Love is a strange thing. When we love someone, all of the things that we might judge and criticize about them are swept away. It’s quite a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Like farting. Farting in the presence of another person is perhaps one of the most intimate acts of love one can perform. There is a sense of sincerity in passing gas that shows trust and vulnerability. It’s almost like telling someone a secret about yourself in your own secret language. There aren’t many people you trust to not laugh or judge and the people you do trust, you trust all the way.

I came across this realization of the importance of farts on my recent trip back home. I was in the midst of a discussion with my mom concerning my faith and spirituality, when I became very much aware that my mom and I had been exchanging short bursts of flatulence for the full length of our conversation. After sharing a dorm room with other people for so long, I had grown accustomed to disguising my putrid farts, whether by hiding under the covers or waiting for the golden hour of opportunity when my roommates were in class. So this situation in which I could release a malodorous flatus in freedom without worry of judgment was a practice that I had long forgotten about. The thing that surprised me was that it wasn’t even a conscious decision to begin flatulating. It was instinctual, almost as if my gastrointestinal tract knew that I was in the presence of someone I trusted. The foul-smelling gaseous expulsions eventually faded into the background, like a separate conversation happening at the table behind you in a restaurant. To fart in front of someone is an act of love. Not because it’s pretty, because it’s not, but because it’s real. You’re not trying to hide the ugly parts of yourself. You’re not afraid of them acknowledging it because the love between you and them erases the need to dwell on the unappealing aspects of yourself.

When I was in the fifth grade, I went on a field trip to Sacramento where, about halfway through the trip, I began to feel a discomfort in my stomach. The discomfort quickly escalated to what is still to this day one of the most unpleasant pains I have ever experienced. My mom, along with the other parents, began to worry, offering painkillers, water, and snacks in the hopes that they could help ease the sharp pain piercing my abdomen. There were many theories as to what was causing my suffering, from hunger to constipation, but it wasn’t until I finally had access to a bathroom that I discovered the origin of my agony. I entered the single-person bathroom, barely able to walk from the pain, and sat down on the toilet expecting the biggest bowel movement in history to burst the pipes. Instead, I was greeted with what seemed like an endless stream of farts. The passing of gas was so intense that I didn’t just break wind, I destroyed it. As I’ve thought about this humorous event over the years, the question that I find myself thinking about most often is why farting is still considered to be taboo. What is it about farting that is so unacceptable that I would rather subject myself to torture rather than expose my natural side to other people?

When given some thought, the stigma behind passing gas is fairly illogical. Literally every person on Earth does it, including you and me. It’s not as if it’ll kill anyone, no matter how pungent or miasmic it is. So why do we care so much about hiding that part of our identity away? From a logical point of view, it’s frustrating, but I guess the romantic in me also finds it kind of nice. Saving something as intimate as a fart for your loved ones to show that you trust them. I think what we all secretly want in a relationship, whether it’s friends, family, or someone special, is to feel secure and comfortable enough to rip one as loud as you can. And if that isn’t love, I don’t know what the fuck is.

Christian Chang’s personal essay, “Love,” won first prize in the Eighth Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. Christian is a first-year student majoring in Illustration at SVA.

 Judges Xan Price & Kristin Wolfe had this to say about Christian’s prize-winning essay: “In a time when everything is uncertain, “Love” was a real pleasure to read. It is light, humorous, and heartwarming. And, given the subject matter, it’s very relatable. Not only can it cause an audible reaction, which is a real plus for the reader, but it encourages us all to break that tension we’ve experienced during these long days indoors with our loved ones . . .”