Dear Maria,
I have Multiple Sclerosis which is an auto-immune disease. One of the big challenges is staying healthy and as germ free as possible without going overboard. Several times I have been out with friends and one of the following happens: someone takes her fork (already used) and, in a flash, reaches over and takes a “taste” of my entre. Or, I mentioned that I’d ordered lemon in my tea, but the waitress evidently forgot. My friend reaches into her glass and before I can stop her, plops her lemon into my tea. I am happy to share a taste of my food and I appreciate the generosity of receiving the lemon, but both of these instances put me at risk for germs. I don’t want to live my life as a complete germa-phobe but I do try to be careful. In both of these examples, the friends know of my circumstances. Am I being too picky? And if not, how should I handle this? I don’t want to remind my friends of the MS every time we share a meal, but obviously it doesn’t seem they remember or realize the consequences for me.

Don’t Want to Be a Hermit

Dear Don’t Want to Be a Hermit,

Yikes! I’m not sure which example is more cringe worthy. It’s not right for people to share food without permission, no matter what your physical condition, so I don’t think you’re being too picky. I wonder if your friends may: a) have boundary issues, or b) feel your relationship is so relaxed, they don’t have to honor the boundaries they might have with people they don’t know as well. It sounds like a reminder conversation is in order. It’s not necessary to blame this issue on MS: this is a good practice for everyone to uphold. (Using MS as the reason for the boundary you need will seem as if you’d be okay with their behavior if you didn’t have MS. I don’t think that’s the case!) Next time you meet these friends for a meal, gently tell them that you’re germ-conscious, and to please ask before any food is shared. If they seem confused, give them the specific example you stated in your letter. It’s possible their feelings will be hurt, but better that than contracting a bug it will take you weeks to recover from. And, if they pout about your desire to manage your own food, then that’s their issue. Hopefully, one reminder will set the tone for all meals to come.

Thanks for your questions, dear hearts. Send me yours!