An Open Letter to the Waitress Who Doesn’t Believe I Have Celiac Disease

This was originally posted on Tickld.com but was flagged for review after much backlash.  Please click it to enlarge and read.  Then scroll down to read my letter to this waitress.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

To the waitress who doesn’t believe I have Celiac:

I was really upset after I read this.

I understand where you are coming from.  Working in the food industry is difficult and diners can be very demanding.  I know a lot of customers come in on “fad” diets and have odd requests regarding meal preparation.  However, contrary to your uninformed opinion, you cannot tell who has a gluten allergy and who does not.

I have Celiac Disease–that’s the autoimmune one. I have a formal diagnosis from a doctor. It’s in my medical record. It’s why I can’t join the army like I had planned 10 years ago.

I go out to eat frequently. I’ve gone to Italian restaurants and eaten their gluten free pasta (never with alfredo sauce though because that DOES have gluten in it). More often than not I’ve gone home without issue. On the flip side, I’ve gotten contaminated in the kitchen of my own house.

What you fail to realize is the fact that everyone manifests symptoms differently regardless of if they have the allergy or the disease. I get cramps, nausea, UTIs, anemia, and a rash. I have a friend who gets mild bloating. Another friend goes into full anaphylactic shock with even microscopic contact. We all have formal diagnoses.

I know going into the restaurant that I could get contaminated. Like I said, I’ve worked in the business. I know what goes on in the kitchen first hand. I do what I can to prevent it. I order from the gluten free menu and alert my server to my condition. Other than that it is out of my hands and ultimately I am taking a risk.

I refuse to seclude myself because it creates a minor inconvenience for you. I will not apologize for something that is entirely out of my control. I sure as hell did not ask for this disease. It has upended my life and changed everything. You say that it is not all about me when I go out to eat.  Well, honey, it’s not all you you either.

The fact is, your restaurant probably has a gluten free menu which is why I’m eating there. So deal with it or find a new place to work that does not cater to the 20 million gluten intolerant people in the United States alone.  Or perhaps your could just show some sympathy because I promise you, if I could trade this disease away I would in a heart beat.  But I can’t so here we are.

It’s taken me 2.5 years to start correcting 22 years worth of damage from this illness.  Please, I beg you, don’t gamble with my health because you don’t know or understand and won’t learn the facts. A little compassion goes a long way.

Sincerely,
A Card-Carrying Gluten Intolerant Diner

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4 comments

  1. This was very well written and informative. The waitress had, by no means, the right to say what she has said. Now, if she were on the receiving end and experienced this disease first hand, maybe she would think differently. That is ignorance at it’s finest.

    1. Yes, I agree. I do understand where she is coming from. I’ve worked in the food service industry and people do have very unrealistic expectations…both those who are healthy and those who aren’t. It can be overwhelming and annoying.

      However, you cannot be so flippant about someone’s health or pretend that you understand when you just have no idea.

  2. Very well put, I wonder how they respond to someone who comes in with a dairy allergy. I both warn and apologize to wait staff when I order with the cautionary line of “I’m complicated”. I also take the responsibility of pre scanning a menu on line when I can before arriving at a restaurant so I have an idea of what they have, and I ask what alterations are possible to a dish I’m interested in. I’m lucky my allergic reaction is mild, and I’m very aware of the risk of cross contamination. However I like everyone else love to have a treat once in a while and eating out is a treat.

    1. I try not to be overly demanding when I go out to eat. I do what I can to let them know my needs but ultimately I know I am taking a risk.

      I look at menus ahead of time to prepare and I only go to places that have a gluten free menu. I can’t expect a place without a menu to cater to my needs. I do what I can and that’s it.

      I was more upset by the nonchalant attitude this person had toward the disease. I understand where she is coming from but she has to understand the severity of where I am coming from, too.

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