You Do You

Southernmost Exposure

By: Kathy Borthwick
1st Place  Dribble Scribbles Winner of Personal Essay

I am a New England transplant living in Southern California.  I have been married to my best friend for 25 years and we have three amazing children together and a fun loving mini Golden Doodle named Brady (team loyalty runs deep – Go Pats!) When I’m not freelance blogging, researching, practicing organic living or managing my busy family, I enjoy long distance running and competing in half marathons with the goal of making the least amount of Porta Potty stops along the way!  


On a typically hot and humid Florida day in 2004, while we were recovering from back to back hurricanes, a friend of ours, whom we had known for many years, flew in from San Diego and invited our family to join him and his son on an adventure to Key West, the southernmost city on the Florida Keys. Since we had been living in Florida for less than a year, we were very excited about experiencing this iconic road trip. We packed up and headed out.

After spending the night in a motel, we were excited to continue our journey on the Overseas Highway to our final destination. Unfortunately, our journey to the southernmost city aligned with my increasingly overzealous bladder. Making a minimum of 10 visits to the restroom on a daily basis was becoming my new "normal."  However, on this particular trip, I was experiencing the mother of overactive bladders.

The next morning as we strolled around the island, I found myself in constant search for a restroom. "You have to go AGAIN?" my husband asked. After getting a bite to eat, and being afraid to take even a sip of liquid, the excitement of being on Key West began to wane. After discussing things to do on the island, everyone agreed that renting a boat and exploring the Gulf of Mexico was our best option. Boats, like cars have bathrooms, right?  Not this one.  A full bladder in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and not even a bucket on deck. I was an anxious mess. The world-renowned Blue Angels just happened to be flying overhead which was exciting for a few minutes. The misery I was feeling in my own "southernmost place” quashed the joy of frolicking in the waters of the southernmost place. 

After tearing up the ocean for a good hour and a half, we decided to head to a harbor where we could dock the boat and get some lunch - and of course find a restroom for yours truly. My bladder felt like a water balloon, aching to burst. Instead of locating a harbor, our helmsman steered the boat into shallow waters, about 25 yards from a bridge flowing steadily with traffic. And I was about to lose my mind – along with everything in my bladder. I could not hold it any longer.

After further discussion of my untimely plight, everyone agreed to head to the bow and give me as much privacy as I could get in order to relieve myself. I retreated to the stern. I thought to myself, “This will be quick.”  As I was trying to relax and let go what I have been holding onto for the last two hours, the proximity of our boat to the channel caused the vessel to move into dangerously shallow waters. There was panic on the boat. We were stuck. "Have you gone yet?" yelled my husband. Seriously? With 6 FA-18's flying overhead; a bridge full of cars to the left, and sailboats within 100 yards, how could I NOT relax and let go? Amidst my struggle, our friend jumped into the water in order to regain control of the boat. In the process he lost his shoes.

Within seconds, a tiger shark appeared alongside our vessel. Tension rose and the pressure was on.  I’m sure I traumatized the kids as well as any onlookers even though I tried to be as stealth as possible. I swiftly pulled down my Capris (yes, shorts would have made the task easier) and shimmied myself into a squat, positioning myself strategically on the boat with the hope of accuracy & balance.  My biggest fear was falling into the Gulf of Mexico with my pants down to my ankles.  Oh, and did I mention the tiger shark? It took awhile to relax those sphincters that were working overtime for the past few hours but I was successful and still alive to tell the story.  Who knew how dangerous it could be to sail the seas with a full bladder?

I have had to learn to navigate the perils that come with having the bladder of a gnat. I can now chuckle when I recall that crazy day in the southernmost place though I would never want to relive it.  A family photo of us standing at the “southernmost” tip of the U.S. is a constant reminder of that fun filled day. It is easy to forget that we drove over 40 bridges to get there; saw the most incredible sunset; watched the Blue Angels do their thing and saw Cuba from the shore. But I’ll always remember how I had the honor of peeing on the back of a speed boat in the southernmost place in America.


I discovered Icon when I was preparing to run a half marathon a couple of months ago. Since so many female runners have incontinence issues, it gave me hope knowing I wasn’t the only one dealing with it and that there was a company dedicated to the cause.  When I read about Icon’s involvement with the Fistula Foundation, I was inspired to learn that my struggle, which pales in comparison to what these women go through, could actually benefit someone in much greater need.

Photo: The U.S. National Archives