Most of you know my story and how going gluten free probably saved my life (literally) a few years ago. Comments like the ones shown in the images below are all the rage, and they’re nothing new to me. They’ve been popular for years and the trend hasn’t died, despite being tired, unoriginal, and based in sheer ignorance. Let’s take a look…
When someone has diabetes, do people get annoyed with or make fun of their dietary restrictions? When someone has cancer, do people tell them it’s made up and all in their heads? I’m confident that the answer is no. Why, then, do people do those things to people with celiac disease or gluten allergy? I have folders full of medical records, bills, and laboratory testing to prove that it’s not “made up.” What makes someone feel so entitled that they can dismiss a serious medical condition simply because they haven’t been presented with private, personal medical information for “proof,” or that they are simply too ignorant to understand what it means?
I know there are a lot of really stupid people in this world, but sometimes I see otherwise intelligent people parroting these ignorant things, and it really baffles me. I chalk it up to their need to join the crowd and fit in. What other explanation is there? Or maybe they really are too lazy to do just a tiny bit of research on the topic on their own. Who knows?
In general, I don’t care what people think of my medical condition and the dietary needs that I have in order to live, but there is one group of people I really do need to pick a bone with about this. There are people working in the food service industry who say the ignorant things shown in the examples I have presented. Those people prepare and serve food to people, and that’s pretty freaking scary. A negligent kitchen worker or server who doesn’t take a gluten free request seriously can seriously harm or even kill somebody with their arrogant ignorance. If you’re one of those people, try to understand that dining out when you have celiac disease or a food allergy is something that most of us do very rarely because it’s so stressful.
We do not enjoy having to request your special allergen menu, and then watching you roll your eyes to your coworker while you try to find it.
We do not enjoy having to ask you questions about ingredients or how the food is prepared. We know you’re busy. This sucks for us, too.
We do not enjoy only being able to choose from maybe a handful of things on the menu that we can eat while everyone around us eats whatever they want with no cares in the world.
We do not enjoy being the only person at the party without a piece of cake while watching everyone else enjoy theirs.
We do not enjoy having to spend three times as much money for gluten free food (food is my family’s BIGGEST expense), but we must because it’s that damn important.
We do not enjoy wondering if you think we are being bothersome to you. We really just want to eat safely and not end up in the hospital later.
We do not enjoy the awkward feeling that overcomes us when the free bread basket is placed on our table.
We do not enjoy feeling like we are an inconvenience to you, the people in the kitchen, the people dining with us, and the other diners in the restaurant just because we want to have a meal like everyone else.
We do not enjoy having to limit the restaurant choices for our friends and family to a very small number of places when they invite us out to dinner for our birthday once a year. (Where I live, there are only about 3 places I can eat, and they’re all 30 minutes away).
When I dine out, I am actually embarrassed when I must mention to the server that I can’t eat gluten. I say it as discreetly as possible, and always wonder if people around me can hear me and if they think I’m one of “those” people who wants to “tell the whole restaurant how they can’t eat gluten.” And if I wanted to, why is that even a bad thing? For cancer, diabetes, and plenty of other medical conditions, there are marathons, awareness ribbons, and fundraisers. People celebrate bringing awareness to these medical conditions, and they wear the t-shirts. But if I mention my medical condition, verified by several doctors and laboratory testing, when it’s relevant to making sure I can eat safely, I’m some kind of target for hateful comments like these ones. Why is that? And as an aside, when I dine out and get a server who is accommodating and understanding, I always leave them a nice tip. When I get a server who clearly doesn’t care, I spend the next 24 hours wondering if I should cancel all my plans because surely I’m going to be sick soon. Maybe it will take some people needing to be gluten free themselves before they will truly understand. Or maybe one of their children will develop celiac disease or a gluten allergy. I hope they don’t, but sometimes I think that’s the only way these people will get it. To all the food service workers out there who are looking out, we appreciate you.