Like many people I suspect, whenever I’m under pressure to perform or create an impression, I fuck up badly.
Last weekend we were invited onto the boat of some of the old man’s work friends. For normal people, the idea of jet-setting around on a yacht in the clear, emerald-green waters of the Hawkesbury on what was forecast to be a beautiful Saturday night, with dinner in a stunning restaurant at the water’s edge afterwards, is a dream come true. I was naturally fearful.
Boating and skiing fall into the same category of “extreme sports” in my world, which is shaped by anxiety, and means that I see anything and everything as out to get me. For this reason, I only dip my toe into risky activities when I have to, even though there are elements of faking the life of the rich and famous that I could become rather accustomed to.
Unfortunately, work commitments meant that the old man and I couldn’t sail into the bay with the rest of our party that afternoon and so we were whisked onto our floating bedroom for the night just prior to appetisers and pre-dinner drinks. The setting and forecast couldn’t have been better as I tripped over a guide wire upon embarkation, which I managed to laugh off in spite of my insides doing a reverse dive with a half somersault and we spent a gloriously magical evening with extremely generous hosts and new friends.
One aspect of boating life that has always terrified me is the toilet arrangements. In fact, sod tweezers, food and music, top of my list of desert island must-haves would be a WC. ‘Pee off the side’, had been the old man’s helpful suggestion when I voiced my concerns before we left civilisation, which did little to sway my fear, but luckily we struck gold on this occasion when we found that our cabin was within spitting distance of the boat’s manual toilet. And in spite of the Titanic theme tune that refused to stop playing over and over again in my head, I relaxed after dinner and slept like a baby.
However, come the morning and after a night where I probably consumed more food than I would typically in a whole week, I had to go number twos.
Now some might find that situation awkward but I wasn’t concerned, because by now I was a pro at the process of filling and emptying the manual toilet. So it was with a new-found confidence that I slipped discreetly into the tiny cubicle while the rest of my new boating friends enjoyed their coffee in the morning sun, and careful not to over-use the paper, be efficient and quick, I was satisfied that no-one would ever know that I had dumped my load.
When I first pulled on the pump and nothing happened my anxiety meds kicked in reliably with their reassuring ‘it’ll be fine’ fervour, common in the first few seconds of one of my crises, even though the sight of the bulging culprit smirking evilly at me from the bottom of the bowl did little to assuage my sense of impending doom.
‘Breathe,’ I reminded myself as I tried to remain calm and began to pump furiously.
I pumped some more, aware that by now the Skipper must realize that we had a problem, but some guffaws from the cockpit reassured me that no-one knew, then I heard the engine go on and felt the boat begin to move, so I took full advantage of the noise and pumped with renewed vigour, silently praying that my nightmare hadn’t been detected.
But it was no use. The meanest-looking turd eventually went down with a helping hand, but that still left some persistent little critters floating around the surface, and finally I made the decision that breaking the toilet outweighed my shame and went and had a quiet word with the Skipper’s wife.
It was only when the old man told me that the whole boat had witnessed the product of my healthy bowel movements float past them over breakfast that it sunk in what a truly wonderful first impression I’d made with this new group of friends. There was no prize for the healthy buoyancy of my excrement, which the kayakers amongst our group were forced to dodge as they entered the water.
And I thought it was only me who considered “boating” such an extreme sport.
On a scale of “funny to the deepest shame”, the experience was more awkward than when my chicken fillet flew out of my bra and directly into the face of my best friend’s husband when ‘Dancing Queen” came on at a party once, and slightly less shameful than when I was interviewed by Sydney University and was asked what I thought NC would gain from her time there and I responded ‘a high tolerance to alcohol.’