Houston, we have a mother-fucking problem

“What the fuck are we going to do?” These are the words uttered to me in the dimly lit two-stall women’s bathroom of a dive bar in Manhattan by a complete stranger at 2 in the morning. But the tale begins approximately seven hours prior, in the nurse’s lounge of the hospital in which I worked. It was the end of my third consecutive 12-hour shift on the bone marrow transplant unit, as a nurse fresh out of training. Exhausted from 12 hours on my feet (shout out to Dansko clogs), I should have been grabbing my bag and keys to head home to bed, but instead I was heading out for a fourth date with the man of my dreams (dreams, the moment, mister right now, tomato, tomat-oh). The plan was to head to Baker Street, a dive bar just a few blocks away from the hospital, for their Thursday ‘quizzo’ night and beers. The bar was a known “Cheers”-type spot where doctors and nurses from three major hospitals within a 3-block radius went after work to decompress. No need to change out of my scrubs for such a low-key night, so after touching up my makeup and straightening my hair, I popped into the restroom before heading out. “Ah fuck me” I muttered under my breath. My period had started, and not only do I notoriously have a heavy flow the first few days (ladies know what’s up), I hadn’t packed tampons. I scurried to find a few from my friends, and went off into the crisp October night, full of fourth date butterflies.

I met up with Mr. 4th Date, and boy did I like him. Like, a lot. We clicked, it was easy, and when my answer for  the game winning question “what’s the capital of Ethiopia?” was the clutch “Ethiopia City” instead of (the correct) “Addis Ababa”, we laughed and he bought us “celebratory” 1st loser place shots. It was one of the best dates of my entire existence, and we all know that time flies when you don’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else (oh and when about 9 beers, 2 shots, and minimal food intake is involved). 7pm became 9pm and 9pm became 11pm and 11pm became 2am in what seemed a matter of minutes.

I rose from our two-person table and headed towards the back of the bar to the bathroom. In my haze, I remember thinking “huh, weird that I haven’t been to the bathroom all night”. Ah, 4th date love (and the beer, lots of beer). As I walked in to the small, dark bathroom towards the sink, the lone girl unlocking her stall door looked at me, then at my scrubs, and said with a straight face, “what the fuck are we going to do?”. Excuse me? We? Do? In my confused state, I began to circle, like a dog chasing her tail, to see what she was talking about. “oh fuck no, no, no, no, no”. A murder scene, on my pants. In the midst of Ethiopia City, 4th date love, and Blue Moons, I had forgotten to change my tampon. For 7 hours. I’ll repeat, 7 hours. A maroon red stain the size of a small personal pan pizza was now embedded on the back of my blue, paper-thin scrub pants. Houston, we have a mother-fucking problem.

Panicked, I looked at her, and dead pan asked if I should sneak out through the bar kitchen. I explained in my stupor that I was on a date and couldn’t bear the embarrassment. “Fuck, fuck, fuck”. Ideas began to spew from my mouth to my newfound sounding board. “What if I get an apron from the kitchen staff, or just sneak out the back, or staple napkins to my pants?”. Listen, desperate times call for desperate (sometimes insane) measures. She could smell my fear, and like a mother-fucking Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, she knew right then and there that I “needed her on that wall, I wanted her on that wall”. She squared my shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said, “we’ve got this, we’ve fucking got this”.

Like a ninja warrior, she left the bathroom, only to return a moment later with a discretely tucked tampon in hand and a long-sleeved shirt. She handed me the tampon and told me to wrap the shirt around my waist, Kevin Arnold-style (Generation Z, google the Wonder Years). She re-positioned the shirt sleeves, ensured that they were tied into a tight knot around my waist, and as if we were a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, we strategized a game plan right then and there for my smooth exit from the bar. In a stroke of luck, Mr. 4th Date had not seen my pants on my way to the bathroom, as he was facing the street, and I the back of the bar. I was able to return to the table, dodge the question of where the long-sleeved shirt had mysteriously come from, and end the date with dignity intact (well, all the dignity I could muster at the time). All because of a complete stranger, all because of the kindness shown by one woman towards another.

I think of this night often, not as a funny “I can’t believe that happened” story to tell at parties, or as a date to compare against all dates, but as an ode to the immediate bond that forms between women in the bathroom at 2am. I never knew this woman’s name, nor did I ever see her again, but she is seared into my memory and holds a special place in this story and in my heart. She came to my aid with no questions asked and a “me” problem immediately became a “we” problem. There is power in numbers, there is power in the notion that ‘two heads are better than one’, there is power in a woman who can empathize and spring into action when you cannot (even when she is tipsy). Behind every woman is a tribe of women who have her back (or in this case, her behind). There is power in two women in a bathroom stall at 2am. Simply put, there is power in women. Truly, we could take over the fucking world.

 

X,
Jill Vanak 

Jill Vanak is a daughter, sister, fabulous fucking friend, and proud owner of @wemakethingsco “Fuck” necklace. She works full-time as a clinical research scientist at a pharmaceutical company, and empowers women to land the job of their dreams and build a career of their own design. Find her @jill.vanak.

 

6 comments

Natasha BB

What a truly amazing story and nothing short of fucking fantastic. My only quip is that you didn’t note how women attract other like women. Your energy and demeanour must’ve been amazing to warrant such raw, feminine love. I almost feel like this warrants a Modern Love submission! XO

Ashley

I remember ending up at Baker Street with you after the first Christmas Party that you planned, we did shots of tequila to celebrate me being off orientation, It was only after the shots that you told me HW gave you the next day off for organizing the party, the next day at work was longest day ever! You are amazing and I look up to you Jill❤️

Tori M

Jill, you are an inspiration! So thankful our paths crossed through [solidcore]! I literally LOVE this ❤️

Molls

Jill, you are the best!

Whitfield Saliba

Jill- I love this story! Not the part about the ruined pants but about the random and immediate solidarity. Continue to kick ass! ❤️

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