Raise your hand if you’ve ever said, “I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks,” then act on it.
My hand’s up. Me! Me! Me! I’ve done it, but admittedly, my hand now down, only a few times, so I can’t really flex on it. And even though I like to think of myself as an “I don’t give a shit because I’m just that secure with myself” person, I’m not really. At least I didn’t use to be. And neither was anyone I surrounded myself with, so when my quirky neighbor, Melissa Morris, asked if I wanted to walk our dogs together, I reluctantly agreed.
Melissa’s funny and outgoing with older kids. No-where near the elementary school PTA mom shark scene pond I’m swimming in. Against the backdrop of beautiful Seattle scenery, my neighborhood paints a picture of “must be perfect.” Not in a superficial way, more moralistic. Although rocking an enhanced look does help, perfection is better served in a Joneses meets the Humblebrags fishbowl kind of way. Your young family life checklist includes but is not limited to, a yearly winter vacation in Hawaii or Costa Rica, the latest model Subaru, Audi, or Tesla, a minimum of one blonde, elite soccer-playing or superstar swimmer child, and membership to at least one golf, swim, tennis or sailing club in addition to a full social calendar for moms and kids alike. But not Melissa. She dared not to care in her pajama jeans, light purple Crocs, curly hair, and Lauren Hutton gap-tooth smile, Melissa’s walk matched her talk. She was a free spirit seagull living amongst golden cage birds, so I was a little nervous about being seen with her. But I couldn’t refuse, partly because she asked me in person, and partly because I’m a terrible liar; I had no prepared excuse to say no, so ultimately, I had to go.
Our walking talk started uneventfully enough, our dogs leading the way. Like many professionals in our neighborhood, Melissa took the bus to work. During the week, it was bougie to use public transportation; on the weekend, anyone spotted on a city bus who didn’t identify as an angsty teen, handlebar mustache hipster, or homeless was hitching a ride on a “total loser cruiser.”
“So, guess what happened to me this morning?!”
I shrugged, “I don’t know, you missed your bus?”
“No, I made the bus but didn’t make it to the bathroom.”
Record scratch. Wait. What? My silence was Melissa’s invitation to continue with her story.
And she did, completely unabashed.
“I’m on the bus, headed to the office, when all of the sudden, I have to poop, really bad. You know that feeling when you have to go, and you just can’t hold it? So as soon I get to my stop, I push everyone out of the way and run as fast as I can without risking crapping pants. I make it to the nearest building, the Smith Tower, but the lobby bathrooms are closed for renovation. So now I’m panicking because I’m literally about to fucking shit myself!”
In a million years, I would have never guessed where this was going.
“Then I remember I have a plastic bag in my purse! Like this one!” Melissa holds up an old, crumpled QFC plastic grocery bag she brought on the walk to pick up after her dog.
“So I sneak behind this huge potted plant in the corner of the lobby, squat, poop into my plastic bag, tie it up, toss it in the trash, and walk away as if nothing happened. I go to the nearest Starbucks, order a tall coffee with cream, use the bathroom, wipe, and guess what?! Clean as a whistle!”
Yes, folks, clean as a whistle. Melissa’s exact words.
With no words for me to say, Melissa shared her current favorite book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, her favorite recipe, Julia Child’s no-fail souffle, and the discovery that wearing socks with strappy sandals is quite comfortable, much like dark wash pajama jeans she favors over actual jeans, or designer activewear.
Melissa laughed, “You should try it sometime. You know, being comfortable. We’ve been neighbors for years, but it took me a while to ask you out for a walk. You seem-” she paused, looking thoughtful, “like you could use a non-blonde friend who isn’t a living Lululemon ad.”
Now stopped in front of our perspective houses, mine looking quite neat, Melissa’s front lawn in desperate need of a mow, I wasn’t sure how to reply. Quite frankly still in a bit of shock from Melissa’s potted plant poop story. So when she followed with, “So, you wanna walk on Wednesday? 7ish?” All I could do was give an affirmative nod yes.
It took days for me to wipe my mind clean of the visual Melissa left and even longer to understand why she would tell me that story to begin with. Because if that ever happened to me, I promise no one would ever know about it. But for Melissa, living her greatest “I don’t give a shit” life is about more than frizzy hair, purple Crocs and pajama jeans. It’s about taking random moments and turning them into amusing stories to share with people like me so I can share them with readers like you. And other than slightly grossing people out, Melissa’s freedom from worry or anxiety about what others think carries no life-altering, negative consequences other than a small risk of fecal contamination.
That was three years ago in May. And exactly 305 walks later, more rain than shine; Melissa and I are still going strong. I’ve had to set a few boundaries with some of her stories, especially given her active bowels and sex life, and she, in turn, asks me, to loosen up a bit, but ultimately the quirk of us together works. As Melissa likes to remind me, our friendship, the stories we share in clothes that don’t care, always comes back to poop in a plant.