Dude note: To help celebrate and promote Celiac Awareness Month, I will be writing 30 blog posts over 30 consecutive days (weekends excluded) with the theme “30 Days of Helping 30 Celiacs”. Each post will be aimed toward helping one specific person or group of people. If you or someone you know needs help, guidance, advice or a shoulder to cry on, please contact me and I will do what I can to help. On the 31st day, you’re on your own. Totally kidding.
Today’s 30 for 30 blog post is for: The entire celiac community.
Bear with me as I’m still feeling off and this may be a long post.
So Jimmy Kimmel did another bit about gluten a few nights ago. If you can’t see the video above, you can check it out here.
I promise…this is not going to be a Kimmel-bashing post. I’m taking a different approach this time around. You may even say a more mature approach. Well…maybe mature is pushing it ;)
You would not believe the number of people who contacted me, both publicly and privately, about the video. So I suppose it is my duty (hee hee…I said duty…see I told you I’m not mature) to at least broach the subject.
For those who don’t want to watch the video, Jimmy went to the streets and asked people who were gluten-free if they knew what gluten was and then before the person answered, the audience guessed if the person actually knew what gluten was.
Here’s something I just picked up on this morning by the way. For the two white people, the audience guessed Yes. For the two minorities, the audience guessed NO. Just an observation…and a bit of a disturbing one at that.
Anyway, the segment was predictable. The four people had no clue. Perhaps they interviewed 100 and only found 4 who didn’t know what it was and made it seem like everyone they talked to had no clue. Who knows and who cares.
There are a few reasons the video didn’t raise my ire like some of the Jimmy Fallon segments.
First…he did mention that some people have a medical issue with gluten. I seriously just wished he mentioned “Celiac Disease”…just this one time.
Secondly…it makes the idiots who go gluten-free half-ass for all the wrong reasons…well…look like idiots. And I’m all for that.
So even though some in the community were looking to me to call him out, I was going to take a pass. I honestly wasn’t offended by the video and my focus this month is on helping people and I didn’t want to lose that focus.
But then a few things happened and I realized that maybe the video does matter. And it does affect our community. And by ignoring it, I’m not doing my job. (Well…a job actually pays but you know what I mean ;) )
So what happened? Let me explain:
1) We became a running joke on Twitter all day yesterday. People were sharing the video link left and right with comments like “See? Gluten-free people don’t even know what gluten is!” and “I knew gluten-free was complete BS.” and on and on.
And any time the focus switches from “gluten free is a medical necessity” to “gluten free isn’t real”, it hurts our cause. We get taken less seriously. And we get sick, as I can attest to these past few days.
2) I received the following email a few weeks ago from someone whose life is in absolute shambles because of what is most likely undiagnosed celiac and it spoke of the Hollywood connection.
From a young age I was frequently told that my illness was all in my head. Adults told me this. My gym teacher told me this. I was teased and accused of laziness and attention-seeking behavior.
What made all of this worse, of course, was that Hollywood would help propagate this myth. In how many movies, especially during those horrible 1980s, was the nerd, the dork, or the loser shown to use an inhaler?
Celiac is the same, of course. It has been granted the same protection in Hollywood and on television. It’s sufferers have been deemed fodder for insult, doubt and accusations. It’s despicable, and it leads to all sorts of socially acceptable behavior that is not tolerated for other diseases.
After years of varying symptoms, I visited my doctor. He doubted my symptoms and accused me of faking illness to get out of work. He refused to sign a release that would have essentially forgiven my level of absenteeism. He refused further treatment and sent me back to work.
The following day, I again became violently sick and had to ask to go home. I was fired on my way out.
Last year, two of my siblings were both diagnosed with Celiac Disease after suffering similar ailments. Their conditions were verified with the genetic tests and intestinal biopsies. Additionally, cancers of the bowel and digestive system run in one side of the family, which further lends credence to the belief.
I assume I have the disease, and have experienced some level of recovery since giving up gluten and its substitutes for the last five months. I mention all of this because all of this could have been prevented if my doctor would have simply done his job, or failing that, referred me to a doctor who would have done his or her job. It is ironic to me that the man who ruined my life accused me of not wanting to do my job when he clearly had no inclination to do his own.
Right or wrong, Hollywood has power. What they say matters in the country. So here’s my question. Would doctors be more apt to test for celiac and take it seriously if gluten-free wasn’t such a big joke? If people like Kimmel and Fallon and Meyers would just lay off the jokes, or at least mention celiac disease, couldn’t they be part of the solution instead of part of the problem?
You know who never makes fun of the gluten-free fad? Jon Stewart. Why? One…because he’s not a lazy comedian. And two…because his wife has celiac disease. You think if Kimmel’s wife had celiac, he’d change his tune a little? Yeah…me too.
It’s so easy to make fun of something when it doesn’t affect you directly. Pathetic but true.
3) As I’m writing this post, I received the following message on Facebook. It is from a fellow celiac in Australia and it seems like the bullying trend is making its way overseas.
Is there a connection between the gluten-free jokes and the lack of celiac awareness? Am I stretching things a bit? I really don’t know. You tell me.
Look, we need laughter in this world. We need it desperately. And believe it or not, I’m a big fan of Kimmel, Fallon and Meyers.
All I’m asking is that they lay off the gluten-free jokes a bit. Let the nation move onto to something else. So the celiac community can be taken seriously again. So our words are listened to when we are in a restaurant. So our doctors put celiac at the top of their list when diagnosing someone with a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms.
Then, when the dust settles, run that video again and I’ll laugh my ass off. What a bunch of boneheads.