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Passing time by passing gas, plus fun fart facts!

By Dr. Billy Goldberg and Mark Leyner

Dr. Billy Goldberg:  The past eight weeks of my life have revolved around gas. On Jan. 22, I welcomed my second child into the world, a beautiful baby girl. It didn’t take long to realize that she was gassy like her daddy. In the wee hours of the morning when she was wailing from overwhelming intestinal distress, I had a revelation. I came to realize that we can mark the different stages of our life by how we handle our flatulence.

My poor little newborn desperately needed to let one rip. This is how we begin our life, unable to get them out.

Then comes adolescence – a stage where we are thrilled to let them out. Oh, the hilarious joy of the public fart! But BEWARE if you are in Camden, Maine. The Camden-Rockport Middle School has issued a ban on intentional flatulence – gas-passing students are threatened with detention.

Next comes puberty and we enter the phase of frantically trying to hold them in. I can just imagine my sweet little girl all grown up on a dinner date, squirming to prevent that embarrassing unintentional release.

Life gradually becomes more and more complicated and we find ourselves increasingly awash in uncontrolled flatulence and odor. We begin to reach for the Beano and even find ourselves considering the purchase of Odor Control Nether Garments. One of the many indignities of the aging process is that loss of muscle tone occurs – even around the anal sphincter. Yes, that is why an older person has a harder time holding ‘em in.

Leyner has his own unique theories on everything and I am sure this is no exception.

Mark Leyner: I have never been inordinately intrigued or amused by farting.  Of all the bodily effluvia and excretions, I’d probably rank intestinal gas pretty low on my list of favorites. I much prefer tears, spit, pus, ejaculate, rheum, colostrum, etc.

That said, this ban on “intentional flatulence” at the Camden-Rockport Middle School has all sorts of ramifications that do fascinate me. For instance, how does anyone prove “intentionality” when it comes to farting? Will the school district hire forensic gastroenterologists to analyze air samples or study surreptitiously obtained audio recordings of the boys’ flatulence to try and determine whether it was deliberate or accidental?  Obviously, there are various illnesses and food allergies that can cause flatulence. 

On the other hand, what if a person willfully, premeditatedly, and with malice aforethought, renders himself potently flatulent?  What if a middle-school student loads up, before school, on a breakfast of beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and sauerkraut? Can he then claim that the farting was something that couldn’t be helped, that it was “an accident.”

But there’s an even more profound philosophical and legal question to ponder. And that is: should farting constitute a mode of constitutionally protected free speech? If not, what necessarily privileges one orifice (the mouth) above another (the anus)?

Is there some overarching moral imperative that justifies society’s anathematization of the fart?  By what usurpation of basic liberty can the state proscribe the natural expressiveness of the sphincter and the anus? In other words, can a fart be “art”? 

In the end, the Camden-Rockport Middle School Fart Ban may very well be a First Amendment issue. I think that this could result in a landmark Supreme Court case. This could be the Roe v. Wade of flatus.

But I urge all Americans to bear one thing in mind:  justice may be blind, but it’s not anosmic

Dr. Billy Goldberg: I don’t know what I can add to that. Maybe we can just end with this list of fascinating fart facts:

• On average, a fart is composed of about 59 percent nitrogen, 21 percent hydrogen, 9 percent carbon dioxide, 7 percent methane and 4 percent oxygen. Less than 1 percent of their makeup is what makes farts stink.

• The temperature of a fart at time of creation is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Farts have been clocked at a speed of 10 feet per second.

• A person produces about half a liter of farts a day.

• Women fart as much as men.

• The gas that makes your farts stink is hydrogen sulfide. The more sulfur rich your diet, the more your farts will stink. Some foods that cause really smelly farts include: beans, cabbage, cheese, soda and eggs.

• Most people pass gas about 14 times a day.