In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to write about the one thing in my book that seems to offend more than any other. Yes, that’s right, the potty humor.
I always feel a little weird when someone acts shocked to have found potty-language and humor in Rump. If the title alone is not clue enough, the jacket description’s first line is, “Twelve year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke.” And the first line reads, “My Mother named me after a cow’s rear-end.” By the end of the first page, Rump declares, “My destiny really stinks.” I believe any conscious reader can suspect what similar content might reside in the following pages.
It came as no surprise to me to find that some humans (most likely adults) find such humor and descriptions of certain bodily functions distasteful, crass, and beneath good literature. Why would I, a presumably mature and well-mannered adult, include such descriptions in my book, which is otherwise sweet and adorable? Was it really necessary? Couldn’t the book have been just as good without those disgusting things?
Let us consider the story of Rump in particular. Our hero’s name is Rump, and in his world your name determines your destiny. What kind of destiny would you expect for yourself if your destiny were intricately tied to the body part from which you, um, you know.
I knew right from the beginning that in order for me to carry out this premise and character development with honesty and authenticity, I had to include some references to these bodily functions. So yes, I do believe it was necessary, otherwise I would have written quite a different story.
On the other hand, some of it (maybe even a lot of it) was added for just plain fun, both for myself and my intended audience, which is in fact children, who generally find potty-humor quite hilarious, as do I. I realize that some do not have an appreciation for jokes related to farts, poop, or pee, and that’s absolutely okay. There’s plenty of humor out there that I don’t find particularly funny. My general response to such humor is to not laugh, repeat, or seek it out. However, I make no apologies or excuses for my own humorous sensibilities. I love my book, and the potty humor and related word play is, I think, one of the most delightful parts of the story. I laughed when I wrote it, and I still laugh when I read it. It’s part of me. If anyone were to spend an hour with my family, I’m positive the hour would not pass without at least one joke about poop, pee, or farts.
And whether you like it or not, it’s part of you. Every human does it. Everyone farts, poops, and pees every day from birth until death. You can’t help it. You either do these things on a regular basis, or you are dead. Yes, it can be gross, smelly, and embarrassing, but it can also be funny, interesting, even educational. A few facts:
- The average human expels ½ a liter of gas in a day, averaging 14 farts per day.
- Women fart just as much as men.
- Your poop color and shape can tell you a great deal about your health, including quality of diet, hydration, disease, and organ health.
- Scientists have gained a great amount of historical and medical knowledge from studying poop, new and old, human and animal.
Some great non-fiction children’s books on the matter.
Some prefer to keep these things in the bathroom, and not mention them otherwise. Most writers ignore it in their own books. I can read an entire novel that never even alludes to the business, because you know, it’s not really romantic to mention that Lady Lila passed gas in the midst of making out with the rogue bandit, (though I’d giggle) and it generally isn’t necessary to bring it up a lot of the time. We know it happens. No need to mention. Also, adults probably don’t giggle at potty-humor as much as kids, unless of course it’s The Help, which has one of the best potty-joke scenes of all time.
To me, making jokes and laughing at these uncontrollable processes is my way of dealing with them. With three young children, I deal in poop, pee, and vomit a lot, and it doesn’t always stay in the bathroom, however we try. If I didn’t laugh about it, I’d cry. A humorous attitude also helps me to talk to my kids about their own bodily functions, so they don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about them. Yes, we have to work on appropriate language and time and place for these topics, and sometimes I get embarrassed by my youngest’s out of place potty-jokes, but this is how our family rolls, and we love it.
For Rump the mentions of poop, and pee, and farts, developed very naturally from the main character and story premise, as well as my own personal sense of humor. I probably won’t use quite as much of it in other books, but I can’t promise it will go away completely. Maybe we’ve refined our methods of removing our own waste, but we haven’t eliminated the dirty business altogether, and until we do, I will continue to make jokes about.
You are ever so welcome to laugh with me.