You don’t know squat!

Y’know … just when you think that the Birckenstock-with-socks set has thrust in our collective face everything that can possibly be considered “natural”, from cow-free shoes and hemp clothing to St. John’s Wort and ultra-oxygenated water, they find a way to make me want to replace their wheatgrass juice with the chunky fluid extracted from the liposuction patient of my choice. I mean hey, I can certainly understand if people don’t want to eat meat. I can understand if they don’t want to pollute the water or the air or their own (and my) lungs. I can understand if they don’t want to hurt animals. But what I can’t understand is this: Why can’t they just leave my toilet alone!?

On a recent visit to Candle Cafe, one of my favorite vegan restaurants, I picked up a copy of the November-December 2001 issue of NewLife, “New York City’s Guide to a Healthy, Mind, Body, Spirit”, and leafed through it the way you do when you’re waiting for a table and glaring at the people who insist on lingering over the last whole-wheat crumbs on their plates and the dregs in their chamomile tea cups. I chuckled over all of the groovy New Age ads for various therapies and treatments, but actually let out quite a beefy laugh when I came across an article about the benefits of adopting the “natural squatting posture” when, well, you know. (Don’t make me say it.)

According to the article, the regular sitting position that we in the “Western” world have adopted not only forces unnatural pressure onto the colon but prevents full “evacuation” as well. This can lead to a whole host of charming events, as follows: “fecal stagnation”, which can lead to colon cancer; “leakage” (delish!) into the small intestine, which can cause E.coli bacteria to backflow into the digestive system and find its way into the bloodstream; and two perennial favorites, hemorrhoids and constipation (isn’t that the name of a Philadelphia law firm?). It seems that squatting, with the knees up toward the chest, has been shown to relieve (yes, intended) the body of all of these stresses.

“But how am I supposed to squat,” you’re wondering, “when all we’ve got are these regular ol’ toilets? Am I supposed to, like, I dunno, dig a hole somewhere?” Now, before you start taking pre-dawn walks with your dog so you can get down the way he does without anyone (but him) seeing you, take heart. There is actually a product called Nature’s Platform™ that you set up around your existing toilet to convert it into your very own squatting platform. It looks like a card table. And supposedly it’s so easy to use that, as one happy customer said, “even my young daughter can set it up.” So it’s fun for kids of all ages!

Now, OK … so I’m not saying that the product isn’t without its benefits. I mean, two-thirds of the people on this planet squat rather than sit. When I was in Greece, there were quite a few public rest rooms (if you can call them that) with facilities that were nothing more than a hole in the ground. And the really nice ones had tile on either side of the hole. So I get it. It’s the way of most of the world. Fine.

What I don’t get, however, is the shit that comes from people’s mouths when describing the experience. The NewLife article says that yoga students who squat “often describe it as ‘blissful’.” Blissful. And the testimonials on the product’s website include several exuberant declarations and one exceptionally tender love note from a person who only identified herself as “Female, 29”, who said that after using the platform, “I had the exhilarating feeling of being in touch with the primitive life force deep within me. It was a revelation.” Please.

Somewhere on the site, several people admitted that before they tried the squatting platform, they’d been squatting on their regular toilets, which was basically the same thing except that they feared a loss of balance. Well, now’s the part where I confess that after reading this article, I actually tried it (and no, I don’t mean I ordered the platform … and I don’t just mean the balancing act on my own toilet … so, by, uh, process of elimination, you should know what I’m talkin’ about). Yes, I did. Removed my pants, and squatted, in socks and shirt only (now there’s a sexy image). And as always, in my mind, I pictured the aerial shot. I smiled for Camera 2 (appropriately), and felt … nothing special. I mean, I did manage to balance, even while wearing potentially slippery socks. But I didn’t feel anything akin to enlightenment. Just business as usual. It didn’t do diddly-squat.