Host must not notify guest for diabetic needs

QUESTION: My wife and I attended a 4th of July potluck picnic/buffet today at a friend’s house. There were other couples there, most of them we had never met.

It took a while to prepare the burgers and hot dogs. The hostess knew that I am diabetic. My wife told me to have some of her salad she brought on a small plate to help with my blood sugar. It was on the kitchen table but not placed outside by the pool/bar area.

I went back for salad and was scolded by the hostess in front of the guests for eating before bringing out the salads.

It was so embarrassing. She did the same again after her husband gave me a cooked burger after all the cooked meat was on the table. I brought my own plant based burger.

What do you think about this? She didn’t announce that she would start eating because people were already eating appetizers. The hostess knew that I was on a vegan diet and that two out of three entrees were not part of my diet. All I could eat was tortilla chips.

It was not a formal event. I guess I could have asked permission to have a small salad sooner, but my wife has known her longer than me.

What was my appropriate behavior at this event? I was uncomfortable for the rest of our stay there.

CALIE’S RESPONSE: I can understand your embarrassment and frustration. The hostess was probably a little stressed, but that doesn’t mean she can make you feel like you do. Next time, perhaps in advance, let the hosts know your concerns and dietary limits to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

LILLIE-BETH’S RESPONSE: You’ve done whatever it takes to manage your health so you can enjoy the party. A host who makes their guests uncomfortable like that is not doing all the right thing, especially since they know your health limits. You didn’t demand that she prepare the food according to your own dietary needs; you brought yours. It appeared that she was aware of these needs in advance. It wasn’t a formal dinner party – it was an outdoor pool party!

I know we’ve discussed scenarios in the past where hosts are concerned about guests with difficult dietary needs or guests with difficult dietary needs wondering how to attend events, but in most of these cases, the hosts were concerned with making their guests comfortable or the guests were unwilling to hurt the feelings or efforts of the hosts by needing their own food.

Your experience is not reflected in any of these examples. You met your own health needs by quietly eating the salad YOUR FAMILY brought to a place away from guests when dinner took longer than expected.

The “rules” of etiquette help us find ways to show respect to others in difficult situations. You respected your hosts, and I’m so sorry that your hosts chose to embarrass you and didn’t respect you. I think the best you can do in this situation is to manage; you have set your limits for your own health and taken care of yourself without imposing on others. You also didn’t disrupt the party, even though the hosts were the most rude.

I would be interested to hear their point of view out of curiosity. Maybe your wife could tell her friend now how hard it’s been for you, especially if you want to make arrangements so you can spend time with them again. Or you can choose not to go next time.

HELEN’S RESPONSE: Diabetic guests should eat a little before attending events. This way, if food preparation takes a while, blood sugar levels are stable. It was smart of you to bring your own vegan burger. You did all the right things ahead of time and your wife had already told the hostess about your food issues. The hostess should have made it easy for you by not drawing attention to the salad and the burger. I don’t know why she insisted on making an uncomfortable guest.

However, by ignoring his words, you once again did the right thing. I’m only sorry you couldn’t enjoy the party anyway.

GUEST RESPONSE: Yvette Walker, Assistant Dean, Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication: Coming together to celebrate this nation’s freedom should be fun, not like a tag prison. It’s possible the hostess forgot in the hustle and bustle of her day that you have diabetes, but scolding you in front of others is just not polite.

Your wife (her friend) could have taken the time to remind her that you needed something to eat, but this hostess’ behavior was not right in such a fun and laid back setting. What could you have done? Eat before the event and remind the hostess of your needs. But I’m not letting his behavior get away with this situation.

Since 2009, Callie, Lillie-Beth and Helen have written this generational etiquette column. They also include responses from customers of a wide range of ages each week. So many years later, Callie is over 20; Lillie-Beth is over 40 and Helen is over 60. To ask an etiquette question, email helen.wallace@cox.net.

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