Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gentle Reader: Your Manners Are Fine.

You may see a certain Washington Post article floating around the interwebs; it contains, in part, this letter and response from Miss Manners:

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a businessman who frequently flies both domestically and internationally. I also happen to be an insulin-dependent diabetic. 
I currently do my glucose testing in my seat. It does involve using a lancet device to get a drop of blood to test, but is fairly unobtrusive. Of course, all lancets, alcohol preps and test strips are stored in my test kit for proper disposal later. 
Am I being rude to perform this test next to a stranger? Injections I perform privately in the plane’s lavatory. In the airport, I use the counter by the wash basin, since most water closets have no room for insulin vials and other supplies. 
Many people seem to stare and resent the fact of performing such a function in this space. I have also had children ask, “What is that man doing? Isn’t that a bad thing?” (They’re obviously thinking of their drug education classes.) Am I too self-conscious?

GENTLE READER: Absent an emergency, medical applications (like bodily functions and grooming) are properly done out of sight — meaning in private or in a restroom — unless they can be done so surreptitiously as to be unrecognizable as such. Miss Manners does not object to a pill taken at dinner, so long as it is not accompanied by a dissertation on your cholesterol.
The technology associated with diabetes is fast approaching this standard, although Miss Manners draws the line at drawing blood. Restrooms exist to provide a proper location for such necessary activities when away from home, and those who use them have no business monitoring the respectable, if sometimes unaesthetic, activities of others. 
You may chose to tell children that it is a medical procedure, or ignore them and let their parents do that. Miss Manners would hope that any parents present would also resolve to teach their children to be more discreet with their curiosity.

Instead of addressing Miss Manners herself, I am choosing to write to the person I truly care about in this situation and take a crack at responding to the original letter. Miss Manners; meet Miss Realistic.

Gentle Reader of Miss Manners,
How thoughtful and lovely of you to consider the delicate flowers who might share small, confined quarters with you for a few hours. Miss Realistic admires your concern for their preferences; not everyone is so self-aware or makes such efforts to be so considerate of others. 
Miss Realistic questions, however, the experiential knowledge of the person from whom you were seeking advice. It is likely that Miss Manners knows very little of what a life with diabetes actually means, or how ridiculous her advice to you was. She may not realize the immediacy and unrelenting frequency with which one must manage one's disease. She has not acknowledged any recognition that taking care of one's health must certainly trump the discomfort of others, in every case. 
What Miss Realistic suggests, Gentle Reader, is that you do whatever it is you must do in order to maintain your good health. Regular testing, injecting, or whatever else one might need to do can often be done discreetly in public settings, but if not, Miss Realstic asks: 
So what? 
Please, Gentle Reader, know that public restrooms are intended for the relieving of one's bladder or the like, not for the infusion of insulin or the procuring of the minuscule droplet of blood required for a blood test. Miss Realistic wonders: would Miss Manners instruct one experiencing an allergic reaction to find a restroom to administer their epipen? A person with asthma to wait for a toilet stall to use their inhaler? Miss Realistic certainly hopes not. 
One final thought, Gentle Reader: if someone has a problem with you taking care of yourself, that problem belongs to that person, not to you. Please take a bit of the consideration you've offered to others, and turn it to your own health and safety.
A video Miss Realistic made a couple of years ago serves as an addition to this response; please enjoy, and keep taking good care of yourself (in public, even!).

You'll also find responses to Miss Manners from Jess, Kerri, Kelly, Scott, Ilana, Stacey, Rachel, Christel, Marie, Leighann, Brianna, Cecilia, Sara, Kari, Scott, Allison, CarlyKarenJess, Cara, Scott, Hannah, Heidi, and Chris.


  1. Dear Miss Manners, I have had type 1 diabetes for 31 years. Over that time I've endured a number of rude, offensive comments from family and others, but mostly strangers. Some of those comments are: did your mother feed you too much sugar, will my baby get your diabetes if I take insulin while I'm pregnant, you can't eat that, you're diabetic, and wow, you don't look that sick. Being stuck with a failed organ is bad enough - how do you suggest I respond to people who are clearly completely ignorant about my condition?

  2. Hey-- Thank You for stating the case so well. Your advocacy inspires. Thanks

  3. Dear Miss Realistic,
    Thanks for not forgetting about Gentle Reader, as so many of us others have. And what a wonderful job you've done with the great, gentle, and appropriate (and realistic!) answer that you've offered him.

    Someone who also tries to balance manners with reality

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  5. There might be a benefit to testing your blood sugar in public. What if another diabetic (type 1 or 2) sees you taking care of your health and is inspired to do the same?


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