I was a lucky guy. My new flatmates were really supportive of my Groupon lifestyle. That evening they said to me: ‘Look, we think it’s really great what you’re doing Max, and we’re here to get behind you. We want to support you in any way we can. So we’ve clubbed together and bought you colonic irrigation.’ I smiled politely. Colonic irrigation? This sounded absolutely horrific! But I had no choice. I was legally bound by a subsection of the bet rules to accept any Groupon bought for me. I began to panic. Then I was struck by a calming thought. Perhaps this is the leap of faith that The Fool had demanded? Perhaps this could be a statement of my cast-iron will? After all, it was miles outside of my comfort zone. So I thanked my housemates for their generous gift and off I went, the very next afternoon.
It was comfortably the worst day of my life. I’ll be surprised if I’m ever more embarrassed than I was that day at Acqua di Acqua in High Barnet. I went alone. Because believe it or not, it’s actually quite hard to find a buddy to do colonic irrigation with you. I mean it’s not an easy sell is it? ‘Hi mate, what you up to this afternoon? Fancy having your anus flushed out?’ It was so easy to book an appointment, just a few clicks of a mouse, that I hadn’t really considered the consequences. I was going to have gallon after gallon of water pumped into my colon, using a tube inserted into my rectum. In doing so 26 years of bum gunk would be disturbed and then flow out of my arse, down a transparent tube which would RUN PAST MY HEAD, like some sort of faecal Generation Game.
I had thought of hiding some stuff up there, you know, to surprise the therapist. Something like a small plastic dolphin, or a message in a bottle, or maybe my house keys? Then when they flowed down the tube I could go, ‘So that’s where they were! What am I like?’ But I didn’t. The only preparation I did was some light sobbing. On the morning of the colonic I was totally dreading it. I’m ashamed of my bumhole. It’s hairy, dark and prone to sweating. Like a badger in an airing cupboard. And for some reason I have this weird suspicion that mine might be worse than everybody else’s. In short I wasn’t skipping down the street at the prospect of having a total stranger faffing about with it. But I knew this was a test that I had to pass. So off I went.
The clinic was on the first floor of a LA Fitness gym. It was further from the station than I’d imagined and I got lost. I had to ask a local lady where LA Fitness was, and she immediately said ‘Oh you’re not having a colonic are you? They do them there you know! OH MY GOD! Are you having a colonic?’ I was like, ‘Oh God no! A colonic! How embarrassing! No, no, no, no, I’m here for Zumba.’ She gave me directions and I arrived just in time. That’s when the indignity started. In the reception area, I was handed a form to fill in by the receptionist. At the top was the usual name, address, phone number spiel. And then there were some more personal questions, including: ‘How would you describe your stools?’ How are you meant to answer that question? ‘How would I describe my stools? Through the medium of dance of course!’ If my shits went internet dating they would describe themselves as ‘Shy but outgoing after a few drinks’. But there wasn’t a box for that; it’s almost as if they hadn’t considered poos going dating. The only options on the form were:
A lady sat opposite me in the waiting area caught me dithering on the question. She leant over, put her hand on my knee, and proud as punch loudly announced, ‘I put fat sausage!’ As if that would help. As if I’d go, ‘Oh did you? Fat sausage you say? Congratulations! Way to go, sister! We should do brunch.’ My therapist came over to me and shook my hand: it was my turn. Her name was Katerina, a beautiful young Polish girl with long blonde hair. I really fancied her. She showed me to a small room off the reception area and shut the door. She then explained the science. “In your colon Mr Dickins you have 20 foot of intestines, and in your intestines you carry around eight kilograms of poop”, before emphasising, ‘Which is equivalent to a large cat.’ I stared back at her, dumbstruck, before saying: ‘I am so glad you put that in cat terms. Because I was lost! Just to put my mind completely at ease, what’s that in hamsters?’
The bed itself was plastic and shaped like a pedalo. Around halfway up was a stiff plastic tube. Katerina handed me a sachet of lubricant. ‘What you need to do is lube up the tube with this, and insert it into your anus. When you’re done, ring the bell.’ This is going to sound mad but I was delighted at this news. I thought she was going to have to stick the pipe in for me, but now I was saved from this particular embarrassment. She left and I got undressed from the waist down. Now with the tube up my arse and a white towel concealing my offal, I called her back in.
I had never felt more exposed. Here I was with a tube up my bum, legs akimbo, with a Polish woman about to fill my intestines full of liquid. She had her hand on the tap. ‘Ready?’ she said. I nodded and she turned the tap on. Water was now flooding my colon. ‘When you feel cramps in your stomach I want you to push,’ she said, looking me straight in the eyes. ‘Like when you go to the toilet.’ About a minute passed. I couldn’t feel a thing. ‘Are you sure the tube’s in?’ I said. She nodded and said ‘Oh yes, it’s very deep,’ in a tone of voice that suggested I’d done that on purpose. Katerina turned up the pressure. Another minute passed; I still couldn’t feel anything. I tried to make small talk, ‘So do you live round here?’ I said. She ignored me and turned the tap up yet again. She seemed genuinely worried at this stage, baffled by how much water I could take in my arse without feeling any pain.
Suddenly I could feel the cramps, like I’d done too many sit-ups. ‘I can feel it!’ I said, absolutely delighted. ‘Push! Push!’ she screamed. And I really tried, but nothing was coming out. I really felt like I was letting her down. I actually felt embarrassed that I couldn’t shit myself in front of this gorgeous woman. ‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘I’m normally really good at this.’ About five seconds later I exploded. Katerina, now stood at the end of the bed, started cheering. ‘Yeah! Well done! Big chunk!’ She high fived me. I started crying tears of joy. I had finally got the hang of it: you wait to be filled up to the extent that you cramp and then you contract your diaphragm, pushing the water out of your arse – essentially turning your digestive system into a set of bellows.
So what does it feel like? Well, I’ve never been bummed, but a colonic is like being bummed by the sea. Sometimes so much water goes in that you feel like vomiting, as if you are about to turn into one of those cherub fountains where water goes in your bum and straight out your mouth. Katerina was obviously impressed. ‘What have you seen? Toxins? Lumps? Gas?’ ‘Bit of everything,’ I giggled, barely containing my excitement. I was showing off now. The thought genuinely crossed my mind: maybe I could ask her out? Then I did a massive fart and thought better of it. Katerina could see I was having fun, so she left me to it, leaving the room. But not before opening the window slightly ajar to help with the smell, which as you can imagine was fairly haunting. However, the window made the room very draughty and suddenly the door blew open, meaning that everyone in reception could now see directly up my arse. I had 12 pairs of shocked eyes trained on me. I began ringing the bell like mad, screaming Katerina’s name. She was nowhere to be seen. I thought, ‘This can’t get any worse.’ But at the end of the reception area I saw the handle on the front door beginning to twist. And yet another person walked in. It was the woman who had given me directions earlier. AT THIS STAGE I WOULD HAVE HAPPILY SHOT MYSELF. She stared at me, I stared at her, totally lost for words. She eventually said, ‘Oh … was Zumba full?’ And at last Katerina comes to my rescue, slamming the door shut. I began to cry again, this time in despair.
Walking home my bowels felt light and relaxed. It felt like I’d had a big poo, but to the power of ten. The first meal I had post-irrigation was a red Thai curry, which was a major strategic error. The chilli stung my colon like aftershave on a freshly razored face. My digestive tract offered little resistance. It was like dropping a marble down a lift shaft. Colonic irrigation was clearly absolutely horrendous. But weirdly it didn’t put me off My Groupon Adventure. In fact it empowered me, because it had been such a humiliating experience that I realised virtually nothing in life could be more embarrassing. I was suddenly immune to making an idiot of myself and consequently I felt fearless. This was what I was finding with my Groupon experiences. One thing always led to another. Every time I tried something new – something that on the surface level seemed only shallow and fun – I got a secondary psychological benefit too. I had come to realise that My Groupon Adventure was a daft project with profound positive externalities. Spending an hour of my life soiling myself in front of a stranger had made me a better person. And I never thought I’d say that.