I peed my pants at the White House once. And not just a droplet or two but a wardrobe-soaking, no-holds-barred, toddler-grade, “oh my God this is happening” flood of piss. This was many years ago, but I can still recall every specific as if it was yesterday.
I remember standing frozen a few seconds before it happened, knowing what was coming. I made a useless guess at the distance to the closest bathroom before accepting my fate. Standing there, a guest of the President and flanked by Secret Service men and women, I resigned myself to humility as the urine began its slow descent down the length of my pants in the ninety-degree heat.
And I had no one to blame but myself.
I’m a pleasure delayer. No matter what it is or how important, if it brings me even the slightest bit of joy I want to put it off as long as possible. I’ve been like this since I was a kid. Somewhere along the way I learned that things were better if you had to wait for them. This is certainly true in some cases.
A martini, for example, tastes far better at five pm than it does it ten am. An orgasm – too – is exponentially more satisfying after thirty minutes than thirty seconds. This logic is sound, but it requires a bit of moderation. The problem is that I’m a sociopath and I’m not good with moderation, so I’ve started applying it to everything that brings pleasure or relief. Everything, including urination.
I never go to the bathroom when I am supposed to. Not ever. And it’s not as if I don’t realize I need to go — I absolutely do. But I always just decide it’s not important.
At work, for instance, I’ll say to myself, “I’ll go right after the meeting.” But then that meeting will be over and I’ll think “I’ll wait until I get home because that will be so much nicer.”
Then I’ll start driving and after a few minutes I’ll think, “I should get take-out from Vito on the way home!” And before I know it, it’s been three hours since the first time I should have gone and now I’m trying to use my son’s leftover sippy cup as a makeshift toilet while stopped at the red light between Wilshire and Bundy.
The worst part is that I don’t learn from my mistakes. You would think that after the first time I pissed myself while wearing a vintage circle skirt at a Mad Men party, I would decide to retire the delay game. Not the case. In fact, each time it happens I genuinely react as if I can’t believe it.
“Why don’t you just go when you have to go??” My husband wants to know. I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s because it wouldn’t be as fun without the risk.
I tell myself I’ll stop doing it, but I don’t. There’s always a conversation worth having, or a drink worth finishing, or an errand worth running, or a room worth cleaning, or a computer worth rebooting, or a nail worth filing – literally ANYTHING takes precedence over a quick trip to the bathroom.
It’s as though the act of urination is made somehow more satisfying if it’s preceded by a dozen mundane tasks and a week’s worth of activities executed in no particular order.
And this is how I found myself walking slowly backwards across the South Lawn of the White House, wondering how long I had before someone stopped and asked me where the fuck I thought I was going.
It had been a lovely day up until that point. My husband and I were invited months prior and had spent hours going over every detail. I knew I had to pee the second we got to the first checkpoint, but there were no bathrooms outside so there was nothing I could do about it. NOT MY FAULT.
I take partial ownership of my decision not to excuse myself once we got inside, but I really can’t be blamed. I was standing inside the White House, for God’s sake. If I can’t make myself stand and go to the bathroom while sitting on the couch in my own home, then I really had no shot of making it work while standing in the President’s waiting area.
I definitely could have ducked out to use the facilities before we went into the receiving room, but then I really wanted to see the receiving room! I’m an observer, after all. Plus there was some political stuff my dad would have loved — my dad ran for Congress once — so it was really neat to sneak some pics of it. After that we were ushered into a room to meet the President, and I couldn’t very well do it then.
In retrospect I’m certain this was the decision that sealed my fate. But I can assure you that the second the President of the United States walks into a room in which you are standing, your body immediately forgets it had to pee. Like, ever.
After the meeting we were escorted out onto the White House lawn. High on adrenaline and forgetting any urinary urgency, I strolled leisurely through the grass.
A party was scheduled to start any minute and as I sipped a (flask) cocktail, I made small talk with a Secret Service agent named Mike who let me pet his dog — a Secret Service dog! I even got more pictures.
What a day. This was living! I was probably thinking this very thought when my husband interrupted my reverie to ask whether I ever went to the bathroom. That’s right about the time the adrenaline wore off and my bladder kicked in at full capacity.
“Oh, honey,” he said.
There was no escaping it now. The President had walked out onto the Truman Balcony so any chance of me rushing to the bathroom was gone. Besides, from my vantage point I couldn’t even see a bathroom much less figure out how to get to one in time.
The more I started to panic, the more urgent the matter became. My bladder is like a shark — the second it senses fear it starts its attack. And that day was no exception. So rather than put myself through a lot of necessary misery, I simply decided to surrender.
A Disney star had been introduced to lead us in a chorus of the National Anthem and as we started to sing, I started to pee. I’ll admit there was something strangely liberating about singing at top of my lungs while pissing my pants at the President’s house, but I didn’t have time to fully appreciate it at the time.
As I started walking slowly away from the crowd, my husband – my absolute champion – took up position behind me and navigated us off the grounds and into a cab.
“Can this be the last time?” he asked sweetly. “You just peed your pants in front of the President, my love, so I’d say you’ve achieved legendary status where ‘holding it’ is concerned. You simply can’t do better.” And I nodded in placatory agreement.
But I know I can do better.