Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another Anecdote

I've mentioned in the past that my PhD advisor, who is nearing 60, never been married, never had children, never had a pregnant student, and has actually rarely even had a female student (I think I'm the second or third one in his 30+ year career) falls into what I would call the "supportive but clueless" category when it comes to dealing with my pregnancy. He means well. He really does. He just doesn't quite fully understand the situation. And being a male computer scientist, he exhibits the usual stereotypical social awkwardness that is somewhat prevalent in my field. This week's anecdote to illustrate the point:

There's an event in my lab at school next week that my advisor wants me to try to attend. This isn't a totally unrealistic expectation, since (a) I really do want to attend it; and (b) let's be honest, I'm not exactly going into labor at the moment. Still, I warned him that, despite both his and my hope for me to be there, it might not happen. Less than 10 days before my due date? Entirely out of my control at this point. I reminded him that I could go into labor at any time, and if that happens before the event, then I would (obviously) not be able to attend. He responded by saying, "Or you could just hold it in until afterwards." At which point I said, "Yeah, right!" and I laughed. Wouldn't you? Because everybody in the world knows that's absurd, right?

At which point he launched into a story. Several years ago, he was on an airplane, and he drank a lot of water, but for some reason, he didn't get up during the flight to go to the bathroom. It got to the point where he really needed to pee, and as he started to get up, the seatbelt sign came on because they were approaching their destination. So, he stayed in his seat. But then the plane circled the airport for like half an hour or more! And he had to hold it in that whole time, even though he really had to go! It was "really painful," but somehow he managed to hold it in until the plane was safely on the ground. So he knows how tough it can be to hold it in, he totally gets it, but he knows I could do it if I really wanted to.

How do you respond to a story like this? I stared at him in bemused disbelief for several seconds before slowly saying, "Thanks for that gripping and completely relevant story." Several of my labmates were present for this entire encounter, and even the nerdiest and most oblivious among them had somewhat horrified expressions on their faces. (Probably not because of the ridiculousness of the suggestion that labor = needing to pee, but rather because of the ridiculousness of publicly sharing that story for any reason. That time you really needed to pee but didn't? That's a story that needs to be told?!)

My advisor shrugged and said, "Just something to consider." Several people present told me that they were amazed I didn't punch his lights out right there. I'm still shaking my head over the whole thing. He really had to pee, but he held it in! Truly inspiring.


  1. That was a story just begging to be shared. How could he have kept that just bottled up? I can just picture that scene of him just patting you on the arm and saying, "I know you can hold it in if you really want to."

  2. Wow. Now there's a man totally lacking in self-awareness and self-restraint. And any knowledge of the whole labor and delivery thing. Perhaps now is a moment when I'm glad I'm a lawyer at a firm where most senior lawyers have kids.

  3. I'm sorry but that is just too hilarious. Equating peeing and labor is so astonishingly and laughingly funny. I'm cracking up over here.

    But that said, he does tell an impressive tail of urine retention. I'm pretty sure I could never held my pee in for so long.

  4. I am laughing at this and cann ot come up with anything witty to retaliate because this is utterly ridiculous

  5. Wow, no words! How DO you respond to that?

    My husband is a web developer so I totally understand that social awkwardness (he's actually pretty good, considering, but some of his friends/coworkers are not so much!)

    Anyways- doesn't he know it's dangerous to hold your pee, let alone a pregnancy! ;)


Talk To Me!