There are certain revelations in life that nothing can prepare you for.
Some people are left reeling upon learning about the birds and the bees.
Other minds are blown when they discover that Bruce Willis was DEAD all along (thanks M. Night Shyamalan).
But for me, it was the crappy revelation that skid marks are a real thing that happen to unfortunate, unsuspecting undies every single day.
The first time I had heard about these dumpy biomarkers was early in college, when my best friend Lindsye and I were watching an episode of Sex and The City called “Drama Queens.” (Don’t judge: This was the early 2000s, when anything remotely female-centered passed for feminist, no matter how trashy or stereotypical.) Keeping in line with its sexism-parading-as-feminism shtick, Miranda is tasked with her boyfriend Steve’s laundry, even though she’s a Harvard-educated lawyer who could probably have just hired someone to do so. In the course of her domestic duties, she comes across the shocking revelation that Steve was a “skid mark guy.” She seemed traumatized, but I had no idea why.
That’s when Lindsye, bless her sweet, worldly, patient soul, uncomfortably laughed through the explanation to me that skid marks were what happened to someone’s underwear, usually boys, when they didn’t, er, wipe adequately after a downtown pushdown.
Hah. What are those crazy writers over at HBO going to come up with next? I thought.
I just assumed that this was one of those shitty shenanigans that the writers came up with, to appear more raw and edgy. Could I have just googled “skid marks” and been introduced to the fact that this was a poopy occurrence that happened to real people? And that Linsdye didn’t just happen to have have an innate knowledge of our misguided favorite show?
No. Because life had other, much messier plans for me.
You might be wondering why skid marks are such an bowel-shattering concept for me. First off, most Muslims, Arabs, and Desi people use water in the bathroom after conducting our business, thereby ensuring complete nether-freshness. The fact that not everyone does this is unusual enough. But to leave enough on there, to where one could have a mark that varies from “thick to meaty” per Urban Dictionary, seemed like something out of a fiery nightmare based on a South Park play written by Guy Fieri, featuring music by Nickelback.
Ironically, this very practice has made me stick out on several occasions, mainly because people become really nosy when you announce you’re going to the restroom and insist on taking a paper cup with you. In fact, walking around with a water jug in the hallways of my freshman year dorm was how I was outed as a Muslim to a very racist set of post-9/11 campus mates. Thanks to all the pooh-pooing over what many people thought was an unusual cultural practice, I’ve once or twice even wondered if watering ourselves was overkill.
A very unfortunate group project my junior year of college would confirm for me that there is no number two option when it comes to post-turd cleanup.
This was the year I developed a crush on a boy, who would come to be known in my psyche years later as skid mark Joey. There was nothing unusual or extraordinary about Joey. He wore baggy cargo pants, owned an impressive collection of Metallica T-shirts, and had that nice-but-not-too-nice smell of budget deodorant on him. In other words, he was a normal, early-2000s college kid. He was one of many head-scratching crushes that I would accumulate during my college years that would ultimately go nowhere, mostly because flirting is not a thing I do.
I was in a group project with Joey and two other people – we’ll call them Alicia and David. One afternoon, our deuce communed at Joey’s place to work on the project. Within minutes of arrival, David produced a joint and retreated to the balcony, making it clear that he had no interest in actually doing any of the work.
That left Alicia, Joey and me to take care of business. Our presentation involved shaping construction paper into letters that would be glued into a cardboard sign. We were using Exacto knives to shape the construction paper. I had rehearsed some cheesy lines that I was gonna drop on Joey and win his everlasting affection, or at least a couple of dining hall meals until the end of the semester.
But since I have minimal fine motor skills, and even less chill when I’m around guys I have crushes on, I slipped, slicing the tip of my left index finger open instead.
This prompted Joey, like a true knight in shining armor, to tell me where to find my own band aids.
Hearts in my eyes, I stumbled into his bathroom.
“I think they’re in the shelf in the closet,” he called after me.
I opened the closet, where it was dark and confusing. I zeroed in on a large laundry hamper, and for reasons that still make no sense to me ten years later, lifted the lid.
There it was. Right on top, in all of its fecal glory.
At first it looked like a squirrel or some other tiny animal had furrowed its way into the hamper and died after being run over by a truck, right there, inside of Joey’s tighty-whiteys. I tried to make sense of what I was looking at, when it hit me. The location of the…mark made it fairly clear.
I shrieked and dropped the lid back onto the hamper. That’s when Alicia walked in.
“Are you ok? You look like someone died,” she said.
“I can’t find the band-aids,” I said in a voice far more dramatic than the situation probably called for.
“Actually, check the cabinet under the sink,” I heard Joey shout from the living room.
I opened the cabinet under the sink, but I didn’t even care about my finger anymore. I’m pretty sure my bleeding had stopped, because my whole body had gone into shock.
The rest of the evening was a blur. All I could think about was those stinking underwear and why they existed. My South Park Nickelback nightmare had come true, and it involved Joey, no less. Who was I gonna crush on now? And what if they, too, had a deep secret embedded inside of them?
The bright side was that, thanks to the incident, I didn’t use my awkward powers of non-seduction on Joey and probably avoided a whole lot of heartbreak, dining hall calories, and let’s face it – skid marks.
In the years since my romantic aspirations with Joey went down the toilet, I’ve discovered that such skids don’t make a mark for everyone. Still, I make sure to do my part and espouse the benefits of bidet bliss every chance I get.
“It’s French! So FRENCH! Don’t you want to be more *French*”??” I’ll tell confused acquaintances.
Even if I can’t convince everyone to make the restroom their next trip to a watering hole, I left the group meeting that day feeling just a little bit better about being the odd woman out. It took 20 years of feeling like a shitty weirdo, but I decided that night that maybe everything mainstream wasn’t for me.
I’m okay with being the outsider with my cultural practices sometimes.