#796: Reassurances for a LW with some bathroom embarrassment.

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?


Dear IBS in CA,

You could have said “WOW” or “EXCUSE YOU” but I think you should take a page from Dame Helen Mirren, who regrets not telling people to “fuck off” more in life.

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.


Captain Awkward

168 thoughts on “#796: Reassurances for a LW with some bathroom embarrassment.

      1. Seriously. I’ve never really tended toward girlcrushes but I’m mad about her. If I ever actually met her I’d probably have the vapors. What I really really really really really love about her is how she’s constantly proving you can totally be a lady and still not have to be a soft, sweet doormat. I grew up with way too many examples of the latter, all of whom still make it clear that they don’t approve of my general attitude and behavior in life. Anyway, enough about me, more about Helen Mirren. Have you seen her in RED? Because oh my god, I love her in RED. (RED 2, though the story isn’t quite as good, features almost all the same actors and they’re all fun again this time around, including of course, Helen, who is just… so… awesome.)

  1. You know, when someone is really rude like that, I think it’s appropriate to be rude right back. While I have been in her position, desperately needing a bathroom when the single one is in use, or when there’s a really long line, that’s really no excuse to cause a scene. If she needed to be angry and say something to someone, why not management regarding gender neutral bathrooms, or adding more bathrooms? You were a patron who needed the use of the facilities, and there is nothing wrong or shameful about that.

    And if you want to go back there, I say go for it. Although you might feel embarrassed, I doubt anyone there will remember you personally, although they might remember that a scene was made.

    1. I agree. And, I’d bet people will remember the rude door-banger before they remember you, LW.
      LW I’m sorry you had to deal with that. Big Jedi Hugs if you want them!

    2. I have responded to this situation before with a chilling look and “I was unavoidably detained.” and then sweeping off, but I think LW’s “go fuck yourself” was as good or better. (I learned “I was unavoidably detained” and a look that says I WILL CUT YOU from my mother, who shares both my food allergies and my love of a good Miss Manners-style freezeout).

    3. My mother has bathroom issues and she has to cope with embarrassment frequently. Single bathrooms are *so* frustrating for everybody involved – because with bathroom issues, it can sometimes be a case of “the more flustered you get, the more the issues act up”. And I hope that rude lady gets a taste of her own one day. As if *anybody* on this planet actually deliberately hangs around in a public bathroom for more time than they actually have to?? Clearly if she’s in there for several minutes it’s a problem, and as the LW said, there’s always the men’s room. Too ladylike to do that? Fine, then cross your legs and wait, or if you can’t wait then a) next time try going before you REALLY have to go, what are you, 3?, and/or b) go find another option in another building. Have bathroom problems yourself? Then dammit, you SHOULD understand what it’s like and not bitch out a total stranger for having the same problem!!

  2. And I’m not proud of this, but I said, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?”

    I admire your restraint. If someone is in the bathroom for a while, I figure they are having an issue since people do not typically relish going to social venues for the restroom experience. I mean, unless the place had a fucking waterslide in the ladies’ room, in which case, sure, maybe people are overstaying for the fun ride or something.

    I will bet you a mortgage payment that people were side-eyeing her more than you. Seriously, if someone gets shouty like that I’m giving them the stink eye. They aren’t getting sympathy from most people at that point because they’re acting like hot garbage.

    TL;DR: She deserved to be told to go fuck herself.

    1. All of the above.

      Also: the notion that we should, above all, be polite to people who come talk to us comes partially from the Victorian times, where, sure, people needed to be polite to those talking to them because (and this is key) it was the hight of impoliteness to talk to someone —unless you had been introduced by a mutual acquaintance—. And obviously you wouldn’t want your behavior to reflect badly on said acquaintance, right?

      So the notion that you should behave politely to someone who acts completely IMpolitely and comes up to you from nowhere demanding attention/time/energy? Mostly BS, mostly expected of women, and generally gonna shoot you in the foot. Act politely until the circumstances dictate otherwise, obviously, because that’s just the more pleasant way to live… but sometimes, some people just need to be told to go fuck themselves.

    2. All of the above.

      Also: the notion that we should, above all, be polite to people who come talk to us comes partially from the Victorian times, where, sure, people needed to be polite to those talking to them because (and this is key) it was the hight of impoliteness to talk to someone —unless you had been introduced by a mutual acquaintance—. And obviously you wouldn’t want your behavior to reflect badly on said acquaintance, right? And it drives me nuts to see the same standards of behavior held up for people who, say, randomly stop you on the street and demand attention – NO, you don’t owe them attention, and walking right by is NOT impolite, wtf.

      So the notion that you should behave politely to someone who acts completely IMpolitely and comes up to you from nowhere demanding attention/time/energy? Mostly BS, mostly expected of women, and generally gonna shoot you in the foot. Act politely until the circumstances dictate otherwise, obviously, because that’s just the more pleasant way to live… but sometimes, some people just need to be told to go fuck themselves.

    3. Seconding this! OP, I’ll bet everyone was quiet because of her causing a ruckus in the first place. If I witnessed that exchange, I would probably be silently fist-pumping at your exit, because it sounded super badass. You showed remarkable restraint and gave what I think is a completely reasonable response to an unreasonable person. I always try to give other people the benefit of the doubt and use compassion first in response to angry people, but once it becomes clear that they’re intent on being angry and abusive for no real reason, I am DONE.

      1. Exactly. The other patrons were probably avoiding eye contact so that they wouldn’t cause the LW more embarrassment. I know that’s what I would do. I know enough people who really hate to be part of a public scene even if it’s not their fault, so I avoid eye contact as a way to give them some privacy to deal with whatever they are feeling in the wake of the incident.

          1. Dang it, that was supposed to embed an image. I’m sorry, there is no preview option (that I see)? Try this just for the image.

    4. SO agree. LW, everybody at that restaurant knows what it’s like to have to urgently use the bathroom and have some idiot pounding on the door after two minutes, as if you were peeing slow on purposes just to screw with them? Rather a lot of people are also older, have bathroom issues, and/or have dealt with older relatives and friends who gotta go when they gotta go.

      If she was in such a leg-crossing hurry, she WOULD NOT have had time and focus to sit there and snarl at you, she would have just shoved past and shut the door. There are entitled, nasty people in the world who think any delay in their immediate satisfaction is a crime. Sounds like she was one of them.

      1. There are entitled, nasty people in the world who think any delay in their immediate satisfaction is a crime. Sounds like she was one of them.
        Yep. Everything about the description of her behavior reminds me of people with road rage.

  3. As fellow IBS sufferer, I feel ya on this. I am sorry you had such a painfully bad experience created by someone else’s bad behavior. Indeed, there was a second bathroom, and the restaurant staff could have been proactive in directing her to it as soon as she started making a scene (before you even returned to view). You didn’t do anything wrong.

    Gender-neutral bathroom signs would probably have minimized the chances of this ugly scene playing out. If you want to make the effort, you can send a letter to the restaurant suggesting such a change. If you wanted to disclose (totally optional and okay to leave out if you’re not comfortable with it), you could indicate that you have a medical disability that can result in long bathroom times, and that you recently had an unpleasant encounter at their restaurant with another patron, which could have been avoided by use of the alternate bathroom with appropriate signage indicating that this was a viable alternative for her. If you don’t want to disclose, you can simply point to the ugly scene without any medical explanation.

    1. Agreed that the staff could have helped. When I need to go urgently and cant wait, I ask to use the gents, if I havent already been spotted and directed.

      And yes, this is another good reason for gender neutral toilets. I was recently at a tourist attraction where the accessible loo was a large stall in the ladies, and another in the gents. The ladies was being cleaned and I was told it would be ten minutes. I couldnt wait ten minutes, so a male member of staff escorted me into the accessible cubicle in the gents. On the way out I kept my head down and wheeled out as fast as I could, but it did not escape my attention that I had to pass a row of men with their cocks out. That kind of situation just makes everyone feel awkward.

  4. If it helps, LW, when you said that people were averting their eyes, I figured that they were embarrassed by the woman making such an unnecessarily hostile scene and their own powerlessness to stop it. If I were there, I almost certainly would have been too mortified to speak out in the moment, but would have been cheering you on in my head. (And then I would have spent three weeks kicking myself for cowardice, but that’s hardly your fault, either.)

    1. Agreed. I’m guessing most people were avoiding your eyes because they were trying to pretend they were unaware of the scene so as to not cause *you* more embarrassment. It’s unfortunate that a gesture that’s intended to mean “don’t worry, we aren’t all staring and judging” often reads as “none of us have your back against this jerk,” but I’m guessing most of the patrons were really on your side. Because seriously, that lady was being ridiculous. No one just hangs out in public restrooms for fun times. She just wanted to shout, because jerks gonna jerk.
      For what it’s worth, I think you handled it awesomely. Major respect for telling her to fuck off. I think in that situation, I would have just mumbled and run away and then bitched about it later to my mom. Which would have been fine, you know, but I applaud you for calling her out for being a total, ahem, poophead, to use my boss’ daughter’s favorite and very germane insult.

  5. LW, I support your use of the f-bomb. Sometimes people who are determined to be mean to strangers (for whatever reason) need a harmless but brusque verbal wake up call like an “F U” from a stranger they abuse who then stands up for themselves.

    1. No. Please don’t even make a joke like this. LW is already ashamed of her medical condition–how does something like this help her feel less ashamed? Pointing to a different medical condition (it could be worse!) for whatever reason is not helpful–those are the Olympics where no one wins.

    2. I understand why this seems like a suitable escalation, but it really isn’t. It’s dismissive and hurtful to anyone who does have the condition that the speaker escalates to, and it’s not actually going to do any good for the jerk confronting you. Much the best response is to let the person know that their aggression is inappropriate and you won’t tolerate it (with or without obscenity as you choose) and then just go on about your business. People like that, if they don’t feel shame about berating someone who clearly had to go very badly, aren’t going to magically feel shame because you find the “right” way to shame them.

  6. As someone who has lost her gallbladder and as a result, has some occasional emergency longer trips to the bathroom…

    I think you were 100% in the right.

  7. I know Miss Manners would say to not respond to rudeness with rudeness, but when someone is this egregious, I think calling them out is necessary. And I wouldn’t worry, LW. Odds are good the person who accosted you was a PITA to the staff, as well. They were probably embarrassed on your behalf.

  8. LW, I have had IBS for 15+ years and I have been dealing with this frustration since I was in 3rd grade and was getting really mean comments from other children in school. I’m so sorry that happened to you but forget that person – they’re not going to remember you and ultimately you need to take care of your health needs first and foremost.

    1. I agree 100%. I also have IBS, and I can get really uncomfortable asserting my needs in public situations, but you are right – health should supersede embarrassment. (Though, it’s pretty tough to reprogram the whole ladies-don’t-do-gross-bathroom-stuff norm.)

  9. My god.

    She was rude. You did your best in an impossible situation (we’re socialized to never even ADMIT we poop and yet you were forced to discuss it in front of strangers, ugh).

    Go and eat and hold your head high.

  10. Eh, you’re good LW. I wouldn’t worry about going back to that restaurant. Hold your head high. I really don’t understand why some people don’t understand that using the loo just takes as long as it takes.

  11. I’m on your side 100%, LW, and second the folks who said you might want to bring up the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms with the owners of the restaurant (and really, why aren’t ALL single bathrooms simply gender-neutral? I use men’s rooms all the time in these situations).

    That being said, perhaps you could come up with a witty response to such a person in the future, like, “Oh, sorry, was my medical emergency getting in the way of your powdering your nose?” or something to that effect.

    Still, FU is a pretty good response, too.

    1. I have leapt into the empty, single “men’s” room on more than one occasion when the “ladies” had a line. It seems to really astonish people and I don’t know why! It’s just me in there! You’re not required to pee standing up or anything!

      1. I’ve told my kids that in the case of single-occupancy bathrooms, being seen coming out or going into the men’s room is generally always going to be less embarrassing than peeing yourself in public.

        (Full disclosure, colitis-sufferer and colon-cancer survivor, so frequent and/or long bathroom trips are familiar to me as well).

        And yeah, you were fully within your rights to tell that lady to GFH.

    2. Some municipalities have laws dictating that a certain number or percent of the available restrooms be for women/men. I think they were originally passed to make sure that people couldn’t exclude women by refusing to have women’s bathrooms (I know women who did not have bathrooms available to them at school because it hadn’t occurred to the school admins that the women that they were now admitting might need to, you know, pee) but it now leads to some real absurdities, like gendered single-person restrooms. At my college, the LGBTQ center was required to gender the single-user bathrooms for this exact reason. *headdesk*

    3. In addition to the legal reasons mentioned by Izzy, I think there is also a weird cultural taboo around urinals. As in, ladies may be offended by urinals, so in order to make the bathroom gender-neutral, they’d “have” to remove the urinal (no, it’s fine, we just won’t use it), which costs money, so it’s easier to just leave them gendered.
      Also, a side note about using the single-gender room of another gender: Yes, it often makes sense to just use the empty one when there is no line, but use careful about doing so, because there are places where that could get you put on the sex-offender registry. Ridiculous, you say? I agree! And totally inhumane for people with less cut-and-dry gender identities. And probably not going to be an issue a lot of the time, but be cautious if you’re in a hostile place.

      1. I would rather there be urinals in all genderless bathrooms. The last thing I want is to touch the toilet seat to put it down when I’m in a public restroom.

      2. Our housing units in Afghanistan all had urinals in the bathroom. My housing unit was all female but it might not be when someone else took over from us. After the initial “Why is there a urinal here?” I stopped noticing.

  12. I congratulate you on coming up with an appropriate response so quickly. _I_ never can.

  13. I favor “excuse me, I’m not feeling well and will be a while” for when the pounding first started. That way whoever is pounding (knocking, tapping, gently rapping) knows to ask the server for the employee restroom or the men’s as the usual one is unavailable. Repeat as necessary if the pounding begins again. It could be the same impatient person. It could be someone else. It could be an employee with a legitimate reason to know if someone has passed out behind a locked door or otherwise is not coming out soon or needs help.

    As for how to feel better about being rude to someone who started it, spend a few days listening for the word “fuck” or the phrase “go fuck yourself” as you walk around, watch moves, listen to bleeps on cable t.v. Count them. You’ll notice that the word gets thrown around all the time. It’s practically mild. Someone raised a fist to you (physical threat), and you answered with an insult. If you think about it, you get credit for DE-escalating that situation, not making it worse. Pat yourself on the back.

    1. “I favor “excuse me, I’m not feeling well and will be a while” for when the pounding first started.”

      Agreed. As a person who works at a restaurant specifically, and as a person who uses public restrooms generally, this is a great suggestion to try and keep things as minimally inconvenient as possible. It’s a little embarrassing to have to admit you’re having “bathroom troubles”, and I’m sure anyone in that position is desperately hoping they’ll be able to hop up and get out of there ASAP without anyone noticing, but being proactive about how you’re going to be in there a while will help other users find solutions.

      It may result in an employee (manager, perhaps) knocking on the door and asking “are you okay?”, but all you have to do is answer honestly. They’ll just want to make sure you’re not passed out, hurt, or OD’ing.

  14. I’m a fellow IBS patient, also in CA… and I dread going to restaurants where there is a single stall (or worse, a single restroom for both genders, all too typical even in nice San Francisco spots). I’ve been on both sides of the door in this scenario. Although I’ve never shouted anyone down or even pounded on the door, I have given stinkeye to women who emerge clutching their phones, eyes pasted to Facebook or other social media. But absent that sort of obvious clue that the bathroom is being used as one’s own personal social media chamber, I can’t imagine any of your fellow diners feeling that *you* were the person in the wrong in this situation. After all, even those lucky souls without digestive issues occasionally have need to “camp out” in the loo.

    1. “eyes pasted to Facebook or other social media . . . the bathroom is being used as one’s own personal social media chamber,”

      As a person with digestive issues who occasionally has to spend a long time on the toilet: sitting on the pot is really, really boring. A book or a phone can help to pass the time. You should stop giving these women the stinkeye.

      1. As a person married to someone with digestive issues, I agree wholeheartedly, Ms. Pris. My husband and I exchange many a goofy link on Facebook messenger when he is on the toilet.

  15. I can understand why you might not be proud of telling someone to fuck themselves, but when I read that part of your story I wanted to slow clap and give you a high five at the same time.

    That lady was probably having a bad day, but her taking her frustration out on you wasn’t fair. I have a really hard time pushing back when people lash out at me, so when I see someone else push back I always root for them.

  16. I’ve had IBS for 9 years, and it has made me a firm believer in Do Not Rush People in the Bathroom. Knocking once to see if anyone’s in there/let them know someone’s waiting is fine. Knocking again is not. I agree that the restaurant should have better bathroom options here.

    1. Yup. I completely agree, knocking more than once seems really rude to me too, unless it’s a total emergency and the men’s room is similarly occupied. In which case, you can ask a restaurant employee if there are any other options available.

      I completely, 100% endorse your use of the f-bomb, too.

  17. My somewhat crude thought is that even a non-IBS sufferer should be able to comprehend that sometimes one is obligated to take a little longer in the bathroom.

    I admit I have sometimes given someone a dirty look when I desperately had to pee and I had to wait for a long time, but BERATING someone about how long they took in the bathroom? THAT IS SUPER RIDICULOUS. Ugh.

    Good for you for standing up for yourself, LW.

  18. That woman was beyond rude. I don’t understand people being so insensitive about the restroom. My husband and I were at a concert in a small venue recently, and something like this happened. There was one bathroom (the toilet was in a converted closet, and there was a large, industrial-sized sink just outside the door in a semi-private but open alcove). My husband had to take longer than he would have liked, and some chick went nuts, banging on the door and yelling a lot. My husband told her it would be just a sec, and she kept making a fuss. When he finished and was about to open the door, she screamed that he could not come out yet because she was PEEING IN THE PUBLIC SINK. Hubby hollered a good FU, opened the door, and walked right by her without looking or skipping a beat.

    Hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? You always think of better responses after the fact, but your FU was was used brilliantly, LW. I think dropping an F-bomb at that girl was totally fine. If it happens again, you could always call out that person’s behavior. “Wow. That was extremely rude,” or “I hope you can take care of whatever has your panties in a bunch while you’re in there.”

  19. I’ve been the one in line waiting on someone that, when she finally opened the door, was clearly just primping and preening. (She was obviously sheepish, to her credit, upon seeing the line).

    The other customer could have given a *friendly* knock and called a cheerful, “Are you OK in there?” as a polite way of alerting you to the fact that people were waiting on you (if you were just primping) or to give you an opportunity to clarify that you’d unfortunately need bit more time (if you were on the toilet).

    She reacted with anger and impatience and tried to shame you for doing something medically necessary. She’s the one in the wrong. And you’re a paying customer – by all means, go back for that scallapini!

  20. The thing to remember with hostile encounters with unpleasant people is, it’s memorable precisely *because* it doesn’t happen very often.
    I sort of get why she wouldn’t use the men’s room – we’re socialized early in life to not react in horror at the very idea, but her hostility was over the top. It probably had nothing to do with you – she was likely having a bad day and you just happened to be the unfortunate person that she took out her frustrations on. It could just as easily have been the next driver to change lanes in front of her in traffic.

  21. The first day of my period is marked by ungodly pain and a lot of bathroom problems. I recently got an IUD, and now the first day of my period happens about once every two weeks. I have gone from someone never pooped outside my house to being pretty used to doing whatever I need to wherever I could. “Go eff yourself” would have been my response in this situation as well. I live in a one bathroom apartment with 2 roommates. Sometimes I have to wait, and sometimes they have to wait.

    This is all to say that bathroom stuff happens and pretty much the only way I’ve found to get over the weird/squick was to consciously, actively choose that worrying about other people’s reactions was not something I wanted to waste brainspace on, and then practice internally reaffirming my right to use the bathroom every time I felt the embarrassment starting to rise. You can’t stop yourself feeling emotions but you can practice some inner monologues to try and replace mean-talking to yourself and sometimes that helps the bad emotions go away more quickly.

    1. pretty much the only way I’ve found to get over the weird/squick was to consciously, actively choose that worrying about other people’s reactions was not something I wanted to waste brainspace on, and then practice internally reaffirming my right to use the bathroom every time I felt the embarrassment starting to rise.

      Good plan, and one I’ve been semi-practicing myself. I grew up in a household where my mom would yell at me if I used the bathroom “too much” or for “too long” when I was “supposed to” being doing homework. I’ve started telling myself lately that my husband (who has his own bathroom stuff, maybe see above?) is definitely not judging me for a very basic human bodily function, and that everything’s okay. Maybe someday I’ll be able to train myself to accept my corporeality.

  22. If I had been in the restaurant (and if I had not been worried that it would additionally embarrass someone who had been appallingly treated by a customer and was likely to be possibly already feeling singled out or embarrassed) I would have burst into applause for you LW. I hope you get to eat all the scallopini you damn well please.

  23. Just wanting to say – Hurrah for LW! If I were there with you, I would have wanted to buy you dessert. Your feelings of embarrassment are totally valid and real, but you did not a damn thing wrong. Go back and eat their delicious scaloppini anytime and fucking enjoy it.

  24. LW, I just want to buy you all the scaloppini right now. I don’t have IBS, but I’ve had food poisoning and other gastric distress suddenly come on while out at a restaurant, and have experienced the same angry pounding on the door, and it’s so awkward. She was out of line.

  25. I think you were totally within your rights; you weren’t the one making the scene, and there are so many worse things you could have said (and I probably would). I have a couple of unfortunate food allergies that occasionally result in me texting my dinner partner from the bathroom something like “so there was totally X in that sauce even though they said not, hope you brought a book, I’m gonna be here for a while”. I’ve also been in the position of needing an in-use washroom, and I just use whatever one is open if they’re single person cubicles. One bum is much the same as another. I’m sorry that you were confronted by someone who thinks otherwise.

    Also, speaking as someone who, for my entire life, has had an entire demographic of entitled person who felt like messing with me was a good idea, you only regret the “fuck you”s not delivered. I’ve never regretted telling any of them off. 🙂

  26. My suspicion is that she thought someone was doing drugs in the bathroom – she might have even complained as such to her friends – and stupidly overreacted when she was proven wrong. All the frittata is on her face here.

    Although this might say more about the city I currently live in than anything else.

    1. My first, uncharitable, suspicion was that she wanted the bathroom to use drugs herself. Except I’d have more sympathy for that. I bet she leaves those garlands of sordid paper averywhere because she doesn’t want to touch anything in a public bathroom, and doesn’t clean up after herself, too.

      1. In my experience people wanting to use a bathroom to take drugs in don’t usually pound on the door – it kinda draws attention. She probably really needed to go, but was too lacking in empathy to realise that the LW also needed to go. Some people are just pure selfish.

    2. I bet she just really really needed to go; maybe she has a similar condition to the LW even. Doesn’t justify her rudeness though.

  27. More enlightened cities – yes, I am bragging on D.C. here a little but credit to Austin TX also – have made gender-assigned single-use bathrooms flat-out prohibited. If a bathroom is a locking single-occupancy it is supposed to use gender-neutral signage within the District. There are places out of compliance, yes, but they can be reported. (http://ohr.dc.gov/page/safe-bathrooms-dc)

    I encourage you to contact your local municipality and ask them to make this regulatory change. All assigned-gender bathrooms do is create issues like this one for no payoff. Even if your local pols don’t care about trans issues this is one that usually pays off for women in general.

    1. “More enlightened cities – yes, I am bragging on D.C. here a little but credit to Austin TX also – have made gender-assigned single-use bathrooms flat-out prohibited. If a bathroom is a locking single-occupancy it is supposed to use gender-neutral signage within the District.”

      Thank goodness there are rational people somewhere in this world.

    2. I didn’t know this – yay DC! I definitely pissed off some jerks about ten years ago for skipping the long ladies’ line and using the (no-line) men’s room at a Starbucks downtown, so I’m glad that this has been formally codified.

  28. As someone that has trouble peeing when someone is nearby I would’ve told her to eff off as well. Ffs you can’t rush biological functions. I mean I’d aim for a non fuck-off route first before going the fuck-off route but honestly, you did that, she got a cordial ‘sorry but no’ and kept going with the aggression.

    1. This, oh my god. I once got stuck in a bathroom at uni for the entire 15 min break between lectures, and some other girl didn’t get to pee, because she was waiting outside my cubicle (in a two-cubicle bathroom with one out-of-order) and Breathing Loudly. So I couldn’t relax enough to pee, but I couldn’t get up the nerve to say, like, “Could you wait outside? I can’t go while you’re there.” Damn social anxiety, but I couldn’t say a word. At least she wasn’t being rude.

  29. As a waitress, I would suggest that you’d be welcome to go back for scallopini!

    Someone who is that aggro over the use of a bathroom, is probably not very high on the staffs’ list of “Fun People to Work With”, so your standing up to her is possibly (probably) a gold star in their books!

    That’s if they noticed at all, restaurants often have a high staff turnover, and in no time, no one will remember even if someone *did* want to hold it against you. I promise!

    1. Agreed, fellow waitress.

      Even if the staff remembers ~the incident~ they’ll a) likely remember it as “remember that time someone who took forever in the bathroom yelled at that lady who was an asshole to them about it? That was awesome.” and b) not remember what you looked like anyway.

      1. This. At the library where I work, our old building (we have a better arrangement now) had single-occupancy bathrooms. We once had an argument break out where one man threatened to leave and return WITH A GUN because the other was taking too long in the bathroom. We remember THAT guy, not the guy who was taking “too long.”

        1. I was once threatened with a punch to the face by a dude who didn’t like that I’d muttered “fuck you” under my breath when he made an inappropriate comment in my direction after I’d had a long day. Fortunately for both of us, he didn’t follow through – probably because he was imagining the scene if the cops showed up.

  30. LW, that woman was so rude, she abused you and you stood up for yourself. Good on you! I bet there were a lot of people there who were cringing at her behaviour and silently cheering you on. Nine times out of ten, I would probably have muttered an apology, scrabbled to get my things and hurried out of her way; then I would have spent the next couple of weeks wishing I had said and done exactly what you did. Extra points for making her wait while you calmly collected your things :D.

    Hooray for you, go back and enjoy the scallopini!

  31. Oh, Dear LW, I am so sorry that happened to you.

    I’m 45 and sometimes have similar problems, and you were right and she was wrong.

    Knocking – once – is fine. Calling, if someone has been in the bathroom long enough to raise real concern, can be wise.

    Pounding and pointed door-rattling is never okay. If people in line have a problem they should ask the staff for another bathroom, not hassle the user.

  32. This is totally not spoken from a place of “how I actually manage to handle things in my life”, but I do suspect that part of why this incident has stuck with you is because you lost the moral high ground when you shouted an obscenity at the rude lady, and you regret it. I’m pretty sure — and I’ll bet you are, too — that when she was pounding angrily and self-righteously on the door she was envisioning something in the bathroom that she had a lot of social license to hate on: a pretty young woman spending too long fixing her face and hair, something many people feel allowed to trash exultantly when they are feeling cranky and underacknowledged. She wasn’t expecting an uncomfortable looking woman in her late 60s.

    One of the dominant modes here is “use your words” and I think there are lots of reasons to learn to do that, really good feminist ones, but something you can also train yourself to do effectively is “leave people standing with their own hands full of their own shit, don’t take any of it into your own”. As somebody who has spent way way way too much time feeling like it was my job to carefully explain to people why they were wrong, unjust, unfair, mean, rude, etc. etc. and also my obligation as a feminist and a good public citizen, I’ve only recently begun learning that often they know it already, and are *so glad* when you do something unsympathetic in response so they can foist a lot of responsibility for “why things feel unpleasant” on to you.

    I mean, it’s tricky — there are situations where you have to stand up, and there are other situations where it really is more effective to walk away silently. I do think your go-to move would have been the latter in this case and I can’t imagine you would have been motivated to write in did you not feel so as well.

    About going back to the restaurant, though — look, everybody has been there and won’t hold it against you. Has flipped off a rude driver and been embarrassed afterward, etc. Or, maybe not everybody — but the heart on their sleeve people like you (and me, and lots of us).

    1. IDK. I can think of a couple of encounters I have had where I regret not telling the jackanapes to go fuck themselves, moral high ground be damned. As in, if I could go back in time, I would say it. Very loudly.

    2. Maybe I’m just a potty mouth, but I don’t see why using profanity means you lose the moral high ground. The woman on the other side of the door was UNSPEAKABLY rude in a very loud way, which means she was deliberately trying to humiliate the LW. She deserved a lot more than a “go fuck yourself.”

      1. I agree with this. I think that the moral high ground calls for using foul language judiciously and with style; this case passes both tests.

        1. I don’t think the use of profanity has anything to do with morals at all. In some circumstances, using profanity may be evidence of a lack of judgement or manners or having misread a situation, but I don’t believe that it is *ever* an indication of lack of morals. Even if you turn the air blue everywhere you go.

      2. TBH if I imagine a 60~yo woman delivering a “go fuck yourself” and sweeping off, it’s sort of magnificent. Moreso if you can act very dignified and regal as you do it, though that’s very difficult to do in the moment when you’re embarrassed and just want out of there.

    3. I think the other party lost the moral high ground here by pounding the door not once, but twice within two minutes (which is not an unreasonable time to take in the bathroom, even if you’re the one standing outside with a very, very desperate need to pee or whatever), and THEN by claiming there were other people waiting, too, to make the LW feel even worse about needing a bit longer, and THEN by trying to embarass the LW by loudly announcing the issue to the whole restaurant.

    4. The LW did use her words: both the polite “I’ll only be a few minutes” and the furious “go fuck yourself” count.

      If there’s such a thing as a moral high ground, the person who raised her fist and lied to the LW is in no position to claim it.

    5. The problem with “use your words” in this scenario is that we usually use that to mean discuss it reasonably. But the other woman wasn’t reasonable. So the LW did use her words, even if they were “bad” words, and I think that is still the “high ground.”
      I had an experience that reminds me a bit of this. I was being repeatedly fouled during a sports game, intentionally in a way the ref couldn’t see, and I eventually shouted at her to cut it out (I don’t remember the exact words, but I doubt they were terribly eloquent), and I was ashamed afterwards. But really, even if, in an ideal world, I could have handled it better, it was still the high road. I didn’t hurt her or foul her in return, I just expressed that what she was doing wasn’t ok, and I wasn’t going to take it lying down. And with some distance from the event, I don’t think I should feel ashamed because this other person was doing harm to me, and I reacted in a less harmful way. Similarly, the LW didn’t re-lock herself in the bathroom to extend the woman’s discomfort, or steal her purse, or kick her in the shins. She just told the lady in no uncertain terms that she was being a huge jerk. Which she was. So, high ground held in my book.

  33. I have ulcerative colitis, so I know just what you mean, Dear LW. Please go back for the scallopini! It sounds to me like the other customer deserved a few curse words. 🙂

  34. What’s the sentiment on retreating back into the bathroom and locking the door until the yelling lady is asked to leave?

    1. Strongly negative. The person pounding on the door was rude and all, but the rudeness doesn’t erase that person’s physical need to use the facilities. Holding the room for the sole purpose of retaliation is cruel, and may result in a mess that the staff would have to deal with.

    2. No no no.

      I have knocked on the door to let the person know someone was waiting. If they said “I’ll be a bit longer,” I have used that as my cue to flag down the next employee and say, “the ladies room is occupied and if I don’t get onto a toilet in the next four minutes, there are going to be unavoidable physical consequences that will embarrass me and cause an awful mess for someone to clean up — what are my options?”

      The woman was rude, but the second you retaliate by holding the only women’s labeled toilet hostage, you lose the moral high ground and risk creating a situation that is far worse than someone being rude.

    3. I think everyone else in this thread has covered the “nope nope nope” if you mean this as a revenge tactic, but if this question was more along the lines of “lady scared me a lot and I felt hella unsafe” then YMMV. On the one hand, you have a locked door between you, on the other hand, you’re locked in and trapped with a yelling lady between you and the exit. My personal reaction would be to flee to open ground, but if you fear physical violence I’m a strong advocate of “anything that makes it harder for them to touch you is a good thing.”

      1. Yes, if you feel physically unsafe, by all means lock your self in the toilet and call the restaurant’s phone number for help.

    4. Oh dear no. I mean, holding up the bathroom queue because you *need to use the toilet* is entirely understandable, but holding it up *to spite someone* is really not

  35. I feel humiliated, and I feel powerless, because that was the only comeback I could think of.

    Honestly? I think that was a perfectly appropriate and justified comeback.

    And many of us are prone to freeze and not manage to tell people to fuck off when we should. You managed! I am admiring!

    I think there’s a mythos attached to the Perfect Comeback, the idea that if only you could come up with the exactly-right dignified-yet-devastating line in the moment then nasty people will collapse and writhe on the floor weeping with shame and repentance while the cheering onlookers sweep you onto their shoulders.

    I’m sure there are moments when someone manages to come up with a brilliant piece of snark in the moment, but probably not nearly as often as we’d like to imagine.

    More to the point, it should not be necessary to go through life armed with razor-sharp wit and an armoury of clever responses for all occasions in order to be treated with basic courtesy.

  36. I’m going to tell you about a time I was totally inappropriate to make you feel better. I had a new male coworker (I work in a heavily male field) and we were going through some orientation stuff with him the first day. We were using the big conference room that had this huge remote on it, with a laser pointer. I was playing with the aforementioned laser pointer while my boss set up his laptop. He asked me to turn on the overhead and I said “Oh lol I only know how to work the laser pointer.” and handed it to him.

    To which my coworker replied “That’s right, hand it to a man and let us take care of it.”

    To which I replied “Do you want to get punched in the face?”

    I know, threats of violence are not ok at work. BUT ARE YOU SHITTING ME? I’m several years your senior at this job and you don’t know me. Even it was a joke, nope. NOPE. So yeah, NOT an ok response, BUT an understandable one.

    Honestly she was probably picturing someone in there texting and checking their facebook or their farmville or whatever. She had no right to get so hostile. You were perfectly in the right to say what you did. I know you still feel a rush of shame over it, but in time that will fade. Because you did nothing wrong, you reacted to a hostile situation.

    1. My mom, a doctor, was once at a medical conference and another doctor (a man) needed to see a file that was on a thumb drive. My mom was using the computer and the guy didn’t ask so much as tell her to give him her computer to look at the file while gesturing aggressively with the thumb drive, and apparently my mother blurted out (at a professional conference while attending in a professional capacity) “DO YOU HAVE A CONDOM FOR THAT THING?!” and then hid in her hotel room for much of the rest of the conference.

      1. Well, thumb drives can carry viruses. If there was a program called the “thumb-drive condom” that prevented transmission of such viruses, I would be all for it. I would find it a witty name.

    2. To which my coworker replied “That’s right, hand it to a man and let us take care of it.”

      To which I replied “Do you want to get punched in the face?”

      [great big bloodthirsty grin] I’d love to know how he reacted to this. And whether he turned out to be turtles all the way down, or whether he got better.

      1. Pretty much silence. I looked at my boss and I can only describe his expression as “Welp, she handled that.” (He has a daughter around my age and was a great mentor for me, so totally on my team, which was awesome. And now I feel like I should e-mail him.)

        Here are some coversations I had with him after that. Me – “Hey I know boss is out, maybe this would be a good time for me to train you on this thing you are supposed to be learning to do.”
        Him: “Nah.”

        Me: “Suggestion for a thing.”
        Him: “Repeating my suggestion in a less clear way, but you know in his MAN voice.”

        So yes, turtles.

        1. In this case it means that the sexist joke wasn’t an isolated incident of bad judgement, but that sexism was apparently fundamental to the person’s character.

          Sometimes it’s used in that context, or sometimes as a way of referring to the infinite regress problem in Cosmology. Wikipedia has a good article on that usage of the phrase.

        2. It’s a reference to a joke told by Stephen Fry (last I heard it), in reference to the old beliefs that the earth rode on the back of four elephants, who were on the back of a giant turtle. What did the turtle ride upon? Turtles all the way down, etc.

  37. Dear LW,

    I think you handled a stressful situation gracefully, and when it was escalated from a stressful situation into a horrible one because someone else was being rude about your needs, I think your comeback was perfectly appropriate.

    I am sorry you were humiliated, and I hope it has passed. I think I understand feeling powerless, but FWIW, I would have aspired to that level of bold self-assertion, and am kind of cheering you managing to make it so clear that that behaviour was totally not okay on her part. I get that it might not have been the response you’d want to come up with, and I’m sorry you didn’t have words you’d have liked better on hand, but on balance I think your deportment was something to aspire to. I do.

    I hope you enjoy many future scallopinis there.

  38. My assumption was that this was to ensure safety if the behavior seemed threatening, not to stick it to the door-pounder.

  39. LW, I want to agree with everyone who’s posted so far and say you were entitled to react to this aggressive, thoughtless person however you liked. I am an impulsive swearer too, and the other day I said “Fuck off,” to a guy who leaned in and said “Ciao bella” to me in an enclosed space. Overreaction? Maybe. But if someone is rude and invades your space, you can tell them off.

    In this woman’s defence, she didn’t know you were having problems, but people should be aware that others may have issues, which are sometimes invisible – like if someone uses the bathroom for longer than usual, or appears able-bodied but is sitting in priority seating – and they should act with empathy.

    Try not to feel bad, and I wouldn’t worry about going back.

    1. +100 to telling space invaders off, and I’d add that “your space” extends to “the small magical cone of silence and being left alone you can reasonably expect people to give you in a bathroom/a bedroom with the door closed”. I work as a bouncer and we get demerits if we swear at a patron, even if they’re harassing us. (And as a female-bodied security person, yeah, I get harassed.) Space invaders when I’m not at work get the brunt of the pent-up “stay out of my zone” feels and a heck of a lot more swears then before I took this job…

      LW, one thing that may help is that we are socialized to give people soooo much benefit of the doubt, and that we can only tell someone off in public if they meet pseudo-objective criteria of misbehavior, but someone doesn’t have to be a thoroughly, objectively pure evil person for them to do something super duper awful to you that you get angry about. Impact matters, not intent. I really like that this thread has basically become a giant cheering squad for tossing out the “women smooth everything over always” fallacy and replacing it with “my needs are valid, please take back this bag of awkward you tried to hand me k thxs bye.” Go back and eat all the things!

  40. We invented swear words for a reason, and your situation was one of them IBSiCA! Well played! I’d have given you a smile and a thumbs-up if I had witnessed that exchange.

  41. Adding to the chorus of cheers for you LW. I have had many times when I kicked myself for not employing the “why don’t you go fuck yourself”. As a former waitress, you are much more likely to be remembered fondly, as people who behave like that rarely do it in isolation. Service staff are routinely on the recieving end of such behaviour and cannot employ a “go fuck yourself” as much as they would dearly love to.

    Like the Captain has said previously, unreasonable people don’t get reasons, and rude people don’t get politeness.

    If anything, she was a selfish person having a bad day and your response made her realise how out of line she was. It never ceases to amaze me how little empathy some people have, even when they are in the exact situation as the person they berate!

  42. LW, I can guarantee you if i had been within earshot that day i would have privately applauded you. let us count the fallacies that lady used to show you she was so OMG!WRONGED
    appeal to authority:
    “There are four people out here waiting to get in there!” she snarled. (I looked. There weren’t.)
    Ad hominem attack:
    “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.
    Not to mention the moral high ground fallacy smeared all over this lady’s behavior:
    she reared back and gave a Victorian-maiden impression over my use of the f-bomb.
    Not to mention umbrage over something that was very much within her control to solve(why didn’t she use the men’s if it was so goddamn urgent?)
    Trust me, the waitstaff cares if you are generally polite, tip well, and basically don’t act like this woman did. I’m sure you can go back there after the first wave of embarrassment dies down. I’ve been in your shoes many a time, and often by the time i gather enough gumption to go back, the staff don’t even remember the incident i was embarrassed about.

  43. I must admit, I’ve been on the other side of this once. But in that case, it was a house party, there were three giggling voices coming from the bathroom, a line of ten folks waiting, and no one had knocked. So I banged pretty aggressively, and the girls popped out immediately. (They yelled at me, but clearly they didn’t need the bathroom, or they wouldn’t have left right after I knocked.)

    Every other time I’ve knocked and had to wait, there’s been a really good reason, from the mother of five trying to get All her kids to go, or someone being a little sick. I feel like it’s okay to knock once kinda loudly but then o wait.

    1. Yes, knocking loudly is not *necessarily* a sign of rudeness; I too have been on both the giving and the receiving end of loud knocks, especially in loud restaurants where it’s possible the knock might not be heard otherwise (or it’s heard just fine inside the stall but if you’re in the noisy outer room you can’t judge the noise level). Banging and yelling, not so much, but I agree with you here.

  44. In future may I suggest looking them dead in the eyes and saying ” I have a chronic illness.” Then walking off. I think you were right to assert yourself, you’re just kicking yourself for not being as badass as you’ve have liked.

  45. Why didn’t she use the men’s? I do it all the time (I am a woman). As the wise woman said, “We will not achieve true equality until we all pee in the same amount of time. True potty parity is not the same number of stalls but the same amount of time waiting to get into one.”

    1. People who design public restrooms, if they insist on segregating them by binary gender, really need to consider a) the fact that it takes those of us who sit down to pee longer to get undone, sit down, wipe, get up, and do up again; and b) the fact that having the same number of stalls AND THEN ADDING THREE OR FOUR URINALS TO THE MEN’S ROOM means that one bathroom actually has more potties than the other!

    2. Same. It takes way longer to wrestle out of a coat, find a place to put your handbag, get out of your skirt, and undo your stockings than it does to just drop trou.’ If a restaurant can’t be bothered to figure out a way to make their bathrooms user friendly for both genders, or if they have two single-stall restrooms that are gender-assigned, I’m going to use whichever one is free. Bathroom panic indeed. *hmmph*

      1. Gendered single restrooms are a blight on the face of the earth. I have no compunctions about using the men’s if the women’s is unavailable for any reason. I’ve gotten sideeye for it, too. Behold my barren field of fucks, people.

        1. Yep. My husband has definitely used the women’s if he’s in the middle of an Imminent Crohn’s Disaster and the men’s is full.

  46. I think you will be fine to go back. If any staff remember you, they’ll remember you as someone who told a rude person to fuck off, which is something that people in customer service DREAM of being able to do.

  47. Just had to comment to commiserate! I don’t have a chronic condition, but I did once have a one-off poo-mergency where I had just soiled my clothing a second time (was heading home with my pants and underpants full of paper towels from the first instance) and was availing myself to a coffee shop restroom and had a very similar door pounding/call/answer experience. I think I just said repeatedly that I was doing my best. Wish I’d told them to fuck themselves, instead! There’s really no succint way to tell such idiots that they really wouldn’t have wanted the room if they’d have had to take it in the state you’d be leaving it if abruptly interrupted!

  48. Is it bad that I hope this person someday experiences what it’s like to have this kind of medical issue? I really can’t imagine being thoughtless or self-absorbed enough to assume that someone was remaining in a public restroom for longer than they needed either for their own enjoyment or to annoy me personally. But then I have IBS my own self.

  49. LW, you were fine.
    I does occur to me that the hammering lady may have been in her own battle, “Can’t I wait till I get home? Oops, apparently not, fuck, do I have this under control, I hate going in public, but oh deities am I going to go in my pants pleeese lady, if you’re just checking your eyeliner, have mercy my god how will I get home.”

    All this, instead of asking management to have a staffer temporarily bar the door of the men’s room so she could go in there, as that hadn’t occurred to her.

    I know so many women who won’t even crap in a public facility, but after that causes one physical harm, one quits pretending one never farts or poops. Enough of the shaming! Boom away.

    1. ‘one quits pretending one never farts or poops’

      I teach / mentor 7-15yr old girls, and we occasionally take them away camping or to cabins, and getting over the bathroom squeams is one of the first things we address. When the loos are 400yds away in the woods you must go in pairs, and you must keep checking on each other, and if that means overhearing something you’d rather not, well, get over it. Going on your own is not allowed, and trying to hold it (for a week!) is medically dangerous.

      So we have great fun with fart competitions, grading each others’ noises (made figure-skating-esque score cards one year…) and serious discussions concerning The First Trip of the Morning. From a Health & Safety point of view, they need to get over it. We tell the girls “Ain’t None of Us Poops Perfume!”.

      (We tell each other “Ain’t None of Us Shits Sugar…!”).

      1. Heh. I bet you can imagine the fun that results if you’re on a Leave No Trace camping trip, and someone has to explain “frosting a rock” to the inexperienced and prudish.

        The positive result is that usually by the end of the trip everyone’s pretty relaxed about bodily functions, so if something’s not going right, you’re met with sympathy rather than embarrassed jokes. Well, sometimes there are jokes too, but they come from the unfortunate person themselves.

        1. On a research trip for my capstone project I (squeamish and scared of my body) was taught by a police paramedic how to change my tampon in the woods with an excited K9 unit around. Apparently she learned the hard way that they will dig it up and bring it to show the team if you don’t bury it deep enough. Ah, nature: the lack of toilets does wonders for creating a lack of f*cks given.

          1. In brief it’s 1) Go very far away from the group. No, farther. Still not far enough. There you go. 2) Handsanitizer! 3) Drop your pants all the way, now is not the time for modesty 4) Change tampons 5) Dig a hole. Deeper. Deeeeeeper. Can you dig further? No? That’s deep enough. 6) Pack the dirt reaaaaaally well.

  50. Totally support the f-bomb.
    Maybe LW could have avoided having to drop the bomb it if she’d responded to the aggressor’s first comment with, “hey, sorry, but some things cannot be rushed,” or something equally deescalating, but sounds like Aggressor would have been noxious no matter what LW said.

    She was totally out of line. As unpleasant as waiting might be, I think it’s safe to assume that a person in a public restroom is not in there for the fun of it. Rational people understand that if someone is taking a long time, they need a long time.

  51. She swore at you first, so IMO, you were perfectly in your rights to swear back. I can imagine your emotions were running high, what with the stress of that woman screaming at you and the embarrassment of having a restaurant full of witnesses. That “go fuck yourself” was a stress response, and it makes perfect sense to me.

    That lady should have had more empathy. I think we’ve all had a moment where we had to use a public restroom for a lot longer than we’d prefer, if you catch my drift. My husband has IBS, and no matter how frustrating it is to me that he often spends 30 minutes or more in the bathroom, he can’t help it. The most stern I’ve ever gotten with him is an “Uhh, babe? I really gotta go” so he knows I’m waiting. LW, you couldn’t help it. Don’t feel bad. You did the best you could and gave that lady the same courtesy she showed you (which was none.) You go back there and you enjoy your scallopini! 🙂

  52. Eek, I had a similar situation happen to me. I also am a sufferer of a condition that causes awkwardness, and once when I was at work (staff didn’t get their own bathroom, it was a tiny restaurant) in the bathroom, a man started pounding on the door, and when I said “I’ll be a minute” he said “well, she’s only three, she can’t wait!” I felt horrible and like I was the worst person ever, but regardless of the age of the person waiting, sadly my body will not immediately cooperate. 😦 The man glared at me when I exited, and I felt worse because I was an employee. Meep.

    1. Oh, eff that guy. It’s not like you were in there painting your nails, and it’s not your fault there was the one bathroom. And for crying out loud, he could have realized that BEING POLITE would have worked better? “Sorry! Don’t mean to be rude, I’ve just got a really desperate three year old here…” works way better.

  53. LW, I love what you said, I hope the people in the restaurant felt the same.

    Personally, if I wanted to be crass and also maybe make a jerk like that reconsider their assholery, I’d be gross about it and say something like “Oh yes, because you’d enjoy getting my diarrhea all over your shoes!” (I’m not trying to guess what your health issue is, diarrhea is just a really gross, universally understandable condition that people definitely don’t want on the floor/their shoes/really anywhere)

  54. LW you were fine. I think you had a good comeback. Don’t feel bad about what you said. That lady was being a jerk. She should have just used the other single-occupancy bathroom if she had to go that bad.

  55. I should imagine people didn’t meet your eye because they knew you were feeling self-conscious and didn’t want you to think they were staring. You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t let one ill-mannered cow drive you away from your favourite restaurant.

    Incidentally, my mum is 71 and has been embracing her swearing side for a couple of years now. She’s so much happier for it. EMBRACE YOUR SWEARINESS!

    1. If my grandma was still alive, she’d be 114, and she had a mouth like a WWII sailor 😂

      LW, telling this rude woman to fuck herself probably had more impact than anything else you could have said, and after her reprehensible behavior, it was well within your rights to do so. And sometimes dropping an f-bomb really is the only appropriate response.

  56. Seriously, if that lady had to use the bathroom urgently too, why did she start to shout at you rather than just, you know, *use the fucking bathroom*?^^

  57. So sorry this happened to you! I think it’s normal to feel what you’re feeling after being treated so rudely. Aggressive behavior, especially when it’s totally unjustified, always leaves me feeling off kilter, even if I had a good response. There’s something about being treated like the guilty party when you did absolutely nothing wrong that’s just so hurtful, and it’s worse if you believe that others might have shared the aggressor’s view. I’m sure they didn’t though. As everyone has said, you were in the right, and it was likely obvious to everybody.

  58. So, I’m from Jersey and I have a slightly different take on swearing than many folks. Swears are totally valid ways of communicating in certain situations. (Just not as many situations as the folks on the Pike seem to think.) English is a wonderful and baffling and powerful language and it allows you to do amazing things. Having a well composed lady in her 60s say, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself,” is a delightful example of using it to be powerful. It’s got the frisson of the unexpected, the punch of that hard CK right at the end, the juxtaposition of the swear versus the calm gathering of your things.

    Swears are a powerful and important part of any language precisely because they violate certain rules and expectations. She was violating the social contract (a bathroom user is in a nigh-inviolable bubble of privacy) and you used phrasing that indicated that she had broken the social contract and thus you were, too. What’s more, you didn’t harm her, simply used a verbal tag to point out her violation. There are several studies that indicate that social conventions work best when there are people who are willing to enforce those conventions (even if it means violating social conventions).

    LW, you were merely doing your part to prevent this woman from acting rudely again in the future. Think of all the other folks with digestive issues who you have (perhaps) saved! What’s more, if she’s rude to you, it’s likely she’s rude to others, including wait staff. And I believe that people did not look at you because we, as a culture, are generally uncomfortable with all confrontations and they were trying to give you some of the privacy that this woman had violated, not because they wanted to shame you. They probably cheered (quietly, inside, in a genteel fashion, not wanting to violate your privacy further). Her pounding and shouting did more to disturb their dinner than your time in there. Go back for the scallopini and be assured that the waitstaff probably thinks you’re a fucking hero.

  59. Dear LW, do not feel humiliated! The only thing I’d kick myself for is not telling her to piss off, a bit been more appropriate 😉

  60. Maybe you aren’t proud, but I am proud of you. You stood up for yourself beautifully. Embrace that power and eat scallopini as often as you want, and use the bathroom as often as you need to.

  61. I stopped at a quick-e-mart on my way home from a job interview – I had had to pee before I got there and *really* had to pee after. Two women were in line. I looked, then said to the ladies in front of me “Either one of you mind if I cut into the men’s bathroom? I don’t feel like waiting.” They both looked at me like I had grown a second head or something and shook their heads. I stepped in to the men’s bathroom (single room, no stalls), locked the door and relieved myself. When I came out one lady was still in line. She looked like she would have liked to go into the men’s but wasn’t quite brave enough. I think gendered restrooms are ridiculous.

    And had it been me on the outside of the bathroom I would have knocked once, then not again. It was incredibly rude of her to pound on the door after you acknowledged her. And it would never even occur to me to yell at someone. No matter what. You just don’t. Had someone yelled at me I would have told him/her to go fuck off as well.

    Last note – even though you are embarrassed by what happened, I’m pretty sure no one – not even the wait staff – will remember you for it. Go, eat, enjoy. And if you ever run into her again just smile sweetly and tell her you hope she hasn’t had any more accidents.

  62. LW, if you are reading this, let me tell you: You are AMAZING!!!! Your answer was AWESOME!!! 😀 😀 😀 You had every right to respond that way to that person’s aggression: You are in the bathroom, and if the other person does not have enough education or the social capacity to realize that one must wait our turn, it’s not your fault, it’s her fault, her shame. Besides, this person was being rude and agressive as hell, so, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” seems a perfect answer to me. Maybe you think it’s not the best way to respond, but, some people just need to go and fuck themselves, like this woman. You can go back to that restaurant and continue to be amazing.

  63. Personally, I am extremely shy and have insane problems with standing up for myself. That is why I admire your courage LW and hope you will go back to this restaurant to enjoy your scallopini. Jedi hugs to you 😀

  64. Fellow IBS sufferer here. You have all my respect and love for telling that lady off.

    Heck, my ideal response would have probably made her clutch her pearls, too:
    “There are four people out here waiting to get in there!”
    “Lady, for your sake, I hope two are Hazmat and one’s a priest because what just happened in there was foul and unholy. Have fun!”

    Besides, if she was a fellow bathroom inmate, that is not the time for pride. I have no problem bolting into a men’s restroom should I find myself in a bind, especially since the nature of the genetalia-scenery around me is the last thing on my mind at that point.

  65. LW, I gotta tell you, if I had been in the restaurant when that happened, I would be talking about it for the next three weeks, and the story would end, “And then the asshole actually YELLED at her–I couldn’t believe it–she said, ‘Instead of standing there arguing, why don’t you just get the hell out!’ I was like, whuuuuut, but then the lady looked her dead in the eye and said, ‘Why don’t you go fuck yourself?’ And then she just grabbed up her stuff and walked out. It was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I wanna be that lady when I grow up.”

    Actually, I’ll bet there’s another part I would have to talk about: “It was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I wanna be that lady when I grow up. Meanwhile, her date was horrified and asked for the check while she was in there, and they brought it right over. Then, when the asshole finally came out of the ladies’, and oh god, it was super awkward. No one in the restaurant would look at her. She tried to play it off like nothing had happened, but she was laughing too loud, you know how people do? Her date just signed the check all tight-lipped and she was all, ‘Where do you want to go now?’ Whatever he said I couldn’t hear, but she wasn’t happy about it. He was ushering her out and I heard her say, “She was in there for ten minutes!” all petulant, and he just kind of nodded and ushered her a little faster. After they left, everyone in the restaurant just kind of looked at each other and shook our heads, and then breathed a sigh of relief. My had the same server, and I asked her if she was okay, and she kinda laughed and said “Yeah,” and rolled her eyes a little. I left her an extra-big tip. But yeah. ‘Why don’t you go fuck yourself?’ Awesome.”

  66. Years ago we were invited to a bowl game in Tempe AZ – big honour for the school, and many of the graduates from the small state’s school which was invited were there. The alum society sponsored a huge BBQ at a local tourist park, thousands of people attended.

    The facilities were pretty much equal sized for men and women – so the line for the women’s bathroom was huge. Right away, women were invited to use the stalls in the men’s bathroom, while most men just used the huge bank of urinals. No embarrassment, no carrying on, just maximization of the facilities. If a guy needed a stall, no big deal, he took the next available.

    These bathrooms where huge, the women didn’t stare at the guys at the urinals, and guys didn’t gawk at the women in line for a stall…

    I was impressed by the maturity everyone showed, actually.

    More, I am a guy with IBS, and when it happens, it happens. You were totally proper to take the time you needed, and truly, if she had needed it so badly, she would have ran past you to get to the facilities when you opened the door. Her stopping to hassle you proved that she didn’t have any cause to hassle you, and your response was perfect.

  67. I have quite a bit of sympathy for people who urgently need to get to the bathroom and can’t – BF has ulcerative colitis and there’s been more than one occasion when we’ve been at a place with limited bathroom space and he’s ended up in considerable pain due to having to wait. Thing is, though, even if that woman had also had a medical condition? That still didn’t give her the right to treat you like shit (pun absolutely intended), particularly in such a public manner. I think you were perfectly justified, and you were probably not the only one there who thought she deserved it, including the staff.

    (Now, don’t even get me started on the friend who quietly snuck into the ONLY bathroom in the cabin on a weekend trip and proceeded to take a half-hour shower while BF was in the fetal position on the couch…)

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