Friday, February 21, 2014

Mind Your Manners, Miss[es & Misters]

Gentle Advice Columnist:

"Proper" etiquette may sometimes be in the eye of the beholder.  Not all people lift their pinkies when drinking tea.  Some people double-dip their buffalo wings in the shared dish of bleu cheese dressing without a single afterthought.  Some men will hold a door open for a woman and allow her to pass by, while others will hold it open about halfway until the woman takes over. (And until recently, Ms. Hannah did not realize it was potentially recognized as rude to wipe one's nose on a cloth restaurant napkin. Ms. Hannah was clearly born in a barn.)

It seems, Gentle Advice Columnist, that in your opinion, it is rude and unsightly for a diabetic to do their blood tests and "medical procedures", as you called them, in public. You suggested that people should test in the bathroom or another private room. Some of Ms. Hannah's colleagues and peers have taken to the internet to badmouth and rail against such advice. What this blogger sees is an Advice Columnist who may not have any experience with diabetes.

You say you "draw the line at drawing blood", and it's true the sight of blood makes many people uncomfortable; however, for people with diabetes, a little blood is a fact of life multiple times a day. The diabetics of this world are not drawing out syringes full of blood from their own arms.  A blood glucose meter reading takes approximately 5 seconds, and plenty of people with diabetes never have a second thought about plopping that meter on the table in front of everyone, conducting their diabetes business. (It is not even a blip on the etiquette radar, much like Ms. Hannah hastily wiping her nose on a cloth restaurant napkin.) It's often just a tiny drop of blood, or a quick poke with an insulin pen.

The good people of the Diabetes Online Community typically call things as they see them, and in your column, they saw ignorance, intolerance and perhaps even ableism. These days, it is unavoidable that people share details about their personal lives online. Some people, including this blogger, discuss things that some people find unacceptable to share with unauthorized individuals or strangers. Everyone in this country is entitled to health information privacy, but a number of folks choose to disclose their visible and invisible illnesses and disabilities in a very public way.

Gentle Advice Columnist, Ms. Hannah is certain that what has angered those in the DOC the most is your seemingly rigid and outmoded stance about what is proper for diabetes management in public, as it seems you have no experience living with diabetes yourself.  Additionally, Ms. Hannah would like to note that answering questions in the third person may make you seem haughty, holier-than-thou, and inaccessible to younger readers who prefer their advice more off-the-cuff. (She would also like to note that writing in third person while trying to relay a personal opinion is pretty effing difficult, so kudos to you for doing it for so many years. Clearly, you have a good editor.)

Ms. Hannah's initial reaction was anger as well. "Where does this woman get off, telling me I need to run to the loo for a five-second blood test? Perhaps she will perish in a fire," she said to herself. Soon, this blogger realized that was an overblown reaction, having never taken kindly to some strict viewpoints about politeness. Another thing she realized is that every person is different. People with diabetes have just as much a right to disagree with you as they might to agree with you.  In fact, allow this blogger to lay out a shocking fact for you:

Ms. Hannah has tested, changed insulin pump infusion sets, injected and applied continuous glucose monitor sensors in public restrooms. She has also tested her blood and injected insulin in front of party guests, out at dinner, and even while working the door at a poetry slam. Is she wrong for doing it in one place and not the other?

There is no reason for either to be wrong, because it seems the sort of thing to be based on situations and personal preferences. Ms. Hannah does not do things involving needles and/or blood in the sightlines of friends who go pale and woozy at the mere sight of needles and/or blood. While she wants them to understand her Type 1 Diabetes, she does not want them passing out into their craft brews and plates of vegan brunch. That's bad news for everyone.

To make up for any accusations of potential flip-floppery in her opinions on etiquette, here are some rude things Ms. Hannah has done which may shock and appall you, Gentle Advice Columnist--perhaps much more than any quick injection in public:

--Licking a finger following a blood test
--Not disposing of sharps in a proper biohazard container
--Hitting "ignore" on a phone call from Ms. Hannah's mother
--Removing wedding rings to apply hand lotion
--Sitting on, not hovering above, the toilet seat in a dive bar bathroom
--"Breaking wind" at work when I am alone in the office
--Asking friends with bleeding paper cuts if they would like their blood glucose checked
--Hoping her blood glucose would drop low as an excuse to not bolus for a donut
--Wiping her nose on a cloth restaurant napkin

That being said, this blogger advocates individuals continuing to do what is best for them, and learning how to educate others along the way. People with diabetes and other medical conditions that require constant monitoring or potentially obvious medical interventions in public should not be obligated to choose "Team Tidybowl" over "Team Test Strip on a Lap, or Inside a Purse, at the Airline Gate". Ms. Hannah also feels that PWD should not be jerks who yell "DEAL WITH IT!" at people uncomfortable with diabetes-related bloodletting and poking. Perhaps the polite thing is for the PWD to explain what they are doing and advise the squeamish to look away until they're told it's over?

Gentle Advice Columnist, the DOC may have had choice words for you in the past couple of days, including telling you to eat a number of...unseemly things. Ms. Hannah advises you eat something, too--a cupcake, while sitting down to chat with someone with diabetes about the realities of what they see as proper in polite company. After that, you may truly be able to dispense applicable diabetes etiquette which is relevant to everyone's interests.

Best regards,
Ms. Hannah

PS: For the record, I agree with you sometimes. I think baby gender-reveal parties are unnecessary. And as a person who has drawn hearts, smiley faces, and written stuff like "Woo hoo we can't wait to see you!!" on wedding RSVP cards, I did rather enjoy the way you dissed them in the letter just above the diabetes letter that caused all this controversy.


  1. : )

    hee hee hee

    breaking wind.

  2. Eating an ENTIRE donut with no bolus for a low??

  3. I think Ms. Hannah carries herself perfectly, with just the appropriate balance of proper manners and self-confidence.. And I'd be honored to share a snack of tea and cupcakes with her, pinkies in or out (your choice, though I prefer in), after which we can wipe our noses with cloth napkins.


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