Embrace your individuality

Joseph Pujol was a French entertainer famous in Victorian times for being able to break wind at will. (commons.wikimedia.org)

Tim White

A fellow student of mine, who shall go unnamed, let loose with an audible flatulence in the middle of a class discussion that held far less entertainment value than bodily functions this morning. I immediately fired back with the appropriate death glare, to which he responded by telling me how he suffers from some sort of medical condition that manifests an unusually frequent occurrence of said behavior. What ever happened to “I ate too much broccoli last night?”

The scope of this exercise is not to lamb-baste my gassy colleague, considering the emotional trauma involved with explaining that sort of situation to one’s health care provider is reason enough for sympathy. I’m comfortable with the notion that this morning’s incident was a side effect of something running amuck with this fellow’s plumbing, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to forgive his flagrant disregard of modern etiquette. Where do we draw the line of good taste when it comes to accommodating these sorts of conditions?

Merriam-Webster defines a condition as “An usually defective state of health,” which is vague at best, considering the ambiguity of unusual. One must be careful not to confuse a condition with a disorder, which is defined as “an abnormal physical or mental condition,” also quite vague since condition pops up in the definition. Nevertheless, I’m fairly convinced that given the complexity of an individual’s psycho-physical being, one could scrutinize these terms to the point of finding some form of condition or disorder in each and every one of us.

According to some standardized checklist and some people with letters after their names, I suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. Being of an age where I learned to count during the Reagan administration, I was simply labeled as the perpetually distracted kid that doesn’t sit still, and that was the end of it. I’m fine with this conclusion, and have come to endear my place in society as the space cadet. A younger cousin and of mine (also an ADD sufferer), who had the misfortune to come of age during the Ritalin fad, endured years of tedious therapy sessions and various medication trials to discover, in adulthood, that there’s nothing the matter with being a space cadet. On a sidebar, he found his calling in music and enjoys a reasonably successful life, medication free.

The point of all this is, ultimately, is that we are who we are. It’s critical to remember that whatever quirks that occur within ourselves are precisely what define us as individuals and certainly not grounds for shame. We owe it to ourselves to let our freak flags fly, but just as with anything else, there lies a responsibility in adapting our personal nuances to the world around us. My cousin and myself, for example, have chosen career paths that satisfy our not-so-standard thought processes. Others, perhaps, might choose to sit closer to the door.