my coworker thinks I’m being abused – I’m actually into BDSM

A reader writes:

I’ve got a bit of an awkward situation here. My husband and I are in a very loving, supportive relationship with a healthy and active sex life that often incorporates elements of BDSM. We follow the rules of safe, sane and consensual and are very careful to keep our sex life private. Sometimes I am left with marks or bruises that are clearly not accidental, but they’re always kept to areas that aren’t visible when I’m dressed.

A few days ago when I thought I was alone in the office, I didn’t adjust my shirt when it rode up when I bent over. My coworker, Jane, saw some of the bruises and was obviously concerned about what happened to me. I made a flimsy excuse that I fell, which she obviously didn’t believe.

Since then, she’s been walking on eggshells around me, treating me as if I might break at any moment. There have also been flyers with hotlines for abused women posted in the women’s restrooms. Obviously I appreciate her concern and I know I can’t let her to continue to think I’m being abused, but I have no idea how to approach her about this.


I think you can address it head-on without talking about the BDSM.

For example, you could say to her: “Jane, I’m getting the sense that you’re worried about me because of the bruises on my back, and that you’re worried I might be in a bad situation at home. I really appreciate that you’re concerned, and I think you’re doing all the right things that you should do if someone were in that situation — and it’s nice to know that people here would want to help! But I really did just injure myself, and there’s nothing for you to worry about.”

You could also add, “I think the flyers in the bathroom are a great idea because who knows might find them helpful, but please believe me that I’m safe and not in any danger.” (Because they really are a good idea regardless — plenty of people who need them won’t have obvious bruises, so there’s no need to wait to post them until someone is obviously injured.)

Hopefully this will quell her fears. But if not, at that point I’d let it go since you risk looking like you’re protesting too much. The exception to that is if she starts mentioning it to others. If that happens, you’ll need to address that — something like, “I really appreciate your concern — truly — but you’ve reached the wrong conclusion here, and you’re spreading gossip about me, gossip that’s false. Please stop.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 397 comments… read them below }

  1. Snark*

    “Oh, Jane, it’s okay, I’m into BDSM and those are strap marks. But don’t worry, you don’t have to call him Master too!”

    1. Blue Anne*

      You joke, but this post actually made me really happy. A lot of kinksters do enjoy the shock value of saying “No, I’m just into kinky sex and love it when my husband beats me” or some such in situations like this. I hate it because the people they say that to are being really awesome by being concerned, and they’ll probably never express concern about a woman’s bruises again.

      So, go you, OP.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, Dan Savage’s advice is not to include other people in your sex life unless they volunteer. Even if you think it would be super sexy and fun to pull them in.

        e.g. If your daughter hates your boyfriend because of the way he bosses you around, you are not keeping the D-S thing sufficiently discreet.

          1. GingerofOz*

            Same here. I hate the say Dan Savage is held up as great inclusive and knowledgable when he is acephobic and fat shaming and other things – but hey even a broken clock is right twice a day

            1. Blue Anne*

              Unabashedly, smarmily biphobic. He thinks it’s funny that bi people send him angry emails every time he talks about us.

              1. Viva*

                This has been a problem in the past. For several years now he has been very supportive and gives great advice to bi folks. I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

            2. oranges & lemons*

              Yeah. Also, I don’t know much about him, but he seems like the type who holds up his own preferences as universal ideals. Dan doesn’t care for monogamy = monogamy is doomed to fail for everyone!

                1. oranges & lemons*

                  What an excellent quality in an advice columnist! I listened to an interview with him once, and I kept thinking, wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Just because your preferences are outside the norm doesn’t make them automatically superior.

                2. BiPerson*

                  I listen to Dan’s podcast and read his column. Have for years. He definitely has strong opinions (that’s why he’s in the advise business), but he isn’t biased against monogamy, bi people, ace people, or trans people. Like most people, his opinions and perspectives have changed over time and he’s apologized for mistakes in the past. He advocates for people making informed choices. He’s a huge supporter women’s and LGBTQIA rights. I have never once been offended by anything he said about bisexuality. You don’t have to like him, but he doesn’t deserve to be vilified either. He’s helped a lot of people.

              1. Lori Summers*

                That is absolutely not his position on monogamy. His positions on a lot of things have been widely misconstrued.

                1. Dr Wizard, PhD*


                  I do think it’s become fashionable in certain circles to hate on Dan Savage, which is really harsh considering people seem to judge him based on a twenty-year (or more!) span of writing and seem to love to cherrypick or exaggerate his takes on things. He was one of the only public voices in this area for years, and his work helped a lot of people and has brought visibility to a lot of stuff.

                  (Like argh, I really hate when people look down on his ‘It Gets Better’ campaign because ‘It’s not enough to tell kids it gets better for them’ – what international pro-queer-youth campaign did *you* start? It’s easy to pick holes; I, for one, found it very helpful.)

                  Sorry, I realise this is a derailment but I wanted a counterpoint to all the DS hate.

                2. nofelix*

                  Yeah I agree with Dr Wizard: Dan Savage has done the self reflection on what he’s said in the past and updated his views. While his strengths are still kink and gay issues, he’s not the dumpster fire regarding fat, trans or bi issues that some people like to claim.

                  His stance on monogamy if I understand it correctly is: it’s not for everyone, there’s reasons it might not work for you, don’t feel bad, here’s some things you can do instead. Savage’s focus on alternatives to monogamy seems reasonable given that the rest of society barely talks about these options at all.

                3. NorthernSoutherner*

                  I like him. I’m not LGBTQ, but a lot of what he says resonates with me. And yes, “It Gets Better” is an incredibly moving and effective (I hope) campaign.

                4. BiPerson*

                  If you think Dan Savage is a “dumpster fire” on trans issues, you should consider his friendship and work with Buck Angel, a trans man. Also the fact that he advocates for trans rights, not bathroom bills.

      2. Preppy6917*

        Thanks for this response. I live in a city where sex positive attitudes prevail (which I think is great), but a lot of people confuse that with being what I call “sex forward”. Frankly, I don’t want to be made aware of someone’s proclivities simply because I share a public space with them, and the need to be constantly expressing those proclivities and seeking attention for them seems really childish.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Agreed and I’m someone with proclivities not in the mainstream. I don’t care if you’re doing 2 minute missionary in the dark or five-ways with furries speaking Finnish. Never wanna hear about it at work.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I don’t know, I think insisting the coworker call the partner Master would put an end to any further discussion about him.

      1. Snark*

        That was a reference to the letter about the direct report who insisted just that. It was one of the most “woooow” letters Alison has ever answered.

      2. LBK*

        I’m guessing Snark was making a reference to the letter where the LW’s coworker was actually doing this (will link in reply).

  2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I’m clumsy. I have injured myself in the most INSANE ways and I know people don’t always believe me. I’ve had to have a few awkward conversations. The script Allison gave is perfect. It acknowledges her concern and doesn’t embarrass her (that way if someone in the future does need her help, she hopefully won’t be reluctant to help out again). And, YES, the posters in the bathroom are fabulous.

    1. k.k*

      I’m a klutz that bruises easily, so I’ve been there. Half the time I don’t even know where the bruises come from (I walk into things so often that it don’t take note of it). I love Alison’s script, it’s much better than the awkward ways I’ve attempted to brush off similar concerns.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        I bruise ridiculously easily and 75% of the time don’t even know when/how I got a bruise. And the times I DO notice the cause are when it ends up looking realllyyyy bad and it looks like there’s no way I got from bumping into a door.

        I’ve definitely had a couple awkward encounters and would use this kind of script; I wouldn’t want to deter people from trying to help!

        1. nnn*

          Hah! Memories of the time I actually did walk into a door and got a huge goose-egg on my head as a result! I was frantically trying to think of an excuse because I was sure no one would believe me!

        2. Anonimouse*

          Me too, totally one of those awkward people that is covered in bruises because I constantly fall down and injure myself. I somehow managed to jump so hard during the movie It, I PUNCHED MYSELF IN THE FACE and got a black eye. I whispered to my bf what had happened and he just shook his head.
          I’m pretty sure a few ladies at work think I’m being abused, including my manager as she keeps giving me cards to the employee assistance hotline. I even fell in front of her once and spilled hot oatmeal on myself, idk why she won’t believe me.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Ridiculously fair-skinned, and no idea where most massive purple or yellow bruises on my leg came from. Fortunately the combination of age and climate means I tend to be covered in clothing.

        1. Jesca*

          My daughter bruises easily and has my oh so fair skin to boot. She is adventurous in her decisions (she is five haha) and regularly has odd bruises. She had this thing with absentmindedly slipping her knees between the banister slats to only get them horribly stuck every time! Then she would panic and pull violently. In a couple days, it looked like someone beat her around the knee caps with a hammer. I still don’t understand why she kept doing it. Haha and I mean what do you do! Its very warm here in the summers and she has to wear shorts! She is always covered in bruises!

          1. Kalamet*

            I used to get limbs stuck in banisters as a kid too. :) I also had chronic black eyes from bashing my face into things. I became much less accident prone as an adult, thankfully.

          2. Paxton*

            My parents actually had DHS called when I was in the office for stitches – at the time I had a burnt hand, two black eyes, puppy scratches and a burn from one of those dangerous old space heaters. They called them back and told them not to come when I almost gave myself a concussion while the doctor was evaluating me.

            1. FormerEmployee*

              Literally laughing out loud! Too bad there’s no way to put such a “talent” to good use.

            2. Amber T*

              My elbows would dislocate all the time as a little kid (something called nursemaid’s elbow I think), so when my mom would help me put on floaties at the pool, or even help me dress, my elbow would pop. I think she brought me to the hospital three times with that, and on the third time, a nurse told her if she brought me in again, she’d call CPS. So when genius toddler me decided it would be a good idea to leap from a couch onto a glass table in a furniture store, and my mom caught me mid air by just my arm and my elbow popped, she freaked out. Thankfully my pediatrician knew everything and helped put it back.

              1. AMPG*

                One of my kids has nursemaid’s elbow – the most recent time she dislocated it while lying next to me in bed. The first time it happened my husband freaked out that the ER doc would call CPS on us, but really they see that sort of thing all the time. At this point I’ve learned how to pop it back in myself.

              2. Julia*

                That nurse handled the situation wrongly. Wouldn’t anyone actually abusing a kid just stop bringing them in for treatment?

            3. Anlyn*

              I was bitten by a gnat near my eye when I was little, and it had swollen so that I couldn’t see (I don’t remember this). Mom told me later that she was afraid to go out with me looking like that because she was concerned people would think I was abused.

            4. Hunger Games Summer*

              Without giving too much away – I broke the same arm 3x in under two years in really dumb ways as a kid. My poor parents were concerned until my pediatric orthopedist told them not to worry after I fell off the exam table and cut myself.

            5. Science!*

              This is similar to a story my friend tells about how his doctors expressed concern to his mother at his yearly checkup due to the number of bruises he had. They were asking about his relationship with his father, whether his father got angry or frustrated a lot. His mother was confused about the questions and the doctor and nurses were explaining their concern with the number of bruises he had when my friend runs into the room, jumps on the table, yells “SUPERMAN!” and leaps off the table in a phenomenal belly flop onto the hard floor then ran out.

              The doctor said “ahh, I see” and apologized.

              1. Specialk9*

                This made me laugh so hard. He jumped from a table to a belly flop on the *floor*, as a no big deal routine thing?! Oh my. Convenient he did it in front of the doctor!

          3. Rana*

            When my daughter was learning to walk, it was both alarming and comical how often she managed to clonk her head on things. Large head, wood floor, lots of bonks, worried first-time parents. This was how we learned that the average toddler apparently has around 22 bruises at any given time.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Same–I had numerous bruises when I was skating. All the time. Everywhere. I even cut my lip once, but I wasn’t working at the time, so there were no Janes to call it out.

        1. Lau*

          Current skater – turned up to first day at new job with a black eye – thankfully I’d had to give a presentation on my hobby as part of the interview…

      4. Iris Eyes*

        For a while I considered getting full upper thigh tattoo so that I wouldn’t have to see and answer questions of all my unexplained bruises.

        Why do I have a bruise as large as a dessert plate? Oh maybe when I bumped into those drawers or perhaps it was the full body check of the wall but really I’m not sure but look its got like six distinct colors.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          Oh maybe when I bumped into those drawers or perhaps it was the full body check of the wall but really I’m not sure but look its got like six distinct colors.

          Full body check of the wall, nearly knocking myself out with the microwave door….the possibilities are endless!

          Upper arm bruise I’m currently sporting – while scrubbing the hallway bathtub, I put my left hand down into the tub to reach over and scrub the wall….and it promptly slipped on the wet surface (duh – I made it wet while cleaning it).

          I literally toppled into the tub. All of me. Awkwardly, because I am slightly fat on top of being the world’s biggest klutz.

          It was not graceful, it was a slow-motion Mr. Bean-type tumble, and it gave me some really gnarly bruises.

          1. nonegiven*

            Some day, I’m gonna crack a rib trying to reach the stuff at the bottom of the washer. I need a step stool but if I used it, I’d fall off.

              1. Middle School Teacher*

                Me too, from conking my shin on the open dishwasher. Two years ago, and it’s still a bit dented and discoloured there.

                I also fall up the stairs on a regular basis because I am talented that way.

                1. ClumsyBarista*

                  I did the exact same thing – walked my shin directly into an open industrial diswasher at the cafe where I worked. My coworker said I made an inhuman noise and he thought I had DIED.

              2. advicefromme*

                get some long handled resterauntvtyoe kitchen tongs and ustgem to reach in and grab things. also useful for reaching up in shelves without a step stool. or shelves that are too high even with a step stool.

            1. SarahKay*

              My second-worst set of bruises ever came from a step stool. I stepped sideways off the bottom step onto the ground…except that I was actually on the second step, not the bottom one, and the ground was a lot further away than my brain thought. There were falling-sideways bruises, and leg-tangled-in-step-stool bruises, and I-don’t-even-know-how-I-got-that-one! bruises.
              Now I stand on a chair, because I chairs only have on-the-ground / not-on-the-ground settings for height.
              But for a week or so my legs were a spectacular set of colours!

              (Worst-ever bruises were from a week of snow-boarding. I was enthusiastic but very unskilled)

              1. Freddled Gruntbuggly*

                Collected some interesting bruises when I thought I had one more step left at the bottom of the basement stairs. Lost my balance and careered ten feet into the lally column, luckily hitting hip and shoulder rather than head, wrenching assorted muscles in the process. I had no idea missing a not-step could be nearly as dangerous as missing an actual one (I’ve done that, too.)

        2. Kat Em*

          I swear I have a perma-bruise on my right thigh where I catch the foot of my bed at least twice a week. My husband has no idea how I manage to hurt myself in the same exact way so consistently without learning how to avoid it.

      5. Nolan*

        I’m the same, bumping into things constantly, with the added bonus of having a bad relationship with stairs (I can fall both up and down them!)

        My old OB/GYN worked in an area where standard practice was to ask if anyone was abusing you at the beginning of the exam. One time, after truthfully answering no, she poked at a bruise on my upper thigh and asked where it came from. I stared in wonder, as not only did I not know the source, I didn’t even know it existed until that moment.

        1. Samata*

          I just choked on my lunch remember the time I feel down the steps when leaving for a wedding from halfway up…and landed on my knees at the very bottom in the entry way. I mean, how does that even happen??

          1. PersephoneUnderground*

            My dad used to tell me about how his high school had ramps rather than stairs in several places. The guys undergoing their growth spurts (including him) often managed to fall *up* the *ramps*, not even stairs, with nothing there to trip on but their own feet. He was particularly bad while shooting up suddenly to 6’2″.

          2. Pathfinder Ryder*

            Ooh, I did this frequently in my seven storey high school: It’s basically not stepping high and/or far enough, so your foot gets caught by the stair and you fall forward.

          3. KRM*

            I was once running up stairs in my building while wearing socks and sorting my mail at the same time. The stairs were marble. I fell up because my momentum carried me that way. I even made it around the bend at the landing and fell up a couple more!

          4. Annie Moose*

            My sister has an epic scar on her knee from doing this! She had an armful of paper towels, caught her foot, went flying up the stairs and gashed her knee on the tiling at the top. It was probably ten years ago or more, and the scar’s still there.

            She’s rather tall, and I suspect that has something to do with her accident-prone-ness. Things just aren’t quite built to fit her.

          5. AngelicGamer*

            Not lifting the foot up all the way to clear the step. Or, in my case, tripping while both feet are on the same stair and I was moving forward instead of backwards.

            Scary bit? I’m legally blind + clumsy. I have a lot of weird bruises in a lot of places and, if I’m not at my normal GP, I get the third degree because nobody believes me. My normal GP remembers from when I was a kid and was even more clumsy before I was diagnosed as being legally blind. In all of my doctors defense, I grew up in the 80s and 90s, so eye disease wasn’t as looked for as it is now. That’s the only way I get how they missed my retinitis pigmentosa (think the opposite of macular degeneration – instead of losing center vision, you’re losing all your side vision and I’m at 14% side vision left with legally blind being anyone under 20%) until I went for a physical at a new doctor (dad’s insurance changed) due to wanting to be on the bowling team.

          6. Antti*

            You trip. Or at least, I do. I’m about to tell a story that gets a little gross.

            Once, I made the mistake of going upstairs while eating a pickle. I ended up tripping on a step and faceplanting with a mashed up bite of pickle in my mouth. That was unexpected, but I picked myself back up and went back to my room. A couple minutes later, I felt the really strong urge to sneeze. I did once or twice, but there was still something irritating me there. Suffice it to say, I blew my nose…and then I was blowing my nose for a while, because that mashed-up bite of pickle found its way into my nasal cavity. Don’t even ask me how, because I still don’t know.

            Anyway, falling up stairs. Tripping is one way to accomplish that.

            1. Jen*

              If it’s any comfort, I’ve sniffed while chewing carrots – on multiple occasions, because why learn from the first time? – and ended up with bits of masticated carrot in my sinuses. Swallowing a few times got them out, but c’mon.

          7. teclatrans*

            I did this nearly every day during junior year in high school. our whole class would transition to a different room, and so they got to see and marvel over the oddity of not being capable of walking up stairs.

            (It’s about proprioception, not knowing exactly where you end.)

        2. SusanIvanova*

          My college health center had a standard question: “has your boyfriend ever hit you?”

          I was getting ready for my black belt test. My boyfriend was my favorite sparring partner.

          I said no ;)

          1. the gold digger*

            I fell off my bike on my way to work and managed to hit my face and prescription sunglasses on a manhole cover, the only hard surface around. Kind stranger picked me up and took me to the ER. Primo came to meet me there.

            I looked like I had been beaten.

            The ER nurse asked if I felt safe at home. I laughed and said, “Are you asking if he hit me? Do you think I would tell you when he’s sitting right next to me?”


            I feel safe at home. I do not feel safe on barely wet bikepaths on a hill in light rain.

        3. Jen*

          Put me down as another one who falls down stairs on a semi-regular basis. I’ve only once had an awesome bruise from it, though (I kept wondering why my butt cheek was so tender…!)

          I also grabbed a broken lightbulb while it was still in the socket (got a nice zap from that one)… I routinely drop or bobble things, too. My husband mostly just rolls his eyes and/or laughs at me.

      6. Allypopx*

        Yep. I once had a coworker tell me he’d worry about my home life if he didn’t see me hurt myself so often.

      7. many bells down*

        Oh my god yes. I have fallen into a laundry basket. I’ve walked face-first into the edge of an open door. I’ve *slipped on a freaking banana peel*.

        I have weird bruises all the time and I don’t know what most of them are from.

            1. KellyK*

              Nice! I think my best was cutting myself on my own hair. It’s not spiked or anything, so I don’t know how that even *works,* but I ended up with a cut thumb while washing my hair. It felt very much like a paper cut.

            2. the gold digger*

              The next time I make plum dumplings, I am leaving the pit in. I couldn’t figure out why the dough, which I was mixing and then tasting with my finger, was red when I hadn’t even put the plums in yet.

              Because plum pits are very, very sharp is why.

              And – did you know that a right-handed person uses her right index finger and left thumb for EVERYTHING? And if they have bandaids on them it’s really hard to type?

          1. Jen*

            I’ve stabbed myself in the palm with knitting needles, and I got a massive sliver in my finger from dried chocolate.

        1. Paige Turner*

          As someone who literally stepped on a nail yesterday and who has been hobbling around since, these comments are making me feel better about my klutzy nature.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Got my leg stuck in a recyling bin and fell backwards. I’m glad it was winter and I didn’t have to explain those bruises.

      8. Yomi*

        Same here. A few weeks ago I noticed that my legs were covered in bruises, about five total I think. I can’t remember doing anything to them, but I decided not to wear dresses for a long while because I didn’t know how to explain them other than a joke about “you should see the other guy.” Though, that’s also why if somebody said they fell and I didn’t have any other indication they had a bad relationship, my assumption would be they either really did fall, or they don’t remember what happened like I usually don’t.

        The flyers in the bathroom are a good idea, but mostly because bruises actually aren’t a good primary indication of abuse.

      9. Tiny Soprano*

        I had a doozey last year. Wrestling a very lively bulldog puppy got me play-bitten on the arm. The resulting bruise looked like I’d been grabbed hard, and it earned me some very awkward looks. Especially as the story: “But it was a bulldog puppy! I swear!” sounds like the silliest cover-up ever.

    2. Gabriela*

      I am SUPER clumsy as well. Like, giant bruises on my arms from trying to carry in groceries AND the dog and letting the heavy door fall on me clumsy. I also live in a geographical area that makes wearing long-sleeves really uncomfortable. My coworkers make (sometimes borderline offensive) jokes, but I wonder if that is just because I am single- like would they believe it if I were in a relationship?

      Either way, I dig the coworkers response. Kind and unobtrusive.

    3. JD*

      I am the same. I walk into just about everything. Numerous times people have thought I was being abused…after a while they see my klutzy actions and realize the truth. I kicked a brick last night and hurt my foot, who even knows how.

      1. Jen*

        I broke my fourth toe kicking a garbage can. It’s the only bone I’ve ever broken in my entire life. And I didn’t even know I’d done it until I saw what I thought was dirt on my toe the next day.

    4. Snark*

      I rammed my knee into the door frame last night hauling in a load of groceries. Patella, meet hardwood. I stagger in, throw the groceries on the counter, and gasp profanities while the dog is like HAAAAAAAY FAVORITE HUMAN IS HOME

        1. Jadelyn*

          Neither do cats – my cat would’ve been rubbing against my ankles while I was searing the air with profanity and meowing for her dinner. Can I just suffer in peace for a minute please? (The answer is nope. Dogs, cats, doesn’t matter. Nope.)

          1. Mike C.*

            My parents had a cat that would break up arguments. If two people were yelling he’d walk in between them, start meowing really loudly and demand attention.

            It was really effective to be honest.

            1. Desert Dweller*

              Had a cat like this, too. When my then fiance and I argued, she would stretch up on my legs like she wanted attention and then slowly sink her claws into my flesh. She never did it to him.

              1. Allypopx*

                Cats are so much better at this than dogs. I’ve had cats that will actively comfort me while I’m crying. My dog would just take the distraction as an opportunity to steal food off my plate.

                1. nonegiven*

                  When my husband was in bed sick for a week, one of the cats took up position right up against him and stayed there until he was better. He called her nurse kitty.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  @nonegiven my cat did that for me when I was sick a few weeks ago. Wherever I went, she was there and would settle, if not on me (she’s not a big lap cat), then very near me, like she was watching over me.

            2. Liane*

              Once when I had a sudden migraine, our dog alerted Daughter, who started issuing orders to the rest of the family.

            3. Tiny Soprano*

              The family bulldog does the opposite. If there was an argument she’d be outa there, but if there’s a hug going on (especially if it’s a three or four-way hug), she *must* get in the middle and *demand* to be picked up and included, despite the fact she weighs 23kg.

          2. Julia*

            My cat often got between my feet to trip me. While I was carrying her food tray. Like, cat, do you want me to spill all your food??
            She was generally a very smart cat, too.

        2. Snark*

          Particularly when humans are making any kind of nonverbal sounds due to overwhelming sensations. Ahem.

        3. Murphy*

          I fell down the stairs once (really!) and my dog ran from the noise, but then ran back and followed me while I limped to chair like “LET’S PLAY!!”

        4. many bells down*

          My husband has hurt his ankle and is limping very dramatically right now. And for some reason our 11-pound dog has decided that he needs to follow “dad” up and down the stairs every time he goes. He never does that usually, but he’s chosen the time he’s most likely to get stepped on.

          1. Mabel*

            I was walking down the stairs ahead of my dogs, and one of them got overeager and headbutted me in the back of the knee while it was bent, and I had weight on it. Almost went down, but I did manage to stay upright.

          2. JessaB*

            I used to fall down the stairs so often that our dog (a mutt with some German Shepherd it, so fairly large) would walk down in front of me every time insisting that I fall on HIM not on the floor and ouch myself. Seriously. They moved my room to the den after about the 5th time face planting on the dog at the bottom of the stairs. Twice in stores I fell down escallators you will NOT get me on a down going one ever. If the lift doesn’t work, I’m not shopping at that store. I can’t do it anymore. The phobia sends me into panics.

            I am also on a metric tonne of meds that make me bruise like a ripe banana. I got SO sick of nurses in hospital trying to prove I’d been abused because I literally walked into something.

      1. How do you say Anonymous in Tagalog?*

        LMAO I could fall down the stairs and land face first and Dog would be endlessly excited that I decided to get down on the floor to play with him! He LOVES when I get down on the floor. lmao.

    5. Nea*

      Recently I ended up with an impressive set of bruises – almost my entire upper arm was purple and yellow. Fortunately it was cold enough that I could cover up, because the honest truth – I tripped and fell – sounds like such a fake excuse.

      Admittedly, the entire truth – I tripped and fell shoulder first onto *concrete blocks* – doesn’t sound remotely likely. Until it happens to you…

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I tried to rescue a huge tortoise that was crawling across the road. Just as I got to the guardrail at the side and went to put it down, it started flailing. Chin, meet guardrail. Fortunately my meetings are all remote and without a camera.

        1. Mabel*

          My smaller dog does this. He lets me pick him up and hug him, but when I bend down and am actually putting him back on the floor, he starts flailing around like a fish, like he really wants to be put down – which I’m IN THE PROCESS OF DOING. I don’t understand this.

          1. LavaLamp*

            Oh my god. My dog did this to me about a year ago. She was upset and howling at like some godawful hour and I went to pick her up to take her to my room and hopefully get sleep.

            What does she do? She starts squirming. Right as my knee gives out ( bad joints) and I pitched forward into the glass coffee table. All I could thing was that the glass top would break and my dog would get hurt, so I tossed her to the side and took the entire fall into the base of the table. The wrought iron base. I looked like someone attempted to cane my legs or something. Dog hated me for a week too. She was okay, just upset at the indignity.

      2. Rainy*

        I slipped in the tub on Saturday. Luckily most of the bruises are on my bum.

        I immediately bought a tub mat–our tub is super slippery, and it’s the tub, not conditioner or anything. It’s worst when it’s just been scrubbed.

      3. Kelsi*

        When I know what caused a ridiculous bruise (and it’s a socially acceptable story), I usually head off the concern by being really open about it.

        “Oh, this bruise? Yeah it was SO DUMB, okay, I literally tripped into a pile of concrete blocks. I KNOW. WHO DOES THAT. It was like a cartoon, if I wasn’t so busy crying at the time I would have laughed my ass off. I wish I had a video.”

        This is both a) true to my personality (I enjoy telling stories about dumb/clumsy things I’ve done) and b) tends to reassure people that I’m not being harmed by anyone but my own lack of grace, because I am so happy to draw attention to it.

        1. Nea*

          Had anyone asked, I think I might have gone that route this time. Alas, it would not have worked the time I showed up with bruises and scrapes everywhere because a chair collapsed out from under me and I was kind of sensitive about that. (I am a woman of… substance.)

          So instead, I spun this long yarn about how Marco was handing me out of his Porsche last Friday and my mink stole wrapped around my ankles so I fell onto the curb…

          1. Julia*

            I’m like a 140 pounds and I still had one chair collapse under me AND one falling back so I fell back as well within the past half year. Luckily, I was more surprised than hurt.

    6. eplawyer*

      I bruise easily too. So klutzy I bruise myself in my sleep. The downside? I work with DV victims. It is NOT inspiring if you look like one yourself.

      1. Lava Loving*

        I also somehow bruise in my sleep! For years now, every few weeks I find weird very LARGE bruises on my inner knees and upper calves. My husband kept joking that I’m cage-fighting in my sleep.
        Nope, I just cross my legs oddly and end up with pressure bruises from the way my legs are pressing together. I t is odd!

    7. Dust Bunny*

      I was out for a walk and leaned over to pet a friendly dog, who jumped up to greet me and slugged me in the face with his big bulldog head. I ended up with a sort of half-shiner and a puffy area along that side of my nose. No structural damage, just soft tissue. I got some comments and I’m sure most of them didn’t believe it was puppy-inflicted.

      1. k.k*

        My dog is the cause of many of my bruises. Big head, lots of energy, doesn’t know his strength, and lacks grace. I constantly have marks from him plopping down on my lap, head butting me on accident, and such.

        Pro-tip: When someone is questioning you, don’t try to joke and say, “The only abusive relationship I’m in is with my dog!” It doesn’t go over well.

        1. Beatrice*

          No kidding! Mine has terrible leash manners, and I’ve sprained my hand once and have been yanked down stairs and into doorways and gateposts so many times. One gatepost had a bolt end sticking out of it about an inch, and that got me right in the body and left a really nasty rainbow colored bruise.

          1. Allypopx*

            I skimmed over this while scrolling and for a moment couldn’t figure out if you were talking about your partner or your dog.

        2. VogonPoetry*

          When I was a young teen, I had a cat that was always scratching my arms. Not malevolently– he just liked to alternate between cuddling and play-fighting, and we never de-clawed him.

          Anyways, one teacher of mine was clearly concerned about all the scars that appeared on my wrists and to this day I’m sure she didn’t believe my explanation. Knowing myself at that age, I probably didn’t express any thanks that she cared enough to pull me aside. It didn’t help that she also asked if I had an eating disorder. “Nope, I’m just a twerp.”

      2. Nomie*

        Our first dog broke my mom’s nose once that way – he was leaping up to greet a visitor, Mom bent over to try and get him to sit, and Labrador skulls are very solid. (And she also got the questions about being safe at home from the doctor she saw. “I’m fine, my dog is just badly behaved.”)

      3. Mrs. Fenris*

        I have a tiny chip in one of my front teeth from where a cow hit me in the face when I was 11. I was carrying a bucket of grain and she had excitedly run over to snag some, swung her head up and clocked me from under the chin. A cow’s head is solid bone!

    8. TC*

      My cat gave me a black eye once (he was mad about something and swatted my eye while I was in bed) and people didn’t talk to my husband for a week. My excuse sounded silly, but I mean, the situation was silly.

      1. Collarbone High*

        Someday I’m going to bite through my tongue from my cats nuzzling my chin and then abruptly jerking their heads up.

        1. Afiendishthingy*

          One of my cats is really overly enthusiastic with affectionate headbutting. I swear he’s going to give me a concussion one day. That or I’ll throw my back/neck out jerking away to avoid one

      2. Elemeno P.*

        I wondered about all the thumb-sized bruises all over my thighs for a while (I volunteer in a place with a communal changing space so people could actually see them) and then I realized that they were from my cat’s paws when they were standing on my lap.

    9. AKJ*

      One night, not so long ago, I was bending over the couch readjusting the cushion when my puppy came flying at me, full crazy pup speed, and crashed into me with the hardest part of her little skull hitting the corner of my eye. Within a few hours I had an awful black eye, and it took weeks for it to fade. It was still visible when I got the call for a job interview I’d been really hoping to get – with an organization that helps survivors of domestic violence. I wore more makeup to that interview than I have before or since, because I was sure no one would believe me if I said “my dog did it.”
      I got the job. My now-boss said she didn’t notice it, so my makeup must have worked. My puppy is now almost three years old and still a crazy bundle of energy, but she hasn’t injured me since!

    10. AKchic*

      When I have nerve ablations for my neck, I have to keep scarves on at all times because otherwise, it looks like my husband tried to choke me to death thanks to the bruising. The dirty looks my poor 5’7″ nerd of a husband gets when we go out in public because people think he has tried to beat me to death via strangulation is just too much. And he is completely oblivious to the death glares because he has absolutely no sense of awareness. Love him, but he’s clueless when it comes to social stuff.

    11. cornflower blue*

      At an old job, there was a young derby girl and an older concerned grandmotherly type who just DID NOT grasp such things. *sigh*

    12. CDM*

      I managed to develop a black eye without coming into physical contact with anything. I had a mosquito bite near my eye, and about a week later a bout of late pregnancy vomiting broke all the capillaries in the area of the bite swelling. I had at least four people at the children’s hospital where my oldest received care ask me if I was okay at home. Fortunately, we had enough history with the staff there that nobody pushed further once I explained, as odd as my story was.

      1. Mallomary*

        I realized I was taking too many NSAIDs when I gave myself a black eye but just tiredly rubbing my eyes.

    13. party pants*

      As a 2d black belt in tae kwon do, I used to always have odd bruises (now I just have them because I’m klutzy).
      Had a conversation with my pastor once becasue he saw several of the bruises and was concerned since he didn’t think I was seeing anyone.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        I always had bruises on my arms when I was doing karate. I figured it was just a matter of time until I got a black eye, but it never happened.

      2. NotVeryActiveHere*


        I’m very pale, bruise if you look hard at me, and spar with fast teenage boys. If I DON’T have odd bruises, it means I have been in bed for a week and you should be worried.

    14. JanetM*

      Very shortly after I got married, I managed to clock myself with a car door and bruised my upper lip really badly (fortunately, no medical treatment was needed beyond icepacks for the bruising). My coworkers appeared to believe me when I said, “If Dale had done this to me, I would not be here now. I’d be wearing an orange jumpsuit.”

      I was following in the family tradition, though. Apparently, very shortly after my parents got married, my Mom got up in the middle of the night, forgot she’d moved into a new house, and walked straight into a wall at speed.

    15. Admin of sys*

      I had a friend who fenced and had to reassure her ob-gyn quite a few times that the ‘finger shaped bruises’ were just where she let her guard down and got jabbed with a foil.

    16. Interested Bystander*

      Couple weeks ago, my spouse sat up in bed, in the middle of the night, and because she’s a klutz, she head butted my nose, and broke it. Coworkers all thought I had gotten in a bar fight or something. Didn’t believe that it was just an accident, and wouldn’t let it go for a week, when the bruises went away.

    17. MerciMe*

      I have a spot under my eye that bruises if I squint at it wrong. Fortunately, I have doctors’ records that go back to kindergarten on it. Or the time my mom fell and broke her hip, I sprained my ankle dismounting a rock wall and my aunt fell down the stairs. My husband was the only male in our household….

      I’ve learned to address it openly and thank people in good humor. A friendly, open, confident smile goes a long way to reassuring their concerns.

    18. Anion*

      Ha, I’m fairly clumsy myself, so I know how you feel. Two nights before I had to go back to work after my honeymoon, I walked into the doorframe–slammed the side of my face into the doorframe, actually. I spent the whole night thinking, “Great, I’m going to come back from my honeymoon with a black eye, and tell people I walked into the doorframe. They’ll totally believe that.”

      Luckily it didn’t bruise, but I’ve had to explain other bruises to people.

    19. Free Meerkats*

      At one point I was regularly playing competitive paintball (back in the NelSpot 007 era, for those who know). And paintballs leave characteristic circular bruises, so I would usually have one or two visible when wearing short sleeves. As this was in the early days of the sport, we didn’t wear face masks, just goggles; we tried to not shoot for the head, but if that’s all you can see…

      One summer, I was swimming with my Great Dane after work and she gave me a huge black eye with a paw. Less than a week later, I took a paintball to the cheek. My boss took me aside to ask if everything was OK.

    20. TrainerGirl*

      In my 20’s/30’s, I was a serious figure skater, and when I was mastering my jumps, I fell. A lot. To the point that when I went to the doctor, I often got pamphlets and advice that “there was help available to me when I was ready”. I always felt sorry for the parents who had to explain where their child’s bruises came from.

    21. Jemima Bond*

      My two penn’orth – I often get bruises from door handles or the corners of furniture, I have fences which can get you little bruises that look like finger marks, and I have played rugby (less usual for a female) meaning all kinds of bruises including fingertip marks to the upper arms and (not me but team mates) some impressive black eyes. Thing is, people knew when I fenced/played rugby so it was easy to account for (although the long red marks from having your shirt’s shoulder seams jammed into your skin in the scrum – I play on the front row – do require some detailed explanation!) whereas in this situation OP doesn’t want to (and arguably shouldn’t) explain the origin of her bruises and marks. All I can think of is as someone else suggests, say the script but also restrict areas where marks may appear. Current women’s fashion with trousers that are low-rise and manufacturers skimping on the length of shirts and tops may mean that the “muffin top” area may have to be declare a no-mans land.

    22. Julia*

      When I got married, I moved into a really awkwardly designed apartment (e.g. the hallway is too narrow to close the toilet room door while standing there), and I have bruised myself several times. The timing must seem so suspicious to people who don’t know me well enough to know that I have zero depth perception.

    23. whingedrinking*

      I go to punk concerts and I mosh. One summer I wound up slammed against the stage (no regrets, it was a great show) and had a vivid bruise as big as the palm of my hand on my upper arm. The reason it matters that it was summer is because the following Monday, I put on a sleeveless blouse without thinking about it, and had to explain it to a dozen people. My students all thought it was awesome, at least. :)

  3. Look What You Made Me Do*

    I think Alison’s script is good. However, it’s pretty common for an abused person to insist that everything is fine, so she may not believe you regardless. You can’t control that, though, so don’t try. In the future, maybe wearing a bodysuit-type undergarment would help, so that even if your shirt rides up, your skin won’t be exposed. I’m guessing if Jane is already worried and then happens to see more bruises, she’s going to be more convinced that her assumption is correct.

    1. Snark*

      Or, in all seriousness, OP could tell their spouse to focus on areas that won’t be accidentally exposed. A lot of BDSM kinksters worry about being a pushy sub, but this is a totally reasonable request.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Yes, I was going to comment this. With new play partners I always bring a typical work outfit for show and tell, and make it clear that bruises that are visible in this outfit are a hard limit. It’s okay to have hard limits like that!

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I was at a gathering last year where one person had outlined in sharpie on skin exactly where she COULD NOT have bruises or marks. Having that kind of a constant visual reminder made a lot of sense!

      2. Jadelyn*

        TBH my first thought was “…how high up did your shirt pull, that bruises were visible?” because I assume OP was talking about bruises on her back, and…you shouldn’t be doing anything that would leave bruises on the lower back, c’mon, kidneys are delicate and don’t need to be whacked.

        Either that, or the pants were riding reeeeeeeal low, which is its own problem tbh. So it may well be worth OP looking at both their work wardrobe, and their extracurricular activities (so to speak) to make sure marks stay in areas that are really, truly, guaranteed to stay covered.

        1. Not Rebee*

          They could be bruises from fingers (not from whacking but just from enthusiastic grabbing) or even bite marks or hickies. We don’t know they are something-whacked-you bruises :)

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Agreed. You can also get some pretty wicked marks with a riding crop, and there are plenty of implements that are designed to leave serious-looking evidence—and some cause serious pain—without doing much beyond surface damage to the body.

          2. Liz T*

            The fleshy part of the top of my hips bruises pretty easily, and there was a time of my life where that area got covered in (consensual) finger-tip-shaped bruises. No “impact” per se, nothing over organs–just hearty grabs. I definitely had to be careful about my shirt slipping up because if we weren’t thinking about it I’d wind up looking AWFUL.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I also think it’s ok to mention a non-sex-related hobby or activity as an example. (Didn’t we have a letter from someone who was into roller derby but had a bunch of bruises?)

      So, utilize Alison’s script, really emphasize that she appreciates Jane looking out for folks who may be in difficult/abusive situations, and if pressed, offer examples of activities that are bruise-inducing (without necessarily saying that’s what OP is doing).

      As an extraordinarily clumsy person, I’ve found this can work. Although telling people I’m extremely clumsy does not work, since that’s often a statement/explanation used by folks in physically abusive relationships.

      1. Myrin*

        Although telling people I’m extremely clumsy does not work, since that’s often a statement/explanation used by folks in physically abusive relationships.

        Unless you are so terribly and extremely clumsy that it’s the first thing literally everyone you’ve ever met associates with you.
        I had a classmate like that, always halfway to another dimension mentally, super klutzy, always falling around somewhere, losing and forgetting stuff left and right, yet weirdly graceful at gymnastics.
        After school, I met her again years later at university and the first thing she told me was that she was in a hurry because she’d left some important papers she needed that day at home but was now even later than planned because on the way back she drove her bike through a mud pit and landed in it. Never change, Chloe, never change.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          As one in a long family line of very clumsy people, I totally understand.
          My poor grandmother tripped over a speed bump (yes, like the kind that slow cars down) and broke her arm.
          My mother has “injury” pictures from every vacation ever taken. We took her to a resort. She rented a bike. Fell off. Resort first aid was summoned. Entire resort staff knew the story and called her “Gramma” every time they saw her after that. She cannot hike without a fall and a bruise. She cracked a rib falling on my frost covered driveway.
          As I get on in years, I can feel my birthright settle around me. I trip UP the stairs like 3 times a week.

          1. Bex*

            This might be totally off base, but has anyone in your family been tested for Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) syndrome? It’s non-lifethreatening, but affects the peripheral nerves and in mild cases results in a lot of tripping and general clumsiness. We used to tease my aunt (by marriage) and cousins because they were total klutzes, until the youngest one was diagnosed with a severe case of CMT and then we all felt like jerks…

            1. Happy Lurker*

              Thanks for that! I will put it on our list for the doc…along with our thyroid issue. Families sure are fun!
              Sorry, for your relative though.

        2. blackcat*

          My mom enrolled me in gymnastics as a child hoping I’d become less clumsy. The end result is that I can fall spectacularly and end up mostly or entirely unharmed. I have fallen from 15+ feet and gone headfirst down a flight of stairs among other mishaps, all without significant injury. I do tend to end up bruised, but I’ve only ever broken one bone (and that wasn’t my fault! someone rode into me on a bike). I reliably land on my butt, which is designed for impacts.

          1. Mrs. Fenris*

            My husband was a wrestler in high school, and I swear the best thing it did for him was teaching him to fall! He fell off a ladder once and would have landed almost on his head, but he rolled it through his shoulder and just ended up with a funny story to tell.

      2. Yomi*

        I tend to tell people I bruise easily instead of saying I’m clumsy, because most people also know I have health issues but usually not any specifics, so it kind of goes together. Or if they wouldn’t know “I bruise easy because of this weird disorder, it’s boring and really annoying.”

        Seems to work. Which is good because I am a total clutz who bruises easily ; )

  4. EvanMax*

    I wonder if it would be better to have a different “cover” to explain bruises, ideally some sort of reoccurring athletic activity. That way if she spots a future bruise you don’t seem like you are always lying about being “so clumsy”, but instead she can write it off as “well, she did tell me that she’s been doing that full contact tackle football league after work…”

      1. Another GenX Dev Manager*

        Roller derby won’t work – the back isn’t a legal target zone. You’re more likely to bruise/scrape arms and legs and rear ends. I skate derby – I have never bruised my back.

        Better not to pick a lie that you’ll have to commit to keeping up and to just be honest in a work-appropriate way.

        Although I can empathize with the OP. I had a weird blood disorder for ~1 year that killed my platelets and I was constantly bruised everywhere. I got a lot of well-meaning people pulling me aside to hand me the number for the local women’s shelter.

        1. Lau*

          I have. But through my own stupidity and sliding along on my side when a legal hit had more impact than I expected. Other skater fell faster than expected – physics reigned.

          But aye, covered in scrapes from Velcro and bruised limbs and sternum more than torso. I have more people asking about the finger marks than anything!

    1. Just Another Techie*

      The problem with that is if you run into someone else who also plays women’s rugby, or judo, or whatever, and asks what dojo you go to or what league you play in. Or if you forget your cover story and a mutual friend asks about your roller derby team and you’re like “Uhhh,w hat roller derby team”? Then it really will look like you’re covering up abuse.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          As someone who ran away to join the circus (nights and weekends only!) I wholeheartedly support that plan!

          1. Lisa*

            Although then you’ll have a bunch of roller derby folks worried about you, because they’ll care. Which isn’t really a bad problem to have either.

            1. Lau*

              In my experience most leagues have been the sort of place where you can say “thanks for your concern but I’m into BDSM” which helps…

        2. VermiciousKnit*

          Yes, that or circus/aerial arts or pole fitness. We always have a zillion really interesting bruises!

          1. Joielle*

            Yes to pole fitness! Most awkward bruises ever. The worst is in the summer when my thighs and the backs of my knees are black and blue. I started using a spray called Airbrush Legs to even things out a little. It doesn’t always help.

    2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      Sports really can leave the weirdest “questionable” bruises. My daughter did T-ball when she was 5. A ball bounced off the ground and smacked her in the face. She had a black eye for days. My son has slipped on wet tiles at swim lessons. He went down hard on his hip and had a bruise and swelling that left him limping for a week. My husband does Brazilian Jujitsu and during a match his opponent grabbed for his Gi, missed completely and ended up with a handful for my husbands cheek. He had scratches that looked liked he’d been clawed by a bear. It might be time to come up with a fun Roller Derby cover story. :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Oh hell yeah. We had a sales guy at OldExjob who played rugby on weekends. He would regularly come into the office looking like he’d been through a meat grinder.

        2. Jadelyn*

          I remember with great fondness going to prom my senior year of high school, and all of us girls from the rugby team with our strapless dresses and skirts of varying lengths showing off our bruises together.

      1. KTB*

        Oh God–I used to hash (hash house harriers, if you want to Google it) on a regular basis and was constantly coming into work with bruises, scratches, and other random injuries. I just told everyone that I was trail running, which is 85% true, and played dumb if anyone questioned it further.

        1. Turkletina*

          Hah! I’ve done the same thing. But all the bruises I’ve gotten from hashing have been from falling on trail, not anything hash-specific.

          The time I went to work with congealed bits of beer-and-flour on my clothes, on the other hand…

        1. Nea*

          I got that one once when I went to the hospital and the nurse missed the IV stick repeatedly. I looked like an incompetent junkie for weeks.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Oh man, it was my chest that got me in trouble back when I fenced. Near-perfect round bruises all over my upper torso got a lot of concerned questions, especially since I was a kid still.

        1. Trillian*

          It wasn’t my chest but my leading leg that seemed to draw the hits–and I swear it was not my octave parry, either.

          Once wound up comparing bruises with a squash player in the locker room. Hers were like little targets.

          Then there were the (field) hockey bruises.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I never got much beyond foil, and got really good at manipulating right-of-way… which somehow seemed to end up with me getting beaten black and blue but being the one to come out with the points. It was a functional strategy but ow

      2. Q*

        Mine could get huge, too, and no one ever looked twice at mine. Maybe because I wore t-shirts in February and they didn’t think anything of it, since I wasn’t trying to hide it? But I’m a pretty tiny female, so you think they’d worry. No one ever even asked where I got any of the injuries.

        On some level, nonchalance about the bruises probably convinces people there’s no embarrassing story.

        1. MadStuart*

          See, I was always super nonchalant about my giant upper arm bruises and didn’t think anyone was worried about them, but then my school’s German department did a video chat with the people who were abroad that semester and one of the girls who was abroad was like “how’s the fencing?” and my response was, naturally, “great, look at this awesome bruise I have!” and the German professor I had that semester made a point of announcing that I was a fencer to the entire class next session, so someone must have been worried.

          1. saffytaffy*

            Could it have just been a vocabulary issue? A non-native speaker didn’t know what fencing meant, so they just saw a bruise and were curious?

      3. many bells down*

        I always had one at the joint of my left shoulder just above the breast. I finally started telling my opponents that I had fiberglass bust inserts in my jacket, and it was OK to hit me in the breast. I’d demonstrate by beating my boobs like Tarzan.

        1. Q*

          Hah! One of my male training mates had to have it explained in detail why I wanted a crotch full of shattered steel just as little as he did.

          I think he was trying to be considerate of my “differences” but no.

          1. many bells down*

            I was fencing foil, but the only jacket they had that would fit me (I was TINY in college) was a saber jacket. So opponents not only had to hit a left-handed woman so small she could practically hide behind the foil, but they could only hit me waist-up too.

            1. Q*

              I had similar problems. I just had to wear a loose jacket which was really annoying when their blade caught my jacket but not actually…me.

      4. Mrs. Fenris*

        My son is a saber fencer! He hasn’t gotten too many of the slashing type saber bruises. Except the one he got right near the jewels. From a female opponent in an open tournament. She was horrified, but he was laughing.

        1. Tiger Snake*

          Just realised from the replies that you seem to be talking about fencing, the sport.

          I think its the ‘epee’ reference that got me confused; I know it has a short hand for something that’s completely unrelated to swords or sport.

    3. Snark*

      I don’t think the “cover” is workable or believable long-term. Lies are always harder to maintain than the truth. That doesn’t mean it has to be the whole truth, but I’d go with “Jane, I get the impression you saw some bruises on my back and thought I was being harmed or am in a bad situation at home. I won’t burden you with more knowledge than you want, and I appreciate your concern, but please know I’m safe, happy, and not in any danger.”

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Yeah, I think it’d come out that the hobby is a lie and seem more suspicious – like if someone else happens to have that hobby or asks when you’re doing the hobby or where you do it.

        … basically if anyone expresses an interest, it’ll get awkward fast, haha.

        1. Myrin*

          I mean, that’s pretty easily circumvented if your alleged hobby is something like running or biking or similar stuff that can be done around the neighbourhood and without joining any clubs. (Unless the person asking is your literal neighbour and as such could possibly have an idea if you really go biking a lot.)
          I’d go with something like Alison’s script anyway and wouldn’t move too far from the truth in any such situation exactly because I’d probably forget all about my white lie hobby but there are many sportsy hobbies you could just be wishy-washy about without it getting awkward.

          1. EddieSherbert*

            That’s true. I was thinking specifically about OP having noticeable/concerning-looking bruises on their back, and what sports/hobbies would make that seem legitimate (especially if it happens regularly).

            I suppose you could realllyyyyy suck at riding your bike! Haha :)

            1. Myrin*

              Ha, you’d be surprised! That was actually drawn from my own experience – I’m a very proficient and practiced cyclist (and at the same not knowledgeable at all about all kinds of fancy bike stuff because I just do it without being involve in it professionally) and yet I’ve gotten bruises in the strangest places because of it. I mean, on the legs is par for the course but once, I had to break very suddenly, abruptly fell forward, and my bike’s saddle rammed into my back so I almost stumbled and fell again! That was no fun at all and one of the weirdest things that ever happened to me.

      2. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

        This. This is definitely the answer. It’s polite, direct and true. I would change it a bit to this though:

        “Jane, I get the impression you saw some bruises on my back and thought I was being harmed or am in a bad situation at home. I won’t burden you with more knowledge than you want, and I appreciate your concern, but please know I’m safe, happy, and not in any danger.”
        Jane seriously needs to f*** off. In my opinion if she approached an actual victim of domestic abuse she would not be helping that person with her pushy, obnoxious assumptions.

        Don’t take up rugby or field hockey or whatever as a cover. You don’t have anything to apologize for or hide. All you have to do is not talk about your sex life at work like every other person in the world and you’re doing that just fine.

        1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

          Oops, I forgot to actually make the change I wanted:
          “Jane, I get the impression you saw some bruises on my back and thought I was being harmed or am in a bad situation at home. I appreciate your concern, but please know I’m safe, happy, and not in any danger.”

          I took out the part about knowledge because that is so very much not an option for Jane.

    4. Kj*

      Yes, I agree. Pick something that is obscure and doesn’t have public matches and say that is your hobby. It solves it now and in the future. Say you didn’t tell her at first because you were embarrassed…

      1. JulieBulie*

        Nope. If your sport is obscure and doesn’t have public matches, I will be intrigued and want to know more and now you’ll never get rid of me.

        1. Snark*

          Seconded. Guys, the imaginative lie is a cute idea and all, but for real: it doesn’t work. It always gets sniffed out. Someone’s like “OMG I LOVE ROLLER DERBY” or “hey, I’m into krav maga too!” or whatever and you’re boned. Unless you’re actually into that hobby and can talk naturally and honestly about it, don’t bother.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            This. The first rule of Liars Club is Only tell lies that are as close to the truth as possible; if you don’t have a close truth to base your lie on, it’s better to refuse to answer than to lie.

        2. Pipes*

          Yep, I mentioned this below, but I play both ice hockey (goalie) and run OCR (obstacle course races) nearly every weekend from spring to fall. NOBODY is ever like, “oh, cool” when I ask. There is always a ton of follow up questions (especially being a lady). Which is great, and I love it! But I would NOT advocate lying.

        3. sin nombre*

          Totally. I’m a martial artist (but I don’t bruise easily, although I had hella forearm bruises early in my training before I learned how to block without banging myself all up) and if you claimed to be doing a martial art or any of the other intriguing activities people are talking about in here I’d be really interested and your story would fall apart immediately. My advice is to take up a martial art for real :-) (Seriously though, it’s incredibly rewarding. And kidneys are a valid target in parts of my style — one of my friends and training partners was sporting bilateral bruises there yesterday.)

      1. EvanMax*

        As honestly absurd as the answer is, a confident cheeky response like that may help to convince concerned colleagues that everything is okay, without giving away the truth or making them feel ashamed for asking.

        A confident “I’ve been fighting crime by night, but thank you for asking” with a big smile is enough to be clear that you’re aware of the bruises, they aren’t anything to be concerned about, but the asker did the right thing by being concerned about mystery bruises on a co-worker.

        It takes the right personality to pull this off, admittedly.

      2. Snark*

        I was doing okay reading that, but then I read this and absolutely lost it:

        “Family History: Both parents deceased (homicide). Generally assumed to be non-contributory.”

    5. oranges & lemons*

      I wondered about that too, but it would probably make things much more awkward if you’re caught. But if the LW does happen to play any sports, it might make things easier to say something like, “Oh yeah, I always get weird bruises from jai alai.”

    6. sap*

      She could also do this while being mostly honest, though.

      “Housework/chores disaster,” followed by a grimace, is pretty close to the truth. I think everyone has dumped the contents of a high shelf on themselves at least once in their lives, or had a tree limb they were trying to trim smack them, or slipped on a recently mopped floor, or whatever.

      And, uh, the injury occurred while performing “wifely duties.”

    7. Pipes*

      I am both an ice hockey goalie and extremely active in OCR (obstacle course racing). I have weird bruises EVERYWHERE.

      That being said, any time you have a hobby which will produce weird bruises, people tend to ask. They’re very interested in a lady playing ice hockey and OCR and will probe for more details out of curiosity. So I’m not sure that I’d advocate lying about it.

    8. A Turtle Without A Shell*

      I wouldn’t get all involved in a cover story, the curious get curious.

      Me: “You do roller derby?!?! Cool! I’ve never seen roller derby. Can I ever come watch you??”
      (No interest in after work drinks or out of work friendships; would totally actively seek out the opportunity to see something like roller derby.)

  5. Lix2*

    Yup, remember it’s your attitude that will mean more than your words. Be relaxed and direct with casual confidence and that’s the message you will send. Good practice as you’ll need to have these conversations with doctors.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah this is a fine line for OP to walk, because you want an open, direct mien as you say – but OP is actually covering up something that’s inappropriate for work! So good luck OP, I feel ya!

    2. Sara*

      Yes, I think this is key. LW probably seemed nervous because of where the bruises actually came from, which made the co-worker suspicious. Be confident in your response and they’re more likely to back off.

    3. Lunch Meat*

      Yeah, my dr has asked me about the scratches on my arms when I’m there talking about depression. I’m pretty comfortable telling people I got too far into my cat’s personal space.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I had a doc who just would not buy that answer. She kept probing, obviously thinking I was covering up self-harm, and I had to keep repeating that no, seriously, I have a cat and she plays rough and I’m her favorite scratching post/chew-toy. I finally got annoyed and snapped, “Look, if I’d done these myself, I’d have been smart enough to hide them better.” and only then did she back off.

    4. Relly*

      Maybe I’m weird here, but I feel like I’d be straightforward with a doctor about this. You don’t need to go into details, but even just “it’s recreational” works.

      The more your doctor knows, the better he or she can help you.

    5. Med Student*

      With your Dr, you’re much better just being honest, because then they can just ignore the bruises, rather than being concerned that they’re symptoms of something. Doctors really really appreciate patients who are just up front about things because they’re not guessing what symptoms you’re having, or what symptoms are medically irrelevant or what precipitating factors you have for certain conditions. (And I can guarantee it will not be the weirdest or strangest or most uncomfortable conversation they’ve had with a patient)

  6. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    I bruise incredibly easy and early in our relationship my husband left several bruises on me that were related to our sex life. I was working with a close friend who asked me about them. I wish I’d had this site to help with scripting because I stammered and blushed through an explanation that made no sense. Because he was friend as well as a co-worker I’m sure he read between the lines in my answer.

    1. anonymistress*

      I honestly have said, “I can’t tell you how I got them, but it was sure fun!” with a wink and a grin before.

      1. MuseumChick*

        Ok, this made me laugh. If the OP ever finds herself in a situation with someone being pushy she should use this line!

      2. Murphy*

        If a friend said that, I’d be like “Great, say no more!” It might be a bit much to get that from a co-worker. But if they’re really not letting it go…

      3. Kelsi*

        I was in a dressing room before a show once with a gal who….like, I’m trying to think of how to describe it, I have literally never seen another bruise like this. She was quite busty, and the entire top half of her right breast was black. Not mottled blue/black, just….black. Like the pulpy part of a bruise but over the entire area.

        All of our eyes must have been the size of saucers, because she noticed people looking and just GRINNED. “Yeah, that was a good night.”

        But yeah, it answered the question without raising concerns, or giving TMI (other than what we obviously assumed). Wouldn’t work in an office context, obviously, but in a less formal setting it’s effective!

  7. 2ManyBugs*

    As someone with the same potential situations – I make sure I’m at least tangentially involved in a sport/hobby that can explain it away. Paintball, roller derby, rock climbing, karate – these are all good, reasonable choices.

  8. Cassandra*

    Oof, reminds me of the time I was about to escalate concerns over a bruised student… until I recalled that she was a big name in local roller derby.

    Sorry you’re having to deal with this, OP, and I hope your coworker doesn’t go overboard with concern.

  9. MissGirl*

    My friend worked in social work where they are very educated about bruising to watch out for. One of those places is the upper arm for grab marks.

    We were out boating and she slipped and fell climbing down the ladder. She caught her arm around the tie off. Next day she’s got a nasty bruise that looks like someone grabbed her. When her manager asked about it, she said she did it water skiing. The manager didn’t believe that was possible.

    “Fine, I got it falling out of the boat.” Have a believable excuse ready in the moment if you don’t want the truth to slip out.

    1. Biff*

      I am another person who bruises easily. And due to my ghostly skin tone, they always show up in stark relief. One night while walking home, a friend grabbed my arm to pull me out of the path of a car that was speeding and driving erratically. The next day it looked so bad they apologized profusely; I had a perfect imprint of their hand wrapped around my arm. I recall having to explain it to a worried someone… I do wonder if they believed me.

      FWIW, I think it’s a lot easier for men to explain away bruises. It’s just the way our society is. “Oh, I was working in the yard with some heavy duty tools.” A woman would be instantly suspected of covering something up. That annoys me.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I’ve often said “it’s not a proper weekend away unless I come home with at least one hand print”!

        I have to say though I’ve never had issues with people being concerned at my bruises. Possibly because I don’t to to cover them up with clothes or makeup. It always confused me as a teenager when teammates got upset at bruised legs before a night out. I’d be like, dude, your sports bruises make you look athletic and competitive. Why would you want to hide that?

    2. Arjay*

      Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one with one of these! We were docking the boat and I was attempting to pull the boat in to tie off when I slipped and landed belly down on a cleat. My entire abdomen was bruised for weeks. My paramedic boyfriend was really impressed with how ugly that bruise was. :)

  10. TotesMaGoats*

    I have a toddler. I have bruises that I honestly don’t know how I got and ones that I do that look bad. Little monster threw a hard pool toy in my direction (because he wasn’t paying attention) and it conked me right below the eye. He’s actually given me a black eye before. It happens. I think Allison’s script is a good one but you may need to be a little more forceful than you might otherwise think necessary.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Yeah, I have said “You know, I noticed that this morning and genuinely have no idea what the heck I did to myself” for small/medium bruises. A lot of the time I DO have mysterious bruises from just… life? I think that’s pretty relateable for a lot of people.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I certainly relate to that! I just realized yesterday that I have a bruise on my arm and it took me a minute to remember I had blood drawn last week.

        1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          Back in high school one of my friends was having migraines and one of the tests they ran involved blood being drawn. A week before the prom. They stuck her a couple of times on both arms. She bruised from wrist to shoulder on both arms. Her dress was strapless and her mom – who had insisted that the tests be done before the prom – felt so bad she paid to have a professional make up artist come do her makeup. The makeup included movie quality cover up. Those bruises lingered for weeks though.

      2. Kvothe*

        I actually had a mysterious bruise on the inside of my boob once, I don’t wear low cut shirts so no issues covering it up but for the life of me I could never figure out how I got it in the first place…

        1. Samata*

          I have a bruise right now on the back of my shoulder, almost near the joint and visible if I wear a sleeveless top. It’s about the size of a thumbprint and has been there for a couple of weeks. Absolutely zero idea how it got there.

      3. ZVA*

        Yeah, I sometimes notice bruises on myself & have no idea how I got them. Your comment makes me think that “I’m so clumsy” or “I bruise easily” or “wow, I don’t even know how I got that” — or some combination of the three — might be a good all-purpose excuse for the OP if this comes up with anyone else in future. (Probably a little too late for those with this particular colleague.) I would also echo Lix2’s comment above that tone matters as much or more than words and she should aim for relaxed/casual/confident. Having a few explanations ready should help with this.

        1. MechanicalPencil*

          As a volunteer at an animal shelter, I get bruises from random things like an over-exuberant dog jumping on me (…I guess?) or having the leash wrapped around my hand too tightly. That’s not even mentioning me bumping into cabinets, desks, walls, doorways… I’m not clumsy per say, I just like to play bumper cars.

          1. Mrs. Fenris*

            I’m a veterinarian and right now I have three linear bruises on my leg. I don’t know where they came from but I assume it’s from a dog jumping on me.

        2. Kelsi*

          “I’m clumsy” or “I bruise easily,” while true for a lot of people, are also common excuses for DV victims. So I wouldn’t necessarily use those if she’s trying to set the coworker’s mind at ease.

      4. Nita*

        I’ve had so many baby/toddler-inflicted injuries, I’m surprised no one has become concerned at work! Getting head-butted right on my teeth, random scratches in very visible places, bruises on my legs because someone left the toys out and I tripped…

    2. Gen*

      I had soooo many doctors / nurses / health-visitors pull my aside during the first two years of my sons life because they were certain he couldn’t have broken my nose nine (9) times or caused all the bruises I had, but the anti-depressants I was taking made me bruise very easily and I guess I have a fragile nose. I am super glad they kept asking though

    3. Aunt Vixen*

      The bruises I got when my kid was in a bedside co-sleeper were definitely startling. I could reach between the bars to pat him and there were weeks and weeks when that was the only way for any of us to get more than about twenty minutes’ sleep, but it left quite thumbprint-like bruises on my forearms that my husband found pretty alarming. (Also bruises on my ribs from leaning over the edge of the crib, but those are really only visible at home.)

      Mind you I’ve had literal thumbprint bruises at the base of my own thumb from a strong handshake. It is occasionally tiresome to bruise so easily.

    4. Tin Cormorant*

      My 12-month-old daughter plays really rough and likes to wield her skull as a blunt weapon against my nose.

      I realized last Friday that my thumb was hurting and was surprised to find a giant purple bruise on it when I glanced down. I don’t even remember what she could have done to cause that, but I’m sure it’s her fault somehow.

  11. DataQueen*

    I have liver issues, and it causes a tremendous amount of bruising… the tiniest bump will leave me black and blue. I get a lot of concern from my co-workers, and I’m single so I don’t get asked about abuse, but sometimes they don’t believe my stories. I don’t want to get into my health issues, so I just say “oh, i bruise really easily – it looks worse than it is!” and then change the subject/walk away. I found that saying that gets less side-eye than making up an excuse!

  12. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

    The week before my wedding shower, my fiance (now husband) and I were play-wrestling in bed on a Sunday morning. We accidentally conked our heads together and he gave me a black eye. I can’t even tell you how mortifying it was and yes, more than one concerned family member took me aside to point out that it wasn’t too late for me to back out of the wedding. Luckily the bruise went away long before the actual ceremony, LOL.

    1. Red Reader*

      I knew someone once who was play-wrestling with her SO on a satin bedspread. She slid off the bed (because slippery) and broke her arm. They were, yeah, both mortified, and had discussions plural with the social worker at the ER.

    2. misspiggy*

      Excellent. I clonked myself in the head with a bangle (raised my hand to my forehead, forgot I was wearing it) on the evening before my wedding. Lovely bruise above one eye. Luckily I was able to cover it with tons of makeup before people could notice.

    3. Jake*

      My wife has a bridge as a tooth where Ann adult tooth never grew in. We were play wrestling and I knocked it out with my knee trying to block tickles.

      We were 3 hours from our home for the summer, so explaining this to a new dentist was tough.

      1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

        Not necessarily. It can be actual play wrestling with a heavy dose of outrageous flirting. :)

  13. with a twist*

    During my part-time grocery store job in high school, my manager saw some dark bruises all over forearms. He was alarmed and extremely concerned. I had to reassure him multiple times that they were actually bruises from our ancient volleyballs at school, which were hard as rocks (did anyone else’s school have those?) I think he finally believed me, but I noticed him keeping a close eye on me for a while afterwards. His level of concern was touching – he was clearly ready to help in whatever way he could if I’d actually needed it, and I was glad that he cared enough to help. Thankfully I didn’t have to cover for any kind of more “scandalous” reasons – I’m sure I would have turned bright red and gotten very flustered!

    1. JulieBulie*

      I didn’t know there were any volleyballs that were NOT hard as rocks. I guess I shouldn’t have given up on volleyball based on my bad experiences with it in school (got hit in the face a lot, have trouble with hand/eye coordination).

      1. with a twist*

        There were like, 2 “soft” volleyballs that were great to use, and the rest were like medicine balls. If you got one of the bad ones, you were just SOL. I remember playing a lot of half-hearted games because no one wanted to hit the ball correctly since it hurt so much when you did!

    2. Samata*

      My arms were a disaster the 2 weeks we did volleyball in gym class. I totally forgot about that hell.

      1. LavaLamp*

        I was actually not allowed to play dodgeball after I was hit in the face full force by a very large guy on the opposing team ( i’m really tiny) It hit me so hard that my earring actually flew out of my ear and went flying. I had a lovely colored face, and this poor guy was beside himself, while I’m standing there laughing and telling him it was okay, it was an accident, and could someone please help me find my earring.

        I guess it says something about me that I laugh when hit in the face.

  14. Temperance*

    I have thrombocytopenia, which is a fancy way to say “low platelets”. I’m also hella clumsy. So the two combined mean that I’m more or less constantly covered in large, ugly bruises.

    I’m open about it, though, and most of my coworkers have seen me do clumsy things (most memorably, tripping and punching a wall, falling out of my chair, etc.)

    1. (Different) Rebecca*

      I’m sorry, the descriptions of your clumsiness, combined with your screen name, made me crack right up.

    2. Language Student*

      I’ve fallen out of chairs sideways before. I still don’t know how.

      I’m also in hysterics at the image of tripping and punching a wall (sorry! It probably hurt loads).

      1. Temperance*

        I do a slow motion slide. I’m sure it LOOKS like I have control, but I assure you, I do not. LOL

      2. Jemima Bond*

        Leaning over to assist a colleague, I once fell sideways out of a sturdy wheeled office chair which also fell over. I looked up from the floor into the horrified face of my line manager, declared, “gravity, thou art a heartless b!tch” at which point everyone felt (rightly) able to laugh. It’s still remembered three years later.

  15. Brandy*

    It being on her back, she can cover saying “heating pad”. My mom was bothered because I have semi permanent discoloration on my back from using a heating pad all day at work. I need things hooottt, I have to almost burn myself to get good and comfy. But once I explained its just the blood at the surface and on “The Drs” Travis said it was nothing to worry about, shes ok. I look like a have a fading bruise on my back all the time.

  16. JD*

    I should note my black eye from sex. I literally face planted onto the sharp edge of the bed frame. Hurt like no other. NOOOO one believed I wasn’t hit but I truly could not explain it. I admitted it to a few close friends. Screaming pain whoa.

    1. How do you say Anonymous in Tagalog?*

      omg I can’t read anymore stories of clumsiness, this sounds AWFUL. Glad you didn’t lose the eye!! Sheesh.

  17. Just Another Techie*

    OP, I also have the visible bruises at work problem, both from BDSM activities and from other sports injuries (partner acrobatics and trapeze leave the weirdest shaped bruises in the weirdest places. This morning before work I took a toe to the collarbone that I swear to god looks like a thumbprint from a choking attempt; thank goodness it’s scarf season in my part of the world!) Gonna second what some earlier commenters said that your demeanor in responding to concerns is going to 100% determine whether people are reassured or not. If you sound like you have something to hide, people are going to assume there is abuse going on. And with BDSM I know that it’s really hard not to feel weird and act like you have something to hide, because of how it is really not accepted in mainstream culture and people are closeted about it for good reason! But the more you can feel confident that it’s not some weird shameful thing you’re doing, the easier it’s going to be to wave off your coworkers’ concerns.

  18. Sara*

    I take Aerial classes and get insane bruises from it. I currently have a very large one on my bicep that kinda looks like someone grabbed me. I’ve had to explain a couple times that my bruises are perfectly normal – don’t worry about bringing BDSM into it.

  19. Puffyshirt*

    I worked at the same place as my boyfriend when I was young 20s. Once, during a game of Uncle when I REFUSED to give in, he accidentally broke one wrist and sprained the other. He felt HORRIBLE about it and had no intention of actually hurting me. For weeks and weeks while I was healing, co-workers and customers were mean mugging him and trying to sneak me abuse hotline numbers. No one would believe it was an accident, but I hope they do the same for someone who needs the help!

  20. Amber Rose*

    OK, but people do things that bruise them sometimes? Like, I enjoy martial arts and I take my fair share of misplaced hits, and sometimes I’m distracted and straight up walk into things, and other times I trip over my cat and fall down the stairs.

    I appreciate that your coworker is trying to be kind, but abuse seems like such a huge leap just for some bruises. If I were you, i’d come up with some better excuses for the future, like sports or cleaning or something.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      It kinda depends on the BDSM activity. Some of them leave marks that are very definitely not “oops” bruises!

  21. Doodle*

    I bruise really easily and am super clumsy. One time I tripped on a curb and a friend grabbed me to stop my fall. My upper arms had VIVID outlines of two grabbing hand prints for the next week. Traveling through the airport, I had to take off my sweatshirt at security. An incredibly kind TSA agent selected me for “extra screening” (away from my male travel companion) and asked if I was okay.

    I’ll never forget how smoothly she handled it — even I didn’t realize why I was being pulled out until later. I imagine they have to do something like that pretty often.

    It sounds like your colleague is doing the right thing — and so are you, OP! Great advice, Alison.

  22. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I once…fell off the bed during, ahem, recreational activity and got a nasty lump on my head. Now that was one to explain!

    I also enjoy handcuffs, but fortunately they are such that they don’t leave marks on my wrists. It’s all about the materials used and tying good knots with strong anchor points!

  23. BlueWolf*

    I am always banging my legs/knees on things like desks and tables due to clumsiness, and I also play ice hockey, which can result in some pretty serious bruising. I had a really bad bruise on my inner thigh near my knee this summer from getting hit by a shot (I’m talking probably 8 inches in diameter and bright purple), which meant no dresses for a while at work even though it was hot outside. :/ I didn’t want to concern anyone. Luckily, most of my bruises are on my legs and I usually wear pants anyways so it’s not a huge deal.

  24. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Also, people do active things that can bruise!

    I always get awful bruises from rock climbing with my male friend, and when he is in my city we hang out nearly every day and are clearly close. I once had a bar bouncer pull me away from him, and another time had a lady climber talk to me in the locker room, because of all the bruises on my shins and arms.

    And once, I just accidentally slammed the end of a free weight into my chest while enthusiastically lifting. Got a bruise the size and shape of a closed fist and actually cracked a rib! It was so hard to convince the clinic that yes, I’m just a klutz.

  25. Manager-at-Large*

    I once got a 15 minute chair massage at a place in the mall. The next day I had finger bruises on my forearms. They looked like grab marks because they sort-of were grab marks. It happens for innocent reasons sometimes. Fortunately, my co-worker was there at the mall so there were no awkward questions the next day.

  26. seejay*

    I used to play amateur competitive paintball and I was covered in bruises from it. Most of the time they were on my torso (largest area/target) but occasionally I’d get hit on the arms or more visible spots (I wore short sleeves while playing or reffing). One time I got hit in the mouth when I wasn’t wearing a full face mask and wound up with a fat lip that looked like someone punched me. There were *always* questions from well-meaning people who thought I was in some sort of abusive relationship and it got tiring to deal with, even when I explained I was involved in a pretty rough contact sport that was guaranteed to leave bruising and marks and injuries. Some of the bruises would wind up being 20 shades of purple and yellow and 6 inches across as well, so they were pretty hard to hide sometimes.

    Be confident, be assertive. While you can’t fully explain where they come from, if you are sure of yourself, your coworker is less likely to press the issue. And if all else fails, ignoring is probably the best. I had to ignore some of the more insistent questions even after explaining what I was involved in (which is a lot more acceptable to talk about than kinky sex).

  27. AJ*

    Do the bruises look like anything like the marks you get from “cupping” massages? When my message therapist does it to me, they are usually perfectly round, but once she moved the cups around a lot more and the circles were more “blurred”. They start off really red but do turn yellow, etc like injury bruises. If she is very familiar with cupping though and they can’t pass for it, it might not be a good excuse. Or could you say a friend is learning massage and needed volunteers to practice on, doesn’t know what she’s doing yet and pressed way too hard? Might be a better excuse than a sports related injury because there will be less follow-up questions… unless you think your coworker will notice bruises many more times, then sports is prob better. I like the idea above about a heating pad too – you could say you fell asleep on it. In all reality though, your coworker make think any reason is a lie – even if you tell her it’s from BDSM! So it’s all about the confidence you project when you talk to her.

  28. Raven*

    Honestly, I’d just tell her that the bruises were consensual and maybe give her a knowing look. That should do the trick.

    1. Goya*

      “you should see the other guy ;)” That’s what my 90 grandma eventually told people when she broke her wrist/got bruised pretty bad in a fall down some stairs. She just got sick of telling the true story and hearing the “you need to be more careful!” Dude…she’s a feisty 90 year old with 115% of her mental faculties…she’s well aware of how “careful” she needs to be.

      1. Red 5*

        That’s often my go-to for when I don’t feel like explaining it. I once had to get some minor stuff done to my face at the dermatologist that basically involved about eight tiny little cuts around my eyes* and I just would shrug and say “bar fight” if somebody noticed.

        *It wasn’t plastic surgery, the tl;dr version is it was to remove very, very, very tiny cysts. So other than the cuts and some very mild bruising, it wasn’t painful or anything.

      2. Lissa*

        Oh man I feel your grandma on this. One of my biggest pet peeves is people telling me “be careful!” after I’ve already fallen/tripped/injured myself, whatever. Not useful….

    2. Marillenbaum*

      My go-to euphemism is “extracurricular activities” with my best “I’m trying to be discreet” face.

  29. saffytaffy*

    I’ve had this situation happen with with bruises and once with cane marks on my legs, and I found that just giving lots of eye contact and really owning my own pride and comfort really helped. When I was younger, I would worry that the other person would ‘disapprove’ of me, and that fear colored my explanation, and probably didn’t seem very convincing.

  30. hbc*

    As a petite woman who showed up to the first day of work with a black eye (soccer injury) and who used to regularly come in with arm bruises from my boyfriend (sparring, in a legitimate dojo), you pretty much have to ride out the suspicion. Come up with a plausible reason you can re-use, deliver it in a way that shows you understand the concern but that it’s humorous in that it no way applies to you, and be your normal badass self. The concern for you will wear off as the incident fades and you don’t show other signs of being abused.

  31. Snark*

    Now that the emails have stopped rolling in, I have time to tell this story…

    I’ve mentioned this before, but my wife is a former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces and an active practitioner of several high-impact martial arts, and she runs, hikes, and climbs. As a consequence, she frequently has bruises, abrasions, bone bruises, sprains, and various and sundry other injuries. A new acquaintance saw them, became alarmed, and went to mutual friend to discuss whether she needed help and what she knew about me.

    Apparently, the friend said something like, “She’s basically Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. If you’re worried about anybody in the relationship, worry about HIM.”

    And I’m like…..thanks?

    1. Jake*

      yeah, my wife’s bff is a badass in every way, and somebody approached me with concern she was being abused. I laughed because she was bruised from wiping out on her bike, and the thought of anybody successfully hurting her makes me giggle. She’d win a fight against any guy I’ve ever seen her with! Hands down.

      1. fposte*

        Just to be that voice, though, that’s not how abuse works; it’s a psychological control as much as a physical one, and you can win at fights while still being abused.

      2. whingedrinking*

        I’d advise you to be very careful with this mindset. One of the myths of abuse is that it’s something that only happens to “weak” people, to “victims”. This means that there are people who don’t want to come forward or even admit it to themselves, especially if they’re used to thinking of themselves as competent. “A strong woman would never let someone do this to her” or “a real man would fight back” add another layer of shame or even make the abused person feel like they deserve the abuse.

  32. Hj*

    I suppose the other thing is that even if you were in a violent situation, if you didn’t want to disclose it and it wasn’t affecting your performance then your colleague should stop pestering.

    Intimate partner violence is complex and there might all kinds of reason why a person would keep it to themselves, including that telling others can result in police reports that end up escalating an abuser. The process of leaving tends to be difficult and having a stable job where stress is minimal and no alarms get raised without good reason certainly helps.

    Colleague might be worried but it’s not on them to rescue you. If you were in a a violent relationship, you might have support and be working through leaving, your colleague doesn’t know. I am a sub and in the closet to most people in my life, it is hard to be in guard that way. Having an intrusive colleague would stress me out!

  33. Sara*

    I also am in a BDSMbased relationship and I have face the same issues.
    The way that I have faced this issue might make you uncomfortable but it was very effective. I simply said that my signicant other and I consenually entered into BDSM based relationship and there is no abuse involved in my relationship.
    My coworker would ask questions, and I would answer without giving up personal information.
    This will probably not work for most people, but I am very “out” for lack of a better term. I honestly wish that everyone who participates could be out and that here wasn’t such a stigma related to BDSM. For me, by being transparent, I can help eliminate that stigma.

    1. Winifred*

      I don’t question anyone’s sex life and believe in “whatever consensual floats your boat,” but I don’t want to hear about it at work. At all.

      1. Ainomiaka*

        Then don’t ask? It seems like both the OP and Sara aren’t announcing. I would agree with you if we’re talking a general thing-like your master person. But if you ask where the bruises come from, I don’t think you can complain if you get an answer.

        1. Czhorat*

          Sex really isn’t an appropriate workplace conversation, while safety is.

          “Then don’t ask” can come across as judging a co-worker for doing what would, in many circumstances, be the right thing in reaching out to someone who appears to be in distress. There’s no reason to not reply respectfully.

          1. Ainomiaka*

            I don’t mean to be judging for asking, but I have just seen too many people who WILL NOT let a question go. If you ask you need to be prepared for more than just the one answer. I just have not had the experience that there’s any level of dancing around the issue OP can do that will make everyone happy. So cope with the answer or don’t ask-both are reasonable choices.

          2. aa*

            “Sex really isn’t an appropriate workplace conversation, while safety is.”

            Perhaps in the United States it isn’t. Elsewhere, it’s not seen as such a horrifying thing.

            1. aa*

              Which of course reminds me of this:

              Blackadder: Which reminds me, Auntie…
              Lady Whiteadder: Don’t call me “Auntie.” Aunt is a relative and relatives are evidence of sex. Which is hardly a fitting conversation for the dinner table.
              Blackadder: Or indeed, any table.
              Lord Percy: Except perhaps a table in a brothel.

              1. Sara*

                The reason why I suggested that approach is because if I were to be to evasive, that just raises more questions about possible abuse. To me, I would rather make someone slightly uncomfortable than have ongoing questions about my relationship or home situation that ultimately wastes time and worry.
                It’s nips it in the butt right away and answers any questions that may come up about bruising. I wouldn’t go into details about my sex life. I am simply stating that I am in a relationship with a specific dynamic. If they have no questions about this type of dynamic, then the conversation ends.

                1. Ainomiaka*

                  That is what I was trying to get at with the dancing around the issue comment above but more perfectly said.

          3. Ainomiaka*

            Also -the LW has already tried to not discuss it. It didn’t work, as coworker is still having problems with seeing the bruises. She tried to follow the don’t discuss it advice and is writing here because coworker didn’t accept that.

    2. No name for today*

      I wish we could, too, but in my state, hitting someone is illegal, even with consent (because of domestic abuse situations in which the victim says it was OK with them). We need laws that take consensual BDSM into account while protecting people in abusive situations.

      1. Sara*

        I am also in a state like this so I definitely understand.
        It is hard to find a middle ground that would protect everyone

    3. imaskingamanager*

      I don’t have any issue with this type of lifestyle as long as it consensual. I can understand your interest in putting the matter firmly to rest. However, I would hope that you would make that your answer only if someone did not respect your first response or kept pushing you. I don’t think that has to be your first response to an innocent inquiry.

    4. Specialk9*

      I think that plenty of states have laws that essentially criminalize BDSM. As in, it can’t be consensual legally, so your being ok with it isn’t relevant. Which is some paternalistic crap, but worth pointing out to people thinking of coming out of the kink closet.

  34. SS*

    You can give a simple explanation that you have many outside hobbies that are heavily contact-intensive and that they can occasionally leave marks.

  35. SS*

    I just had an added thought… you could put up several flyers around your desk about local paintball, boxing, rock-climbing, etc… activities that are rough and bruise-causing to help give more impression that you are into ‘safe-for-work’ bruisable activities. :-)

  36. Tobias Funke*

    My husband is on blood thinners. He gets asked if he’s safe at home a lot because his bruises are YIKES status.

  37. cornflower blue*

    My husband and I are both covered in bruises we don’t want to talk about these days (caring for a parent in the violent stages of Alzheimer’s). Not surprisingly, I get a lot more questions than he does. It’s nice that people care, but it’s also not their business. It’s a fine line to walk.

  38. imaskingamanager*

    Unless the colleague is being overtly weird or the LW is concerned that the colleague might call the police or something similar, maybe the best course of action is to just leave it alone. Sometimes letting an assumption die a natural death is a reasonable course of action, especially if it is unlikely that the situation will ever repeat itself.

  39. How do you say Anonymous in Tagalog?*

    Well this one seems right on time, as I currently have a very huge bruise in a very visible place that wasn’t supposed to be in that place that is so very visible but we got a little carried away in the play and now I’m hiding in the house for the rest of the week until it lightens up enough to cover with makeup! LOL. I dont have it in me to field the ohmygodareyouokaywhathappened questions or stares, since it isn’t readily obvious what the bruise is from one could definitely assume I’d been assaulted for sure.

    Good scripts. I don’t want to ever have this awkward conversation.

    1. Her Grace*

      My go-to in the past with something I can’t easily hide is to pre-empt.
      Got a shiner once when I smacked my head into the headboard. Went into work the next day, declared, “Check this out!” After all, who knew a “six-month old baby could be that strong”?

    2. Afiendishthingy*

      I can’t vouch for it personally but I watch a lot of makeup youtubers and this Dermacol Makeup Cover foundation is supposedly to be ridiculously high coverage, good for covering tattoos etc

  40. Smudge*

    Like so many others here, I’m also that killer combination of very pale and very clumsy.

    Last year I was working as the activities manager of a summer camp in Scotland where all the staff lived on site. Somehow I managed to startle myself really violently in my sleep, fell out of bed, hit the nightstand and landed on the carpet. Next day I woke up with really deep, multi-coloured abrasions on my cheekbone, right beside my eye (and my wrist, but that was less noticeable). Not 12 hours later, I was running full pelt along a concrete path towards the school (emergency) while wearing a dinosaur onesie over my uniform (summer camp) – tripped, and faceplanted right onto the concrete. Broken nose.

    Both stories were actually pretty funny, and most people didn’t question it as the second one had a lot of witnesses. But by far the sweetest and most awkward thing to come out of it was the head of estates, a rather gruff older gent who had spent the whole summer complaining about how me and my staff were making a mess of things, calling me into his office for a chat – which was 20 minutes of very awkward small talk before he worked up the courage to ask if my supervisor was abusing me. I burst out laughing (taken completely off guard and the idea was so alien to me, my supervisor was lovely), he blustered a lot about how it was no laughing matter and we avoided eye contact for the rest of my time there. Bless him, his heart was in the right place.

  41. Ange*

    Reminds me of the time I came to work with a massive black eye and told them I had been kicked in the face at a gig – which was true; someone was trying to stage dive but was a bit clumsy and kicked me in the face.

    They did not believe me.

  42. Office Manager*

    We went on zip lines over the summer, and I hit a few landing pads pretty hard. I my legs and sides were covered with bruises for a good week to 10 days. My coworkers were concerned. A few weeks ago, I did an obstacle course run with my 14 year old, and totally wiped out. Black eye, gnarly bruises on my thigh and arm. Co-workers were again concerned. What I’m getting at is, there are other lifestyle choices that cause bruising.

  43. Ellen*

    I was in an abusive relationship, but it wasn’t ever physical. As I was going through the separation/divorce process, I hit myself in the eye with a car door hard enough to give myself a black eye.
    Everyone, EVERYONE, heard me say how it happened, and I doubt if one person in ten believed me. Thankfully, the police officer that someone else called believed me.

    1. Afiendishthingy*

      I can still feel a little bump on my cheekbone from where I smacked myself in the face with the car door 6 months ago

  44. GymRat*

    My boyfriend and I dabble a bit and I’ve gone to work with bruises I didn’t notice until well into the work day. Luckily, I work out A LOT, so blaming random bruises on not paying attention when swinging a kettlebell and other gym mishaps works well for me.

  45. Spoliokus*

    Note that the OP said that the bruises became visible when her skirt rode up, which makes me think that they were striped marks on her upper thighs from a cane or whip or something. I think that makes it more difficult to explain away than other bruises, because the pattern and location is so distinctive.

    1. Annie Moose*

      Shirt, not skirt, but I was also wondering if it was distinctive marks that would be harder to explain away as an accident.

  46. ClownBaby*

    I get bruises from sitting down on chairs that aren’t cushioned. I dress pretty modestly, but every now and then someone would get a glance of the back of my legs (the bruises are anywhere from behind my knees up to my butt…which, my coworkers aren’t seeing…)

    Coworkers feel the need to say things like “Who’s beating you up with a baseball bat?” “What did you do in order to get spanked like that?” “Bruising is a symptom of *insert horrible diseases that include bruising in their symptoms*”

    It is awful. Luckily the “spanking” comments have stopped since I moved into HR…but even the “who’s beating you?” and “you probably have cancer” comments are incredibly inappropriate. I don’t know why people think it’s okay to say things like that when they have no idea what I am going through (which luckily is pretty mild…but like OP says…they don’t know that. I could have Leukemia or I could be in an abusive relationship for all they know).

    I like AAM’s response, because this coworker is clearly trying to do some good, even though it’s not needed for OP…so much better than making inappropriate jokes.

  47. Purple snowdrop is finally free*

    Speaking as someone who just left an abusive relationship?
    Walking on eggshells around me if you had suspected something was wrong? Would have ensured that I never told that person.

  48. Nobody Here By That Name*

    Once again I want to say thanks to AAM for being sex positive and keeping the discussion focused on the job related issues. It’s one of the many things I appreciate about this site.

  49. One of the Sarahs*

    If anyone’s reading the thousands of reasons people bruise, and concluding that this means they should always ignore everything in future, please don’t.

    As Alison says, leaving flyers in the bathrooms (men’s as well as women’s) and information on staff noticeboards is always, always a good idea. Domestic abuse is a really under-reported issue, so even if the secret roller derby/rock-climbing aficionado/clumsy person like me doesn’t need it, the stats show that it’s really likely someone else in a lot of workplaces will, or that it will be a useful resource to someone trying to help a friend.

    It’s a really good idea to have this kind of resource up in the building even if you don’t think a specific individual needs it, and normalising support can be a real help. There are free posters and flyers from national orgnisations, for example:
    For women in the UK:
    For men in the UK:
    More UK resources:

    For people who worry they might be abusers in the UK (we had one of their posters up in an old office I worked in too):

  50. nacho*

    Depending on how obvious it was that OP was lying (and it sounds like it might have been kind of obvious), she might just want to say that she’s embarrassed about the real method and ask the coworker to drop it. There are other reasons for marks and bruises besides abuse and BDSM.

  51. Dana*

    Honestly…if the bruises look like…strap marks or something that’s *really* not plausible as the result of falling…I would just say “It’s from a consensual activity, which I enjoyed, *eyebrow waggle* and everything is really 100% okay.” You can hint without getting into details.

    I get the idea that sex shouldn’t be mentioned in the workplace…but if they’ve already seen marked skin, the topic already *has* entered the workplace. Telling them you’re a bit kinky is better than leaving them to think you’re being abused.

  52. Marthooh*

    Once I snagged a piece of cloth on some broken wire on one of the cables on my slab roller, and when I pulled it loose, it tore suddenly, so that I ended up punching myself in the nose.

    Impossible to explain even to someone who knows what a slab roller is.

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