended) has no meaning for humans, they why should we possibly care about animals' feelings?

For the same reason that a society is judged by how it cares for its weakest. 

Comedian Elayne Boosler addressed this issue. She noted that what are you supposed to say when someone asks you, "What is that lovely perfume you are wearing?" "Oh, that's my panty liner! Thank you for noticing!"


Or, check the web browser searches. Which reminds me, in college, of a guy who was proud of his "porn stash". I guess he felt it helped him open up with the women he picked up. So, some of his "friends", before an important date, substitued his stash with gay porn....


Do you think the Giants winning their division and losing in the first round of the playoffs would be a greater accomplishment than the Yankees winning their division and losing in the first round of the playoffs?

That you, Dave? 

Here's one not covered by the poll. When I wipe, there is always something left. Always. This means that I have to plan around being able to find a bathroom, because I will have to re-wipe at some point. I've heard that this is a named syndrome, but I don't know what it's called. But I sure don't want anyone else to know.

Interesting!   See, I thought I'd thought of everything.  

I think this is not that uncommon.    Possibly I will ask Dr. Rao about that, too! 

Been a fan of your chats for years and always appreciate your abundant knowledge of medical oddities. I've often wondered, but never seen explained, why I smell beeswax after I sneeze. Any ideas?

Yes.  You have bees in your sinuses. 

Okay, so I have three big secrets about myself that only a few people know, and my husband is the only one who knows all of them. I would be mortified if people found out, but they all have to do with privacy more than anything. A big part of why it's such a big deal for me is that my mother has one of the biggest blabber mouths in the world and at some point I got tired of having my business known by everyone. So I just started keeping much of my business to myself. FWIW, I still keep as much as possible a secret from my mother despite the fact that she lives five houses down from me and sees me several times a week, things like I'm a vegetarian.

She's never noticed you do not eat meat?

A couple of years ago I told you about Dr. Malseptic, a nephrologist in Plattsburgh, NY. You thought I had made it up. Well, now Dr. Malseptic is in trouble, and much of it has to do with infetion control: Link

This is so great. I feel I linked to this before, but it's worth a double hit. 

A $10,000 bet on Giants to win the Superbowl this season. This will show you have a Strong faith in your team when your not feeling particularly gay about their chances and makes sure you won't flip off the tv if the giants look like they might flop in the next affair or multiple affairs.

Actually, the Gents will fall one game short of the Supe.  They will beat the Falcons, and then -- improbably -- the Packers.   Then get creamed by the Saints. 

Who cares? The Giants don't care. You didn't betray them. It doesn't make any difference to them whether you watch or not. On the other hand, if I watch Syracuse U. basketball they lose. Even if only for a few minutes. The only person you owe anything to is your friend Cait.

The corporate entity known as the New York Giants does not care if I watch.     The players do not care if I watch.  But the mystical-philosophical presence that embodies the New York Giants "concept" in a sort of "force" that has existed over time for eight decades -- Y.A. Tittle's Giants, Homer Jones's Giants and Eli Manning's Giants -- bound together at the soul, ageless and timeless:  They care.   It is very much the way God cares what you say in prayer at night.  

Gene - Cowboys fan here. I did the same thing as you, only the opposite. I was sure that with such little time left and 2 scores needed, the Cowboys had it in the bag so I went to bed very tired, but happy. The Boyz were now on top of the very weak NFC East. I even told my son that they won the next morning before checking the score. Ugg.

I thought it impossible, but you are even worse than I.   Yours is an old post, from a week ago:   I can only conclude that you were punished on Sunday.    I am sorry to say that, and take no joy in it, but I think you know it is true. 

At first I thought this would be considered an inaptonym, but it seems like exactly the sort of behavior we've all come to expect from the pious.

I agree.   This is scandalous.   It is an indictment of all religion, the ultimate argument for atheism.  

You should have to go to the 2012 Redskins-Giants game at FedEx field and sit in the nosebleed corner seats. And stay the whole game. Having to deal with that traffic and sitting in those crappy seats will teach you a lesson you won't soon forget.

Oh, man.  I went to exactly one Redskins game.   Here is my report. 

Thank you all.   This has been a seriously wonderful chat.  I'll see you in the updates, which should be spirited. 

In This Chat
Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008 and 2010.

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