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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
Friendship and Reasonable Accommodations 
20th-Mar-2014 08:32 am
We had a number of people over for dinner not too long ago. We did the usual "Do you have any food allergies or intolerances? Are there things you Just Don't Eat?" e-mail and planned around that, making a barbecue chicken pizza (GF). That night, one person approached me shyly; she had just recently started not eating any carbs or sugars, and was hoping we wouldn't be insulted by her just picking off and eating the shreds of chicken. It was hard for her to ask. But I'm glad she did, because we had half a rotisserie chicken left! So she got more dinner than she would have, with no sugary barbecue sauce.

Not too long after, I had my birthday party. One friend e-mailed me saying "I am hoping to have the spoons to be there! I need to ask for a couple of accommodations, though..." for her mental health.

And then things clicked in my mind. Yes! These are Reasonable Accommodations!

And I will put it out there that I always want you to ask for any accommodations you may need.

Even if they seem silly; another friend at the party was afraid of seeming silly when she said "I'm trying to get out and be with people more, but I'm finding it really emotionally difficult to accept that I can reach out and ask to hang out with people. May I have permission in advance to ask you?" That's not silly. You recognize a problem you're having, and getting advance permission is the way you can solve that - that's taking care of you. <3

And if you're ever at my house, or hanging out with me at all, I want to make those accommodations for you to the full extent of my ability. Do you need to borrow a sweater? Do you need a seat on the couch instead of the floor? Do you need quiet space for an introvert break? PLEASE let me know. I want you to be at your happiest and most comfortable. <3

And I think it can help to look at it like that. I hope that makes it easier for you to ask. You're asking for a reasonable accommodation for your needs and comfort. There's nothing wrong with that, and everything right. I hope you do it, for whatever accommodations you need.
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20th-Mar-2014 12:41 pm (UTC)
Can I add a bit? Don't be afraid to explain what those reasonable accommodations mean in practical terms. Like "I'm gluten free" means "I can't eat bread, pasta, etc" (or whatever it means) because sometimes what I think something means and what the person who actually needs the accommodation needs are very different, and then I screw up as a hostess without even knowing and that's not so great. More info makes life better for everyone!
20th-Mar-2014 01:51 pm (UTC)
20th-Mar-2014 12:52 pm (UTC) - Thank you for being this clear
I've had the biggest problem with this around the kids' birthday parties. I ask about this and then no one gives me the info. I've had vegetarian kids when we were serving chicken nuggets, kids who don't eat chocolate and get no cake... etc. At parties people tend to be communicative and we tell people 1:1 about it. I think a statement in the next invite might not go amiss.

My scent accommodation is hard. I can't make people switch out of using scented things just to come to my house. I can't control it when I go to other people's places. It's not like food where I can choose not to eat it. I can't choose not to breathe. We had to leave a holiday party this December because someone was wearing a particularly aggressive cologne. If you have dealt with this with others I'd be interested in knowing their solutions. I've been trying to find workable solutions since I was twenty.
20th-Mar-2014 01:50 pm (UTC) - Re: Thank you for being this clear
For the scent accommodation, I can only recommend telling people, but I know that not all people listen/remember. I haven't worn BPAL to your house since you told me, but I'm more accustomed than most to keeping stuff like that in my head, I think...
21st-Mar-2014 02:37 am (UTC) - Re: Thank you for being this clear
I am a church organist, and worked for a time at a church where certain women loved putting scented candles in the sanctuary. That came to an abrupt end after I lost my breakfast... quite loudly... during the sermon, in a restroom just outside the sanctuary. Not an approach I recommend, but it was effective!
21st-Mar-2014 02:13 pm (UTC) - Re: Thank you for being this clear
IMO you can ask your guests when they come to your house not to wear perfume, cologne, or scented lotion (or whatever products cause the most problems for you). My neurologist's office has signage that says "if you are wearing perfume, you will be asked to leave" because he's a migraine specialist.

Going to someone else's house is trickier, of course, because it feels like a major imposition to ask your friends to ask their friends not to wear perfume/cologne.
21st-Mar-2014 02:13 pm (UTC) - Re: Thank you for being this clear
Oh, goodness. The scent thing. I work in an office where people are walking back and forth all day, and some of them waft some pretty awful perfume into my cubicle. There's no way I can do anything about it.

The woman who sits right next to me, though... whoo. She got a new perfume that made me all sneezy and headachy, and for some reason it took me a week to get up the courage to ask her not to wear that one. I wish she'd wear no perfume at all, but at least now she's avoiding the one to which I'm allergic!

(Why do people wear scents to offices, anyway?)
21st-Mar-2014 11:09 pm (UTC) - Re: Thank you for being this clear
I know some people who wear certain scents because those scents calm them down, help them relax, or otherwise reduce stress for them.

That said, there's a difference between wearing a small amount of something with limited throw to the scent and wearing something that reaches out and smacks people more than a couple inches from your wrist.
21st-Mar-2014 11:16 pm (UTC) - Re: Thank you for being this clear
Yes, true. But the people who wear scents for stress reduction purposes tend to be understanding of how scent can carry, and the people about whom I am complaining have no understanding of that. :( The woman who sits next to me, for example - I can practically *see* the swirl of scent behind her when she walks in.

I think that my desire to continue breathing/have no migraines while I'm in the office would probably trump just about any perfume-wearing, no?

22nd-Mar-2014 08:00 am (UTC) - Re: Thank you for being this clear
Oh, absolutely. And yes, most people I know who do that try to make sure no one around them is allergic. I know I end up having 'what I can wear on choir days' vs. 'what I'll wear the rest of the time' and certain friends around whom I don't wear anything. (I also have unscented deodorant for choir days or days I know I'll be around particularly sensitive friends.)

Have you tried talking to the woman? She may not be aware that it's a problem. (Though I know I've run into problems with the lotions some people like. Just, seriously, if I can smell it from five feet away, it's too strongly scented. This does not seem unreasonable.)
22nd-Mar-2014 04:19 pm (UTC) - Re: Thank you for being this clear
I did mention to her that this particular perfume was causing an allergic reaction, and she was both surprised and apologetic. She hasn't worn that one again - but she wears others that are just as strong-smelling. At least they don't give me sneezing fits, I guess. (Note: She may sit next to me, but I don't actually work with her!)

I work in a large building and many of the perfumed folks who come through aren't "permanent" residents of the work area; they're there to take a class or something. The way my desk is set up, I can't actually see people as they walk by... only smell them!

It's not that I dislike perfume. Sometimes I even wear it! My theory is, scent should only be discernible if you're close enough for nibbling. :)
20th-Mar-2014 01:14 pm (UTC)
I love this-- may I link to it?
20th-Mar-2014 01:15 pm (UTC)
20th-Mar-2014 01:47 pm (UTC)
This is the best.

One person who I am friends-ish with (I see her at larps and rarely at SCA events and she's super awesome but just far enough away, y'know?) cemented herself as Best Person Ever for me when I was getting a tour of her house when I was brought there for a NYE party - and she was all, "And this is the workroom/library. There are comfy chairs and books in here and nobody ever comes up here. SIGNIFICANT LOOK, INTROVERT."

It's a tiny social accommodation, but it really meant a lot and made me a ton more comfortable.
20th-Mar-2014 01:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah - one great thing about the Leftons' parties is that they have a designated quiet room!
20th-Mar-2014 01:57 pm (UTC)
It has always bothered me that people are generally FAR more willing to do this with food restrictions than they are with emotional ones.

I've always considered emotional sensitivity to be something like an allergy. You have a responsibility to keep yourself safe by asking for what you need. And other people have a responsibility to either provide that, or to say that they can't handle it and nip things in the bud early on.
20th-Mar-2014 01:59 pm (UTC)
Exactly so.
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20th-Mar-2014 02:45 pm (UTC)
That is wonderful. :)
21st-Mar-2014 01:11 am (UTC)
Completely irrelevant but I love your icon!
21st-Mar-2014 06:15 am (UTC)
Thank you. It makes me happy. :)
25th-Mar-2014 02:17 pm (UTC)
20th-Mar-2014 03:17 pm (UTC)
THIS! Except I don't personally have these issues, or I just force myself through them, so I forget to ask people. But I TRY.

I also find that people are more likely to tell me about the food/physical than the emotional. I think it might be social? Physical things are real and emotional ones aren't?
20th-Mar-2014 05:09 pm (UTC)
This is super kind of you. :)

I confess that a big part of my lack of social the last few years has been that unless I feel "healthy" (aka: functional and with at least 4-6 hours of energy) I don't visit or socialize with people unless I feel like I can say "Excuse me, I know we are in the middle of a chat but I am crashing hard. Would it be ok if I took a nap?" since I worry that will be seen as rude/presumptuous. I have a great set of friends in NYC where the wife is an introvert and I love visiting them because whenever I need a nap she comes and joins me so I still feel "social" even if we are both just dozing! :)
20th-Mar-2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
You can always nap here. :)
20th-Mar-2014 05:58 pm (UTC)
Hi! I found this post via my friendsfriends list - we have a dozen people in common, inluding ysabetwordsmith.

This is a really wonderful essay.

May I add you to my reading list?
20th-Mar-2014 06:08 pm (UTC)
You may!
21st-Mar-2014 04:03 am (UTC)
Me, too! This is wonderful. It sounds a lot like our place, but as ewin said people (including me) don't often pay as much attention to emotional accommodation as to physical.
20th-Mar-2014 06:07 pm (UTC)
As a educator who focuses on students with disabilities I think I am almost hyper-aware of accommodation and modifications. The new word that I have been using to cover everything is ADAPTATIONS. It is a little more positive and covers more ground. :)

This did remind me that I am hosting a painting/wine party next week and need to send out my email asking for this information.
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20th-Mar-2014 06:19 pm (UTC) - I like that framework
I will try to incorporate more of it.
20th-Mar-2014 07:03 pm (UTC) - Thank you!
This is lovely and useful. I have linked to it, as I have many readers with personal needs requiring delicate disclosure.
21st-Mar-2014 01:09 am (UTC)
Great idea. Generally, when I need time like this (even in my own home because I'm weird like that) I head to the bathroom; I'm almost guaranteed not to be interrupted there, and a bathroom break is usually JUST long enough to give me my equilibrium back. Also, no distractions. In my bedroom there's the computer, the books and the bed, so I don't just sit and listen to the silence. In the bathroom there's the opportunity to just absorb it. Also also, in addition to being the room with the least distractions, it's also the quietest.

Edited at 2014-03-21 03:13 am (UTC)
23rd-Mar-2014 02:08 pm (UTC) - Accommodations
I had a well attended movie and anime night. I always made sure to vacuum to keep the cat dander down for those with pet allergies. Made sure I had options so those who observed religious dietary restrictions had something to munch on, or at least a doggy bag. And whenever I do Lent, people are kind enough not flog their sweets in my face.

It is often hard to help others feel at home when they have some sort of phobia, religious or cultural restriction, or other personal issue. Sometimes certain kinds of movie or anime were off limits because of certain personal fears, like physical mutilation or ghosts.

But it's always a good indication that you are a good person if you put yourself out for the comfort of others under your roof. Hospitality goes a long way to making sure a good time is had by most, if not all in attendance.
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