Sunday, June 21, 2015

You Don't Know Me . . (a little rant)

It happened again last night. Ever since I first changed my diet five years ago in an effort to lengthen the able-bodied portion of my life, some strangers feel comfortable passing judgement . . . to my face. It took me over a year to become comfortable asking for food in restaurants that would fit my regimen. At first I was apologetic, not wanting to be any trouble, not wanting to call attention to myself as different. I always try to be reasonable when perusing a menu. I'm not going to select an item that needs a complete unconstruction and do-over. Instead, I choose an entree that's already mostly in line with what I need. I find that swapping a second vegetable for noodles is normally no problem for a kitchen. It's easy to leave the cheese off a salad. I'm really not causing a problem. So why do some folks feel the need to comment?

By folks, I mean servers. These are the people I hire at no small fee (plus 20% tip) to provide a special treat -- an evening out.  Once, when I was vegan and dining at a high-end steak house with a large group of friends, I ordered several vegetable sides for dinner. The server insisted I consider heavier fare and I explained I was vegan. He actually replied, "I have no idea why a vegan would come to a steak house for dinner,"

Another night, a server said, "I'm so sorry about your diet,"

Now that I'm working on a Wahls' Paleo (tm) approach, last night I simply ordered my salad without cheese, a nice piece of wild salmon without the butter sauce and a bowl of fresh berries for dessert, no cream on top. The server said, "That's the most boring food I've ever heard of," It was all delicious just the way I ordered it. By the way, my friend's creme brulee was sub-par: It was runny and watery so she didn't finish it.

What's going on? Are these guys trying to be funny? Why is it socially acceptable to say these things out loud? The only theory that makes sense to me is that there may be an assumption that I'm choosing a more careful meal only for vain reasons. Maybe they think I'm trying to stay thin. I certainly don't look anorexic. Maybe if I did they'd realize there's a health issue here and commenting would be inappropriate. My chronic illness, diagnosed 20 years ago now, is insidious in its unpredictability and occasional severity, but it is mostly invisible to those who don't know me well. It's my business, but do I have an obligation on behalf of a larger disabled community to "school" these mindless folks who I'll likely never see again? Perhaps just a, "Maybe you shouldn't judge what you don't understand,"

Has this happened to anyone else? How have you chosen to handle it? I look forward to hearing any ideas!

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