An Open Letter to an Audi Commercial

Dear Audi Commercial,

It is really cute how your beautiful, happy couple driving in your new insanely expensive car snubs a gluten free cupcake truck.  I really liked how the voice-over explained that Audi owners were too good for “trends”.  I think it’s just so special that you want to perpetuate the myth that anyone who is gluten free is doing so in order to be “trendy”.

Anyone who believes that sugary treats that don’t taste like a sweet version of dish detergent and don’t feel like chewing on a horse hoof are too good for them deserve to be snubbed anyway.  And how dare they walk into a restaurant and ask to order from a different menu?  Or expect a separate aisle in the grocery store?  And come on, already, what is with gluten free beer?  Like Anheuser Busch hasn’t already ruined beer anyway, now the damn gluten haters come along and start this nonsense.  In fact, I think you should have taken your commercial a step further, and had that car swerve around an EMS truck clearly carrying an undiagnosed Celiac patient whose intestines have shut down.

And to top it off, you added that absurd “Kale” truck too.  As if kale hasn’t done enough to America as it is.  What a ridiculous trend, America!  How dare you eat leafy green vegetables loaded with healthy nutrients! That truck deserved to be knocked over.  Your actors were nice to just cut it off.

So, thank you, Audi. Every Celiac in America who has to turn down Grandma’s gravy, or Oktoberfest beer, or every birthday cake at every birthday party for the rest of her life, thanks you too.  Because now, we get to explain even more to blank faces why we choose to be one of those damn trendsetters who refuses to stand out from the crowd like your Audi drivers.  Trendsetters do love to talk.

Cheers to you!

Damn Celiacs

“Delicate Geniuses” and Hired Hands

The all-knowing George Costanza

The all-knowing George Costanza

Today I thought about the fact that teachers are held to a standard, criticized openly about the meeting (or lack thereof) of these standards, and often let go when they don’t perform accordingly.  Yet others in the service industry avoid such incessant ridicule, even though their performance affects the lives and well-being of the public as well.  I know I’m probably opening a can of worms here, but I’m talking about doctors.

One of my best friends is a nurse, my husband is a physical therapist, and I have several friends who are doctors, so I hope I don’t offend by going there–but I gotta.  Yesterday I went to the gastroenterologist for my first annual check up after being diagnosed with Celiac.  I’d heard rumors about one particular doctor in the practice–four separate people told me to avoid him, including a doctor in my OB’s office.  So I rescheduled with a woman in the practice who came highly recommended, and I really looked forward to speaking with a woman about my concerns, especially since I’m pregnant.

Now before I go on, I will address some biases.  I went into this appointment expecting to be told that I didn’t really have Celiac disease and it was all a big misunderstanding.  Or, at the very least, that I could go on a gluten binge for a while before being tested again to be sure.  My husband told me I was creating a fantasy that would ultimately disappoint me, and he was right, but I pretended not to hear him when he brought it up.  So, to continue…

Here I sat waiting for my awesome female state of the art doctor to come in, and I am instead greeted by a brusque, agitated middle-aged man–the very man I had been told to avoid.  The first thing he said to me was, “Are you pregnant?  I can’t do anything for you right now.”

I’m not kidding.

Let me address this point now:  Let’s say that on the first day of school, I happened to notice that one of my students has a broken hand, lacks school supplies, or–gasp!–has a learning disability, and rather than work with him or her in the best way I can to provide the best education that I can, I say, “There’s nothing I can do for you right now.”  I would not be employed for long.  Or I might be on the news or someone’s blog as an example of why our public schools are failing.

I explained to him that I really just wanted to be educated on my disease–that no one had really walked me through the ins and outs of it before.  To which he replied, “Well when it comes to the diet, patients really know more about that part than I do.”  I told this to my husband, and although he was appalled by the doctor’s bedside manner overall, he explained that this was pretty typical, even understandable–many doctors diagnose, but know little about the path to recovery.

Huh?

So, to extend this analogy, pretend that I hand back an essay marked all to hell with red ink, but include no directions or feedback on how to fix the mistakes.  I’m pretty sure that one of the major current criticisms of teachers is their lack of improvement regarding moving kids to the next level after the students have been assessed.  Yet it is considered normal and acceptable for a doctor to tell me what’s wrong with me and not be able to tell me how to get healthy.

Finally, this “delicate genius” told me that I really just needed a good nutritionist, and after I explained to him that I saw a highly recommended one who simply handed me a bunch of packets she had printed from the internet, he continued to harp on the importance of working with a qualified nutritionist.  Fine.  I believe him.  But I don’t often get the luxury as an educator of pawning my students’ problems off on other professionals.  In fact, it is often my sole responsibility to see that they get all that they need for the hour that they’re with me–mentally, emotionally, and physically.  The icing on the cake though was when, after becoming frustrated (and even a little hormone-induced hysterical), I said, “You know I really just want to know details…like would it be the end of the world if I had a beer every now and then?”  And he replied, “They have gluten-free beer!  You know, I really don’t often hear patients complain about the gluten-free diet.  Most are pretty happy on it.”

I wanted to slap him.

But I didn’t slap him.  Instead, he ordered some blood work, and I cried as soon as the nurse entered the room.  She whispered conspiratorially to me that many people felt that way after seeing him.  So let’s recap:  Four people, including another doctor, talked me out of seeing him.  His own nursing staff disliked him.  Many patients left his office in tears.  Yet, he still has a job–a well-paid one at that.

Meanwhile, politicians and well meaning members of the general public, discuss the pros and cons of teacher tenure, the importance of balanced teacher evaluation systems, and whether or not teacher pay, retirement, and school budgets can be sliced ever more slightly off the top.  How is it that a doctor can be terrible at his job and the worst that befalls him is…well, I’m not sure.  No one is debating the security of his job, whether he deserves to be paid, or how to best evaluate his performance.  And if they are talking about it, it’s not public in the same way as teacher reform.

Don’t get me wrong, the way I feel about some of these topics would probably surprise you.  I see the importance of cultivating quality educators, keeping them, and challenging them.  But I do get frustrated with the double standard, and I get really tired of being treated like a misbehaving hired hand while others in public service are treated like infallible gods.  We all owe it to those we serve to give the best care we can, and should be held accountable if we don’t.

Photo courtesy of Google Images.

Go have your beer!

My husband rubbing it in.

My husband rubbing it in.

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.