Photos by Sally Blackmore
Reflection by Jim Crissman

Today I’m commandeering this space for a bit of fence line philosophizing. What’s a PhD for if you can’t? The question that’s been buzzing about my mind for some time now arose in Pilates class back when I worked for a large multinational corporation. I represented hormonal diversity in a small class of self-improving estrogen Americans working to strengthen their cores. My boss’s boss was one of the brilliant women in the company, and she was in the class. We stretched, arched, bent, and crunched our way to firmer midsections for an hour at lunchtime twice each week. All these abdomens under pressure caused the occasional anonymous toot.

It was the anonymity that bugged me. I come from a beef farm where flatulence is admired and commented on. My wife, a farm girl and former horse vet, likes to say, “A fartin’ man will never tire. A fartin’ man’s the man to hire.” I’m sure this is why she loves me—I get stuff done. Good health, good humor, and a good work ethic are all tied in my mind to the loud and proud expurgation of intestinal gas.

But what is it with most women? Crepitation in Pilates class is met with the sort of silence I associate with cadavers. No, “Nice one, boss!” or “ahhhhh.” We just continue counting the reps and controlling our breathing. Inhale and lift—toot—exhale and let down slowly. It is as if they are working to perpetuate the myth that women’s intestinal tracts don’t have by-products. As a gallant man who specializes in damsels in distress, I have to suppress the urge to relieve this emotional constipation with the joyful acknowledgement of such a healthy blast. Maybe women laugh boisterously over an atmospheric breach when men aren’t around? Or are their gas bubbles like ghost trees falling in a petrified forest, never making a sound whether anyone is there to hear them or not?

I suspect that this female culture of control is immutable, that the corporate goal of lower emissions has been generalized and internalized. So there is probably no point in fighting it. Still, the gentleman in me wants to put women at ease. I think of it as chivalry more than chauvinism, although I’m sure the good women reading this column will correct me on that. Anyway, I’m thinking that the next time I’m with a group of women curled up like commas with our legs spread in the air over our heads, and somebody cuts one, I’ll take the rap. Excuse me.

©: James W. Crissman, 2011