Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Remember a few months back when I managed to piss off every pothead in the continental United States? Well, that was nothing compared to the wrath I'm now drawing from the celiac disease-suffering community.
My silly little rant yesterday about Jennifer Esposito's fight with CBS over what she claims is the network's discrimination against her because of her struggle with celiac must've been posted on a celiac support website somewhere because over the past several hours I've been pummeled with tweets from people with handles like "@GlutenDude" and "@WheatFree" letting me know in no uncertain terms what an asshole I am and how I should do my research before running my mouth off. Mary Beth Williams is also getting an earful from people who seem to think that we both were ignorantly dismissive of what's in reality a very serious condition.
Look, I was a dick -- I admit that. It's what I do around here a good portion of the time. But both Mary Beth's and my point wasn't that celiac isn't a real disease and that it doesn't cause pain and lead to lifestyle issues for a lot of people. Our argument was basically that by conflating celiac with the more frivolous aspects of a recent dietary fad, it's people like Esposito who may be diminishing the disease and making it easier for those not affected by it to believe that it's not a big deal. Put it this way: For a lot of people -- certainly the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world -- going gluten-free is a choice and nothing more, while for celiac sufferers it's often a necessity. But if you're one of those people who actually has celiac and you incessantly preach gluten-free to everybody -- irrespective of whether they need it -- by making the claim that it'll make them feel less bloated and icky, you're essentially making it appear as if your reasons for not eating glutens have little to do with the actual disease. You're carelessly combining a serious subject with one that's not at all serious and risking being eyed with suspicion.
A friend of mine said it best in a text to me a few minutes ago: You don't see Michael J. Fox out there talking about how you can lose 20-pounds with Parkinson's.
As for trends in medical diagnoses, they absolutely happen -- and not simply because the medical community becomes more "aware" of the disease. Sure, it becomes aware -- and so do millions of average people who then begin self-diagnosing and going to doctors who, provided it's not deadly serious, often shrug their shoulders, issue a tepid, "Eh, could very well be," and, bingo, you're being treated for the disease, syndrome, disorder, etc. Granted it really gets out of hand when there's a commercial out there telling you to "ask your doctor if you have" whatever-the-hell because Madison Avenue has invented a clever acronymic name for an often bullshit condition that Big Pharma has already created a pill to cure. But inject any medical issue into the pop culture blood stream by way of Oprah, People Magazine, and so on -- inevitably leading to mass-media ubiquity -- and you'll suddenly have everybody in our scared shitless, hypochondriac nation checking WebMD to see if the symptoms fit how they're feeling.
Awareness of a medical condition is often a double-edged sword. That's just how it is and how things work now in our media culture. As for going gluten-free, I stand by my original statement, with one caveat: If you're one of those pretentious assholes who's militant in his or her rejection of glutens -- and you're not suffering from a disease like celiac -- just shut the fuck up and eat already.