A weekly series in which our expert in all things everything solves life’s conundrums, big and small.  Got a problem that could use a no-nonsense perspective?  Tell it to the Co-It-All at voice@intheco.com 


Dear Co-it-All,

The other day I was in a yoga class and the woman beside me farted. It was really loud and she got up and ran out of the class. The incident has left me extremely paranoid that it could happen to me. Is there a right way to handle this situation? 

 

Let’s begin by stating the obvious, which is that if the mere possibility of passing gas during an exercise class is the thing that keeps you up at night—things in your life are good. Maybe a bit stinky, but otherwise pretty darn tootin’. Pun intended.

Speaking of flatulence, did you read about the woman in Sweden who tried to sue a man for leaving a particularly heinous “revenge fart” behind after she dumped him. The charges were thrown out, but the implications linger like, well…you know. Anyway, that has absolutely nothing to do with your questions, but I felt the need to share because WTF. Talk about making a stink. (Fart pun count: 2).

Of course any regular yoga student is well familiar with the scenario you describe. At least the fart part. With all of that stretching and heavy breathing and hoisting of rear ends into the air, it’s surprising that more people don’t let one rip during their downward dog. Maybe it would be a good thing if they did because then we could all, collectively, get over it.

Especially we women, who have been conditioned to feel like a natural bodily function is not “lady like,” (to borrow a term that your grandmother might use when you fail to cross your legs while seated), and therefor unacceptable. Note this 2003 interview where Donald Trump talks to Howard Stern about how his wife Melania is the perfect partner. Included as one of her virtues: the fact that she never farts. Because in the land of Trump (shudder), women should be perfect beings (ideally models) who support the men in their lives and never, ever cut the cheese.

It’s not just evil misogynists who feel this way. Did you watch Sex and the City? If so, you will remember the ep when Carrie accidentally farted in bed with Big. This was pretty early on in their relationship, and as I recall, they nearly broke up over it. Definitely she felt humiliated and forced the gang to discuss her flatulence for at least a full brunch.

Luckily, the current pop culture climate suggests progress. If you watch The Mindy Project (and if you don’t you absolutely should), you know that Mindy the character is an FF (frequent farter), and doesn’t make any apologies about it. Here is a great piece from Chatelaine about Kahling’s “radical quest to normalize the female fart.” Farting, you see, is an important feminist issue of our times. Come to think of it, I’m surprised Beyoncé didn’t do more farting during her Lemonade video.

Anyway, you see what I’m saying, which is that the more we can not care about farting, the less an accidental output during a yoga class would feel like cause for fleeing the scene of the crime.

About that. Getting up and running out of class was definitely the wrong move. Both because the situation in no way warrants this extreme behaviour, and also—because it will only make things worse. The woman from your class is no longer the woman who accidentally farted in class (NBD). Now she’s the woman who behaved like a crazy person and ran out of class like she had just dropped a nug.

I mean really—would the situation have alarmed you so much if she had just farted? I don’t think so. I think the only reason we’re talking about this is because of what she did after the fart.

What she should have done is absolutely nothing, and same goes for you if your worst nightmare becomes a reality. Depending on how busy the class is, there’s a good chance the source of the fart will remain unidentified. Do not start making exaggerated “pee-ewwww” faces (see: whoever smelt it dealt it), or use that phrase to try to blame the person who does make the face (see: whoever said the rhyme did the crime). I’m going to suggest a new fart-related mantra, which is: Whoever doesn’t freak is on fleek* (*patent pending).

The other thing to keep in mind is that witness embarrassing behavior has a way of bringing out our inner narcissists—ie, our first reaction is something along the lines of thank god that wasn’t me. Or, in your case—Oh God, what if that had been me? Point being that nobody is even thinking about the farter, which is something to keep in mind. That and also—don’t eat beans before yoga.