This is a coming of age story from my youth. It’s a tale of innocence lost and manhood gained.
It was 2002 and I was thirteen years old. If I were Jewish I'd have been considered a man. In fact, I look back on the incident I'm about to describe as my own secular Bar Mitzvah. It transformed me, ushering me into a realm from which there has been no return.
Sometime in 2002 my parents decided they wanted to buy one of those big, all-in-one home gyms. They were ready to get serious about their fitness and the first step was purchasing a massive jungle gym of hinges, pulleys and vinyl-upholstery.
Cynthia and Dave Brown aren’t the type to make such a purchase impulsively. So for months, we spent our weekends driving to exercise equipment stores in the greater Raleigh area where they would pick the brains of different men named Chris who had spiky, gelled hair and wore tight-fitting polo shirts. These men were wells of knowledge about the pros and cons of these home gyms and their respective warranty plans.
During these trips I would busy myself playing on the equipment in ways that were not intended by the manufacturer. That’s exactly what I was doing one fateful afternoon when suddenly I felt a stirring in my bowels. I needed to find the bathroom quickly. I wasn’t panicked, but motivated is a fair adjective. I took a series of small, choppy steps across the showroom floor toward my parents, interrupting their discussion about maintenance requirements or resale value to ask where I might find a bathroom.
Chris pointed at a door about 30 feet away.
“Right through that door”
I need to fill you in on an important detail about my personal life at this time. A few weeks before all of this happened I’d begun wearing boxers after a lifetime of briefs. My dad had always worn briefs and it’s something he passed along to me. But I was 13 now. I was becoming my own man, forming my own identity. Part of that included giving boxers a try. Up to this point, I’d found the differences between the two styles of underwear to be negligible. Where once there was taut white cotton gently hugging my pelvis, there were now two loose trunks of fabric hanging from an elastic waistband. No big deal, or so I thought. But I was about to learn an important lesson in the functional differences between boxers and briefs.
The bathroom door wasn’t very far. All I had to do was take 20 careful steps in that direction and I’d be good. But that turned out to be 10 steps too many. I got halfway to the door when mid-stride I felt a small, marble-sized turd escape my body. I had officially pooped my pants. Bummer.
With no briefs to contain it, that firm little mud marble rolled right down my hairless adolescent leg and slipped out of my pants, landing on the floor for all to see. Well, all except the salesman. Thankfully Chris had gone over to the register to look up some information for my parents, who were now standing speechless in front of their son and the small piece of shit he had just released onto the carpet. Their only son. The one responsible for carrying forth the Brown family name.
I stood there, frozen. I knew I had to do something but no ideas were coming to me. I looked to my parents for guidance but found only disgust in their eyes as they stared at me, every bit as stunned as I was. They looked down at the marble. Then back at me. Finally my mom broke the silence and said “Well... pick it up!”
As eager as I had been for some kind of instruction in that moment, I ignored her suggestion. I did not pick it up. Instead I turned towards the bathroom and continued walking. I hurried inside and sat down in one of the stalls. Seconds later my Dad stormed in. I was relieved at first because I thought he’d surely picked up the nugget I’d left behind and brought it with him, covering my tracks.
But before I could thank him he started ranting. To my dismay, the chunk had not been rescued. It was still at large, out there running free among the dumbbells and ellipticals and my father was none too happy about it. I still don’t see why he didn’t grab it. He must've walked right past it en route to the bathroom. I bet he looked at it as he walked by, careful not to step on it. It wouldn’t have been very much trouble for him to scoop it up like Hansel and Gretel following a trail of breadcrumbs that leads to a stressed out 13 year old in a bathroom stall.
Instead, he sought to teach me a lesson about independence. I don’t remember exactly what he said but the overarching themes of his tirade were anger and disbelief. Whereas my mom had only suggested that I pick up the turd I’d abandoned, my father was now insisting on it. Then he left the bathroom. If I was to wear boxers, I had to take responsibility for the consequences.
I sat on the toilet, absorbing my dad’s words as I let loose many more marbles. I was given no credit for this majority portion of my waste that actually found it’s way to a toilet. What I had left on the showroom floor was a mere fraction of my total carrying capacity, but when it comes to shit ending up where it doesn’t belong it’s an all or nothing deal. Even if you shit on the floor just a little, you still shit on the floor.
Armed with a paper towel, I returned to the scene of the crime to remove the evidence. It was right where I’d left it. I mustered up as much nonchalance as I could while plucking a piece of my own stool from a public area, then discreetly whisked it off to the bathroom for permanent disposal. When I emerged for the final time, amid their conversation with the salesman, my parents shot me looks of relief but certainly not pride. Shortly after that, we left.
My two sisters had been in the store with us the whole time but they remained oblivious to the entire incident. Once we’d all gotten in the car, all hell broke loose.
“WHAT WAS THAT?!” shrieked my mom.
We rehashed every moment in great detail and within minutes we were all laughing so hard we could barely breathe. This story has become such a classic, that I mean this when I say it; I have no regrets about shitting, just a little tiny bit, on the showroom floor of that exercise equipment store.
As for the boxers vs briefs issue, I’ve stuck with boxers to this very day. I could have been intimidated and let this hiccup scare me back into the comfort and familiarity of briefs. But that’s not the man I wanted to be. It was time to grow up. It was time to live life without a fecal safety net, letting the chips, and marbles, fall where they may.
I hope you enjoyed that and now it's PLUG TIME: If you're in North Carolina, next week I'm touring through the state with 3 other great NYC comics. We'll be in all these cities:
Sat 7/15 - Charlotte (There's a top secret discount code for this one. Email me: Ryanbrowns89@gmail.com)