my cousin got in trouble after mentioning her period to her manager

A reader writes:

I’m writing today on behalf of my younger cousin Lauren, a high school sophomore who works as a cashier at a grocery store. To begin: is it inherently inappropriate to mention your period to your manager/ supervisor? Of course, I don’t mean yelling, “It’s a crime scene in my pants!” without prompting.

While she was working, Lauren began to sense Aunt Flo was making an unexpected visit. She had taken her break about a half hour earlier, but did not know she’d have to set up accommodations for Flo. My cousin continued working until there was a break in customer traffic and then asked her (male) supervisor if she could take a quick trip to the loo. Her supervisor looked annoyed and admonished her for not using her break to use the bathroom. My cousin said, “I actually did, but I am unexpectedly surfing the crimson wave.” According to Lauren, her manager looked embarrassed and allowed her to take her needed bathroom break.

During her next shift, she received a written citation for inappropriate language and insubordination. I asked Lauren if she had made the crimson wave remark loudly, in earshot of customers, or in a disrespectful manner. She said she had made a conscious effort to lower her voice, keep an even tone, and ask when no customers were around. I don’t think her use of slang was the issue; I suppose she could have said, “I am unexpectedly menstruating,” but that doesn’t necessarily seem more appropriate… just clinical? Also, she’s a sixteen-year-old girl having to tell her adult, male boss about her period — I don’t think one can dwell on her use of an inoffensive euphemism.

My first instinct is to head down to the store with my model of the the female reproductive system in tow and give Lauren’s supervisor a much-needed discussion about women and their mysteries, but clearly that is wrong. My cousin wants to handle this on her own like a mature adult, but isn’t quite sure how — especially because she’s not actually an adult and it appears her supervisor isn’t quite there yet either, in spite of his age. So three main questions:

1) Do you feel it is worth it to push back on this if her work environment is otherwise fine and she doubts it will be an issue again? This is a high school job and she’s an otherwise a stellar employee, so I doubt one citation will harm her future in any way. She would be doing it more for the principle of the matter.

2) Would it be appropriate for Lauren to address this first with a female supervisor (at the same level as the supervisor who reprimanded her; think night shift / day shift) rather than the male HR-type person? Lauren understandably doesn’t want to mention her period to more men who may react adversely, but also doesn’t want to involve people unnecessarily and make this a bigger deal than this has to be.

3) Lauren worries her concerns may be dismissed because adults don’t always take teens seriously. How would you phrase her complaint in a way that isn’t adversarial, but still conveys that she means business?

Okay, so for what it’s worth, “I’m unexpectedly surfing the crimson wave” wasn’t a great way for Lauren to put things when talking to a manager (of either sex), and I can understand him being a little taken aback just because it’s rather … crude wording.

That said, the manager should have just rolled with it. Writing her up is silly.

But it would be useful for you to arm Lauren with more professional language to have around for the future, like “I have my period and need to use the bathroom” or the getting-out-of-gym-class vague standby “It’s a feminine issue.”

Anyway, should she push back on this? Eh. If things are otherwise fine and she doesn’t expect it to be an issue again, I’d let it go. She wasn’t written up for saying she had her period, after all; at least if I’m understanding correctly, it was about the specific language she chose to use. (If it were the former, I’d absolutely tell her to fight it as strongly as possible.) Formally disciplining someone for that particular language is eye-rolly, but I don’t know that it’s a battle worth fighting.

That said, if she does want to push back, she could say something like this: “I want to ask that this write-up be removed from my file. I used a euphemism to explain to a male manager that I needed to use the bathroom because I had my period, and I don’t think it’s warranted to penalize me for that. Frankly, it’s awkward having to explain that to a man, and while I may not have chosen the absolute best wording, my intent was simply to explain the situation and get to the bathroom as quickly as possible. I have a track record of being an excellent employee, and I certainly didn’t intend to be inappropriate or insubordinate. The write-up makes me feel I’m being penalized for having my period at the wrong time, and I’m hoping it can be removed from my file.”

Ideally she’d say this to the HR person, even though he’s a man, because he’s the appropriate person to talk to. But if she can’t bring herself to do that, talking to a female manager would be the next best option (especially if there’s one who she thinks is particularly sensible).

Also, yay to Lauren for wanting to advocate for herself in general, and for seeking advice from you about it.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 945 comments… read them below }

  1. hopskip*

    I have heard WAY worse euphemisms for having one’s period. “I’m surfing the crimson wave” sounds positively regal to me.

    1. Manders*

      It reminds me of the song by Tacocat. And there’s a line about the singer’s boss being a jerk, so it’s extra appropriate.

      1. Lillian Styx*

        My favorite is “sew a scarlet letter on my bathing suit cause I got sharks in hot pursuit”

      1. Audiophile*

        Yes, it is! Cher gives it as an excuse to a teacher, I think to explain why she was late to class.

        1. Nina*

          As a kid, I remember thinking that whole bit was literal: “I was surfing the crimson wave and had to haul ass to the ladies.” I was wondering why she had to speak to her girlfriends after going surfing. Wow, I was naive.

    2. Tafadhali*

      I would have laughed, because that’s the exact wording Cher uses to excuse an absence and bump up her Debate grade in Clueless.

      I mean, I would have gently suggested a better phrasing, but I would honestly be a bit impressed that a 15-year-old would bring it up at all, even if awkwardly. I’m 28, and I felt mortified the one time I had to explain to a very frank and unembarrassable female boss that I needed a couple hours off one morning for cramps (i.e. until painkillers kicked in, as opposed to “I am contagiously ill and must be out all day and will miss the really important meeting we have this afternoon”) earlier this year.

      1. Liz*

        Yeah, it’s always when the stakes are so low that things get ridiculous. A job where you have to ask specifically before going to the bathroom rather than just going or asking someone to cover for a few minutes is one where you already know things are not the best.

        1. Not A Morning Person*

          That can be true, but in customer-facing roles you often need to schedule or get permission to walk away from the job even for a few minutes. You are expected to be in front of the customers at your work station or within sight of the place where you’d notice a customer who needs the service you provide. There isn’t necessarily anyone around to cover because they are doing the same role you are and serving customers. The manager needs to know. There may be emergency situations that require a run to the bathroom, but in most cases, people in customer-facing roles are expected to ask or notify their managers if they need to step away for an unscheduled break.

          1. M-C*

            It’s not as if she abandoned the cash register and ran off without notice. She did the proper thing in telling her manager, he’s just an ass to object. I don’t think a male employee who reported he’d had to run off to deal with a bout of diarrhea would have gotten written up, no matter what terminology he used. I’d totally complain to HR/get help from a female manager..

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              Exactly! It’s like a male employee saying “I’ve got a case of the runs,” which is euphemistic and slangy, but not crude (other than that it discusses a bodily function).

              Again, I want to point out that we live in a world where a poop emoji *comes standard* on work-based chat systems; how can her mentioning her period be objectionable?

            2. aebhel*

              Yeah, this is why you just DO NOT ask why someone needs a bathroom break. The answer is pretty much never going to be something you wanted to hear.

              If there’s a pattern of someone taking excessive breaks and needing to be covered, that’s something to address. But ‘why do you need a bathroom now’… no. Just, no.

              1. The Rat-Catcher*

                “Yeah, this is why you just DO NOT ask why someone needs a bathroom break. The answer is pretty much never going to be something you wanted to hear.”

                This is a valid point that I cannot believe I have never thought of before. What kind of answers ARE managers expecting when they ask such things?

          2. Jennifer*

            And really, do the customers want to see some poor woman bleeding all over her pants because you won’t let her go to the bathroom? This is something nobody should argue with.

          3. Anna*

            Well, she did exactly that, which led to her getting written up for inappropriate language AND insubordination (that’s the one that sticks out for me).

    3. neverjaunty*

      Equally not good for work, the best one I have heard so far is “communists in the funhouse”.

      1. Dez*

        That’s what they call it in Denmark. In Germany, “Russians in the basement.” In France, “The English have landed.” (Red uniforms).
        Why can’t we just say we need to go to the washroom without a big explanation and/or war metaphors?

    4. MillersSpring*

      He may have felt the slang term was too casual and and/or too specific. Maybe he felt she was flippant.

      I suggest, “I have an urgent unexpected personal issue.” This could cover anything from your period or diarrhea, to a split seam or a popped button. A period is nothing to be ashamed of, but your boss really doesn’t want that degree of detail. If he’s being an ass and grilling her about the reason, an “unexpected personal issue” should suffice. And if he presses for more detail, “I got my period” is brief and factual.

      1. kb*

        While I think that phrase would work for a reasonable boss, I think admonishing someone for needing to use the restroom makes it clear they aren’t completely reasonable. I suspect Lauren was trying to simultaneously be as vague as possible and make sure her boss understood it was something that couldn’t wait. And while, yes, “urgent, unexpected personal issue” should get that the point across, I feel like it woul make an unreasonable boss (like Lauren’s) ask more questions. Based on my own experience in high school, a lot of male teachers and supervisors don’t really “get” the whole period thing and it’s easier to faster and less traumatizing to start by being blunt.

        1. MillersSpring*

          Agreed re: dense male high school teachers

          I think the basic issue in the OP’s question is whether “I’m surfing the crimson wave” is an appropriate thing for Lauren to say to any boss, now or in the future. To me, it’s a misstep because it’s both TMI and too casual. (But her boss definitely was wrong to write her up.)

          1. kb*

            I could see how it could be considered too casual or too familiar, but based on my own experience working in a grocery store in high school (and the update from the OP) the company environment may be one where euphemisms for bodily functions are commonplace– I don’t think anyone at the store would bat an eye if she said she “had the runs.” If she said this to the partner of a law firm she just started working at, I could understand the presumption of familiarity being especially jarring and it being outside of company culture, but no higher-up at a law firm would contest/ question a bathroom break in the first place.

            But I disagree with it being more TMI than just saying “period” or “feminine issue,” as Alison suggested to do. All “surfing the crimson wave” really conveys is that there’s a red liquid involved, which is what happens during every period… usually? hopefully? It’s not especially gory, there’s no real details, and no aspect is profane. Maybe it’s because my line of work requires a high tolerance for stereotypically gross things, but I think it’s kind of ridiculous to be caught off-guard by the normal color of bodily fluids and excretions.

            Essentially: pinnacle of professionalism, the phrase it is not, but it doesn’t cross the line into inappropriate language either.

            1. kb*

              I guess, really, my feeling about this whole issue is if a manager feels familiar enough that they would like to know what bodily function you need to tend to in the bathroom, they’ve lost the high ground to be particular about word choice (barring profanity). Especially because in most work settings there shouldn’t be a reason to be talking about bathroom actions… so they all seem weird to say, so if one were really put on the spot (like Lauren was) who knows what the mind would settle on being least awkward.

              I don’t mean to rant about this (I’m pretty sure we’re mostly on the same page)… I just have bled through too many pants, silently waiting to be released to a bathroom while boys/men were free to use whatever bathroom talk they wished, but act grossed out if a girl’s tampon slipped out of her bag.

        2. tink*

          Oh my gosh, I had a few male teachers (including my health teacher!!!) that wouldn’t let us use the restroom while on our period unless we had a note from our doctor saying we were menstruating because “you girls just fake that stuff to get out of classes” …y’know, because something you get monthly is also something you go to a doctor and spend that sort of money on every month.

        3. annejumps*

          A number of anecdotes I’ve read lately seem to point to a lot of men thinking women *can* “hold” menstruation (like it’s urine) but simply refuse not to because of… reasons. He may have been disgusted by her failure to control bodily functions and that’s how he expressed it. I don’t really buy him being super offended by the wording alone.

          1. Mander*

            I’m not surprised given the apparent lack of understanding of biology I’ve been hearing lately. I don’t mean to make this political, but for instance the notion of women’s bodies “shutting down” in cases of “legitimate rape”, for instance, belies a complete ignorance of how the process works.

            Then again I knew someone in college in the 90s whose boyfriend didn’t realize that there is more than one opening in the female body. My guess is that he was not the most attentive of lovers.

    5. Me*

      Lol regal

      I never understood this mindset of using the bathroom on breaks only. Sometimes retail managers don’t understand the real world. I had a bathroom issue once when I had this part time job …weekend gig at a clothing store. I punched in then had to GO. so I went then came to start working. This manager asked why I was late, I told her I had a stomache ache and had to use the rest room, sort of made some funny face and looked to the side as to basically tell her I was embarrassed without saying anything. (Always a good go to in a situation like the OPs cousin… Sometimes less is more and actions or body language can help get your point across)…

      But anyway they said I was dilly dallying. It was wrong of me to do that without telling a a manager my where abouts. Keep in mind this was my 4th shift there ever. Haha. They took me into the office …explained again their policy of punching in and going right to work and said they were going to write me up. I was appauled and said “excuse me, I had diaraeah… Have you ever had it? You can’t really wait to find a manager, sometimes you just have to go.” They held firm to their policy and didnt understand…and said we arent trying to embarass you, it’s just like unprofessional. What? My response was “I refuse to work in a place that is not aware of how the professional business world works and you will not be writing me up, as I quit. Thanks for the few weeks of min. Wage employment!” And left. Something like that anyway. Can you believe that? I have a full time job in an office (had this same salty job at the time) and can go to the bathroom without fear, and will continue too..! When will they get a clue?

    6. Jenky*

      Yeah, this is already a euphemism! It is one of the many, many ways women joke about or downplay their periods, so men don’t have to actually hear the dirty words (period/menstruation/bleeding). I mean really think about the last time you heard an adult woman mention her period at work, in mixed company. The last time you saw one take a tampon out, in plain sight, and go to the washroom. Women tiptoe and pretend, so as not to offend. His reaction was pathetic, and punishment for her not playing the game, however briefly.

      1. TempestuousTeapot*

        I must be really different then. It’s a bodily function and I’ve used the point of said function to make at least one whole new person (and someone did the same for all of my coworkers). It’s a tampon and a pantyliner people, get over it.

      2. paul*

        Oh, I can answer! I had to go to my manager to talk to her manager, but there was a woman that worked for a different company that rented space in the same building that liked coming the communal desk where we worked (near the restrooms) and loudly discussing details–flow, clots, and the like.

        I wasn’t comfortable talking to her, so I told my supervisor what was going on and I guess she talked to that person’s supervisor at her company because it quit pretty abruptly

  2. Gaia*

    I agree her wording wasn’t the best. It was, as Alison stated, a bit crude. But she’s young and was probably frustrated (understandably) by her boss’ admonishment. If she were my relative or friend, I’d recommend she work on getting comfortable with Alison’s language. It might be hard for her because she’s young and has been conditioned that this is something shameful. But it isn’t. It is very normal and it will help if she can discuss it matter-of-factly.

    I think the boss was way out of line, though. Talking to her about language is one thing, but it seems as if his issue is with the very discussion of normal bodily functions for half the planet. I’d file this away as useful knowledge about this person but not pursue it further if there’s no other indication he has an issue with women. He might also just be conditioned to be really uncomfortable talking about this subject.

    1. General Ginger*

      Completely agree re: talking to her about language — it would have been perfectly appropriate for the manager to say, hey, you don’t have to use a euphemism for this, and in fact, it would be more professional if you didn’t. But insubordination? In what way was she insubordinate, by not being able to prevent her endometrium from shedding?

      1. Shazbot*

        Such is the idiotic bureaucracy of store management, where it is considered insubordinate to have to take care of *any* personal emergencies outside of one’s allotted break time. Insubordinate because, of course, you should have consulted your crystal ball and KNOWN that you were going to menstruate/throw up/get a roaring case of the trots/etc. X number of minutes beforehand and taken care of it during the break.

        It’s really surprising how many people subscribe to the above ridiculousness as perfectly logical.

        1. M-C*

          Really, I’d like to see what he’d have to say if she was serving customers while pools of blood lapped up at her feet..

          1. Jennifer*

            Me too. Pretty sure the words “biohazard” and “incident report” would come up. And the customer complaints would be spectacular.

            1. TempestuousTeapot*

              “Hazel, a bloodborne pathogen kit is needed at checkout three, please. Also, cleanup at checkout three”. I don’t think this manager ever got out of high school himself…

          2. Emma*

            Then you’re insubordinate for not taking care of it earlier. Because apparently, our bodily functions are always 100% predictable, and so if we don’t know these things ahead of time we’re just being jerks or trying to con people.

            Seriously, they don’t want real people on these jobs, they want robots.

        2. Jen*

          Hah, in my days working at a bookstore, I had one evening when my dinner disagreed with me. I asked the girl I was working with if she minded if I took my break first, and then she could go — basically we swapped breaks (hers was right after mine). She was fine with it, but our supervisor pitched a fit, because “he had to know where we were at all times.” /eyeroll

          1. Emma*

            I was sorting books for shelving in a library job once, and my supervisor got mad because I stopped in the middle, dropped the book I was holding, slapped a hand over my face, and ran to the bathroom. She came in after me to berate me for taking an unauthorized break, then got mad at me because I was more concerned with stopping the sudden, inexplicable bloody nose than listening to her. I asked her what I was supposed to do, and she told me to just wait until my break! Never mind that I was right behind the returns desk, visible to all patrons, and standing over books. I told her I thought keeping the blood off the books was a bigger issue, and she agreed I shouldn’t do that either, but apparently I was supposed to somehow stand there, still sort books, and not let on I had a bloody nose until my break. I have no idea how. I guess I was supposed to will my blood to stop flowing?

            1. Cafe au Lait*

              I’m a supervisor in a library, and I once had to explain to a student employee that it was not appropriate to ride-out a bloody nose at the desk. I wasn’t sending her home, but she needed to step into the back or the bathroom until it was finished.

              1. Emma*

                Yeah, I was completely blown away that apparently bleeding at the front desk was preferable to leaving for the bathroom, though what she really wanted was for me to time my nosebleeds better. But that was the supervisor who had it in for everyone the previous supervisor had hired, to the point of going out, wrecking work we’d done, then writing us up for not doing the work, so I shouldn’t really have been surprised.

    2. Happy Lurker*

      Personally, I worked in a grocery store as a teenager. The “managers” on duty for the front end are generally about 3-5 years older than said 16 year old. They tend to be a little uppity. Seriously, admonishing someone who wants to use the bathroom? I hated that part (and may others) about working retail.
      Reminds me of the scene in “Shawshank Redemption” when Red is bagging groceries and asks his boss for a bathroom break and boss responds “don’t ask me”. I laughed out loud, because you had to be seen or accounted for every minute. There was never an opportunity to goof off. If I went the bathroom without clearing it first my name was being called over the loudspeaker midstream.
      Even worse, 5 years after leaving the grocery store I was still telling people I was leaving for the ladies room. It wasn’t until someone pointed out that they didn’t need to know that I realized what I was doing.

      1. michelenyc*

        I worked in a grocery store as a courtesy clerk all through high school; in college I worked retail and I as long as it wasn’t busy I was never given hard time for going to use the ladies room/restroom. Even if it was super busy as long as I was quick about it, it was not a big deal. Times have certainly changed!

        1. paul*

          Same…restaurant, grocery store, Wal-Mart, other retail…no one ever cared unless you just vanished for a stretch of time.

      2. KR*

        Well from a front end supervisor standpoint, if a cashier leaves their register without clearing it first with us it puts us in an awkward spot because we might not notice that you’ve left and might still be directing customers to your register, or we might be so busy that if you’re headed to the bathroom we’ll have someone jump on the register for a few minutes to cover you, or our manager might come down and want to know why we don’t have a certain number of registers open and that causes a problem if we don’t know where you are.

        1. Emma*

          You know, I genuinely understand that, but on the other hand, being overly restrictive about employees’ bathroom usage isn’t really a good idea, either. I’m okay with requiring someone to alert their manager and asking them to get back promptly, but so many managers refuse these requests, force you to beg, make you jump through hoops or prove it’s an emergency, and that’s ridiculous.

          And if managers are worried about employees slacking off – which one of my sister’s managers claimed was the reason for no bathroom breaks – well, then, discipline or fire the ones who do genuinely slack.

      3. AMG*

        This was my first thought. I think her manager needs a lesson on being appropriate himself. She should absolutely not be written up for this, and I hope she pushes back.

      4. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I worked retail and food service in my early twenties, and one of the main things I initially found appealing about an office job was being able to go to the bathroom any time I wanted to without having to beg someone to cover for me or worry about a customer needing help while I was indisposed.

    3. Vicki*

      I would agree with this up to “not pursuing it farther”. She has a “writeup” in her file now. That manager could leave at any time but the writeup will stick. Lauren needs to get this fixed before someone else sees it and thinks she uses “inappropriate language” (swears like a fishwife on the check stand?? and she’s “insubordinate” (and where did THAT come from?!)

      1. Two-Time College Dropout*

        I didn’t know that “insubordination” actually meant “refusal to obey a direct order” until I was an adult, because I knew SO MANY parents, teachers, and other authority figures who’d use it as a catch-all for “I don’t like what you’re doing.”

        …sort of like how “disorderly conduct” is often a catch-all for “you’re not *technically* breaking any laws, but I (or someone else) still don’t like it.”

        1. Katie F*

          Yep. My time in the service industry taught me that lots of assistant managers and managers believe “insubordination” means “not instantly and cheerfully obedient without question.”

        2. copy run start*

          I had a teacher in middle school who used insubordination ANY time you did anything she didn’t like. She was crazy, and everyone in the school hated her. A lot of my classmates deliberately antagonized her just to get her to say it. (It was like “inSUB-BOOORD-dination!”) I think she liked the word because she assumed us idiot kids didn’t know what it meant and wouldn’t look it up.

    4. Loose Seal*

      Is she conditioned that it’s something shameful, though? I only ask because all of my nieces and their friends and teammates from various sports all act like their periods are no big deal. Which is vastly different than the way my generation behaved. (When I was a kid, I remember the store wrapping my mother’s supplies in brown paper. They had gotten past that by the time I was buying my own supplies but I remember “having” to make sure I needed lots of other things at the store so it wasn’t obvious I was there for tampons.)

      I think OP’s cousin should definitely speak to HR about it. Because it sounds like there’s a manager there who needs some training. At minimum, I would request HR amend the write-up to specifically state the story. What if OP”s cousin is applying somewhere else next year and they call for a reference. The manager answering the phone may be newer and not know much about Lauren so pulls her file and says that it looks like she had an incident of insubordination. Or the new manager can see exactly what the story was and roll their eyes and tell the reference-hunter that Lauren has been a great employee.

    5. Perry Meno*

      I wonder how old the boss is. I wouldn’t be surprised if a shift supervisor in a grocer store was only nineteen or twenty, so quite likely to have never encountered or contemplated this scenario before. Which doesn’t excuse the over-reaction, of course.

    6. Callie*

      If my boss wanted to know why I was in the bathroom, I would be so shocked that there would be no telling what would come out of my mouth and it would likely be extremely unprofessional. And I’m 41.

    7. CuhPow*

      I’m trying to understand how this language is crude and inappropriate because it’s too much info, but “period” and “meunstration”, the words we use euphemisms to avoid for their “crudeness” are acceptable. I have never referred to it as “period”, I call it Shark Week because it makes be uncomfortable just as I wouldn’t say diarrhea, I’d say stomach issues. If I got written up for using the euphemisms I’ve always used (whether too descriptive or not descriptive enough) I wouldn’t last long. MY bodily functions, someone else inquiring about them is invading MY privacy, I’m going to phrase it in a way that makes it less awakard for me. If you inquire about it you lose the right for me to worry about your comfortability with the answer while I’m in an awkward predicament, I’m going to use the language I feel most comfortable with.

  3. AyBeeCee*

    “I don’t mean yelling, “It’s a crime scene in my pants!” without prompting.”

    Bahahahaha. I had not heard that one before.

    1. Batshua*

      “My endometrium is sloughing!”

      Okay, I haven’t said this one yet, but the next time I have a reason to, that is totally how I’m going to inform my friends.

      1. CheeseKate*

        I laughed out loud so hard at this and shared it with everyone I know. This will become my new phrase. This almost sounds cruder than anything else, I think because “slough” is such a harsh sounding word.

    2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I usually just text my SO a gif of the elevator doors opening in the Shinning…

      I may have to start yelling this at him.

    3. A*

      I still refer to it as Shark Week (only to my husband, not at work), so I apparently have no room to talk.

      Poor girl, though. I would’ve been mortified as a 16-year-old to talk to a male supervisor about my period. I probably would’ve done something equally awkward as an attempt to diffuse the awkwardness.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ha, my coworker calls it Shark Week at work, but only to me and one other close co-worker.

      2. Roisindubh211*

        When I was 16, my boss was our parish priest. Not sure how I would have broached the subject with him…

      3. 42*

        We just call it “Elmer” around here. That started way back when I was in high school among my friends, and by osmosis now to my daughter. “Elmer is here.” Even my 11-y/o son calls it Elmer.

    4. Mona Lisa*

      I typically text my husband “Happy Not Father’s Day!” with some balloon and noisemaker emojis.

        1. Loose Seal*

          I’d hate to burst your bubble but I know a woman who had her period every month while she was pregnant for all four of her kids. She was always into her fourth or fifth month of pregnancy before she realized it because her period was like clockwork. She used to complain that most women would get a year or more freedom from their periods when having a baby and then breastfeeding but not her. She really did call it The Curse and she may have been right.

          1. ROUGE*

            lol reminds me of two stories in the news recently of women who haven’t gone to ER with stomach aches thinking kidney stones or bad gas, only to leave a few days later with an unexpected new addition. They both reportedly had their periods the whole time and somehow also missed an entire human growing in them at the same time. lol.

          2. Anonhippopotamus*

            She must not have had many pregnancy symptoms if it took her to 4-5 months to figure it out. That’s not a curse! I would gladly trade the constant nausea, fatigue and constipation for a few days of bleeding once a month, that’s so much easier to deal with!

            Truth be told, aside from a the first few hours of cramping, I really don’t mind having my period. I take a paracetamol on day 1, put a cup in and change it every 12 hours, nbd.

    5. GigglyPuff*

      To keep track of mine, I now call it “Crimson Landslide” in my google calendar, after that response from a tampon commercial from the guy on social media. Don’t care if it wasn’t real, still the best thing I’ve ever seen and love calling it the Crimson Landslide.

    6. Muriel Heslop*

      I teach eighth grade English, and my whole class looked up because I DID snort with laughter when I read it. Really, I am dying to tell them why. (I told them someone sent me an email with a typo.)

    7. Pineapple Incident*

      They use that line in the movie “No Strings Attached”– I appreciated the reference haha

    8. Venus Supreme*

      I like to say “The painter’s in!” or “riding the cotton pony.”

      Ah, the joys of being female.

        1. TL17*

          My mother told me about that euphemism once ages ago. Then she really did fall off a roof and had to go to the hospital and when she called she said, “no, I really fell off the roof!”

      1. Jadelyn*

        That’s brilliant. I just call it my moontime, from my favorite book series (Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series, in case anyone cares), but I love that.

        1. Crystalline*

          Nothing to add here except ahhh! That’s my favorite series, too.

          This thread is cracking me up and I’m going to use several of these in the future now. “Shark Week” has been my go-to, although “Red Death” has suited in the past.

      2. Batshua*

        My housemate says “the commies are in the funhouse”.

        That one always gives me very strange mental images.

        1. Catalin*

          Just choked. That’s hilarious, not only because it incorporates commies/red terms, but calling it the funhouse…Dying.

    9. Jane*

      I love menstruation euphemisms. My favorites (of those not yet mentioned) are “my uterine operating system is rebooting” and “Les anglais ont débarqué dans ma culotte (The British army has landed in my panty).” I also have a friend who says “I don’t have a period; I have an interrobang.”

      On a more serious note, my gut feeling is that the manager’s reaction is more of an “ew gross” about periods than it is about any behavior on Lauren’s part, which irritates me. I really don’t see why there should be such a stigma to something roughly half the population experiences at some point, and I don’t believe women should feel they are obligated to make men (or other women) more comfortable about something that is a normal, healthy bodily function by using gym class excuses. It’s not like we’re talking about diarrhea or something contagious — you’re not going to “come down with” a uterus, dude! However, Alison’s language will probably get you farther than anything I would come up with.

      1. Chickaletta*

        We don’t know if he thought it was gross, we just know she was written up probably for using a questionable phrase at work. To me, it’s like if an employee said they needed a break to “take the kids to the pool”. Yeah, it’s funny, but it’s not really an appropriate way to speak to one’s manager.

        1. Elsajeni*

          I mean… it’s true, it’s not the most appropriate choice of phrasing, but if your manager is actually asking you why you need to take a bathroom break, what are you supposed to say? If you’ve already said “I have to go to the bathroom” and someone is asking for clarification, pretty much any answer you could give would be generally considered inappropriate for polite company.

          1. N.J.*

            Well in this example you could say that you have an urgent stomach issue or that you need to defecate (clinical but effective) or need to poop, though I’m not sure if they is polite enough. In the OP’s niece’s case she could have said simply I have my period or I need to deal with an urgent feminine hygiene matter or say that it is my time of the month and unfortunately I have just started bleeding. Any of those could work I would guess. Chicketta raises a good point. If the manager is generally a reasonable person, then the write up might center around the idea that the language or euphemism used was inappropriate. I could also argue that some would see the euphemistic word choice as insubordination, in the sense that the manager might have though the niece was being a smart ass. I don’t personally agree that there should have been a write up, that does seem like an overreaction, but if an employee answered me like that in response to a discussion about appropriate prioritzation of bathroom breaks in a retail environment, I might assume they were being a smart ass and expressing disagreement or displeasure at being reminded of the appropriate time to use the bathroom. That would certainly border on insubordination, depending on the tone etc. YMMV obviously.

            1. Elsajeni*

              I basically think that the question is an inappropriate intrusion to begin with, so it’s hard for me to see any response to it as unacceptably inappropriate. We’re not talking about “a discussion about appropriate prioritization of bathroom breaks,” really; we’re talking about a manager challenging an employee, in the moment as she’s standing in front of him needing to use the bathroom, on whether her reason for needing a bathroom break is good enough. I find it hard to trust that someone who would ask that question in the first place wouldn’t interpret any response other than “You’re right, I’ll wait until the end of my shift” as insubordinate or smart-assed.

              1. Dot Warner*

                I agree. Doctors are allowed to ask people what they do in the bathroom; if you’re not a doctor, and you’re asking that question, you’re incredibly rude and need to mind your own business.

        2. kb*

          But would you give someone a written citation for one-time use of an, at most, questionable phrase? Especially if you put them in a position where they had to answer a question with only TMI answers as options? In your example with an employee saying they needed a break to “take the kids to the pool,” out of the blue, yeah, that would be really weird and unprofessional. But if an employee asked to use the restroom and you made them explain why… I would see the euphemism as merited. If I were the employee in this situation, internally I would just be screaming, “…does he want me to say poop? Can I say poop at work to my boss? How can I dance around this?” In my interpretation of this letter, the situation was more a teen struggling to figure out a non-awkward way to tell her boss she has her period than any sort of intentional grossness/ disrespect. And even though I think most commenters have agreed that simply saying period would have been better, I can understand the hesitation to say that aloud to a male authority figure and try to find something else and attempt to bring some levity to the situation.

          1. Beware the word police*

            + 1
            Both sides were embarrassed, this thing just needed to be dropped and never spoken of again. A good manager would not have responded to their embarrassment with sanctions. They’d respond by learning their lesson and never inquiring after the specifics of someone’s bathroom habits again.

            Sorry, ask an unprofessional question get an unprofessional answer.

    10. MashaKasha*

      Only time in my life I’ve heard the term “crime scene” before was from my then boyfriend. Who was totally cool with the fact that the crime scene existed and needed to be accommodated (as did the cramps). I’m feeling weirdly proud right now, both of his awesomeness in that regard and in the fact that I must be finally learning how to pick the right ones (even if things did not work out, for non-crime-scene-related reasons).

      I just marked mine as “X” on my calendar, until I got a period tracker app installed. I can be so unimaginative sometimes.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, I was just thinking that–if I ever meet someone who, when I say I have my period, replies, “Can I get you anything?” without making a face, then I will know I’ve met a real man.

        *sigh* That has yet to happen.

        1. Loose Seal*

          My husband and I met while I was constantly bleeding (a crimson tsunami?) leading to a hysterectomy after we’d been dating 2 months. His reaction to all of that and how he treated me during it — and the “no big deal” attitude was part of it — was absolutely instrumental in our going straight to engagement and, three weeks later, marriage. It is incredibly refreshing to not have to hide that part of you.

        2. Jenbug*

          When I lived with my former roommates, Female Roommate and I were pretty in sync with our cycles. Male roommate actually started keeping track and would come home with appropriate snacks for both of us. He was a keeper.

        3. Lissa*

          Interestingly, all the guys I’ve dated have been totally cool with it(as have the girls but it would be a little weirder if they weren’t, ha). Even the one who was a jerk in other ways, still always had the attitude of “eh, it’s something that happens, no biggie”. I wonder what affects it, like if guys who have female friends or sisters who talk about it are more likely to not get weird or grossed out? I’d assume so, but who knows…

        4. Alex*

          That’s terrible that you have had so many issues with men regarding this. It doesn’t make any sense. How hard is it to be like “Ok would you like some chocolate and chamomile tea or something” when you say you are having your period?

        5. Mander*

          Indeed that’s one way I knew mine was a keeper. He can be very frustrating in other ways sometimes but he’s never awkward about biology.

      1. M-C*

        Oh, it’s a classic in French, and still used. Everyone knows what kind of indisposition you’re talking about. Sounds very Angela Merkel, stateswoman-like, doesn’t it :-)?

    11. Liane*

      I have been known to warn my husband, “It’s time to use your Survival Instincts!” because it makes my temper worse. I have been known to blame said temper/touchiness to a close male family friend on, “The phase of the Moon.”

    12. Meri*

      Lately, I’ve been using “The Blood Moon is upon me” or my usual “My uterus is sloughing off excess tissue and being unnecessarily dramatic about it.”

    13. Gandalf the Nude*

      Are we doing this? Because my favorites are “My second least favorite aunt is in town” and “I’m emulating Jackson Pollock.”

    14. Shortie*

      Hahahahaha, I used the phrase “crime scene in my pants” about a week ago while speaking in a normal conversation with my husband. This lovely, wonderful man started laughing and then hugged me and said he was glad he married me. :-)

  4. ZSD*

    Lauren has my sympathies. Having to talk to an adult male about my period would be one of my nightmares as a teen. From my no-longer-teenage viewpoint, I can see that she would ideally have used more professional phrasing, but honestly, she probably handled it better than I would have at that age.

    That said, while I understand why her manager sees this as inappropriate language, I don’t get the insubordination part of the write-up at all. In what way was she insubordinate?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I read it as the language itself being the insubordination or something about how she said it, but maybe I’m wrong. OP, can you clarify?

      If she was in fact called insubordinate simply for daring to mention that she had her period and needed to leave the floor, that’s a much bigger deal and I’d strong advocate her pushing back on it. But I’m hoping that’s not the case.

      1. ZSD*

        My best guess was that continuing to ask to use the restroom after being told she should have used her break might be considered insubordination. That would be ridiculous, but it’s the most likely reasoning I could come up with.

        1. KP84*

          I think that might be what he is referring to which is obnoxious and kind of petty. God forbid nature calls when you are not your break – how dare your body function normally during work hours!

          I am glad I had good managers when I worked retail – a quick “I need to use the bathroom, So-and-so is covering the register” was all that they needed.

          1. Not Karen*

            There is a scene at the end of Shawshank Redemption where Morgan Freeman asks his grocery store boss to use the restroom and the boss says, “You don’t need to ask permission, just go.”

        2. Biff*

          I have met an absolutely astonishing number of men who feel that either women can schedule their periods (because everyone is on hormonal birth control, I guess) or have such a poor understanding of how a period works that they really don’t understand that women have to deal with it NOW, not 3 hours from now. Some folks just need education, but I’ve met a surprisingly large subset that are extremely resistant to any education on the facts of life as it pertains to women. They prefer to act like women are some sort of bizarre, conniving sisterhood that exists only to vex and titilla men. This manager sounds like the type.

          Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any talking sense into him given the write-up.

          1. Doug Judy*

            I remember reading something a while back where a male manager literally thought you could control it like you would your bladder.

            1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              There was a recent kerfuffle on twitter with someone who did not understand why women object to their tampons being taxed in the UK.

              1. Merry and Bright*

                Yep, not classed as medical products but luxury items. At least they don’t have VAT at full rate now but the principle still sucks.

                1. Wendy Darling*

                  I will happily forego tampons and sit on the sofa of anyone who considers a tampon a luxury item.

              2. ZuKeeper*

                It’s not so much that they object to having them taxed, it’s that they are taxed in the same category as “luxury” items, ie: champagne and sports cars. :(

                1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

                  Well, in this case it is, among others, me, and I very much object to having them taxed at all, when, frex, books aren’t. Making them luxury items is just icing on the cake.

              3. zora*

                The guy on twitter was literally saying if women are so lazy that they can’t hold their periods, then they deserve to pay the luxury tax. I can’t remember if he actually used the word bladder, but he clearly thought they were basically the same thing.

            2. Biff*

              I understand this misconception, and I refuse to laugh at men who believe this before they’ve had a long-term girlfriend/wife/other relationship in which this idea would be replaces with facts. But they shouldn’t resist education to the contrary, and many do.

                1. Biff*

                  ..I wish I could better describe my expression as I read this and my train of though derailed. It probably looked like I had just smelled toxic gas at the exact moment I had a coronary.

                  His poor wife.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Frankly, unless they had no women in their household growing up – no mother, no sisters, no aunts – AND were home-schooled exclusively by and with other males, they have no excuse for such a gross misconception, and the fact that it’s common enough to come up in conversations like this indicates a desperate lack of formal (as in, in school) education on the physical body including reproductive systems, which equally desperately needs to be corrected, because I have absolutely no sympathy for someone who has the luxury of just *shrug* not having to ever know about something incredibly common that half the population of the Earth deals with.

                1. Sorin*

                  To be honest, I was raised almost entirely by my mother (my father was military), and she never decided to tell me about her periods.

                  But at least sex ed in my elementary school did.

                2. Xarcady*

                  I grew up in the 60s and 70s with five brothers. My mom, who grew up in the 30s and 40s, made a huge deal out of hiding everything related to periods. I was not to complain about the pain with a man around, or mention supplies, or *anything*.

                  My brothers knew only what their sex education classes taught them, and if their classes were anything like mine, periods and their function were mentioned, but nothing else. We had a separate class with just girls to go over tampons and pads–I had no idea these existed, my mother hid things so well.

                  So while I hope that today’s young men are better educated, I can completely see how guys just don’t know basic facts. Because everything about menstruation has been so “shameful” and hidden for so long.

              2. Mookie*

                Why? Cis men who have no sexual or romantic interest in women still need to understand basic human bodily functions, because a little less than half the human population is going to menstruate at some point in their lives. This is what public schooling is for.

                1. Mookie*

                  This is a little too much like only recognizing misogyny when it punches your daughter in her face. Men are more than capable of figuring this out without a handhold by the time they’re adults. Most of what we know about the world around us we understand only theoretically, take on faith, and/or concede to experts or authorities. I haven’t seen the moon up close but I know enough about it to maybe pass a pub quiz. I don’t need to personally date a moonperson to do that.

                  Having to “understand” menstruation in order to allow someone to use a hygienic napkin or other device to sop up or collect blood is ridiculous. Just let the young woman go to the bathroom. It’s quicker and less disruptive than an extended third-degree on the shop floor.

            3. Loose Seal*

              Frankly, there are a lot of women who are shocked to find out they have three holes. Young boys can pretty much see all their exterior parts but young girls have to get gymnastic or use a mirror (something that didn’t occur to me until I read something in a woman’s mag in my late 20s – yeah, I didn’t really know what was down there despite having dealt with it since toilet training AND since having sex with a lot of people). More education and less shame for all, I say!!

          2. Karo*

            It’s really disturbing to read how many people think that you can just hold it, like urine. Nope, not how it works.

          3. designbot*

            Even if you’re on BC and can schedule it down to the day, trying to dial it in to a half hour increment is still laughable.

              1. Jenna*

                When I was on BC and could then plan for the day I wore the maxi pad that day. I also used the pills to adjust the day I would expect it so that it would land on a weekend.
                I will never forget the horror and embarrassment of getting my period mid day in class in seventh grade(Jr high). I will also never understand why the school nurse only had panty liners(I required the biggest maxi pads available from the start), and I will NEVER FORGIVE whoever chose white pants for that school’s band uniform. Ever.

                1. SusanIvanova*

                  I cosplayed as a Quidditch player one year, and in assembling the costume noticed that they’d gone from light-colored pants in the first movie to dark ones in the rest. Yeah, I think some costume designer suddenly realized that hey, half the players are teenage girls…

            1. halpful*

              even if you can *usually* schedule it to the day, there’s always the risk of troll-uterus starting extra early, or mid-month spotting, or a… wardrobe malfunction. or antibiotics interfering with the pill.

          4. Liane*

            Heck, even hormonal birth control doesn’t always guarantee. A relative is still somewhat irregular on BC pills, no matter how scrupulous she is about taking them every day at the same time.

            Now, as for the manager in question–IF he meant mentioning her period, I think being written up by his boss/HR for writing the girl up might be a good idea.

          5. Bibliovore*

            I had a new job once and got my unexpected period on the second day. I sat suffering and my new boss noticed and said are you okay? I said no, I just got my period and have horrible cramps. She was very sympathetic and sent me home. Fast forward a few months. I have a new supervisor. I get my period. I say, I just got my period and I need to leave. I have horrible cramps. He explains to me that he heard that exercise was good for cramps. Seriously, I wish I had said, let me know how that works for you.

          6. JKP*

            To be fair to some of the men who are period-clueless, sometimes that’s because the women in their life are too embarrassed/ashamed about periods to answer questions.

            I was surprised how clueless my current boyfriend was about periods, considering that he had been married before and had a high school aged daughter, plus mother and sisters. He understood all the purely clinical/anatomy/scientific stuff, but not so much the practical/experience stuff (like that women have to change their pad/tampon more than once a day or that they can’t always predict when they’ll get it or that they can’t wait to take care of it). But it was because the women in his life had bought into the period-taboo/shame and wouldn’t ever discuss it with him. Even though he was comfortable with the topic and genuinely wanted to understand, his curiosity was always shot down. And I realized that when he asked me sincere questions, I was falling into the trap of doing the same thing to him, so how could the poor guy ever learn. So I try to answer his questions and help him understand what the period experience is like instead of my previous instinctual inclination to say that it’s TMI or private or something I don’t want to share. And I remind myself of all the guy stuff I was super naive about before having boyfriends who explained their experience to me.

            1. JKP*

              One interesting addition: my boyfriend has a super sensitive nose and always comments that I smell slightly different during my periods. It took a while to figure out that was what he was smelling, because he can smell the change before I even get my period or know it’s coming, generally 1 or 2 days before it starts (and it’s not a hygeine issue, because it’s right out of the shower even, so it’s something with pheromones maybe). So he’s become sort of an early warning system for my highly irregular periods. He’ll comment that he smells that smell again, and sure enough within 1-2 days my period starts.

            2. Jenky*

              Yes on all this. Women are conditioned to hide this stuff, but then pay when a man just doesn’t understand the basics (like not being able to plan a period around bathroom breaks).

        3. INFJ*

          Yes, that’s how I interpreted it: insubordinate for not using her break to use the restroom. I was actually mostly horrified by that aspect of the letter: that you could be prevented from going to the bathroom (regardless of reason for needing to go).

      2. OP*

        Our best guess is that the insubordination charge was for not just agreeing that she should have used the restroom on break. He appears to be of the sort that any response other than blind acceptance is insubordination.

        1. 42*

          I saw it as a knee-jerk reaction to extreme embarrassment on his part. Like the optics of him looking potentially foolish for giving her so much of a hard time, that she had to blurt it out.

    2. Pari*

      I read it as providing too many details which caused him to be embarrassed. Could be he simply expected something more vague like “it’s an emergency.”

      1. LJL*

        I tend to be a bit euphemistic, so I’d have said something like, ” I REALLY have to go now or it may get ugly!”

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        Maybe, but I think most people realize that’s the risk you take if you demand an explanation when someone tells you they need a quick restroom break. I mean, honestly, what additional explanation do you really need?

        If the manager was embarrassed, it’s a shame he didn’t realize he brought it on himself by asking a question he didn’t really want the answer to, rather than deciding Lauren was insubordinate.

        1. Sunshine*

          Exactly. What answer was he looking for that WOULDN’T be potentially embarrassing? Did he think she was going to the potty room to play Candy Crush??

      3. Observer*

        Oh, for heaven;s sake! TMI isn’t insubordination! And given the situation, explaining WHY this is an emergency makes sense. Calling that insubordination is a real problem.

      4. kittycritter*

        Well – if he didn’t want the details, he shouldn’t have asked the poor girl about why she needed to go! You can’t ask the question and then get mad when you get the answer hahaha!
        I read it this way – that Lauren used this particular phrasing probably out of a nervous attempt to be humorous and play it off lightly….strange that a grocery store supervisor would feel the need to go on such a misogynistic power trip! I hope she stands up for herself and fights this so as not to have an unfair write-up in her file.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      Really, this is at the top of the list of mortifying things for most teenage girls. Even mentioning it is so awkward for most of them. The insubordination write-up makes me think the manager might not understand the meaning of the word “insubordination.” Seriously! The manager may not be a older adult but an older teen or a young adult who doesn’t know what that word means. Just because he’s offended, doesn’t make her subordinate.

      1. kristinyc*

        Seriously. When I was a teenager, I didn’t want to talk to my parents about it at all (even to ask them to buy pads/tampons). I ended up having a pretty serious medical condition where I had to be hospitalized for 3 days for extreme blood loss (they said it has to do with iron/protein deficiency). I probably should have told my parents 2 months before – I just thought I had really heavy periods. I told my mom after the 3rd time it happened, and she immediately called her doctor, who told her to take me to the ER. (That was ~15 years ago. They were able to regulate it with birth control after a few months, and now I eat a lot of spinach, and I’m fine).

        We really, REALLY need to de-stigmatize talking about periods.

    4. Clever Name*

      I’m guessing that the supervisor is deeply mortified, and to cover his embarrassment, as well as to punish his employee for embarrassing him, he called her behavior “insubordinate”.

      1. Katherine*

        Yes. This is exactly how I read it. His entire reaction is a big ball of casual sexism, and it’s too bad this girl is getting written up for something that isn’t her fault at all. And I think “riding the crimson wave” is much less crude than “my vagina is bleeding.” But can you imagine his reaction if she’d said that?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But come on, those aren’t the only two choices. “I have my period” is perfectly fine. (Again, I don’t blame a 16-year-old for not being comfortable with that, but as adults let’s not pretend that that’s not a perfectly serviceable option.)

          1. Anon in NOVA*

            Maybe “I just started my period” to make it clear it wasn’t an issue during the original bathroom break, but is now?

            1. Blue Anne*

              This is what I would have said – now. When I was 16? No idea… I probably would have just spluttered at him and run off to the bathroom without permission.

          2. Jadelyn*

            I tend to feel like, the harder a someone pushes back on another person for needing to take care of an urgent biological function, the cruder and more graphic that other person is entitled to get. If I tell my manager I need to use the restroom urgently, and he tries to give me crap about it, he has just waived his right to my discretion and euphemisms and deserves to hear about how I am bleeding from my crotch and need to go take care of that immediately.

            People don’t need to urgently use the restroom for reasons other than the immediate, graphic, and biological. If someone needs to use the restroom and can’t wait, pretty much by definition it’s because something immediate and graphic and biological is either in progress or imminent, so pushing back on someone going to the bathroom is (in my opinion) inherently crossing a line and thus deserving of some graphic responses.

            But then, I’m a crankypants with absolutely zero patience for people, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my tactics to other people. “Time of the month” or “period” would be fine.

            1. Security SemiPro*

              I pretty much agree wth you. There was a point where I tried generic birth control, didn’t like the side effects from the different, supposedly inert, binders and asked to have the name brand the next time. The pharmacist who tried to tell me that the side effects couldn’t be that bad and I should try it for a few more months got, “If you would like to bleed from the genitals for the next two months, I’m happy to arrange it, but I’d like to stop now.”

              If you push for specifics, you don’t get to complain when you get them.

          3. Anna*

            It is a serviceable option, but besides being a little gross, what is objectionable about mentioning the crimson wave other than it being about (gasp) her period? I’d argue there’s a good chance he would have written her up for mentioning her period at all because he was embarrassed about it.

            1. Emma*

              It’s generally considered rude to reach for a gross or graphic euphemism (and not just for menstruation, either), and while I’d consider it fine to escalate to that, starting with plain, direct language – “I have my period” – is generally better.

              That said, given how awkward it can be to discuss your bodily functions with a supervisor who’s already made it clear he doesn’t want you to go take care of them, writing her up for her language is pretty shitty. At most what should’ve happened is someone gently taking her aside later and giving her more professional phrasing for later, not an actual write-up.

          4. Katherine*

            Oh, as an adult, I have no problem with “I have my period.” But as a teenager? Oh, to even mention it was the height of agony! And I do think she would’ve been punished no matter how she presented it … I mean, he’s a guy who required an explanation as to why she needed to run to the bathroom. It wasn’t gonna be a work-appropriate answer!

          5. Mazzy*

            I totally agree. And to be practical, if someone said “riding the wave” at work I wouldn’t even know what they meant, I’d probably need a minute to register what they were even talking about.

          6. Beware the word police*

            I object to his need for details in the first place. Why should anyone have to say anything?

            We always talk about how work is for adults and advocate that we should act and be treated that way at work. That is why I feel even dignifying a question like that with “I am on my period” is more than anyone should get to know.

            That he asked a question that was none of his business, didn’t like the answer, then doubled down w/ a write-up?

            My Union Steward would have a “field day”!

            Our grocery store workers belong to a union, if your niece does, it might be worth her time to have a chat with them.

        2. Marisol*

          I read it as casual sexism as well. “You dare mention your female needs and make *me,* an important man, uncomfortable? That calls for punishment!”

    5. Red Rose*

      My daughter got her first ever period right before she went in to sit a science mid-term in 8th grade. She had a pad and of course we’d talked through what to do–but we all remember the first time was a little mind-blowing, so she didn’t do very well on the test compared to her usual. So when the (male) teacher handed back the test he asked her what happened and she just told him the truth (not using euphemisms as I don’t think she even knew any of those). When she told me, I was surprised she’d do that, but thinking it over, I was kinda proud. No idea what the teacher thought though. At least he didn’t send her to the principal’s office for insubordination.

      1. Marisol*

        Given the age group of his students, that guy probably had to deal with such things on a regular basis and thus was in the minority of men who was comfortable with period discussions.

    6. sstabeler*

      I’m guessing he’s one of those supervisors that think employees not acting like robots is inherently insubordinate- that is, either the request to use the bathroom at a time not your scheduled break is insubordinate, or that it is insubordinate to talk about your period.

      Honestly, my opinion on it is the supervisor’s an idiot. she’s a 16 year old girl, it’s (apparently- I’m male, so i don’t have periods) embarrassing enough talking about your period anyway so considering she wouldn’t really know workplace norms at that age anyway, I would have left it at a quick ” can you not use euphemisms for your period in future?” (AFTER she’s been able to deal with the problem) and leave it at that.

  5. Newby*

    The fact that she was written up for insubordination actually does imply that she is being written up for having her period and needing to go to the bathroom. The inappropriate language part she may have to accept since that is about how she phrased it, but insubordination? What did he expect her to do?

    1. INTP*

      I agree here. Insubordination to me implies some sort of defiance – like she is being written up for insisting on going to the bathroom, or insisting on explaining why she needed to go, and not just waiting quietly.

      I think the whole thing is about the period though – if not punishment for having it in the first place, then punishment for telling him so and making him feel icky about it due to his own issues. I doubt he writes up every person who uses a mild but non-ideal euphemism for any bodily function out of the earshot of customers. Just saying.

    2. Amber*

      I know I’m in the minority here but one part of being an adult woman is learning how to manage her period and not have to involve others. If she doesn’t know when her period will start then she should wear a panty liner daily (I do this, you don’t even feel them), that would give her enough coverage to last until the next break.

      It’s like those young adults that say “oh I slept through my alarm” well be a responsible adult and buy a 2nd or louder alarm. Should she be written up? No but should she learn from this and takes steps so it never happens again? Yes. Because she placed herself in that situation by not being prepared (aka wearing a daily panty liner).

      1. Mona Lisa*

        …so she should spend large amounts of money on disposable products because she’s a teenager whose hormones might not be regulated yet and is in more danger of sudden menstrual flow? I’m not buying that. I don’t think the employee’s word choice was ideal, but things happen. Would you say that someone who has IBS shouldn’t be allowed to use the bathroom if they have a flare up during a non-break time because she’s an adult and should know how to manage it?

          1. many bells down*

            Hell, I’m 43 and I’m not even regular on birth control. Random bouts of breakthrough bleeding might happen every 3 months or so. My daughter had the same issue, we got her an IUD and she had no period for a year and now she has them randomly a couple times a year.

            1. MashaKasha*

              I need one of those magical IUDs that make that happen. All of mine just made my periods heavier, longer, and more frequent :(

              1. many bells down*

                They’re certainly not for everyone. But of course no form of birth control is! I can’t use an IUD, the patch, Depo, OR condoms for various reasons. I’m fortunate to have finally found something I can tolerate.

                1. Simms*

                  I’m in a similar boat, can’t use pill, patch, condoms and have trouble findings a doc who will seriously consider and IUD for me.

              2. Mona Lisa*

                Yup. I’ve had an IUD for a bit over two years now, and none of the magical side effects have happened. Only the awful ones like jawline cystic acne and unbearable period cramping.

              3. Al Lo*

                My magical IUD has given me no periods for 6+ years now. It’s the most amazing thing EVER. No cramping, no weight gain, no periods. A few days of discomfort when it went in; a few weeks of not-quite-discomfort-but-my-body-still-getting-used-to-it after that; a tiny bit of spotting every now and then, and that’s it.

              4. Jane*

                Not trying to get off track, but the copper IUDs tend to make periods heavier, longer, and crampier, while some hormonal IUDs like the Mirena tend to lessen flow and in some people eliminate periods altogether. I switched from the copper to the Mirena and went from overwhelming periods for 6 years to none at all now. I’m much happier now.

          2. Whats In A Name*

            You are my hero. I wasn’t regular until I was 34. And I’m on birth control. And by regular I mean “anytime between Tuesday at 3:00 a.m. and Wednesday at 8:00 p.m.”.

            As an adult woman I do make sure I am prepared to not bring adults in, but I have a 36 hour window to work with. When I was 16? Besides the fact that hormones made it almost impossible to be on a schedule my brain was more likely focused on boys and what I was doing with my friends. Not how my period could potentially be an inconvenience for my boss.

          3. Nina*

            I’m in my early 30s and I’m still not on a schedule. I have PCOS and missing periods are a symptom. I was doing well for almost a year, then randomly skipped 3 months. Thankfully (as thankful as you can be) the dreaded visitor showed up last week.

            If I wore a pantyliner every time I thought my period was coming, I would be broke. For some women, there’s just no predicting it. It shows up when it wants to.

            1. halpful*

              broke, and suffering from irritated skin in a very sensitive area. I remember how much my skin hated pads when I couldn’t use other menstrual products… and that was only for a week at a time. there’s no way in hell I’d trap moisture against my skin every single day.

              although… OP’s cousin might want to invest in some black cotton undies. and google “menstrual cup”. :)

          4. Jersey's Mom*

            Mine is so irregular that I literally can’t even predict the week it’ll occur. Then over the past couple of years it got so heavy that I suffered from anemia and had to wear maxi pads every day, just in case. Finally got a uterine ablation which solved the entire problem, haven’t had a period since.

          5. Jaydee*

            35 and I was only ever regular while on hormonal birth control. Without pills? My period tracking app indicates that in the last 2.5 years my cycles have ranged from 33 days to 72 days in length, with an average of 48 days. So yeah….

            1. many bells down*

              Oh man, stuff like that confused the hell out of my tracking app. Because it averages it, right? So you have one 28-day cycle and one 65-day cycle and it thinks your next period will happen in about 45 days.

              1. Perry Meno*

                For what it’s worth: I use Groovy on iOS and you can tell it to ignore any cycles you think might be throwing your average out. Which, I grant you, only works if that leaves a reasonable number of cycles to still calculate an average from :)

              2. Jaydee*

                To be fair, 48 days is not an unreasonable approximation. Eleven of my last 20 cycles have fallen between 40 and 53 days. And I do get very noticeable signs that it is impending, so the tracker is more for being able to tell doctors when my last period was than necessarily for predictive purposes.

              1. Jaydee*

                Yeah, I’ll take completely unpredictable but infrequent over predictably-every-3-weeks any day. You have my sympathies!

      2. General Ginger*

        Ehhh, yes, of course, it’s great if one’s period is relatively predictable (and there are some really great period tracking apps out there, for example), but the human body doesn’t always function like clockwork. Managing the workings of one’s uterus isn’t really comparable to sleeping through the alarm.

          1. Biff*

            No, they aren’t. That’s what a lot of people are trying to explain to you. Please listen. Just because you have a clockwork period that is easy to manage doesn’t mean everyone else does.

            1. ZSD*

              Well, it sounds like Amber’s periods *aren’t* like clockwork, but her method of dealing with that is to wear a panty liner daily. But I’m on the side of people who think that’s a big expense that can be avoided by just carrying the relevant tools in your purse and, you know, going to the bathroom when it becomes necessary.

              1. not really a lurker anymore*

                A panty liner is insufficient when my period comes early or unexpectedly.

                My first 48 hours are not light anymore. I’m apparently starting to hit perimenopause and gets all sorts of fun hormonal reactions.

                1. Anon in NOVA*

                  I was thinking the same thing- a pantyliner isn’t going to cut it for very long… I’d still need to head to the bathroom ASAP

                2. Emac*

                  Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. A pantyliner would work for about a minute for me or maybe about the time it would take to walk very fast to the bathroom immediately.

                3. TC*

                  +1 here. A panty liner isn’t going to cut it for me. I’m on BC and can narrow it down to about 3 days when I can expect my period. It does make me feel a little better when I read other people have a similar experience, I was pretty sure I was the only one growing up.

                4. Photoshop Til I Drop*

                  A panty liner was never sufficient for me. I’ve used pads with tampons since high school, and it was several years before I even realized that some people could do with only one or the other. I assumed needing them both was normal.

              2. M-C*

                Not just an expense, but unhealthy. You need something that breathes down there, most of the time, that’s why cotton is superior to synthetics. You could cause some unpleasant infections by wearing a daily pantyliner. Not to mention a pantyliner would only last long enough to run to the bathroom when my periods started..

                1. Girl stuff*

                  Yep. I’m prone to UTIs, yeast infections, bacterial vaginiosis, and non infectious skin conditions in that area, and I’ve been told by several medical professionals that wearing a panty liner daily is a bad idea. Especially the ones with perfume/’odor obsorbers’ because they can cause low level skin irritation that then encourages other conditions to get worse.

                2. AnonAnalyst*

                  Yep. Beyond the lack of breathability, some women just cannot wear those products for any length of time without health issues. I actually had to stop using pads and panty liners in my mid 20s because I started having horrible contact allergic reactions to multiple brands (an issue that I understand is not uncommon), so I just gave up on them. Grabbing a tampon and making a quick trip to the bathroom when my period started was a much better option. But you can’t start using those days in advance.

                3. SusanIvanova*

                  Yeah. My mom was a teenager in the 60s and always wore panties plus panty hose, even with slacks, and ended up with some unpleasantness. When I hit that age she warned me not to do that!

              3. Ghost Town*

                Not to mention that my period, when it does actually come, would laugh at a panty liner. Like putting a kitchen sponge in the ocean and expecting it to impact anything.

                1. Geneva*

                  Ha, I love your analogy! Before I got on the pill, I’d describe my periods as throwing cotton balls at a waterfall.

          2. KellyK*

            They really aren’t, though. For the portion of the population with uteruses who can comfortably wear a panty liner every day and whose periods start slowly and lightly enough for a panty liner to be sufficient for a couple hours, they might be. But that’s not universal, nor is it at all clear that even that major level of preparedness would’ve prevented her from needing to ask for a bathroom break.

            It’s also really unrealistic to expect the employee to absorb massive inconvenience and not expect the employer to allow a quick bathroom break.

          3. Jadelyn*

            No. They’re not. Nobody should feel obligated to wear an additional product, which represents additional expense and additional trash being generated, at all times, just in case so that they never have to inconvenience anyone around them by noticeably having a corporeal form that needs specific and immediate forms of care.

            Do you recommend that everyone carry a flask of water on their person, so they need never step away from what they’re doing to get a drink or ask anyone else to hand them a soda from the fridge? Or carry a handful of granola in their pocket at all times so they never have to walk away from a conversation to go get food? The idea of “just wear a pad AT ALL TIMES to avoid ever needing to go to the restroom at an inconvenient time” is just absurd and frankly falls into the category of …I’m not sure *victim*-blaming is the right term, but some kind of blaming the person for experiencing an event that is out of their own control.

            Carrying supplies on hand and using the restroom when the need arises IS handling the problem. Hell, sometimes we even get caught out by circumstances and have to involve others in much bigger ways – last week when my moontime started the day after my car broke down, with a fresh box of tampons in a grocery bag sitting on the passenger seat that I left in the car when it got towed, I texted my partner and he went to the drugstore then came and delivered a box to me at work since I didn’t have my car and couldn’t go get supplies for myself. Sometimes, sh*t just freaking HAPPENS and you cope as best you can.

            You do what you feel comfortable doing, but don’t try to saddle some poor teenage girl with your issues about being 110% self-contained and never letting anyone know you have biological functions. “Managing one’s periods” means doing one’s best to be prepared, but we’re not all infallible and suggesting a constant stream of pantyliners as a backup is ridiculous as a general suggestion.

            1. Marzipan*

              To me it’s not that this comes across as victim-blaming exactly. It reads to me more like a suggestion that being an adult woman ought inherently to involve massively putting yourself out in order to avoid momentarily inconveniencing someone else by acknowledging that you exist inside a human body. It just makes me really sad.

          4. Observer*

            But, they really ARE NOT. Sleeping through the alarm generally is. Making sure you don’t have to run to the bathroom to put a pad generally isn’t. I realize that you posted this (“I meant in terms of both problems ARE avoidable.”) before some of the responses were posted, but you had to have seen some of them, and what they are all telling you is that this is NOT so avoidable, especially at 16 with likely low cash flow.

          5. Connie*

            …if your period begins gradually or normally and not with the freakin’ tsunami that greets me one month out of every three, which laughs in the face of pantyliners.

      3. Cristina in England*

        Is it just me or whenever there is a letter mentioning memstruation do we get derailed by shaming women into having to pretend periods don’t exist?
        Also, the cousin is not an adult woman, she is 15 or 16. I don’t know about you but I only got my period at 14. Ease off!

        1. Cristina in England*

          Sorry, obviously not “memstruation”. My autocorrect is not equipped for such terms, alas.

        2. Venus Supreme*

          I agree. I had friends who didn’t get their first period until junior year of high school. I have a family member with a ton of health issues, one of them being irregular and severely painful periods (and she will eventually have to get surgery on her uterus/possibly hysterectomy). So having to have an unexpected break to deal with a period-issue should not be shameful!

        3. Jadelyn*

          I was 12 when mine started. The idea that I should’ve at that age been ready to start dealing with “like an adult woman” is beyond absurd.

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            I was 11 and had just been diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive disorder less than a year prior. “Young adult” indeed.

          2. TempestuousTeapot*

            11. And with ovarian cysts, massive pain (literally fall over in the hallway curled up and someone has to carry you pain), and 17 to 72 days between. Be prepared? More like pray for it to be over. Also had the joy of a devout Catholic mother so no bc or tampons until I moved out for college. It was the first ‘doctor’ appointment I made. Each of us has a different experience and what works for one might not for anyone else. If she needs the bathroom, send her with blessings. The dear was already professional enough to wait until a slow moment. The language was coachable. Manager missed a great mentoring opportunity.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Same. A 10 year old is NOT a woman. *shudder* *vomit*
            I’ve been mostly consistent since I was 15 (Im 31 now). I’m good about no accidents but bedtime is another story. sigh

      4. hopskip*

        No. Just no. You may not feel them, but but by the third day of wearing a panty liner or a pad, I’ve basically got diaper rash going on.

        1. Kelly L.*

          And even with liners, there’s not much capacity there. It might buy you an hour or so, and then you’re still probably having to go substitute something more powerful before your next official break.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yes to both of these.

            Wearing a pantyliner every day to “manage” menstruation is ridiculous as a universal suggestion. If it works for you, great! Carry on! But it’s not going to work for everyone because of cost, discomfort/irritation, predisposition towards yeast infections that is exacerbated by the constant presence of a plastic-backed liner, a flow that would laugh at a mere pantyliner in five minutes, etc.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Exactly – a regular pantyliner might buy me an extra half hour, or not even that (my moontime starts with a splash, as it were – very VERY heavy on the first day), but certainly wouldn’t carry me 2-4 hours until my next break.

            1. Its Just Me*

              Yup. Same here. It would last me the time it took to walk to the bathroom once I realized Aunt Flo was in town.

          3. MostlyManaged*

            Especially for people who have heavy flows– I have to use heavy tampons and change them every hour for the first day of my period, plus I have a medical condition that means I can’t use hormonal birth control. When I worked retail I would have to use heavy tampons, pads, and period absorbent panties– IF I knew my period was going to start, and if I had a break or could get time away.

            Luckily now I no longer have to announce when I’m going to use the restroom or divulge the functions of my uterus to a supervisor….

      5. Anonymouish*

        Key word “learning”. A sixteen-year-old has MAYBE had a period 40 times, and probably this is the first or second time it started at work. All the should’ve/could’ve/would’ve ideas here are from adults with the benefit of experience and thoroughly ingrained workplace norms.

        Wouldn’t it be amazing if we didn’t shame a young woman just for not “womaning” right before she’s even an adult?

          1. Doodle*

            I don’t think that really helps your case as much as you think it does — even at 19, we’re talking a few years max of dealing with this (a lot less for later puberty) and often a pretty irregular cycle.

            And — even if a panty liner would have been sufficient, there’s the HUGE gap between thinking it’s “probably fine” and being able to check/take care of things — the possibility that the panty liner would be dramatically and embarrassingly insufficient is reason enough to let her go!

          2. Alton*

            It’s pretty common for regularity to change with age, or due to other unpredictable factors. And not just in your teens. My period was prone to starting suddenly when I was a teen, but by my early 20s, it was like clockwork and I could predict it almost down to the exact day. Then, at the ripe old age of 27, I started a new job and I guess the stress got to me, because my period inexplicably came two weeks early and was out of whack for a couple months afterward. It’s not like things are always settled forever after the first few years.

            1. SignalLost*

              Yup. I have a period that comes like clockwork (I can, 9 times out of 10, predict within a four hour window) UNLESS I have just started a new relationship or been flirting heavily with someone I’m really interested in. Apparently all the hormones just go nuts at that point.

              Being able to predict how it will behave is a different issue. In the last couple of years, I’ve gone from a regular flow, pretty consistent across all days, to 2 very heavy days and 4 much, much lighter ones. Strangely, all of my prep for my original period helped me not in the least when it changed.

          3. Observer*

            That’s not much different. As others have noted, for many young women 19 is not necessarily a lot of experience with the issue. And ALL of the other issues that people pointed out apply.

        1. SimontheGreyWarden*

          I got my first period at 14, stopped, didn’t get it again till I was 16, and got it once every couple of months until I was 20. It wasn’t able to be regularly tracked until after I went on and then went back off birth control and I was in my late 20s then. And when it came, panty liners didn’t contain all of what immediately happened. The phrases “crime scene” and “crimson tide” were used liberally.

      6. VintageLydia*

        A panty liner would’ve give me about 2 more extra minutes of protection that plain panties would not have. I still would’ve needed to head to the restroom as soon as I realized my period started… because if I can feel it, I’ve already leaked. And as a cashier, there is no way to go to the restroom without involving SOMEONE.

        1. VintageLydia*

          Also a women’s health PSA: there us a reason most women” panties are made of breathable fabric. A certain amount of airflow is required to keep things healthy and free of bacterial and yeast infections. A disposable panty liner isn’t advised for daily wear. If you MUST use a panty liner daily, look into cloth liners and let your vulva breathe.

          1. Tiny_Tiger*

            Exactly this. Not to mention there are still a lot of chemicals used to make liners and tampon white and “clean” that you don’t want near a sensitive area for too long, this the risk of TSS. Using tampons and pads ended up being part of the reason I got such bad headaches at the start of mine.

            1. Lunch Meat*

              I just had an extra long one and ended up with a UTI from wearing pads so long. Fun fact, it was already so unpleasant that I didn’t even realize something other than the period was wrong until I went to the doctor.

            2. AnonAnalyst*

              I switched to a menstrual cup about 6 months ago for other reasons, but have experienced the unexpected side benefit of less cramping and, oddly enough, shorter periods. I had horrible contact irritation from using pads when I was younger so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that some of those same chemicals could have been causing issues from tampons, but it never occurred to me until my third significantly shorter and less painful period that that was part of the problem.

            3. whingedrinking*

              TSS is caused by the growth of certain types of bacteria, not vague chemicals in hygiene products. You cannot get TSS from using pads.

      7. Mononymous*

        In addition to the other replies to your comment, “not having to involve others” is not a thing as long as employees are required to ask permission to use the bathroom. (Otherwise, presumably, Lauren would have just slipped away quietly to take care of things without stopping to tell her manager why she needed to do so.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          THANK YOU.

          The real problem is that she has to ask permission–PERMISSION–to visit the loo in the first place–never mind what for. Presumably, people who can hold down a job should be trusted to take a pee break when they need it (assuming they have asked someone to cover for them). She’s not a child.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            I supervise student employees and I kept finding it amusing and vaguely strange that they would ask permission to use the bathroom until I realized there were some jobs where you actually do need to do that. (They need to tell me, just so I don’t look up and realize there’s nobody staffing the desk because Jane went to the bathroom and Fergus went to help someone find a book and neither of them told me, but they literally just have to say “hey, I’ll be right back”, no questions asked.)

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yes! If she couldn’t expect to only need to pee at employer-scheduled intervals, should she wear a diaper? I would certainly hope not.

      8. Lolno*

        I’ve been “riding the crimson wave” for 15 years now. Never once have I started or ended on the same day twice in a row. Sometimes it comes every 2 weeks, other times every 2-3 months. Sometimes it is very heavy all at once, other times it is light. OP’s cousin may be like me and not able to manage it like clockwork the way some other women can.

        But to wear a daily panty liner? That’s absurd. That’s so much money wasted on days that you probably don’t need one, especially if you’re a teenager! Panty liners also don’t work in all types of underwear and situations. I worked at a grocery store as a teen and would only wear thongs because other types of underwear bunched up with all of the bending down, lifting boxes, climbing on ladders, etc. Panty liners don’t work with thongs.

        OP’s cousin didn’t “place herself in that situation”. Her body did a totally normal thing at an inopportune time, and she dealt with it fairly appropriately (professionalism of her word choice aside).

      9. LQ*

        Well part of this is she’s 16, she’s still learning to be an adult woman.

        I’d also very strongly disagree with wearing a panty liner daily giving enough coverage to last until the next break.

      10. Lunch Meat*

        Most people with uteruses aren’t even close to regular at age 16, so I think there’s nothing wrong with not knowing when it will start. And expecting people to wear a panty liner every day seems extremely wasteful to me. The only reason she had to involve someone else is because of a silly policy requiring adults to ask to use the restroom.

        1. Amy the Rev*

          noticed you said “most people with uteruses” instead of “most girls/women”…yay for trans inclusivity!!

        2. pope suburban*

          I was very, astonishingly regular at 16, and I still accepted that it was prudent to wear black underwear ’round about that time, because there was no guarantee that I’d catch things in time, and I didn’t want to ruin my underwear. Like, yeah, I’d try to make a point of hitting the restroom between every class just in case, but nobody’s perfect and this was before period-tracking apps. This idea that Lauren has done something *wrong* is mind-blowing to me, and horrible.

      11. Marzipan*

        I’m going to respectfully disagree with you on this. Constantly wearing panty liners is not all that friendly to the environment, and has an associated cost which for some women (especially those on a low income) isn’t insignificant. In addition, some women’s menstrual cycles (especially when young) are sufficiently unpredictable that a period could start at any point over a timeframe of weeks or months; or might start with enough of a bang that a panty liner wouldn’t be up to the job anyway. I’ll grant that, if one’s menstrual cycle gives sufficient early warning that a period is semi-expected, and one works in a job where it’s hard to take breaks, it may add some reassurance – but that’s not the case for everyone. Not knocking your choice in doing this; that’s absolutely up to you. But it’s not something I’d hold up as an expectation of adult womanhood, to be honest.

      12. Manders*

        A lot of young women’s periods aren’t regular at 16, and some never become regular unless they take some form of birth control (and even on reliable birth control, stress and diet can change the start date and the intensity of the flow).

        Plus, as an adult, part of period “management” is recognizing when it’s starting and knowing when to get to a bathroom. Because most adults don’t work in situations where their boss will write them up for needing a quick bathroom break.

        1. Amadeo*

          +1 to the ‘never become regular without chemical control’ part. As a teen I could never have told you precisely what day I was to start. I could, perhaps, maybe give you a general guideline within a week or so, but even that wasn’t fool proof – I’d have to just start carrying a pad around with me about the appointed time. Very often the only warning I ever got were strong cramps and the gates would open.

          It was like that until I started HBC in my mid 20s. I have all sorts of sympathy for young women suffering surprise!Periods. It happens and it sucks and it takes experience to learn to deal with it. The girl is 16, give her a break.

        2. Oh My Glob*

          I remember being so mad at my mom for not understanding why I’d had a bloody accident at school and came home with a sweater tied around my waist — she told me I should have been prepared, and I was like, “I HAD a pad! By the time I got to the bathroom, that’s what it was like!” She was 47; I was 13. I didn’t have any frame of reference for knowing that many (most?) menstruators have a bit more warning before the floodgates open.

          1. Its Just Me*

            OMG I remember my mom being so mad at me because the floodgates opened overnight and I ruined a set of sheets and a mattress pad. I was about 14 and according to her should have know it was coming. It took me years to even talk to her about my period after that, let alone anyone else.

            I think that the 16 year old in question (sans language) handled it well. I can tell you right now that at her age, in her situation, I would have stood at the register with blood dripping out of my pant leg before I said anything to anyone.

              1. Jenna*

                Waterproof or water resistant mattress pads.
                I could not live without them.
                Lots of ruined sheets, underwear, and pants.

            1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

              I thought I was the only one with a mom like this! Boy, is it good to hear I’m not. She would get SO MAD at me when I was fourteen and it happened while we were out shopping, or if I stained the sheets.

              As for men, I think the tide is turning, no pun intended. My son is thirteen and thinks it’s totally no big deal, just a normal thing that happens.

          2. SusanIvanova*

            This is actually the first time I’ve heard that some people can tell it’s happening before encountering the physical evidence, and I’m 50 so I’ve done this a lot.

        3. Rebecca in Dallas*

          My period was super irregular when I was a teenager. And I (mercifully) didn’t get cramps so it seemed like every month was a surprise. Nothing worse than going to the bathroom in between classes and finding out you started… and bled through your pants. :( It only regulated when I started birth control.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            And hell, I had friends whose periods were even worse than mine because of sports. I still remember one of my friends who ran cross country didn’t have a period for months, then had it for *2 months straight*!

      13. Clever Name*

        Yes. Part of being an adult woman is managing one’s menstruation. At 16, she is not yet an adult, and is still learning to navigate these issues. Having your period sneak up on you at 16 isn’t a failure to “adult”. The suggestion to wear a pantyliner every single day, just in case? How wasteful.

      14. Tiny_Tiger*

        Um… no. She’s not an adult, she’s 16 and I don’t know about anyone else, but my periods were the very definition of erratic at that age. Not to mention before I started on birth control, the flows were so heavy day 1 there was no single tampon or pad that could hold it for more than a couple hours. A panty liner would have had no chance in holding it back. Even beyond that I wouldn’t encourage her to use one every day anyway. There’s so many chemicals in those things (bleach for example) that can severely mess with your body if used every day for extended lengths of time.

        1. Marisol*

          people keep saying “she’s not an adult…she’s not regular yet…” and while that’s all true, what if she were a grown-ass woman with a totally regular cycle who simply made a mistake and didn’t pack enough tampons in her makeup bag?? it happens to me every now and again (after 30 years of menstruating, sheesh!) and while it’s a major inconvenience to have to track down a tampon from a friend, I don’t consider myself a failure as an adult.

      15. Biff*

        No. Just no. Your attitude about this makes me feel icky. I can’t imagine that having a paper product shoved up against your delicate bits is comfortable for a week, daily sounds like torture. Also, some women gush. A pantyliner will last half an hour at BEST. Finally, biological functions can only be somewhat scheduled or anticipated.

        Here’s a novel idea — NO ONE should be kept waiting to go to the bathroom for ANY reason for more than about 5-10 minutes.

        1. Anon-denominational*

          Fun fact that is a little TMI. Picture this: you are on your honeymoon. You have to drive 45 minutes from one location to the next. Your periods have been generally regular for a couple years thanks to BC, but you’re off it now because you want a family. You’ve due to start, so you use a tampon and – since it is a drive – a liner as well. You don’t make it all the way to your destination; you stop after about half an hour and have to change both products because they are full.

          This was me five years ago. Not 16. At 30. Even KNOWING I was going to start wasn’t enough.

          1. Marisol*

            oh that reminds me–I bled through my tampon a few months ago walking from my car into work. Age 43. I think these kinds of experiences are much more common than never having an accident because you wear panty liners every single day.

      16. JMegan*

        I got my period unexpectedly this weekend. I’m 42. Even those of us who have been menstruating for decades are sometimes still surprised by our bodies – I wouldn’t expect a 16-year-old to have it all figured out yet!

      17. Katniss*

        Are you kidding? You’re kidding, right?

        I should spend money on a daily liner that won’t hold much of anything if my period decides to surprise me because that’s my “responsibility” as a woman?


        1. INFJ*

          Yes. Part of being a woman is controlling your functions and not letting on to others that you have a body that does, you know, human body things. No farting, either! (Snark)

          1. Marisol*

            Personally, I don’t know what you are talking about. I have never farted in my life.

            But just in the off chance that I should fart some day, I am guarding against embarrassment that I, and more importantly, others might feel, by making sure to wear a charcoal insert, every day, between my buttcheeks. This will preemptively absorb any smell that so that others will not have to smell the fart, and be inconvenienced by it.

            And that is what being an adult is all about.

      18. Aloot*

        “that would give her enough coverage to last until the next break.” (…) “Because she placed herself in that situation by not being prepared”

        Yeah, except…

        If she had her lunch break only half an hour prior, then it might very well be *hours* before she gets to have another break.

        Which means that even if she *was* wearing panty liners, it’s very possible that all that would change is her being able to wait a maximum of another half hour before asking to go to the restroom. (I remember teenage periods, they were not something a simple panty liner would do an effective job of actually protecting against.)

        So I guess waiting one whole hour after one’s lunch break is a lot better than half an hour?

        1. Anon-denominational*

          If it were a real period, her body should have had a way to let her know it was coming. /s

      19. Nea*

        I’m glad you have a solution that works for you, but as it is one that would not work for me, I’m on the kid’s side. Even as a grown woman aged to the point of “Aren’t you supposed to have stopped now?” I still occasionally have to “involve others” because regular flows occasionally deregulate and meds don’t always manage the cramps.

      20. Jayn*

        “If she doesn’t know when her period will start then she should wear a panty liner daily”

        I want to laugh at this. My period has varied over the years, and back in high school they were SUPER heavy to start. A panty liner might have been enough to last from when it started to when I got to the bathroom if I went almost immediately (fortunately it always seemed to start at home). Depending on the person, a panty liner is not going to last that long.

      21. Geneva*

        Nope nope nope. You’re making several assumptions here. Sorry to get graphic, but for some of us a pantyliner simply doesn’t cut it – even for a super short time. Plus, using them daily can cause irritation as well as other unpleasant side effects. I’m pushing 30, and I still have accidents sometimes despite taking precautions because life happens. Just like stomach bugs, or anything else that can cause what’s inside to suddenly come outside. It doesn’t make me irresponsible. I agree with OP – no need to shout it from the rooftops (even though I’d love to tell my coworkers to quit bothering me because BLOOD), I don’t see why periods continue to be so damn taboo. Get over it.

        1. SignalLost*

          Just turned 40 and I stained a pair of jeans last week because my pad shifted at work and I didn’t notice. Life happens.

        1. Venus Supreme*

          I’m having flashbacks to high school when girls would borrow sweatshirts and flannels to tie around their waists to cover-up “situations.” Just last month I asked a coworker to help out with a “situation” because I was early.

      22. ceiswyn*

        A panty liner does not necessarily give enough coverage to last until break.

        You’re assuming that everyone’s period starts with a little bit of easily-absorbed bleeding. Well, I’m a grown woman and mine occasionally starts with a ruddy great clot that soaks everything in blood. A little panty liner would give me an extra thirty seconds to get to the bathroom, and that is all. Anyone who expects me to stay where I am for another three hours with that can clean up the resulting pool of blood themselves.

        1. Kristine*

          I’m sorry but I cracked up at “ruddy great clot”. Probably because I know exactly what you’re talking about and that sums it up perfectly.

          1. Emac*

            This is getting way off topic, but there’s a great scene in the book Microserfs that always cracks me up – two male coworkers having an IM conversation reacting to their female coworkers’ conversation in their shared office space about periods and ‘chunks’.

      23. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

        Yeah no. I’m in my mid-30s and my cycle still varies anywhere from 21 to 30 days, and when it starts, it starts suddenly and very heavy and I need like super tampon plus pad backup. Definitely not safe to be wearing a tampon every day in case my period starts. You’re pretty lucky and probably in the minority to be able to go possibly hours until your next break with just a panty liner. Having to go to the bathroom for a few minutes to deal with a normal part of being a human with a uterus isn’t something people should be expected to go to great lengths to prevent.

      24. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        I’m in awe that someone has a period that is so light that a panty liner would afford enough coverage until their next scheduled break. I thought about laying out all the details, but I won’t. I will say that no job, retail or otherwise, would have as many breaks scheduled as I would need. “Light” days do not happen for every woman.

        1. seejay*

          My period stopped for four months after I had an IUD put in.

          Notice I said four months?


          One evening, it suddenly appeared. There was no warning, no “light” spotting. No pantiliner would have saved me. I was glad I was at home and alone.

          Cup o’ pudding would have been an accurate description.

          That’s all I’ll say about that.

          1. Venus Supreme*

            This had me cracking up at my computer!! I never had an IUD, but I completely understand “cup o’pudding.”

            I wish I could say that to Lauren’s manager… write ME up, buddy-boy!

            1. seejay*

              It was volume *AND* consistency.

              Freaked the hell out of me. It had never happened before like that. Geezus. Crabwalking to the bathroom, trying to not get it everywhere and… yeah. Just… christ. If I’d been at work? WOULD HAVE DIED. And I was in my 30s! I couldn’t imagine dealing with that as a teenager.

      25. Liz*

        Uh no one knows EXACTLY when their period starts and I’m not going to waste money or products or time or wear weird things in my undies just because I am a woman who has a very normal menstruation. If my having to take an extra 10 minute break once a month is the downfall of modern life, then we’ll talk. Until then, you’re being unreasonable.

      26. Beezus*

        I disagree. Being a good front line supervisor means being able to take unexpected coverage issues in stride, and having the common sense to sort reasonable, appropriate emergencies from reasonably avoidable ones. Dealing appropriately with employees needing to make infrequent emergency unscheduled bathroom trips is part of the job.

        Being an adult woman involves having supplies onhand, not using unnecessary products continuously to avoid MINORLY inconveniencing someone else.

        The alarm clock analogy isn’t even remotely close – you’re equating a one-time purchase to avoid potential hours of delay, to a continual expense to avoid a five-minute gap that could happen for another reason anyway. They’re not even close to the same thing.

      27. Michelle*

        I’m 43 and have had a hysterectomy, but I NEVER had regular periods, even when the doctor tried BC pills. Almost every pill combo he tried made me sick or raging maniac. I might have a period in March and then nothing for six months or spot for 60 days straight. It was hell. When I ended up in the ER because I fainted due to blood loss, the doctor said “enough” and performed the procedure.

        Everyone’s body does not stay on a schedule for the convenience of an employer. Females have periods and sometime they come at unexpected and inconvenient times. Yes, she could worded her request better, but a write-up is over the top.

      28. Lora*

        Noooo dude. The only thing that regulated my periods was endometrial ablation. Which I wasn’t eligible to receive until I was 35 because it makes you permanently infertile. Otherwise it was like, three months of nothing and the ladybits were dry as the Gobi desert, or Niagara Falls in my pants for two completely unpredictable weeks straight. At one point I had severe iron deficiency from bleeding for FOUR MONTHS, and my doctor was like, nope, this isn’t any way to live.

        We’re talking, on Surprise Day 1, a diva cup + heavy overnight pad needed to be changed every 4 hours. And yeah I did see a doctor, who was utterly unhelpful, but when you are a teenager stuck on your parents’ insurance you don’t exactly have the wherewithal and knowledge to say, “no I want a second opinion from a GYN pleaseandthankyou”.

        1. Jersey's Mom*

          I am with you sister! Same situation, except I rarely got more than two weeks without some bleeding. Yay for ablation! It has literally changed my life.

          1. knitcrazybooknut*

            Ablation is the best! I nearly passed out one time from blood loss. I barely notice my “period” anymore.

        2. Michelle*

          I was going to different doctor when my stuff started and became convinced that he was going to let me die. A coworker overheard me on the phone one day practically crying because I had been trying to get in to see another doctor and they were booked. Luckily for me, she was friends with this doctor and got me in. He wanted to do due ablation but it was 4 weeks before he had an opening to do that procedure (he is the best doctor in our town) and I passed out at my mom’s before he could do it. When he came to the ER he said he thought hysterectomy was the best option for me, so we signed the papers and he did the procedure.

          Having a good doctor makes such a difference.

          1. Jenna*

            I had to change doctors to get my hysterectomy. A male acquaintance told me the week before the surgery that hysterectomies were overprescribed and that I should get a second opinion. I think he was offended when I laughed at him.

      29. Angelina*

        When I was a teenager, a panty liner would DEFINITELY not have been enough to last me until a next break. I remember trying to schedule bathroom breaks in the four minutes we had to run to/from class (and teachers got mad if you asked to go during their class) was a nightmare. I feel for this teenager and I think “riding the crimson wave,” while a little silly, is far from crude.

      30. Wehaf*

        Do you think all adults should wear adult diapers in case they unexpectedly have to urinate or defecate? I mean, part of being an adult means learning how to manage bathroom necessities without having to involve others.

      31. What?!*

        Uh, older lady here.

        (1) She is 16, not an “adult.”
        (2) When I started my period, NO WAY would a panty liner hold until the “next break.”

        And, since when is *not being allowed* to use a restroom when needed a thing? I get that she would need to let him know she’s be away from her register for a few minutes, but . . . ?

        Maybe we should all wear diapers so we need never inconvenience our overlords.

      32. Not A Morning Person*

        That seems way over the top to expect anyone to do just because some things are unpredictable. Plus daily use of pantiliners are not a good solution because they trap moisture and don’t allow that moisture to evaporate, something that could cause other health problems.

      33. Doe-eyed*

        You’re in the minority, and your advice is actually a great way to cause people to develop bacterial and yeast infections. Sorry, some poor man will have to live with the lifelong trauma of me saying the word “period” to him so that I don’t keep getting recurring infections in my junk as an irresponsible hellion.

      34. Observer*

        That’s a fairly ignorant thing to say. I can ASSURE you that a panty liner would never have kept me going for a few hours. (In fact at it’s worst, I often had to change “full” pads every 3-4 hours, or risk the consequences. Thank heavens for the advent of REALLY absorbent pads and finally getting my period under control.)

        As others point out, as well, you are asking someone in a minimum wage, part time job to spend a significant amount of money simply to avoid needing to run to the bathroom for a few minutes. That’s a fairly unreasonable demand. Even if she were regular as clockwork, that would be unreasonable. At 16, it’s highly unlikely that she’s so steady.

        Neither that, nor replying to a demand why you need to go to the bathroom with the information that you have your period can remotely be considered “involving others”.

      35. LiveAndLetDie*

        That’s really unfair of you to say. “I can handle it, so everyone should.” The cousin is 16, you don’t know her flow or her cycle, you can’t possibly know that a pantiliner would be enough.

        Just as an example, when I was 16 I had a disorder called “dysfunctional uterine bleeding” that meant I had extremely long, intense, and heavy periods that would start and stop like someone was controlling it with a faucet knob. A pantiliner would have done jack for me. I wore overnight pads and carried heavy+ tampons to school because of the fear of bleeding through my pants and having other people see it. Once, I flooded through even that setup during a biology class and bled through anyway, and had to tie a sweater around my waist all day long to hide the stain. I did the best I could with as much prep time and paranoia as possible and it still wasn’t enough. It is absolutely not even slightly the same.

      36. M-C*

        You know what’s worse than a male supervisor who’s got some serious misconceptions about female physiology and gets grossed out by discussion thereof? A female supervisor who has regular, light, painless periods. I’ve had one of those and she gave me more grief about my unruly periods than all the guys put together..

        Listen up Amber, YOU are the exception.

        1. Marcela*

          Oh, god. Yeah, I had one of those. She made all kind of remarks about how I was so irresponsible for not preparing myself for the pains of the endometriosis, which attacked me at that time every two weeks (for I had pain and minimal bleeding when ovulating), and had me with special painkillers in more than the recommended doses. It was horrible.

      37. Marisol*

        I would say that the adult thing to do is to get your bodily needs met, and to be up-front and honest with your boss about why you couldn’t stay at your post, whereas the immature thing to do would be to take heroic measures so that other people are not inconvenienced, at the expense of your own well-being. I would consider wearing panty liners every single day to be a huge inconvenience and not something owed to others.

        Furthermore, I am 43 years old and did not even know people wore panty liners every day. I thought they were like insurance for when you wear tampons on your heaviest day, so you’d only wear them a few days a month if at all. Also, when you say, “you don’t even feel them,” while that may be true for you, it wouldn’t be true for me at all. Everyone’s body is different. And I definitely wouldn’t want to get desensitized in my crotch area by having to tune out the sensation of panty liner friction against my vulva. No thank you. So I don’t think you are proposing a workable solution. If you like wearing those things every day, that’s great, but I don’t think it’s good advice for a young woman who, by the way, is asking how she should manage a work issue, not a hygiene issue.

      38. Katie F*

        I love that you think a panty liner would last until the next break, because that tells me that your period is way easier than mine has ever been, and I’m legitimately really happy for you. If mine starts unexpectedly, no panty liner is going to be good enough, I promise you.

      39. Ghost Town*

        I wore pads daily for 6 weeks once when I had a 6 week period (alternated light to heavy). It was awful wearing a pad every minute of every day (body decided no more cups or tampons after about 10 days straight of those). It irritated my skin and was generally uncomfortable during an uncomfortable time.

      40. Pennalynn Lott*

        I’m past my period days now (fingers crossed) but I never once had a flow so light that panty liners would have controlled the mess. So if I were forced to follow your advice, I would have had to shove a “Super” size tampon in my vaginal canal every single day of my life so as not to have to ever invonvenience anyone else by saying, “Excuse me for a few minutes, I need to go to the restroom.” Wow. o_O

      41. Lynn*

        I don’t understand how it’s reasonable to expect a woman to do that all the time to avoid a maybe once a month extra trip to the restroom while at work.

        I once had a judge give me 75 min for lunch while on trial instead of the normal 90 min. When you’re on trial, you’re lucky if you can wolf down some food while you’re running around doing all the behind the scenes stuff when you have 90 min. Anyway, he was angry with me that we were 5 min late starting because my bladder decided that was the time it needed emptying. But this is a man who proudly tells of overseeing trials while sick to the point of vomiting.

      42. seejay*

        Nevermind that at 16, you might not even have a handle on regulating it yet. How many teenagers are that responsible still? Sure some are, some aren’t. I *sometimes* had pads and tampons with me, sometimes I didn’t because I ran out and didn’t refill my bag. Teens are still figuring stuff out including how to manage that whole thing, which doesn’t always start on the right day. Heck, mine was so sporadic, it would skip a week or two sometimes. I would have had to be wearing pantiliners nearly constantly unless I was actively flowing. I had no idea when it would start until I went on the pill and then I could predict it down to the day.

        Unfortunately in the teenage years, it’s not that easy to figure out.

      43. Mousemom43230*

        When I was still susceptible to the lunar tsunami, a panty liner would have in no way bought me enough time until the next break. The Alabama football team wiped out everything in its path on the first play of the game. Lauren may not have had the luxury of waiting even if she had had a small amount of interim protection.

        1. Michelle*

          Oh my, I literally spit water all over my keyboard. I read Alabama football team and Nick Saban’s image popped in my mind.

      44. Formica Dinette*

        Instead of saying, “I’m on my period,” I’m now going to say, “I slept through my alarm.”

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Oh, that’s a great idea. I was making a mental note of some of the euphemisms people commenting here use that I hadn’t heard before, but this is the one I want to start using.

      45. Emma*

        A panty liner wouldn’t give me enough coverage. My periods are irregular and very heavy. Unless you want me to wear a tampon + a full pad (I bleed through tampons quickly too) or somesuch, there are going to be times I have to rush off to the bathroom. Hell, sometimes I have to do that even with the whole getup, because in addition to being heavy and irregular, the flow during any cycle is also irregular, and so I sometimes bleed through stuff faster than anticipated.

        Also, going to the restroom is not “involving others.” Going to the restroom is a thing that happens to adults, even to men. If I have a bout of spontaneous diarrhea, should I have planned that better? Should I anticipate bloody noses? I know a few people, male and female, who need to pee shortly after drinking something, regularly, but too far out to be accommodated by most break scheduling – should they just pee their pants? There are so very many reasons why someone might suddenly need to use the restroom, and most people do handle these things on their own – by taking a few minutes to use the facilities.

        The unreasonable part is not letting people use the restroom as needed, not needing to use the restroom in the first place.

      46. aebhel*

        Whaaa? Uh, no. Trust me, at least for me, a panty liner ain’t gonna cut it once the bleeding starts (maybe for a few minutes, but for a whole shift while I’m standing up? Not even close, and she was handling it like an adult by asking to go to the bathroom to deal with it instead of just running off the floor.

        Manager is completely in the wrong here. There is no reason to ever ask anyone WHY they need a bathroom, because none of the reasons someone would urgently need a bathroom is something anybody wants to hear about!

      47. Jenna*

        A panty liner was never ever sufficient for when my period first hit. I know for many women it seems to be, but, mine was always a flood on the first day plus horrible cramps.
        Eventually I got on BC and discovered that I could adjust the day it started.
        However, some women aren’t that regular even on BC, and many women can’t use BC for one reason or another. A sixteen year old may not be able to get BC pills, or may face judgement from others if she does use them.
        In other words, you don’t know the situation so maybe stop judging quite so hard?

        Girls are expected to be so adult so fast, and we get smacked down so hard when we fail, even by those we think would understand. Every once in a while I get tired of it.

        (I managed not to use swears! At least in the final version…)

      48. LizM*

        I think part of learning to manage a period is learning to advocate for yourself to go to the bathroom. You’re seriously advocating that this young lady wear a panty liner every day so she doesn’t have to take an unscheduled break for 5 minutes once a month?

        It’s unreasonable to block access to the bathroom for a basic bodily function. When I was pregnant, I had to pee every hour. Telling her she can’t go to the bathroom in this situation is as insulting as if my manager had told me to wear Depends.

        Yes, there are products that can help in an emergency, but this wasn’t an emergency. Her supervisor could have let her go to the bathroom.

      49. Panda Bandit*

        It’s not like she asked for his shirt to mop up the flow. She asked to use the bathroom which is very reasonable.

      50. Security SemiPro*

        So for people with irregular, sudden, heavy flow they should wear a pad and a tampon every day? Thats not even safe, much less a good idea financially. And I had to change that combination hourly to avoid a mess before I got an IUD. So that couldn’t even guarantee getting me “to the next break” on days I knew I would need it. And knowing when I’d need it? My cycle has been anywhere from 15 to 63 days. Your solution is not universally useful.

        It’s biology. It happens. To approximately half the human race. A three minute bathroom break isn’t an imposition. Being prepared isn’t wearing disposable products that may or may not work to help here, it’s having supplies with you and getting someone to cover the register for you for a few minutes while you handle business.

      51. kittycritter*

        OK first off – on the first day of my period, that panty liner wouldn’t do jack! I’d need a full-on pad or tampon – and those are items that I am definitely NOT wearing every day “just in case” – come on!

      52. lyddabit*

        It seems like she was prepared– the letter doesn’t mention her needing to buy supplies, or even go to her car. Carrying emergency tampons and knowing you need to handle it NOW is about as prepared as a 16 yr old should get. No woman should be required to wear a daily panty liner “just in case”.

        For what it’s worth, a panty liner would last about 10 minutes for me. So I would need to wear a full “Super” pad daily in order to avoid a problem.

      53. AnonEMoose*

        I have to disagree here, too. When I was that age, and my periods were still settling, I could get heavy flows, quite suddenly. A panty liner would not have done the job until the next break for me.

      54. Mander*

        Not all of us are at all regular. I have a hormonal condition and mine are wildly irregular, to the point that I have gone literally over a year without having one and usually several months between them. And I can’t take BCP to regulate them due to age plus the risks associated with the aforementioned hormonal condition.

        I always carry supplies but I’m not willing to basically wear a diaper every day “just in case” when a quick trip to the restroom would solve the issue on the rare occasions when it does occur.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, the insubordination part is what bothered me as well. Insubordination would have been walking off the job without checking in or being told no and going anyway (though people who deny others bathroom breaks are in a special class).

      I am old-school in that I don’t care if you need to go to the bathroom because you drank a liter of water and need to pee or you have explosive diarrhea or you need to deal with your period. If you need to go, that’s all I need to know. I prefer not to discuss anyone’s bodily functions, however normal they may be.

    4. Emilia Bedelia*

      In a lot of places that have “write-ups”, there’s only so many things you can be written up “for”, in particular… insubordination is a pretty good catch-all for basically anything that someone may do that is outside of the norms imposed by the manager.

  6. Erin*

    FWIW I don’t think she should have mentioned her period at all. There are other uh, reasons you could need to use the restroom at work at an inopportune time, and I don’t think any of them need to be specified. If it were me I would have quickly and apologetically explained that I needed to use the restroom right that second and that I’d be very quick. If I got wrote up afterwards, I would then explain about the period, if necessary. These things have to come up sometimes when you’re dealing with human beings and as long as it’s not a repetitive issue there shouldn’t be a problem.

    That said, obviously this guy is really unreasonable and should not have written her up. I do think she should push back, using some variance of Alison’s wording. Apologize for the crimson wave remark, emphasizing she was trying to get away quickly and it was just said in the moment, but remain firm that she shouldn’t have been written up for needing to use the restroom to take care of her period. For heaven’s sake.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      “Her supervisor looked annoyed and admonished her for not using her break to use the bathroom.”

      Sympathy seems not to be his long suit.

      1. Erin*

        Yeah. Well tough cookies for him.

        Again, if it were me, I would have been apologetic but firm that I was using the restroom; I wouldn’t have asked for permission/sympathy.

        1. CMart*

          It took me a *very* long time to learn that in the “real world” you don’t have to ask permission to use the bathroom (or take a sick day, or leave early for a doctor’s appointment, etc…). Like, I’m 30 and my gut instinct is still to get permission to do most anything and I have to fight the urge to do so.

          For high school kids, their entire lives revolve around having to seek permission to do things. So I don’t blame Lauren for asking, rather than stating.

          1. Nina*

            Yep. My mind was blown when I went to college and I didn’t have to ask permission to go to the bathroom.

          2. Rebecca in Dallas*

            My mom always told me a story about how when she was in high school, a girl in her class stood up and hurriedly left the classroom. The teacher called after her that she needed to ask permission to leave and the girl just yelled that she was about to throw up and kept going. The teacher was like, “I don’t care, you still have to ask!” My mom told me if there was ever an emergency that I needed to go to the bathroom for (vomit, period, whatever), just GO. The teacher would forgive me and my mom would have my back if I got in trouble for it. It was so ingrained in my head to be a “good girl” that I probably would have sat there with my hand raised, waiting to be called on.

            1. kittycritter*

              I can totally relate to this….especially as girls, we are taught to smile, be polite, people-please and never make a scene or a fuss. If my period started IN CLASS, I would have felt 1000 degrees of panic inside, but I still would have raised my hand and asked to use the restroom, hoping the underlying panic wouldn’t seep into my speaking voice. It was hard for me to take power as an adult and realize that no, I don’t always have to ask permission for things, and that it is OK to stand up for yourself, make a fuss when needed, and be treated as an adult (instead of a child) at work. It can be a hard lesson for women to break our “programming” and demand to be treated with respect in both our private lives and in the workplace.

        2. Karo*

          She got written up for insubordination for asking – being “apologetic but firm” probably would’ve gotten her fired.

          1. Erin*

            Upper thread there’s a question of what exactly constituted the insubordination – the asking, or the language used. In any case, I’d still stick to my guns, especially since this is a high schooler with an after school job at a grocery store – getting fired certainly would not have been career wrecking.

    2. Jenna*

      I agree, I don’t see why she needed to mention her period. “I don’t feel well” or something like that would have sufficed. Periods are nothing to be ashamed of, but I don’t think it’s something you need to share with your boss.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Agreed, but at sixteen, if my manager questioned ANYTHING, I felt like I had to (over)explain myself to “make it okay” that I wanted the bathroom/time off/to trade shifts.

        Now I know it’s not their business, but at the time, I would have handled it basically the same way – especially if I felt like I was in trouble (which, if he scolded her for not going earlier, she probably felt like she was).

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I manage recent graduates in an office job, and I have had to tell many of them that they do not need to write me a detailed explanation of each sick day/vacation request. I care that their projects are covered, not that they haven’t seen their significant other in 8 weeks and are taking a long weekend trip to reconnect. That’s great, and I hope they have a good time, but they don’t have to justify their vacation time requests. That just puts managers in the place of having to judge the validity of a request, which is not my business. (And also sometimes rage-inducing. I have an employee who is prone to ask for late arrivals/early departures, and I’ve been counseling her manager to make it about work/deadlines rather than the requests. Said employee is a Justifier, but, last time her direct supervisor was out, she came to me, breathily asked to leave early for the third time that week and kind of implied it was urgent, and then thrust her hand across my desk to show me her chipped manicure, which she CLEARLY had to have fixed before her date night. I checked on her work and project teams, and they were fine, so off she went.) We really try to stick with “Is your work covered?” as a standard. If it is? Awesome! Go on a mini-tour with your 90s cover band.

          The medical ones kill me. I have NO IDEA why employees, especially the guys, like to talk with me about their medical procedures and maladies. Just take your damn PTO and tell me when you’re coming back, dude.

          1. Saturn9*

            They give you details because your PTO request form usually has a fill-in-the-blank spot labeled “reason for request” or similar. Or because previous crap jobs they held had that field + a manager that wanted to (wrongly) decide for the employee whether the time off was necessary based on the circumstance.

            It’s bullshit, yeah, but this is world we’re living in.

      2. Anonymouish*

        Saying it’s something we don’t need to ‘share’ with bosses is in itself reinforcing shame. The only misstep here was not using plain language. Think of a comparable example: “I sneezed and now I really, really need to get a tissue…”

        It’s a little specific, if you’re very delicate. But there’s nothing wrong with it and it’s nobody’s fault. In this case, the request to visit the restroom had already been denied and Lauren had been chastised, so being straightforward about a normal human bodily function is actually fairly forward-thinking.

        Especially if you’re 16 and still inexperienced, both with your body and with standing up to bosses who are high on having authority.

        1. Pari*

          Of course there are details that don’t need to be shared. Otherwise we’d be hearing about fecal matter or the state of ones tampon and pads.

        2. Rat in the Sugar*

          I kind of disagree; I don’t think that your tissue analogy really works here when we’re talking about bathroom issues. I think it’s more like if she really had to poop and told her manager “I’ve got the green apple trots!” It’s not really appropriate.

          That said, I don’t get where the “insubordiation” thing is coming from and I think I agree with those who believe that might be coming from her mentioning her period at all, not the silly euphemism she used.

          1. Miss Elaine E*

            As far as not mentioning the reason why she had to use the bathroom, I wonder if she was concerned that if she didn’t say the true reason her boss may have wondered if she was ill with something contagious.
            As to “crimson wave,” maybe that’s how her mother or other women in her life refer to it. I’ve heard far worse.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, people keep saying “her language was bad,” but frankly, I see nothing wrong with what she said. Maybe it’s because I thought it was funny, but if her manager were going to be grossed out by it, then saying “I have my period” is not going to change that.

              1. Katherine*

                Totally agreed. It wasn’t the language, it was the fact that she has a period, the filthy slattern.

              2. kittycritter*

                Yes….whether she said “period” or “crimson wave”, this apparently delicate manager would still have been clutching his pearls and reaching for his smelling salts.

                When someone says they need to use the restroom, don’t ask “why” if you aren’t prepared to hear the answer to that question! In fact, you should never ask “why” EVER at all in regards to that statement.

            2. Emma*

              I think she thought she had to be more specific so she could give him a good enough reason to be let off.

          2. Karo*

            Eh…I feel like it’s more like saying “I have to take a deuce” instead of “excuse me kind sir, I have an imminent bowel movement.” She’s not talking about how strong her period is, or how she knows it’s coming on, she just used a not-super-appropriate (but also not uncommon) euphemism. I agree with anonymouish that telling her not to mention her period isn’t helpful. It’s a legitimate reason to have to go to the bathroom immediately, which her boss basically asked for! If nothing else, the point that he admonished her for not going on her break makes this super relevant. It wasn’t an issue on her break, it is now. She needed to provide a good reason.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But “I have to take a deuce” wouldn’t be appropriate to say to your manager unless you had established a very informal relationship. I think that’s the issue with the language here — there are loads of slang terms for activities that happen in the bathroom that aren’t really work-appropriate (in many environments, although of course there are exceptions).

              1. Karo*

                That’s my point, though. That phrasing isn’t appropriate, neither is crimson wave. But talking about poop in more generic terms – especially when explicitly asked – is generally okay. If I asked to step away to the bathroom and was questioned about why it had to be right then, I’d feel it’s appropriate to say “I have to poop” (and then I’d die of shame). In that scenario, I think it’s perfectly fair for Lauren to say “I got my period.” I know that wasn’t the phrasing she used, but people in this specific thread were arguing that no mention of period should have ever been made, which is ridiculous.

                1. M-C*

                  Also AAM, I think you’re assuming a level of maturity and professionalism from the manager term which is probably totally unwarranted here. From my admittedly limited interactions with people who get called ‘managers’ in supermarkets..

              2. 42*

                My take is that being only 16, she was a little embarrassed to speak factually about why she needed the restroom. So she did what many would do, and used a euphemism/some humor to diffuse some of it. At 16, I would have been mortified to relay that to a male boss, so I’m not put off by her handling of it at all.

                1. iseeshiny*

                  Yes. I remember saying the word period once and a boy covered his ears. Like it was a graphic word in and of itself.

              3. annejumps*

                I just have a hunch it’s not the language really. I think he thought she wasn’t able to control her bodily functions. Who knows, it’s a bizarre response, but the language just wasn’t that offensive.

              1. 42*

                My brother and sister-in-law say they’re ‘taking an overseas flight’. (ie, sitting over water.)

      3. eplawyer*

        Actually it wouldn’t have. He assumed she only had to use the bathroom, so admonished her for not doing it on her break. Because of course we can control when our bladder is full. She needed to be specific here to get across to him this was not just a matter of “hold until your next break.”

      4. ZVA*

        She probably felt like she needed a good excuse for leaving to go to the bathroom—especially since the guy was “admonishing” her about not using the bathroom during her break.

      5. Mirax*

        When I worked retail, telling a boss that I “don’t feel well” was opening the door to a fifteen-minute interrogation so that they could send me back out on the floor.

      6. Doe-eyed*

        I agree, but that’s kind of on the manager. If you have to go to the bathroom, you’re likely making one of several unpleasant bodily excretions. Why in the world would someone ask why you needed to go if they were going to get vapors when you told them.

    3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      Leaving my personal frustrations around the fact that women should be able to mention their periods comfortably…

      I once had a fellow employee writing up for leaving the floor (with permission) to use the bathroom during her shift…”because that’s what breaks are for.” There is often not a lot of flexibility or sympathy in a retail environment, and saying, “I’m starting my period” helps push past the, “can you hold it?” questions.

      1. OhNo*

        This. If you don’t reference your period, then you’re just someone who mismanaged your break time (because you should have used it to go to the bathroom) or mismanaged your body (because you shouldn’t have done whatever is making you need to go so urgently). If you don’t reference your period, a thing you could never reasonably control, then you’re just unreliable.

        And apparently if you do reference your period, it’s insubordination. Doesn’t that just figure.

        1. CMart*

          One fun thing I’ve learned recently is that there exist a shockingly large number of men who actually think women can, in fact, control their periods similar to how one can hold back urine.

          1. many bells down*

            My husband refuses to believe those men are serious. Like, he thinks they’re all “trolling.” And I’m over here saying “Hon, there’s guys who think women pee out of their vaginas, this is not that big of a leap.”

            1. Oryx*

              There are also WOMEN who think they pee out of their vaginas. It’s not just one gender not understanding the bodily functions of the other.

              1. General Ginger*

                Funny/maybe not so funny story, when my mother had the VERY awkward early version of “the talk” with me, I came away from it with the firm understanding that menstruation for adults was ongoing and constant — except for when they were pregnant. I was devastated, knowing that I had daily bleeding to look forward to. It took several years for me to correct that misconception, on my own (my mother was not inclined to discuss the subject again).

                1. Nanani*

                  I thought that too, though I think it was because contemporary ads for tampons and the like were all about how “it lets you go swimming/horseback riding etc.”. I thought that those things couldn’t be done AT ALL past puberty because of periods, unless you used a tampon.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  My misconception went the other way–I’d spotted the pad/tampon aisle as a little kid, asked my mom about it, and she said it was something I’d need when I was about 12. Not wanting to get into lengthy explanations with a little kid, I’m sure, she left it at that, and I thought for years that you turn 12, get your period once, and then never again. (She hid her own products pretty well; I never saw them around the house.) Soooo disappoint.

                3. Collarbone High*

                  My mom had a very difficult pregnancy with my younger sister, and was hospitalized from her sixth month on. I was 4 at the time, and I thought that was normal — that having a baby meant spending three or four months in the hospital. I was not looking forward to it!

              2. Doe-eyed*

                Oh man I worked with a woman that viewed the uterus as sort of a fancy bucket and that you couldn’t skip your periods because your uterus would get full of blood. :<

              3. Emi*

                I once talked to a high-school senior who had had her period for years but never used tampons because she wasn’t clear on where her vagina was.

              4. Marisol*

                Keeping women in the dark about their own bodies is another aspect of sexism. My personal pet peeve is referring to external genitalia as a “vagina” instead of “vulva.” We aren’t even taught the proper terminology.

                1. AMPG*

                  I’ll admit, though, that I kind of hate the word “vulva” for purely aesthetic reasons (similar to how some people hate the word “moist”). I find “vagina” nicer to say.

                2. Emma*

                  It doesn’t help that half the time, if you do google female anatomy, you get some really dry, overly clinical descriptions (when you’re not getting porn), with vague or hard to follow diagrams, if any. Not to mention that search engines don’t exactly screen for misinformation, either!

                  I mean, not always. There are good, clear sites with easy to follow information out there. But if you’re looking this up because you never learned it in school, you not only might not have a sense of what the good information is, you might be put off by what you do find.

                  This ties a bit into a minor pet peeve of mine – people using “big,” Latinate words to describe basic things because it makes them sound smarter, more clinically detached, whatever. In a lot of cases, though, that kind of language can make things harder to understand or follow, especially if you’re not used to it but sometimes even if you are. It’s not “more accurate” to use the less-common word over the more-common synonym, and in cases like this (discussing female anatomy) it often strikes me as prudishness and shame disguised as scientific accuracy, at the expense of actual understanding.

                3. Rana*

                  Yes. This is why my three-year-old daughter has known that she has a vulva, not just a vagina, since she was old enough to understand the words.

                  Pro-tip: if you talk about these things with a tiny infant from day one, by the time they’re old enough to start asking awkward questions, it’s just another word.

              5. Emma*

                I’ve known at least two women (not related to each other and don’t know each other) who thought that their clitoris was a little penis, and they urinated out of that.

                Given what I remember about sex ed in my area, I’m not surprised – we only discussed female anatomy in relation to menstruation and childbirth, and got a rather incomplete picture of how everything was situated.

                1. Marisol*

                  Up until relatively recently, the clitoris was ENTIRELY OMITTED from medical textbooks. Did you know that? There is a website, I think it’s called cliteracy, something like that, that has all kinds of such information. I’m getting angry now.

                2. halpful*

                  TMI time: the hole my urine comes out of sort of… retracts upwards, and hides under… whatever that flesh under the clitoris is called… unless I flex certain muscles. I think it was covered by my hymen originally, too. And my clitoris is almost an innie, so it looks like there’s a hole there, like a bellybutton. I didn’t really figure out what was what until I was trying to learn to pee standing up.

          2. OhNo*

            I have heard of these men, but I’ve never met one yet (thank god). I lectured my own brother in the middle of a restaurant for not knowing the fine points of female anatomy, I can only imagine my reaction to those people. It would probably involve diagrams, anatomy models, and possibly textbooks coupled with a mandatory six-hour lecture and final exam.

            1. Jenbug*

              This makes me think of the scene in Friends where Monica is explaining the “seven basic erogenous zones” to Chandler.

            2. Jean*

              Imagine all this taking place in a homey-looking diner where everyone else is drinking coffee, eating mac & cheese, enjoying some downtime, working out the tip…you know, doing diner things that usually don’t include a ferociously explicit lecture on female anatomy.

              [Insert pause while the light bulb finally switches on over my head.]

              Are you thinking of the restaurant scene in “When Harry Met Sally?”

          3. Jayn*

            If that was the case the tampon/pad industry would not be doing nearly as well. Why do they think we buy those things?

      2. LizM*

        I worked in a similar environment. And in fact once got admonished for not stopping to help a customer after I’d clocked out. If I’d stopped, I’d probably have peed my pants, I’d been doing the pee dance at the register for about 20 min by that point.

        It took me a long time to stop fighting the urge to ask to use the restroom in my first office job. The fact that I could just get up, get coffee, and go back to my desk blew my mind.

    4. May*

      Sorry but menstruation is natural, not a horrible shameful secret that we must avoid discussing in public. We are not living in the pages of Leviticus. I’m sorry if it offends her manager’s delicate sensibilities to be made aware that periods exist but at least he’s not the one who has to deal with blood and uterine goop gushing out of his bathing suit area once a month.

      I also honestly don’t see what is so bad about saying “surfing the crimson wave.” It’s not graphic or overly descriptive; it gets the point across in a light-hearted manner. If it was good enough for Cher Horowitz it’s good enough for me.

      1. Sofia*

        A friend told me a story about how when she first got her period she was so happy that she put all of her products for display in the room and then her parents came in and told her to take it down because that isn’t something that you display. I don’t know why, but I love this story (the part about her putting it up for display) because it makes me realize that children don’t inherently think it’s a bad thing.

      2. Venus Supreme*

        I know, seriously! When my boyfriend and I first moved in together I was shocked to realize how little he knew of the female menstruation cycle. He said he completely blocked out that part of his health class. I gave him a quick scientific overview of which organs do what and why, and that understanding really chipped away at the “fear of the period.” He doesn’t overreact when it’s that time of the month and I feel more of a normal person when my body does healthy, normal things.

        I think that’s what makes me angry about this letter- this is normal for women to experience. There shouldn’t be shame or repercussions clouding this. Everyone poops, and every female body menstruates.

            1. Emi*

              When my brother was about three, he got into the bathroom cabinet and stuck bandaids and pantyliners all over his chest. And then he and my other brother chased each other around the house with funny little white bullets trailing blue string.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            Yes! My husband has an older sister and a (presumably) pretty open mom. One of the few times in my life I ever had cramps, I told him I wasn’t feeling well and wanted some Advil. He was like, “Nope, you need Midol. I’ll go to the store and get some for you.” He was right, it helped.

        1. Marisol*

          Could be Leviticus 15:19: “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.”

          1. Observer*

            That’s a nice selective reading and an inaccurate translation. Tamei, the word in the original does not mean unclean, although that’s the commonly used translation. And, there are a number of other things that make a person impure (which is a closer translation). Some of them are male only.

            What’s more, nowhere in Leviticus is there any indication that one must never even whisper about this. In fact, if you pay attention Leviticus uses very plain language for all of these things.

            1. May*

              All I know about Leviticus I learned from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and a bunch of homophobes yelling at me in high school so sorry if my throwaway bible reference didn’t come with citations and footnotes on translation discrepancies!

              1. Observer*

                Well, if you don’t know anything about something, don’t hold it up as a model – not for good or ill.

                In other words, if you don’t know anything about Leviticus, then perhaps you shouldn’t cite it as the source of a particular stupid and obnoxious behavior.

                1. May*

                  Girl, take it easy. I know enough about Leviticus to know that it refers to women on their periods as unclean (or impure if you prefer, which isn’t any better) hence the reference. You know full well what the point of my original comment was and you’re just being pedantic and weirdly hostile about bible minutiae. I suggest we spend our energy coming up with more creative period euphemisms to add to the list!

                2. Observer*

                  I do now – and you are simply incorrect. I’m not being “pedantic” about minutiae. I’m simply ticked off that you find it acceptable to toss off an insulting and inaccurate comment and then try to slough it off as “You’re being too sensitive.”. The fact that your comment is about a religious document (that you admit you know nothing about) doesn’t make it any better.

                  The attitude that was under discussion has nothing whatsoever to do with Leviticus – and an out of context reference does nothing to make the case.

                3. May*

                  I’m trying to figure out what exactly you’re so upset about and I think it’s that… I’ve insulted the bible somehow? Honestly Leviticus does enough damage to the bible’s reputation that I don’t need to help it. If you’re suggesting that one must have a theology degree to make what basically amounts to a casual pop culture reference to the bible then you’re fighting a losing battle, my friend. And by the way I may not have read the bible cover to cover but I did attend Catholic mass every Sunday and on holy days for 18 years of my life so I think I’ve earned the right to invoke the more silly and offensive bits of the religion my parents forced on me in casual internet conversation.

      3. Marisol*

        I had never heard that phrase but it comes across the same way to me. Euphemistic, rather than crude.

      4. Lady Blerd*

        “I also honestly don’t see what is so bad about saying “surfing the crimson wave.” ”

        Me either. Maybe it’s the women I hang with but usually we’d be at the “crime scene” end of inappropriateness. This is a lesson for her in the future as to how to talk to her boss about biological issues but that language is far from offensive or inappropriate IMO.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It really varies depending on who you hang out with. I don’t think I know anyone who seriously says anything other than “my period,” which is probably why I find all these more vivid alternatives a bit grating.

          1. Lissa*

            Yeah, same. I think some of the alternatives are *hilarious* but I can’t see myself or anyone I know seriously saying anything other than “I got my period” or maybe “it’s my time of the month.”

        2. kittycritter*

          My friends and I refer to it as “the massacre.” I really like the “communists in the funhouse” one too – may start using that! I definitely would not be offended if I heard the “crimson wave” euphemism at work – in fact, I would probably love that person FOREVER because I was obsessed with Clueless when it came out, I so wanted to be Cher – she was perfect!

    5. Aurion*

      I don’t generally mention my period in the same way I don’t mention my headaches, because I don’t habitually announce to the world why I’m not feeling well at the moment. Even so, I think mentioning her period was fine.

      “Emergency” is vague and while it may work in the professional world, retail and grocery stores tend to be rigid to the minute, and often are staffed by teens or young adults not great with what we see as professional norms. “My period is unexpectedly starting” drives the point home that this is not something she could delay nor time, unlike a normal bathroom break or a headache. “I don’t feel well” can usually be weathered if it’s not severe, and Lauren really didn’t want to argue the point at that second about whether it’s severe or not if she could just get to the bathroom.

      Her word choice could be improved for sure, but I think mentioning her period is appropriate given this context. In another environment more in line with professional norms, she could probably get away with being vague (and I’m not touching the “is mentioning your period professional” debate).

    6. Girasol*

      I remember a mortifying incident when I was caught by surprise on a school outing and had to ask a male teacher if I could get into my luggage quick. He asked why. I whispered “period accident” and he was furious. I thought I’d done something horrible by violating the rule that periods should be kept completely secret. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that a lot of guys understand that periods are 28 days apart, exactly, and a girl caught by surprise is a silly girl who can’t count. That said, I have no advice for what the cousin should do if her manager thinks that. Like many teens I could hardly say “period” out loud, much less discuss its workings with a man.

      1. Liz*

        You know that makes sense because that is exactly how I was taught in school of a “cycle.” Which was so frustrating because my natural cycle has always been 35 days. They just get that “28 day” thing in and that’s that.

      2. Anonymouish*

        This is making me so angry I can’t see straight. Tell me this was 40+ years ago. Not that it makes it better.

        1. Girasol*

          Hehe. It indeed was 40 years ago. Some things have changed, I note with delight from the open minded comments of younger responders here. But the fact that anyone still says “visit from Aunt Flo” says some things haven’t changed.

          1. Kriss*

            I had never heard the “visit from Aunt Flo” expression until I was an adult in my 30s. I highly suspect it was because my grandmother’s name was Florence.

      3. Snazzy Hat*

        I was caught by surprise on a school outing too! I was rooming with three other girls, and as we were in the hotel room unpacking, one announced she had tons of products if anyone needed them, as she herself was menstruating. Well, sure enough, within two days I joined her. I was reasonably regular (between 27 and 32 days) and this happened less than two weeks after my previous cycle! Although I understood hormonal influence, I was genuinely worried by my uterus’ ability to shed as much endometrium as it did.

      4. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I came off Depo-Provera in December of last year and the first 6-7 months were a wild ride. I had actually had a fairly regular cycle as a teenager, so as a woman in her 30s I finally got to experience the joy (/s) of a highly irregular cycle.

    7. BPT*

      In general, yeah, I think you don’t mention what you have to do in the bathroom.

      But when someone is pushing back against you having to use the bathroom, all bets are off. If they’re so interested in my bathroom schedule, they they can know all the details. The real inappropriateness here was her manager for pushing back against her going to the bathroom, in my opinion. I get that with checkout lines, you have to have coverage, but if your store candle handle someone going to the bathroom for 5 minutes, then you don’t have enough coverage and that’s on you to fix.

      1. BPT*

        Apparently typing isn’t my strength today. *Then they. Also, *can’t handle, not candle handle. :/

          1. Augusta Sugarbean*

            I was reading it in Jamie Fraser’s voice – If ye canna handle someone goin’ to the privy, that’s on ye to mend.

      2. Katie F*

        YEP. Once the manager starts pushing for details, MY GOD I WILL GIVE HIM THOSE DETAILS. Whether it’s my period or a lengthy explanation of the food poisoning I’m currently fighting off, I will politely and sweetly make him regret ever questioning my bathroom needs.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    This isn’t a very crude euphemism. It’s exactly what could be expected of a teenager caught up short and put in an awkward spot, though, and I think writing her up was WAY out of line. If her manager had been the adult he’s supposed to be, he should have assured her that she could use non-euphemistic terminology and, for crying out loud, not cited her. And, frankly, if he responded this way I don’t feel assured that he won’t take issue with ANY way she phrases it, if the underlying issue is that he’s uncomfortable about the mention of periods, period.

    1. A Different KatieF*

      Yes! She’s 16 years old for heavens sake so doesn’t have much experience in the workplace. Rather than writing her up, he could have coached her on the difference between language you might use at home or with your friends and what is appropriate in the workplace. It was a teaching moment, not a disciplinary one.

  8. hopskip*

    I had a manager once at a department store who just absolutely hated when people went to the bathroom during a time that was not their break. It didn’t matter if you had to pee, if you’d just gotten your period or if you had explosive diarrhea. She felt like if you couldn’t handle your business on your break, then it was your own fault. And it also didn’t matter if the store was completely dead with zero customers in sight. My body settled into a routine where I needed to pee exactly one hour after eating lunch (which was exactly one hour before my next break), and it was always a nightmare trying to convince her that yes, I really did need to go VERY BADLY or there was going to be an accident.

    Sounds like Lauren’s supervisor is on the same power trip as my old manager.

    1. DoDah*

      Yep. 100 years ago when I was in retail, our store was so understaffed that if someone needed to leave the floor to use the restroom, that would leave no cashiers or two departments covered by one staff member. There was generally only one manager on duty–so if they needed to cover, then there was no one to sign refunds or open the receiving door for deliveries. It was an unsustainable model. And customers are always SO delightfully patient.

      1. hopskip*

        We had more than enough coverage. I never asked unless I either had to desperately go or if there were zero customers in our department. Funnily enough, once I transferred to a different department, no one cared if you needed to use the restroom. You called a manager if you were on register and needed coverage, or if you were on the floor, you just went. She was just a despot and wanted to control every last little thing she could.

  9. General Ginger*

    I understand it might be difficult/embarrassing for a young person to just say “period” without using a softer euphemism, especially to a person of authority, and I completely sympathize. Unfortunately, having and referring to having periods is still often seen as socially inappropriate, and I wish it weren’t so, given that having periods is a completely normal fact of life for let’s say ~half the population. However, I’d prefer we stop encouraging people to call them a “feminine” issue. Periods aren’t exclusive to feminine/female people, and I don’t think we can fully normalize them by saying they are.

    1. Purest Green*

      Periods aren’t exclusive to feminine/female people,

      Wait, what? Clearly I don’t understand the meaning here or am otherwise ignorant of human physiology.

      1. General Ginger*

        Sorry, hit submit too quickly. Transmen, nonbinary people, intersex people — periods are not exclusive to women.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          Eek, that can read a bit insensitive and that is not my intent. I am just glad that someone opened up my mind to think of things beyond the end of nose. It excited me a little. Thanks AAM!

      2. Elysian*

        I thought the distinction was drawn here between biological sex (female/male) and gender (woman/man; girl/boy). Assuming that dichotomy, female seems like the right language here. One can only menstruate with female organs – we are referencing the literal sex organs. Is it really verboten to call this a female “issue” (not going to address the problems with issue at this time). We can’t limit 16-year-old Lauren to telling her supervisor that it is a “uterus-and-vagina-having issue” or something like that.

        1. May*

          I doubt you are intending to be transphobic but… you kind of are. A person who identifies as a man is a man regardless of what his genital situation is. The idea that we have to call it a “feminine issue” is sexist garbage in the first place because somehow even though it is 2016 menstruation still makes men uncomfortable and women are supposed to feel awkward and dirty just for having their period.

          1. Elysian*

            Didn’t say anything about women or men. Didn’t use the work feminine. Am accepting the trans- premise as best I understand it and am asking for clarification. Am just asking if “female” is an acceptable word when discussing someone who had a uterus and vagina at birth. Am looking for the word that describes someone who was born with a uterus and vagina, so that we can use the right terminology when while still giving an embarrassed menstruating teen some non-clinical non-slang socially understood options that won’t get her written up.

            Seriously, we can’t just attack people and call them transphobic for even trying to make sense of this somewhat confusing topic when they have the best intentions. That’s uncool.

            1. May*

              I’m not attacking you, and I am sure you do not have bad intentions here, but but to call a trans man female even if you are talking about very clinical medical things is misgendering. Again, there should be no need for an old-timey euphemism like “female issue” because menstruation is a natural thing. If you want something completely sterile you can just say “that time of the month” or something.

            2. Anon for this*

              If you’re a trans man, you were born with a uterus and a vagina… and no, “female” is not the appropriate term for such a person. That person is male.

            3. Amy the Rev*

              If you want to discuss someone who was born with a uterus and vagina, you can use the term afab, for example, which stands for “assigned female at birth”. It can get lengthy though saying ‘afab folks and cis women’, (because afab is more frequently used for folks who do not identify as female currently) so sometimes it might just be easier to say “people who menstruate” or “people with uteruses” or “people with vaginas”, depending on what you’re talking about.

              1. Elysian*

                Thank you very much for actually answering. It sounds like there is no acceptable or easy and non-clinical way to describe the combination of sex organs and hormones that are required to elicit menstruation in a human person, so I guess Lauren is best situated with “period.” It’s a shame that young folks can’t be more comfortable discussing the topic with the non-menstruating segment of the population, but maybe if she can’t come to say “period” (which I couldn’t have when I was 16) she could practice with her lovely-sounding cousin until she is more comfortable. “That time of the month” was a good suggestion too, but I’m not sure if that’s more or less embarrassing to someone embarrassed by “period.” Good to have options, though.

                1. Jess*

                  It was very generous of Amy to step in and provide emergency assistance to you. However, I think you have an obligation to look this stuff up yourself whenever you find yourself asking exasperated questions, and you can find trans-accepting style guides online. I also think you have an obligation not to be snippy when trans commenters don’t immediately hop to it – nobody is responsible for your cissexism but you.

                  The other problem with “female” is that we really don’t maintain a conceptual barrier between “sex” and “gender,” such that many people use “female” and “woman” interchangeably, or use “female” in a way that strongly implies that to be a woman is to be afab. It doesn’t solve the problem of cissexism, it just mutes it a little.

                2. Elysian*

                  *sigh* And now I will step back into the woodwork, having learned yet again that apparently I have far too thin skinned to try commenting on the Internet. Don’t worry, no one else needs to tell me how wrong-minded I am, I’m going to shut up now and stop even trying.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Well, wait, I don’t agree that people can’t ask questions like that here. Certainly no one is obligated to answer them if they don’t feel inclined to, but I’m not running a space where people can’t ask questions. People ask things here that are easily google-able all the time, and I don’t want people sternly taken to task for that.

                  Elysian, you’re fine.

                4. May*

                  I agree that it’s fine to ask questions and it’s good to want to know more about subjects like this but I think the issue here is that several people offered responses to Elysian which they more or less disregarded and said “Stop telling me I’m transphobic and answer my inherently transphobic question” at which point a little self-education would probably have been a better choice than asking random trans strangers to do the emotional labor of explaining what was transphobic about the question gently enough that they would listen.

                5. Common Sense*

                  I don’t think Elysian was meaning to be transphobic. I mean, I have yet to meet any people who have an irrational fear of trans people, that one would have of, say spiders.

                  Sure, I know people who don’t agree with the SJW culture toward trans people. But certainly none that have a phobia of them. Such a fear would be silly, like being scared of homosexuals.

                  (You know, while we’re being pedantic about correct usage of terms)

                6. Cisks*

                  “nobody is responsible for your cissexism but you”

                  With respect, how does one actually keep up with the rules? I mean, I’m pretty sure “cissexism” wasn’t even a word a couple years ago. How do we keep abreast of current gender trends? Does Tumblr have a summary page somewhere?

                7. Jess*

                  Alison, I don’t have a problem with people asking questions. I have a problem with people getting snippy when they’re demanding answers – saying snarky things like, “Thank you for actually answering,” in an attempt to frame other answers as inappropriate responses. Elysian didn’t just ask questions. She got mad at people for refusing to give her answers using phrasing and tone that she considered appropriate. I pointed out that she was asking them to do work that she hadn’t bothered to do herself, and getting upset with them when they failed to perform it to her satisfaction.

                  It’s also unfair to respond to, “Don’t be shirty at trans people who aren’t nice enough to you wrt your transphobia,” with, “I will now step back into the woodwork.” That fragility is a rhetorical tactic, one designed to pull the conversation back towards the privileged person who gets to choose whether to care about or learn about a marginalized group. “You aren’t making me feel appreciated, so I guess I’ll just stop trying to learn how to treat you with respect!” Their hurt feelings take precedence over the real consequences of their ignorance and their entitlement.

                  And of course, it frames recognition and inclusion as privileges cis people – or whichever group – can rightfully withhold if they wish. It also sets up trans people – or whichever group – as effectively to blame for the bigotry and exclusion they have to deal with.

                  Elysian’s version is melodramatic, but look at how she’s depicting herself here. Creeping away into the shadows, silenced and shamed, caught in a double bind whose only purpose is to humiliate and exclude. She has it exactly backwards. She isn’t being excluded or driven away. The people trying to get her to be a little more careful are. They’re the ones being told that they don’t get respect if they don’t say please. They’re the ones being told that there’s no right way to ask their question.

                  And Cisky, talking about trans genders like they’re just this big incomprehensible thing no one could hope to keep track of is…also cissexist. Cis gender is no less a big incomprehensible mess, but it’s still a capital crime in a lot of places to be less than fluent in cis gender in all its intricacy and subtlety, so of course people are much more careful about keeping up to date. It’s not easy. We’re just trained from birth to make it look easy.

                8. Common Sense*

                  “Alison, I don’t have a problem with people asking questions. I have a problem with people getting snippy when they’re demanding answers – saying snarky things like, “Thank you for actually answering,” in an attempt to frame other answers as inappropriate responses. Elysian didn’t just ask questions. She got mad at people for refusing to give her answers using phrasing and tone that she considered appropriate. I pointed out that she was asking them to do work that she hadn’t bothered to do herself, and getting upset with them when they failed to perform it to her satisfaction.”

                  Excuse me, did you just presume their pronoun?!

                  To me it sounded like they were merely asking a question and getting attacked by people and accused of transphobia because they didn’t use the exact correct terminology (because it sounded like they were legitimately unsure)

                9. Amy the Rev*

                  Yeah, I find that in type/on the internet, genuine curiosity/uncertainty can come across as being adversarial, especially when the subject matter is so important/personal/emotionally charged. I can hear myself asking “but what about ___?” in a completely innocent way, meaning “I heard prior info that seems to contradict this and I want to understand”, not “I’ve found a hole in your argument”, but in type/in the internet, it usually comes across as the latter.

                  Jess, I don’t think I was being generous by any means, I was just answering a question that seemed to be asked in earnest, because I felt like I had the bandwidth and at least basic knowledge to do so. Maybe it’s an occupational hazard of being a Minister in a Really Progressive denomination, haha…

                10. Jess*

                  “Thank you for actually answering.” Amy, that was passive aggression pure and simple, and I called it what it was right before answering the question. And if you’re going to call, “You may not mean to be transphobic, but you’re using words in a transphobic way,” an accusation or an attack, CS, you’re not engaging in good faith.

            4. General Ginger*

              Regardless of my uterus and vagina status, I’m a man. I’m not female. The term you may be looking for (“word that describes someone who was born with a uterus and vagina”) may be afab or dfab (assigned/designated female at birth), but the embarrassed menstruating teen can hopefully come to a point where they can say “menstruating” and “period” without invoking a uterus or vagina.

              1. Anna*


                I just liked the idea of invoking a uterus or vagina. I invoke thee, vagina!

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            But look at the progress we’ve made. Now men can also feel awkward and dirty just for having their periods.

        2. Anon for this*

          Yeah but, if you’re a trans man, are certain parts of your body “female”? I doubt you intended it this way, but that seems pretty transphobic to me. I’d say if you’re a man, you have a male body and male “organs”—regardless of whether or not you were assigned male at birth.

          And it’s not really about “limiting” Lauren’s language or whether or not things are “forbidden”—it’s about mindfulness & making sure our language is as thoughtful and inclusive as possible, and assuming that all women menstruate or that only women menstruate isn’t just thoughtless—it’s simply untrue.

          1. Elysian*

            So what is the right language for discussing biological sex? That’s really what I’m getting at. Menstruation is really pretty dependent, as I understand the biology, on having on particular combination of sex organs. What is the word that describes those sex organs? I’m accepting that people can identify as men and have different sets of sex organs – I’m not disputing that, or pronouns, or any of that. I’m not saying trans men don’t menstruate. I am seriously just looking for the word to describe the set of sex organs that have traditionally been referred to as female – uterus, vagina, ovaries, etc etc – without having to name them all. I thought it was “female”, but if it isn’t please just tell me what it is and stop calling me transphobic.

            Normally I don’t spend a lot of time inquiring into what’s in people’s pants, that’s seriously not my gig, and I’m trying to use the “right” words, but I am admitting I don’t know what they are. Is the only acceptable phrasing for the kid in this question “period”? Does she have anything else she can say to discuss this biological phenomenon occurring only to people with certain hormones and certain body parts? I don’t love to press but it is pretty integral to this question.

            1. Amy the Rev*

              Especially when you take into account intersex people who might have been both with vagina AND internal testes, for example, I think the easiest thing would be to avoid using gender to describe the organs, and instead just use the organ names- testes/penis/vagina/uterus/vulva/ovaries/etc…

              You could also say ‘typically female’ but even then that feels like its getting into sticky territory, and I’d defer to a trans person for judgement on that one

              1. TL -*

                So from a purely biological standpoint, gender and sex are two entirely different things (you sex a mouse, not gender them; it is a female mouse and never a womouse or lady mouse, professionally.). If you’re talking about gender, you’re immediately talking about social constructs, expectations, and presentations. If you’re talking about sex, you’re talking about chromosome status and sexual organs. If you told me someone was female and a man, I would immediately understand that person is a transman. (And an intersex person would either be intersex or their particular syndrome.)

                That being said, outside of the lab/clinical settings, female/male and man/woman are interchangeable and I think it’s entirely reasonable for XX male not to want to be referred to as female. They would not see female as referring to their chromosome status and that’s fair.

                1. Amy the Rev*

                  How do you account for intersex folks, then? They don’t fit entirely into either biological sex, and may have ‘male’ chromosomes but ‘female’ reproductive organs, or a mix of reproductive organs, hormone levels/immunities etc… I don’t mean to sound adversarial, but I’m genuinely curious about how you account for it. Maybe the intersex conditions don’t happen amongst most other animals and so it doesn’t come up?

                2. TL -*

                  I imagine there are intersex animals but a lot of them aren’t found out (hard to diagnose and not looked for!) so it wouldn’t come up that often in most circumstances.
                  But if you were looking for them, or able to diagnose, you would refer to them as intersex and/or by their syndrome if it’s know. (ie, “the intersex mouse” or “the Klinefelter mouse”). There’s terminology out there that allows specificity (and if there wasn’t, you would develop it.)

            2. Jessie*

              People are saying there is no need to label the gender of sexual organs in this discussion at all. It came up because some say Lauren or others in the situation should say “it’s a feminine issue” or “it’s a female issue.” And it is not either of those things, because trans men menstruate and are not female. So calling it a female issue is not accurate. We can just call it what it IS – a period. Menstruation. If you need a euphamism, there are tons of bland ones. That time of the month. There are a million things to call it. We don’t need vague-yet-inaccurate euphamisms like “female issue.”
              Now, you have since brought up what you call sex organs – but I don’t know why. It’s not really part of this conversation, right? If you need to talk about specific reproductive organs themselves, maybe figure out why and the context will give you a clue as to how to talk about it.

            3. Nanani*

              There is no “right” language, just like there’s no central authority regulating what is and isn’t offensive. The idea is to be as inclusive as possible, and people are saying you can do that by not referring necessarily to sex and gender.

              Call an ovary an ovary, not a “female organ”, and that’s seriously it.

              Real life isn’t as binary as our culture pretends.

              1. Anon for this*

                Agreed… In the search for the best/most inclusive language, it’s easy to forget that there’s often no “correct” answer! For example, some trans people describe themselves as “born in the wrong body”; others say “it’s not my body that’s wrong, it’s society”… Important to keep in mind, esp. for cis people discussing this stuff.

            4. Alton*

              I’m not opposed to labeling sex organs as male or female in a purely clinical context when such specification may be helpful. But there are a few issues:

              1. In day-to-day life, “feminine” and “female” are often seen as gendered words.

              2. There is a lot of stigma because many people use biology to deny trans people’s identities, using biology as a determiner for whether someone is a “real” man or woman. Sometimes people really make a point of harping on the fact that we’re “biologically female,” which is annoying.

              3. From a practical standpoint, some trans men are extremely uncomfortable with gendered terminology. Some avoid using terms like “breasts” or “vagina” because of how painful it is for them. A lot of trans men do not get the healthcare that they need, like pap smears, because of a combination of discrimination from healthcare professionals and their own discomfort. There is a need for clinical terms sometimes, but if using gender-neutral terminology makes healthcare and discussions of stuff like this more accessible, I think that’s a good aim.

              1. NewDoc*

                At both institutions where I have worked, the official medical record lists the “sex” to match preferred gender — with some sort of notation within the medical history referencing the fact that a patient is transgender and what treatments/surgeries, if any, have been done — because it really is only the business of the patient and their *doctor*, not the front desk staff, not the person taking vitals. And I agree with comments above that from a purely medical standpoint, just calling the organs by their names is what makes the most sense — it doesn’t add any clarity clinically to refer to organs as female or male.

            5. SarahKay*

              I can’t help you with most of your questions, because I’m learning from this thread too, but I usually go with “it’s my time of the month”.
              It occurs to me that I tend to use this phrase because most men look less embarrassed by it, so maybe I should switch to saying “it’s my period”, but that’s a whole other discussion.

            6. May*

              Unless you are a trans person’s doctor or sexual partner there is no earthly reason why you would need to discuss their genitals. Focusing on the genitals of trans people dehumanizes them, reducing them to the state of their bodies and often othering them from cisgender members of their gender. I am sorry that it is upsetting to you to be hearing the word transphobic directed toward you, but consider that more than one person has said it and there is a reason for that. Saying transphobic things doesn’t make you transphobic. Everybody makes mistakes. Lord knows I’ve said my share of transphobic things in my life. You learn from what you’re told and you move on.

              1. Female woman*

                OHMYGOD. You know by behaving this way you are making life even more difficilt for the trans community, right?
                America is one of the few countries where you can express yourself however you want and not fear for your life as much as in other places (see stonings in the Arab world). People are very tolerant here, but by forcing and aggressively defending random naming conventions (which change more often than my underwear) you gain hostility from those who are neutral to your cause.
                I don’t care how you identify, and will treat you as a human being just the same. I’ll make sure not to use any clear pronouns one way or the other when speaking to you. In my opinion, which I will never tell you, it’s what in your pants that determines your gender (if you truly want to become the sex you feel you can have an operation. If you cannot afford one, that is a hard situation. Life is not fair.) So let’s get off our high horses and recognize that since the beginning of time there have been only three choices: male, female, and genetic deformation resulting in a combination of the two. All of the rest is a social construct resulting from an abundance of freedom and looking for the next war to win.
                Call me transphobic, but I have no fear or any positive or negative emotions towards you – I just don’t care. And for all of the suffering that I have gone through as a woman and that due to having a uterus, I am damn proud to call myself such, and no you cannot join my club unless you have the same parts.

    2. Bwmn*

      I agree that what this really comes down to is using the more technical names or euphemism.

      I heard “surfing the crimson wave” from Clueless before I ever heard of Aunt Flo. And so while I have a giggle of movie nostalgia for one euphemism, the first time I heard the other I was confused and had a similar first response of “ew, that’s gross – just call it your period”.

      I mean, if you think of all of the euphemisms that are applied to pooping – be they for children, family, or gross out humor – so many of them would sound odd and risk being vulgar. I mean, telling your manager that you have an emergency and need to go to the restroom to make boom boom isn’t what you say. I think the big take home here is that if the OP’s cousin had said “period” and been written up, then the case is clear. However, because of the language chosen it’s not.

        1. Jess*

          I think that would be a viable objection, but I don’t blame this young woman for not assuming that a clinical term would be the best option. A woman legislator was censured a few years ago for using the term “vagina” in a legislative session about reproductive rights. There are men who get very offended by clinical references to sex organs and reproductive concerns, and straightforward terms like “tampon” and “menstruation.” I think a young woman could reasonably worry that “I’m on my period” would also be seen as “crude language,” and try to use a cutesy euphemism to circumvent that problem.

          1. Anna*

            My sister’s ex would get really upset with my sister for referring to their daughter’s body parts as her labia, vagina, etc. when talking to my niece about washing or wiping after peeing. “That’s gross! It’s her bottom!” Just…ugh. You would never do that with a leg. “Don’t call it a leg! That’s gross! It’s a standy-walky!”

      1. Rachel in Minneapolis*

        Period is a euphemism. It’s a more common and accepted euphemism, but it is still a euphemism.

        Mensuration is the proper term.

        A big part of professional language is context and at this point in time in my area, period is the preferred term. So it doesn’t surprise people the way other euphemisms do.

    3. someone*

      As a man who menstruates, I appreciate you saying this. I always cringe when what I need to buy are labeled “feminine products”; it reminds me that a bug chunk of society doesn’t see me as “really” a man.

      1. General Ginger*

        I don’t know whether this would be at all helpful to you, but I’ve switched to buying the Kotex U tampons and pads — they come in those “edgy”-looking black boxes. The wrappers on the individual tampons are a mix between bright neon blue, pink and green, but idk, something about the boxes not being obnoxiously stereotypically pink makes me feel more comfortable.

        1. General Ginger*

          sorry, follow-up — I realize it’s obviously not the box color that’s the issue, and I very much understand/share/sympathize with the cringe — but for me, changing to the black boxes was something that made it feel slightly less stereotypically gendered.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            That’s okay–I’m a cis woman and I am pretty tired of pink every-damn-thing myself. I did not know that brand came in colored wrappers and now I’m intrigued. :)

            1. Amy the Rev*

              Reminds me of how they’re selling sunscreen (SUNSCREEN) now, in black bottles, labeled “for men”. Sunscreen!! As if the white/blue/brown bottles somehow made them too ‘girly’ and they’re afraid that men won’t wear the sunscreen. Or that viral video a while back of a boy freaking out because his mom bought him a white iphone (instead of a black one) because the white one was apparently ‘for girls’.

              There’s an interesting intersection between toxic masculinity/misogyny, and gender expression. What I mean is that, wanting to feel more masculine/more feminine is valid, and dressing/buying/doing things in a way that affirms that is also valid. What saddens me is the way that our society has constructed notions of gender so that things that are ‘feminine’ are equated with weak/bad/inferior, and then folks (cis and trans) who want to affirm their masculinity are often caught up unwittingly in systems that reinforce toxic masculinity and misogyny.

              To be clear, I’m not saying that wanting to buy tampons that don’t feel as feminine is reinforcing toxic masculinity, but it got me thinking about the sunscreen/iphone/etc thing, which I think does.

              1. General Ginger*

                Yeah, I’m aware that I’m kind of playing into the stereotype/social conditioning when I get excited over the non-pink tampons. For me, my period is the time when I am likely to get hit with the worst feelings re: my body and being in it, so anything that alleviates that is great. But the white iPhone being “for girls”? Shower poufs in black being “for men”, the sunscreen (though IDK, with sunscreen, is the formulation at all different, or just the packaging?) — it’s so unnecessarily gendered. I think my worst favorite is the Lady Hammer (pink handle! Because regular hammers are Just. Too. Much. Man.).

                1. Amy the Rev*

                  Oh it makes absolute sense, I can only imagine how menstruation would feed into gender dysphoria for a trans man or trans masculine nonbinary person. As far as I know, the sunscreen formula is the same, just different packaging. Similar to moisturizers/facewash. Not sure when white bottles got associated with femininity, but I’ve seen the same formulas packaged in black and dark blue with ‘for men!’ stamped on the label. Reminds me of a spoof commercial a while back that was ‘ how tampons would be marketed if [all] men menstruated’ …lots of chrome and loud noises and heavy lifting and deep voiced voiceovers. And it even had the word ‘blood’ in it! I personally hate the whole blue liquid thing in pad/tampon commercials- if they’re going to avoid alluding to blood could they at least put some glitter in it? Make it look magical?

        2. Anon-denominational*

          I prefer those and I generally present and think of myself as female (though I also like to think of myself as agendered).

        3. Ellie H*

          Off topic but I think that Kotex pulled off a feat of rebranding. They were stereotyped as the brand that had been around forever that everyone’s mom used, dated packaging, no appeal to young people and they jumped back into the scene with a great ad campaign, huge outreach to college campuses and promotional venues, totally revamped image with an edgy appeal. Their new look is really effective and memorable.

        4. May*

          Those new Always Flex Foam pads are so superior to other pads and at first they only came in these really pink flowery boxes with pink flowery wrapping and a flowery scent but now they also come unscented in a neutral green package so everyone can enjoy!

      2. Melody Pond*

        For you (poster named “someone”) and any other menstruating men out there who might be interested in a reusable, more neutral menstruation product:

        They’re super spendy – but maybe not dealing with disposable wrapping sounds in a men’s restroom would be worth the investment?

        1. Melody Pond*

          Gah. I feel like maybe I didn’t word that as inclusively as I meant to. Hope the spirit of what I was intending (to provide helpful ideas people may not have heard of before) comes across.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      That’s true, and I actually want to throw in that’s its not an “issue” either :)

      In fact, personally, at this point in my life, it’d be a MUCH bigger issue if I didn’t get my period!

      1. ZSD*

        I don’t think it means “issue” in the sense of “problem.” It’s just an actual issue in the sense of topic/thing to be addressed.
        (Actually, I hate that we’ve all decided to refer to problems as issues. If it’s a problem, call it a problem. But that’s a battle I’m clearly losing.)

          1. Elysian*

            It could also be an “issue” in the old-timey legal sense! “A term generally meaning all of one’s children and their children down through the generations, including grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on. Also called lineal descendants.” Cause you know… eggs.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Also, the “female problems”-type euphemisms mostly come up in situations that are an actual problem — I agree that “I menstruate” isn’t inherently a problem, but “I have cramps so bad I can’t stand up” or “If I don’t go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW I’m going to bleed all over myself” kinda is.

  10. Stephanie*

    Yeah, not the best wording, so that probably didn’t help in her efforts to be taken seriously.

    That being said, there’s a lot of ingrained shame around having your period and it can take a while to reframe your thinking that “Hey, this is a totally normal, involuntary bodily function that needs to be dealt with”, so I could get why she used the euphemism. I was heading to CVS once and asked my coworkers if they needed anything. One guy’s like “Why the hell are you going to CVS?” I said I needed Midol and it got super awkward. Mind you, these were all married men in their 30s.

    Also, gah, write-ups? What do those even mean? Those always sound so grade-school like.

    1. hopskip*

      When I worked retail, three write-ups (which could be for anything from no-call, no-showing to “insubordination” like Lauren’s) and you were fired. It was real dumb.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I got one once for “talking below the line” because I admitted to a coworker that I didn’t see myself staying in retail long-term – she had asked about my plans for the summer and I said something about going back to school and maybe moving out of retail. And apparently you weren’t allowed to admit you didn’t see yourself working in retail your entire life.

        1. ROUGE*

          As if writing you up for that would encourage you to reconsider and stay?! lmao how stupid of them.

      2. Bridget*

        Sometimes the concept is dumb but sometimes it’s necessary in order to document progressive discipline in order to remove someone. I recently instituted a write-up policy with my banquet staff (I work in catering sales) because we have one worker who is constantly late/leaves early/etc. but seems untouchable because her mom is the controller at my company. We established this system so that we could document why she is not a good employee and let her go with minimal fight from mommy (and of course hold other servers to the same standards). Yes, it can seem childish, but then employees should stop behaving like children.

        1. hopskip*

          But this seems to be about one issue. If someone is repeatedly having the same issue, it makes sense to document that issue and create a paper trail. But if you’re writing someone up because one time they were late (but then were never late again), and then a year later they were written up because they gave the wrong change back on a $20 (and that never happened again), and then a year later they were written up because they asked to go to the bathroom during a non-break, they would be getting fired over three unrelated incidents, two of which were mistakes from which they learned and were able to overcome.

          1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

            My (cynical) explanation: a lot of low-wage employers like to keep turnover high so they never have to worry about things like benefits and FMLA. No skin off their nose if they fire someone for a stupid reason – they’re all interchangeable, disposable, and shouldn’t beed any training anyway.

  11. Thomas E*

    Honestly, as a man, I’m often unhappy when people default to sexism as a reason for someone’s bad behaviour but this all reeks of it to me.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Yeah, I don’t know why, but my immediate feeling was the supervisor got uncomfortable and wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again, and used this as an excuse. I would indeed push back, but use Alison’s wording.

    2. ROUGE*

      As a woman, who actually deals with sexism in every day life, I am often unhappy when people (usually men) assume that people are “defaulting” to sexism when they are calling it out. It’s easy to think it’s a cop out when it’s not something that directly affects you almost every day in micro and macro ways. It’s not that you could recognize the potential here, but I think it could benefit you to stop thinking people “default” to calling out an “ism” just because you don’t like it or it doesn’t affect you directly.

      1. Mookie*

        Yeah, I find the notion that some stranger might be “unhappy” with me when I label sexist experiences as sexist… highly uncompelling, to say the least. The “as a man” clause is interesting: I guess labelling something as sexist is supposed to inherently hurt men? I wonder what women are meant to feel when they experience sexism?

  12. Sarah*

    Any workplace where you can’t drop the occasional Cher Horowitz reference is not one worth working at.

      1. Photoshop Til I Drop*


        JK. But seriously, see it, and marvel at the inexplicably-never-aging Paul Rudd.

    1. ROUGE*

      Me neither! I wonder if this youngster who wasn’t even a though when the movie came out has watched it! LOL. It is on Netflix.. and is a very very very very very important pop culture staple! lol.

  13. INTP*

    Agree that the language wasn’t the best, but it was silly to punish her for it. She’s a teenager, and likely hasn’t even spoken about periods with many adults besides her mother, health teacher, and/or doctor. It’s understandable that she doesn’t know which euphemisms are considered less crude than others by adults (i.e. “feminine issue”). I’m betting that the manager wrote her up just because he felt icked out and wanted to punish her or justify his own discomfort.

    I do think it might be worth trying to get this write up removed just because a manager that writes people up for this silly thing is likely to write people up for other silly things, and there is probably some kind of automatic consequence once you reach a certain number of write-ups. If she doesn’t feel comfortable flat-out asking them to remove it, she can bring it up to the female manager by saying something like, “I was written up by Bob for saying that I had my period. I think he didn’t like the language that I used, but I honestly thought that I was using a work-appropriate euphemism, as I don’t have much experience talking about periods in a professional environment. I’m sorry for bringing up an awkward topic, but could you please advise me on how I should say this next time?” Hopefully that will open up a conversation where it feels appropriate to ask about removing the write-up.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s good language — I think a lot of people upon hearing that would immediately want to help her, including addressing the damn write-up in her file.

    2. The Strand*

      A great idea. OP, I think Lauren could try this with a variety of situations. She’s learning, and many bosses / HR types will cut her some slack with this type of attitude.

  14. LisaLee*

    One of my coworkers just said, “My uterus is trying to punch its way out of my abdomen, I’m going home,” to our boss and we all just laughed.

    No advice, this just made me happy that I work here and not at Lauren’s job.

    1. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century*

      I feel like we need an entire thread dedicated to menstruation euphemisms today. This is my favorite so far!

      1. Manders*

        I read a lot of fantasy novels as a teenager and enjoyed all the weird euphemisms the writers would come up with for periods. A lot of women were suddenly set upon by “the moon blood.”

        1. LadyKelvin*

          I had a yoga teacher who called it our moon blood. I’d never heard that before but the 28 day cycle for moons and periods makes sense. Apparently you aren’t supposed to do inversions on your period. Which I never knew (and can’t think of a medical reason why…but I can live with not doing a headstand once a month).

          1. many bells down*

            I have tried an inverted pose on my period, because I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to. It HURTS. It doesn’t seem to bother some women but let me tell you, it was incredibly painful for me.

        2. Lunch Meat*

          There’s a Bible verse, I think it’s about Sarah, that’s literally translated, “It had ceased to be with her according to the way of women.” I’ve always wanted to gaze into the distance and just murmur, “It is with me according to the way of women” and see if everyone respectfully and quietly backs away.

      2. May*

        “It’s like a heavy metal video down there” is my go-to which is perhaps why “crimson wave” seems very tame to me.

          1. not really a lurker anymore*

            I feel like an axe murderer went to town is how I think of it.

            And leakage (period or breastmilk) is/was an equipment failure.

          2. Anon-denominational*

            I’ve used Shark Week, and the ever more gross variation “chumming for sharks”. I think my spouse would be perfectly happy if I just said “riding the crimson wave.”

            Side note, my sister is an Alabama fan, so sometimes I’ve said to her, “it’s a different kind of ‘roll tide’ around here right now.”

      3. Maxwell Edison*

        I keep it short, sweet, and accurate* – The Curse.

        *For me, it WAS a curse. I had horrific menstrual issues my whole life. When I (finally!) had a hysterectomy a few years back, some people wanted to console me; I thanked them for their kindness, but inside I was saying, “No need for condolences; I’ve wanted this since I was fourteen.”

        1. many bells down*

          I’m honestly a little jealous. I’d love to get rid of mine too. I mean, I’m 43, I’m not having any more kids, and early menopause is NOT a thing in my family. I quite possibly have another 15-20 years of menstruation ahead of me! What’s the point!?

          1. Maxwell Edison*

            It took forever for them to agree to the surgery. Months and months of trying different pills (none worked, and the last just made me fat and angry) and a hormonal IUD (my body spit it out), all while I was teetering on the brink of needing a blood transfusion. And then when they agreed that surgery was best, I had to wait another couple months while popping iron pills and eating burgers to get my red blood cell count back up. I practically threw a party the day of my operation.

          2. M-C*

            Arteries, that’s what the point is. Because of shared blood supply, a hysterectomy often (30+%) stops ovarian functioning even if they’re still physically present. So you lose 10 years to heart disease, just as if you were a guy. The correlation isn’t well understood enough to be able to compensate with hormone pills. This is why I had a myomectomy to remove just my fibroids instead of a hysterectomy…

            1. Tau*

              Although the problem with a myomectomy is that the stupid things can grow back. Signed, someone who had one and ended up having the exact same bloody* symptoms thanks to bloody fibroids again less than a year later.

              *literally, in this case!

              1. M-C*

                Bad surgeon, Tau.. Mine spent hours getting every itty-bitty fibroid out, and I didn’t have any further problem for 15 years or so. By then I was mercifully close to menopause and nature could take over.

          3. A Non E. Mouse*

            I’ve been trying to find out where you volunteer to donate your uterus for all those uterine transplants they are trying. I’m like, take mine, it’s a proven workhorse!

        2. Collarbone High*

          SAAAAAAME. I aged about 15 years in 6 months after my hysterectomy, but my life is immeasurably better. I was losing a quarter of my life to crippling pain and uncontrollable bleeding.

      4. Arielle*

        My fiance and I have spent many a long car ride coming up with these. Our current favorite is “It’s the Hunt for Red October.”

    2. Jenbug*

      I once told my (male) boss that there were “tiny gnomes with pickaxes in my uterus” when he asked why I looked so pale.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        I use something similar – “Tiny gnomes wearing cleats are tap dancing in my uterus.”

      2. Batshua*

        My housemate says there’s … I think something like two elves and a gnome. I’ll have to ask her for the entire description again.

        I always say an angel with steel-toed boots is kicking me, because that is totally what it feels like. I think they’re bored because they have no babies to teach.

    3. OhNo*

      My boss will occasionally leave early because, in her words, she’s “cramping like a ****”.

      My other coworkers (all female-identifying) all use euphemisms, but I have to say I appreciate the boss’ candor. It makes it a lot easier to have the “I’m not feeling well today but I’ll be in tomorrow” conversation that happens occasionally.

    4. Tiny_Tiger*

      I’m always a fan of the little comics that show a happy uterus saying “Everything’s ready for the baby” and when it finds out that there won’t be a baby it gets super upset and starts rampaging.

      1. motherofdragons*

        The comedian Richard Jeni did a hilarious stand-up set about a woman’s uterus being like a vicious loan shark. “Hey honey, did you have a baby this month or what? No? It’s alright, you’re busy, whatever, BAM!! (mimics punching someone) Smarten up and have the kid. I’ll be back next month.”

        1. Tiny_Tiger*

          Oh god that is too funny! On the one occasion when one of my (male) friends posted up one of the comics, the uterus did the whole “Seppuku!” thing and stabbed itself with a sword and you just saw the woman curled up on the floor. My one and only comment on the post was “Uterus… eat a Snickers.”

        2. Stephanie*

          Ha, I said that about getting hormonal chin hairs. “I think my body’s upset all these hormones are going to waste since I’m not pregnant, so it’s producing these thick chin hairs as a tantrum.”

  15. Nanani*

    Being written up for period related trouble has extremely high overlap with being written up for being a woman, and given that in areas with poor sex-ed, some men apparently really believe women can “just hold it”, I think it’s worth pushing back full steam, reproductive system models in tow.

    1. General Ginger*

      At Old Job, one of my coworkers was feeling very unwell and ended up fainting. It turned out to be a low blood sugar issue, paramedics were called, she was taken care of and was fine. The next day, Male Boss chewed us out for calling the paramedics because how did we know coworker wasn’t just “having female trouble”…

      1. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century*

        If I end up fainting due to my period, I hope someone calls the paramedics for me. It’s not because we know the cause of the fainting that all is suddenly A-OK!

        1. KellyK*

          Oh, my gosh, yes. My mom passed out during her period—-and went to the ER for multiple units of blood and an emergency hysterectomy. I’m sure there are other period-related things that might cause you to pass out besides massive blood loss, but “just your period” doesn’t mean everything’s okay.

          1. SimontheGreyWarden*

            This happened to a woman I work with. After the third ER visit and the third transfusion in as many months, with no cessation of bleeding that whole time, they finally gave in and she got the hysterectomy she had wanted for years (she was early 30s at the time).

      2. Nanani*


        I’d be tempted to ask how on earth he thinks “just” female trouble makes fainting ok, but I don’t actually want to know how that sort of mind works.

        1. General Ginger*

          Unfortunately, it went along with the “women can just shut that whole thing down” mentality :(

          1. Jean*

            That comment came from Missouri U.S. Representative Todd Akin in 2012 during his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held then and now by Claire McCaskill.
            Rep. Akin was then and now the father of six children.
            I remember wondering about the extent of his familiarity with human gynecology.

            1. Observer*

              No, that was about “shutting down” an unwanted pregnancy due to “legitimate rape”. I’m not sure which is more gross.

              1. General Ginger*

                Yeah, I specifically used that in reference to Old Boss to mean he was generally Todd Akin-ish.

        2. LCL*

          Aw, in junior high I would always have to go to the nurse the first day for cramps and vomiting and gastric upset, and I would usually pass out. That was normal for me.
          Not justifying the manager here, he was trying to assert his authority for a stupid reason.

          1. Marzipan*

            I once left my boss a delirious-sounding voicemail on Day 1 explaining why I wouldn’t be in, and she was wondering if she should call an ambulance! Fortunately my colleague who is a bit more used to my ‘funny turns’ listened to it, though, and he was like ‘nah, she’s fine’.

      3. JennyFair*

        I have in fact told my new roommate that if I collapse, she should explain to the paramedics that every few months I hemorrhage and that is the likely cause. The above seems on par with the common male attitude that we just use our periods as excuses to be lazy bums.

        I have a friend who died of ‘female trouble’ a year ago, so Male Boss at your Old Job needs a good shaking. (as does my friend’s doctor, who told her to wait it out)

    2. Kelly L.*

      Yep. A lot of people just don’t get it. There’s a reason I once called in with “stomach trouble” when it was actually the second-worst cramps of my life (the first worst was when I was like 14 and not working yet) with bonus dizziness and nausea. I guess technically it was in the general vicinity of my abdomen…

      1. JustaTech*

        My aunt the ER doc says that “abdominal pain” covers almost everything from childbirth to blue balls. And given how very many organ systems are in one’s abdomen, it’s not wrong.

      2. Annby*

        Before I went on hormonal BC, I got the cramps, dizziness, nausea, and horrendous headache with *every* period. The periods themselves were never that heavy, but I’m so glad I started the BC before I got a full-time job.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Thanks to Planned Parenthood’s low-cost BC, I was able to work instead of taking days off every month. Which would have resulted in my not working because nobody gives you time off in food service for anything, let alone a period. Now I have PTO I can use for anything. I’m not on BC anymore, but if things get rough, I CAN go home early.

          Though I’m beginning to think today should have been a call-in day. :P

          1. Arielle*

            I’ve really enjoyed reading this thread on a, um, particularly relevant day of the month for me. I wish I could have stayed home but I doubled up on ibuprofen and powered through today since it was my annual review AND a big software release.

  16. BRR*

    I would ask for clarification on the citation. I might be way off but I wonder if the inappropriate language is in reference to her talking about her period at all. I have no idea how likely that might be. I also would ask for clarification because I have no idea what the insubordination citation would be for.

    1. ZVA*

      Yeah, this is what I was going to say. I would definitely ask for clarification and be prepared to push back. I just don’t get what the “insubordination” is in reference to either—and I suspect that the true inappropriateness, in this guy’s mind, was Lauren mentioning her period at all; I don’t think it’s about the language she used, even if he says—or even if he thinks!—it is.

    2. OhNo*

      Yes, absolutely. Even if she’s not comfortable pushing back on the write-up, she should definitely clarify what it’s actually for. That way, if this ever happens again, she knows whether she should go to this manager and tell him it’s her period, or reference “stomach troubles” / “personal issues”, or just skip him entirely and find a female manager to okay the break.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I agree. She’s been written up and she’s not exactly sure what her infraction was. Without the context of her period, wouldn’t we be suggesting she should ask for clarification?

  17. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    I had a friend who works in the medical profession recently excuse herself from a male colleague by saying, “Excuse me, I have to go pump,” and he responded with, “Uhhh, TMI!” MEDICAL PROFESSION.

    For this reason, she should push back using exactly Alison’s wording.

    Also, ffs. I don’t care what the reasoning is that this poor girl needed to use the bathroom. We are human. Bodily functions happen. Grow up, manager, and get off your damn power trip and let your employees use the bathroom when they need to. If certain employees abuse this, just like with anything else, discipline them accordingly. This isn’t first grade.

    The more I think about this, the more ragey I get.

    1. Katie*

      This! Why can’t we just trust people when they say the need the bathroom? Address abuse if it happens, but come on.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          POWER TRIPS. It’s really gross.
          If you’ve never seen Adventureland, that pretty much sums it up.

    2. Jenbug*


      The idea of policing anyone’s bodily functions makes me so angry. When you gotta go, you gotta go and forcing people to wait until their appointed break time is asking for UTIs or other health issues.

      1. JustaTech*

        The only (only!) reason I can think for a supervisor to want to clarify about the cause of an emergency bathroom trip is if you work in food service, because GI distress is a reason to have to send someone home (so you don’t pass a stomach bug on to the customers). But that’s a question to ask *after* the person comes back from the bathroom, not before.

        And I doubt that it applies to grocery store checkers.

    3. Pineapple Incident*

      That’s so awful! An unfortunately large number of people have that same “you can wait” mentality about breastfeeding/pumping- I haven’t needed to myself, but if one breastfeeds an infant that means they’re producing at specific times of the day, and if they can’t pump it’s debilitating and painful. Basically whether it’s periods or pumping, people suck.

      1. many bells down*

        And you’re also prone to have an “accident”! You can’t “hold” the milk in! And then you’re going to have to go home and change into something that’s not sodden.

        1. AMPG*

          I’ve described engorgement as “feeling like you desperately have to pee, but your boobs are full instead of your bladder.”

      2. Jessi*

        Erm also pathway to mastitis (blocked milk ducts which can become infected). Plus since breast feeding is supply and demand if you don’t pump you don’t make more and your supply can take a hit! People sometimes really do suck

  18. EleanoraUK*

    It’s interesting to me that the wording struck Alison as crude, because ‘ve always found the ‘riding the crimson wave’ euphemism the opposite of crude, and a non-cringey way of talking about periods, making light of a potentially awkward topic.

    I don’t think I could have used the word ‘period’ aged 16 with a straight face and without dying of embarrassment, especially not to an adult male, so I do sympathise with the OP’s cousin. It seems a ludicrous thing to get written up for.

      1. Catcatcat*

        I really don’t understand why this is worse than just saying period. If I hear the word period my mind goes to the exact same place, if I’m gonna have imagery it’s not going to change because of a different word choice, everyone on earth knows what a period is and what happens.

        That being said I am so so so glad I’m over the days where I have to ask permission to use the bathroom. Trying to get coverage to cover the sales floor while also explaining why I couldn’t use the washroom on my lunch break… uh I drank liquid during my lunch and it’s just now hit my bladder….

        Now that I’m no longer in retail I really realize how ridiculous most of it was. Now I have the ability to drink coffee whenever I want, use the washroom whenever I want, and *gasp* all my work still gets done!

      2. EleanoraUK*

        Hahaha, that it is!

        It’s just interesting how different phrases/euphemisms work for different people. If nothing else, it goes to show how easy it is to inadvertently make things worse rather than better when trying to find a non-awkward way to talk about periods (especially at age 16, an age and awkwardness I do not miss one bit).

        1. hopskip*

          I feel this way about “breasts” versus “boobs”. I haaaaaaate the word boob with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. But when I saw “breasts” in casual conversation, the majority of people look at me like I’m training to be a doctor.

          1. Kristine*

            I’m partial to “yabos”. Though it’s kind of a joke that people who haven’t seen the movie it references may not get.

          2. Emma*

            Same, though when I asked my one friend if she preferred me to use “bosom,” she decided “breasts” wasn’t too weird after all.

            I cringe at a lot of, for lack of a better term, baby-talky euphemisms for body parts, myself. Pee-hole, vajayjay (ugh), tummy, even belly. I have that reaction to silly euphemisms in general – all these cutesy euphemisms people are sharing for their period just strike me as really weird and not always as direct or obvious as folks think, but apparently I’m the odd one out. I just can’t take a grown adult who says “My tummy hurts” or “I have to go pee-pee” seriously, and it often strikes me as still being a weird kind of body shame, like using normal words somehow is too direct.

              1. Rana*

                I have a potty-learning preschooler, and while I haven’t yet said that with regards to myself, I can see it happening. We talk about going to the potty a lot in this household.

          3. Anna*

            I prefer boobs over tits. For whatever reason that I can’t fathom, tits just sounds really crude and classless to me.

      3. EmilyG*

        Seems like whether people find it sort of amusing/charming or vivid depends on whether they recall it from the film Clueless (that’s the only context I’ve ever heard it, too).

        But I still feel bad for Lauren because she was in a rush to get to the bathroom before an accident happened and before customers appeared. She didn’t have time to think of an appropriate euphemism and probably doesn’t have all that much experience talking to adults about her period anyway. To me, those are all reasons to cut her some slack on word choice.

    1. Bwmn*

      I personally think that for better or worse – referring to menstrual bleeding as a period is such a common euphemism that it’s almost medical.

      Basically all other euphemisms are a little more obscure and thus risk sounding graphic – I mean, “in the red tent”, “the reds are playing downtown” “shark week” “the communists are coming” – how actually says any of that in regular conversation? And if someone used any of those instead of “I have my period” – it would have an aspect of shock value just for being unusual.

    2. TC*

      I think this particular phrase, “riding the crimson wave” isn’t that crude because of it’s link to the film ‘Clueless’, which others have mentioned upthread. In my mind, it is a film quote first, and a way to describe a period second, if that makes sense. Almost any other phrase might be crude, but I think this one is slightly different.

      Mind you, Lauren is 16, and we don’t know how old her manager is, so the cultural impact of ‘Clueless’ might not be as great to them as it is to someone in their 30’s.

  19. WhichSister*

    I hate the word Insubordination. But I used to work in an environment where it was thrown around alot. “He wouldn’t come in on his day off when I asked him to. I want to write him up for insubordination.”

    Insubordination is actually defined as “defiance of authority; refusal to obey orders” but what I tell my new hires during onboarding (the majority of them young and in their first job) is insubordination is refusing to do something that falls under the umbrella of working for our company provided its not unsafe, unethical or illegal.

    This incident falls under none of this. The guy wrote her up because he was embarrassed. Plain and simple.

    1. Maxwell Edison*

      I hate “insubordination” as well. Back at ToxicJob, it was code for “we want to get rid of you because you don’t fit the mold/are too old/cost too much money but we have no actual grounds so we’ll just say you’re insubordinate.”

  20. Temperance*

    Back when I was in high school, I had serious period issues, and a part-time job. I never had a job that required me to only use the restroom on breaks, but I did have to wave over a manager and ask to use the restroom. I would say that it was an “emergency”, which is a polite coded way to say that the dam has broken.

    1. Emac*

      I think “the dam has broken” is going to be my new euphemism. It so accurately describes the feeling when it finally hits after the slightly irritable/uncomfortable feeling for the few days before.

      1. Nony Mouse*

        Am I weird in that I can’t feel it happen at all, then? I don’t notice until a normal restroom break. If I’m having cramps, I have them before and during rather than just before.

  21. Tiny_Tiger*

    Is it bad that my first reaction to reading about the manager’s behavior was to roll my eyes? I have a tendency to react highly sarcastically to any person (man or woman) who treats menstrual flow as something icky, shameful, or unnatural. I’m sorry but there is no good way to say “I’m on my period and I need to take preventative measures to make sure it doesn’t start running down my leg and puddling into my shoe.” And even if you do say “I’m having feminine issues” (it’s not an ISSUE! It’s a normal process of the female body!) or even “I got my period unexpectedly,” it doesn’t sound like this guy would be any more mature about it. Kudos to her for wanting to handle this on her own, so I would definitely recommend pushing back against a write-up from a grown man with the maturity level of a prepubescent boy.

      1. Tiny_Tiger*

        Very true. I’ve more often heard menstruation in general referred to as an issue and all I can do is facepalm every time.

    1. Recruit-o-rama*

      Meh…I’m not shamed of my period or anything, I do find it incredibly annoying and inconvenient though so I do consider it an “issue”. Maybe that’s what some people mean?

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        Agreed- I like celebrating ‘Not a Mother’s Day’ for about 2 seconds but it’s an issue eeeeeevery month.

      2. Amy the Rev*

        Yep. I’m a woman who menstruates and I hate it and wish it didn’t happen and yes it’s normal and healthy but that doesn’t mean it’s not gross and inconvenient to me as well. Periods for me mean days of diarrhea (because uterine cramps affect the intestine, yay), cramps, headaches, weepiness, fatigue. Sometimes I want to be able to say “my period is gross”/”I wish I didn’t get my period at all” without some other woman trying to remind me how healthy and natural it is. Let me vent, dammit!

        1. Emac*

          Or just not believing that it’s as bad as you say, because they don’t experience any of that with their periods.

          1. Purest Green*

            I read something recently that essentially said all women in Western culture are making up how bad their periods are – that there’s a cultural expectation that it sucks and women are just conforming to it. And apparently women in China or some place don’t have pain and mood swings with their periods.

            Well, sister, I’m moving to China if that’s the case.

            1. General Ginger*

              Huh. I grew up in Eastern Europe, and I don’t think I remember hearing anything about expecting pain — and especially not mood swings — until we moved to the US. Adults (quietly and awkwardly) mentioned bleeding. When I first heard about periods, in fact, tampon and pad use was not yet common in my country of birth, so most of the concerns revolved around what materials were suitable for inserting into one’s underwear to deal with the actual bleeding.

              1. Observer*

                And you are seriously telling me that Eastern European women never dealt with pain during their periods? More likely they just didn’t talk about it, and a kid certainly wouldn’t be filled in why someone was in pain, etc.

                I can tell you that I’m the child of Easter European (Orthodox Jewish) parents, and my mother and her sister most definitely DID suffer from pain. It got much better after they had kids and my mother would never have shared the reason she wasn’t well with us. (And it wasn’t just about periods, either.)

                1. General Ginger*

                  That’s not what I mean at all. What I mean is, it was not ever covered in my non-US period education. Literally I only learned that PMS was a thing in the United States (so it was nice to have an explanation for how lousy I was feeling).

            2. Liz*

              Interesting, I’d label it more as a response to constantly being told we should be able to control it and never ever mention it to anyone. So you shout a bit louder just to get the reality across.

              My life has been much better once I took into account my cycle as a literal energy cycle of when I should start projects and be ok with just resting for a few days rather than something to just ram through and barely acknowledge.

              1. Amy the Rev*

                There’s a great article out there about how to sync your exercise habits/routine with your cycle to maximize health/comfort benefits…kinnnda makes me feel like I have a superpower now (especially since I don’t want to ever be pregnant so I’d happily give up my superpower of fertility if it meant no periods)

            3. Photoshop Til I Drop*

              I’m moving too, if that’s the case. Apparently I imagined the concussion I got from fainting due to pain and blood loss while in a bathroom with a concrete floor. I should have willed away those cramps with some gumption!

            4. Rana*

              If it’s supposed to be China, I call bullshit on that one. Chinese medicine has lots of treatments for dealing with menstrual issues.

              The only culture I can imagine where women don’t have a lot of menstrual issues is one where they get pregnant shortly after puberty and stay repeatedly pregnant or nursing until menopause.

            5. Hana*

              Re: China experience, most women I know experience the pain/cramping/weakness. Hear very little about mood swings, though.

      3. Anon for period stuff*

        I basically won the genetic lottery on this, and… It’s bleeding for at least two or three days. No matter how easy you have it, it still kinda sucks.

    2. Girasol*

      Our fifth grade “You’re Going to Be a Woman” class was an ancient 50s film in which the wonder of womanhood was contrasted with the importance of hiding the evidence and any information about periods from boys, managing cramps, and following arcane health rules. “Contrary to what you may hear, it is safe to bathe, but hair washing should be postponed.” We were reminded that whatever we may have heard, if we felt well enough we could engage in most activities barring strenuous exercise. Since we hadn’t heard anything before, the message seemed ominous, but once outside the secret girl class, we must never speak of it or ask questions. Of course it’s a natural body function that one should never feel ashamed of, yet generations of us are trained at an impressionable age to feel the opposite. With our perspective so skewed I’ve often wondered what boys, getting this information second hand from their sisters, understood about it.

      1. Tiny_Tiger*

        Considering my husband grew up with 3 sisters and no brothers, they can get a decent amount of information but there’s still fundamental information they miss. For example, when I was thinking of switching to the Diva Cup (so incredibly glad I did) my husband asked if it would create issues or if I would have to take it out when I had to pee. I was baffled by the question and told him of course not. Turns out he thought women peed out of their vaginas… I was flabbergasted because his knowledge of anatomy is amazing.

        1. Ellie H*

          I was asked this too by a boyfriend, whether you can pee with a tampon in. I am pretty sure he had a great understanding of the female anatomy (the previous person he dated was a sex educator, I think) and didn’t think that women urinate via the vagina but I’m not sure it’s a totally dumb question – I’ve always kinda wanted to ask him for clarification though. I am pretty sure he was wondering whether or not they create some kind of internal pressure that restricts other functions. To be fair, I actually think this is slightly true with some brands of tampon (Kotex U!) – I feel like they tend into a weird position that has an inhibitory factor such that I’d rather just take it out and put a new one in. Not that it would be impossible to use the bathroom with one in, just more uncomfortable.

      2. Emi*

        Hair washing? Did they explain that one? Like, were they expecting that you’d be rinsing your hair in bathwater you were bleeding into, or what?

      3. Jean*

        “but hairwashing should be postponed?!” Huh? (Which in this case is a polite euphemism for WTF?!) What on earth were the scriptwriters thinking?!

        My sixth-grade pamphlet was still secretive, but at least it emphasized the “special aspects of becoming a woman” rather than serving up all the old myths about activities to avoid during menstruation.
        Come to think of it, the pamphlet also failed to acknowledge:
        a) that menstruation is ofen accompanied by cramps, pain, nausea, diarrhea, etc.
        b) that some people who menstruate do NOT want to do other “traditional female” activities such as have sex with men, and/or experience pregnancy, childbirth, and 18-28 years of parenting
        c) that some people who menstruate don’t identify as female
        But that was 40+ years ago and (American, urban, industrialized) society was not the same as it is today.

      4. Amy the Rev*

        So is pooping (a natural bodily function that one should never feel ashamed of)…its why I love the commercials for ‘poo-pourri’- they are so blatant about acknowledging ‘we all poo, it can smell really bad, here’s how to make a natural-but-gross thing a little less gross’

  22. crazy8s*

    She’s young. The manager needs to use this as a learning opportunity, not punish her for it. And it’s ridiculous anyone for someone to be in a position to deny a bathroom break! That’s crazy. If someone is taking excessive breaks then maybe talk about it, but people’s bodies all function differently.

  23. Lora*

    I think she can’t win with this guy, really. If it had been a young man explaining that he had Taco Bell for lunch and was now regretting it, I don’t know if that would have gone over a lot better. In my experience, you should NEVER ask why someone has to go to the restroom unless you are 100% sure you want to hear the answer, and it could have a tremendous range of medical details you would prefer not to know about that person. That’s on the manager for asking a question and not being prepared for the answer. And there are plenty of answers that are applicable to all genders which are icky and gross.

    It is acceptable to ask if the person is feeling all right or if they might like you to call for medical assistance if you think they are spending too much time in the restroom. Maybe offer to get them crackers and ginger ale or water if they mention feeling ill. That’s pretty much it.

    1. Alienor*

      Seriously! All I have to hear is “I’m going to the restroom and I’ll be back in a few minutes.” I don’t need any more information about the reason for the trip, either before or after. What happens in the restroom stays in the restroom.

    2. Jennifer*

      Never, ever, ever argue with someone about their need to use a restroom. You do not want to know the details, nor do you want to see what happens if you prevent someone in need from using it.

  24. Jessie*

    I want to add +1000 to the people who say she should push back on this. I really don’t think she was written up for her language – “insubordination” is a different thing. That makes it sound like she is being written up for using the bathroom when it wasn’t her break – so, being penalized for getting her period. I would talk to HR and ask for clarification – I like INTP’s language for that above (“I was written up by Bob for saying that I had my period. I think he didn’t like the language that I used, but I honestly thought that I was using a work-appropriate euphemism, as I don’t have much experience talking about periods in a professional environment. I’m sorry for bringing up an awkward topic, but could you please advise me on how I should say this next time?”) except I think it’d really be best to say it to HR, not a female manager. Another manager may feel constrained in her response because she is a peer and has no power to undo another manager’s disciplinary decisions. But HR could address it.

    1. Bellatrix*

      I agree with you in principle. What sucks here is that retail jobs… really suck. In the sense that the workers often have no direct access to HR. I mean – they aren’t issued email addresses to contact them, they can’t walk into their office, etc. If the girl has access to HR, then that’s the reasonable course of action, but in retail managers often wear the hats of HR (scheduling, hiring process, time off) so you can’t really address their faults with HR.

  25. Government Worker*

    I’m a little surprised by Alison’s answer here, in that don’t really think that it should ever be necessary to tell a manager about one’s period in particular. Humans sometimes need unexpected bathroom breaks or bathroom breaks close together – GI problems, UTIs, periods, an extra cup of coffee that means you need to pee twice in an hour, etc.

    Lauren shouldn’t have used the language she did, but she shouldn’t have had to. If she’s an otherwise excellent employee, the manager shouldn’t have admonished her about this. And a vague “I’m sorry, I did use the restroom earlier, but I unexpectedly need to use it again now” should suffice. I don’t believe my manager is ever justified in demanding details of my restroom habits. Even in the case of medical accommodation, a doctor’s note without details should be enough.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Some retail places are really strict about insisting you confine bathroom trips to your formal breaks. I remember working in a grocery store as a teenager and our managers definitely would have been annoyed if we came back from a break and then wanted to leave the cash register soon afterward and they would have suggested trying to wait. So with this one, it’s an issue of how things do (often) work in that environment rather than how they should work.

      1. Biff*

        I find this obsession with controlling bodily functions creepier and creepier the older I get. It’s so gross to me.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Yeah. If you’re so thinly staffed that it’s a big deal for one person to leave the floor for 10 minutes, you are understaffed.

              1. Biff*

                Yes, it is about covering registers, but it’s also about controlling bodily functions in order to get seamless coverage. Someone in management created an idea that if we can just demand that people ‘hold it’ then we can save 7.80 an hour. Someone heard that idea and then made that decision based on the creepy idea that they could have say over people’s bladders and bowels.

                I’m afraid that everyone I’ve ever dealt with who felt that they could and should have say over bathroom habits has had shades of a fetish or some sort of out-of-control god complex. This goes for teachers, bosses, coworkers, even former friends. These are the same assholes that don’t stop on long drives. There is genuinely something wrong with them.

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                It seems to be about pretending people don’t have bodily functions. Which is foolish.

            2. Mazzy*

              I worked in grocery stores for about four years during high school and college, and honestly, it really doesn’t come up as much as you’d think. Most of the people working are kids and maybe its because they don’t drink coffee yet or just have better control, I never remember bathroom breaks being an issue

        1. Marisol*

          I had a fit about the Mormon bosses prohibiting coffee yesterday (my body, my choice to use caffeine!) but this? This practically sends me into paroxysms.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      My experience with retail says that without an explanation, plenty of managers are going to tell you to just hold it to your next break. Obnoxious, but I can’t imagine uncommon.

      1. Tiny_Tiger*

        Even outside of retail it can be an issue. I’ve seen teachers in high schools require an explanation before they’ll let the student go.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I’m now remembering one teacher I had in elementary school. He decreed that we were allowed to use the bathroom at two times of the day (right after arriving, and right after lunch), and sharpen our pencils at two times of the day (right before lunch, and right before dismissal). No other times. I imagine it was to minimize disruptions, but…

          It sounds a lot worse to adult-me than it did to kid-me; I didn’t think to question it back then!

          1. Biff*

            I love how elementary students are now treated worse than cattle on a drive. At least cattle can crap as they please.

            1. Kelly L.*

              To be fair, this isn’t “now,” it was the 80s, with a teacher who was very very olde-skool.

              1. Biff*

                I was treated this way in the 90s, I know. But I also know it’s gotten worse. The child of someone in my extended circle pissed themselves recently……I was just horrified.

            2. AGirlCalledFriday*

              As an elementary teacher…the kids get to use the bathroom far more than I do. Half the week I have to hold it from about 7:30 until noon when I get about 15 minutes to eat, and then I’m holding again for the rest of the day. That’s just the reality for a lot of teachers – most of whom get periods.

              I teach 3 grade, and the kids get 2 bathroom breaks and I let them also go throughout the day. The problem becomes that not all kids are capable of going to the bathroom without fooling around and fighting/bullying others, and when they leave class I end up having to reteach everything they missed while I’m also trying to assist others and assess progress.

              Not to derail but this is a pet peeve. Too many people forget what it was like when they were young and demonize teachers. :(

                1. AGirlCalledFriday*

                  Thanks. I think that most people remember themselves but forget about the rest of the class. Can you imagine trying to teach math to 9 year olds, and some of them getting up sharpen pencils, some getting water, some going to the bathroom, some getting up to throw something away? I don’t think any teacher loves attempting to keep complete control, but you very quickly learn that not doing this leads to any number of issues, some potentially dangerous. It’s a lot more complicated than it seems.

                2. Observer*

                  AGirlCalledFriday, you’re setting up a false dichotomy. You don’t have to allow kids to do ANYTHING they want or say they need to do during class. Letting kids go to the bathroom when needed doesn’t mean allowing the room to become bedlam.

                  It’s not just that the humiliation that is caused to a kid who winds up with an accident or whatever, is hugely damaging. The odds are very high that you are going to lose your entire day if it happens, and have to do some backtracking the next day as well. In addition, kids who regularly have to hold it for longish periods of time often wind up with UTIs – and more significant medical problems, some of which can be long term. And, it’s not at all uncommon. Also, a kid who REALLY needs to hold it in, is NOT paying much attention, and may be fidgeting enough to disturb others.

              1. Anna*

                Honest question: Are they able to maintain their bladders if a teacher won’t let them go throughout the day? I mean, it seems the fidgeting would be worse or having to clean up a mess would definitely be disruptive.

                1. Xarcady*

                  Most kids will have the opportunity to use the restroom at lunch. And between classes, if their classrooms aren’t too far apart, so that they need to spend the entire time between classes running from one room to another.

                  And most teachers will let kids go when they need to. But they have to be careful–it is very disruptive to have one kid after another leaving the room and returning. And the kids miss out on 5-10 minutes of class. Which is why a lot of teachers will ask, “Can you hold it until class ends?”

                  I’ve never heard of a teacher refusing to let a student use the restroom unless there was another issue involved–the kid asks multiple times every day, the kid gets into trouble when out in the hall, that sort of thing.

                2. Observer*

                  The easiest way to cut the disruption is to not make the kids ask at all. Yes, I know classrooms where the kids do not have to ask to go to the bathroom. They are told that they can go when they need – and they need to be quiet when they go in and out to not disturb. It generally works quite well. The real disruption to class comes from the request to go to the bathroom rather than the kid actually getting up and going.

                3. Observer*

                  Xarcady, a lot of kids do NOT get to use the restroom at lunch for a whole host of reasons from not having enough time to eat lunch and go to the bathroom (in some NYC public schools lunch is about 20 minutes – which is barely enough time to get to the lunchroom bolt your food and get back to class), lunch routines that limit what the kids can do during lunch time (especially common in grade school), needing to do other things at lunch, etc.

              2. Observer*

                If your students are allowed to go to the bathroom as needed, that’s the way it should be. The issue of fooling around and bullying CAN be dealt with, if everyone involved is willing to work on it.

                I’m not demonizing teachers – I have a LOT of them in my family. And none of them think that keeping kids from going to the bathroom is in any way, shape or for acceptable.

        2. Kriss*

          That’s because the teachers can get written up for having “too many” students wandering the halls.

    3. Pineapple Incident*

      When I worked in retail, there were often only one or two employees in the entire front half of the store. If I needed a break for the bathroom, it had to be planned, and I had to be prepared to wait up to 20 minutes or more depending on how busy we were so someone could cover my absence. The circumstances usually don’t matter- there’s just no spare staff. As an example, the only time I ever took one of those paid 15-minute breaks we’re all legally entitled to when I was a retail employee was 3 days after I had my wisdom teeth removed because my face hurt so much I could barely stand and had to collect myself right then, and couldn’t wait.

      Retail blows for that and many other reasons, unless you work for a company that cares enough to put effort into fixing this and similar issues.

    4. Liz*

      My thought is more- the man asked, implicitly, why she hadn’t taken care of it on her official break.

      So she answered. Honestly.

      She didn’t volunteer, she didn’t paint a sign and start chanting about it. She didn’t bring him a cup of tea to start having a chat about it. Again, jobs which require more than making sure your spot is covered before taking care of any normal body functions are the ones that are already less likely to be understanding when such surprises come up.

  26. Master Bean Counter*

    My take on the situation is that the manager shouldn’t have said anything more than, “go and be quick” about her request to go to the bathroom. It doesn’t sound like this employee has an issue with slacking off. Admonishing her and forcing her to give an excuse is nothing short of a power play. Which really is unfortunately quite normal in retail work. The manager shouldn’t have needed an explanation. I’d raise a concern on that alone. When a person needs to go, a person needs to go. Detail really shouldn’t matter.

    OP I’d raise the concern with like this:
    I was rather taken aback at being admonished for requesting a quick break to take care of my basic human needs. So I said the best thing I could think of in the moment. I realize now that may not have been the most appropriate comment, by my mind was preoccupied. What wording would you like me to use in the future? And can we take this write-up out of my file?

  27. Kate, short for Bob*

    Next time I want Lauren to pick up the customer address mike and say “Carrie is at the Prom, this is not a drill”.

    1. OhNo*

      Honestly, I just want Lauren to go to this manager and ask what he would consider an ‘appropriate’ euphemism. Shark week? A visit from Aunt Flo? Red badge of courage? On the rag? Red dot special? Just start spewing period references at him and see how uncomfortable he gets then.

      Obviously this is a bad idea, but it’s just so satisfying.

      1. Aurion*

        I’m a woman and I only got about half those euphemisms. So my guess that all of them would go right over the heads of most young men.

          1. OhNo*

            If you want more, I have loads. (I went to a women’s college. There were competitions.)

            Judging from the comment section so far, I bet we could crowdsource a pretty extensive list. :)

              1. OhNo*

                There’s the usual references to red flags, red lights, red rivers, red tide, and red wings. A few of the more creative ones that I like are: “The Red Baron is flying”, “My sentence has come to an end”, “Setting up the vampire buffet”, “Red Hawk down”, “Parting the Red Sea”, and pretty much any sentence you can think of referencing communists (my particular version is “Time to join the Communist Party”).

        1. SarahKay*

          Talk about tampons – yes, that specific word. In my experience men hate it. Also, a box of tampons at the front of a desk drawer is pretty much a guarantee that men will never ‘borrow’ anything from that drawer.

          1. SignalLost*

            Yup. If you want to keep the key to your desk safe from any man, put it in your pen holder with a (wrapped) tampon in with the pens. They will burn your desk down before they move that tampon.

      2. Elfie*

        I love the reference I use – I heard it from a friend at university, and it’s been my favourite ever since. On the Blob.

    2. A. Nonymous*

      Man, I’m stealing that, I’ve just defaulted to saying that my reproductive organs are trying to murder me.

    3. Jessilein*

      A college friend of mine called her period Gus, and when I told my parents that, my dad promptly named his new red car Gus. Oh dad, I sure do miss you!

  28. March(e)*

    To me this is the sort of thing where it’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission – instead of “Can I go to the washroom?” it might have been better to say “I have an emergency and I’m going to the washroom, I will be as fast as I can.”

    In general, though, people don’t need to know why you have to visit the washroom right away, saying you have an emergency usually suffices. If they keep pushing for specifics, uh, that’s on them.

  29. C Average*

    I hate to say it, but my honest take on this is that she should evaluate how much longer she hopes to have this job, how much authority this guy has over her, and how much time she’ll have to spend with him over the duration of her time at this job.

    If she chooses to fight this battle–and I absolutely think her point is fair and that principle is on her side!–she’s forever going to be (in his mind) the kid who broke the rules by asking to go to the bathroom at a time other than her break, grossed him out with a TMI announcement about her period, tried to whine her way out a write-up, and got him subjected to a very awkward conversation with HR. He’s going to feel done wrong by this whole business and will probably micromanage her like a hawk and make her job less enjoyable and more stressful. He might also make vague allusions to the incident in a way that’s made even more uncomfortable by their power differential.

    Even though I think she’s right, I’m not sure I think it’s worth the very likely aggro.

    And just to be clear, I think this is unfair, too. I think it sucks that she would do best to let this kind of thing go just to forestall future jerky-but-probably-unpunishable fallout from this guy. But when I think about my experience with people like him (and alas, I’ve known a few), that’s where I land.

    I know that it’s really intellectually satisfying to stand on principle in situations like this, but I always think the “how miserable can be get away with making you if you choose to make an issue of this?” question is always worth examining.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        If it were me, I’d be tempted to push it and then quit because 1) to make a point, and 2) the manager DOES suck and I might have quit because of a sucky manager anyway.

        But I’m an insubordinate little cuss. :)

    1. Jennifer*

      I agree with you on that. It’s a shitty retail job, one way or another it’s easy to quit or be fired from, and a guy like this who’s in power and unreasonable will probably act in just the way you said.

      Though I do think it’d be reasonable on her way out to point out to somebody that this is incredibly unrealistic expectations to have on a bodily function, regardless of how she said it. I suspect this guy would have written her up even if she’d been incredibly delicate in her phrasing because god forbid, she made him uncomfortable.

    2. Mookie*

      Defaulting, this early in her professional to life, to the notion that retaliation is normal and that workplace rights are merely about “principle” or “intellectual satisfaction” isn’t really great advice, though. There are, mostly likely, low stakes here. Unless she and her family desperately need the income–and they very well may–I don’t see the point in encouraging her to feel powerless and broken in this situation, or that because she used a naughty word, she’s now exempt from normal human kindness in this workplace, and at any point in the future, if she asserts a right or pushes back somewhere, she’ll be branded Whiny Gross Kid.

  30. Nolan*

    This does kind of make me wonder if this guy (or even the company as a whole) hands out citations for anyone who has to use the bathroom mid shift. Like, if a male employee suddenly had to use the bathroom an hour after his lunch, would he face similar treatment? Is it just that one manager, or is that the culture? I worked restaurants and retail in my youth, and we never had any kind of restrictions on bathroom breaks like this, at most you might have to get the manager to unlock the back room for you, but otherwise it was fine. But I’ve heard of call centers where you had to raise your hand and get permission to use the bathroom, so I’m wondering if this is just a terrible place like that. Is this normal for a grocery store?

    1. hopskip*

      It was normal for my department in a large department store when one particular manager was working. It was not normal for the store as a whole. It is my understanding that the rigid permission-seeking and no-peeing-unless-you’re-on-break varies from store to store and person to person.

    2. Alienor*

      I was a cashier in a grocery store when I was a teenager, and if you weren’t the only cashier and didn’t have a line, you could just put up your closed sign, tell the supervisor you were running to the bathroom, and go. If it was busy, they would probably ask you if you could wait, but if it was an emergency they would let you go anyway (and ring for you if necessary).

  31. Katniss*

    Am I the only one who finds it ridiculous that “insubordination” is a thing in jobs at all? Makes it sound like something you accuse children of.

    1. Aurion*

      Given the letter yesterday about Ernest, I think insubordination definitely has its place, if only occasionally.

      1. Photoshop Til I Drop*

        If only Lauren had enough gumption, she could have willed her period to wait for her next break.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I think for whatever reason the word sounds kind of silly to a lot of people, but it is a useful way of describing a situation where one person has authority to tell a second person what to do and the second person refuses to do it. It happens in the workplace more than people would think. I used to review unemployment benefit appeals and a common argument was “they shouldn’t have fired me for refusing to follow that rule/instruction because I think the rule/instruction is stupid.” It was not a successful argument.

    3. James*

      It’s also like the “participation” grades you got in school: a necessary catch-all term for things that are important, but don’t fit anywhere else. There are a lot of people who will technically obey every rule, but do everything they can to make your life a living hell short of breaking those rules, and “insubordination” is how you deal with them in our overly-litigious society.

      That said, yeah, it’s easily abused by managers on power-trips. I’ve seen managers attempt to use it to get folks fired. That said, folks like that tend to have a history of abusing their position, and HR knows it. So it usually doesn’t work.

    4. aebhel*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily ridiculous–if I tell a subordinate to do a job task and they flat-out refuse, that would be insubordination unless they had a good reason–but I think it frequently gets used as a catch-all term for ‘did something I didn’t like that isn’t technically against the rules.’ Which is stupid.

    5. ArtK*

      What word would you use for someone who refuses outright to do an assigned task?

      (And no, it doesn’t sound like the situation in the OP was actually that.)

  32. Xarcady*

    At one point, my single, 30-something brother left the military and went to grad school to become a teacher. During one of his student teaching stints, at a middle school, he got very upset because he was basically told that if a girl student wanted to use the bathroom in the middle of class, he should just let her go, without asking for an explanation.

    He saw this as sexist, because the boys weren’t given quite the same leeway.

    We had to have a little talk about the fact that a) women cannot always know exactly when their period will start and b) in young women, there is often a lot of irregularity about when periods come and c) sometimes the protection you are using fails you at unexpected times. And also d) no, you can’t control the flow.

    And the reason he wasn’t supposed to ask was to let the girl go to the bathroom without having to stand there and tell an older man that she had her period in front of the entire class. Did he really want the details? I gave him examples of what those details might be.

    So I can completely see that a young man would have no clue what the issue was. But he needs to learn. And if this young woman addresses the issue with HR, maybe he will.

    1. Imaginary Number*

      I don’t understand why that should only be the rule for girls. There are any number of legitimate medical reasons why someone would need to go to the bathroom in the middle of class, male or female, and nobody should have to explain the specifics of that in earshot of other students. If a teacher thinks that a student is abusing bathroom breaks that’s something that can be addressed on an individual level.

    2. Anonymouish*

      Kind of OT, but when I was in 8th grade, a new principal arrived. He announced on day 1 of school that students would not be allowed to carry bookbags to class. Only the binder/notebook and textbooks that you needed, nothing else. Because why would 11-13 year olds need to carry anything else?

      The rule lasted three days.

      I would LOVE to know which teacher or administrator pulled his head out of his ass for him. I suspect it was my awesome, badass homeroom teacher, but she wouldn’t confirm or deny.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        My daughter’s middle school didn’t allow them to carry bags of any type to class. Not even a small purse. Girls carried feminine hygiene products in their pencil cases.

        1. Kelly L.*

          There was a big spate of this right after Columbine. They were afraid of weapons in bags, so it was either no bags or see-through bags.

          I’d have been screwed if I’d still been in high school at the time. I remember having to haul a millionty pounds of books around because my locker’s location meant I couldn’t visit it between most of my classes without being late.

          1. General Ginger*

            That, and no bulky clothing, tightening the rules on what was considered an “outdoor” jacket — so there went a whole bunch of pockets, too.

            1. Kelly L.*

              And don’t be goth or punk. My brother had to get a whole new wardrobe because he couldn’t wear anything black anymore–because if you eliminate the cosmetic trappings of being disaffected, obviously no one will actually be disaffected anymore! /snark

              1. General Ginger*

                Yep, I was suddenly being told to go and change when the same clothes had been fine a month prior.

        2. Anonymouish*

          And let me guess, there was a rash of pencil-case stealing and 12-year-old boys ‘hilariously’ hiding tampons on the chalk ledge or throwing pads across the room.

          Middle school is a hormonal holding cell.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            No, but what did happen is that someone managed to bring a gun into school anyway, and they still kept that ridiculous rule even though it hadn’t stopped anything.

        3. yeah, why is this a thing?*

          Also happened at my middle school – and at the end of the year, after you cleaned out your locker, you were supposed to just carry everything around somehow. (I took a tote bag and got admonished.)

          … then we got to high school and everyone carried bags everywhere, so I still don’t understand what the point was, other than a middle school administration power trip.

      1. Xarcady*

        Because this school wanted kids to use the restroom between classes. There were rules. Not saying I agree with the rules.

    3. General Ginger*

      A new foreign language teacher at my high school (a looong time ago) learned when a girl asked to go to the bathroom, was denied, and asked him if it was cool if she bled on the floor. I wish I had her confidence! He blushed awfully and was uncomfortable for the rest of the class, but he didn’t prevent anyone from taking the bathroom pass again.

        1. Amy the Rev*

          That was the most surprising part of college- realizing I didn’t have to ask to go to the bathroom, and could just leave the room without disturbing anyone/interrupting the teacher.

    4. Jennifer*

      I’m glad you managed to have a talk with him about this. The teen girls of the world thank you.

  33. Imaginary Number*

    I’m a big advocate of being direct about things like periods, for exactly this reason: men in the workplace should be expected to handle the existence of periods with maturity rather than freaking out at the slightest mention of periods or catching a glimpse of a tampon.

    Although I can totally understand why a 16-year-old would find it difficult to be as straightforward as “I need to go to the bathroom again because of my period, sorry.”

  34. Rusty Shackelford*

    I wonder what this supervisor would have done if someone used a crude euphemism for some other bodily function, such as “I’m going to spew” instead of “I’m sick to my stomach.”

    1. hopskip*

      Yeah, “I feel like I’m about to throw up” may also be “vivid” but it’s pretty innocent, really. That’s how I feel about the crimson wave line.

  35. Juniper*

    I wish periods weren’t inherently awkward. Obviously this is miles away from a cashier job, but I work as a stripper. Stripping can be greatly affected by getting your period.

    Most of the dancers work around it, but occasionally life happens and you just need to go home. At my club, the managers, who happen to all be male at this time, are the only ones who can give dancers permission to leave shifts early. The managers are pretty cool about it for the most part. On the girls’ end, there is variation in how periods are discussed with management.

    I vividly remember the look on one manager’s face after a girl asked to leave early because of her period, and — to demonstrate that she wasn’t making it up — suddenly lifted her dress to display the evidence. She was given permission to go. After she left, the manager sat down in a chair and shook his head in shock.

    In that same week, another girl asked a different manager to leave early, but she was shy and cryptic about it. She said in a quiet voice, “I got an unexpected visit from a friend.” The manager was confused — was her ex-boyfriend in the club or something? — and questioned her further. She eventually said, very embarrassed, “I got my period!” and he immediately backed off and apologized and said she could leave.

    I flat-out refuse to discuss my period with the male managers. I will sit in the dressing room for the remainder of my shift in pain rather than bring that up. Yes, I see the irony: I am 100 percent comfortable having a casual conversation with my managers while wearing nothing but a pair of heels … but the conversation turns to periods, and nope, not happening.

    And that whole thing about women getting on the same cycle is legit. One of the house moms told me that she marks her calendar with a shark sticker for “Shark Week,” and sometimes (without mentioning names) gives managers a heads-up that it’s Shark Week.

    I asked, “Why sharks?” She said, “Because there is blood in the water.”

      1. General Ginger*

        Yeah, I kind of thought there’d be a system, too, given that it would come up pretty often!

      2. Jean*

        They’ve taken the first step by naming the situation. The name is “Shark Week.”

        Side comment: I wonder if the people at Discovery Channel (who used to hang an enormous shark head, 2 fins, and a tail on four sides of their headquarters building) know what they created?

    1. Ellie H*

      I’m kind of surprised to hear this. Maybe I am thinking about this too stereotypically, but I would have imagined that people who work in a field that involves being comfortable with displaying the body would be accustomed to a pretty open attitude toward stuff having to do with the female body.

  36. Anon Accountant*

    Would it be useful to say “I have a health issue that I need to take care of”? Or is that poor wording?

    1. Biff*

      I think it is good wording, but it sidesteps the fact that people should be allowed to go to the bathroom when they need to.

    2. Emi*

      I think the “issue” in “health issue” definitely sounds like “problem,” as opposed to just “thing that has to be dealt with,” so it’s probably not totally accurate. It’s close enough that you could call it a euphemism, but I think (a) it’s kind of a stigmatizing one, and (b) it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the manager to follow up on that (although after she comes back, geez) to make sure it wasn’t a contagious stomach bug or something.

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      I think that just opens the door to more questioning, because it’s both vague and alarmist without really getting the point across. A health issue that arises unexpectedly and demands immediate attention is scary; if it’s not an emergency that requires medical care, then why can’t it just wait? I would not trust this manager to understand that there are health related concerns that must be dealt with urgently, but are not serious from a health/safety standpoint (as an aside, this is also not a manager who I would trust regarding chronic health concerns that are well managed, but still require immediate attention).

  37. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

    On the one hand – yes it’s inappropriate.

    On the other – If you’re going to scrutinize your employees’ bathroom visits, you’d better be prepared for TMI. It was really inappropriate for the manager to scold her for needing to go to the bathroom, FFS.

    On the OTHER hand (because apparently I have many hands) – I would have laughed so hard if I’d heard this.

    1. Anonymouish*

      Well this is it. What response could she have said that he would have agreed to? All the polite versions, up to and including “I have an emergency”, seem like they wouldn’t pass muster with this prize of management.

    2. Anon for period stuff*

      This is it, exactly. If you’re going to bother people about their bathroom trips, you’re going to hear about bathroom trips. What she said was crude, but I’m not really sure what he expected.