Life StoryOct/Nov 2013 Issue

We've Got "Issues": My Big, Fat Mouth

Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy drama.

Photo by Oksana Charla

My Big, Fat Mouth

Dear Issues,

My roommate and best friend has food issues so I’m super familiar with her need for a clean kitchen, a safe meal when she dines out and how it’s not a joke when she ingests gluten or dairy. Unfortunately, I think I might have hurt her feelings in the spirit of being “in the know.” We were with friends and I called her a “glutard.” It’s something I heard before and I thought she would think it was funny. Turns out, she did not.

Isn’t "glutard" funny? Because it sounds funny.

Signed, BFF to a GFDF

Dear BFF,

First of all, big props for wanting to support your friend and for understanding the value of a safe kitchen. If only all young people with roommates were so lucky! But before I get gushy and you think I’m 100 percent on your side, I’ve got to stop the accolades right there at the ‘tard.

Let’s put aside the notion for a minute that people who have violent, icky reactions to certain foods ever find it amusing to be the butt of jokes when they have absolutely zero control over their body’s betrayal. Let’s put aside the fact that if we eat gluten or dairy or soy or sugar or tree nuts or whatever-the-heck, we become severely ill and we lose spontaneity, time, money, health, and possibly relationships as a result. Yes, let’s just put that aside.

In this day and age, we all know the term “retarded” is offensive and would never dream of using it to describe someone who has special needs or developmental delays. That’s just a given. Or at least I hope it is. And the fact that this word was bandied about in our (uninformed, insensitive, probably dumb) youth may explain why some of us may slip and let it out of our mouths but still, it is just not cool. So when you hybrid that word with gluten, you’re actually making fun of two different groups of people with just one “glutard.” See how that works?

Glutard: Not funny, not nice.

But hey, if you’re ever looking for another roommate to care for and I suddenly think I’m 21 again and want to share 400 square feet, I would so meet you on Craigslist. Good roommates who look out for food safety are hard to find. And one slip of the tongue does not undo the awesomeness you have shown. The more you know, roomie, the more you know.

The Working Lunch

Dear Issues,

I don’t know what else to do. My boss has monthly lunches with his staff as a way of connecting and getting up to speed. There are only three of us, so we each have our own private lunch with him. I’ve been with the company for two years now and it’s no secret that I have celiac disease. I don’t broadcast it but it has come up at other office events. My boss has not only been in earshot but he’s asked me questions about it. Maybe he was only being polite but my point is, he isn’t completely in the dark about gluten and how it attacks my autoimmune system and the seriousness of that. Which is why it’s so frustrating that he never asks me where we should go when we have our monthly lunch. Instead, he always heads to the same burger joint where I can only eat a meat patty on a plate. It’s embarrassing but at this point, I also feel like it’s a little hostile. He’s my boss so I have no idea how to bring this up without damaging our relationship or putting my job in jeopardy.

Signed, And I Hate Red Meat

Dear Red Meat,

While it’s doubtful your boss is doing this to punish you, wow, it sure is annoying that he takes the time to wine and dine you (or rather burger and soda you) once a month without ever noticing you may not be enjoying the ambience of the corner burger bar. And after two years, I’m having a hard time figuring out how you haven’t said something by now. Who is this guy? The Burger King?

While I certainly understand being intimidated by the person who holds your paycheck in his greasy French fry hands and that you don’t want to disrupt a ritual he clearly enjoys, you’ve got to address the sad hunk of meat in the room. And do it now, before next month’s meeting comes around.

But here’s what you should do first (if you haven’t already): Call the burger joint ask if there are any safe options that could make you happy eating there. You never know until you ask. Maybe they have a Caprese salad to die for.

But if it’s all one big gluten-y mess and you’re stuck with a hunk of meat that you don’t even want to eat, it’s time to make it crystal clear that celiac disease is a serious illness and this burger joint is not the cure.

I have to wonder, have you ever called in sick from accidentally consuming gluten? That might get your boss’s attention. Nothing gets buzz like someone not showing up for work. Then the next day, you get the, “Are you okay?” And instead of just saying, “I’m fine,” use the opportunity as a teachable moment, yes, for your boss. Heck, even throw in the fact that you got sick after trusting a burger bistro—all of that cross contamination floating around is poisonous for you. Don’t forget to mention whatever your doctor said. “Stay away from unsafe burger joints” is probably what your doctor said, right?

The point is, you must take action. Otherwise you’re stuck with a greasy patty on your plate every month until your boss dies or you quit. Sorry to be so pushy but, hey, you’ve been doing this for two years! Methinks you need a push. 

April Peveteaux ( is the author of Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes & Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free.

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