Apologies for bringing up the indelicate, especially if you read this over breakfast, but I feel compelled to raise the sticky topic of romance. Or more specifically, what happens when the romance dies.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the lady — a lady in the most definite and purest sense of the word — who held in wind around her boyfriend for more than two years.
Last month, it was reported that the 19-year-old Irish woman developed extreme stomach pain, which landed her in hospital with appendicitis.
The condition can be caused if pressure builds in the appendix, so holding in any wind can cause damage. She later posted a story on TikTok, noting that her boyfriend was “dying laughing” when he found out, although she has since vowed to just “let it out from now on”. Within a few days, the story was, ahem, airborne, with outlets in New York and Australia running the story.
I mean, that level of commitment toward upholding the feminine mystique within a relationship is really only to be admired. And we’ve all been there when it comes to having a new partner, pretending that we woke up with our skin dewy, or that matching underwear was something we did every day, or that natural bodily functions were not even part of our biological makeup. Farting, if you’re the New Shiny Girlfriend, is definitely not on-brand.
As relationships progress, the gloss is rubbed away and things get a bit more squishy round the corners. Intimacy takes on a whole new meaning.
Farting in front of a new lover is a milestone similar to meeting the parents, attending a cousin’s wedding together, using the other person’s toothbrush (in a pinch, m’lud), or getting to know their bank card pin. Once you cross that line, you are no longer ‘taking a lover’ or ‘having a fling’ or ‘dating’. You are Official. The passing of wind makes it so.
I can’t quite remember when I made the leap from ‘before’ to ‘after’, but suffice to say that it’s happened. I have never had appendicitis, put it that way. It happened well before the two-year mark. And now, if ever it happens, I can point out that I don’t want to land myself in hospital unnecessarily.
My three-year-old daughter has yet to find anything more entertaining than her own ‘botty burps’. She lets rip with a performative, gleeful zeal, cackling herself silly when she does, and letting everyone know when the feat has happened. Fortunately, all this happens within the relatively safe confines of our home. I have no idea what will happen when she first does this in the queue at Dunnes. I’ll invoke the appendicitis defence, I suppose.
A friend of mine is in, what we will call, the ‘pre-fart’ phase of a new relationship, and I can’t say I’m not envious.
She is dressing up for dates, sending me photos from dark jazz clubs, enjoying sexy weekends in hotels with four-poster beds in them.
Me, I’m sorting through laundry, walking around the house with hair-removal cream on my top lip, and having arguments with my husband about rubber gloves left in the sink. We hold robust debates on what exactly constitutes the ‘slamming’ of a toilet seat. How did I get from red lipstick and heels to greying knickers on the radiator?
It wasn’t always this, well, ‘intimate’. There was snogging on the street once upon a time. I recall the electric charge when my husband texted me back. But now, the final vestiges of romance are just about hanging in there.
To some, it may sound like things in my marriage are beyond repair; that we have slipped inexorably into cloudy, dirty complacency, and that this slobby, unattractive wrong turn will eventually be the undoing of us.
But there’s the thing. The boring bits of our relationship, and the mundane rhythms of simple, quotidian life, have become the best bits. It’s intimacy, in the truest and best sense of the word. Somehow, the romance has survived under these inhospitable conditions.
I am utterly, unapologetically myself, probably for the very first time in a relationship, and there’s something wonderful about that. The alternative — not exhaling for years on end, figuratively and literally — doesn’t bear thinking about.
That said, I’m fairly sure I’ve been the girlfriend who held everything in. I was too busy worrying about hiding wobbly bits, strategic undressing, and sitting in weird angles that might minimise my lardy arms. Lord, being demure and alluring was exhausting. Not at all enjoyable. The bandwidth expended trying to keep the ‘romance’ alive was significant. And yet it felt like the right way to be a woman in a relationship. No wonder those romances were on a hiding to nothing.
Farting isn’t exactly going to be the glue that holds you together — it’s not like we’re holding contests on the regular, or anything — but being comfortable enough to allow for the odd parp is everything in a relationship.
We offset this stuff with the barely there gestures that keep the wheels greased. Watching films together. Proffering a biscuit alongside a cup of tea. A bath run after a stressful day. Without even knowing it, we’ve kept the romance alive in tiny, but great ways.