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

Remember the letter-writer whose teenage cousin got in trouble after mentioning her period to her manager? Here’s an update.

I know I posted an update in the comments (HR guy turned out to be awesome), but I chatted with my cousin more at Thanksgiving. She was promoted to be a cashier lead to help cover holiday hours, so the incident hasn’t negatively affected her job at all. I was nervous about that happening if she pushed back, so I was happy to hear that. She said the supervisor wouldn’t look her in the eye or really talk to her after the incident, but she didn’t really need him for much anyways and there were other superviors.

The supervisor ended up getting demoted back to cashier and quiting. Lauren was worried that it was directly due to her incident (Lauren is nicer than I am), but HR guy assured her that there were many factors contributing to the demotion and Lauren’s was not the largest one. Her female supervisor divulged a few more details, saying the reasoning was phrased as “poor managerial instincts.” It turns out the supervisor is only 19 and was a cashier at the store before he was promoted to supervisor in the spring. Lauren did not know this because she was hired in the summer. It sounds like he had a hard time transitioning from young coworker to manager of young people, over- and underreacting to various things, generally making bad calls. He was making everyone punch out every time they needed to grab water from the fountain 20 feet away or get wellies from the lockers before going outside to bring in carts during rainstorms, etc. There also was an incident where he wasn’t going to allow a diabetic employee to eat a candy bar when his glucose was low. Essentially, he was generally incompetent/ not ready to manage.

Lauren found your advice and the advice from all the commenters really helpful. She was frustrated with herself too because she doesn’t even normally say “surf the crimson wave.” Apparently she’s been utilizing “menses” as her go-to phrase because she thinks it’s a fun word to say (it really is) and medically accurate, but in her experience people find it akin to moist in cringey-ness. She panicked and pulled a phrase out of the 90s slang lexicon, which honestly I blame myself for. She’ll be prepared to just say period from now on, but hopefully she doesn’t need to. She was absolutely elated to learn that in most adult jobs one gets to schedule their own bathroom trips without permission. Honestly, it made me kind of sad to see how happy such a simple thing could make her.

{ 230 comments… read them below }

  1. Gene*

    No, tell her to stick with menses. It is a fun word. And if someone is being stupid like her former supervisor was, combing it with moist.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Moist never bothered me, because my immediate association is cake, and cake can’t be bad. I do, however, have a profound aversion to ‘panties’ and ‘sanitary’.

      2. Lovemyjob...Truly!!*

        My daughter hates thick, plump and moist. She’s 11 and doesn’t understand why I cringe when she says the words together when she’s telling friends what words she hates. Luckily, she hates the words so I’ve only had to hear her say them together maybe 6 times. :)

  2. LBK*

    She was absolutely elated to learn that in most adult jobs one gets to schedule their own bathroom trips without permission. Honestly, it made me kind of sad to see how happy such a simple thing could make her.

    I think the more important thing to take away from this is showing her the value of speaking up/sticking up for yourself, as well as the importance of maintaining a good reputation so that you’re better positioned in cases where you have to rely on other people taking your word for things. That’s something that many people do not get until much later in their careers, if ever, leading them to wallow in misery in situations they could fix if they would just say something.

    1. Lil Lamb*

      I think this is really important too. The fact that she’s learned to stand up to herself at a relatively young age may make her more likely to do so later in her future career.

    2. Mike C.*

      This is incredibly important and among the most important things I’ve learned and am still learning as an adult.

    3. sstabeler*

      to be honest, it’s worth noting that in a healthy classroom with a competent teacher- and it requires both, so any teachers reading this, it’s not necessarily a slur against you- it’s less that you need permission to go to the loo as much as the teacher needs to know to make sure you’re not going to the toilet so many times as to disrupt your ability to learn. ( if it’s a medical condition, you should probably go to the school nurse, assuming a flareup, or something else arranged so lessons aren’t disrupted.) teachers wielding the ability to go to the toilet as a weapon ( either as a power trip, or some wierd form of disciplinary method) is a problem, but otherwise, the rules aren’t that different from the workplace, it’s just you don’t have to proactively tell your supervisor.

    4. Samantha*

      My first job, which I did all through high school, was in a fast food restaurant complete with all of the accompanying gross duties. After my freshman year in college, I got a summer job as a receptionist in an interior design firm and was astounded to find that my job description did not include cleaning the bathroom! I’m not exaggerating; I was honestly shocked!

  3. De Minimis*

    I worked a quasi-blue collar job for my first full-time job. When I made the transition to office work it took a while to adjust to being able to take a bathroom break without letting someone know.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      When I made the transition from fast-food and blue collar work to office work, I loved that I didn’t have to ask anyone to cover my bathroom breaks for me. It became the minimal bar for whether I wanted a job: can I go to the bathroom whenever I need to without having to explain anything to anybody. I take that for granted now, but it seemed like such a luxury back then.

    2. Kai*

      This isn’t as dire, but coming from a heavily customer-facing job, it feels very weird to me now when my entire team and I can just…all get up and leave for a meeting or whatever at the same time. My instinct is always that someone needs to stay behind to cover the phones!

    3. alter_ego*

      yup, retail to office was an interesting transition. Less bathroom breaks, more “I’m running to dunkin donuts to get a muffin” type things, where, on salary, no one really cares.

    4. PhyllisB*

      Yep. I spent 21 years as a long distance operator and each time we needed a bathroom break aside from our scheduled breaks we had to ask for a “special” (we were never refused, but it still felt strange to have to ask.) My next job was office manager, and the first time I asked permission to go to the restroom, I got laughed out of the room.

    5. Cherie*

      I have several friends and family getting out of teaching, and they are AMAZED that many business people can go to the restroom or get a snack anytime they want, rather than having to wait for coverage.

    6. SKA*

      My first job was a radio DJ (yes, I full appreciate that I was the luckiest 17 year-old on the planet). I didn’t have to schedule bathroom breaks exactly. But let’s just say that certain situations called for queueing up American Pie or Stairway to Heaven.

      1. Fiennes*

        That was my first job too! Luckily it was a small station, and I could easily run to the loo during the average 3:30 song.

      2. Michelle*

        My husband is a former DJ and he has certain songs he used to play if he had to take a long break. Kind of TMI if I’m listening to the radio and in-a-gadda-da-vida came on because they never played it otherwise!

    7. Callie*

      I used to be a public school teacher and I could never leave my class to go to the bathroom. i could only go when I did not have students. When I became a college professor it took a while for me to get used to being able to go to the bathroom and take lunch whenever I felt like it.

  4. Stacey*

    I prefer “sick of my flowers.”
    It’s in Leviticus and I think it’s just fun to say.
    I may start saying menses too. We need to stop the shaming of women for being fully functioning females. ;)

    1. Holly Roller*

      I’ve never heard of that phrase but I can’t wait to try it out on my team of all male coworkers.

      Me: “I’m sick of my flowers!”

      Coworkers: “It’s…it’s winter?”

    2. Mononymous*

      In Game of Thrones, they use “her red flower is blooming” to indicate a period. I like that phrasing, but “sick of my flowers” seems less illustrative to a potentially squeamish audience (and makes me giggle for some reason!).

    3. AthenaC*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily about shaming women, but I agree that many things in life would be easier if people were generally less squickish about various unavoidable things, like menstruation, breastfeeding, etc.

        1. AthenaC*

          True. But poop smells bad, so I kinda get the general aversion to poop. Puking also smells bad, so I get how that’s gross. Menstruation is more neutral-smelling, and breast milk actually smells a bit sweet. And blood in general doesn’t really have much of a smell.

          Maybe I’m just more smell-driven than most people.

          1. Camille Chaustre McNally*

            I could actually find the blood bank at the hospital I used to work at by smell. Blood def. has a particular smell.

      1. Lovemyjob...Truly!!*

        Agreed! I recently had the period talk with my daughter and she was, of course, mortified. I told her this: every woman on the planet, at some time in her life barring medical issues, has had her period. Every woman who has had it has experienced every awkward, embarrassing, gross situation that could come up. We’ve all been there. We know the struggle. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and you should never be ashamed to talk about it appropriately. It’s not going anywhere because no matter how much we all wish it otherwise, men are never going to know how we feel, but then we’ve never had a spontaneous erection while in the middle of class so I guess it all works out.

        1. Parenthetically*

          It’s also one of the most important signs of good health in women! (So are spontaneous erections, apparently, so that’s not to say that some signs of good health can’t be inconvenient and embarrassing.)

          1. Kristin (Germany)*

            I dunno, if I as a woman started having spontaneous erections, I might just want to talk to my doctor about that.

        2. Anion*

          Last year I was forced to have The Talk about how babies are made with my barely-eleven-at-the-time youngest (wherein I explained the exact mechanics of intercourse), because her school was about to teach it in graphic detail, complete with dick pics (I wish I was making that up).

          My poor baby burst into tears.

          I am SO glad she heard it from me first.

          1. aebhel*

            Heh, I think my parents had the Talk with me when I was about 3, when my mom was pregnant with my younger brother. Honestly, I don’t remember the conversation, just the information, and I’m very grateful for that. Less awkward for everyone. I’ll be doing it that way with my kid.

    4. Turtle Candle*

      OMG, despite a fairly extensive Bible education I did not know “sick of her flowers.” (Probably because I didn’t learn with the KJV.) That is amazing and I’m going to use that now.

      1. Anon for this in case it's TIM*

        LOL! Almost enough to make me wistful about being on the far side of menopause!

    1. Lucy Westenra*

      Great word. Problem is I’ve never heard it spoken so I don’t know if it’s a voiced /s/ or not …

        1. motherofdragons*

          I would have such a hard time not saying this in a Maude Lebowski voice. I already struggle to say the word “vagina” normally after having seen that movie!

          1. General Ginger*

            The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina. They don’t like hearing it, and find it difficult to say (and I better stop here, haha)

            1. dawbs*

              I would hope that having it be a more normal part of the lexicon would make people in general less averse.

              (And, honestly, I had people who were HORRIFIED my small child knew anatomically correct names. Granted, I almost turned purple trying to laugh when she managed to put penis into a sentence 6 times to her incredibly proper grandfather, but hell if I”m going to make it change teaching her correct body part names.)

              Some taboos need breaking, and vocabulary is part of normalizing.

              1. Jojo*

                Yes. When mine was three he knew boys had penises. And girls had vaginas. And they had to be covered up before you opened the front door, even on Saturday morning. We lived in an apartment.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          This brings such joy into my life. I’m imagining a female Sam Spade, and Aunt Flo has a sidekick, name of Kramps, played a Peter Lorre type.

        2. PollyQ*

          I actually HAVE an Aunt Flo, so that’s no good for me. I just say “having my period”, which is duller than many of the alternatives, but at least every know what I’m talking about.

        3. Jean*

          Wonderful! Smiling quietly but widely. If you don’t mind, I’m going to steal your “going noir” idea for a completely different setting that has nothing to do with Aunt Flo or Kramps. If you want I can share it when finished. Since I don’t have much spare time, that will be time measured in months.

        4. Camille Chaustre McNally*

          Yeah, when people say the thing about aunt flo I end up staring at them and thinking “do they have a relative named florence? Do I know this lady? Are you saying you can’t come out for drinks because you are carting around an elderly aunt?”

      1. Anxa*

        I can’t get on board with cycle because I’m ALWAYS ‘on my cycle,’ just at different points of it.

        But it’s interesting to hear your doctor use it place of period or menstrual phase. Maybe it’s a new trend and I’ll come around to it. Because phonetically I think ‘cycle’ is a really unobtrusive word.

        1. pandop*

          Mostly amongst my friends/etc we just started, as in ‘started early this month’ or ‘time of the month’

    2. SpaceySteph*

      I went to the gynecologist once and she had a med student working with her so he did all the workup questions and he asked me “age at menarche.” I’d never been asked it that way before and told him he should probably ask it some other way because almost nobody would know what that means.

      1. Mirax*

        How is menarche supposed to be pronounced? I always read it as men-archy (rhymes with anarchy) and then I wind up thinking about Fight Club.

            1. Emi.*

              Wait, it depends on the stress. Malarky is malARky, right? So menarche only rhymes if it’s menARche, but if it rhymes with anarchy it’s gotta be MENarche. How did the med student stress it?

              1. autumnwood*

                You’ve got it – MENarche vs maLARky. Unless you put the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble (meNARche), then you could make it rhyme-ish-like.

    3. Not Rebee*

      “Moon sickness” for me… but only with friends. It would make a lot more personal sense if mine actually followed the lunar calendar even a little bit… but for general, unspecific use, it definitely works. Plus, it sounds vaguely mystical and at the same time vaguely miserable, which I feel defines that particular week perfectly.

  5. MoinMoin*

    I, on the other hand, find it kind of adorable that having bathroom autonomy in the workplace makes Lauren excited, especially with this excellent lesson in assertiveness so it’s not very concerning that she may trampled from not having enough professional boundaries. Menses makes me cringe, but I still vote yes for the accurate medical term (and consider it a small bonus that it makes other people cringe).
    I feel like Lauren and Alison’s nieces would get along pretty well.

      1. memyselfandi*

        But isn’t it great to recognize at an early age the importance of autonomy and use that to guide your life choices.

        1. OP*

          It is an important thing to recognize and she learned a ton of valuable lessons through this whole experience! As a person with complete bathroom autonomy now and probably takes it for granted, it was a bit upsetting to be reminded that she has to explain her bodily functions to teachers and bosses. She’s been intentionally dehydrating herself during school hours so she doesn’t have to go during class and there isn’t enough time to go in between classes (3 minutes)

          1. Marillenbaum*

            That’s a thing I definitely don’t miss about high school (apart from, well, all of it): the short class breaks were impossible. My high school also wouldn’t let you leave for either the first or last 10 minutes of class because Reasons. Luckily, one of the advantages of being a shameless teacher’s pet was that you could always get a hall pass.

            1. Artemesia*

              I was a HS teacher 50 years ago and the breaks were 4 minutes. As a new teacher I had to run from one end of the building to the other (one of those suburban sprawl one story building complexes) with all my stuff and be there to great the incoming class. There was literally no time at all until lunch to use the restroom. It was always awful, but particularly awful on my period although I used super strength tampons backed up with giant pads (let me tell you — menstrual supplies have improved fabulously since those days — we had to hold the things on with an elastic garter belt sort of thing and the pads were ginormous and would sort of roll or fold and leak on the sides (no wings then) — it was terrible)

              1. Lovemyjob...Truly!!*

                Interesting. I remember high school and having my period and hating it because the bathroom where the smokers didn’t hang out was across campus. I never thought about the teachers and what they went through. Poor ladies!!!

                1. Artemesia*

                  This was also before cell phones. Try to make an appointment with your gynecologist or discuss symptoms or test results when the only phone is at the secretaries desk or a very public one in the teacher’s room.

          2. KR*

            I used to do this because the school bathrooms were so gross I didn’t want to have to use them more than once a day.

          3. SpaceySteph*

            I vividly remember a HS teacher who wouldn’t ever give out bathroom passes in his class and actually told us that in the real world we wouldn’t be able to take bathroom breaks whenever we wanted and we needed to learn early. The complete opposite of how my professional life (and even college) actually is.
            Lord help any teacher who tells my kid that, because they will get the talking-to that I really wish my parents had given to my HS teacher.

            1. Lovemyjob...Truly!!*

              Well, in his defense, for teachers it really is like that! I have friends and family who are teachers and they literally have to time bathroom breaks around lunches and recesses. My sister said the only time she was able to use the bathroom regularly at school was when she was pregnant and they had scheduled a student teacher in her class (not because of her pregnancy, it was actually just a happy coincidence). So yes, he was a jerk but he was giving you advice as he saw it from his workplace.

            2. Mike C.*

              That’s right up there with being told, “you have to write everything in cursive otherwise no one will accept your work/take you seriously/it won’t count”.

              1. Bonnie Fide*

                My younger brothers (24, 27) can’t even READ cursive.

                Found this out after finding half a dozen of my postcards from my year abroad stuffed in a drawer. I’d asked if they’d taken them to class as per the plan, only to learn my brothers never even figured out what they said.

                At 14 and 11 years old I couldn’t blame them for not asking Mom much less one of their teachers.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  My school teaches cursive instead of print for this reason! Evidently kids who can read and write in cursive can also read print and will eventually make their own print-cursive hybrid as they get older, but the reverse isn’t true. And, apparently it’s better for kids with dyslexia and dysgraphia because there aren’t any letters that are the reverse of each other in cursive.

            3. Turtle Candle*

              It’s amazing how many things that we get told “get used to it, this is how the Real World” works, aren’t. I remember a time in middle school when someone vandalized my locker by pouring some kind of liquid into it through the ventilation slats, staining my jacket and ruining the poster that I’d hung inside (and that I’d saved up for for some time–it was a small unframed print of a Waterhouse painting and had cost me several weeks’ allowance). And it was only luck that there weren’t textbooks or library books–which I’d be on the hook to pay to replace if they were damaged–in the splash zone. It was quite clear who the perpetrators were, because they bragged about it.

              But the counselor said, “You have to deal with this yourself. You have to learn how to deal with people and how to interact with your peers. Nobody will be around for you to tattle to when you’re a grownup!” And since they were the popular bullies and I was the bullied, of course I couldn’t just go to them and tell them ‘please stop.’ They knew it upset me already–that’s why they were doing it! (My parents, bless them, did not hold me responsible in the slightest, and even replaced the print for me, but there wasn’t much they could do.)

              It was only when I was several years out of college that I realized that… in fact, yes, if a coworker poured something into my desk and wrecked my belongings, I absolutely could go to my boss and tell them and expect something to be done! And if it happened outside the office, that someone vandalized my possessions, I could go to the police! This idea that grownups have to deal with everything on their own and can never get assistance is a ridiculous falsehood, and in retrospect, I’m pretty sure a falsehood fostered by sheer laziness (if they could just tell me ‘deal with it yourself’ there was no need for them to intervene in any way).

              We as a society teach teenagers a lot of bizarre things about how adult life is that are in fact completely backwards, and I wonder why that is.

              1. Marisol*

                Reminds me of the song “No Such Thing” by John Mayer:

                I wanna run through the halls of my high school
                I wanna scream at the
                Top of my lungs
                I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
                Just a lie you’ve got to rise above

          4. Alienor*

            My daughter won’t use the school bathrooms either unless it’s an emergency – not only does she rarely have time, they’re usually dirty and/or there’s no soap or paper towels. She hasn’t eaten lunch at school in years either (she’s a senior in HS) because the lunch period is short and the lines are too long, so it seems like there’s something fundamentally wrong with schools on a lot of levels.

            1. dawbs*

              Ugh, the whole thing is kinda awful.

              My kid is a first grader (with mild sensory issues) and she has used the school bathroom ONCE since September because they’re loud and dirty and crowded.
              (And she apparently gets kicked out of the lunch room daily, as the last kid there)

              I really relish my actual TIME that’s mine.

            2. tink*

              I was the same way. The only place I’d use the restroom was the gym, and that’s because it was actually kept clean and had toilet paper and usually soap (HS is where I got into the habit of always having hand sanitizer on hand just in case), AND because the other women’s restroom didn’t have doors on the stalls, despite them being across from each other. So anyone using the main restroom went in groups of two so one person could be the door while the other one used the toilet.

              I also took my lunch senior year because we had 25 minutes for lunch and it took at least 15 to get through the line on a good day. Easier and healthier to pack a sandwich or drink some lukewarm soup from home.

          5. TootsNYC*

            yeah, my nieces were pretty fierce in the conversation in which they explained to all us grownups that we do NOT understand the difficulties of going to the bathroom, etc. They couldn’t carry backpacks or purses, so they couldn’t carry supplies. They have so very few minutes between classes, etc.

            So when my daughter got to that age, I tried to problem-solve in advance (like, always go pee and change things at lunch, etc.), and also to –listen– to the logistical difficulties she has.

      2. MoinMoin*

        Ah, makes sense. Yeah, a little sad that such a small thing could be considered a luxury beyond grasp in some jobs. All the better she’s getting a good understanding of what is and isn’t professionally reasonable in different environments now. You’re a good cousin to help her out.

        1. Jean*

          That’s okay, I misread “I order the pens…” as “I order the pen1s…”
          Speed-reading is not always a good idea.

  6. Lemon*

    I had never read the original update in the comments, so I was glad to see that. I’m really impressed with the HR guy for being awesome and providing a nice example of how mature adult males should talk about menses (yes, such a fun word). It’s a fact of life, here are the pads and tampons, end of story.

    1. Jubilance*

      Ditto! I’m so glad that this was handled correctly and that management realized they made a bad call promoting that cashier to manager. Sounds like a great resolution all around.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Well, when the manager refuses to allow a diabetic do what’s necessary to regulate his blood sugar, that is the kind of thing to motivate even moderately bad HR departments.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yep, the bad judgment that went into that makes it seem like he was more interested in a power trip than managing employees properly. That’s a major liability for the store.

      2. Adlib*

        Once I read that he’s 19, this story made more sense in the sense that well, sometimes people aren’t grown up at 19. Still, what did he do that made them promote him in the first place? Weird.

        Hooray for the great resolution though. Always like the happy ones!

        1. OP*

          As I understand it, the bulk of the supervisor position is just being very good at utilizing the register and helping cashiers with more complex transactions. Apparently he was a very good cashier and quite nice before he was promoted.

          1. Zoethor2*

            Speaking from experience as a cashier-promoted-to-supervisor type in a grocery store back in the day, yeah, a moderate level of intelligence, cashier skills, and being able to handle things like WIC were the main criteria for getting moved to “assistant head cashier” at my store. Personality and management skills were not a factor, and some real odd ducks wound up as checkout supervisors at my store… as well as some people who really let the (relative) power go to their head!

          2. boutique*

            Oh yeah. when I was a cashier in high school I was offered a promotion to the next level (book keeper/assistant manager) because I could count back change. This was quite the impressive feat. They started training me and then realized that I was leaving for college in less than a month so maybe training and promoting me wasn’t the best plan. :/

            (PS Training was ONLY in the book keeping range; I was never offered any training or advice on MANAGING.

          3. CCi*

            Ah, the Peter Principle at work. I suspect the guy was being an ass partly because he felt he was in over his head.

        2. Marisol*

          Yeah, I actually have a lot of compassion for the kid knowing that he’s so young. He’s really a child; an adult only in the legal sense. He’s at the right age to make mistakes; hopefully he’ll learn from them.

          1. Observer*

            I don’t really buy it. I can see a 19yo not being a good manager, but 19 years old is old enough not to lie (which he did about Lauren); not try to kill someone – and know that preventing a diabetic from taking something to eat is DANGEROUS; and not to make people’s lives miserable “just because”.

    2. MC*

      Seriously – nothing says litigation like having an ambulance visit your worksite. Glad HR recognizes that sometimes you can’t keep giving someone chances.

      1. Jean*

        “nothing says litigation like having an ambulance visit your worksite”
        I nominate this for the end-of-year collection of Best Messages for a T-Shirt.
        (Alison, I may write to you separately to formally request adding a Top Ten List of Best T-Shirt Messages, with all messages extracted verbatim from the current year’s postings.)

    3. Turtle Candle*

      Yes, that really impressed me! Even the guys I know who are fine with the topic in general aren’t that comfortable being frank (in a kind way) about it.

    4. Emi.*

      Yeah, I remembered that HR had been great, but I’d forgotten it was a man. That was great to hear. :)

    5. Chinook*

      I also love that he pointed out that she can use her employee discount to buy her own supplies. I hope she appreciates it because those things don’t go on sale that often and the coupons are hard to find unless a company is coming out with a new innovation.

  7. introvert*

    I’m not what you’d consider prudish or conservative in speech, but I’ve never had to talk about my period at work (I’ve been working for nearly 22 years – menstruating for about 26). It’s literally never needed to be a topic of conversation at school or at work so I’ve never thought about what to call it. Am I alone here? Why would anyone EVER need to know you were on your period? If I was in a role where I had to ask permission to use the bathroom (student, retail worker, etc.), and someone gave me a hard time about it, I’d just say really firmly, “I told you I really need to use the bathroom right now, do you really need the details about which bodily function it’s for?”

    1. Vin Packer*

      This has been covered extensively in the comments on the original post.

      Good for your cousin, OP! And she’s lucky she has you to help her navigate this stuff.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        It was covered in the question itself! She needed to use the bathroom unexpectedly, boss was unhappy because she had just had a break (and therefore believed should have taken care of her bathroom needs during her break), she had to make her case for why she needed to be allowed to use the bathroom again.

    2. ZVA*

      Did you read the original post? To me, the OP’s cousin mentioning her period to her manager was perfectly understandable. She’s young, relatively new to the working world, and she was put on the spot by an immature jerk who unfortunately had power over her. It’s great that you would feel comfortable pushing back if someone gave you a hard time about your bathroom use at work or whatever else, but plenty of people wouldn’t. I don’t think I would have in my teens.

    3. Natalie*

      I think it’s your prerogative to decide you’re just going to say “you don’t need the details”, but it’s also shouldn’t be a big deal to mention your period. It’s not any different than saying “I think I’m going to throw up” or some other time sensitive issue.During my period I once got very lightheaded at work and needed to lie down, and I told my coworkers the cause partially because it’s not a big deal and partially because I didn’t want them to think I needed an ambulance or something.

      1. Arielle*

        Yeah, I went home a couple of hours early recently because I had really bad cramps, and I just gave my team a general “I’m not feeling well.” One of my male coworkers asked me if I had a headache, and I got flustered and made it super weird. I wish I had just said, “Nope, cramps!” and left it at that. It would have been less awkward.

      2. MC*

        Once I left work after vomiting and sent an email to my team letting them know that “my lunch and I had parted on less than amicable terms”

    4. JB (not in Houston)*

      I didn’t take introvert to be criticizing the OP’s cousin, just saying that it’s ridiculous that the cousin was required by her manager to come up with an explanation in the first place.

      But yeah, if it’s about what to call period or whether it was right to identify the reason for the trip, that was covered pretty thoroughly already.

    5. Barney Barnaby*

      I had that issue in a performance review, when I was chastised for using the bathroom approximately 20 minutes after I arrived at work the day prior to said performance review. My boss was *not happy* that I took my purse into the ladies’ room. I remained silent as to the reason for the purse and the unplanned bathroom break – unusual for me – and then got on record with HR immediately afterward. I had been in the workforce in some capacity or another for almost twenty years and it was my first-ever HR call.

      That was the first of a half-dozen formal discussions with HR surrounding how this particular person treated me. Several other (mostly female) employees also dragged him in front of HR or complained to his manager about him.

      Which gets me to my next point: normal people understand when an employee uses the bathroom on a “not planned” basis. It might be a period, queasiness, lipstick on the teeth, morning sickness, medication side effects, whatever. When a manager starts railing on an employee about reasonable bathroom use, it is almost always symptomatic of much, much larger issues.

      It is so not surprising that Lauren’s manager had other issues. That becomes the problem with a snappy response to this nonsense: you’re not dealing with a rational person.

      1. MC*

        I also think there are plenty of men that have absolutely no idea how periods work. I’ve heard stories that guys think that it takes 10 minutes to simply “let everything out” or that you can hold it in. Very sad tbh.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Good Christ. That’s shameful. This is one of those times in life where I wish we had a Freaky Friday set up, and let them experience it so they don’t forget (or remain unaware).

        2. Maxwell Edison*

          It’s quite astounding. My spouse, a MENSA-smart engineer who has put things into space, actually believed that periods were every 28 days, like clockwork. And this was after years of being married to me (whose cycle was not exactly regular). He also wanted clarification on whether I’d be able to have sex after I had a hysterectomy (maybe he thought they were removing the vagina along with the uterus?).

          1. Angela*

            I remember in high school biology when the boys in the class were disabused of the notion that every girl not only menstruates for exactly 28 days, but that we are all on the SAME 28 day cycle…like every January 28th, February 28th, March 28th, etc…

        3. Barney Barnaby*

          That wasn’t the issue. I initially thought it could have been, but later – after several months of a series of humiliating incidents and learning that my predecessor left after working under him for three months because of the way he treated her – figured out that he knew damn well what was going on, but wanted me to either admit fault in a performance review or squirm and talk about my period.

          He was sent to manager retraining.

          Don’t let men plead ignorance. If you’re older than 16 and ignorant, it’s by choice, and you should then at least never open your mouth about the subject.

        4. Barney Barnaby*

          “Edited” to add:

          Taking a step back, the bathroom thing is about control and micromanaging. While there could maybe possibly hypothetically be someone out there who just doesn’t “get it,” the vast majority of people who behave this way know exactly what they are doing.

          It is part of a pattern of behaviour, period (no pun intended).

        5. Hermione*

          There’s a tumblr post that I’ve seen around that describes how an intern or otherwise young female worker had to explain to a married middle-aged congressman how menses worked and why women have those $0.25 stalls in the bathrooms. He though they were the equivalent of bedroom toys and that women were unhygenic and lazy because they could turn it off when they wanted and just used it as an excuse to waste time in the bathroom. Someone who literally votes on/creates bills on women’s reproductive rights, and he had to be schooled by an intern.

          If I find the post I’ll link it in reply.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Oh gosh, this reminds me of a friend of mine whose boss forbade people to bring any type of bag or purse into the bathroom. Ostensibly this was because he thought people were ‘wasting time’ in there grooming or playing games on their phones (although obviously the men in the office, who could put their phone in their pocket, were not being protected from the temptation of Angry Birds!), but in reality it was pretty clearly just a power-tripping jerk move. So if you actually needed something in the restroom (not just a pad/tampon but medication, say) you had to bring it with you in your bare hand, since most women’s professional clothing has those tiny useless pockets.

        HR made him stop after an employee who needed to inject insulin complained about having to carry their needles and other gear around with her in her hands instead of in their little bag, but he was Not Happy about being told to knock it off. (He actually told them that he wanted an exception for the diabetic coworker and not anyone else, but I don’t think they let that fly.)

        1. Rebooting*

          I’m a little appalled if they were making the employee inject in the bathroom rather than that being where she’s comfortable doing it (I won’t use bathrooms to do my insulin because I’ve got no idea how clean they really are, but I recognise that I’ve got a touch of germaphobia), but good for her for complaining.

          1. Anon Type 1*

            I have no issues shooting up in the bathroom. It’s usually the most private space available when I need it and it’s not like I’m balancing my insulin vials/syringe on the toilet seat or something.

        2. Jojo*

          I always put my tampons in my bra on my way to the bathroom, so I don’t have to carry my bag and so that no one can see it in my hand. I don’t know why I’m embarrassed about that, but there you go.

          1. Hermione*

            I do this too sometimes, though mostly I just tuck them up my sleeve and cross my arms/look cold with sweater paws. One good thing about winter is the ability to tuck them into boots!

            1. Fake coffee snob*

              I’m on team OB tampons forever…easy to hide in a closed fist or the tiniest of pockets! I regularly find them hidden in every purse, jacket, etc I have.

              I don’t know why people are weirded out by seeing clean tampons, but then again I’m someone who is perfectly happy to carry around a roll of TP in lieu of tissues so I try to calibrate a few notches more discreet than my personal preference.

    6. Cranky Pants*

      I’ve had to – I had a new boss who I’m sure noticed my tendency to need to work from home every 4 weeks or so. Rather than have him think I was just going on a monthly bender, I told him ( a man in his 60s, btw) something along the lines of, “Fergus, you’ve been married forever and raised two daughters so I am going to be honest with you. I have endometriosis which makes my menstrual cycle difficult. If I am needed in the office I will come in but if not I am much more comfortable working from home for 1-2 days every 4-6 weeks. Thanks for understanding!”

      He was fine with it and not uncomfortable in the least with the convo. He was probably less understanding of me having to take time off to deal with sick pets than he ever was with me mentioning I needed time off for my period.

    7. Temperance*

      When I was in high school, and not allowed to use birth control, I had heavy, unpredictable periods with cramps so severe I occasionally fainted. (I have endometriosis.)

      I couldn’t avoid telling people about my period, especially at school where I occasionally had sudden, humiliating accidents and our teachers had to check our passes. I would sneak out of class and have to explain why I didn’t have a pass … because I was NOT about to ask a teacher who would give me the third degree and have everyone stare at my blood-stained pants.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That was the worst! I too had some difficulties before I went on BC; I would regularly miss classes in college because of cramps, and in high school I was regularly showing up late. Realizing that periods don’t have to feel like the Bataan Death March was a revelation.

        1. KR*

          My dad would never let me stay home from school for bad cramps because he argued that I wouldn’t be able to stay home once a month in the real world.and It’s not that bad – you just have to learn to deal with it. The first day of my period used to give me flu-like symptoms (including a fever), an upset stomach, and cramps that only responded to a heating pad and sleep. Meanwhile, he was nursing an opioid dependency and severe depression so every time he so much as got a cold he would stay home from work. Well, it turns out I was on the wrong kind of birth control for my body and once I got an IUD everything got much more manageable. And I enjoy being able to call out whenever my period or anything else makes me feel too unwell to go into work.

          1. Temperance*

            My mom did the same thing! She wouldn’t let me see the doctor, either, because she was afraid he would put me on BC, which was against her religious beliefs (not mine). So I would regularly get sent home from school, because I had an accident and was sick from the cramps.

            1. Observer*

              Unfortunately, most doctors would not have put you on BC anyway. For one thing “it’s not that bad” is the attitude of a HUGE proportion of doctors – even Gyns who should know better! Secondly, even when it is recognized as a problem, many doctors see the downside of hormonal BC as too dangerous, especially for young people.

              My cousin’s doctor told her mother not to even let her take aspirin, because it’s SOOO bad for you. (She had pretty bad cramps.) So, my mother was afraid to let me take anything. Finally during one fairly bad episode my father said “The doctor is an idiot! I’m not letting my daughter suffer like this. Look at her!” My mother didn’t argue (very unusual for her – she was, in those years, a big believer in “The doctor must be right.”)

              *My* pediatrician at the time didn’t “believe” in bad period cramps at all, which is why we were going by my cousin’s doctor.

      2. Artemesia*

        I remember being in 3rd hour class the first couple days of my period when I would have cramps that were killer and before I used tampons, soaked pads and being just gross and miserable but absolutely unwilling to ask for a pass to use the bathroom. I think lots of adolescent girls — and truer decades ago than now– just find that humiliating.

    8. Anxa*

      But it does matter. There’s an expectation that most people can hold their bladder or bowels. While some believe you can hold your vagina, fortunately it’s not everyone. Of course not everyone can hold their bladder or bowels, nor should you have to (a coworker ended up with an infection that way), but the expectations are different.

    9. Marisol*

      I think I understand where you’re coming from–if this happened to me, I’d say “I had an emergency” and leave it at that.

  8. Katie F*

    That first day at the first job she works where she can just… get up and go to the bathroom whenever she wants without telling anyone… there’s a special elation to that moment.

    I’m glad to hear things worked out! It sounds like the ex-supervisor really needed some serious managerial training. I’m wondering if he was promoted and just sort of left to figure things out by screwing up instead of being well-trained. There’s really enough difference in the responsibilities that there needs to be special training even just for supervisors.

  9. VintageLydia*

    Apparently she’s been utilizing “menses” as her go-to phrase because she thinks it’s a fun word to say (it really is) and medically accurate, but in her experience people find it akin to moist in cringey-ness. She panicked and pulled a phrase out of the 90s slang lexicon, which honestly I blame myself for.

    This cracked me the hell up. Your cousin is awesome.

    1. OP*

      She is incredible! That she may one day be in a position of power in the world is one of the few things getting me through 2016 :)

  10. Observer*

    Great update!

    I love the “poor managerial instincts”. It sounds highly accurate, too. Not letting a diabetic worker take snack?! I wonder how that one played out. And, I’d be willing to bet that that alone could have been a reason to fire him. Just WOW!

  11. Murphy*

    I missed the original update in the comments, which was fantastic. I’m glad everyone else was reasonable about the situation and that the problem really was just this one guy.

  12. anon for once*

    I had to go home halfway through the day yesterday because I was in too much pain from my period and could tell if I didn’t lie down, I’d end up throwing up in the middle of the office.
    One colleague asked me this morning if I was better, and while I would normally try an evasive answer, she looked really concerned, so I just answered “you know those days when your vagina decides to kill you?” She laughed and nodded. I’m good friends with her though, and would never be this explicit under other circumstances.
    All this to say, I’ve said much worse things at work than “riding the crimson wave” though I do love that euphemism.

    1. Cranky Pants*

      I usually go with something about the demons staging their regularly scheduled battle in my uterus.

        1. BookishMiss*

          I have a two-headed dragon. Simultaneously chews on my lower back and front trying to escape the prison that is my uterus.
          Thankfully, Implanon seems to have sedated it.

          1. SebbyGrrl*

            “My uterus is trying to claw it’s way out of my body.” has been my go to, for a few years.

            My experience of female health has been the reverse of most I know.

            I had no PMS until I was 22-23? Then my boyfriend came home from work one day and I was bawling in front of the TV at that At &T commercial about the girl whose mom died young so her dad did all the mom stuff and every year shoe shopping was their thing.

            “What’s wrong? Did someone die?” He asked frantically.
            “No, just that commercial made me cry.” He was properly alarmed and out of his depth.

            Someone at work then next day said, yeah so that’s PMS and it was literally like a thousand books and movies and references to periods made complete sense.

            I thought all those girls in high school were just trying to get out of P.E.

            The price for this is almost every one of the worst symptoms now, every month.

            1. Anxa*

              I never thought people were trying to get out of things, but I didn’t understand the big deal until I’d been menstruating at least 10 years. My first bought of major PMS/dysmenorrhea was a doozy and left me to nearly blacked out in the bathroom wondering if I was going to die. I had drank lightly that day, which I think made it way worse. I’ve had cramps ever since but I’m usually good at making it through them at work.

              1. BookishMiss*

                Pre-Implanon, I’d always know the day before because I’d turn into a weepy mess of unprovoked puddlefication. Day 1 was always all the worst symptoms combined. Now, well, I haven’t had to deal with any of it for 2 1/2 years, and I couldn’t be happier.

  13. Amanda*

    I’m glad op’s cousin stood up for herself and didn’t face any reprisals for doing so. I also kinda feel bad for the manager. He obviously wasn’t trained properly, was too young and should have received a LOT more guidance on how to do his job. People aren’t born knowing how to manage people, it’s something they have to learn. Sounds like he was thrown into it with no training, then thrown out when he couldn’t do it. That’s harsh. If you promote someone into a position they have no experience in, it’s your job to train them to appropriately do their new job.

    1. OP*

      I totally have a certain amount of sympathy for the supervisor because it is a really tough position to be in and a lot of training is necessary, especially for a 19 yo. But from Lauren, it did sound like management was offering good training and giving this kid a chance, but supervisor was going against it/being aggressively bad. There were a few examples of his misdeeds that were worse than the blood sugar incident, but I thought they were so specific they may be identifying. Trust me when I say this supervisor was aggressively terrible.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes. I don’t care how new or poorly prepared you are, the blood sugar incident or expecting people to go outside in horrible weather TO DO THEIR JOB without their boots or lose the time it takes to get properly dressed for the weather is just being aggressively uncaring and despotic.

        1. Serin*

          Yeah, I wondered whether it was that the phenomenal power went to his head, or whether his experience with the workplace has been so dominated by petty despots that he was afraid someone above him was going to call him on the carpet and demand to explain why he was allowing so many people to eat, drink, eliminate, and otherwise act entirely unlike robots?

          1. Zombii*

            Based on my teenage work experience, I am fairly sure it was the latter. If not at this job, maybe at a previous job. Correct expectations should have been set the first time one of these things happened rather than giving him general “management training.”

            1. OP*

              From Lauren, it seems like upper management was fairly proactive with this guy, both providing a substantial amount of general management training (which Lauren has now also received) and addressing incidents as they came up, once upper management knew they occurred. In my opinion, store management was fairly gracious in how they handled the supervisor. Based on the number and severity of incidents, I think upper management really was trying to help the supervisor succeed, but his poor judgment was persistent and too big a risk. I do agree that a lot of stores provide terrible management training and do not set clear expectations, which leads new/young managers to flounder, but that does not appear to be the case here.

          2. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Considering how nice HR was and that he apparently was offered management training, I’d say at the very least that he had his head stuck in the sand after bad experiences with bad former managers.

      2. MC*

        At 19 you have a general sense of what kind of boss you like and what kind of boss you hate. It’s never good to be the kind of boss you’d hate to work for. I imagine he thought he had to be a hard ass to get respect or assert his role, but he sounds like a tool.

        1. Temperance*

          I actually think it sounds like he’s a low-achiever who got a little bit of power and became drunk with it.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          I mean, at 19 I had had exactly 1 boss, who I thought was nice enough because he didn’t get mad at me for coming in late (every single day). In retrospect, he was a very terrible boss. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a 19 year old to not know how to be a manager. Especially if he had limited experience before hand- how would he know how to deal with an employee on her period? If he were a nicer and more compassionate person, that would have gotten him pretty far in this situation, but I can’t completely fault him for not knowing what to do – especially if he’s afraid that he wouldn’t be doing his own job properly if he let things slide.

          1. OP*

            I totally understand where you’re coming from. I included the age revelation because I think it is relevant and it grants the supervisor a bit of slack in the period scenario. But the period scenario combined with the diabetes incident and others demonstrated, to me at least, he lacked proper “let’s get all of these employees through the day alive and not covered in blood” instinct that is vital to managers. And they didn’t fire him– they put him back at his old job and he decided on his own to quit. He had proven himself to be a liability, esp with young employees who might just blindly obey and keel over.

            1. Mustache Cat*

              proper “let’s get all of these employees through the day alive and not covered in blood” instinct that is vital to managers

              This is an amazing way to phrase it. Oh, how I miss some of my managers had that instinct!

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            Not letting a girl on her period go to the bathroom is one thing, but writing her up for it?

            And then the diabetic incident is likely what really got him demoted. That is opening up the store for a sizable lawsuit.

            1. OP*

              The diabetic incident actually happened before the period scenario with my cousin. There was another debacle after both of those that pushed him over the edge. All things considered, this supervisor was given quite a bit of leeway to make some pretty big mistakes and he wasn’t even fired, just put back in his old position. I think the store managers were trying to give him time to work past the learning curve, but realized it was a big risk having someone with that poor of judgment in charge of minors. It could have negative results with adults too, but generally adults can tell when something is particularly egregious. Kids at their first job are more likely to blindly accept authority figures’ commands, even if they are wrong and/or dangerous.

    2. Lemon*

      That’s a take I hadn’t thought of. I don’t tend to have sympathy for this manager, but you’re right that it doesn’t sound like he was given much initial training. And then, when he was clearly screwing up, he seemingly got demoted instead of coaching on how to deal with clock in/out policies. Of course, we don’t know the whole story, so he very well may have received that training and just been bad at his job.

        1. Marisol*

          Well he sounds like a shithead who definitely deserved the demotion he got–but I still have sympathy for the guy since he is so young and clueless.

    3. catsAreCool*

      The fact that he lied about what happened with op’s cousin was a breaking point for me. Maybe he didn’t know that a diabetic needs to eat sometimes (although he should have allowed it even if he didn’t), but a 19 year old knows what lying is.

      1. Anon Type 1*

        A lot of people are really dumb about diabetes. When I was 14, I told a gym teacher I shouldn’t run laps because my blood sugar had been running low that day and intense exercise would make me bottom out. She replied “That’s not true. Running is good for diabetes. Get moving.” Idiot.

  14. Lucy Westenra*

    I just read your update in the comments and I think your cousin handled it perfectly. Asking for clarification is a great way to say that you disagree with something without actually disagreeing with it. In fact, in my (former) industry we had an official form called a Request for Clarification that you could file with the regulatory agency if you saw a coworker doing something iffy.

    1. Emi.*

      Oh man, I did this in college. One of the professors started claiming it was against the rules to discuss things via the whiteboard (but only when I wrote something controversial), so I wrote the the program head to ask for clarification on what this policy was, and when it had gone into effect, and why none of us had been informed of it ever, and could you please clarify this so that no one thinks it’s just unpopular opinions being sat on?

  15. Marche*

    OP, your cousin is awesome. She’s got a great head on her shoulders and she should be proud of how well she’s handling all this!

    Menses…. you know, it actually is a pretty fun word.

    1. Venus Supreme*

      For some reason I imagine OP and Lauren to be from the UK. Imagining someone with a British accent saying “menses” makes me laugh!

      Also, congrats to Lauren for the promotion! How exciting.

  16. Jenbug*

    This is a great update! I missed OP’s comments so I’m really glad to hear this all worked out in Lauren’s favor.

    Also, for all you period having folks out there who suffer miserably like I do, I recently discovered Red Tent tea by Adagio and it has been helping to relieve some of my suffering. If you’re a tea drinker, I’d highly recommend checking it out!

    1. Batshua*

      I made a blend called Rough Red Seas. I’m not sure what’s in Red Tent (I’ve never seen it before), but mine relies heavily on hibiscus and raspberry leaves, both of which are good for cramps.

      1. Jenbug*

        It is: blended with rooibos tea, jasmine chun hao tea, raspberry green tea, raspberry leaves, fennel, chamomile flowers & lemon balm

        I was unaware that hibiscus was good for cramps. Is your blend available on Adagio? Or is it something you just put together on your own?

  17. zutara*

    The manager sounds like Mouthbreather from Wonder Falls. He never got demoted back to cashier, though.

      1. zutara*

        It’s such an amazing and underrated show. I mean, Lee Pace as an atheist theologian? I also can’t watch true Blood without LOLing that Arlene’s character was the runaway nun in Wonder Falls.

  18. The Bimmer Guy*

    How, in 2016, there are people who are still squeamish, discriminatory, or just plain ignorant (“you can’t get pregnant if you’re raped; it doesn’t work”) about normal female bodily functions is beyond me. And, yeah, ideally you wouldn’t need to describe the reason you had to go to the bathroom; you could just go. It’s none of anyone’s business whether or not you’re on your menses, and you shouldn’t be forced to disclose it.

      1. Honeybee*

        Terrible AND sex-segregated. Because of course teenage boys don’t need to know how the female body looks and works (or vice versa). They are never, ever, ever going to use that knowledge, right?

    1. Jean*

      Or maybe the students think, “Well, that’s not my body, so I don’t ever need to know know how to deal with that particular phenomenon (painful periods, unplanned erections, etc.).” Teenagers are still busy getting themselves to maturity. I know that when I was that age I had no idea that I might ever need to ease the way (as a manager, or concerned friend, or parent) for someone experiencing a temporary, unexpected, potentially messy and/or embarrassing episode of body misbehavior.

      1. The Bimmer Guy*

        Fair enough. But it’s not an excuse. I’m a gay male and I still know about the female body, and I certainly wouldn’t harass one of my female employees for her bathroom use to the point that she felt forced to tell me she was on her period.

        My experience is that most people are reasonable with bathroom use, and if you treat them like adults and assume they can manage their own bathroom time, they’ll do just that. The ones that abuse the situation and disappear into the bathroom for no reason usually have other performance issues that are easier to address.

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