For most of us, death isn’t something we like thinking about unless you’re one of those sexually-frustrated, slightly chunky, somewhat hygeine-deficient tween Twilight fans who spends your nights tattooing the name “Edward” on your left labia and “Jacob” on your right with a black Sharpie, so when you cross your legs Edward and Jacob will be kissing, then carving the words FUCK YOU, BELLA! EDWARD BELONGS TO ME over and over into your arm with your mom’s sewing scissors. Despite what Stephenie Meyer tells you, death is something that happens to everyone, no matter how many “vampires” you have sex with. I’m sorry to have to be the one to break this to you: Edward isn’t real. He’s not going to turn you into a vampire then poke you with his big, cold, glittery phallus. Even you, Twilight Fan, will someday die.

People in different cultures deal with their dead in a variety of ways: in India, they burn the bodies and set them afloat on the Ganges. The ancient Egyptians pickled the bodies and wrapped them in linen. The Aborigines in Australia put the bodies of their dead up in trees.

Here in America, it’s a much more sanitary process…at least until you’re buried. If you choose to go with the embalming-casket-viewing-wake-flowers-funeral-burial thing, you’re in for a real treat.  Like the ancient Egyptians, we marinate our dead in various caustic chemicals, drain them of their blood, pump them full of embalming fluid, poke formaldehyde-soaked cotton up their butts, glue their lips shut, dress them up, put make-up on them, and put them on display all toward the goal of making them look like they are sleeping. Well, anyone who has ever been to a viewing or an open-casket funeral can attest that the bodies of the deceased look anything but natural and I’m sorry, none of them look like they crawled in the casket to take a nap. They look…well, dead. Most of the time, the makeup is shellacked on so thick they end up looking like circus clowns or Courtney Love. But the horror doesn’t stop there. No ma’am. Once the formality of the funeral is over, everyone has hugged and cried and eaten Funeral Potatoes and the dearly departed is lowered into the ground, the REAL fun begins.

While the mortician’s chemical handiwork slows down the body’s natural decomposition process, it’s not foolproof and doesn’t last forever. Not long after the corpse is covered in six feet of dirt, or put in a drawer and sealed into the wall, a process called putrefaction begins. Truthfully, the first stage of putrefaction begins just moments after a person dies.  Luckily, thanks to coroners with turbo-charged engines in their vans, giant refrigerators and formaldehyde, we can temporarily and fairly quickly stick a fork in the process. To be clear, embalming slows putrefaction, sometimes significantly, but  after a relatively short time, strong odor, color changes and bloating begin. You’re probably thinking “Well, this doesn’t sound too bad! I have the same thing happen after a night of heavy drinking or when my Womanly Cycle destroys another pair of my white jeans!” First of all, no one should own white jeans after 1991. Second, putrefaction is much more heinous, sticky, runny, smelly and downright messy. Believe me, washing the bloody uteran lining out of a pair of white Jordache jeans will seem as easy as when you lost your virginity on a pool table at a frat party compared to what I’m about to tell you.

So let’s join Granny Mildred in her stylish baby-blue steel casket now that the old hag is finally buried and you can get back to playing Farmville on your iPhone. As the tissues of the body begin to break down, they become a veritable Chuck-a-Rama for bacteria and insects. Grab a clean plate and load up, guys!  As the bacteria begin to consume the flesh, gas starts to build up in the abdomen and other body cavities, causing it to inflate like a brand new pair of breast implants. In addition to the swelling, the skin develops dark green patches, particularly on the chest, shoulders and thighs. Blisters develop and fill with fluid. As the body expands, the gas forces liquid and feces out of the body through the mouth and the anus.

As things continue to swell, the skin becomes fragile and starts to slide off the body. This sexy process is known appropriately as “skin slippage”.  Try leaving a thawed raw turkey on the counter of your kitchen for a week in the height of summer. You may begin to get an idea of what we’re talking about. During this stage of decomposition, the bugs multiply by the thousands, crawling in and out of Granny’s various openings, laying millions of eggs.

Take a minute to go in the bathroom and puke. I’ll wait here and have a cupcake. Hurry back.

Done? Good. Wait- you have some chunks stuck in your hair. No, I won’t get them out for you, go wash them out like a normal human being. You’re disgusting. NO! DON’T EAT THEM!

Now, Putrefaction is our first stage. The next one is even more vile. The second stage of decomposition is called Black Putrefaction. Personally, I wholeheartedly think the name of this one ought to be changed, it sounds a little racist to me. I’ll write my congressman when I’m done here and make sure something is done about this, posthaste.

So, Black Putrefaction. During this stage of decomposition, the gases built up by the bacteria that are ravaging the soft tissue cause the body cavity to rupture or explode. Now, a little bit of a detraction here. Most funeral homes will try and sell you a casket that is air and/or water tight. You want to keep the bugs and water and all that icky stuff off grandma, right? Unfortunately, not only will you pay a lot more money for one of these bad boys (or girls, whichever) the big problem with caskets that keep these elements out…they also leave no room for the body gases to escape, either.  It’s not like letting a fart next to an air vent. Just as the body itself can rupture or explode to release the gas that’s been built up, the casket will likely follow suit. So that $10,000 you spent to make sure Granny Mildred stays nice and vacuum sealed and preserved for Eternity will typically also explode, spraying pieces of Granny all over the grave vault. Now, if she is six feet below ground, chances are, no one would ever know if or when her internal organs and viscera decide to catapult out of her body. However, if you decided to inter her above-ground in a crypt, or in the broom closet of your summer home, the consequences have the potential to be downright catastrophic and emotionally crippling for the surviving family. So the moral of this little detour into casket-shopping…for not only your sake, but the sake of the deceased, and other unsuspecting mourners who happen to be present at the time when Grandma Mildred’s decaying corpse goes kaboom!…don’t buy an airtight or watertight casket. If you do, just make sure you also purchase a good sturdy mop and a large bottle of Clorox Clean-Up.

So, after the body ruptures, it…well, deflates and begins to turn black, hence…Black Putrefaction. This stage in the process allows even more hungry insects to come to the feeding trough and maggot orgy that is Granny’s rotting carcass. At the end of this stage, the skeleton begins to poke through as the soft tissue is consumed by bugs and converted into rancid, reeking gas.

The final two stages aren’t as interesting, so I’ll just give a quick shoutout to ’em. After Black Putrefaction, we have Butyric Fermentation, which is just a fancy name for Mummification. This stage is where we encounter what’s called “grave wax”. This refers to the wax-like quality that the cadaver takes on after it bursts like that pesky zit in your butt crack that wouldn’t pop no matter how many hours you spent squeezing it while squatted over a hand mirror. Personally, instead of the term “grave wax”, I cast my vote to call it “casket-cheese”. Hand me those Wheat Thins and let’s start spreadin’.

The final stage is called Dry Decay. In a nutshell, this is when all the soft tissue is completely depleted and the bones begin to break down and turn to dust. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Speaking of ashes, thank the Good Lord there are choices when it comes to ditching your Earthly Shell that don’t include nuclear bomb-style Exploding Caskets and Rotten Anal Leakage.  For instance, there’s cremation. Now, the best thing about cremation is there is a veritable smorgasbord of options available to the discerning Burnt Corpse.  Of course, there are the traditional time-honored customs: a pretty urn to keep on your mantle or the dashboard of your Toyota Corolla. This way, you can always have a a good supply of your Loved One that you can snort right along with your daily $300 bag of cocaine. Human ashes look fabulous on a coke mirror as well. Just make sure that hooker you hired doesn’t get greedy and snort it all herself while you’re in the bathroom trying to scrub the shame off your body. Whores tend to do be quite selfish that way.

Another popular method is having your ashes scattered at a special place; like the chemical toilet in your RV, in your child’s lunchbox, or in that casserole you were guilted into making for that bitch down the street who just had her appendix out. Another really practical method we learned from the movie “Meet the Parents”, human ‘cremains’ (another scrumptious word) can actually be used as kitty litter in a pinch. “Oh LOOK! Kitty just shat a loaf on Gramma! How CUTE!”

But then there are the less conventional ways to use human ashes. You can now take the ashes down to UPS, shipped off and have them turned into a synthetic diamond or diamonds that you can add to that gold grill you bought to wear to the Justin Beiber concert. Nice. You can send the ashes to a glass-blower and have them turned into a candy dish or bedpan or an ugly piece of art that the cat who squeezed out a loaf on Grandma would eventually knock off the shelf and break. BAD KITTY! You can have the ashes mixed in paint and and have an artist paint a likeness of Granny…as long as you don’t choose to have the artist paint a portrait of her wearing that black teddy and those fishnet support hose she loved to squeeze into when she was hopped up on quaaludes and tequila. Hell, you can even have dear old Gran’s pulverized cadaver dust shot into orbit. The risk you take with that is she has the ability to fuck up the reception of your satellite dish. And we all know watching Desperate Housewives is more important than that vile dead hag anyway.

So, right now is probably the moment you’re thinking, “What the hell is all this about? The title of this post doesn’t really match the subject matter! We’re on pins and needles here! What’s the best part about death in America?! It certainly can’t be the part about anal leakage! That’s the second or third best, but no way it can be first!!!”

Well, you asked at exactly the right moment. The best thing about death in America? Whether you choose to spend eternity in a box or have your body burned burned up like last year’s Christmas tree and put in an urn…you can conveniently purchase either of these fine receptacles at your neighborhood Costco. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the next time you decide to buy a new camera, a flat-screen TV and that box of 3,500 Jumbo Super-Absorbent Tampax In Assorted Colors and Flavors you’ve decided to give out as Halloween candy, because face it, those little tramps dressed up like angels and witches could begin bleeding at any moment and it’ll be a cold day in hell before you let those little sluts bleed all over your new bearskin rug while their greedy hands are groping for a Snickers bar, you can also pick up a satin-lined coffin for Aunt Gert and a matching urn for Gert’s transsexual lesbian love-slave named Dot.

So this brings us to the end of our journey. I hope you learned something new. Now head to the restroom, please. Those chunks in your hair are beginning to dry.