People often tell my husband that he is an excellent listener. He's not. He has, however, learned to keep quiet so as to prevent any doubts about possible idiocy. See, Dennis is a super smart guy who has a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth at every possible turn, like the time he saw a coworker packing up her stuff at the end of the day. "Did you get fired or something?” he joked as she put a picture frame into her briefcase. Yes. Yes, she had just been fired. Everyone in the room gasped in horror as Dennis tried to recover and continued, "I'm sure it was a mutual decision, right?" Um, no. This is the part where he shrugged and said, "I got nothin'," followed by a quick departure.
"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." (Abraham Lincoln)
The thing is, I am on the receiving end of a lot of idiocy. Not from silent Dennis, of course, but from the general public, many of whom seem to think they are experts on all things diabetes. Sometimes, it really is best for people to keep their jackassery to themselves.
There could really be a hundred or a thousand of these little nuanced annoyances doled out by well-meaning people better served by total silence, but I've decided to highlight a mere handful for the sake of brevity and so as not to implode anyone's browser:
- Spare me the grizzly horror story of your uncle/grandpa/great aunt and their limb amputation/blindness/renal failure... Is there anything more uplifting than someone taking note of a medical ID bracelet, inquiring about your personal health history as if it were their business, and then following it up with a morbidly tragic horror story relating to your own illness and common disease comorbidities? And to think, we've only just met.
- Along those same lines, I am often greeted with the opposite reaction: "My father/mother/second cousin was diagnosed with diabetes, and they started walking/running/joined Jenny Craig, and is now cured." I’ve heard this ad nauseam over the years and it still hasn’t become any easier to continue the discourse civilly. For starters, it is factually, medically inaccurate. You cannot "cure" diabetes. You can often manage blood glucose levels in Type 2 diabetes without the addition of pharmaceuticals or insulin injections, but you are not functionally curing the condition. Moreover, though, the sentiment panders to the obnoxious stereotype that all people with some form of diabetes are slovenly gluttons shoving hoecakes and cheez doodles down their gullet while lining up for the "all you can eat buffet" at Furs Cafeteria. Really, if it were simply a matter of going for a damn walk, don't you think I would have done that by now?
- I can eat whatever I choose to eat without your nutritional counsel. Thanks for thinking of me, and by the way, you look like you could stand to lose some weight yourself. Just once, I would like to have a fit-looking person tell me how I should eat or what I should eat or deride me for looking crosswise at a piece of pie...but, for some pea pickin' reason I do not understand, I only get this brand of comment from the stereotypically obese guy holding a bag of chips and wiping his greasy hands down the front of his stained white t-shirt. I have no appropriate response when confronted with this obvious irony. Either way, I'm not sure why it would matter to anyone else in the first place and, for the record, I can eat normally. I choose not to. I eat better than the norm. But you know what? If I want a cookie every once in a while, I'll have my freakin' cookie. It’s not to be a dick, it’s because I want it in my bellah, stat. Move along.
- "I could never give myself a shot." Right you are. The other option - the one wherein you whither and die in agony - is a much better alternative. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, I'll be here, injecting my insulin so I don't go blind, lose my feet and slip into a coma.
- Insulin use is not a measure of your fitness. I have a friend with diabetes who iterates at every turn that he has been living with the disease for a decade, and has never required insulin. It bugs the crap out of me. Clearly, he has Type 2 and, thus, the circumstances are different from my own, but it still grates on my nerves. (See source irritation/blinding rage #4.) The perception that somehow being free of insulin makes you a better/healthier/more fit 'betic is downright annoying. It's along the lines of being asked if I have "the bad kind of diabetes." (What the hell does that mean? There's a good kind? A more or less serious kind? A super-craptacular-better-not-end-up-with-that-kind of diabetes? I digress....) Treatment is determined by type of diabetes, physiology and response to the given protocol. It has more to do with patient and doctor preference and the specifics of a person's biology than it has to do with management or mismanagement or progression of the disease. To hear another person with the disease stigmatize the use of insulin is, well, idiocy in its highest form.
- Of course, the Type 2's get their own share of stigma. I mean, if you have Type 2 diabetes, you must be eating fried cheesecakes and Ding-Dongs a la Paula Deen, right? Ummm...no. Because 20% of people with Type 2 have a normal BMI. They are not, and never have been, overweight or obese. In addition, if lifestyle alone were enough to cause diabetes, every fat person in America (all two-thirds of the population of the US) would be diabetic. Only 8% actually have the disease. Obviously, then, there other, unknown mechanisms at work.
Truly, mama had it right: "If you can't say anything nice..."
Dennis has a good plan: Silence is golden. Or better yet, how about suspending judgment altogether? You can, simply, choose not to render any determination about the person, their life or their health.