What the Color of Your Urine Says About You -The Toast

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Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 9.18.48 AM(With apologies to the good people doing good work at the Cleveland Clinic.)

No Color: Probably you shouldn’t be playing that drinking game at work, that game where every time your boss makes you want to down a martini you leave your desk instead and go to the water fountain, filling your environmentally-friendly aluminum bottle while you count to ten and imagine a cornucopia of violent deaths, a whirring, churning food processor of possibilities (glass-tank-magic-trick gone awry, cyanide, sharks?!) into which he can be slowly lowered, and when you return you aggressively drink the entire thing, zooming out of your body just enough to see the undulant pulls of your throat and the long-shot of your boss watching you through his open office door with a vaguely puzzled expression, and when you return to yourself you can actually feel the water sloshing inside of you, and you feel vaguely sick because you are better than all of this, and also there is apparently such a thing as being too aware of your insides.

Pale Straw Color: This is the color of righteousness, of virtue and piety, of a good girl and her eight ounces eight times a day—or is it six ounces six times a day?—the color of the urine of someone who rises at five like Ben-fuckin’-Franklin and makes something of her day, whose routine and contributions to the larger project of existence makes her useful and indispensible to the human race. You saw this color once and never again, you utter, utter failure.

Transparent Yellow: You are ordinary, the most ordinary person ever to walk this earth, with ordinary hopes and dreams and an ordinary inner life, differentiated from others by the shape of your shell, which isn’t even that interesting, anyway.

Dark Yellow: You gave up water to prove a point, but 12 hours later you are so thirsty you want to die and you can’t even remember the point you were supposed to be proving.

Amber or Honey: There was this book you read when you were a kid about a girl whose sister has to get a kidney transplant, or maybe she had diabetes, and twenty years after reading it you still remember the way the author deployed the symptoms, bam-bam-bam, the protagonist telling her sister, panicked, “When I went to the bathroom, my urine was dark,” and that meant that everything keeping her alive was shutting down, or something like that. You can’t remember any more of the book, not the title nor author nor any other plot points nor, most chillingly, whether or not the sick sister lived or died. Did you block it out? Stop reading? Simply forget? Who knows, who knows, who knows. Also, drink some water.

Syrup or Brown Ale: Did your roommate drunkenly empty his beer into the toilet, again? Alternately, could you have died in the night and been reanimated by forces darker than your most terrifying nightmares? Are you a shambling semblance of your former self, a necromancer’s plaything? When you look into the mirror, will you see your own face, or something rotting, or maybe both? Do zombies pee?

Pink to Reddish: That’s blood. It could be something else, but it could be blood. It could be nothing, but if it’s blood, well then, you should really put the passwords to your Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Gmail, WordPress (etc., etc.) accounts down on some paper before your inevitable demise.

Orange: You probably shouldn’t have taken that E from that stranger, but everyone tells you to relax and you were all, “Carpe diem,” but now your pee is the color of a traffic cone and it can’t be a coincidence. That stranger was, like, twenty. You should have known better. That stranger was younger than most of your old students, the ones who said “YOLO” so often you had to Google it. That stranger had a trucker cap on his head—not backwards, but sideways. Sideways. What the hell were you thinking?

Blue or Green: You might have Lyme disease. You probably have Lyme disease. If it’s not Lyme disease, it is absolutely cancer.

Purple: You are a hypochondriac, you are a hypochondriac, you are the worst kind of anxious—the kind who wastes the time of DOCTORS, for Christ’s sake, students of the human machine, healers, you waste their time and you know they roll their eyes after you leave. You are the kind of woman who went to a doctor’s special hours on Christmas Eve because you were convinced you had herpes, but it was just a pimple. All of this being said, and with complete fairness to yourself, under what scenario can you pee purple and you not die, horrifically, days later? You should have treated yourself better. This whole time, you should have been kinder to yourself.

Foaming or Fizzing: Was it the seltzer? The secreted Gobstoppers from the administrative assistant’s candy stash? The exercise routine, or the abandoning of it? That weird organic “snack” you bought from the co-op because you were starving and it kind of looked like a candy bar but it was DEFINITELY, DEFINITELY not a candy bar? Whatever it was, you are pretty sure you don’t deserve this.

Any of the Above: You are the kind of person who examines and diagnoses her own urine, and probably should see someone about that.

Carmen Maria Machado has written for for The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Hairpin, The Rumpus, and VICE. She has the entirety of Milo and Otis memorized, tweets as @carmenmmachado, and lives in Philadelphia with her girlfriend.

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