Frozen Kindness?

by admin on February 25, 2013

Miss Jeanne, I was abruptly faced with a decision today in class and I’m afraid I was rude. At the very least, if I wasn’t rude, I’m still feeling guilty about my on the spot choice! I’d welcome your insight and that of EHell readers.

Background:
I am currently approaching the end of the 8 week long summer session of classes that starts off my graduate program. One of the summer courses is a lecture that meets for 3-4 hours at a time in an excessively air conditioned lecture hall. It is so cold in the lecture hall that despite the 100+ degree heat we’ve been experiencing lately in my area, I wear jeans or capris to class and willingly tolerate the sweaty trek from my car to the classroom because I know that once inside, I’ll still be slightly miserable and cold in spite of my best efforts to stay warm. I always carry a jacket with me and put it on once I get inside and go from one temperature extreme to the other.

Today, one of my classmates approached me during a short lecture break and quietly told me she needed my jacket to tie around her waist to hide the fact that she had bled onto her pants at some point during the past hour of class. At this point, we still had two hours of lecture time to sit through and as usual, I was covered in goosebumps in spite of the long pants and the jacket. The request caught me off guard and at first I didn’t quite hear her or understand what she was asking. Once I did, I hesitated, and apologized/explained that I was already freezing even WITH the jacket on and I really needed it. She approached a second student who did take off the jacket she was wearing and give it to her.

I continued to wear my own jacket and nonetheless shiver through the last two hours of class, all the while feeling like I had failed my classmate and broken some sort of girl code. Was it rude of me not to lend her my jacket? I know it certainly would’ve been a kindness, and I do readily help people when I feel like I can, but I really, really didn’t want to endure two hours of intense air conditioning with bare arms! What does EHell think?   0710-12

{ 127 comments… read them below or add one }

Yarnspinner February 26, 2013 at 11:33 am

As a former victim of menorrhagia myself, I can truthfully say, I would never ask another person for clothing I might destroy. I HAVE had it forced upon me by friends, which was nice, and done so that I could run to the ladies, refresh supplies and get thru the day when I was in high school and going home was not an option. Usually the item in question was an old gym sweater or similar, though and not an item one would likely be wearing to class.

MY personal peeve happened when I was in college and a young woman in white pants (they are burned into my memory) burst into the ladies’ room in desperation for “supplies” as she was experiencing a sudden heavy GUSH. No one in the room had anything and the dispenser was out. I reached into my bookbag and offered her two of my industrial strength pads.

And Miss Desperation turned her nose up and said “For GOD”S SAKE, we’re in COLLEGE. Don’t you have TAMPONS?” And started making fun of me to everyone near by because I had the poor taste to not have her preferred supplies.

Okay, yeah, in the meantime, those white pants weren’t getting any whiter.

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Library Diva February 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

“I also suddenly get the impression that there are either a lot of men on this site with women’s names, or a lot of women who were “like, totally the best head cheerleaders EVER!” and have no idea what it’s like to have a heavy flow that can leave you mortified.”

Actually, one thing these comments have convinced me of is that “accidents” are near-universal to women. If they get a period, they’ve had at least one. Even the best head cheerleaders EVER have had this happen to them, it’s just one of those things that people usually don’t like to discuss with others, probably because it’s never funny-embarrassing, just humiliating, unpleasant and awkward. I was actually going to share mine, but even though it happened more than 20 years ago and I’m using a pseudonym, I still can’t bring myself to do it. I would not have lent my coat in that situation, either. The only way I would have even considered it if I was not using it, and even then, how do I know I’ll get it back clean and unstained?

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LonelyHound February 26, 2013 at 2:11 pm

As people have mentioned she *COULD* complain to he professor about the AC in the lacture hall, but that may do little to no good. With the exception of some of the engineering buildings and the Union on my campus most of the buildings were built between the 1870s and 1920s. When they updated them to add AC they usually added central air zoned per floor. Each floor had central air unit dedicated to that floor and a single thermostat for that floor. All of the classrooms were set up on the perimeter of the buildings with the lecture halls in the center. Since the classrooms directly contacted the outside air or had sun parts of the day the AC was perfect. However, when you went into the lecture rooms or hallways which did not get sun and were kept on the dark side you were freezing because the AC was too high. We complained all we liked, but there was nothing even maintenance could do since the Administration had allocated the money needed for renovations to their own pay raises. So, it was either have the lecture halls at a comfortable level or the classrooms.

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Nomy February 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I’m sorry but no. I don’t think you were rude.

I personally find it rather crass to ask for a jacket that someone’s wearing so that the asker can stain it up with period blood.

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Yarnspinner February 26, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Lonely Hound you are (forgive the pun) SPOT on about old college buildings.

The library I work for was built back in 1920. The heating system is so old we believe the library must have been built AROUND it. We can complain all we want, but there are only two temperatures here, even with air conditioning (from the 1970s) and a few other changes. The two temperatures are “freeze solid in five seconds” and “die from heat stroke in three.”

In the summer we are forced to bring in heavy sweaters so we don’t ice up solid. In the winter we wear our summer clothing under our winter coats and we are still sweating in a matter of minutes. And no matter how much we complain/beg/cry there is nothing to be done. It is horribly uncomfortable and depending on the time of year, parts of the library get colder (during the summer) or become outright saunas (in the winter). You can pass through three different heat zones just by walking down a hallway.

So, no, sometimes requesting a change simply isn’t an option.

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AnaLuisa February 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I am amazed how many people think that if I am asked for a kindness, I have no choice but to oblige.

I do not think so. I think OP was ABSOLUTELY in her right to refuse such a request.

I think it is necessary to weigh the benefits and losses ensuing from each choice.
Had OP obliged, she would have spent several hours in severe physical discomfort. If she did not, the girl in question would suffer psychological embarassment, but neither her life nor limb were at stake; moreover there were other people/ways to help her out; in my opinion, the girl’s gain would not outweigh OP’s sacrifice.

Shoegal said that OP would probably refuse to give her jacket to stop a gunshot wound, but I think to assume this is a bit below the belt. To refuse to save someone’s life because his blood may stain my jacket would definitely be unacceptable, but this was by far not the case. Again – the loss of human life would definitely outweigh the loss of a piece of garment, but embarassment over a blood stain would not outweigh long-lasting physical discomfort of the lender.

I personally would have given the girl my spare supplies (but not my last pad/tampon if I knew I would be desperately needing it an hour later and had no opportunity to buy it) , accompanied her to her car after the lesson, went to a store after the lesson to buy sweatpants for her, but I would not have lent her my jacket if I positively knew I would be desperately needing it.

I think kindness is what it is called – kindness, a favour, not an obligation. I see absolutely nothing wrong in deciding whether I want to go out of my way to be kind or not. I really do NOT think I am to be blamed if I preferred not to be kind in order not to suffer discomfort myself.

Again, it would be different if someone’s life was at stake – but this was not the case.

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Anonymous February 26, 2013 at 7:04 pm

@Yarnspinner–Had that frantic-but-picky girl actually stained herself when she asked? If not, then she was dumb–taking what you offered would have prevented a stain, but if so, then there really wasn’t much that could have been done, short of either going home to change, or going to the school store to buy supplies, plus another pair of pants. I got lucky the day I ripped my pants in art class moments before I had to rehearse with my accompanist, because on that particular day, the school store was having a sale on athletic wear, so I got a really nice pair of yoga pants for only ten or twenty dollars (which have sadly worn out since then), but I know that that isn’t the norm at most school stores.

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OP February 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm

OP here,
Just wanted to clarify:
-The classroom temperature was controlled by some mysterious entity, not by the professors or anyone particularly obvious or accessible to complain to. This class was particularly frigid, but I am always cold and wear a jacket almost all the time in class.
-I had just met this classmate 4 weeks prior to this incident and hardly knew her. Since then, I’ve become more familiar with my entire class, her included, and there’s been no mention of the incident and there is nothing strained or uncomfortable about our interactions in class.
-Those of you noticing the wording of her request are correct- she told me she needed my jacket, rather than asked. The abruptness of the interaction startled me and put me on the spot.
-When she walked away from me toward the other classmate from whom she borrowed a jacket, I did not see a stain on her clothing.
-She lives within walking distance of the university.
-She sat through the rest of class with the jacket (around her, but not actually sitting directly on it), and if my memory is correct, she returned it to my other classmate at the end of class.
-I had no tampon or pad to offer and she did not request one (I got the impression she had taken care of that already, and then wiped at her pants with a wet paper towel in the bathroom). I apologized a couple of times before she hurried off.
-Some people are wondering about what would happen if I were in the same situation: I’d clean myself up as much as possible, protect myself from further leakage, and then decide, based on how bad it was, to either go home or sit back down in my seat and finish class. The notes were available online and no attendance was taken, but I do sit in for the professor’s explanation unless it is impossible for me to do so.
-As I said in the original post, I readily help people when I feel like I can- I would certainly help someone bleeding from a gunshot wound. I am going into a helping profession for a reason!

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Tsunoba February 26, 2013 at 11:23 pm

I have a question for the people calling the OP unkind or rude, and saying they would have lent their jacket:

Have you ever had to concentrate in a cold environment? Walking from point A to Point B doesn’t require concentration. I’m talking about a situation where daydreaming for even a few seconds is definitely NOT a good thing.

I also mean that you are actually cold. Not just chilly, but cold
Shivering, possibly with your teeth chattering.

If you have experienced this, I commend you. But unless you know from experience how difficult it is to concentrate while constantly thinking “cold, cold, COLD!” to yourself, you can’t say for sure that you would be willing to suffer the discomfort.

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waitress wonderwoman February 26, 2013 at 11:40 pm

@Yarnspinner, obviously the girl in the white pants has never heard the phrase “Beggars can’t be choosers.” How rude of her! I would have have been furious and not felt bad at all about her ruined pants. I remember in college, a girl saying a similar thing along the line of why would a college age girl not use a tampon. She said it very loudly during a dorm hall meeting while the RA was reminding us to dispose of sanitary products properly and passed out special little bags to dispose sanitary napkins in. I, myself didn’t think much about it (I don’t care how one handles that kind of personal business), but then I noticed several of my hallmates got very uncomfortable, and looked very, very embarrassed obviously because they did not use tampons and I realized her comment had made them feel awkward or like they were somehow not normal. I went to a small Christian college and these were sweet, shy girls from very religious homes whom I’m sure used napkins instead tampons for personal reasons that was none of anyone’s business. Actually, I later was asked by one girl if she would still be a virgin if she used a tampon. No judgements please, she was a very sweet girl whom had been home schooled and no one had ever explained it to her. That was nearly 15 years ago and I STILL remember how smug (actually rolled her eyes) and rude that girl came off as. Funny how things like that stick in your head.
As for women whom have stated they suffer from Menorrhagia (I never knew that was the actual for name for it), my heart goes out to all of you. My sister, along with being special needs, had this condition before she had surgery for it and suffered miserably, sometimes not being able to get out of bed for days.
“The Curse”, indeed.

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Ally February 27, 2013 at 7:26 am

Given all the additional details the OP provided, I’ll go even further: this girl sounds rude herself. She told you she needed it? She borrowed a jacket just have around her while she was sitting (I assume her chair would block the stain)? She then took it off at the end of lecture and walked home (so that wasn’t her issue)? So she demanded someone else’s property, risked staining it, and then didn’t even use it.

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Uly February 27, 2013 at 9:03 am

In addition to people not using tampons due to personal choice, some people physically are unable to use them, or other forms of internal protection such as menstrual cups. Only a very immature person would find this worthy of comment, much less mocking.

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Katie February 27, 2013 at 11:01 am

I don’t think that it was rude not to lend the jacket, but the kind thing would have been to give it to her. I think I can say that most people I know would have done that. It’s true that blood and being cold isn’t very nice, but personally I would have handed it over to save her embarrassment.

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livvy17 February 27, 2013 at 11:48 am

After reading all the comments, the only thing I would like to add is that not extending kindness does NOT equate to being unkind. There is a neutral area, where one is neither kind, nor unkind. One can be perfectly polite without being kind or unkind.
This example is one of those times. The OP was perfectly polite. She is not obligated to be kind, or to extend what, in my own opinion, would have amounted to an extraordinary kindness to another woman.

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Katie February 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Actually, now I’ve read the OP’s update, I’ve revised my opinion… I thought that she had asked if she could please borrow your jacket. The way that she demanded it does change things a bit: though I would still have given her the benefit of the doubt and handed it over. (I do know how unpleasant this is, btw… I’m a lecturer in the UK, and have LOTS of experience of chilly lecture halls, teeth-chattering and all! I know it’s not nice).

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Yvaine February 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm

It always amuses — and bemuses — me when people act like tampons are more “mature” than pads or that pads are superior to tampons, as if they’re mutually exclusive. I keep both around because I’ve found, through experience, that each is better for particular situations, depending on flow, what I’m wearing, what activities I plan to do, etc. It’s not like you graduate from pads and aren’t allowed to use them anymore.

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Anonymous February 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I agree with Yvaine. Also, some people are just…..built differently than others. That doesn’t make them more or less “mature,” it’s just a physiological thing that nobody can control, any more than they can control being born with blue eyes versus brown eyes.

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NostalgicGal February 28, 2013 at 1:57 am

One does not ‘graduate’ to tampons. I personally found the things messy and useless… when my flow ‘flowed’ it could and often did eject the tampon, and they never would unfurl just be inundated. Wearing both together meant I could now waddle to the facilities to deal with an incredible mess and go home and if I’d been smart enough to bring more clothing, at least clean up the ax murder and get there afterwards. I would have gladly traded one first day or even second day with one of those ladies that thought anything else was inferior. And given them my newspapers to sit on and sleep on too.

The OP was right to keep the coat if she was freezing hers off. The other lady might be embarrassed if she stained, especially white pants, but she was not going to have PHYSICAL aftereffects as much as the woman that needed the coat to be warm. And the later note that the woman didn’t ask but demanded the coat, she could handle her life by herself at that moment, that negated anything under the ‘girl code’.

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Cheryl27 February 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Even though you felt bad for the girl’s situation, you were not rude. It is your jacket, therefore, your choice. I would expect from then on, she would have a jacket on hand from that day forward. You have no need to feel guiltly for your decision.

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Anonymous March 1, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Slightly off-topic, but does anyone else here think that white pants are wildly impractical? Even independent of “female issues,” they get dirty easily, they make most people’s thighs and rear ends look bigger than they really are, and they have to be washed with all whites, if you want them to stay white.

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Angela March 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I am totally with you, anonymous.

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Michelle C Young March 2, 2013 at 2:21 am

When I was in eighth grade, I was in a choir, that had white pants as part of the uniform. I also had a highly irregular flow, so “knowing my body” was insufficient to be prepared. I’d have to wear a pad every single day, in order to be prepared, and we didn’t have money for that. Bodies are not atomic clocks, and accidents do happen.

We had a special concert on a Saturday, and my period started waaaaay early, right there, in the middle of the concert. So there I was, singing, and bleeding into my red pants. I didn’t even notice it, until it was too late. Immediately after the concert, we were bustled onto the bus to take us back to the school (no trip to the bathroom for me), where we were dropped off. Those of us whose parents had driven them to the school were picked up, and the rest of us were supposed to walk home. The school was merely the meeting point. It was not open, so no bathroom trip for me. I lived a mile from school, and unless there was a tropical storm going on, I walked. And actually, I had to walk a mile through a tropical storm, once, too. No one even thought of giving me a ride.

So there I was, an awkward, self-conscious teenager, in red pants, with the blood still FLOWING down my legs, walking a mile, in broad daylight, through my neighborhood, and back home, before I could even get to a bathroom to put on a pad, had I even had access to one.

I’m telling you this, so that you can understand that I fully know *embarrassment does not kill*. The girl might have felt embarrassed, but she would have survived.

People have, however, caught severe chills from sitting in an overly cold environment and shivering for hours. I’ve gotten severely sick from that sort of thing, myself. My sister suffered from anemia, and would be shivering cold in 70 degrees. In a room the temperature of that lecture hall, she’d be shivering so badly, she’d need to see a chiropractor the next day. I do not exaggerate. She’s shivered so hard that she’s hurt herself. So, her physical distress at being cold would actually DAMAGE her.

So all you people judging OP as “unkind” and saying how she should have sacrificed her physical comfort for the sake of saving the girl some embarrassment, and stating how YOU would certainly have sacrificed, and never mind the cost to yourself, both physical and financial, please be aware that YOU are being quite unkind, yourselves, to the poor freezing OP, and are not setting a good example of kindness. Even Mother Theresa knew that she had to take care of herself before she could effectively help others. Comparing this to a gunshot wound? PLEASE.

Further, as the OP’s update states, the girl in question simply wore the other person’s jacket on her *lap* for the rest of the lecture. Why couldn’t she put a book on her lap, and then, when the lecture was over, and everyone was headed outside to the sweltering heat, borrow a jacket at THAT point in time? It was unkind of the girl to ask someone else to suffer cold for NO reason. The other person who gave up a jacket had to sit there, freezing, for two hours, watching that girl waste a perfectly good jacket, and I feel really sorry for that other person, whose kindness was wasted..

If I had been the girl, I would have (and have done, so I know that I really would have) sucked it up, said “we’re all adults here, and know about these things, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of,” and simply walked out of the class to deal with the situation. I wouldn’t have made it anyone’s problem, except my own.

At any rate, this is an etiquette site, not a kindness site, and the OP’s behavior was not rude.

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SJ March 4, 2013 at 2:19 am

You are not under any obligation to give up your jacket when asked.

Maybe it would have been nice. But you’re not obligated to do EVERY nice thing you are asked. You don’t even need a reason.

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Nic March 5, 2013 at 12:18 am

I wouldn’t have given her your jacket – sorry if it sounds harsh, but it should be her responsibility to carry appropriate sanitary protection. She was obviously caught unprepared, it happens and i’m sure if she’d discreetly asked around the ladies in class, one of them could have spared a napkin or tampon and it would have been far more practical than a jacket. Failing that, she should have left class and made a quick run to her dorm or a nearby shop and toilet to pick up sanitary products and clean up. I always carry both napkins and tampons even when it’s not my time of the month. It never hurts to be prepared, and it also means I have spares to offer people for situations like this. You were put on the spot. I don’t think you were unkind, I think she put you in an awkward situation. Anyway if hasn’t made things awkward between you, then no harm no foul :D

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Anonymous March 5, 2013 at 12:58 pm

@Nic–Even if this young woman did have protection in her bag, putting it on after the fact (which, as far as I can tell, she did), doesn’t solve the problem of the existing stain, which, as far as we know, she could have attempted to clean up as best she could, but school/public bathrooms aren’t great for that–you can’t exactly just take off your pants and run them under the sink, because the sinks are in the main area, where there are other people. Some handicapped stalls have their own sinks, but not often–and, that’s not even getting into the debate about whether or not it’s rude for “able-bodied” people to use the handicapped stalls. Also, most public bathrooms have either switched over to the “Dyson Airblade” kind of hand dryers, like these: http://www.dysonairblade.ca/hand-dryers/airblade-mk2/airblade-mk2.aspx. They blow cool air instead of warm, and their shape is only really conducive to drying hands, not clothing. So, even if the young woman in this story took precautions, and attempted to clean herself up after the fact, she’d still have to go back to class with a wet spot on her rear end, which is embarrassing in itself.

Anyway, I don’t think the OP was unkind, or rude, or anything like that–I’ve been in that scenario before, and the only “help” I’ve ever asked anyone for was, “Could you please tell Professor X that I’ll be late for Y class.” I’m just saying that sometimes, the most simple, obvious answer (i.e., keeping protection on hand), doesn’t work……and wearing it all the time (as another poster mentioned upthread), would be expensive, wasteful, and wildly impractical. Some people aren’t irregular enough to warrant that; they just get caught off-guard.

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Bea March 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I can’t stop laughing, Michelle C Young, at the Freudian slip of “white pants” turning into “red pants” in your post. :) (Also, awful story! And good point!)

I think it’s silly for people to keep mentioning her needing/ wanting napkins, tampons etc. That wasn’t the issue. The jacket wasn’t to soak up the blood, like it was taking the place of a napkin. It was to cover the stain. Who would say “oh, I’m having my period, I’ll sit on a coat”? It was a different issue. Apples and oranges. Like buttoning your coat because you spilled on your shirt. Who cares if napkins/ tampons were available? She was maybe wearing one. It was about the stain.

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