Do you remember when Disney pulled an episode of Jessie because the children threw pancakes at a fellow classmate on a gluten free diet? Alongside the rest of the celiac community, I thought this sent a poor message, one of intolerance. BUT, I never thought this would actually happen to me… until yesterday.
On Monday, I began working with a new supervisor who is more than twice my age. Since we work outdoors, all of our meals are prepared on site. When I explained why I bring my own lunch, he joked (in a very serious tone) that I could never get angry at my future husband because he would put something in my food. I replied that I carefully prepare my meals and hope I wouldn’t marry someone who would react that way. His response: “If I was your husband, I would find a way.”
He proceeded to call me his girlfriend for the rest of the day. I assumed he meant “female friend” since I was the only girl in our crew. It wasn’t until the end of the day when he laughed about our future wedding date that I realized he meant “romantic partner,” and hadn’t let the joke go.
By Tuesday, my new supervisor still couldn’t let me be. And, at lunch time, he thought it would be funny to throw a chocolate chip cookie at me. Twice. We should first attempt to understand why someone in his late forties would be so immature. And, second, why he would want to waste a perfectly good cookie.
Neither of his jokes were funny, and I should have taken the first one as a big red flag that he didn’t understand the seriousness of what I was telling him. I naïvely assumed if I kept telling him that his actions were inappropriate, he would stop. Fortunately, once I hit my breaking point, I was able to switch to a new work crew. However, I never received an apology, and I fear that the next colleague or child he meets with a serious dietary restriction will be treated the same way.
I must admit, it wasn’t until yesterday that I understood why celiac and food allergy awareness is necessary. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by compassionate and understanding friends, family, and colleagues. In the past, I explain my condition and no one questions why I bring my own food. (Nor do they try to torment me, something I’ve certainly taken for granted.)
For those with celiac disease and food allergies, our goal is the same as yours. We want to work and live in a safe environment. It just turns out that our definition of a “safe environment” may be different than yours.
Therefore, to all of you advocating for those with celiac disease and/or food allergies, thank you! Please keep doing what you’re doing.
Now, let’s end on a more positive note. Here are some of the amazing things my family and friends have done in the past to include me that were above and beyond.
- My sister bakes me new treats every time she’s home from college.
- My mom surprises me with enough frozen soup to last a month when I become overwhelmed.
- My dad has a list of my favorite food brands on his phone and took me to NYC to try new restaurants.
- Alyssa and Melissa went on long detours to find completely gluten free bakeries as we travelled across the country.
- Kristin kept my car a gluten free zone, even as we packed for a road trip in under an hour.
- My aunt had a special dairy free chocolate bar for me, alongside the ones she gave my cousins last Easter.
- My aunt and uncle who include my favorite soap in our family Christmas present.
- Santa Claus brings me chocolate from Premium Chocolatiers.
- Sarah, who was willing to try new restaurants in her hometown of Philly with me.
- Trisha and my other Colorado Springs friends who have eaten at Coquette’s more times than I can count.
- Meghan let me use her brand new pan when I was visiting that she got as a wedding present.
Thank you so much! And, whether medical conditions or something else, let’s just try to be nice to one another. If you need inspiration, you can listen to Garth Brook’s “People Loving People.”
Side Note: For those of you who know where I usually work, this occurred at a different temporary position.