Mutually Exclusive

Last week the diabetes online community helped raise over $26,000 for people who are dying without access to insulin and education. This week, the diabetes online community told a 75 year old woman to “eat” things and “suck” things that I would not repeat in polite company or impolite company.

I am not saying that just because someone in another country is struggling to find insulin does not mean that I cannot fight discrimination in my country (obviously). Comparing battles is a fight that no one wins.

Found this on a meme site. Unfortunately some days it perfectly describes me.
Found this on a meme site. Unfortunately some days it perfectly describes me.

What I am suggesting is that a little patience and kindness be delivered with the education (please read this excellent post by Kari). Just a few days ago, someone who I have been working with every day since October asked me what an insulin pump does. I am the first person with type 1 diabetes that my coworker knows (or at least feels comfortable asking questions to). If I respond with anger and name-calling (or even my oft used sarcasm) to his questions or ignorant statements, what will the reaction be when I ask the same person to spare a rose or donate to a walk?

Before diabetes entered my knowledge after my grandmother’s diagnosis, I really had no idea what checking a blood sugar using a blood glucose meter actually involved. There were no meter commercials back in those days. And then, it was not until my diagnosis that I had ANY idea of syringes, insulin pens, or insulin pumps. Until I was brought my first syringe in the hospital, I had no idea that insulin just had to be injected under the skin into fat and could be done quite discretely.

Yes, Miss Manners’ advice was misguided. Perhaps she has not seen a modern blood glucose meter. She may not know that meters today require a sample as small as 0.3 µL (that’s tiny!). As one of her readers humorously suggested in the comments of the Washington Post column, perhaps Miss Manners has not seen a coach bathroom in decades. She may not know that it is barely a safe place to actually use the restroom, much less take care of quick diabetes management needs. On the same note of the column’s comments, I was actually encouraged by the number of people who replied that they were not that familiar with diabetes yet also realized that the airplane restroom would be the best place to take care of diabetes management.

I am confident I have checked my blood sugar on almost every flight I have taken for the past 11 years. I am even more confident that not a single one of these checks took place in the airplane bathroom. When I needed to change my pump infusion set and reservoir during a layover due to a persistent high, I prepped everything right in the terminal. I did step into the bathroom (but not into a stall) to do the actual insertion only because it was located under my clothes.

Miss Manners was wrong. But the diabetes online community is also wrong to resort to name-calling and vulgarity rather than using it as an opportunity to educate with kindness and understanding. After all, I think even Miss Manners herself would agree that two wrongs don’t make a right.


  • So well said! It’s for these exact reasons I waited 24 hours to formulate my response to Miss Manners. While her advice was not educated, neither was it outright rude (at least not intentionally) I feel an attempt to communicate at her level and with grace and manners was important. Thank you for reminding the DOC that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar

  • One of my favorite sayings is that if you choose to be offended by something, you certainly will be. Not that I’m saying that there are no outrageously offensive things that happen, but for the most part we would do well to pay more attention to portraying graciousness and less to what everyone else is doing.

  • Having just said that, I realized that it could be viewed as me telling you to mind your own business. That isn’t at all my intention. I’m just trying to point out that people get offened by non offensive things all the time.

  • Oh, how right you are. Though you didn’t state ALL the cliches (“catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”, “can’t we all just get along”, “the more you know…”), I think you invoked their spirit quite well, and explained why fighting fire with fire isn’t the best approach.

  • Just a few weeks ago, I heard a panel spend a few minutes appreciating Miss Manners and her overriding concern with people being comfortable. Specifically cited was a column in which a reader asked what they should say when introduced to a gay couple. Miss Manners’ advice was “‘How do you do? How do you do?'”

    I don’t read Miss Manners, so I don’t know whether she’s good or not. I do think, as a general thing, that we need to be careful to distinguish between ‘incorrect’ and ‘evil’. Reacting to something with all our strength can be extremely satisfying – but it’s not necessarily effective advocacy.

    Thank you, Sara.

  • Hi Sara. Great post. I completely agree with you. Name calling, being rude and disrespectful get us no where. I added your post to my list of DOC’ers who responded to the Miss Manners advice. Always enjoy reading what you have to say. Bravo!

  • Thanks for this, Sara. Measured and thoughtful. I’m glad that so many posts are linking back to yours.

    If I can climb on the soapbox for a moment….after a few more hours, I started to feel more disgusted by people’s responses than Miss Manners’ answer itself. Particularly by the various vulgar references people made about objects going into her orifices and body parts that should be punched. Those types of threats are part of RAPE CULTURE. A tiny part, sure, but one what planet is it okay for someone to be sexually assaulted due to a misinformed idea about diabetes management?

    And when we perpetuate rape culture, we work to marginalize others…..whether it’s others with diabetes, others who are survivors of assault, or others who identify as women.

    We as the diabetes community are marginalized due to our health. We exist to empower, not to oppress. What good are we if we lash out and marginalize others? We destroy our mission as a community, as advocates, and as human beings by being so rude and disrespectful.

    So amen to being polite and friendly and kind. No matter how hopping mad you are, there’s no excuse to even jokingly threaten to rape, beat, or assault someone. Work to empower instead.

  • I’m with you. I’m glad some of the folks in the DOC are with you too. What I dislike about our community lately is how quick people are to jump down throats. It’s sad and not advocacy at all. It’s like a snowball too. I see one post that is against the grain and next thing you know it’s like the whole community is enraged. I think it’s unfair. I think it’s demoralizing. I think it shows a lot of what some members of the doc REALLY think. It makes me lose respect and take a few steps back from these people I thought were good…..
    I’m ranting. Sorry.

  • A very long time ago, my dad taught me, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”
    I like to tell people how supportive the d-people in the DOC can be. There are still those who are scared/not users of the internet and convincing them that they will find friends there, can be difficult.
    Another positive reminder – because of the DOC, I was able to let a young friend’s mom know about the recall of the Free Style strips. She didn’t have a clue and so, her new strips are on the way.
    We can do so very, very much to help each other. We can be amazing.

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