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 }

FarrahH February 25, 2013 at 2:37 am

You’re fine. It’s your property, and you get to decide what you do with it. Just because someone asks for something of yours, it doesn’t make you rude if you say no.

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Maria February 25, 2013 at 2:44 am

Not rude. Not even unkind. You didn’t refuse out of spite (which still wouldn’t have been rude, as long as you’d phrased the refusal politely), you genuinely needed the jacket yourself.

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Nichole February 25, 2013 at 3:21 am

Yep, sorry but you were totally unsympathetic, sometimes you have to put yourself out for others and that was one of those times. She was probably totally embarrassed and instead of doing what you could to help you blew her off.

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Lex February 25, 2013 at 3:47 am

I don’t think you did anything wrong – someone asked you to lend them your jacket to cover a blood stain? Blood is a bio-hazard – asking for people’s garments is rude. There are plenty of products on the market aimed at preventing this issue – panty liners for example. When I know I’m ‘due on’ I will wear dark clothing and a liner specifically because I want to avoid this. The fact this fellow student did not make contingency does not automatically give her to right to ask to soil someone elses garment (which may or may not be really expensive and difficult to launder) with her menstrual blood! Refusing her request wasn’t rude as long as you didn’t make a big issue of it and embarrass her. It sounds like you didn’t so don’t worry about it.

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Agania February 25, 2013 at 4:03 am

That girl’s emergency wasn’t your problem to solve, it was hers. You weren’t just being mean by not sharing. You needed that jacket. You had a need (being cold) and you were prepared for it (had a jacket). She should have provided for her own need. Yes, accidents do happen but it wasn’t your job to solve it.

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Bint February 25, 2013 at 4:04 am

You have the right to decline a request, so there is no etiquette fail.

With the benefit of hindsight, I’d have given it to her just because she was in such a horribly embarrassing situation, and even to ask someone must have been so humiliating for her. Although then I’d have asked to have the stupid A/C turned off or down on the grounds that I was freezing. Have you complained about the A/C before?

So no, not wrong and understandable, but I feel so sorry for that poor girl.

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m February 25, 2013 at 4:24 am

I don’t see this as an etiquette issue, but rather a human decency one. OP wasn’t rude for refusing to help her classmate and it is entirely her choice as to what is more important to her: her own comfort or helping another. On the other hand, I would like to think that if I had been in her situation, I would have offered my coat to a classmate in need.

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Margo February 25, 2013 at 4:35 am

I don’t think you were rude. I’m sure it was embarrassing for your classmate but it wasn’t your responsibility to fix it for her. It sounds as though your were polite in your refusal, so I think you were fine.

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Sarah February 25, 2013 at 4:44 am

If she’d asked to tie your jacket around her waist briefly while you accompany her to her car, and then she would collect replacement pants or go home, I can understand the request. It sounds like you would have done that for her because you could put your jacket right back on when you return to the class.

However, she was asking to use the jacket for the remaining two hours of class! That is unfair. Why would she need it for two hours of sitting? I would not have given up my jacket.

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Marozia February 25, 2013 at 5:01 am

Well, no, I don’t think you violated a girl code, and it definitely was not rude. It is your jacket, and you can do what you like with it, and if you have a cold lecture hall, you should wear it.
Perhaps your friend would’ve been better off wearing black pants and carrying back-up clothes just in case of emergency at ‘that time of month’.
I am somewhat surprised no-one else has felt or even complained about the cold in that lecture hall.

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Puzzled February 25, 2013 at 5:04 am

No, I do not think you were rude. I would never lend my jacket, especially for this purpose, whether I were cold or not. I’m not really comfortable lending personal items. This has a definite eww factor.

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Billie February 25, 2013 at 5:18 am

I think that you were fine, and I actually think she was rude for asking- she was asking you to sacrifice your own comfort for hers. I interested in admin’s take on this one too.

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Jess February 25, 2013 at 5:27 am

Wow, really harsh. I mean, I understand that you didn’t want to be cold, but surely you could have dealt with it for one class to help out a fellow woman with a feminine issue. Is there no way that you could have asked your lecturer to turn the air conditioning down?

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CaffeineKatie February 25, 2013 at 5:27 am

Social embarrassment versus 2 hours of actual suffering in the cold–nope, you did the right thing. It’s clear you would have helped her if you could, but you couldn’t.

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Mer February 25, 2013 at 5:39 am

I have to admit that as this being “non life threatening” accident, I would also be hesitant to have stranger’s blood on my items. It is a health hazard in worst case scenario and anyway it is sometimes very difficult to clean.

Personally, if I’d have accident like this (and I have had in my young-hood), I would leave the lecture. If attendance would be mandatory, I would at least try to reason with lecturer that I could go home and change clothes or make up my absence with some other task. Personally, I believe that any lecturer/professor I’ve ever known in my university would have agreed without any problem.

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FunkyMunky February 25, 2013 at 5:56 am

I do not think you were obligated to lend her your jacket. In the same situation, I probably would have loaned it, then sat there resenting every second of it. She had a choice – she could have gone home rather than risking biological hazards spilling onto classmates’ loaned clothing.

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justme February 25, 2013 at 6:02 am

I don’t think the op did anything rude. The classmate should of asked the op to take notes while she went home to change.

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essie February 25, 2013 at 6:14 am

I have been in your classmate’s situation a few times myself and I would NEVER ask someone else to loan me a clothing article to cover up (I desperately wished someone would OFFER to help in some way, but I NEVER asked). TMI, but there’s no way I could guarantee the article would be returned in the same condition.

Whether the manner in w hich you denied her was rude, nobody can say because we weren’t there and you didn’t include the actual conversation, but the fact that you refused was not rude, in and of itself. (1) You are not required to acquiesce to every request, whether it’s for cash, a coffee date, or clothing. (2) You were actively using the article she requested.

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Sazerac February 25, 2013 at 6:14 am

From a person who uses a space heater in his office all year long because of how cold the office is kept by the “powers that be,” let me first say I utterly sympathize with you in having to suffer through rooms that are kept far too cold in the summertime.

Your classmate was within her right to politely ask you for the loan of your jacket, and you were absolutely in your right to refuse politely, as you did. Her mentioning her bleeding was a bit TMI – it may not have been “feminine time of the month” related but that’s the first thing I thought of. (Eccch!) However, she didn’t get upset and approached someone else and her problem was solved.

You are beating yourself up unnecessarily for a non-issue. I doubt she gave another thought about it after she solved her problem. Let this one go and remember that it’s fine to help others, when it doesn’t come at an overweening personal cost. Etiquette and martyrdom are not synonymous.

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Angela February 25, 2013 at 7:39 am

Girl should have gone home and changed. It’s one thing to borrow something for a few minutes but there was a risk she would have bled all over your jacket as well as her own pants.

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Mary February 25, 2013 at 7:46 am

Even before this incident I would have been complaining to administration to have something done about the temperature in the lecture hall. But I’m a person who has no qualms about that.
This was definitely a tough call to make! I don’t even know what I would have done. With hindsight being 20/20, my first thought would be to lend her the jacket temporarily and ask to sit near her in the hall. Then as soon as she was settled in her seat, take the jacket back to wear for the remaining lecture. Then when it was time to leave, give her the jacket so she could disguise her problem.

I feel for both the OP and the other student!

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Girlysprite February 25, 2013 at 7:48 am

No, you weren’t rude and it isn’t part of some girl code. Also, it is your jacket and it is almost never rude not to lend items. Others cannot dictate what you do with your stuff. Also, you really needed your jacket, and her need certainly wasn’t greater than yours. Third, did you consider the fact that the blood might get on your jacket? That is icky…

So plethora of good reasons to say no. And anyways, it seems your classmate made no fuss over your refusal, so no point in feeling bad.

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Molly February 25, 2013 at 7:49 am

Well, I feel sorry for that girl, but unless you are close friends, it seems weird she would ask for your jacket. Frankly, if you have blood on your pants, I don’t want to give you my jacket so you can possibly get blood on that, too! Not to mention the fact that I would freeze without my jacket. If we were buddies, maybe I’d throw you a bone.

I guess the problem is that this girl is rating her own dignity above your 1. comfort and 2. possessions. Is her dignity worth more than those two things? I don’t know. However, she has the option of going home to change.

I don’t think you did anything wrong—giving her the jacket would be, in my opinion, going far beyond the bounds of every day politeness and getting into martyr (or sucker) territory.

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another Laura February 25, 2013 at 8:00 am

You apologized and explained why you couldn’t help her out. While it certainly would have been nice to give her the jacket, you were under no obligation to do so. Her failure to plan does not require you to come to her rescue. In this situation, rude would have been to react in such a way as to call the attention of others to her unfortunate and embarrassing situation. Politely declining a request for a favor is usually not rude.

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Kimberly February 25, 2013 at 8:01 am

Your reaction might have been rude, but honestly, there is no way I would lend an article of my clothing for someone to sit on to cover their blood. I don’t need or want someone else’s blood on my clothes.

If she bled through and was trying to cover it up, wouldn’t she still be bleeding?

I think she should have left the lecture and taken care of things.

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Lo February 25, 2013 at 8:05 am

I don’t think you did anything wrong, for the record. The right thing for her to do would have been to excuse herself from class immediately and get somewhere she could change. I know how humiliating it is to bleed through but I wouldn’t dare ask for a stranger’s jacket to cover myself, what if I bled on that too??

I would probably have gone to the bathroom and called a friend or family member for help if I it was terribly obvious.

I think that freely offered it would have been a kindness to a stranger, but you were not obligated. Nor should she have asked. Who even knows if you’ll ever see the garment again? You don’t know this person.

There’s no such thing as “girl code.” There are only people helping each other out. You have a right to refuse.

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Marc Sulinski February 25, 2013 at 8:10 am

I think you were fine. You are under no obligation to make someone else comfortable at the expense of yourself. I would have been concerned that the jacket would have been returned to me with blood on it.

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o_gal February 25, 2013 at 8:22 am

“Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

She asked politely, you turned her down politely. No trip to e-hell for either you or her.

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Ally February 25, 2013 at 8:28 am

Even if you weren’t freezing, that’s a huge favor to ask someone. There’s still a decent chance her pants are still wet and your jacket could get stained. I’d willingly hand over a tampon or pad, but asking someone to hand over a jacket, especially the one someone is wearing, is excessive. Especially since the give was sitting down and wouldn’t need the jacket until after lecture was over. And especially since you didn’t seem to know her – how would you get your jacket back?

I absolutely think you did nothing wrong.

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Saucygirl February 25, 2013 at 8:33 am

I fully understand not wanting to freeze for two hours. And aren’t you sitting for those two hours? So she would be sitting on your jacket, essentially wasting it, as no one could see anything anyway? If I was quick enough to think it, I think my offer would be that I want my jacket in class, but she was welcome to it when it came time to leave and walk to cars. Ie, when it is actually needed

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E February 25, 2013 at 8:39 am

If I had that kind of accident and bled on to my pants, I don’t think I would ask a fellow student for their jacket because of the chance that I might bleed on that too. The better alternative would have been to go home, clean up and change – perhaps missing the last half of lecture. I don’t think the OP was rude. One has to balance one’s own needs with the needs of others, and while a bloodstain is potentially embarrassing, it’s not life-threatening and most likely not even all that visible – definitely not visible while sitting through lecture!

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AMC February 25, 2013 at 8:41 am

It would have been nice of you to lend her your jacket, but you are not obligated to. It is your jacket, and you are within your rights to politely decline the request. There’s no mention of her making a fuss about it, so I assume she accepted your ‘no’ in stride and just asked another classmate. I don’t think either of you are guilty of making an etiquette faux pas.

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Ergala February 25, 2013 at 8:48 am

Okay I am grossed out. This goes beyond “Was I rude” to was SHE rude. When I was in my early 20′s (and even in my teens) I had very very heavy cycles. They were brutal and often times I’d leak through my “protection” and through my pants. I would NEVER dream of asking someone if I could tie their jacket around my waist because there was a very good chance some of my blood would get onto their jacket. What the young lady should have done was do what I had to a few times, ask the professor in private if she could be excused for a short while so she could run home and change. As a woman I always carry an extra pair of underwear and a change of pants/skirt/shorts in my car just in case. Not just for a situation like this but in case I got stuck somewhere and needed a change of clothes. If she’s wearing dark jeans I doubt it would have been noticeable while she dashed out.

I feel bad for your classmate though. I had that happen at work once during a meeting. Thankfully I was wearing a very long jean skirt that had a pretty shawl type wrap that went around the waist and was long so it covered up anyone noticing. But I did change and said it was because I was feeling a tad nippy when someone asked me why I changed later in the day. Due to a medical reason I no longer have to endure those awful moments and boy am I thankful!

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Bill February 25, 2013 at 8:52 am

Just because someone makes a request of you, you’re not obliged to do what they ask. Not rude at all in my opinion.

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PhDeath February 25, 2013 at 9:15 am

I agree with the general consensus that the OP was well within the bounds of etiquette. To those admonishing the OP for not addressing the temperature issue with the lecturer, my guess is that the lecturer likely has no control over the issue. If this is anything like my university (where I’ve taught in puffy jackets in the past!), some mythical higher-up chooses the temp and everyone else just has to live with it. :)

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Laura February 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

I’m with those who believe she should have gone home to change. Maybe I’ve had one too many bloodborne pathogens training classes, but she’s putting others in danger by potentially allowing her bodily fluids to come in contact with objects/surfaces others could come in contact with. Dangerous and gross. Angela had a great idea, ask OP to take notes for her. It sounds like you woudn’t have minded doing that.

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Felicity February 25, 2013 at 9:27 am

While I feel bad for your classmate as well, her options were to deal with it as is, ask someone for a coat, or go home. I have made the mistake of wearing a white dress with bright orange undergarments once, but I kept my shoulder bag carefully positioned and got through class. Personally, if I had been in the place of the classmate, I agree with Mer, I would’ve bugged out at that point and gone home.

I don’t think you did anything wrong declining use of your coat, but I can understand feeling bad putting your priorities above hers. It’s just a personality type, I think, that makes us rehash these scenarios. However, it is entirely reasonable to put your priorities first in a class you’ve paid for and for the folks who mention that the high AC should’ve been been reported. That doesn’t necessarily do anything. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve taken summer college courses in jeans and sweaters with entire classrooms of students/teachers who have reported the temperature to maintenance. Sometimes reporting it doesn’t do squat and you just have to dress warm.

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Shoegal February 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

I also feel for that poor girl – I’ve been there – and it isn’t fun. By the way – about planning and being prepared for a situation like this – sometimes it just happens and you are caught completely off guard. Even with protection – and every precaution I have bled through – sometimes it just happens. There could have been extenuating factors that kept her from going home to change – for one – she had no car, had to take public transportation – wait for a bus to go all the way home – I would have definitely given her my jacket and I would not have expected it back. On the same note, I agree that you were well in your rights to refuse the request – but I also think it is not a question of etiquette but of human decency. You were in no way rude – and I don’t think the girl was rude for politely asking if perhaps you’d lend your jacket to help her in her time of need. I would have suffered through the cold class and would have been happy that my sacrafice helped a fellow human being.

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Huh February 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to loan my jacket to a stranger (classmate) to possibly get blood on it and/or never see it again.

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Batale February 25, 2013 at 9:42 am

I’ve actually been in this situation before. My cycles aren’t always regular and I’ve been caught out with bleeding at least twice that I can remember – once at university and once at work. That said, I never even considered asking anyone for clothing, I got up and left as soon as it was possible. Leaving a lecture (especially since she had a break) when there’s a justifiable reason is perfectly understandable – so I’d say you didn’t break any etiquette rules. I’m assuming there’s a reason she felt she had to stay for the lecture, but you were under no expectation to give up something you actively needed.

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Helen February 25, 2013 at 9:57 am

I’m with Lex on this one. There’s no way her blood wouldn’t have rubbed off onto your jacket, and I can’t imagine being so presumptuous as to ask such a favor. I get that she was embarrassed, but: 1) it’s her responsibility to manage her feminine hygiene; 2) you are never supposed to return an item in worse condition than when it was lent to you and she has no way of knowing that the blood could be removed from your jacket, which makes it impossible for her to borrow it in good faith; and 3) it’s your clothing — it’s rather personal and rather intrusive to request to borrow someone’s clothing particularly when that person is wearing it.

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Angela February 25, 2013 at 10:02 am

Regarding “girl code”: I’m not a girl anymore but I believe this code makes one a meanie if you have plenty of pads or tampons and you refuse to give one to someone in need, unless said someone is a known mooch. In no way does it obligate you to lend a garment that might end up stained itself.

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Sensibility February 25, 2013 at 10:07 am

Wow I am surprised that anyone, at all, would consider your polite refusal to be rude! (#3 and #13, respectively.)

OP, you were not in any way rude. It is your jacket. You are not obligated to let a classmate bleed all over it just because she asks for it.
Sure, letting her borrow the jacket is a nice thing to do, but you will not be sent to Etiquette Hell for choosing to fulfill your need to keep from freezing over her need to cover up her embarrassment.

“No.” is just as acceptable an answer as “Yes.”

Only entitled special snowflakes would feel otherwise.

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AthenaC February 25, 2013 at 10:09 am

From the post and from reading the comments –

1) The classmate wasn’t rude. She made a request politely and handled rejection gracefully. The nature of her request is irrelevant. But while we’re on the subject, sometimes Mother Nature thwarts the best of anyone’s contingency plans and the fact that she was in such a position doesn’t mean that anyone can rightfully assume she was negligent or careless in failing to adequately prepare. Also, it’s worth noting that when someone panics, they don’t always have the best judgment. I am willing to bet this classmate realized, after everything was resolved, that she probably could have handled it better; however, that won’t undo her fumbled attempt to resolve it in the moment.

2) The OP wasn’t rude. She had every right to refuse the request, and she did so politely. ‘Nuff said.

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Jones February 25, 2013 at 10:15 am

I’m grossed out at the thought that she wanted to sit and possibly bleed on your garment for 2 hours. Ugh.

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admin February 25, 2013 at 10:21 am

I interpreted it as the fellow student wanted to borrow the sweater so that she could get home as discreetly as possible. Not that she wanted to sit through the remaining lecture with the sweater underneath her.

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desireesgranny February 25, 2013 at 10:18 am

Who wants someone else’s blood on their clothing? I get extremely cold also, so I know exactly what you are talking about. I wear long pants and short sleeved shirts to work all summer. I carry a jacket just in case it is too cold for me. I am often teased because I am always cold.

I don’t think that you were rude to your fellow student. Your jacket was for your convenience, you needed it, end of story.

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DGS February 25, 2013 at 10:24 am

I don’t think you were rude, but I do think that you were unkind. Yes, it’s the young woman’s responsibility to manage her own feminine hygiene, but I would imagine that only sheer desperation would have driven her to ask you for your jacket (and dry cleaners exist specifically for such a purpose as potentially cleaning a garment, although there is no way to know for sure that her blood would have rubbed off on the jacket – and yes, I’m a woman, so I know how challenging it is to have to deal with a menstrual emergency). The jacket is your property, and you can do with it what you please, but I think a kinder thing to do would have been to lend the jacket to a friend in need and have tolerated being cold.

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gramma dishes February 25, 2013 at 10:25 am

Everyone seems to be coming down hard on the poor girl with the problem for not planning ahead and having adequate ‘supplies’ for preventing this from happening. Sorry, that may just be totally unrealistic.

These things have a way of sometimes happening totally unexpectedly. Not everyone has exact precise 28 day cycles and occasionally Aunt Ruby comes to visit without warning. She probably didn’t even realize that she had the issue at all until the break and then she panicked.

Add to the fact that this was a summer class. I don’t know in this particular case, but the one time I took summer classes at a college (for post graduate degree) nearly all the students attending were commuters. My own personal drive was 40 minutes each way. No one in the classes actually lived on or near the campus, so going ‘home’ and returning might have been totally impossible.

Would I have loaned her my jacket if I were freezing? I definitely would have if she were a friend or even a casual acquaintance. But it sounds like this particular woman was a stranger, so in honesty probably not. In any case, neither the damsel in distress or the OP was rude.

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Library Diva February 25, 2013 at 10:33 am

Not rude at all. From the way this is written, it doesn’t sound as if OP even really knows this girl, other than her being a face in the class. Who’s to say that she ever would have seen this jacket again? And, how is it less embarrassing to go up to everyone wearing a sweater and ask to borrow it than just walking home with the stain on her pants would be?

I came to realize long ago that whenever you’re in that situation, although it may feel like you’re standing under a spotlight and the whole world is looking at you, most people aren’t. Just like they usually aren’t. They’re trying not to be late getting to their destination, they’re worried about running into their ex, they’re hoping no one notices the remnants of lunch all over THEIR clothing.

As Angela #42 said, the only way it’s mean is if you refuse to help out with feminine items when you could have done so easily. That’s not what OP’s classmate asked. OP was well within her right to keep her jacket and not freeze.

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bloo February 25, 2013 at 10:42 am

OP, you were not rude. I’m sorry for both of you. As a woman, I’m mortified for your classmate, but as a woman that cannot think, sleep, concentrate when I’m cold – I would have reacted the same way as you did.

If I’d handed her my jacket, sweater, whatever, I may as well pick up my books and leave class because I wouldn’t be able to focus on what’s going on.

If I’m moving I’m fine. But SITTING in the cold? It’s why I’ve given up hunting, with the exception of stalking. I can’t sit in a tree stand for 2-3 hours in 15-20 degree weather even with 5 layers of clothes including Under Armour and stay warm. Stalking? No problem. You’re moving!

My kids and I took a class together recently and the room was cold and some of our friends (also in the class) brought blankets to wrap around themselves to keep warm. Most weren’t uncomfortable – I was fine with a heavy sweater, but I saw nothing wrong with blankets! OP, if you’re reading comments, bring layers to wear, put them on IN class and wrap a blanket around yourself. I’m not kidding. You’ll be comfortable and for those that ‘run hot’ they won’t have to worry about the air being turned up.

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