Since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease last October, I find myself more easily irritated with how other people eat. Considering that most of my readers are most likely those “other people”, I know I’m on thin ice here. But bear with me…
At first the diagnosis was a relief. I felt better within twenty-four hours of the gluten free diet. It was like all of my life’s problems had been answered: No more headaches! My stomach doesn’t feel like a train is running through my intestines anymore! Oh I’m not supposed to be that skinny and I do look better with fifteen more pounds on me! I’m not such a worrying psychopath!
But then reality set in.
First I didn’t get to eat my Granny’s famous chicken and dumplins for Thanksgiving. Then I suddenly became that person at holiday parties who demanded to know the ingredients of every dish on the buffet. But the worst, worst, worst part was when spring hit and I couldn’t have a beer.
It seems like it’s no big deal to abstain from drinking beer, and it may not be for some, but beer has (had) become a part of my lifestyle. Sitting outside on a patio during a warm, sunny day with a cold beer is truly my idea of the perfect afternoon (or late morning). And if my husband and I were ever bored, we’d go try a new beer on such and such patio, and talk about how much or how little we liked it. Because my husband and I are the poster couple for opposites attract, enjoying a beer together was our shared interest. Now he feels guilty when he wants to go try a new beer, and I feel resentful that he gets to do it. Not good for marriage.
So I’m whining; I get that. But here’s what makes dealing with all of this even harder: other people. I’m all for people trying to live healthier lifestyles. In fact, I would say that my main philosophy in life is “live and let live.” Yet I get a little frustrated when I go to a restaurant and I get a weary half-smile from a server who has dashed off for the gluten-free menu one too many times because Gwyneth Paltrow or whoever has suddenly decided it is the best way to lose weight. I notice the not so subtle eye rolls when I have to explain for the hundredth time that soy sauce has gluten in it and that’s why I can’t go to the Chinese restaurant everyone else wants to go to. I hear the remarks, even from family members, that it’s a made up disease and I could probably just have gluten if I really wanted. Or even better, when someone cuts me off from explaining all of this to tell me that she has been gluten free for years and it’s so easy and I don’t have any trouble at all doing it, and then turn around and head for the beer tent because that sounds good right now.
I know that it could be worse. And I am grateful that I happen to have a disease that can become virtually cured by diet alone, rather than taking a ton of chemical-ridden pills for the rest of my life.
Not too long ago I stuck my foot in my mouth by making a joke that after my second pregnancy I’d be the only person in the world to lose weight by going on a pizza and beer diet and that the cancer I could ultimately get from ignoring my disease would be worth it in the end. I made this joke around someone who had recently lost two family members to cancer. She handled my insensitivity with grace and said nothing, but when I realized my mistake, I recognized that I had become like all those people who irritate me when they are insensitive to my problems. Sometimes it feels good to dwell in my solitary resentment of how others get to live because it does feel unfair, but in the end, people don’t really mean harm, or they are simply ignorant and that’s not their fault.
So now that I’ve educated you, when you’re enjoying your Oktoberfest or Pumpkin beer this fall, drink one for me and try to keep your mouth shut about how good it tastes.