By Mark E. Smith
My sister didn’t believe that I could actually go through with it. After all, we’re taught from an early age via potty training that peeing our pants – especially in public – is bad. So, as a guy pushing 40, how could I possibly just sit there and pee my pants at will in public, she wondered?
This all began two decades ago when I flew from San Francisco to Lisbon, Portugal, and I went 21 hours without urinating. I’m sure that it was some sort of record at the time, but because the Guinness World Record officials weren’t there to document it, it didn’t count. Nevertheless, I didn’t go without urinating for 21 hours to set a record – though such recognition would have been nice – but I did it out of necessity, as my using unaccommodating restrooms, as with those on airplanes, was too difficult based on my disability.
In college, my long days similarly required me to refrain from using the restroom for 16-hour stretches, and while bladder infections and urinary tract inflammations ensued, I prided myself on having a bladder of steel – able to go entire days on a single sip of water.
Once established in my career and routinely flying, I returned to my old tricks, dehydrating myself for several days, able to fly cross-country without using the restroom – but not without the same, old toll on my body. I inevitably found myself with bladder infections and such once again, but I just did as I needed, keeping it all to myself. I was glad to be working, and any toll on my body was a small price to pay – I was a sort of binge-and-purge bladder expert, where it was part of my professional skill set.
Of course, along the way, some suggested solutions like catheters, but none seemed practical – at least not as practical as simply holding it for 21 hours (OK, holding it for 21 hours isn’t practical, either, but it is impressive, which is why I wish Guinness was there!). So, for two decades, I played bladder roulette, and as unhealthy as it was, it got me by. And, what always struck me was that in the grand physical scope of my disability, my bladder – that is, situations where I couldn’t use a restroom – was among the biggest issues. Forget walking – I just wanted to pee when I had to.
However, the last year brought dramatic changes to my life. I’ve been on a crazy fitness routine that requires a phenomenal high-protein diet, and at least 72 ounces of water per day to metabolize it all. The result is that I’m constantly hydrated and maintaining the best bladder health of my life. On top of that, I attended more pee-limiting events this past year than ever before, so the juxtaposition of being super-hydrated, with a bladder that doesn’t seem to be made of steel anymore, created some long days and flights when I couldn’t use a bathroom, all with a bursting bladder. I knew that with my career in high gear, and wishing to optimize my health, I had to find a solution to my decades-old bladder dilemma. And, that’s when it occurred to me, like a Freudian revelation mixed with a scene from the series, “Jackass”: Mark, you just need to man-up and pee your pants when in a pinch like everyone else these days!
It turns out that a huge number of people in the U.S., out of medical necessity, rely on adult diapers – to the tune of a $4-billion per year industry. Even bad-ass ball player, Ken Griffey, Sr., is a spokesmen for the Depends brand of adult diapers – and without discounting his battle with prostate cancer, one has to admit that it’s pretty cool that he’s like, Yeah, I’ve rocked the Depends – and you should, too. And, the adult diaper industry has become marketing savvy, where they’re not calling the product “adult diapers,” but “maximum absorbency underwear.” Therefore, it occurred to me that if such a product was serving so many others so well, “maximum absorbency underwear” might solve my issue on cross-country flights and such, where, let’s be frank, I could simply pee my pants – just like bad-ass ball player, Ken Griffey, Sr.
Yet, I was still skeptical – I needed more research, more proof that “maximum absorbency underwear” really worked. Naturally, I turned to the most authoritative source online for such subjects: YouTube. I discovered that college kids are big reviewers of “maximum absorbency underwear,” where they put them on, get plastered drunk, and pee themselves, noting the results. And, overwhelmingly, they remark how much the product absorbs, how dry it keeps you, and how fresh you smell (namely due to pH-balancing qualities in the product). So, with bad-ass ball players like Ken Griffey, Sr., and binge-drinking college kids touting the merits, I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with sporting “maximum absorbency underwear.”
Coincidentally, around this time, I was at a home-medical trade show, and came across a giant booth of a particular adult diaper brand, with a hot, 40-ish woman working it. I was immediately drawn into the booth – admittedly to both perform further diaper research, and talk to the hot sales woman. As she gave me her sales pitch, she, in fact, explained, that she, herself, wore her company’s diapers – not out of medical necessity, but out of belief in the product. Of course, I couldn’t resist pushing the subject, morbidly intrigued that this woman, without real need, would put on “maximum absorbency underwear,” and just pee herself, and she went on to explain that she likes to wear them under her Spanx compression undergarments, so no one knows she’s wearing a diaper. I immediately realized that this woman could be the most shocking one-night-stand ever for an unsuspecting guy. Not only would she suddenly appear 20-pounds heavier upon removing her Spanx, but her further undressing would reveal her wearing a diaper for no apparent reason. I’ve never been the most discriminating guy toward getting lucky, but even that scene would have me peddling my wheelchair as fast as possible, like Fred Flintstones’ car, to get the heck out of that hotel room!
So, with my research done – Ken Griffey, Sr., binge-drinking college kids, and a bat-wit-crazy diaper saleswoman – I was ready to take the plunge into “maximum absorbency underwear” for my next flight. It turned out that Depends makes briefs, with patterns and all, that look close to actual designer underwear. No, they don’t actually pass for designer underwear – they are diapers, after all – but I reckoned that I’d look closer to Austin Powers on a water bed than Baby Huey in a giant crib. I say, if you’re going to rock a diaper, at least rock it well.
Now, I’m raising my teen daughter with a sense of awareness – and reluctant humor – so I dragged her to the pharmacy with me to buy my first 6-pack (a subliminal marketing ploy by Depends, associating manly diaper quantities with manly beer quantities), of designer Depends. And, my daughter, to her credit, was totally cool with it all – except when I showed her the woman’s version, noting that she would never have to leave class for a restroom break again if she wore them to school, that they were really a great study tool. Alas, I just got the stare, the one that says, Dad, I’m already putting up with your shenanigans – don’t push your luck.
Upon returning home with not just a 6-pack of Depends designer “maximum absorbency underwear,” but a 12-pack – because I’m a real 12-pack manly man – I called my sister, and she suggested that I put on a pair and test them out. However, I saw nothing practical or funny about peeing myself in the privacy of my own home for no good reason. I’m of the Generation X, where despite the necessity, I saw the real humor in peeing myself for the first time on an airplane, where the person sitting next to me would have no clue, where I might even be inclined to turn to him or her and say, Wanna know something awesome? I just pissed myself, and look, no one can even tell.
The next day, I drank an absurd amount during breakfast, saddled up in my diaper – read that, designer “maximum absorbency underwear” – and hopped a flight out of town. As cruel as life can be, the one time that I wanted to pee on a flight – the first time in my life! – I didn’t have to go. I was beginning to wonder if the magic to Depends was psychosomatic just as my sister suggested, that it’s tougher to voluntarily pee your pants than one might think.
Finally, with the plane’s engines humming, I looked out the window next to my seat, and realized that it was game on – I had to pee. So, I did – I just let it rip. And, everything that everyone said – Ken Griffey, Sr., binge-drinking college kids, and the bat-wit-crazy diaper saleswoman – was true. The pee seemingly disappears into a little pouch of technological marvel – no wetness, no leaking, no smell.
I turned to the guy next to me, but he was sound asleep, so I looked across the aisle to make eye contact with someone for an admittedly juvenile sense of amusement. And, an old lady leaned forward, smiling at me, just as if she was welcoming me to the club.