A twenty-five-year-old local man whose shit literally does not stink, has blamed his rare condition for ruining his life. The unfortunate man - whom we will call “Helado,” the Spanish word for “ice cream” -
told us his story over lunch at the Iron Hill Brewery last week. That story was a nightmare of broken friendships, sorry affairs, and growing isolation.
“People resent anyone or anything different,” said Helado. “Just because they go through a can of Febreze® every week in their stinking bathrooms, they think everybody else should, too; and if you don’t, well, there must be something wrong with you.”
What’s wrong with Helado is a rare condition known as Rückstände ohne Geruch in which the intestinal flora work too aggressively to remove odor-causing toxins during the digestive process. This condition affects approximately one out of 750,000 people.
Persons with Rückstände ohne Geruch could shit themselves in a crowded elevator and nobody would be the wiser. They could live on a Taco Bell diet, eating nothing but burritos, tacos, and double orders of refried beans - as Helado has done - but nothing’s going to make them smell like mere mortals. People with Rückstände ohne Geruch can fart with impunity on a rush-hour bus.
A slight, nervous, neatly-dressed young man, Helado said he began to realize he was different when he was growing up in a one-bathroom row-house in South Philadelphia with his three older siblings, his working-class parents, and his paternal grandmother.
“With so many people in the house, the bathroom was frequently occupied, and there was a lot of teasing back and forth about who ‘really stunk up the joint’. You know, that predictable, row-house humor.”
In this tribe of bowl busters, Helado stood out like a tomato plant in a septic field.
“People got on my case because the bathroom didn’t smell like a diaper pail after I had used it. My father, who always favored my brothers and sister, began mocking me all the time. ‘Don’t mind him,’ he’d tell my siblings, ‘he’s just stuck up because he thinks his shit doesn’t stink.’ There are few worse insults to a prole’s way of thinking.”
Although Helado was an excellent tennis player, he decided not to try out for his high school team, because he was afraid his teammates would mock him if they discovered his secret. His father took the news in stride.
“Don’t mind him, he’s too good to play tennis because he thinks his shit doesn’t stink.”
When it came time for Helado to go to college - ”I was the first member of my family who wasn’t too slow to get accepted anyplace” - he wanted to go to a school in the city, so he could commute and save money. His father had other ideas.
“It’s time you were out in the real world, Mr. My Shit Doesn’t Stink!”
Reluctantly, Helado went off to college. At first, he tried to conceal his condition by using the bathroom in the dorm suite only when his three roommates weren’t there. If he did use the loo in the suite, he sprayed vigorously with Febreze® to mask his non-odor.
But there are no secrets in dorm rooms,” Helado laughed, ruefully. “My roommates eventually found out about my quote, unquote condition. They were OK about it for a while, and I was beginning to think I might be able to lead a normal life if I confined my close social contacts to college-educated people.
“Then, toward the middle of my freshman year, I noticed a change in my roommates. Their jokes became more cutting, as though they resented me. I came back early from class one day, and overheard one of my roommates saying, ‘Just because his shit doesn’t stink, he thinks he’s better than us.’ I was so hurt. I’m not the kind of person who thinks he’s better than everyone else.”
By the end of the school year, his roommates were using the public restroom at the end of their floor rather than the one in their suite. The next year, they all sought different roommates.
Helado also admitted sadly that his problem affected his liebesleben as well as his friendships.
“Fecal odor’s the third rail of dating relationships,” he said. “Nobody wants to talk about it, but as soon as a woman who smells like the inside of a dead Apache’s loin cloth realizes that you don’t, you can kiss her ass good-bye, assuming you’d want to.”
Helado is content for now with quick, impersonal sex, often with prostitutes.
“It’s OK, I guess, if your idea of intimacy includes someone who chews gum while she gives you head, but eventually I’d like a real relationship. Maybe I’ll try a classified add, 'SWM with Rückstände ohne Geruch seeks SWF with same for long walks on the beach and quiet nights eating kimchi by the fireplace.'”