Showstopper / by Courtney Mehlhaff

I'm now going to tell you a little story that combines arts and culture with scatological humor, and I really don't know what else you could ask for from an embarrassing tale.

A few years ago, I had tickets to a show in Minneapolis. The play was M. Butterfly. I invited a friend along, and we decided to eat beforehand at an Italian restaurant close to the theater. 

As we walked the few blocks through downtown after dinner, my belly felt a bit rumbly, but it had settled somewhat by the time we found our seats -- which, by the way, were excellent, and this will become a very important detail very shortly.

We sat down and started leafing through our programs. Things were still not sitting quite right with me, but I figured I'd be fine. I figured wrong.

Perhaps you're a person with an iron constitution whose innards have never betrayed you. You lucky bastards will never know the horror of feeling your stomach absolutely bottom out at an inopportune time. But that's what happened to me. My intestines revolted, I seized up in a sweaty panic, and right at that exact moment, the lights went down and the show started.

So there I was. Smack dab in the middle of the center row of floor seats, with ten people on either side of me and no option for escape that didn't involve disrupting an entire section. It was a real shituation.

At that point, I made a command decision. I was just going to gut it out till intermission. I would put myself on lockdown and will my body to obey through sheer, desperate concentration. 

It was one of the longest hours of my life. But I made it. And when the house lights came up, I swear to god my friend turned to me and said, "You know what? You have an amazing ability to sit perfectly still during a performance."

I'd known her for well over a decade at that point, so I simply turned to her and said, "Yeah. That's because I was trying not to shit my pants."

Then I'm pretty sure I elbowed her out of the way on a mad but careful dash to the ladies' room, where terrible things happened that I fear are still talked about in hushed yet reverent tones.

The second half of the show was much less of an ordeal. But I'll always remember that evening as the night I saw (you have to groan this pronunciation for full effect) MMMMMMMM Butterfly.