This slightly fictionalized memoir of life with irritable bowel syndrome is engrossing in every sense.
You’ve probably been there–trapped in a confined space or an inescapable social event, with nary a bathroom in sight, clenching ever more desperately to contain the building pressure in the colon. But for Phelan, an IBS sufferer since his college days, such crises of â€œexplosive diarrhea” were a daily–sometimes hourly–occurrence. Inevitably, they happened in the most inopportune settings: a first date; a sales call; weddings and funerals; an airport shuttle van (Phelan was able to run to a nearby park to relieve himself; unfortunately, a passerby caught the proceedings on a camcorder); on a ski lift, where Phelan’s companions mistook his intestinal eruptions for nearby anti-avalanche blasting. The condition cost Phelan jobs and gradually took over his life. Every outing became a â€œtorturous, unnerving shell game of guessing the location of the nearest accessible toilet”; added to his native callowness and commitment-phobia, the aloofness, hasty exits and obsessive planning for bathroom stops dictated by IBS made exasperated girlfriends flush him out of their lives. Phelan’s efforts to find a cure–including an encounter with a sexy, bra-less hydrocolonic-irrigation therapist–are almost as humiliating as the disease, but as he grapples with his entwined digestive and psychological issues, his story becomes an improbably winning narrative of personal uplift. It’s hard to think of a more distasteful subject, but the author brings an engaging prose style and a hilarious self-deprecating humor to what is, after all, the very lowest of all common denominators of the human condition.
With its slapstick social faux pas, goofball charm and thunderous flatulence, somebody in Hollywood ought to be calling.