Sunday, August 30, 2020

An Open Letter to My Friends

Dear friends,

We need to talk about event invitations.

If we're friendly enough that you're inviting me to social distancing events, you know about my health issues. I have a mild sunlight allergy that, among other things, causes my skin to swell and develop an itchy rash after a few minutes of exposure. Dysautonomia means I can't regulate my body temperature properly, so I get overheated very easily -- thankfully, in cold weather, I can always just layer jackets to mitigate. And if nothing else, given my unpredictable stomach, I need access to a proper bathroom.

Please stop inviting me to shit that you know I won't be able to safely attend.

I acknowledge that right now we're kinda limited on venue options. It was easy when we could just go to pub trivia or grab lunch downtown whenever we wanted. Now, our options are pretty much "outside in the park" or "outside in someone's yard." I don't fault you for this, but what I beg you to remember is that my disabilities don't care that this is the only option to get together right now. Unfortunately, they cannot and will not decide to take a break for the duration of the pandemic. They're with me 24/7/365.

But when you invite me to a picnic on a hot, sunny day, in a park with no bathroom facilities, even if I know that it is a Royally Bad Idea for me to go, I'm stuck between two lousy options:

1. Say "no," which with repeated obviously-unsuitable invites, adds up over time to make me the asshole friend who never wants to do anything;

2. Say "yes," because ultimately I want to make everyone else happy even if it means I'm going to end up in the ER, and also maybe if that happens it'll finally drive home that I'm really not kidding about my quote-unquote acceptance criteria.

Obviously, I'm not telling you how it is for all of your disabled friends. I'm speaking only for myself. But I really hate being put in that position of guilt and anxiety over potential consequences to our relationship where I have to keep telling you "no" despite the fact that you knew from the very first moment of putting together the event what my answer would be. I don't need to attend every single event. Hell, I'm happy with one social event per quarter, because I'm also an introvert. By assuaging any guilt you may feel over not inviting me to, I don't know, mountain-climbing on Saturday, all you're doing is transferring that guilt to me. It sucks. It's inconsiderate, even if you're coming from a place of good intentions.

And for the love of God, do not pull the "oh, well if you're not going, I'm not going" thing. Do not put the responsibility for your happiness on me, because whether you realize it or not, all you're doing is trying to emotionally manipulate me into ignoring my own needs and comfort. I am honored that you want to see me. Thank you. That is awesome. This is not the way to do it.

It's incredibly unfortunate, but right now, the most reliable ways to hang out with me are to ensure:

  • Late evening or night-time events
  • Cool weather (ideally under 85F) since we're stuck outside
  • Bathroom access
  • At least marginally comfortable seating that I can lean back against
So ignore every manners guide you've ever read. Listen to what I am telling you.

If you want to have the summer's day picnic, have the picnic, enjoy yourself, and don't invite me.

I'll catch you in the fall and winter. In the meantime, I don't know -- if you miss my witty takes on life and awkward tangentially-related anecdotes that are the only way I know to connect with people, send me an email, or set up a video call or something. Again, I appreciate that you want to include me, but if you're trying to include me in things that I definitely cannot and should not be included in, that's actually worse than just not inviting me in the first place.