Thursday, February 20, 2014


Miss Manners, yesterday, wrote a column in which she told people with diabetes that they should not test their blood sugar or administer insulin in public, specifically referring to airplanes. Miss Manners requests we wait until an airplane washroom is open, we are allowed to stand up, we can push past the person next to us, avoid the drink cart, and then try to balance a tester in a probably dirty, cramped room with nowhere to rest it. All this is to avoid the person near us having to hear a click and see half a drop of blood going into a test strip. Because that’s rude.  “Medical applications…should be done out of sight,” writes Miss Manners.

Miss Manners thinks diabetes should be seen and not heard; except, wait, it shouldn’t be seen, either.

Hi, Miss Manners.

I used to be like you. I used to think that diabetes was shameful and it would be rude to subject other people to the vagaries and horrors of seeing me either testing my blood sugar in public, or giving myself an injection.

I used to always be “in public.” I used to not test my blood sugar for days, or even weeks. I used to have terrible A1cs that nobody could understand. It’s because of stuff like this. People believing I was inconvenient and rude for trying to take care of myself – and me believing them.

Miss Manners, if you want to take on someone, don’t take on people with diabetes. Take on diabetes itself. I’m not rude. Diabetes is. I have to deal with this rude visitor every day. Here are some “manners” that diabetes doesn’t have.

  • Diabetes doesn’t wait for the right time to interrupt. It can strike like a cellphone ring in the middle of a concert, when you’re driving, or in an important business meeting. It’s more likely to strike when the stakes are high. I worry that diabetes will be the uninvited loud guest at my wedding.
  • Diabetes is gross. It involves bodily fluids and complications, and it reminds us that we have bodies and that they are fallible. All the time. So much of “manners” is pretending we don’t have bodies. Diabetes makes that impossible.
  • Diabetes overstays its welcome. Benjamin Franklin, one of the original advice columnists, has a quotation often attributed to him: “Houseguests, like fish, start to smell after three days.”  I’ve had diabetes for 6183 days; that I know of, anyway. Diabetes has only overstayed its welcome for 6180 days. And it has NEVER brought me a hostess gift, unless you count stuff I don’t want: no wine, no thoughtful chocolates. Diabetes makes me buy my own wine. Oh, and diabetes sometimes doesn’t play nice with alcohol either.
  • Diabetes is greedy. It takes your time, your money – and it never pays it back – and sometimes it demands a ton of sugar or the contents of your fridge.
  • It’s kind and polite to take care of the sick. Diabetes actually demands MORE when we’re sick, like a husband forcing his flu-ridden wife to make him breakfast while cleaning the house. It’s also polite not to afflict others with your illness if you don’t have to. That, however, only counts for contagious diseases. I can’t call in and say “woke up and I still have diabetes! Can’t come in today.”
People with diabetes have to deal with this consistent rudeness, in their own bodies, on their own turf, every single day. It’s honestly a manners victory that we’re not running around screaming “I’m high as hell and I can’t take it anymore!” all day.

We just want to take care of ourselves. Isn’t the kindest, politest thing to do…letting us do that?

Much of the idea behind being good to others is that everyone is fighting a hard battle, so consideration is key. I don’t know if that factors into manners or not, but I certainly hope it does. All I know is, when I started to make my diabetes public rather than hidden, when I stopped hiding away, when “oh, I’ll have to waste ten minutes getting to the washroom to test and the conversation will have moved on without me, “ that one more barrier to testing that made sure I didn’t, stopped: that is when I felt better and vastly improved my health. That was me not “mannering” myself into an early grave. That’s when the education and connection started, not when it was severed.

Perhaps instead of keeping a polite distance from each other, we could be a little unseemly and acknowledge that we’re all in this together.

Especially when we’re crammed together in coach.



  1. I think the diabetes test is one of the most fascinating things I've ever seen - and I say that as someone who is completely squeamish about needles and blood. Miss Manners probably thinks that breastfeeding should only happen in the women's washroom as well. She needs to get up to date.

  2. Brilliant! I hope all of the Miss Manners' who are out there read this, and more than once.