Dude note: Please stay tuned for an update on Jennifer’s Way Bakery and what is going on behind the scenes a bit. Hope to post about that tomorrow. But for today, I had to share this email I received last night. It’s a dandy.
I have a rant/story and would like some feedback/validation. I was at a company party this weekend with my husband, who is celiac. I eat gluten-free since he does. He is new to his company, and we were just meeting “the team” and their significant others. I hit it off with one very nice lady; a wife of his coworker. We talked for about 2 hours while the employees chatted. She showed me pics of her son, and even invited us over for a traditional meal from her culture.
She suggested we get some dessert. I told her I had scoped out the dessert table in the buffet and there was nothing I could have. She asked why, and I told her because my husband is celiac and I like to support him. She looked at me, puzzled, and asked “will he die or something?” I told her, as briefly as I could, that his family members have died of stomach cancer which may be linked. She kept staring.
I told her his sibling had stunted growth until they figured it out. Still nothing.
Maybe she had a little too much to drink for this conversation? Finally, since she is a new mom, I told her that I like to be especially careful myself in case we are to have a baby with half his genes. Her response was, “My husband and I were discussing gluten free on the way to the party. We decided it is an American invention.” Verbatim.
[Dude note: Let that sink in for a second. Ok…carry on.]
She was smiling sweetly. I nodded, vaguely, thinking she was crediting U.S. companies with helping celiacs by making GF food more available. I don’t know her background besides where she is from and figured her homeland must not have good availability yet. She smiled more, took my arm and said, “Good! Then let’s go!” and led me to the desserts as I slowly comprehended that she was saying that celiac disease itself is an American invention. Oh no! Maybe I was the one who drank too much!?
I panicked a little as she linked her arm in mine and stood in front of the buffet table. Fortunately, she decided most of the desserts looked unappetizing. I agreed, “they look horrible, they’ve been on this table for hours!” My head was spinning. The desserts looked fine minus that I knew they were all gluteny cake, but she was giving me a possible out from a confrontation. I thanked my stars when she finally said that yes, the desserts must have been out for too long, though she still eyed a piece of cake. She still gently had my arm. I told her there was a hot chocolate and coffee bar, I’d rather have that. She perked up at the sound of coffee, and I escaped.
It was a non-incident, really. But it rattled me more than any restaurant experience, or family party, or trip to the grocery store ever has, because in all of those places I can defer eating or buying something and it’s been acceptable. Maybe someone rolled their eyes before giving me what we needed, but they do or I leave or go without. This time, it was deemed unacceptable by someone who could not see eye to eye for a reason invisible to me.
Was it the alcohol that made her unable to understand? Should I try to explain again later? Was it culture differences? Do I pursue a friendship with this otherwise decent seeming person? What do spouses do when they are confronted and told “well you aren’t the sick one! Eat!” Does anyone actually know the effects of gluten on babies with a celiac parent??
I know celiac is not an American invention. First, while not perfect, the science is there to test for it. Second, it’s not an invention. That’s like saying people who cough invented pneumonia. Third, Italy has been giving stipends to celiacs and testing children for YEARS before most Americans even knew what gluten was.
But do other cultures generally think celiac is an “American invention?”
What do you think folks? How should she best handle the situation? And please…nothing personal here against the misguided woman. I really want to get to the core of why celiac disease may be perceived this way. Give me your top reasons. Thanks.