Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Sound and the Fury

What is it with men and their fascination with their bodily noises?

I’ve been around men all my life…father, brothers, uncles, boyfriends, lovers, husbands…my life has been filled with them. And, to a greater or lesser degree, just about every one of them has found everlasting amusement in the sounds they can produce with their bodies sans vocal cords.

One of my brothers could burp the alphabet and talk with his burps…a useful skill should his larynx ever be removed, but a bit of a gross-out otherwise. This same brother, as a primary schooler, used to sprawl out in front of the TV on his belly and, engrossed in some mindlessly violent midday program, rip such loud explosions from his nether regions that my grandmother, usually the very picture of gentility and decorum, would occasionally remark “Goodness, did you scorch your shorts with that one?” Lacking in subtlety (or the ability to recognize it), my brother would simply laugh and attempt to muster up the necessary abdominal air pressure to do it again.

While one could argue this propensity is forgivable considering his tender age, it is important to note that there were three girl cousins of about the same age and the cousins and I were not prone to such displays. In fact, if a bodily sound escaped us from any place other than our vocal cords, we were overcome with mortification! Our brothers, on the other hand, would bask in manly pride.

Lest we try to forgive the little rascal with references to his tender age (and presumed lack of maturity), let us not forget that, as an adult, he has been known to do the “pull my finger” trick on younger family members. I haven’t asked his wife if he scorches his shorts these days, but there have been moments of temptation. Interestingly, the men in my life who find burping the Star Spangled Banner a worthwhile goal or whose rump-trumpeting skills are Guinness Book worthy, didn’t advertise their talents early in our relationships, proving to me that these are not uncontrollable events of nature, like a tsunami or Hurricane Katrina. If, on our first dates, they could sit through an entire evening of dinner, movie, and coffee without a single noticeable bodily emission, why must a televised football game, six months later, require the windows open to waft away noxious fumes?

This is not to say that women do not suffer from conditions requiring the release of steam…all people do and that’s just part of the human condition. The difference is that on average, women go about exercising their vents quietly and, if a sound emerges in the process it is invariably accidental…and the cause for a very immediate and horrified apology. Males of the species, on the other hand, tend to preen and the louder and longer the blast, the more polished the pride.

I haven’t figured out when guys think it is OK to rip a good one and when it is not. I have sat in many a board room and more engineering department meetings than I care to count, and nary a peep, so it isn’t the fact of males gathering together. My female presence surely did not put them off, as we women are well acquainted with the behavior, having endured it in our presence on numerous occasions… “ladies present” is not a mitigating factor. It seems to serve no other purpose than amusement, but it seldom amuses women…just the guy who does it and/or his buddies.

I don’t get it.


  1. There is a whole gammet of cute male behavior that requires quick and early intervention; and making remarks about the behavior rather than cutting it short with removal from the room implies a form of complicity. This behavior includes hawking and spitting, blowing the nose without benefit of a tissue or handkerchief and flatulating. If mothers do not impress their little darlings with the necessity of controlling themselves at a young age (and with the approval of the "mature" male in the household), it is a lost cause. I did walk up to a young man who spat on the sidewalk of our church with a box of kleenex and asked if his health required such a need. When he replied not so, I did not hesitate to remind him that such behavior especially on his church property was a sign of great disrespect. Perhaps he was embarrassed. In any case, I was amused by a 1950s newspaper article in which little old ladies surviving in Austria after WWII did not hesitate to whack young ill mannered men with their canes and umbrellas. I believe Monty Python did a take on this. So, ladies, let us arm ourselves. NF

  2. Hi there, SV, I set up my blog here. Will be blogging soon. "Reality Bites" is back.

    See you soon.



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