Loose vs. Solid

I often get invited to community outreach centers around New York to lecture on HIV. The audience is usually made up with HIV positive adults who take part in these outreach programs to educate themselves. I enjoy talking to these groups because they tend to be very lively. Even though I am not suppose to discuss individual treatments (because I’m not their doctor) I am usually bombarded with questions that pertain to their specific health care.

“How do you know if you have protein in your urine?” asks a wide eyed woman in the back. “I think I have that because every time I pee I can see lots of bubbles.” Before I can finish explaining that protein in the urine is microscopic another young lady begins speaking.


“Hi, I’m Tiara. My doctor put me on something that gave me nausea, and I can’t be losing my appetite because I don’t want to loose weight.” She states this  while eating a Big Mac and french fries. “So I had to smoke pot so that I would get my appetite back, but I don’t want to have to smoke pot to be on HIV medication. Is there a suggestion you could make for me?”

“Yes, how about you pass those fries on over here.”

Avoiding these questions is next to impossible and once someone gets started the entire group soon follows suit.

“You said something about diarrhea before,” says Mr. Tucker who is the only one wearing an ID badge. “To tell you the truth I don’t mind that particular side effect. I feel like that cleans me out.”


“Are you crazy?” chimes in Tiara. “Hell no. I like my stool solid.” Then she holds up her fist and makes a motion as though it was a gavel and she is pretending to be Judge Judy.

“All I’m saying is that sometimes a loose bowel moment feels good,” continues Mr. Tucker.

I look over at the facilitator, the one who invited me to speak, but he shrugs his shoulders in frustration. Honestly I don’t mind. I like interactive talks, and the more heated the argueing gets, the more entertaining.

“Well, Mr. Tucker is right,” I interject. “Side effects are subjective and there are varying degrees of diarrhea. Apparently, he has a form of diarrhea that is tolerable for him.”

“I don’t care what you say about subjective or tolerable,” says Tiara eating my fries. “When I go to the bathroom I have to feel the pinch. It has to look like the letter “S” when I’m done. Okay?”

Tiara then turns to the women next to her, the one wearing a Laker’s jersey, and holds up her hand so that they can high five each other. The woman in the Laker’s jersey is eating a foot long Subway sandwich. Despite all the talk of nausea and diarrhea, I am ravenous.

Mr. Tucker and Tiara continue arguing for the next twenty minutes. By the time they’re done, the lecture is over. So I thank everyone for coming and try to leave. On my way out the door, a woman stops me. “Dr. Spinelli? Can I axe you a question?”


“Don’t mind us. Sometimes some of us go off on tangents, but we appreciate you coming down here.”

How could I tell this woman I don’t mind listening to people argue about the size and shape of their stool. Likewise, it would be inappropriate for me to also tell her that I agree with Mr. Tucker’s theory that a loose number two does make me feel cleaned out. In fact, if I had it my way we would have held the talk in McDonalds, eating burgers and fries, while we went around the table sharing our own thoughts about excrement. Of course I don’t because I wouldn’t want her to think that I am poking fun at them.

Instead I say, “No thank you. The pleasure was all mine.”



  1. mich lyon
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    feel the pinch? i am still laughing out loud!!

  2. spinellimd
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Oh come on you can relate. I’m on team loose myself.

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