It was 1983. I was thirteen and on a school trip to the theatre to watch the unfortunately titled play ‘When the wind blows’. It was about the aftermath of a nuclear war. The first half of the play sees an elderly couple trying to prepare for what cannot be prepared for; building a nuclear shelter out of an upturned kitchen table and a couple of blankets. The tension builds. The stage is plunged into absolute darkness. There is a breath holding silence.
A giggle rippled out like shockwaves. Exaggerated gagging ensued. Immediately I felt the weight of what I had done as acutely as if I had pressed the big red button. I wanted to cry, melt, die, disappear. My name reverberated around the theatre like aftershocks. I would never get a boyfriend now. My life may as well be over. I held back scolding tears and fervently hoped a real bomb would explode right there and then. Gorbachev did not oblige me. The play ended. The lights came up. The coach journey was what I imagined hell to be like. The teasing continued for months. I left school and buried the terrible memory, but the shame of it never left me.
Roll forward thirty years. Accidently letting one go in front of my husband and daughter, I laughed it off and said if our son were here, I would’ve blamed their dad. My daughter was astounded by her ‘feminist’ mother, who is forever pointing out examples of the patriarchy ad nauseam, pretending she doesn’t fart in order to uphold an unrealistic vision of femininity.
It was only then, chastened by my feisty, independent daughter my thirty year shame turned to rightful anger. If I had been a boy, I would have got a pat on the back for my apposite release. For dropping the F bomb. I would have been a legend. Instead I was made to feel as if, in one unguarded moment of flatulence, I had sullied the reputation of mothers, grandmothers, girlfriends and sisters everywhere.
So I know I am stating the obvious, but I feel like I need to remind women that farting is natural, the sign of a healthy gut. Everyone farts. Even the Queen.
If a boy finishes with you because you let one go on the first date, you’ve had a lucky escape.
Of course, we should all try not to fart in confined spaces like lifts and trains, but to be honest there is little we can really do about it if it happens.
Nothing illustrates the patriarchy more clearly than our need to categorise natural human behaviours as either male or female. Women don’t fart. Men don’t cry.
For me the acrid test of sexual equality will be when women can fart without shame. Fart with pride, with their heads held high and, if they feel so inclined, even light the odd one or two.
And thirty years later, I can finally laugh at my brilliantly timed fart 😉
Legend, I am!