Dear Shit Advice Columnist,  

               Both constipated and insomniac, I suffer, and the remedies for each suffering are the causes for the other. For the latter, I give up coffee for months at a time, and I become practically evangelical: my colleagues, friends, and baristas (when I apologetically order decaf) must hear how, in addition to getting the sleep that my therapist agrees I need—while many people would not classify my usual 7.5 hours of sleep as insomnia, she and I agree that my body requires at least 9, perhaps because of the more complicated dreams I have begun having while I work through the negative aftereffects of my childhood—my hands don’t shake when I sit still for too long; I don’t get dizzy; my teeth are whiter; I’ve even been saving the $3/day newspaper-economists reassure us we could all save by giving up lattes (which I’ve never been able to drink, due to the milk). 

               Despite all these benefits, though, I can’t keep it up. It’s not just caffeine addiction: without coffee, I simply do not shit on schedule. With coffee, I shit every day at precisely 10AM, after breakfast and before my shower, if responsibilities do not prevent this more-perfect order from happening. Black tea just does not have the same effect, and my better, longer sleep means a later waking and shitting time.  Yesterday, my first shit came at 11:30, my second shortly thereafter at noon. This is not the life I want for myself.  

               Right now, it is noon, and I have shat one pathetic little shit; I cannot leave the house, knowing the second is on its way just as I am on mine. You see the pattern: desperate, I’m drinking coffee again at the moment I write this, though I know I’ll wake up at 8:30 wholly unrested, but ready to repeat. Is there a coffee substitute that’s as effective for precipitating events? 

Dear Letter Writer, 

               Stay off your coffee. Though its effects are so minimal as to be not-worth-avoiding for most, I’d like to spare your colleagues, friends, and service workers any unnecessary monologues on suffering. Yes, my readers, I know: the LW has imagined herself into an unbearable state, and, you say, little can help but Xanax. This is, to be honest, why I am the Shit Advice Columnist, and you aren’t: I know imagined problems to be no less real. This knowledge sometimes enables me to help.

               But our abilities, just like our ailments, can be inherited—I didn’t come to this wisdom unaided. When I was little, my mom told me two things I could do to bring about shitting (or not-shitting) when I had a problem with not-shitting (or shitting). If I were ever constipated, I was to take my thumb, and with this thumb, massage my chin. Applying lots of pressure on the chin, she suggested, helps relieve the apparently built-up pressure of having to shit. On the other hand, where the other thumb resides, if I were ever in a public place, needing to shit, but not wanting to or not having the means, I was to spit into my hand and rub the spit deep into my bellybutton. She reassured me that, this way, if I got it good and wet, I’d buy myself some time. 

               So: when you want coffee, but don’t want coffee, apply the thumb to the chin; when you are on your way, but don’t want your shit to be on its, lube up your bellybutton with saliva. And, as always, feel free to write back with any new symptoms that result from these applications.




DIANA HAMILTON wrote Okay Okay (Truck Books 2012), a book about crying at work, and has three forthcoming chapbooks:Universe (Ugly Duckling Presse), 23 Women to Kiss Before You Die (Make Now), and Some Shit Advice (The Physiocrats).