Dear Captain Awkward:
I’m in my late sixties, and I have some health challenges that mean I’m occasionally caught short and need to use the ladies’ room rather urgently. This happened to me earlier today in a restaurant, where I was in the (single) ladies’ room for about ten minutes. After I’d been in for one minute, someone came and pounded (like, with the side of a closed fist) on the door. I said I’d just be a few minutes, and the pounding stopped. For about another minute, after which time it started up again. I said I was sorry, but that I’d only be a few minutes. I get that I’m not the only one in the world with this issue, but I was being as quick as I could. Really, I was helpless to leave at that point, if you know what I mean. When I was able, I completed my business, washed my hands, and opened the door, to find a woman of thirty-odd standing in the hall with a scowl and a raised fist. “There are four people out here waiting to get in there!” she snarled. (I looked. There weren’t.) “Maybe you should have used the men’s,” I said. “Instead of standing there arguing, why don’t you just get the hell out!” she said. Very loudly. People were looking, though they were trying not to meet my eyes. And I’m not proud of this, but I said, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” and collected my coat and purse in a leisurely fashion while she reared back and gave a Victorian-maiden impression over my use of the f-bomb. Nobody in the place would look at me as I left.
I don’t feel like I can ever go back to that restaurant, which is unfortunate, since they make a great scallopini. I feel humiliated, and I feel powerless, because that was the only comeback I could think of. What should I have done?
IBS in CA
Dear IBS in CA,
I feel bad for that lady, in exactly one respect, in that she probably had to use the bathroom really badly and was not her best self in that moment. However, that’s not your fault, abusing you was not the answer, and you don’t have to care about her feelings. Let her clutch her pearls forever while you go back to that restaurant any time you feel like it and eat some scallopini.
Let’s take this as yet another argument in favor of gender-neutral bathrooms.