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.”
See? “As needed” works everywhere. Also, THE INDICATIONS ON MY PRESCRIPTION ARE SO MORTIFYING THAT THEY EMBARRASSED MY PHARMACIST.
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.
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.