The Lies Women Tell

Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s taboo to talk about, especially if you’re a woman. Men don’t want to think of their beautiful girlfriends or wives going number two – or hear or (smell) some of the teaser moments that happen before that milestone release.

I’ve spent most of my childhood and adult life trying to hide my stomach issues. I’ve tried a different diet, medications and lifestyle changes but have fluctuated dramatically between IBS-D (Irritable Bowel Syndrome with diarrhea) and IBS-C (Irritable Bowel Syndrome with constipation).

I’ve pretty much told every lie in the book to duck out of a function with the least amount of embarrassment as possible. And I will admit, to all you dear readers out there, that there have been times when I haven’t made it out without an accident. TMI? Yes. {Blush}. But it’s the smelly truth.

I think we’d like believe there isn’t a double standard when it comes to relieving waste, but if we’re truly being honest, there is. We tend to laugh a bit more when men discuss it and crinkle our nose a bit more when women talk about it. Which is why I do everything in my power to avoid the discussion or explanation of why I have overextended my stay on the toilet or why I have to suddenly leave (like NOW) to get home for something important.

These excuses aren’t all brilliant, but they’ve helped me escape a few embarrassing moments from time to time:

  1. “I got a visit from Aunt Flo.” This can also be thought of as taboo too, but honestly, hinting that I got my period is much easier than implying that I need to go drop a few pounds in the restroom.  Usually I’ll throw out a generic, “Sorry, cramps” and then just move on when I come back from a looong visit to the lavatory.
  2. “I think I have food poisoning.” I’ve used this one plenty. Unfortunately, you can’t overuse it with the same crowd. I mean, how many times can you possibly get food poisoning in one given month? And the poor restaurants I have had to throw under the bus when I am asked where I ate (I do really feel terrible about that).
  3. “I think my dog shit on my clothes.” Yes, I have used this – and I don’t even have a dog. But if I’m really struggling with the gassy pre-cursor to my bathroom visit (and am stuck in a confined room or car), I will revert to blaming the dog as easily as a homework-less kid at school. Much to my surprise, it’s worked. I’ll inconspicuously smell my clothes and say something like, “Oh my god, my dog had diarrhea last night, and I think he rubbed his butt on my jacket!” That’s usually followed by a comment from polite Betty who says, “Oh thank God – I was wondering what that smell was!”
  4. “My kid’s car won’t start.” I do think some people in my circle think that my kid is driving around a junkie car from the ‘60s because I’ve had to pull this one out many times to make it safely to my bathroom. Usually it happens when we’re at a big dinner (typically Mexican and about 25 minutes after I thought to myself, “This should be okay because it doesn’t seem too spicy.”). This is when there is real trouble brewing and you know you aren’t just going to be in the bathroom for about 10 minutes (which is 9 minutes too long if you’re a woman) but rather the entire night.

My poor husband and good friends all know the truth and will play along. They feel bad for me because they have seen the consequences of me not being able to make it to the bathroom. They have seen the look of horror on my face as the panic sets in. They have seen me run full speed down a street begging any place of business to let me use their private bathroom (and to all you assholes who don’t let a woman do this – there is a place in hell for you).

Then there are the victims who didn’t see it coming – and who had to witness a true disaster happen right in front of their eyes.

True story: One time I was stuck in a long car drive with a co-worker and accidentally ate a muffin that had bran in it (even though it was not properly marked). After holding in my pain and discomfort for long enough (picture silent tears streaming down my face), I blurted out to pull over because I had to go to the bathroom right then and there.

Of course, this calm woman with a normal functioning sphincter clearly thought I was exaggerating and told me to wait until the next exit. To her credit, she politely sped up a bit – even though I continued to scream at an alarming volume for her to pull over. She didn’t. And it happened. Right there in the rental car. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

Luckily, it was the dead of winter, and I had a long coat on. We stopped at the first place we could find, which was a veterinary office (no joke). After being attacked by every dog in the place (trying to smell me), I made it to the bathroom where I threw out my pants and undergarments and wrapped my long scarf around my legs like a skirt and headed back to the car as that poor, poor woman did her best to clean off my seat (as she gagged). We never discussed it. But we also never made full eye contact after that, which was probably for the best.

If you’re reading this thinking, “This is so disgusting. Why would she ever write about this?”


Everyone poops. Everyone. There’s even a book about it.

At what point did we start to make it something that should never be discussed or acknowledged? Why can men brag about the size, shape and smell of their bowel movements and women need to pretend that only rose petals float out of their asses?

Look, I don’t want to sit around and discuss it at book club, but I hope there comes a day when my imaginary dog doesn’t get blamed for what’s going on in my stomach.

I hope the narrative changes soon. I’m running out of patience. And excuses.

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I give a voice to the women who are concerned about sharing their story publicly. My mission is to give a voice to the women who want to start conversations, but who are concerned with sharing their identity, for one reason or another. My posts don’t reveal personal details that can identify particular people nor do I promote bullying or bashing others. I am designed to give women who can’t share their names an equal voice in the important conversations we are having at She In The CLE. Want me to share your story? Submit a post at

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Yah, it is ridiculous that we can’t talk about it. I was in the Peace Corps years ago and all was forgiven for talking about this subject in that environment, in fact it was one of two subjects that we mostly talked about all the time because of it being an occupational hazard. As a result I think I talk about it a little more bluntly than most women do and I don’t care if people think it’s unladylike. I realize they are the problem, not me.

    I also had a lot of problems with this as a kid and an adult. It seemed to be the worst when I was an undergrad. A few years back I discovered the lemonade diet which is really a juice cleanse. That changed everything. I got really into it. After doing the cleanse for a while I then find a strong desire to eat lots of vegetables and more healthy in general and I can’t believe how much better I feel when I do this. I’m not saying that I’m a doctor and that this is the cure for every digestive issue but it worked really well for me. If you ever want to try it, I strongly suggest reading Peter Glickman’s “Lose Weight, Have More Energy Be Happier in 10 Days” before doing the cleanse. It has to be done just right or it’s difficult to do. (To your point, notice how the fact that this is actually for digestive problems yet it’s never even mentions in the title). I also read Stanley Burroughs’ “The Master Cleanser.” before doing the cleanse. They are both fast reads and don’t cost much. A little weight loss is an added benefit of the cleanse. I also found probiotics to be very helpful with this problem.

    Hope that helps.

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