Life StoryJun/Jul 2013 Issue

Lifestyle Q&A - We’ve Got “Issues”

Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy drama

Office Birthday Party

Dear Issues,

I have a new job in an office of about 30 people. They recognize everyone’s birthday with a big party that always involves cake. Since I’m gluten-free and dairy-free, I never join in. Yes, it’s a bit isolating but at the same time, I don’t really need to be eating cake two or more times a month. I’m pretty okay with this. But here’s the thing. My birthday is coming up and I’m wondering if I should just call in sick that day.

Signed, Party Pooper

Dear Pooper,

I feel your pain. I work in a huge office that throws a party once a month for every single employee who has a birthday within that month. We usually have birthday songs, lots of speeches and five or more cakes filled with gluten and deliciousness. I sing along and then quickly head back to my desk where I’ve stashed a party-size bag of M&Ms. But you know what? That’s sad. And you sound sad, too.

I get that you don’t want to rock the boat or call attention to yourself. When you’re already the odd man out, the last thing you want to be is the whiny odd man out. Don’t worry, I’ve got totally viable options for you to not only have a swinging office birthday bash but to also have people take note the rest of the year.

1. Gossip.

Pretend that the GFDF advocate inside you is dying to get out and have some cake while he’s at it. Here’s what you do. Find the biggest mouth in your workplace and rhapsodize about your favorite gluten-free, dairy-free bakery or recipe—how it, wow, changed your life. It will be all over the office before the next party.

2. Hang out.

Instead of slinking away during the event, step up and start talking. When you’re offered a slice of gluten with a side of dairy, explain why you can’t partake. Be sure to add, "But I know where to find a great substitute!" Then throw out very specific directions and your favorite flavors. Hint taken.

3. Host.

The next time it’s birthday time, volunteer to make a GFDF treat. Even if it’s not the world’s greatest, people will remember it. In fact, they will especially remember it if it’s not the world’s greatest.

Or you could just stand up in the middle of a meeting and say, "Hey guys, gluten and dairy make me swell up, vomit, break out in hives and poop my pants." Sit down knowing there’s no way anyone will forget this when your birthday rolls around.

Family Reunion

Dear Issues,

Every year my entire extended family plans a get-together where we travel somewhere new and have a family reunion. This used to be fun until I was diagnosed with celiac. Now the whole trip is stressful from boarding the plane to family dinners that are not me-friendly. I’ve been doing such a good job of keeping myself safe but now it can all fly out the window. How do I make this fun again? Because right now, I’m trying out excuses that will get me out of the whole darn thing.

Signed, Worried Sick

Dear Worried,

Here’s the thing about family functions. They can be a heck of a lot of fun or they can be a nightmare. You’ve got grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and whoever else—all with their own wants and needs. No matter how much they love you, it only takes one exciting field trip to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine for everyone to forget that you can’t live on churros and roadside sandwiches, you know, like you used to.

Sadly, you can no longer fly by the seat of your pants when you’re traveling, especially when it’s with a crowd. Before you leave, know your safety zones. Search out gluten-free friendly eateries in your destination area. Send the list to at least three family members: the natural organizer, the biggest complainer and your mom. You’ve just signed on co-conspirators to swing things your way. Carry that restaurant list with you and map it out before you leave for the daily family-bonding activity.

That said, it won’t be perfect. Don’t leave home without emergency snacks, anything that floats your boat and travels well. When the trip gets tense, you can stuff your gullet while everyone else is stuffing their feelings.

April Peveteaux ( is the author of

Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes & Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free.

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