Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Recently on Facebook someone asked a general question about an ingredient and if it was safe for a gluten free dessert.  Gluten is not something we’re avoiding here, but there was a time when my son was off of the top 8 allergens, not for fun, but for survival.

Back to the social media post-I was taking a brief break from work, mechanically scrolling through my newsfeed (iPhone) when I came across this simple question.  A well intended question about an ingredient – such consideration is not so common.  I clicked on comments to see what people were saying about ingredients.  Given my interests and lifestyle, food related posts are more relevant for me than political ones (I don’t click on those).  I’ve mentored parents on how to manage food allergies and Eosinophilic Esophagitis, so yes; this was the one I chose to click on for the two-minute morning distraction.  Some comments were very helpful and informative.  But some were pretty ignorant and insulting.  Yes, ignorance for the ignorant may be bliss, but not for the ones they are subjecting to their ignorance.  And ignorance around food allergies,  I cannot ignore.

I have dedicated a significant part of my life to ensuring that my son can eat real food and have a decent quality of life and not be the kid who  gets to watch others eat seemingly fun food while he eats nothing or boring food.  I’ve rushed hot dairy free chocolate milk to poetry parties in grade school, so he can feel normal.  I’ve worked with parents to make sure that the food arrangement for parties has the treats I brought are positioned right so my son and all kids can eat it (after I was up until 2 AM baking it), just so he can feel ‘normal.’  Although we are down to ‘just a few’ food allergens now (nuts, peanuts and shellfish), I have not forgotten how it was for him to live without dairy, soy, wheat, eggs (and I don’t even consume dairy).  I have not forgotten watching him watch other kids celebrate every accomplishment in the classroom with pizza and ice cream, neither which he could have.  And now I was reading comments that some people are pretending to be allergic or sensitive and how glad this commenter was not to be a waiter anymore and have to deal with such things.  Well, I too am very glad that he’s not in the food business anymore because his ignorance combined with his compassion would have either killed someone or made someone very sick.

Yes, some people say they are allergic (scene in Sex and the City where Carrie says she’s allergic to parsley so they don’t use it as a garnish) and they aren’t.  But there are many who are dealt GI issues and consequently this impacts their quality of life.  They cannot carelessly order off a menu without giving a ‘speech’ to the waiter and asking about ingredients.  They can’t carelessly buy food at the grocery store because they have to read every ingredient listing, often returning the item because of a ‘contains’ or ‘may contain’ statement.  They can’t be as careless as some people are with ignorance. 

There are also people who chose not to ingest certain foods either for ethical or health reasons.  Why should these people be attacked and put down?   Yet those that chose to eat garbage daily and consequently lead to higher health insurance premiums for me are bragging on social media about how unhealthy they are and how we ultimately die anyways.  Yes, we ultimately die, but now I have higher health insurance premiums because of the consistent bad choices they make. 

Unfortunately ignorance is not too uncommon.  Awareness and education is a start, but not all humans are trainable.  Let’s just hope they don’t end up killing someone.  But for sure they will negatively impact someone’s quality of life.

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