Today, I reached a milestone. My boss at work came to me specifically to tell me a story:
The 9th graders are going on a retreat the first week of school. They are going to some camp where they can complete ropes courses, get to know one another better, and bond with their new teachers. One of the ninth grade parents called the principal (my boss), telling him of her son’s severe allergy to dairy and lactose. She warned the principal that with this upcoming trip, her son could not under any circumstances come into contact with dairy. My boss was concerned because being a leader of the retreat, one of the fun activities he planned for the trip was to roast marshmallows and make s’mores around a fire.
The principal thought to himself, “what about s’mores is dairy??!” then realizing…GASP-MILK CHOCOLATE! He was at first disappointed, for in his mind, the student was unable to participate in the activity. And then it hit him…wait…there’s such a thing as VEGAN chocolate!
And here’s where we hit the milestone: my boss approached me, I believe to A) confirm that there is such a thing as vegan chocolate, B) to ask me where he could find such a product, and C) to check with me to make sure all other s’mores ingredients were dairy free.
Why would I call this a milestone? Because after 2 full years of working at my school and soon to be beginning a third, my principal finally recognizes that I do not consume dairy!
You would think that a school in New York City should be allergy friendly, and mine is to an extent. They always have a vegetarian option for the catered lunch and some of those options are gluten free. However, I am one of two lactose intolerant staff members in the whole high school, so dairy free options are often forgotten.
There are often welcome back or thank you breakfasts given to staff where all I can eat is the fruit (everything is always covered in cheese or butter). There are frequent lunch pizza parties where I’m stuck just smelling the cheese and instead eating the salad I brought from home. There are even the occasional celebratory cupcakes, munchkins, and cookies that I have to politely refuse, even though they would get me through that last hour of the day. There was even a thank you-end of the year-ice cream social where I had to specifically advocate for myself, asking my principal to get a box of ice pops so I could partake in the celebration.
Though it’s not a huge deal (like okay, just don’t eat that crap anyway), it does feel a little exclusive that there aren’t foods in which I can eat at the place where I work.
Which is why today was a milestone. My boss not only remembered that I was lactose intolerant, but came to me with that story, seeking me out to help. It’s the little victories.
Do you feel left out because of your dietary restrictions?