In an age when the Internet allows universal anonymity, we begin to expect privacy as an unalienable right. When confidentiality is not an option, many people find anxiety in taking a stance—or a squat. In reality, we are much more than icons on computer screens. When it comes down to it, people are all people. And everybody poops.

We are all united in this reality. Any two humans share on average 99.9 percent of their genes, meaning most Homo sapien physiology is identical. Pooping is a unifying characteristic of humanity: all genders sit to poop (or hover if you are a hypochondriac). We all eat and so as a result we all poop. And that’s okay. It’s great, even. So why can taking a seat at the porcelain throne be so stress-inducing?

One hypothesis is that many Bowdoin students seek to project an image of perfection, even at the cost of their own well-being. The counseling staff at Bowdoin is acutely aware of this—Director of Counseling Services, Bernie Hershberger, says he especially enjoys aiding students with perfectionism anxiety. 

For some odd, socially constructed reason, we seem to think it is vulgar and uncivilized to poop. Thus, to be perfect, we must never poop. As a means of striving for this ideal, we make every attempt to conceal our “indecent” behavior from our peers. Though we have not spoken to Hershberger about whether poop anxiety is often brought up in counseling sessions, we noticed that when prompted, most of our friends immediately gushed over their awkward restroom escapades. And yet, most students would never bring up poop anxiety on their own in a conversation for fear of deviating from the cultural norm. 

A 2011 study at Emory University showed that chimpanzees who frequently fling feces have more developed motor cortexes and connections to a section of the brain used by humans for speech processing. Simply put, smarter monkeys throw more poop. Meanwhile, our human society finds it impolite to discuss such a dirty matter. It is possible that we attempt to hide our digestive measures as a means to separate humans from animals. However, if our closest living evolutionary relatives embrace poop as a means to display intelligence, I am not opposed to flaunting the existence of my own bowel movements (though I will still stick to speech over throwing feces as my preferred form of communication).

A great source of human anxiety is the desire to fit in. Given that everyone and their RA hides the fact that they poop, we tend to deny the existence of our excrement. Everyone has read “Everybody Poops,” by Taro Gomi—an important contribution to the literary canon of defecation. Some people, though, are loath to identify themselves as poopers. This is the great contradiction: we accept the generalization that pooping is part of the human condition, but singling one specific person out is, for some reason, embarrassing. Pooping has become taboo.

Despite this personal acceptance of pooping as a biological actuality, it can be stressful to be sitting on the can in my signature leopard-print slippers only to have another dorm resident come in to brush her teeth or do her hair. There’s no hiding. I’m being outed as a pooper. Although my bathroom guest will not say anything, we will both know. And it causes an unnecessary and unspoken power dynamic between the two of us that would be completely rectified if only people were to talk more openly and casually about pooping.

That’s the thing about this physical process—it is much less social than other bathroom activities. A casual chat over mutual urination or a recap of the day’s events while popping a pimple is normal. But something about that basic human communication while a mass of processed food is travelling out of a bodily orifice into a shared toilet makes people shut right up.

Whether they talk about it or not, many people actually enjoy the process of pooping primarily because they find time for solitude on the peaceful potty. Whether it takes one minute or an hour to process the day, pooping is a sacred time to digest it all. 

However, we cannot always afford the luxury of a private toilet at the College. In fact, for many of us, our “movements” tend to be in relatively public places. 

What to do when you sit down to do the deed and another lonely pooper wanders in with the same intention? In a multi-stall bathroom with two (or more) students waiting to poop, anxiety can mount. Who will release the Kraken first? Sometimes, overwhelmed by the tension in the room, the only option is to flush the toilet, zip up your pants, and find a different, less populated bathroom. 

Thus, it is crucial to find your own favorite place to do the do. We all have beloved personal pooping places. However, we are unable to disclose our favorites here, for fear of the overpopulation—or worse, toilet clogging—of the most serene pooping sanctuaries. We can say, however, that you cannot select your pooping bathroom: it must choose you. Much like Olivander’s wands, when you come across the right one, you will know.

 While this article presents poop anxiety with jest, we hope the absurd nature of hiding our body’s actions permeates through the humor. We all do it, and hopefully through lighthearted discussion, we can replace awkwardness with pooping solidarity.