Standing Up For Yourself As a Woman Sometimes Means Being a Dick

The prescription says “post coital.”

It actually says that on the bottle. When the doctor told me my instructions for taking the antibiotic, I sincerely did not think that he would have the nerve to relay that information to the pharmacist. I figured he’d use some sort of vague jargon like, “as needed” which is a lovely medical catch-all that can mean anything. If you include “as needed” on a prescription, you can forgo the awkward specificity of having to say things like “when it hurts so much to pee that you’d punch a kitten if it meant you got relief” or how a medication needs to be taken “right after you bumped uglies with your beloved, which, I should note, is how you got into this mess in the first place.”



But the doctor (who is not my regular practitioner, but the only one I could see on short notice. I think he’s primarily a pediatrician, because  he refers to urination as “going potty”. Which is really weird when he says things like, “You should make sure to go potty after sex.”) spelled it out this time in all caps right on the damn bottle: POST COITAL. The guy can’t bring himself to say urination, but I guess he was feeling bold that day.

Even my pharmacist, who works in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, and who I consequently assume has seen some shit, started telling me about the medication and stopped cold when she got to that part.

“And, then … um … you should just take it as needed.”


Let’s back up a little, and talk about how I got into this mess.

Actually, nevermind. I just checked with Rand and he has politely asked that I skip the nuanced details of how it happened because he insists that no one wants to read that. (I disagree. I think that there’s a market for semi-erotic non-fiction starring two squishy humans. 50 Shades of Pasty. But I’m respecting his wishes, because sometimes my mom reads this blog.)

The point is, dear friends, that human females are cursed with unreasonably short urethras. How short, you ask? I don’t actually know, because Rand says that my Google search history is already blackmail fodder enough (or would be, if I had a promising career ahead of me in virtually any other field besides blogging).

Biologically speaking, women have much shorter urethras than men, and mine is shorter than average (I think? I don’t actually have anything to base this off of). Normally this hasn’t been a problem, but for the past year or so, I’ve been having urinary tract infections more often than some people go to gym. My doctors (both the normal one and the potty one) don’t understand why, other than to blame the fact that I’m a woman.

Because men do not get urinary tract infections.

The symptoms, in brief:

  • Intense burning during urination. Like, searing pain, people.
  • Frequency of urination. I’m talking every 3 minutes.
  • Stinging pain/irritation when you aren’t actively peeing
  • The distinct sensation that you might pee your pants at any moment.

Basically it’s like someone’s dancing on your very-full-feeling bladder while taking a hot poker to your tender bits. If the internet has taught me anything, it is that there is probably someone out there who is totally into that sort of thing. I, however, am not.

If you get a UTI, you’re supposed to drink lots of water, because that helps flush out the bacteria, but that means you have to pee even more often, which hurts like hell and … Christ, it’s miserable. My most recent bout has left me unable to leave the house to buy groceries because I can’t be away from the toilet for that long. I manage to hold it long enough to pick up my prescription (the kind people at the drugstore let me use their off-limits-to-the-public bathroom), take my mortifyingly-labeled antibiotic, and wince at the idea that I will be flying to Philadelphia in a few days.

When I get into a Lyft some 36 hours later, I am feeling better, but still rotten. It does not help that the vehicle I get into is filthy. The driver’s trunk is too full of stuff to accommodate my suitcase, so he tells me to cram it into the front seat (pushing away a few discarded food wrappers) while I climb into the back. I have to crack the window because the smell of his car is an overpowering stew of cat urine and stale farts.

“So,” he says, angling back towards me while I lean towards the open window, trying to gulp down air. “You’re a female. Let me ask your opinion on something …”

By the time I get to the airport and have left a 1-star review (“Car smelled terrible and was filthy. Normally not a big deal, but driver was also a bigot.” All of which was true, but for some reason I feel like I’m the one in the wrong by calling him on it), I am in dire need of a toilet. I find one, and thank the heavens that my seat is an aisle.

Right before I’m about to board, though, I get an email. I’ve been upgraded. This is generally a good thing, but my fancy new first class seat is by the window. Which means I can’t get up to pee whenever I need.

On board, I ask the man sitting next to me if he would be kind enough to switch seats. He gives me a pained smile.

“I need the aisle,” he says.

I travel often, so I hear this a lot. Everyone sitting in an aisle seat maintains that they need it. Sometimes, this is true. Like in the case of my friend who had a battle with colon cancer, and who needs to use the lavatory often and with little warning. Ditto for people with infants. Or anyone with prostate issues or bladder problems or those who are presently fighting UTIs. Or people who suffer from anxiety or claustrophobia.

There are lots of medical reasons why you might need the aisle, and it’s stuff that you can’t tell just by looking at someone. I give this man the benefit of the doubt. Because if he needs it as much as I do, he won’t mind getting up, right?

“Okay,” I tell him, “But I just need to warn you. I have a bladder infection, so I’ll need to get up to use the bathroom a lot.”

He instantly switches seats with me.

The only person in earshot who is more shocked by my behavior is me. I am not generally an advocate for myself. But somehow, I’m able to advocate for my poor urethra. The damn thing is mute; if I don’t speak up for it, who exactly will?

I briefly label my neighboring passenger as a saint, but I realize he only does the right thing when pressured to do so, sort of like the U.S. during the WWII. But hell, we still get props for that, so this guy does as well. Thank you, dude who took seat 4A instead of 4C. You are kind of benevolent and awesome when faced with the embarrassing realities of my excretory system. Sort of like Mother Teresa, but for human waste.

I get up six times to use the lavatory during the flight. The guy next to me gets up only once during my constant visits to the toilet, in order to retrieve something from his bag. I think we both conclude this arrangement was mutually beneficial.

Once we land, I stand up and another passenger offers to help me with my bag. Actually, he doesn’t offer. He sort of sighs, and assumes that I’ll need his help, and he’s annoyed by my non-existent request. As though I’ve already proven myself to be difficult by asking someone else to swap seats with me. I feel like I should apologize, even though I’ve asked him for nothing.

“I guess I’ll need to help you get your bag down.”

“Oh, no,” I say, “I’ve got it.”

We have this exchange a few more times, as he refuses to believe I can get my bag down alone (odd, since I put it up there by myself without struggle), and though I’ve insisted I’m fine, he clearly doesn’t believe me.

“Well, I guess that guy can help you,” he says, exasperated, gesturing to a guy a few rows back.

Wait, I’m so incapable of this, we’re pulling other strangers in?

“I’VE GOT IT,” I say.

And let me be clear: if I need help, and you offer, that’s great. Or if you offer help without solicitation, that’s lovely, too. But when I tell you I am fine, because I have just survived a 5-hour flight with a flaming urethra, preceded by a car ride which imbued my clothing with a lingering stench best described as “used condom potpourri” while the driver addressed me as a female, all while I was wearing three-inch what-was-I-thinking heels, THEN YOU HAD BETTER BELIEVE I AM FINE.

I grab my suitcase, and he stares at me, warily, as I move it down to the ground effortlessly, without bumping into anyone, not even with my arm or elbow. I don’t even graze the top of the seats.

“See? I get to put all those cross training classes to good use,” I say playfully. He looks – there is no other word for it – utterly disgusted with me. And I want to scream at him for being a dick, but somehow, I just feel worse about myself. Which is weird, because I’ve clearly demonstrated that I’m a badass.

This is the weird thing that people don’t tell you about feminism: a lot of times, it doesn’t actually feel empowering, because you aren’t always surrounded with like-minded people. You just feel like you’re being difficult, or complaining too much, or being bitchy, all because you want people to stop being shitty to you and you happen to have a vagina.

When I finally step off the plane, Rand is there. He has flown in from Florida, and so I find him waiting for me at the gate, the sort of romantic gesture that died with the rise of terrorism and the restrictive policies of the TSA. Plaid-shirted, with hair that defies gravity and a smile that is so sincere, it would break your heart.

This fool loves me. This fool is an advocate for me. This fool is an advocate for women.

One of these people is a proud feminist online and off. And, well … I’m trying to be.

And I start thinking maybe he’s not such a fool after all. I mean, at least not for that last thing.

When I tell him about my day, he tells me he is proud of me. He knows that I have trouble standing up for myself on platforms that aren’t this blog, because I end up feeling like I’m being a dick. And I just want people to like me.

And then I realize that he does. He really does. And that’s way more important that making a good impression on a bunch of antiquated jerks.

I want to hug him. And kiss him. And possibly tackle him on a hotel bed. Them I’m reminded of the bottle of antibiotics in my purse, with its all too specific label, and sigh.

I vow to try and be a dick more, if that’s what it takes. I figure it’s the next best thing to having one.

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  • kristibug

    OMG, I love it. I went to a convention a few weeks ago where because I had boobs… I got all sorts of help. I really appreciated it then. I do appreciate my boobs when I need the hep but when I want to grab my own suitcase, hell ya. I also got a ‘Hello Dreamboat’ with absolutely no help, which was disgusting so…

    Also, on the instructions thing? I’ve got to tell you I have 14+ years experience with that type of thing. It’s gotten better, then gotten worse… but if you ever want an offline conversation about it, feel free to hit me up.

    I just got a procedure done for my auto-immune disease (stem cells) but I’m also doing a Candida cleanse which basically means I can’t eat anything good at all. And I’m used to eating crappy food for my auto-immune disease. But let me tell you, it does help. I never want to do it but it comes down to do I love brownies more than my husband? Sometimes it’s a close call… I appreciated your blog post though. 🙂

  • Julie Kirk

    I loved this. So much good stuff.

    I used to suffer from UTIs a lot. There were times when I would even just sit on the toilet while drinking water … and it would sound like it was simply going in and dropping clean through without touching the sides!

    My favourite part would be when the doctor would say ‘I’ll need to test your urine. Do you think you’ll be able to go to the toilet and bring me back a sample?’. Well … erm … yes … I am entirely liquid-filled and able to produce a sample at the drop of a hat/pelvic floor muscle!

    • Everywhereist

      Oh, yeah. I know this well. Especially the drinking-while-on-the-toilet thing.

  • ronellsmith


    My first thought upon reading this is a conversation I had with Rachel when we lived in Florida. She used to take our oldest to the part near our neighborhood where a lot of well-to-do stay-at-home moms used to bring their kids to play.

    Well, one day these young boys were running around being, well, boys, not realizing that younger kids were amongst them. The mother of the roughest tyke says to Rachel, “She should probably watch out. He can be quite rough,” instead of telling her son to be more cautious. Rachel told her “Oh, she’s fine. She can more than handle herself.”

    I remember Rachel telling me that night that “I’m not going to allow my girls to be these sweet, innocent pushovers. The world isn’t telling their kids to be nice to girls,” she said. “So I’m teaching my girls to be prepared.”

    I have three young ladies in my house, and I’m not shy in saying, “If you’re focus only on being nice, you’ll be walked over incessantly; if you develop a backbone, you’ll be called a bitch, or worse, but success can help you deal with that pain. Choose the latter path.”


  • Anthropologal

    When I was flying back from Spain through Germany in 2013 I had to spend the night at the airport hotel in Frankfurt b/c of a raging kidney infection/kidney stones. I was upgraded on the flight home the next day but was in the middle of 2 other seats in business class. I asked the gentlemen on either side to switch with me and they wouldn’t so I dumped my purse full of antibiotics, pain killers, and anti-spasmodics out onto my seat and explained that I was about to be passing kidney stones on the plane and would be drinking copious amounts of fluids to help this process, and getting up to pee every 5-10 minutes. Then I explained since there was a bathroom on each side, that I would be switching bathrooms each time to keep it fair for my seatmates so they should be prepared to get up every 10-20 minutes for the next 6 hours. One immediately got up and switched seats with me. Thanks assholes!

  • Erica McGillivray

    Really bad UTIs can lead to full loss of bladder control, which I recently learned when caring for an elderly relative. In other news, pet clean up spray is also great for human urine.

    Go you for standing up for yourself. It’s actually one of my New Year’s “resolutions” to advocate more for myself in situations where my body will not be able to function / I will be incredibly uncomfortable.

  • Emily B

    All of your sentiment in this is wonderful. I really respect you for your ability to express your feelings and frustrations, not just about feminism. I’ve read your blog for years but strangely this is the article of all of them that compelled me to tell you that.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve literally peed my pants more than once from a UTI and can’t say I’m super proud of those moments. Hope you’ve got some of that awesome medication that turns your pee bright orange and stains all your underwear.

    Maybe it’s because this week was also difficult for me to stand up for myself to a business guy who has been pushing me around and not feel like I’m the one in the wrong. I’m not sure how to get rid of the guilt I feel for taking up space and expressing dissent, but you and your blog are reminders that I can and should be a dick sometimes.

    cheers to you

  • zudora aroduz

    3 things helped me – you could have what i had, a urethral stricture. basically a narrowing that causes bacteria to get caught. you can get the urethra widened, which hurts like a bitch but is over quite quickly. otherwise use the potty immediately after the pasty dance, which may require you be organized enough to drink a big glass of water prior to. and lastly make sure you and your partner shower or at least wash your nether regions prior to. i know it’s less spontaneous but who needs to be peeing shards of glass or punching kittens.

  • Ashley Wilkinson

    Love your blog. Haven’t left any comments until now. Thought you might like to know that there are herbal teas that really work well at keeping UTIs at bay. Goldenrod works best in my opinion but there are many. I also use stinging nettle. I drink a few cups through the day if I’m feeling a bit “iffy” (or paranoid – never sure which).

  • Melissa

    YES! I’m pretty sure I love you.

  • The Nomadic Tribes

    Brilliance! Get well soon. 😉

  • Katie

    +100 “I vow to try and be a dick more, if that’s what it takes. I figure it’s the next best thing to having one.” Excellent way of putting it.

    Also, just want to commiserate on the UTIs. There were a couple years that I had them constantly. I drive a lot for work, and I remember stopping at every single gas station/McDonalds (every 10-15 minutes) on an hour long drive. I don’t love McDonalds food, but their bathrooms are usually very conveniently placed near a door. 🙂 I went through a bunch of tests, ended up on a low dosage of daily antibiotics that I was only semi-reliable at taking, and ended up with a bunch of health care bills that my insurance wouldn’t pay for because of my “preexisting condition” (yay obamacare for solving that problem).

    Nothing really helped except disgusting (but effective) pyridium to help with the temporary pain, hot baths (I know they say that baths cause UTIs, but that didn’t mesh with my experience and my doctor said there weren’t studies to back it up anyway), and water constantly. Seriously, I drink water constantly. If I have a ten minute drive and I forget water, I feel like I might die of thirst five minutes in.

    It’s been a few years since I’ve had any problems, so there is hope coming out of it. When you’re in the bathroom for the 83rd time that day, I know it feels hopeless, so just wanted to share.

  • Ashley of My Wanderlusty Life

    When I had my first and only UTI, I put off going to the hospital for a long time because, well, that’s a pain. A very expensive pain in the ass. When I finally did – for no less than because I thought I was dying – I walk into the emergency room, alone, at 3 AM and the only person in there is the middle aged male security guard. As I look for the check-in counter he says to me, “Hey, I know you. Don’t you work at Mugs and Jugs?” I probably don’t need to tell you that Mugs and Jugs is a Hooters-style sports bar. I’m walking into the EMERGENCY ROOM alone in the middle of the night. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE, SIR.
    Love the post ; )

  • Katherine Tsoukalas

    Urinary track infections are so uncomfortable! I don’t get them often, but when I do, I usually give the about 24 hours before I head to the doctor. Often, unsweetened cranberry juice does the trick. However I know that if it doesn’t I should go to the doctor. That’s such a terrible thing, though – the way the doc put the word “post coitol” on your prescription. Ew!

  • Michelle

    Greetings Geraldine! Just found your bloody awesome blog via a FB share of your Bacon diary post (that’s how I’d think to activate cashews too) and all of the posts I’ve read so far are so funny, smart, entertaining and make me wonder where the hell have I been the past 4 years?! Looking forward to catching up on your travel stuff, and even though I’ve only just discovered you’re writing a book I’ve decided I must have it.

  • Erika Wolfe

    Reading this, I am struck by the fact that you actually did not do or say anything truly dickish. It’s only dickish because it took you outside your comfort zone and because you, like most women, have been invested in being liked. If any man behaved this way, it would just be seen as normal. As we know, there is a different standard for women when they stand up for themselves.

    Another great post! I expected nothing less.

  • Francesca Collins

    You are awesome! That guy on the plane was the one being a dick it sounds like! You go girl… and if your followers didn’t love Rand before this post, they surely do now!

  • Christina C

    Never feel like a dick for just standing up for yourself,ever. We live in a society that thinks women who speak up, who don’t apologize for everything, are considered being bitchy. Fuck that.

  • Caitlin

    I got what I thought was my first UTI or similar infection last month. 30 years, nothing of the sort. Then: BAM – peeing constantly with horrible pain each time. But the clinic says it was probably a kidney stone turned to gravel that I was passing. I do not envy your travel while experiencing this. I do envy your ability to turn a post about bladder infections into a post about feminism and love. Thanks for your writing, thanks for this post!

  • Lauren Lawton Perfors

    Ha! Great post. Love the light-hearted approach to tackling a difficult topic (oh and standing up for yourself).

    Maybe next time get the bag down and drop it on his head? Could end with “gee wiz, sir, you were right! Want some Advil? Well, I’ve got this stuff (retrieve post coital meds)…”