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.
Those "medical applications" she speaks of are something that diabetics take a long time to pluck up the courage to actually do in front of other people. I spent a long time feeling conscious about doing my finger pricking and giving insulin in front of others, I always thought people would think I was weird and I hated the fact that it set me aside from other people. Then a couple of years ago, I finally thought "you know what, there is no point in trying to hide this any more" I learnt that my diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of and I realised that I shouldn't care what other people think.
So to see this absolutely ignorant response from "Miss Manners" it makes my blood boil. How insulting. Who gave her the right to tell this man that he should take care of his diabetes in private or in a restroom; that's incredibly demoralising, the reader has already questioned his self-confidence. Not to mention that telling someone to deal with sterilized needles and testing strips in a bathroom is not the most hygienic of activities either- "restrooms exist to provide a proper location" I beg to differ. Plus sometimes there aren't any private places around, what does "miss manners" suggest a diabetic person does then? Just not test their blood sugar or give insulin in front of the people around them for fear of being judged, then become unwell?
"Miss Manners does not object to a pill taken at dinner, so long as it is not accompanied by a "dissertation on your cholesterol" In effect, she has just implied that testing blood sugar or doing an injection is accompanied by a "dissertation" on diabetes. Testing blood sugar takes a few seconds, as does doing an insulin injection- not that this ignorant woman would know that.
The mannerly response to this reader's letter would go something like telling him that he should not be ashamed of his diabetes and if children do ask him, to just explain to them what he is doing or simply, ignore the attention. Dealing with your diabetes care in public instead of hidden away in a public toilet somewhere does not mean that you are ill-mannered; it means you are courageous enough to show that diabetes is nothing to hide. Embrace who you are, even if part of who you are is a type one diabetic.
I have just found this article and apparently Miss Manners is actually a D-mum herself as her son has been type 1 for over 20 years.
I don't want to be rude here, what I'm trying to say is that this response could have been worded so much better and if it didn't imply that a diabetic should be ashamed of their condition and deal with it in private- it wouldn't be so bad. It's nice to see that their intentions weren't to insult anyone. The response was just interpreted in the wrong way.