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Missed Manners.

So this popped up as a Q&A in a recent Miss Manners column:

“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.”

Hmmm.  My response:


I am a person with type 1 diabetes, and I’ve been testing my blood sugar regularly for the last 10,000+ days.

Testing my blood sugar is not a bodily function; It’s a practice required for proper diabetes management. It’s not grooming; it’s a medical necessity.  I travel a considerable amount and when I am in transit, I do what is required to take care of my diabetes from the comfort and safety of my seat. I take great care to be discreet in testing my blood sugars, and I properly contain and dispose of my supplies throughout my travels.

I wish I had the option to afford myself the rule of “drawing the line at drawing blood.”  Hell, if I could test my blood sugar without pricking my finger, it would be a great day, indeed.  Restrooms exist to provide a place for travelers to urinate or defecate, and I would prefer not to perform my subtle medical procedure where people are known to perform those actions.  You have no business monitoring the respectable, responsible activities of people with diabetes who are trying to stay alive.

The technology associated with diabetes is fast-evolving and has grown by leaps and bounds since my diagnosis 27 years ago.  But if I took your cue and relegated myself to bathrooms to tend to my diabetes needs, I’d be in the bathroom(s) all the time.  (And everyone on the plane would hate me for taking up the bathroom every hour or so.)  Instead, I discreetly test and medicate as needed, so as to avoid a more serious diabetes issue, such as a severe hypoglycemic reaction wherein I could seize and potentially bite my tongue (causing blood to spill) or accidentally relieve myself (causing urine to spill).  Which is more offensive to you – the controlled, unobtrusive checking of my blood sugar or the unpredictable, emergency effects that may transpire as a result of not checking?

You may choose to tell your readers that it is in bad taste to perform this medical procedure in a public place, but I disagree.  I would hope that you would resolve to teach children and adults alike that taking care of your health is something to be proud of, not ashamed of.  Offer whatever advice you’d like, but at the end of the day and during the course of every day, I will do what I need to do to live with this disease.


60 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lindsay #

    AMEN! Love your response! 🙂

    02/20/14; 12:56 pm
  2. More poetic and gentle than my FB rant that she should go eff herself. I might still be in rage mode.

    02/20/14; 1:02 pm
    • LOL! I agree that she can do that, but I haven’t found a polite way to suggest such actions to her. 🙂

      02/20/14; 1:06 pm
  3. ria #

    Bravo !!!!! You are hired !! =) love this !

    02/20/14; 1:03 pm
  4. Amy #

    Absolutely! Missed Manners has no clue. Thank you for your response!

    02/20/14; 1:14 pm
  5. There’s a reason she’s called Miss Manners and not Miss Reality.

    02/20/14; 1:15 pm
  6. “taking care of your health is something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”

    Very well said, Kerri.

    02/20/14; 1:17 pm
  7. so she’d have us open up our bodies (however slightly that might be) in a restroom stall covered with who knows what bacteria, germs, and fecal matter… yeah… umm no.
    btw, the seat back pockets are not much better, stay away from those too or else bathe in antiseptic before pricking your fingers…
    Great response Kerri

    02/20/14; 1:25 pm
    • MelanieKF #

      It was Miss Manner’s son, who is a type 1 diabetic, who wrote this column. He didn’t say you had to go to the bathroom. He said be discreet if you chose not to. I have a serious lifelong illness too, but I don’t act like every time I need to manage it is an emergency and everyone around must defer to my needs. That isn’t true, and even more important, I don’t want to send the message that my illness is unmanageable.

      03/20/14; 8:03 pm
      • Roger #

        Right, the author doesn’t come out and say you have to go to the bathroom — he doesn’t provide any other helpful options or ideas, either. He does exactly what most good advice columnists do: he narrows down the scope of the question arbitrarily until it becomes so easy to answer that the advice is a useless waste of space.

        Concerning testing your glucose in public: The perception that those around you may be scrutinizing, keeping tabs on, or otherwise judging you in any and all social situations is actually named generalized social anxiety disorder. I deal with it, it’s actually really common.

        In any case, I don’t get to just elect not to take a glucose reading, or to put it off until the bathroom is free. Besides, lots of situations render bathrooms unavailable (for instance, on a bus, in a public park, standing in line), and as lots of people have pointed out, using a space that is a breeding ground for bacteria and mold (ie, any public bathroom) to break the skin barrier and take a subcutaneous injection is not only gross, but arguably unsanitary.

        Exposure therapy is the best, when it comes to anxiety. Next time you’re in public and you suddenly have to attend to yourself because of your serious lifelong illness, try just doing it right then and there instead of taking shelter in a bathroom — see if anyone reproaches you. My bet is (especially if your condition is T1D) you might get away with it without anyone the wiser.

        02/10/16; 8:54 am
  8. Wendy #

    Please, please, please send this in to her! If enough diabetics attempt to educate her, she may actually run some of the responses and reverse her position.

    02/20/14; 1:27 pm
  9. Janine #

    I LOVE this response, especially the pointing out of less sanitary conditions of travel quarter bathrooms. YUCK!
    Additionally, the testing of 1’s glucose may be based upon hypoglycemia. It makes 0 sense to have an expectation that someone, for whom staying in 1 place may be the safest for all present, would stumble around to get to sequester him/herlself to some nasty poop closet to cater to the possible discomfort of others who might witness a finger pricking take place.
    Thank you for your beautiful response. 🙂 As a Type 1 of 26 years, I felt well represented by your words.

    02/20/14; 1:34 pm
  10. Michelle C. #

    Love this response! From the beginning I taught my now 16 yr. old son, dx’d at age 10 that his diabetes is nothing to ashamed of, so why hide it.

    02/20/14; 1:53 pm
  11. Megan S #

    I agree!

    I must also ask the number of times that we all have even been in a seat or standing at a counter and we have dropped a test strip (used or not) or struggled to balance checking our BG while standing in the middle of a grocery store line because we just didn’t feel right. And you want us to add cramped spaces inside of a flying tiny tube to the juggling act?! I think not.

    A close friend has a 4 yo and 6yo. Both of them have been around my diabetes their entire lives and are asking questions. I would rather they be informed than blissfully ignorant.

    02/20/14; 1:57 pm
  12. Preach!

    02/20/14; 1:59 pm
  13. mollyjade #

    And even if it weren’t a safety issue, it’s really not an obtrusive task. I’ve had friends who I tested my blood sugar in front of for years not even realize that I have diabetes. People generally assume I’m doing something on my cell phone, like the rest of the world.

    02/20/14; 2:00 pm
  14. Perfect!

    I think a better thing from her to say would have been something along the lines of, advise your seat mate what you are doing, so as not to cause alarm but other than that well done for taking care of your health.

    My son will continue to have his blood tested in public (discreetly but in public!) for as long as this is the way it is done!

    02/20/14; 2:03 pm
  15. Type 1 Mommy #

    THANK YOU!! Those who are not diabetic should not be advising those who are! Anyone offended can take themselves to the stinky restroom or simply look away for the two seconds it will take to complete this necessary test. If a child asks questions, great! Take this time to explain to them how lucky they are to be healthy, compare it to some challenge they have in their life, or just simply show them by example the importance of empathy for others!

    02/20/14; 2:07 pm
    • MelanieKF #

      It was Miss Manner’s son, who is a type 1 diabetic, who wrote this column.

      03/20/14; 7:49 pm
  16. Excellent reply, Kerri!

    02/20/14; 2:13 pm
  17. k2 #


    02/20/14; 2:21 pm
  18. Thank you again for saying what needs to be said.

    02/20/14; 2:39 pm
  19. Laura Ferrazzo #

    I had someone ask me how many times I absolutely had to test my blood sugar AKA prick my finger and I could not think what to respond…A hundred times a day?!?! She insisted I give her an absolute. Oh boy! I would definitely be in the bathroom all the time!

    02/20/14; 2:49 pm
  20. Miss ignorant,
    I am so thankful that my daughter never will see this post! I have wield very hard to express to her that she should never feel uncomfortable about caring for her t1! Often she is having low blood sugars and cannot get up to make another person comfortable! These kids suffer daily with feeling different and feeling misunderstood! You are just the kind of person I try to teach my daughter to ignore!
    You owe the diabetic community an apology and you owe yourself some educating on this disease.

    Mommy of aT1 diabetic

    02/20/14; 3:10 pm
  21. Thank you Kerri! She needs to educate herself about the reality of life with diabetes before giving anyone else advice.

    02/20/14; 3:36 pm
  22. Kerri,
    Thank you for responding to Miss Manners in a classy way. You were respectful and polite while getting your point across. This is the kind of response that should represent all of us as a community, but sadly it’s one of very few that I’ve seen that don’t tell Miss Manners to f herself or suck it….which doesn’t nothing but make US look like a bunch of morons.

    02/20/14; 4:13 pm
  23. Thank you so much for trying to educate Missed Manners. I hope to hear that you get a very public apology from her and a recant of the terrible advice she gave.

    02/20/14; 4:24 pm
  24. Donald #

    Testify! 🙂

    02/20/14; 5:37 pm
  25. I think Miss Manners should spend a week being responsible for taking care of a Type 1 Diabetic toddler. I am only 3 months into my sons diagnosis (20 months old) and I don’t bat an eye at checking his blood anywhere I need to. Hell, I’ve even checked it in line for a ride at Disneyland. Personally, I think it’s impressive how discrete and efficient I can be while in public. However, I welcome the disgusted look or rude response to my actions. I use that as an opportunity to educate ignorant people about what living with T1D is really like. Who ever Miss Manners is, wouldn’t be able to hack her definition of discretion under the pressure that is associated with a 26 lb child who is hungry and need to eat and in order to do that had to have blood checked and insulin dosed out. Your response was great, and as only a caregiver to my son, I too have no idea how difficult actually living with T1D is. I hope that through this misstep on miss manners part, The DOC will be able to educate anyone who is confused or sensitive to a diabetic’s management of T1D in the future. Thanks for your post!

    02/20/14; 5:50 pm
  26. Michelle #

    Thank you!!!!

    02/20/14; 6:07 pm
  27. Kathy W. #

    not to mention the fact that in a regular public restroom, you’ll get the same disgusted looks from some–meaning we’re supposed to hide in a stall.

    Guess what’s another “bodily function” that people “disapprove of” in public? Uh huh, breastfeeding. Also involving bodily fluids, Miss Manners. But I’m guessing she’d be afraid of the backlash if she applied the “tiny bathroom solution” to that. Besides, she wouldn’t want her flight ruined by a screaming hungry baby.

    Time for Miss Manners to get a clue.

    02/20/14; 6:46 pm
  28. Karen Davidson-Fisher #

    Thank you! I have been diabetic for 36 years and several of those years I have worked on the phones in call centers. I have actually had complaints about me doing a blood test and/or giving a shot at my desk! And then my supervisor supported the person making the complaint! I don’t want to wish this disease on anyone, really, but I wish these people could be diabetic for just a week! Walking a mile in our moccasins might be the only thing to bring them to their senses!

    02/20/14; 7:36 pm
  29. Adrianna #

    You go, girl! Miss Manners needs to learn A LOT more about diabetes management before she gives any more ridiculous advice.

    02/20/14; 7:36 pm
  30. Patty #

    Thank you so much for your well-considered response to that horrific advice. My T1d teen daughter educates folks and patiently answers questions when she is testing her blood sugar everywhere she goes – grateful for her compliance and health.

    02/20/14; 7:56 pm
  31. Sue #

    I was stunned that anyone would think like this in 2014. I will never encourage my son to hide. Great response. Thank you for trying to counteract href ignorance.

    02/20/14; 8:06 pm
  32. NO KIDDING! 🙂 I get so ticked when people act like diabetes management needs to be a “private” thing! If I have to live with the incredibly hard disease, I’ll do the management “part” ANYwhere I feel like!

    I love it when people ask! 🙂

    And your right, Miss Manners obviously needs to catch up on her T1 education!

    02/20/14; 8:43 pm
  33. Emily #

    To my mom- thank you for always making me feel secure and confident with my healthcare. Over the past 20 years, I’ve never made it a point to be “discrete” in any public place with pokes or shots. Planes, classrooms, workplaces, restaurants, local or overseas.

    Discrete my ass.

    02/20/14; 9:01 pm
  34. Erin #

    I once gave myself an insulin shot in the bathroom of a mall. I had a vial of insulin, a syringe, and a pen to tap the air bubbles out, and I was standing in front of the sink. I wasn’t going to draw it up in the stall – that’s just gross. This lady walked in behind me with her daughter, saw me, and pushed her daughter’s head down on her shoulder to shield her from me.

    I remember thinking “it’s insulin, you moron”, but I didn’t actually speak to her. Shortly after that I switched to an insulin pump to avoid people like that.

    02/20/14; 9:40 pm
  35. Kathy W. #

    Left a comment earlier, but it never appeared. Maybe too ranty? So I’ll just condense it to this:

    Just as women should be free to BF their babies on a plane without being subjected to outraged looks, PWD should likewise feel no shame about testing their blood sugar–and shouldn’t feel any pressure to “hide themselves.”

    02/20/14; 10:35 pm
  36. Eloise #

    Well said.
    I have tested and injected in front of people, and they have then asked whether I needed to ‘take care’ of myself. It is not a full Broadway production. It can be done quickly(my first glucometer – Glucometer II – took 45 second, my current one take 5) and quietly and a lot less offensively than some behavior you get in public these days.

    02/21/14; 1:53 am
  37. Well said ~ Awesome Reply!!!! 🙂

    02/21/14; 4:05 am
  38. Tamara #

    Thank you for this post. I recently went on the pump and am still checking BG levels frequently. I am a high school science teacher and just test right at my desk. I have wondered if this is okay but have used it as a chance to educate my students. Even though I teach physics it is a great opportunity to fit in a little biology. 🙂 I figure that a healthy teacher is better than a sick one and as long as I am not smearing blood every where, I am fine.
    Thanks for the reinforcement.

    02/21/14; 4:12 am
  39. sylvia #

    I loved your reply. While I do not flaunt my medical condition I do not think it is rude to test my sugar in public and on a very rare occasion I have given myself a shot in public when the restroom was occupied. If miss manners cannot distinguish the difference between relieving oneself in a plane seat and testing one’s blood sugar she shouldn’t be giving advice.

    02/21/14; 9:52 am
  40. Susan09 #

    What an elegant response Kerri. Thank you. I allow my 8 year old son to test anywhere he needs to. Before he started on the pump this August, we went to Paris and he tested and got insulin shots at outdoor cafes all over. No one made a comment. He was afraid at first but when he realized how unconcerned everyone was, he took care of his diabetes appropriately. And this was only two months after diagnosis. I cannot imagine what would have happened if he had been told by the likes of Miss Manners that he was being offensive! My suggestion is that everyone write a letter to the editor of the Washington Post where her column is most widely read. Comments on our diabetes blogs and forums are great but the rest of the public won’t see this and they need to know that she is wrong wrong wrong!

    02/21/14; 11:10 am
  41. Nell #

    Miss Manners is full of it!!!!!!

    02/21/14; 11:22 am
  42. Thank you for writing eloquently about this and so much that needs to get out about living with diabetes. I’ve had type 1 diabetes since age 12 and if I’m on a plane or at a restaurant, or anywhere, I test when I need to, take my shot when I need to, eat some jellybeans when I need to… I do feel self conscious still at times, but I try to remember that 1: I’m usually the only one who’s even noticing what I’m doing, and 2: if anyone else notices, that’s ok, it’s not a problem to do what I need to be healthy!


    02/21/14; 11:45 am
  43. J #

    Love that GIF!

    I was diagnosed in 2012 at age 29. The first while I went to the bathroom each time to test or to inject. It got old really fast. It wasn’t practical. I held on for as much as I could but I agree, if I was to take to the bathroom every time I’d be in there or looking for one all the time.

    My passion has been fitness and I’m happy to say I test on the treadmill, by the weights, anywhere! My time is precious and I’m getting in more pushups and miles instead of heading to the bathroom 😀

    02/21/14; 9:46 pm
  44. Joy #

    For sure agreeing with your answer, not Miss Manners’. As a parent, I imagine trying to cram both of us in a bitty airplane restroom to take care of my child’s medical needs would be disastrous!

    02/24/14; 11:18 am
  45. Eric #

    Very interesting. This guy followed up with Miss Manners and her diabetic son who penned the response.

    02/26/14; 2:28 pm
  46. The “Reply” by Miss Manners was all over the map. Yes, I agree with being discrete! However, yes, we can have it ‘both ways’ – Depending on the D-Person’s preference… if we want to test at our seats, that should be fine. If we choose to test in the bathroom, that should also be fine. It is not having both sides of the coin. It is about simple human rights- for the choice to the individual’s medical treatment protocol desires… “to each their own.” ~ Don’t judge other people, and focus on your own lives…… diabetic, or not.

    03/2/14; 11:59 pm
  47. thediabeticman #

    I have found that there is actually a benefit to being public about testing my blood sugar: it serves as a prompt to others who should be checking theirs (and these days there are many of them). Many people are nervous or scared of checking blood sugars in private let alone with a small audience of potential viewers. Nonchalantly checking mine gives them an excuse to do the same or at least strike up a conversation about diabetes because, let’s face it, almost everyone has at least one close diabetic family member. The more we can educate, the better.

    03/20/14; 3:02 pm
  48. T1D AOK #

    I’m a T1D. I did microbiology at university. I decided on a whim to swab some surfaces in the gent’s bathroom and grow whatever was there. I can heartily recommend to my fellow insulin injectors that you should not lay any piece of equipment, used or unused on pretty much any surface in a public bathroom. The door handle was particularly exciting. Perhaps Miss Manners would care to comment on the correctness of returning to a dining table with a variety of bacteria on one’s hands. Or just chill out about things most people don’t notice. I’ve done tests and injections in restaurants and nobody noticed.

    03/27/17; 6:33 am

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