Love

I'm 25 And Trying To Date While Battling Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Photo: Irina Bg / Shutterstock
woman laying down with stomach pain

You can probably imagine the scene: I am at a dimly lit restaurant (because that's where most first dates are, it probably has something to do with the lighting), sitting across the table from an attractive guy. We are talking, laughing, drinking and I'm probably making my best attempt at flirting, which usually includes making jokes at other people’s expense when I start to feel it happening.

There is no escape and as quickly as it begins, my happy and flirty nature turns to panic and distress as I try to slow down my talking, breathing, and praying that it will pass before I have to bolt off to a bathroom.

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My first thought is, Not here, not now. My second thought? How can I hide this from the cute guy who, for now, has a perfect image of me? Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not a phrase you ever want to drop on a first date or any date for that matter. It's like a medium-high on the baggage scale. It's basically like saying, "Hello, nice to meet you. I sh*t constantly, hope you're cool with that."

I excuse myself, knowing that if I am in there for too long he will for sure know that I am pooping and I definitely can't go out and excuse myself again two minutes later if it's not over yet. So, I sit in the stall sweating and shaking, hoping that it will pass sooner rather than later, only it never does when I'm in a situation like this.

Alanis Morissette ironically prepared me for that. When I finally pull myself together, I spray my emergency perfume, re-apply lipstick and walk out. "The line for the bathroom was so ridiculous." Nailed it.

I've been dealing with IBS for a long time. To be honest, I can't even remember when it started. I have run out of countless classrooms in the middle of tests. I've made friends stop at some sketchy gas stations on road trips. I've even run off in the middle of important meetings at work. Having to disclose to your bosses you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome is less than ideal.

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The crap just never stops. Pun intended.

I'm pretty positive that besides my irrational fear of balloons, my biggest fear at this point in my life is getting a bout of IBS on a New York subway.

It's like a death trap in there and there's no getting out. For LA people it would be like having an IBS attack on The 405 at 6 PM (Yes, that has happened to me).

When it comes to dating with IBS, I guess it really just comes down to finding someone who isn't easily scared away by bodily functions. A doctor, perhaps? 

I've had two serious boyfriends in my life that have been witness to my IBS, three if you include my college roommate who probably experienced my "episodes" more than anyone else and lovingly laughed at me whenever I had to make a pit stop or made her leave a party early. She's the true hero of the story here. 

My first conversation with my high school/college boyfriend was simple. As I was running out of drama class sophomore year praying I made it to a bathroom in time, I heard him say, "Are you going to take a sh*t?” I looked at him and simply responded, "Yep." "It was, to this day, the weirdest first conversation I've ever had.

We ended up dating for another two years, but I had no qualms about our first conversation. How was I supposed to know we would end up dating? Even though he knew about my problem, he had known me for so long that it wasn't weird anymore. He understood that if I said, you need to pull over now, it meant right that second. Unfortunately, he was a terrible person (his IBS acceptance aside), so it ended.

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So I left Arizona and entered the California dating pool. At least in Los Angeles most guys are too absorbed in themselves to notice that you've been sneaking off to the bathroom.

That leads me to the second guy I dated. This guy was fun and we worked together, so I decided to go for it. I found out after I was already too interested in him to stop that he was extremely uncomfortable with anything bathroom related. He once told me that girls didn't poop or fart.

My reaction to this was something like, "Whoever you marry is really screwed." Seriously though, guys, I get you to want to keep this pretty image of us in your brain, but at some point, your girlfriend is going to fart and the only thing you can really do is laugh.

I got lucky and didn't have an IBS emergency for about three months around him. Until one night I was at his place and didn't have a choice but to run off to his bathroom. I came back out and for whatever reason, told him that I have a weak stomach and I vomit a lot. I mean vomiting sounded way better than explosive diarrhea, right?

We dated on and off for a few years and finally, after the first year, I came across an article about being a 20-something with IBS I sent it to him and I just said, "This is what I have. Read it so you understand."

I mean he must have thought at that point I was bulimic with the amount of bathroom time I'd clocked in over the year. Of course, he was never comfortable talking about it, but from then on he understood that when I was sick he would have to sit around and wait until it was over.

Dating with IBS is awkward and embarrassing, but I've learned to laugh it off because it's not going anywhere — and neither am I.

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Lindsey Kupfer is the Deputy Editor for PageSix, as well as a freelance writer who contributes to YourTango and Bustle in her free time. Follow her on Twitter for more.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2014 and has been updated. 

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