My friend’s less-than-enthused response to my question that day gave me the first hint that shitting techniques may not be the most normal small-talk topic. Up until high school, I had been working bowel problems into conversation on the reg. I genuinely thought it was a completely casual topic -- an everyday inquiry of the “how’d you sleep last night?” variety.
And why not? Pooping is one of our bodies’ most essential satisfactions, second only to sex and sleeping. If yawns are 1/10 of an orgasm, pooping are at least 3/10 of one. And we all talk about the former two subjects in spades.
I personally can’t recall the last visit home when I didn’t leave with a fresh supply of bathroom advice.
“Activia yogurt is a great low-calorie snack. Plus, if you have one in the morning, you’ll be able to poop by lunch time,” my mom would confidently prescribe.
“A kiwi a day keeps the constipation away,” she’d chime.
In my household, even general health tips have almost always been coupled with remarks on bowel movements. If my skin breaks out, my mom tells me it’s because I’m constipated. If I’m stressed, she’ll inquire on the softness of my poop -- as a gauge of the severity of my anxiety, of course.
My other Korean friends cite the same conversational trend. On a recent visit to New York, one friend’s dad contemplated gifting her a yogurt-making machine (sorry Mom, secret’s out) but instead settled on a pickled bean recipe “guaranteed to make your bowels move.”
Other Korean staples have similarly been recommended to me as purgative catalysts: kimchi, napa cabbage, Korean chili peppers.
Or, perhaps you’re familiar with Yakult, that pink, sweet, milky drink sold in teeny 2.7 oz plastic bottles at ethnic markets. What is a delicious imported treat for most people is often marketed as Bathroom Helper for me.
As my cousin puts it, “Everything I eat is based on how much it makes me poo.”