I pretended I’m allergic to bees, is it ethical to buy a resume and cover letter, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I pretended I’m allergic to bees when I’m not, and it made things weird

I’m fresh out of college and starting my first job, so I’m already self-conscious about how young and inexperienced I am. I was walking to my car with a few coworkers when I saw a bee on my car door handle. I have always had a fear of bees, so I panicked a little. One of my coworkers gave me a weird look, so I said, “Oh I’m allergic to bee stings and I don’t want to get sick.” Well, the nurse (I work at a school) overheard and now they’re asking for an allergy plan and Epi-pen. I’m not even really allergic! How do I get out of this without it seeming weird?

We’ve all said something weird on the spur of the moment and then later thought, “Why on earth did that come out of my mouth?”

Talk to the nurse privately and say, “I overstated the situation. I’ve been stung before so I’m afraid of it happening again, but I’m not actually allergic. I should have been clearer — I’m sorry for raising any alarm!”

2. Is it ethical to have a service write your resume and cover letter?

Recently it came to my attention that services exist where you can pay someone to put together your resume and cover letter and I wanted to get your thoughts on them. I had never heard of these services before, I’ve only been aware of advice-type services that may help you with things but not where you pay $300 for them to do it for you. Are these type of services common?

A friend of mine recently announced how excited he was to receive his new resume and cover letter for only $300 so now he can start job hunting (he’s looking to change fields after 10 years in his current industry). Another friend and I were shocked he did this which sparked a debate about the legitimacy of these type of services and the ethics behind presenting a resume you essentially bought.

I’m well aware many people need help with their resumes and cover letters. I always use my network of friends and professional acquaintances to provide feedback on my resume whenever I update it, but I put it together 100% on my own.

Resume-writing services are common, although they vary widely in how good they are, and a lot are pretty bad. (More on that here.) I’d be very skeptical of one charging only $300, considering the amount of work that needs to go into drawing resume-worthy accomplishments out of you, to say nothing of the work in then writing them up. But they’re not considered unethical, largely because a resume is primarily about conveying data (your experience and accomplishments).

A service that writes your cover letter, though, is far less common — and it’s unethical and a terrible idea. Your cover letter is supposed to provide a sample of your written communication skills, not someone else’s — and a lot of people who hire would find it hugely problematic if they found out you didn’t write your own letter. (And I strongly suspect these purchased letters are largely crappy boilerplate and aren’t even close to the kind of personalized, tailored letters that are actually effective. As evidence of this, note that they’re having your friend use one letter for all the jobs he applies for.)

3. Coworker stands and crouches during meetings

I’m on a team of eight people and we have a weekly meeting in our bosses office. It’s a little awkward because he only has four chairs in there, so the rest of us bring our desk chairs in. We sit in a semi-circle and go through the weekly topics. It usually takes 45-60 minutes.

This summer we had a new member join the team, the only man, and he won’t bring a chair. Instead, he stands for about half the meeting and then crouches for the rest of the time. It comes across weird and unprofessional to me, but my boss (also male) doesn’t seem to mind. Is this weird? Or am I too sensitive?

Another fun issue, likely unrelated, is this team member doesn’t pay attention to meeting or take notes. Often we have reminders or policies clarified that he immediately forgets. I often catch mistakes from him that I know we went over in the meeting.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal to me. He probably figures there’s no point in dragging a chair in there if he doesn’t mind standing. He shouldn’t do it in a meeting with clients, but it doesn’t seem terribly problematic for a small internal meeting.

The not paying attention is more of a problem but sounds like an unrelated issue … although I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re more annoyed by the standing and crouching than you would be if he seemed more top of things. When people are annoying in one way, anything else they do that’s even mildly annoying can start feeling more frustrating.

4. Is it a red flag to be asked to interview during Christmas week?

I applied to an organization that I’m really interested in that asked what my availability for a phone interview was during the week of the 23rd-29th. I said not Christmas Eve, Christmas day, or my birthday (on the 28th), but most of the options that week would have left me either preparing for my interview on one of those holiday days, or worrying about how my interview went and the potential outcome while trying to celebrate them. Thankfully, the interviewer’s schedule changed and I ended up not having to interview during that week, but I still found it odd.

The organization is not associated with religion or secularism in any way. Like, I might understand if it were a Jewish or Muslim or atheist organization that would probably expect its employees not to celebrate Christmas, but it’s not affiliated at all. Also, interestingly, the office itself is closed during that week. (For what it’s worth, though, there’s nothing in my name, website, or social media to suggest my own religious beliefs or background, so my interviewer wouldn’t have known.)

Still, I’m used to that time of year being seen in the nonprofit world as time off for everyone. Should I consider this a flag of some sort – that it will be indicative of the org expecting people to work during holidays? Or am I just overthinking this/spoiled by past employers?

Lots of businesses are open during Christmas week; it’s not at all uncommon to just close for Christmas day, and many people work some or all of the other days that week. So it’s not inherently a red flag that they suggested dates that week, although it would have been a red flag if you’d said you weren’t available that week because of the holiday and they’d seemed surprised or put out by that.

I’d take it at face value — they asked about your availability that week because they wanted to know your availability that week, and that’s it. (Obviously if you see other signs during the hiring process that indicate they expect people to work unreasonable hours, it might make sense to look at this differently. But on its own, I wouldn’t worry.)

5. When working from home, what expenses should my company reimburse?

I’m going to be offered to work from home full-time after working in an office mostly by myself for the past four years. Are there any things in particular I should be thinking about in terms of negotiations and arrangements? What expenses would be reasonable for me to ask for reimbursement or for the company to pay for? Basically, I’ve thought long and hard about whether working from home would be right for me and I think it will. Now, I want to make sure I am prepared for when the offer is made.

Different companies handle this in different ways, but you can generally expect your company to pay for your computer, any necessary software, phone expenses (at least above whatever you would be paying for your service normally), VPN if necessary, and any equipment you need for work, like a printer and printer paper. Some companies will pay for internet access, but others expect you to have it as a condition of being able to work from home (and on the assumption that you’d have it regardless). Some companies but not all will pay for your home office set-up (desk, chair, filing cabinets, etc.). At some companies it would be fine to expense smaller office supplies, like Post-It notes and pens, and at others it would raise eyebrows (in part because you’re also saving money by working from home and not having a commute, etc.).

And there’s often room to get more things reimbursed when the company has asked you to work remotely; when you’re the one asking for it, it’s seen as a major benefit to you and you’re more likely to be expected to buy your own pens.

If the company offering you the job is one with a lot other remote employees, they likely have a standard policy for what they cover. In that case, I’d start by just asking, “What expenses do you cover for remote workers’ office set-up?”

{ 489 comments… read them below }

  1. LW4*

    Thanks, Alison! I haven’t seen anything else yet from the organization to imply that my taking that time off would be weird, so it doesn’t seem to be an issue at this point.

    1. Blarg*

      I work in state government and we interviewed people during Christmas week. Processes move *so slowly* and when we finally got the stack of applications from HR, we quickly reviewed them and scheduled interviews. It can take months to get a position through the hiring process, and we didn’t want to wait through the holiday season. I don’t see a reason to wait unnecessarily — if our candidates had not been available, we would have had to, but fortunately everyone was happy to schedule. One candidate was glad her office was closed and she didn’t have to take time off to interview with us.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      The second paragraph of your letter actually makes the company sound pretty good in a cultural way.

      They’re not affiliated with a religion, so they’re more likely to have a diverse group of workers than religious organizations. They don’t mention being secular (which generally implies that they ARE secular, since there would be no reason to mention religion if they aren’t a religious company).

      You also said that nothing in your materials makes it sound like you’re religious, either, so they wouldn’t have known. This is also a really good thing; it means that they likely don’t make assumptions based on someone’s name (or photo if you’ve got one on display somewhere) and instead let you tell them. This is especially good when so much of the US (if that’s where you are) assumes you’d celebrate Christian holidays. Their behavior implies that they’re not going to stereotype you or assume everyone fits the same typical worker profile.

      This is all really great and a sign of a good company. I’d take these as green flags rather than red.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Also to clarify: in general in the US, secular companies are still happy to allow time off during whatever holidays you celebrate if you’ve got the leave to cover it, so I see no reason to worry you wouldn’t get time off, especially since the office is actually closed during Christmas week.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        “They don’t mention being secular (which generally implies that they ARE secular, since there would be no reason to mention religion if they aren’t a religious company).”

        I was getting a weird vibe from the LW that they’re conflating “secular” with “atheist,” which isn’t the same thing. I mean, my entire working life has been spent at secular companies/organizations, in that none of them have any religious opinions as a company/organization, but I was the only atheist working at any of them (I’m not a militant atheist, or an antitheist, I don’t have that kind of time). Most of the workers were Christian just by the odds of demographics and location.

        FWIW, none of them gave everyone the whole week over Xmas off—even if the company/organization was closed, there was usually still work that needed doing by at least a couple departments/skeleton crew. Xmas day off is pretty normal, and when I’ve worked places that were open on the day, it was the slowest day of the year because most clients assumed we were closed.

        I agree with you that what LW saw was more positives than negatives.

        1. Antilles*

          Yeah, it obviously varies by industry, but most companies I’ve seen operate similar to your second paragraph – many people will be off that week, but there’ll at least be a handful of people in the office.
          In fact, there are many people (and I’m one of them), who would argue that the week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of the best times to work, precisely *because* 75% of people are off. Nobody walks in with urgent emergencies and no clients are sending drop-everything ASAP emails, so you can work in a straight line without interruptions for hours on end. It’s also a fantastic time to clear decks of all sorts of useful but low priority items, because there’s often much fewer (if any) urgent pressing deadlines, so it’s a lot easier to find time to deal with stuff.

          1. Penny the Fed*

            I was really excited to get some work done this year between Christmas and New Year’s…but then the government shut down. Grr.

          2. CoveredInBees*

            It was the one time of year our micromanaging CEO truly took off so it was a great time to be at work in my last job. I didn’t have to worry about my entire to-do list being derailed at any moment. It was lovely.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      Either way, be careful of thinking of that time as time off when you won’t be expected to work, once you do find a job in this industry. While indeed a lot of people do take time off then, and a lot of businesses do just close, and a lot of people are traveling, the fact is that December 27 is not a holiday, and many, many people are not entitled to assume that they can just take that day/week off, or that work doesn’t need to move that day/week.

      (I live close to my family of origin and thus don’t have to travel far for holidays. I work for the government, and generally work during the end-of-year holidays because I prefer to save my leave to take a big chunk off in the summer. If I did want to take time off, I would have to take annual leave; my office is open.)

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think that’s a pretty good assumption to make – that Christmas week is not a bonus holiday and you will be expected to work or take PTO. And if there are coverage requirements, you might not be able to get the time off.

        1. Lilo*

          Although I have never worked anywhere where having the whole week off without using PTO was the norm. I have worked plenty of places where it was extremely easy to have those days off and the office was a ghost town the last two weeks of December, but you did have to use PTO for non federal holidays. Anecdote is not data of course.

          1. Lucie*

            My industry it’s standard to have this entire time period off and paid. It’s made it hard to consider leaving because that extra week on top of the previous vacation earned is just really nice

      2. Batman*

        Yeah, it’s definitely not common to have the week of Christmas off. We only get Christmas day off and occasionally Christmas Even if it’s on a Monday like it was this year, but that’s up to the discretion of our CEO.

    4. Drago Cucina*

      We’re closed December 24th and 25th. The rest is standard work schedule. Vacation requests rotate (had Christmas week off last year, your request goes to the bottom this year).

      We’re hiring, replacing two people who left in December. I would have done interviews that week except I took vacation Christmas week for the first time in 7 years. It’s going to be tough having had to wait.

      1. Clisby Williams*

        I’ve never worked for any private company that gave Christmas week as a holiday. Christmas Day, yes, although there was a rotating schedule of people who had to work that day as well. If people wanted the whole week off, they had to use their vacation days.

        1. SG*

          The only people I know who get the whole week off are my friends that work in the sort of companies that give free snacks and they work like 12 hour days…

    5. AnonFed*

      I work for the government and we are currently trying to get through hiring rapidly (we are operating on our budget surplus and can keep going for a few weeks) and have done so before (when we expected a hiring freeze). We are trying to get offers out quickly so we can hopefully stick to a start date in a couple months (we are hoping this will be resolved before we have to shutter but should at least be done by our start date) which would potentially have to start all over again due to rules about how we can hire, due to the shutdown. So we were open and working on hiring every non official off day (which was just the 24th, 25th, and 1st). We would not have held it against a candidate for being unable to come in those holiday adjacent days, but we have to try to use as much of our time as we can at this point because having to restart the whole process would just throw away all the time we and candidates have invested.

      Hiring can be a totally different animal than the actual job because of weird stuff like this. If you had been totally unavailable they may not have had an issue at all. That week is also often super quiet at a lot workplaces and so getting interviews in then would be efficient.

    6. All Pollyanna-ish for this post*

      Honestly, I read it as a positive: maybe they thought you were more likely to be free (and not having that awkward dance of getting time off from your current job to interview elsewhere). I think your stipulations about not interviewing on the actual holiday days or obvious travelling days were completely fair but I think many people would be delighted to be able to interview when they have family around to watch the kids, not scheduled to be in work themselves, etc.

      1. I Herd the Cats*

        I thought this too. We’re a nonprofit and we were open (although most people were on leave.) And as you pointed out, maybe it would be a good time to interview without needing to take additional leave.

      2. LW4*

        That’s a good point! For what it’s worth, though, I’m actually not currently employed, so there isn’t technically a “current job” for me to have to worry about LOL

    7. Kay*

      We were just interviewing for a position and I think our admin asked for applicants’ availability the week of December 24. Mostly because the schedules of the interviewers can make it difficult to find times when we’re all available, and we’re trying to fill the position quickly. I was out that week (as was most of our office) so nixed that idea.
      So the company may just have been trying to see if anything was possible that week.

    8. Thrown into the fire new manager*

      Many many businesses are open during that Christmas week except for the major holiday days. we called one or two people to interview during that week because we had been searching for two months and a couple really good resumes showed up. We were close to offering the job to someone else and it’s quite possible that if they weren’t available to talk, we would have just skipped them and gone with the previous plan. that week could also have been a quiet time for them which makes it so much easier to interview people.

    9. 653-CXK*

      I had an interview two days after Christmas. I didn’t get the job, but they were open and willing to talk to me about the position.

    10. Been There*

      Although many nonprofits DO close the week between Christmas and New Year’s, this is not the norm. Been in nonprofits for more than 20 years and have never had one close between those holidays. You can take PTO and many people do, but it is not a paid benefit. AND if you are in fundraising then know that is one of your busiest times of the year.

      1. SufjanFan*

        Came here to comment this! I worked at a nonprofit for six years and the week between Christmas & New Year’s was always our busiest time due to donors wanting to get their gifts in before the end of the calendar year.

      2. Smithy*

        Basically came here to say this exactly. I did work at a nonprofit where my first year there they did give everyone that week off – however it was “time off” in a very uneven way. Finance/payroll still had to be done and fundraisers had to either come in, work from home or be on call in various degrees based on their type of fundraising work. That “week off” was in fact considered to be so unequally distributed across staff that when a new CEO came on she canceled the program and just gave staff more vacation days/floating holidays to compensate.

      3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I worked at a nonprofit where the full-time staff got a generous holiday allowance. The part-time staff, however, were needed to work shifts on every holiday except Christmas Day, because “people might want to come if they’re not celebrating the holiday.” They also would not close during extreme weather unless the governor declared a State of Emergency, so we had people getting nearly killed traipsing through blizzards to keep the place open, and getting stuck at work when their shifts ended.

      4. bonkerballs*

        Came here to say this exact same thing. No profit encompasses so many different things that there really is no standard. The current non profit I work for is closed Christmas Day. The non profit I worked for before this was closed December 24th through January 1st. The two before that were open 365 days a year so we were open on Christmas Day.

    11. Veger*

      It sounds like a good resolution OP4!
      I also work in the non profit world, some organizations are open during late December and some aren’t. At my company, we are off for the stat holidays. Though many people do use vacation time between Christmas and New Years. It’s business not quite as usual for us at the office. Things are pretty quite that week, and you’re more likely to see a Visiting Dog stop by. We did schedule interviews and continue normal operations.

    12. BethRA*

      For what it’s worth, LW, the non-profit I’m at as has always been open Christmas week. We have Christmas day (or the nearest business day off), but that ‘s it. We can take that time off, although it sometimes takes a bit of coordination so that we do have adequate staffing (and we’re not in direct services, so it’s not a matter of client need). And I’d say that’s true of the other organizations we work with. All to say, I wouldn’t assume that having that week of is really that common in the non-profit world, and if having it off is important to you, you should ask.

      Good luck with your search!

    13. CoveredInBees*

      This wouldn’t be particularly unusual in some non-profits as well so I wouldn’t worry about it if you saw it with a non-profit. It varies widely by location and sector. Development departments are often humming with activity until New Year’s Eve.

      1. LW4*

        Is that so? I’ve worked with a development department before, although not “in” it per se, and I guess I hadn’t thought about this time of year as being particularly active, but it makes sense. Is it because people are giving in the spirit of the holidays/have received Christmas money that they want to donate? Something else like that?

        1. unlurking*

          No, it’s because people making charitable gifts within a certain tax year need to do it by December 31.

    14. npoworker*

      I work at a nonprofit too, and while we do have that week + off between Christmas and new years, my boss was scheduling interviews the week of Christmas (for her to handle alone) because we’re in the middle of some urgent hiring (we’re also a startup and she’s the founder so she makes those kind of sacrifices without expecting anyone else to). Long way of saying, it’s not a red flag, just purely about availability. Also – one of my friends works in research at a nonprofit and their offices were open both christmas eve and new years eve. It happens!

  2. Engineer Girl*

    #3 someone with back issues may also stand and crouch during meetings. I’m not saying this person has any physical issues, but there may be reasons behind it.
    The not paying attention is separate.

    1. Woodswoman*

      I concur with this. Many of the chairs in meeting rooms in my office irritate my back. When I was new, I announced to people that my back was sore from sitting in one of those, and that I sometimes needed to stand. They all know, and sometimes others do the same, and it’s no big deal.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That was my immediate assumption when I read the title. Sometimes I need to stand because of back issues, and sitting can be much more painful than crouching. I can understand why it may be distracting, but it doesn’t strike me as inherently inappropriate or unprofessional (i.e., it could be those things, but it all depends on context, and in this context it sounds like he’s doing it during meetings where it might be ok).

      The not paying attention sounds incredibly annoying, but it’s a distinct issue.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        It might be distracting if he’s fidgeting or alternating standing/crouching multiple times or because of proximity, since it sounds like a small room and someone crouching directly next to my chair always kind of weirded me out when it happened, so I get it. That being said, if LW can learn to ignore it, that would be the ideal solution, instead of continuing to think this is unprofessional (it’s not).

        I am another person whose back doesn’t take well to sitting all day, and I took any excuse I could find to stand up when I was working at Call Center Hell. Besides all the sitting, their chairs sucked a lot and they made it next to impossible to get a decent chair or a standing desk (ADA accommodations? Whaaaat? Let’s see if you’re still working here in 6 months, then we can talk about whether it makes sense for the company to invest in accommodating you!).

        1. Queen Esmerelda*

          I have knee issues, and the standard sitting position (you know, legs straight and feet on the floor) KILLS my left knee. Ideally I would be able to sit with my left leg bent and hugged to my chest or with my left leg bent with my left foot under my right thigh, but those positions are difficult to assume in meeting chairs. So I may stand and I will definitely crouch.

          1. valentine*

            I find it unprofessional and, with Lilo’s story below, am starting to wonder if y’all have a different definition for crouch. I would really hate to have anyone behind me, especially standing or crouching (Is he also manspreading?). If you’re crouching, you may as well sit on the floor. Taking a knee and sitting back would look better as well.

            1. Lilo*

              So I was assuming some kind of rocking or spread legs. When I had sciatica from pregnancy sitting in the figure 4 position (knee out and ankle crossed over other knee) could relieve back and hip pain.

    3. J*

      Yes, add me to the “sometimes has to stand” column: I have a disc problem in my back and standing is MUCH better than sitting. Agree that the lack of attention is seperate and a problem, though.

    4. Lilo*

      This actually is adjacent to the Braxton Hicks letter from last week. When I was pregnant I usually had to stand or crouch in my third trimester (my work chair I had a setup with another chair and a pillow) because sitting straight in a chair triggered sciatica and hip pain. I am sure someone with non-pregnancy back issues could experience the same thing.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Standing in meeting is totally fine and normal – the crouching is weird to me though. I’ve never been in a meeting where someone crouched.

      I’m wondering if most people are taking notes in the meeting? If everyone else (all female) is writing things down so they will remember, and there is this one guy there who isn’t taking notes so he can continue his standing crouching dance and has to be reminded of things I would probably also be annoyed with the whole situation. If everyone else is taking notes and he isn’t that might be something to raise with him and/or your boss, depending on how you think he would take feedback from you. You shouldn’t have to be in charge of remembering things for him.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        This is what I thought. These issues didn’t seem totally separate to me either. Maybe they are, but it seems like one thing (the standing/crouching) is feeding the other (not remembering stuff). It sounds like he’s not in a position to take notes- which he should be doing if he can’t remember what is discussed- and if he has back issues, he’s too busy trying to get comfortable to pay attention to what’s being said. I would be irritated too if he’s being distracting during meetings and then not remembering anything that was discussed. Constantly having to correct his mistakes because for whatever reason he can’t pay attention in meetings is a problem, and if you bring it up to your boss, take that line.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          +1 – I thought maybe I was the only one who thought these were connected! TBH, this sounds like a crappy set-up for a meeting. I know it happens, but to have a regular meeting in a room with inadequate seating for all attendees isn’t ideal. We have some rooms that keep folding chairs to the side so people don’t have to steal them from other conference rooms or drag their office chairs around. (Of course, those may not be great if it truly was a back issue. . .)

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, they don’t seem like separate issues to me either.

          If it’s a small room with barely room for seven chairs and one human standing/crouching, then it’s probably odd to have one person towering over everyone and moving around when everyone else is sitting down. Sure, maybe he has a medical reason for it so you could try to be a little more understanding.

          But I can see how these two issues would be more easily connected to each other. He forgets important items discussed during a meeting, which is presumably the whole point of the meetings, so he is therefore slacking on an important aspect of his job. If he took notes, would he pay attention to these items better? Is the fact that he’s standing and not taking notes the reason that he is forgetting these items? Perhaps, perhaps not. I think it would be easy to tell if the two were connected and maybe you can and that’s what prompted your letter.

          So what should you do about it? Maybe mention to your boss that you find his standing over everyone else distracting? But not in a “this guy is weird” sense, more in a “I’m having trouble concentrating” sense. Or if you keep having to go over things with him, mention that to your boss, again in a “It’s keeping me from doing my job” way. But some people just don’t pay attention to these kinds of details as well as others, so it may just be part of your job to remind him of the new rules or whatever other items were discussed in these meetings. I think it’s up to you to decide whether you should just keep reminding him or if it’s worth asking your boss how much these reminders should continue or if boss needs to have a talk with the guy.

          Good luck!

        3. Someone Else*

          I agree that it’s probable there’s a connection, but from a standing-at-work-to-say-something perspective, the work performance issue is that he’s not paying attention or retaining info from the meeting. We don’t know why he’s standing. Standing isn’t inherently problematic. What the guy needs to know is that it’s not OK to not retain the meeting info, and then how he fixes that is on him. Even if it seems obvious that his focus is on his physical position instead of the meeting content, it doesn’t make sense to say to him “stop standing” because if he were capable of both standing AND paying attention that’d be fine. So the focus should be on the attention.

        4. Dasein9*

          Is there a lectern or music stand or something that could be stored in that room, so someone standing has a place to take notes?

        5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I had a boss like this. He was a low performer but had an inflated sense of self-importance. Our site used to host org-wide cabinet meetings in each area of specialty once a month, and these meetings were often led by VPs who reported directly to the CEO.

          Well, he felt that because the meeting was in HIS branch, he was entitled to stand up at the front of the room with the presenting VP. Except he’d stand there and fidget, stretching to reach the ceiling, stretching out his arms, stepping from foot to foot. Or he’d sit down with everyone else to take notes, but he’d act like he was the one running the meeting. It was so embarrassing and unprofessional, I’d get there early and pick a spot that I knew he’d find undesirable so he wouldn’t plop down next to me when he tired of pretend-leading the meeting and switched to blurting out foolish questions from his seat. (Of course he noticed and was offended but he also got fired shortly after so…)

      2. LQ*

        The crouching is weird to me too. I’ve seen people do it as a stretch of a kind in a big room, but in a small conference room there is something really weird about someone crouching very close by that would be extremely distracting to me.

      3. Yorick*

        He may not be taking notes because he’s standing. I assume it would be way harder to do standing up, since it’s easier to do sitting down even if you’re not at a table.

      4. Engineer Girl*

        They are absolutely separate because you can take notes while standing or crouching. Field professions (geologists, biologists, tech support) do this all the time. All you need is something like a clipboard. One of my mentors gifted me with a really nice leather one that closed up. I used it quite a bit – going into satellite assembly, meetings in another building, etc.

      5. Gymmie*

        I think the crouching is really weird too. I get the standing, especially if you have issues, but the crouching is a really weird position to take. I feel best when I lay on the floor and stretch, but I just don’t do it in a meeting.

    6. Old Mountain Lady*

      With nearly life-long back problems, sitting for any length of time is usually uncomfortable. At one point, I had a bone spur which meant the only comfortable position for me was a crouch. And if the guy is in pain that (or pain meds) could explain the lack of attention.

      1. valentine*

        If he uses a standing desk, he could bring in his desk chair or some structure to use as a table (if his arm won’t do) to write notes. If he’s putting himself in distracting pain, that defeats the purpose of attending, so he could ask not to attend and to receive minutes or that they set up conferencing for him.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As someone who had an, extremely painful, herniated disc in my back last year, that was my first thought.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m going to throw out another possible variable simply because it hasn’t been mentioned — what do you mean by “crouch”? Is it possible this is an Asian co-worker who is simply sitting in the infamous “Asian squat”? This periodically hits social media & news media (!?), usually with a focus of how funny westerners are when they try it and fall. If you’re not used to it, it can look strange – but it’s just the way some people sit. Westerners who dislike the idea of sitting on the floor should note that this position means only shoes touch the floor – there’s no getting dirt on your clothes at all.
      I spent eight years in dorms & shared housing with a high percentage of Asian friends, and most of them sat comfortably this way. It made for less patio furniture! (I got the hang of it, but I couldn’t sit that way as long as people who’d grown up doing that from childhood.)

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        This makes me wonder how is knees are. If it is a knees together crouch (which I think is the traditional Asian way) I would probably be more comfortable with it. I was imagining a knees wide open crouch, which is more how I imagine an average north american man to crouch? I feel like position of the knees would affect how weird I find it.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        I’m not Asian, but I’m the queen of this position. However, the first time I saw it used at work when there wasn’t a chair available was with a Japanese coworker.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      This was my first thought. When my husband was having an outpatient procedure I went to a nearby coffee shop because all the chairs in the waiting room were too tall for my feet to reach the floor, and I knew that a couple of hours in one was going to be murder.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Oh, the curse of being too short for most chairs! I’ve gone through some excruciating meetings because my chair wasn’t adjustable and my feet couldn’t touch the floor.

        1. Cate*

          oh gosh I get this too, and it means I get severe pins and needles in my feet and they go numb to the point i struggle to walk – anywhere with stools is hell!

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            There are certain restaurants where I have to say “table for two, and I need a normal table, not bar-height, please.” I can’t even deal with it for the length of a meal.

    10. Psyche*

      It’s also possible he feels claustrophobic and doesn’t want to add another large object to the room. Dragging that many chairs into someone’s office sounds terrible. Is there any chance of reserving a conference room for these meetings?

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have sporadic back issues. The last time it tweaked my nerve. So I would have to crouch while waiting in line at the store if the line was moving too slow. I felt like a doofus but it’s better than the pain making me pass out.

    12. Mbarr*

      I’ll dog pile on the probably back issues for this guy. I’m the same – sitting for long periods of time causes my back to cramp, so I’m often getting out of my chair during meetings and shifting back and forth, trying to relieve the stiffness.

  3. Lady Glitter Sparkles*

    OP#2 – $300 for a resume and cover letter?!! I just recently paid a woman $20 for doing a resume revision and I am immediately kicking myself in the butt for it. Hold on though…I will admit I am feeling hopeless. I have been unemployed for 2 months, I have been applying for jobs for 5 months and I kept getting nothing but rejection letters after another.

    OP, Just be wary of paying for it. I have a few friends in HR who told me I should’ve just reached out to them and they would’ve have given me their input but I didn’t want to bother them. I learned my lesson and I am not going to pay someone again this time.

    1. Lady Glitter Sparkles*

      I just realized the OP didn’t pay for it but another person did. I can’t get over that someone charges $300 for that!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s not. Nationwide, most good resume writing is going to be more than that, at least if you’re not at a very junior level of your career. (It doesn’t tend to be a localized service; most places do it virtually.)

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Hey Alison, is the Certified Professional Resume Writer designation a huge garbage scam like it looks like on their site (linked in my name, but please don’t anyone give them money, it looks super sketch) or is this for real worth anything in professional circles?

              Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches: $150/year membership
              Professional Resume Writer Certification (CPRW): $250
              Professional Employment Interview Certification (CPEI): $695
              Professional Career Coach Certification (CPCC): $1195

              I found this rabbit hole when I was checking a freelance board to see what people there were generally willing to pay for resumes, and some of them seem to think these certifications are worth demanding from people they want to pay $40 to write a resume from scratch. (Pass!)

              But are the certifications for real though?

              1. CPRW*

                Yes, it is a real credential in the industry and not a huge garbage scam. It is the baseline credential for resume writing.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  May I ask which industry considers it a valid credential? I’m asking because I’ve worked with people who write resumes as part of their job (with varying technical proficiency) since I was 19 and I’ve never heard of it before.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s a real credential, but I’ve seen terrible work from people who have it, so I wouldn’t let it influence you one way or the other if you’re picking a resume writer to work with. I’d look at actual work samples instead.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Thank you for the answer. I’m shocked because their website looks so outdated and because it doesn’t seem like it takes any real effort to get the credential, just $$$, and I had to click through several links to find the cost—it’s not listed until you’re “registering” for the “test” and that’s almost nearly always a red flag.

          2. It's a Doughnut morning*

            Nope I’m in Kentucky, 5 years ago I was laid off and my MIL paid a company some friends had used $1500 for them to work with me to redo my resume and Cover letter. Essentially we met 4 times, had 6 phone calls where I documented all of my jobs, responsibilities, claim to fame in each job, money saved etc. we met and they marked out all of the crap, gave me notes on what to add in, and a list of things to remember or come up with scenarios. Then I would go home and put in all of their changes have a phone call to go over and make more changes. Then we would meet and they would reword things make the statements more concise. It was a huge endeavor over 2 weeks.

          3. Qosanchia*

            My friend got his done recently for $700, and I’m not too familiar with the industry, but that sounded kind of reasonable. From what he said, it was definitely working with someone to get a quality resume built, which sounded pretty legit to me.

          4. Glitsy Gus*

            I would say it’s cheap anywhere. Think of it this way, if a freelancer charges $25/hr, which is on the low side, then $300 is only a total of 12 hours.

            If you are talking a resume from scratch, so basically interviewing you to thoroughly understand your experience and then taking that information and putting it into a good resume plus a basic cover letter. For any resume worth anything that is going to take well over 12 hours start to finish. Probably closer to 20 if you don’t have extensive experience, more like 30 for someone in the workforce for a while. So $750 would be the lowest that would sound normal to me, and that would be someone lowballing themselves.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        $20 is … not professional pricing. I’d be wary of someone charging so very little. (And like I said in the post, $300 is also low for the amount of work it takes to do it well!)

          1. Lady Glitter Sparkles*

            No, they did a complete revision and I was thoroughly disappointed. When I got a review of it, they were making trying to my resume not look like I was a job-hopper (which it’s true. I have been in between contract positions) and I told her I couldn’t go forward with that. I had to explain how I wanted my skills to be impressionable (thanks to many many posts at Ask A Manager). They changed it again to make the keywords stand out.

            1. Jaybeetee*

              I had a similar issue with my resume a few years ago, particularly after spending a couple of years temping. Two things you can do to mitigate the impression that you’re job-hopping: 1) I wrote “(contract)” in brackets beside the employment dates, or 2) You can lump a number of similar short-term positions under one banner, such as “Call Centre Representative, Company X and Company Y” or similar, and list the job details for all positions (only do this if the positions are really similar – as suggested here, I did it for a couple of call centre jobs I’d had back-to-back, where the work was essentially identical, but for two different companies over an 8 month period).

              For temp/contract work, if all the work was the same (i.e. data entry everywhere), you might be able to lump them together in this way – “2015-2018: Data Entry Officer on Contract with X, Y, and Z Companies” (bullet point job descriptions).

              I’m not sure if those are “correct” ways to handle such an issue, but I will say I’m permanently employed now, so someone was willing to read my resume!

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          There is a business in my town (Seattle metro) that does resume/cv writing. Base price: $500.00. Though to his credit (sole proprietor) he does a sliding scale thing to help out. It’s some kind of religious tithing thing to him or something. I’ve seen (not used) his work and it looks pretty good.

      2. Doodle*

        I’ll do editing on the side for colleagues and acquaintances (not as part of my job — when they need something for outside of work, such as a scholarly article) — rock bottom is $25 an hour and that’s for people I know can’t afford too much. $40 – 50 is what I charge everyone else. I’d say the work I’m doing is fairly comparable to what a resume and cover letter writer will be doing. If they’re including consultations (to elicit all those resume worthy items), a draft, a couple of revisions — perhaps tailoring to different kinds of jobs, and then final formatting for the resume, then yes, at least $300 makes sense. Cover letter — agree w AAM, and also, if I were to write cover letters for someone else, it would be pricey — consultation, research the employer and position, draft, revise, format — very expensive for even one letter.

    2. beth*

      I actually think that’s cheap for writing one from scratch! (Or at least, it should be; I don’t know the going rate.)

      Writing a resume for someone (or at least, writing it well) would involve some really time-consuming steps. First, sitting the person down and getting the needed information–not just their titles and dates of employment, but also what tasks they handled, what their accomplishments were, the impact they had, etc. Second, figuring out what kind of jobs they’re looking for now, and figuring out (or having the expertise to know) what kinds of skills and abilities people hiring for those positions would look for. Third, figuring out what information to include in the resume and how to organize it to highlight those important skills. And finally, actually writing the thing up–including typing, but also formatting and font selection and all the little details that go into making a document not just baseline functional but easy to read at a glance.

      I’m sure most resume services don’t do it quite as well as that. But if they are doing it properly…doing all that would require a lot of time with the client to get all the information, a fair bit of expertise in hiring practice to know what to highlight and how to organize things, and at least baseline decent word processing skills. Between the time commitment and the expertise required, $300 wouldn’t be all that much for a well-written resume!

        1. JamieS*

          Maybe if you deep dive to find accomplishments but if the resume follows a basic format of: job title, tenure, duties, and major accomplishments (such as promotion, employee of the year, top salesman in the company, etc.) I don’t think it takes that much time. A couple emails and maybe a phone call.

          1. Beth the Tall*

            Er, no. I used to do some career counseling work that included editing & writing resumes and it takes hours to do resumes well. The accomplishments you listed are easy ones to rattle off but many people don’t have those sort of accomplishments. It will vary depending on field, tenure, career stage and type of work done.

            It is standard for quality resume writers to charge $600 – $1200 and beyond.

            1. JamieS*

              My point is that it isn’t a given the resume writer worked to get accomplishments out of OP’s friend or focused on accomplishments.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                No, this makes sense. You’re saying resumes are easy to put together quickly and for cheap, but they won’t be good resumes under those conditions. I think the people disagreeing with you were assuming you meant a quality resume could be turned around quickly and for not much money. :)

                $300 is more than I ever see anyone willing to pay on the lowest-bidder freelance boards I frequent out of morbid curiosity—$15-60 is more typical (and they’re usually rush jobs, which makes the budget even more unreasonable), but I don’t image anyone getting anything more impressive than a filled-in Word template if they’re not willing to pay a premium per hour and spend a significant amount of time talking to the person working on it.

                1. Artemesia*

                  If someone is willing to go with a bog standard fill in the blanks resume, they can easily get a template and do it themselves. The hard part is figuring out how to showcase skills and achievements gracefully or to take a checkered work history and make it look modestly coherent. No one is doing that for $50.

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  @Artemesia | I know, right? I’ve put together my own resume and resumes for multiple family members using Word templates and best practices from professionals like AAM.

                  They look… fine?… I mean, I’m under no illusions that they’re the same kind of thing any of us would get from a professional resume writer, but I’m also working with the budget we have, which is usually somebody calling me up like “I’ll buy a pizza if you come over and fix my resume, since you have that Microsoft Word certification?”

          2. beth*

            Sure, you can do anything quickly if you’re willing to take shortcuts. But that’s not going to lead to a compelling resume for a lot of people; at best, it’ll be a bland, blends-in-with-the-crowd list of dates and title changes. That’s not really writing a resume; it’s just filling in a preset form, and I don’t think almost anyone would pay for that if they knew up-front that’s all they were going to get.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              At the level where you wouldn’t charge much for it, there’s no reason not to do it yourself.

        2. Lilo*

          My spouse helped a just out of college family member whose resume was just terrible (like two paragraphs terrible) work on hers and it took a lot of time (family member had some imposter syndrome so getting her to stop downplaying accomplishments and list them on her resume was like pulling teeth).

          I could see that being worth the money, but it depends. There is so much bad advice out there I would worry about vetting the costs and separating one worth the money from a scam.

      1. Mary*

        Yes – I’m a university careers adviser and everyone talks about “CV checks” as kind of the lowest-common-denominator of what we do, and I always push back and argue that they’re actually gateway-drug to full career guidance engagement!

    3. Nonsensical*

      I would be wary of paying someone to do your resume. Depending on your field, this may be normal though. Getting a job is harder when you’re not employed, sadly. Are you doing things while unemployed? Volunteering, classes?

    4. Anonymously anonymous*

      My husband paid $600 to have his rewritten last year. (This was after a year and a half of job hunting and reworking it a few dozen times himself) He landed his current position after 4 weeks with the new resume, so I think it was super worth the expense. I wouldnt dream of paying that for my industry but its pretty common in his field, and his was on the cheaper side since it was more of a clean up than a full on overhaul.

    5. Aphrael*

      True story – I just reviewed an applicant pool (for a senior position) in which two people had plagiarized the same bad cover letter.

      Googling phrases from it showed it had been used elsewhere, but didn’t turn up the original template, so I wonder if they both paid the same resume service.

    6. Workerbee*

      A former colleague paid $150 for a cover letter/resume package, and the result looked like…well, like something that may have been in style in the 1990s, including hackneyed phrases (to today’s eyeballs). He was all proud of it, though, so what do I know? :P

    7. Michaela Westen*

      It reminds me of when I was working at a wine shop. A regular-customers couple came in and the wife told my boss, “We’re economizing this week because he was laid off… we’re only buying the [less than $100/bottle wine]”
      I was standing there making minimum wage…

  4. Been stung*

    LW #1 – You could tell the nurse that you’ve had a large local reaction to bee stings, which is defined by more extensive and persistent swelling and inflammation than average, but it is not anaphylactic. That has happened to me and my sister, and neither of us have ever been advised to have allergy plans or carry epi-pens. Large local reactions are more common than actual allergies.
    It might also be best to just tell the truth, but if you want to save face, that is an option.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think it’s better to tell the truth.
      People pretending to have allergies when they don’t can result in genuine allergies being taken less seriously, which is potentially life-threatening.

      1. Sunflower*

        Not to be cute, but wouldn’t telling the truth result in exactly that– people realizing that yet again, someone’s lied about having allergies? Better to save face with the “local reaction” excuse. That way, no one will know there was a lie.

        1. Annie Moose*

          This is silly and will only make you sound even more ridiculous if it comes out that you lied again. Just tell the truth. “I overreacted/misspoke and said I had an allergy, I’m sorry for causing confusion.” Unless you work with totally unreasonable people, it will blow over pretty quickly and will be forgotten.

          If you go into some elaborate medical explanation, which someone later finds out is also false, you’re just going to look absurd because you’ve doubled down on a lie, and also it will make it sound like you think a bad local reaction and an allergy are the same thing, which they are not.

          1. LJay*


            I mean, I would certainly think it was weird and remember that a coworker lied about having an allegy when they didn’t (and would be on the lookout for other hypochondria or attention seeking behavior). But I would likely never bring it up again and if it seemed like a one-time thing I would eventually forget about it.

            But if it came out that they had lied about the allergy, got caught in the lie, and then doubled down and lied again I think I would just consider them generally untrustworthy in general and I don’t think I’d be able to get over that.

      2. WinethetimeKat*

        Yes I do have a mild allergy to bee stings but I do not have allergist plan and epi pen. Geeze for me it is just bit bigger swelling and it makes me tired. I have had to explain it over and over because I used to work for a school and they kept after me I finally got my Doctor to write a note about a MILD allergy. It was amazing how far they wanted to cover their behinds when I could not produce specialist they seemed put out

    2. Bagpuss*

      Also – telling the nurse that you don’t have an allergy but do have a severe fear / phobia is entirely reasonable,

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        Do this. It’s the truth and as a nurse- especially a nurse dealing with kids- it’s likely she’ll understand why you blurted out “I’m allergic” instead “I’m scared”. Kids do this all the time. Be matter of fact, apologize for the misunderstanding, and perhaps consider a different phrase to have on hand should something like this happen again.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I agree. “I have a phobia that I don’t like to discuss, and I said the first thing that popped into my head” is something a decent nurse should understand.

      3. Les G*

        Wait, no. OP does not have a phobia. She has a fear. If exaggerating “my bee stings itch a lot” to “I am allergic to bees” is inexcusable, this is worse.

        1. beeeeeeeees*

          Right on! Mental illnesses are real illnesses. If it’s not OK to claim an allergy she doesn’t have, how is it OK to claim a phobia without a diagnosis? You know those people who say things like “I alphabetized my bookshelf, I’m so OCD!”? Well, this would be like saying “I alphabetized my bookshelf, I literally have OCD!”

          I’d probably say something like “I got made fun of as a kid because I was afraid of bees, so I used to say I was allergic just to shut people up. So when Jane saw me flinch, I panicked and said it without thinking. Old habits die hard, I guess!”

          Still a lie, but one that doesn’t throw people with *any* sort of medical condition under the bus.

          (—someone who has been known to impressively duck out of the way of bees)

    3. londonedit*

      My mum is allergic to wasp stings to the point where she had to have her rings cut off her fingers twice in the space of a month a couple of summers ago, as she was stung on different fingers two weeks apart. But she doesn’t get an anaphylactic reaction, she just swells up ridiculously quickly. She asked her GP about getting an epi-pen and was told they wouldn’t prescribe one for her type of reaction, as it isn’t life-threatening, just painful and annoying.

      But yes, I’d agree that telling the truth would be the best course of action – you don’t want to get caught up in even more elaborations!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If she’s swelling up that bad it’s worth keeping an eye on, because allergies develop over time. A beekeeper I know has an epi-pen because the third time he was stung* the swelling was significantly worse than the first two times. And we probably all know people who weren’t allergic to poison ivy — until they got exposed one time too many.

        That said, I think wasp stings are worse than honeybee stings!

        (*It doesn’t happen often, and he knows it was his fault — some of the medication strips have strict dose schedules and he had little choice but to work them with a storm coming on. That makes them a wee bit pissy! )

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Yes – I’ve seen this happen. Sometimes the more you are exposed the more allergic you get to something. My husband has been exposed to poison oak quite a few times (we had a big problem with it in our yard for awhile) and every time he is exposed his reaction gets worse, to the point where it can now affect his breathing and he is considered allergic, whereas when we moved into the house initially he was not.

        2. strollingthroughthewoods*

          I’ve been ‘immune’ to poison ivy ever since I was little. Now that I live somewhere where it is not so common, I’ll walk through a patch whenever I see it. IANAS, but my rationale is that it keeps the immunity going. :)

    4. Temperance*

      As someone who has that type of reaction, and who avoids bees for that reason, I really disagree with this. She should just be honest with the nurse.

    5. Liane*

      I have these kind of local reactions, too. I agree with you and Bagpuss that telling the nurse it’s a severe local reaction or fear is the best way to go forward.
      And LW1, I know “Allergic!” just came out as Alison said, but don’t do it again. Unlikely, since it sounds from your letter like the nurse’s request scared you just a bit and that you’re a good person.

    6. RaccoonMama*

      I have that kind of reaction — and it is classified as an allergy! It’s just not the kind where I need immediate attention and an epipen (unless I get stun in the face because your face or neck swelling to 3-4x it’s normal size is worse than a limb doing so). But I still need to go see a doctor fairly soon and convince them to give me prednisone (the only thing that really helps me). So it’s still a medical issue and thus I would advise the LW to just tell the truth instead.

    7. pleaset*

      If the OP does your first suggestion, s/he should carefully memorize the lie so s/he can keep it straight in the future….

      Or maybe, it’s not even a lie, so the OP could test with an actual bee sting to see if there is a large local reaction, in which case it isn’t a lie and things will be much simpler…

    8. Slartibartfast*

      “I’m not actually allergic, but I have a phobia of bees” is medical, and the lie because people don’t understand phobias us understandable. Go with the truth to the nurse, in private. If she’s decent at her job, she should understand.

  5. JSPA*

    You can be allergic without being epi-pen level allergic. If I’m stung on the foot, it’ll swell to where I can’t get my shoe on. Fingers, I can’t bend them enough to button buttons or type (in both cases, that’s unless I take benadryl ASAP, and keep taking it every 4 to 6 hours for a couple of days). But despite occasional stings over the years, it’s never gotten worse than (no hives, no wheezing, nothing systemic). That level of allergy is quite enough to want to avoid a sting–and to carry benadryl (which isn’t a bad plan in any case, as it’s broadly useful, OTC, dirt cheap, and except for drowsiness, pretty risk free).

    1. jolene*

      Yep. I’m allergic to peanuts and it comes on slowly, so I don’t need an EpiPen. I do need to get to antihistamines and anti-cramping pills ASAP.

    2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I’m like that with any kind of insect bite. Swelling, redness and itchiness at the injection site but not enough to call it a real allergy. Luckily it usually subsides after a few hours.

      1. EPLawyer*

        It’s a real allergy. Just because an epi-pen is not required doesn’t mean it’s not a real allergy. There are different levels of allergic reaction. I have the red swelling kind. My doctor gave me the diagnosis of allergy. Benadryl helps.

        1. Liane*

          Same here. I swell badly, as in part of a limb or half my face, not a quarter inch welt, and need steroids, not anti-itch cream. Once I got several bee stings on my face. Ended up looking like some kind of movie monster for several days and would’ve been itching like crazy except for the steroid shot and allergy meds. And was warned to go to ER if I did have any breathing problems later.
          This is a few magnitudes above the itchy welts I get for a day or less from a mosquito bite, or even the painful pustule from a fire ant sting.

    3. Micromanagered*

      It’d technically be true to simply say “I don’t have an epi-pen level allergic reaction, no worries!” to this question. The nurse is probably just covering her bases by asking about it and will let it go.

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        That’s my feeling too–“I have a bad reaction, but it’s not life-threatening and I don’t need an epi-pen.” (Which is technically true–you don’t need to reveal that the “bad reaction” is mental, rather than physical.)

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Honestly, that would be enough to look into getting an EpiPen – what happens if you’re stung on the neck? Or, more likely – what happens if you have a more severe reaction? Allergies can be progressive.

      eg. One of my kids is anaphylactic to certain nuts. First time he had them, nothing in particular. Second time – explosive diarrhea and rash. We avoided them after that. At 5 yrs old, he was tested officially – the reaction was so strong that the allergist flat out told him he would die if he ate a nut. He goes everywhere with Epipens. (Honestly, I was not sure whether I was furious with the allergist for completely panicking my 5 yr old to the point he would not leave the house for a whole week, or grateful that he made my child be extremely careful of his allergens, because he’s needed to be – lovely neighbor kept offering him foods with nuts.)

      1. Loux*

        Hey, so I’m allergic to a lot of nuts and was also tested when I was young. I’m honestly glad that the allergist was honest with your son, because it is already so hard in this world, especially depending where you live – I’m lucky enough to be in Canada, which has very strict regulations regarding food labeling, but a lot of places in the States are… let’s just say not as vigilant. It can be scary, but it’s important to know that you’ve gotta be careful, especially as a kid when there’s a lot of tasty treats often offered at birthday parties or school snack days that you should not be eating. I’m 22 now, and I’m learning more about my allergies (I have developed a LOOOT more allergies to all sorts of random things in the past few years). It’s definitely a process!

    5. Michaela Westen*

      If you’re wondering why benadryl upsets your stomach, it’s because they started putting calcium in the pills in Sept. 2017. I have to get it at a compounding pharmacy now. :/

  6. The Katie*

    LW 1 reminded me of the woman who couldn’t stand the smell of peanut butter and would claim she was allergic to peanuts so people wouldn’t force her to eat it.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Yes exactly?! The mind boggles.
        I *am* allergic to peanuts though, so this would be…bad :D

        1. Loux*

          I’m allergic to peanuts and am so effective at avoiding it I actually have no idea what peanut butter smells like. Haha.

      2. Anonicat*

        Have a stroll through the archives here to see just how weird and insistent people can be about what their colleagues put in their mouths…

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        People who love peanut butter cannot conceive of someone who is revolted by the very smell. I’ve had several people try to convince me to eat it even though I think it is the most vile food in the world. I’ve never claimed to be allergic – but I will spit something out if I taste it in it and have offended several people over the years.

        1. Not a Blossom*

          That is so weird to me. I love peanut butter an amount that is probably unhealthy, but I’d never try to force someone to eat it. You don’t like peanut butter? More for me!

        2. Quackeen*

          That’s not an issue of people loving peanut butter. It’s an issue of people being rude. I love peanut butter and it’s never once occurred to me to have any thoughts at all about whether someone else eats it.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I love several foods that my friends cannot stand, and vice versa. One of the reasons we all remain friendly? We’ve never insisted that anyone ‘just try THIS version’ of the food in question. We don’t ‘accidentally’ serve a dish with the ingredient in it to prove a point. And we never tease each other for our aversion.

          MusicWithRocksInIt, when I was a kid I threw up when my mother insisted I eat liver…I mean, instantly! She never made me eat it again, thank goodness. A friend thought I was being dramatic and sneaked some into a casserole. I had the same reaction and she was offended. She tried it again, in tacos or something, I forget. I threw up instantly, and she was offended. We don’t hang out much anymore.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            She… would not have been my friend after the first time. I’m floored that she got a second chance to (basically) poison you.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Simple answer is, I just didn’t think she’d do it a second time. I thought throwing up all over my dinner plate would prove I *really* couldn’t eat liver, especially when I didn’t know it was in the dish. Guess I wasn’t dramatic enough!

          2. Clorinda*

            SHE was offended? Really? She deliberately fed you something that made you sick–twice–and it offended her that you got sick? Mind officially boggled.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Seriously, she was. I’d told her I couldn’t tolerate liver, and she was so sure she could trick me into eating it and then she could triumphantly exclaim I’d just been fooled! Well, I wasn’t and, clearly, I was vomiting on demand. JUST TO MAKE HER LOOK BAD. No other reason.

              As so many others have said, people are weird about food.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                This sounds like a huge control issue to me. She wanted to dictate what you eat – what else? Who you date? Where you go?

          3. Artemesia*

            As a kid when I was forced to sit at the table until I finished the liver, I threw up in the middle of the night. From the top bunk. That was the end of liver for me.

          4. Fact & Fiction*

            My mother quickly learned to top forcing me to eat pork n beans or baked beans after I told her they made me sick once I threw up when she made me. Threw up all over her so she learned her lesson to take me seriously when I said I didn’t like something (I was NOT a child who turned her nose at food she really liked because she was just being “picky.”)

            To this day, just looking at pork n beans makes me feel ill because of that whole experience.

          5. many bells down*

            My son is the same way with tomatoes. I thought it was just an aversion to fruits/vegetables in general, so I hid some in a tuna salad. Didn’t work. Never did that again!

        4. LQ*

          I have an aunt who is like this with chocolate and the number of times random people will try to push it on her is really a thing to behold. Random wait staff at restaurants (we never go back to!), to acquaintances, to people new to the family (someone’s new girl/boyfriend). People who have known her a long time are like Woo more for me! But other people get super weirdly pushy about it. People will occasionally take it upon themselves to assume it’s an allergy and have a strange pity party for her too. People get real, real weird with allergies.

          1. Rovannen*

            *Strange pity party*
            This! Why!?
            I was so happy to find out what made me sick so I could avoid it. I don’t care that I can’t eat it. Seriously, not eating item = feeling great, eating item = week of pain.

        5. Observer*

          Please, that’s nonsense. Both the idea that “people who love peanut butter” act this way AND the idea that anyone has any business trying to convince you that you REALLY *do* like the food if you only allowed yourself.

          People who do this are just rude and stupid. Plenty of people who love peanut butter are NOT rude and stupid, and plenty of people who are not peanut butter lovers are, unfortunately, rude and stupid.

        6. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Being revolted by the smell, or having an otherwise strong aversion to a food is actually a warning sign for an allergy. My allergist went through this with me when I was getting screened: it’s possible that something that makes you feel icky but doesn’t trigger a traditional reaction will give you a strong aversion to the food.

          It’s common for a baby to refuse a food that they grow up to be allergic to, for example.

        7. Octopus*

          @MusicWithRocksInIt I am revolted by the smell of chocolate, an ingredient that is quite prevalent in the US, so I don’t have much patience for people who are dramatic about not liking the smell of peanut butter. I’m not talking about people who are kind about it – everyone has likes and dislikes and balancing that is part of living in society. But I love peanut butter and sometimes I’m having a picky eater day and just need to get nutrients into my body.

        8. Third username*

          I don’t like chocolate, and people do the same thing to me. They act like it’s a personal slight, or that they are going to convince me too see the light. Sorry, I’m just not a fan. You don’t need to be personally offended.

        9. Pomona Sprout*

          “People who love peanut butter cannot conceive of someone who is revolted by the very smell.”

          Actually, you could change this to “People who love [fill in the blank with the name of any random food] cannot conceive of someone who is revolted by the very smell.”

          As a charter member of the Very Picky Eaters Club, I can attest that there are many foods that snell about as appetizing as a toxic waste dump to me that others find delicious, and (they tell me) “If you’d just try it, you’d love it, too!”

          To whch I reply: “Yeah, NO. And as much as you may think I’m a freak for not looooving whatever it is you love, I quit letting people browbeat me into eating foods I hate shortly after attaining the status of adulthood, and I’m not about to go back now.”

      4. Aleta*

        People can get SUPER weird about food. Not liking or refusing to eat something for any reason short of possible death can be seen as a Moral Failing, and all resources must diverted to making sure you Eat This Thing, It Can’t Be That Bad, What Are You, A Spoiled Child? It’s the WORST, signed, someone with non-life threatening food allergies and Sensory Processing Disorder.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think it’s like Hanukkah Balls: Jane has never experienced the joy of peanut butter? This must be Dealt With!!! (For me its rhubarb. Yes, I have encountered strawberry-rhubarb pie.)

          1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

            I’m that way with brussell sprouts. Even if you sauteed them with bacon or roast them with maple syrup or any of the other ways that use ingredients I like to prepare them, I do not like the taste or smell. Brussell sprouts will never be amazing for me, sorry.

        2. Antilles*

          all resources must diverted to making sure you Eat This Thing, It Can’t Be That Bad
          I get this all the time because I don’t like nuts. Just don’t like the taste and typically makes my stomach a little upset afterwards, so I always ask and will skip dishes with them in it. You’d be stunned at the amount of times someone will respond with a “no, no, see, this is different because you won’t even taste it.”
          Like, wait what? When did this become a discussion? I don’t like peanuts, there’s no magical cooking technology that’s going to change that. Just tell me if it’s possible to prepare the dish without nuts; if not, then I’ll get something else.

          1. Clorinda*

            “Eat this food, it’s delicious, you won’t even taste it.”
            Is it worth going through the logic with them? Probably not, but ugh, so annoying.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          In a comment upthread I mentioned how my mother never insisted that I eat liver after I threw up after eating it. I was truly grateful for this because she usually insisted we kids eat everything she served – no exceptions. Our food preferences (overboiled Brussels sprouts) were personal and willful insults to her and her cooking. My sister was lactose intolerant – she had to have soy formula as a baby – but my mother insisted she drink her milk or else.

          Good times…

        4. Risha*

          I loathe chicken and always have, which at this point when I tell people that I usually add, “yes, I know that’s un-American.” But the number of people who have tried to tell me that I just haven’t had their [mother’s/grandmother’s/aunt’s] award winning [fried] [chicken/wings]…

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I’m curious what do you eat instead of chicken? Fish? Turkey?
            The answer might help in my continuing quest to find foods that don’t make me sick.

            1. Risha*

              Everything else? Fish, turkey, beef, pizza, pork, pasta, salads, burritos, cake, egg rolls, cereal, etc etc etc.

              Sorry, I’m not trying to make fun (well, not much), but I find this as baffling as when people think vegans eat salad for every meal. There is a LOT of food in the world. The hardest part about not eating chicken is going to places like on airplanes and at receptions, since there’s usually at best only two or three entrees on offer, and chicken is the world’s default. In those situations, I just ask for the vegetarian meal.

              The one tip I do have is – you can substitute a pork chop in the vast majority of recipes that call for a chicken breast. Back when I was married, we regularly made one meal with both kinds of meat in it.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                That’s good to know! :) Chicken is my favorite food, I eat it every day. My other default is ground turkey. I can’t eat pizza, salads, burritos, cake, or egg rolls. I’ll try working with pork chops!

        5. ElspethGC*

          Ugh, yes.

          I eat very, very few types of meat. Basically, I only eat meat if it no longer has a meat-like texture. This is because when I was a kid, I was a very slow eater and chewed food for a long time, and after doing that one too many times with meat (highly not recommended, it’s absolutely gross), it’s now at the point where I gag and nearly throw up if it just goes in my mouth, let alone chewing and swallowing. Yes, this was tested extensively as a pre-teen. Chicken, steak, turkey, etc. Bad texture. Can’t do it.

          I eat cured meats like chorizo, minced meat (like in lasagne), and sausages, because those things don’t have the same texture and don’t make me throw up, and having a history of anaemia means that I don’t want to go fully vegetarian and be on iron supplements for the rest of my life. My family are great about it and basically accept me as an almost-vegetarian, and I was never forced to eat stuff that made me gag.

          Other people, on the other hand… I register as vegetarian everywhere I go, because it’s much easier on everyone to say “Don’t give me meat” than it is to say “Only give me X, Y, and Z types of meat”. I was once on a month-long trip with people from my school, but it was run by an external organisation and no teachers were involved. I’d registered as vegetarian, because I knew that most of what we would be eating was meat stews (traditional Kenyan food – batch-cooked meat stews with rice, mostly).

          About a week in, I ate a sausage at breakfast. A single sausage. One of the group leaders saw me, and when I explained that I have a strong aversion to almost all meats but sausages were okay, she cancelled my vegetarian status. For the rest of the month, I was given meat stews, and for the rest of the month, I pushed the meat to the side of my plate and only ate the rice mixed with the sauce. It wasn’t exactly a balanced diet.

          For the record, vegetarian food was being batch-cooked. There were plenty of people that were eating it, it wasn’t like they were making a special meal for Me And Me Only But It Was All A Lie. It was literally just a matter of being served from one big tureen rather than the other. And yet for the rest of the month, I was barred from getting food from the vegetarian tureen even though that was food I actually wanted to eat, and was instead made to get food from the meat tureen, only to not eat the meat and then be guilt-tripped for not eating the meat that I’d already said made me throw up.

          Yeah. People feel *strongly* about food aversions.

          1. many bells down*

            That’s ridiculous. I love almost all meats but given the choice between a vegetarian dish and, say, one with liver or veal, I’d absolutely prefer to eat the vegetarian one.

            1. ElspethGC*

              The woman who made this decision was vegetarian herself (ethical vegetarian, not “I prefer veggie food” vegetarian) so I don’t know whether that had anything to do with it. Maybe she didn’t like me claiming to be wholly vegetarian – despite the fact that I never outright said that, I just said that I wanted to eat vegetarian food. I don’t know. She wasn’t a big fan of me for the rest of that trip, though.

      5. Oxford Comma*

        I like peanut butter, but have a bunch of foods that make me gag. That’s never stopped them from trying to press me to eat things with those foods at parties or even at restaurants. There are some people who see it as a personal affront or an assault on all of the things that they hold dear when you will not partake in a food they like.

      6. Glitsy Gus*

        No matter how many times I tell people I hate peanut butter cookies, or anything with cooked peanut butter really, I still have people in my life who pile on the pressure to “just try one” of theirs because “trust me, they’re different!” No, they aren’t. No, I don’t want one, please leave me alone.

        I haven’t resorted to saying I’m allergic, but I understand the temptation.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      It’s a bit different than a food allergy though. Having a bee allergy doesn’t require accommodations. No one makes you interact with their pet bees. It doesn’t affect your work at all unless you are a gardener or landscaper.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Add outdoors food service to that list. A couple of summers ago, a local water park had to (temporarily) shut down several soda fountains because of the extreme number of yellow jackets and honeybees foraging at them.
        Sugar *AND* water in a drought is pretty enticing!

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      I’m afraid I’m guilty of claiming allergies to certain foods where just the smell makes me gag. It’s amazing how many people refuse to believe that you can be so grossed out by something that it makes you vomit and will argue with you endlessly over it, yet if you simply say “I’m allergic” they’re all understanding and accommodating. Alas it’s often the path of least resistance. Food aversions are not cool and you will be told repeatedly to “get over yourself” and even possibly be on the receiving end of having the item snuck into your food. Yes, it happens. People suck. But say you’re allergic and all that magically goes away.

      It’s not right, and I’m not trying to justify it. But I can understand completely choosing between being ridiculed or being understood.

      1. Bagpuss*

        out of interest, have you ever tried saying that you have a sensitivity rather than an allergy? It avoids the issue of lying about an allergy (and potentially putting restaurants etc in a position where they take full allergy precautions) but still frames it as a medical issue rather than a choice?
        (And I think if it makes you gag, it does qualify as a sensitivity!)

        1. Bagpuss*

          (full disclosure, I am someone who does have a full on, life-threatening, epi-pen carrying allergy and while mine is not food related, it does mean I am a little twitchy around the whole issue!)

          1. IHaveMyEpiPen*

            Ditto–though mine is food related–I am anaphylactic to latex so I will react to food prepared with latex gloves.

        2. Aleta*

          IME sensitivity isn’t acknowledged as a medical thing and is seen as someone trying to make being a Picky Eater sound medical-ish so they can continue wallowing in their spoiled immaturity.

        3. Dr. Pepper*

          Bagpuss, I have actually, and while kind, reasonable people have responded well to classifying it as a sensitivity, there’s a lot of unreasonable jerks who think that anything less than “I’m going to die if I eat this” is just me being a spoiled child who needs to be lectured and/or taught a lesson. I’m afraid Aleta is right. Too many people think I’m being a Picky Eater AT them.

          1. Aleta*

            People are soooooo intense about it! The closest I can get to a rationalization for it is, because not being able or willing to eat something you don’t like is seen as Childish, it reflects badly on them to be seen eating with such a Childish person? And anything less than a life-threatening allergy is considered to be merely Not Liking something – there’s no nuance. But even still, I don’t really get the masochistic need to Suck It Up Buttercup. Like, woooooow, you ate something you don’t like to prove a point. You’re soooooooo tough, and so morally superior to those of us that only eat things we enjoy. Gag.

            1. Dr. Pepper*

              I think it’s a leftover from olden days where most people didn’t have enough to eat and there wasn’t nearly as much choice in foods. So you either ate what was available- no matter how nasty- or you starved. Since it’s not good for the tribe to allow members to starve, humans naturally push food on each other even if someone is wary. Being able to eat what you want is a pretty new thing, and I don’t think our monkey brains have caught up yet. Back in the day, I might have starved to death because as I kid I willingly went hungry when the only food available was stuff I couldn’t eat without gagging or worse.

              1. Aleta*

                Ahhhhh, yeah, that’s fair. I absolutely very willingly went hungry as a kid when my parents were being very strict that I had to Eat This Or Eat Nothing. There was also a class trip to mainland China in high school where I basically only ate small bowls of white rice because the set menus happened to not include anything I could eat, and at the time I didn’t know it was because of legitimate issues and not Picky Eating so didn’t feel comfortable asking for one of the plenty of Chinese dishes I COULD eat.

              2. Observer*

                This is a real thing – my father was a kid in Russia during the war, and he actually nearly DID starve because he couldn’t stomach some of the very sparse food that was available.

                But that was why he was so understanding of intense food aversions – he knew how intense they really good be and that “if they were hungry they will eat” just is not necessarily true.

                1. Dragoning*

                  Oh, yeah–I’m also very guilty of “if I hate it, I won’t eat it.”

                  Sometimes I can try, if a friend’s family made it or something, but even then I can only stomach so much. I would rather not eat for days if you won’t make something I like.

          2. iglwif*

            My child is a picky eater, and the number of people who think she’s being a picky eater AT them is mind-boggling to me. Like, she’s not demanding that you make her a special meal! She’s just sitting quietly at your table eating (for example) a bread roll and a small piece of salmon and politely saying “no thank you” to everything else. That’s literally it. Can we talk about something else please???

            She also throws up if she eats macadamia nuts or sesame seeds, and fortunately so far people have responded to that information with “OK, not gonna feed you those things then!” rather than with “BUT HAVE YOU TRIED…”

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              Ugh, when I was a kid, it wss my MOM who thought I was being a picky eater AT her. Because how DARE I find certain foods unappealing and if I wasn’t a spoiled brat, I would eat whstever was put in front of me., like she did as a child! She gave up by the time I was in high school, but my childhood memories are littered with episodes of being told I was not allowed to leave the table until I ate all of whatever odious substance she had decided to serve. It was excruciating.

              It didn’t dawn me until many years later that there were quite a few foods we never had–because either she or my father weren’t fond of them. The hypocrisy makes my head spin.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                That was my mom, too. Except for me it was that green bell peppers (in particular, not red, yellow or orange) made everything taste like nauseating metal to me. And she put them in nearly everything. I *hated* green bell peppers, which then became hating all bell peppers. I would pick them out and try to eat the rest, but it still tasted like flippin’ green bell pepper. Thankfully my dad would step in – he’s got a similar thing against mushrooms, but his is texture-based – and it slowly ended up being a weirdly tense compromise.

                She had a really hilarious near-tantrum recently, since I now do enjoy bell peppers of the not-green variety, and will tolerate the green ones in small amounts. I think a huge portion of my personal hatred of the Green Bell Pepper was just how damn frequently we had them. Plus, at that time I had braces, which I swear made the taste even more metallic.

                But did we ever eat green beans in the house? Nope, Mom didn’t like them. *eyeroll*

                I like how my grandma did it. You had to try everything once, and if you really, really didn’t like it, you didn’t have to eat it. You could ‘choose’ a handful of things that were Not For You (excluding allergies or sensitivities, of course), and that wouldn’t be in your dinner. You still had to eat Real Food and not Junk, but it was perfectly okay if you didn’t like ring bologna, or bell peppers, or mushrooms, or mashed potatoes, or whatever. Grandma also allowed you to have a say in how much you were served (looking at you with the giant plates of food, MOM), but if you served yourself, you had to eat it….for dinner, or breakfast the next day. Which is how I learned sometimes I like things a lot more cold than hot.

          3. TootsNYC*

            I always wonder if you should just say, “it makes me sick.”

            My MIL’s wording is, “it doesn’t agree with me.”

        4. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yeah, I wonder what would/did happen if you said “Endive? Wish I could, but every time I’ve tried it, it makes me vomit.” Don’t tell people you’re “grossed out,” because they associate that with being a picky eater by choice (although I believe you have every right to be picky, but you know how people react to it!), not with having an actual unavoidable physical reaction.

        5. Artemesia*

          I have a strong sensitivity to onions. They give me a stomach upset and headache and I feel lousy for a couple of days, but it is not an allergy and if there was onion in the stock it isn’t a big deal. Raw is a ‘no’ — immediate misery; cooked less a problem but still not good. I always explain to the waiter that ‘it is not an allergy, I won’t drop dead from any exposure, but eating onion makes me sick so I need to avoid it.’ I don’t want them sterilizing the kitchen or something as some places do. Taking the onion rings off the salad is good enough; it isn’t if someone has a true allergy.

          1. many bells down*

            I feel you, I *LOVE* onions, but they do not love me back. There are very few ways I can have onion that doesn’t result in … unpleasantness for me and everyone nearby.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            It sounds like a non-IgE allergy, which the medical establishment didn’t even acknowledge until 2009. Last I checked, they still don’t address it. Sigh.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              I never heard of non-IgE food allergy until now, and after googling, I’m think this may be the explnation for my daughter’s sensitivity to eggs. After eating and enjoying them for the first two to two and a half decades of her life, they suddenly started to disagree with her big time. The symptoms aren’t like typical allergy symptoms (hives, etc), but from what she tells me, they are hella unpleasant and have led to her avoiding eggs like the plague. All of a sudden, I feel like I understand the whole thing a lot better.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Yay! There’s a book called Food Allergies and Food Intolerance by Dr. Jonathan Brostoff. It explains this very well.

        6. Phoenix Programmer*

          A recent study found that 50% of people who think they have a food allergy actually have an intolerance.

          Basically swelling, intching, hives = allergy.
          Bloating, gas, gi distress, and cramps = intolerance.

          Typically intolerances are signs of other underlying medical issues so it’s unfortunate that our vernacular has lumped them all into allergies and determined – avoiding the food as the answer.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            This confusion is because the medical establishment decided everything that’s not an IgE reaction wasn’t an allergy. But in fact, “allergy” was first described as an immune system reaction to a benign substance, and the reactions they called “intolerance” are immune reactions that don’t involve IgE.
            “Intolerance” was also used to describe the effect of missing enzymes, as in lactose intolerance.
            When I first began learning about this my doctor used phrases like “non-allergic” to describe non-IgE reactions, which is both confusing and inaccurate. After several years of being firm and writing blog posts (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one!) they finally started using “non-IgE allergy” in establishment articles.
            Avoiding the allergenic food is the only answer to a non-IgE food allergy. The establishment still doesn’t address this, and patients have to work it out as best we can.
            If it’s a deficiency of enzymes or probiotics and not an allergy then supplements can help – but usually the only way to tell is by trying them to see if they help.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            This is incorrect information. Swelling, itching, and hives are not the only reactions that indicate an allergy. You absolutely can have gastrointestinal reactions as part of an allergic reaction. An allergy can affect a number of your body’s systems. Yes, people who only have gastrointestinal reactions may have “only” an intolerance (which still means they’ll want to avoid the trigger), but it can definitely also be an allergic reaction.

              1. Aleta*

                Oooof, based on this chart there was one time (before I knew I had an allergy) where I should’ve gone to the hospital after having some wine in a cocktail. I, uh, very much did not do that and spent the entire night throwing up and then went to my very physical bike delivery job the next morning where I didn’t throw up but I almost did in an elevator and almost passed out in a different elevator. Ooops?

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  Glad you’re still alive!
                  Before I knew I have non-IgE allergy to egg I got a flu shot and was a zombie for 3 days. This stuff happens. I never got a flu shot again until my current job, where I get the egg-free one.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I might be overly reactive because I’m having a bad day, but this article is infuriating. Like my life and the last ~30 years of medical knowledge never happened.

            2. Aleta*

              Yup! My allergy symptoms are GI reactions and mouth swelling. Normally, the way I see people make distinctions is when the symptoms start. Allergies are usually within 2 hours, intolerances can be up to 72 hours. I’m allergic to vinegar, and even small amounts have me in extreme gastrointestinal distress within AT MOST an hour, usually closer to 15 minutes to immediately. Intolerances have to do with your digestive system, and the vinegar hasn’t even entered it by the time I start having a reaction.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                What an interesting allergy! It must be to something in the fermentation process, I would think.
                Non-IgE digestive allergy symptoms can happen anywhere from zero to 72 hours. It depends on which part of the digestive system is reacting to it.

                1. Aleta*

                  Yup, I think so too, especially because cooking lessens the symptoms, though it doesn’t eliminate it. I can have small amounts of ketchup, but only the processed kind, not homemade/house stuff. If it’s in a sauce if I like it enough and there’s not too much vinegar in it I can go lactose intolerant-style “Humans cannot achieve immortality anyway and life not lived to the fullest is no life at all” as long as an extended bathroom stay within half an hour is viable. But really I only actually do that for yakisoba, because yakisoba is life.

                2. Aleta*

                  I also straight up CANNOT have anything that’s pickled or beer or wine, not even small drops, I won’t DIE but, uh, see story above about that time I accidentally had some wine. It was BAD. And that stuff is way more fermented than base vinegar.

            3. Phoenix Programmer*

              The bigger issue I see with calling an intolerance an allergy when it’s not is – epi pen and Benadryl is going to do nothing for your food “allergy” if it turns out you have IBS and broccoli sets it off.

              It’s not a matter of “only” being an intolerance and i don’t like that phrase since it diminishes the severe impacts intolerances can/do have.

              I am allergic to latex. I am intolerent of parfume. Yes the headaches and nausea I get from parfume is excruciating but it’s not an allergy. Avoidence in this case is the best course of action but for food intolerances there can be an underlying condition causing the intolerance which can be treated where as allergies – your just stuck with them. That’s why the distinction is important. I would actually say in my case my allergy to latex is not a big deal but my intolerance causes a lot of problems!

              1. Michaela Westen*

                IBS symptoms can be caused by non-IgE food allergies.
                How do you know you’re symptoms from perfume aren’t an allergy? Did you have IgE and non-IgE tests?
                What are some of the underlying conditions that cause non-allergy digestive symptoms, and how are they treated?

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’d suggest what my friend says about mushrooms: “I liked mushrooms until I had an extreme experience with food poisoning, and now I can’t eat them.” When pushed, “Even after 30 years, every time I’ve tried them my gut reacts like it was yesterday.” When pushed again, “Do you really want the TMI level of detail?” So far no one took her up on that!

        1. Artemesia*

          I got violently sick, which is rare for me, after eating my favorite crock pot dish — a pork and polenta thing. This was decades ago and I still can’t face eating that dish again. I know the food didn’t make me sick — it just preceded the illness, but my deepest unconscious ‘knows for sure’ that this is bad and won’t let me think of eating it. I remember reading an article where a pediatric oncologist served a little maple ice cream to kids before chemo. His reasoning was that he didn’t want them to develop an aversion to eggs or cheerios or toast — whatever they had for breakfast — and since no one needs or is often confronted with maple ice cream it was a good one to make ‘poison’ to the child’s system.

          1. many bells down*

            Yep. I got sick with (probably) stomach flu after a day where I’d eaten a couple Twinkies, and again after I’d had minestrone soup. Can’t tolerate either of those foods now, 30 years later. Which is fine at least in the case of the Twinkies.

          2. IHaveMyEpiPen*

            Ohh yeah, once I was already feeling sick at work and I hadn’t had time to pack a lunch (because I wasn’t feeling good), so I had grabbed the first easy thing from the fridge–a bag of baby carrots. All I ate that day was carrots. And then I threw them all up. I knew, intellectually, that I had already been feeling sick and it wasn’t the carrots, but I could not eat carrots for the next 3 years.

            1. Kitryan*

              Foods I have lost due to consumption preceding bouts of unfortunate gastric distress – carrot cake, those sweet pretzels you get at the mall/airport, orange juice, pizza, sliced cantaloupe and honeydew.
              I have gotten back orange juice and pizza.

              1. Star Nursery*

                For me it was strawberry’s. They didn’t make me sick but I had the flu after eating strawberries and I couldn’t have them for years. I can eat them now and I’m glad that it’s no longer a problem.

      3. Antilles*

        It’s amazing how many people refuse to believe that you can be so grossed out by something that it makes you vomit and will argue with you endlessly over it, yet if you simply say “I’m allergic” they’re all understanding and accommodating.
        This is 100%, absolutely true.
        If you say it’s a dislike or preference or taste issue, far too many people will immediately jump to explain and argue about it. As if a ten-minute argument over peanuts is going to suddenly make my taste buds morph and not find the taste/texture revolting.
        If you say it’s an allergy, then it’s immediately acceptable and people move on with their lives.

        1. Sabina*

          Exactly. I am repulsed by the slightest smell of eggs. I couldn’t choke one down in any form if my life depended on it. And yet…there is always someone who simply can’t accept that I don’t do eggs. It’s always, “well what about a nice omelette?” , blah, blah, blah. And then there is the “friend” who always brings her “special” deviled eggs to any get together at my house. So, my house can smell like egg for a couple of days while I try not to puke. Sigh….

          1. Michaela Westen*

            You still let the friend with the deviled eggs come over?
            I would have given her a piece of my mind. Hmph.

      4. LizB*

        I wish people would take an accurate description of this kind of issue (“I won’t die, but I will definitely vomit”) as seriously as they should. Who wants to inflict vomiting on someone?! Is it really worth maybe having your friend puke all over your table just to prove a point?! People suck.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      I did something similar in elementary school with hotdogs. I really hated them and they were probably the #1 most common lunch. To this day, I still don’t eat hotdogs but thankfully don’t have to lie about it anymore.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        This article defines food allergy with the symptoms of an IgE reaction.
        There are many other forms of allergy that involve reactions from other components of the immune system. The medical establishment traditionally ignores this.
        “Those who didn’t have a convincing food allergy instead reported symptoms like stomach cramps, a stuffy nose, or nausea.”
        A convincing food allergy? Oh sorry, my lifelong cramps, headaches, stomach pain fatigue and general misery aren’t convincing enough for you, biased researcher?
        As a person who has had non-IgE food allergies all my life, and diagnosed them and learned to deal with them *without* the help of MDs, you can imagine how I feel about this. :( :( :(

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          That’s the whole point though. It’s not that intolerances aren’t a big deal – they are – they just are not allergies. In fact you may have a GI disease but since you like so many others went – allergy I will avoid route – it’s likely undiagnosed.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Believe me, I’ve had a couple of thorough GI workups! There is no sign of disease. Of course it’s undiagnosed allergy, since the allergy establishment refuses to deal with it!!!
            How would it be diagnosed?
            There are blood tests that diagnose non-IgE allergy, but the establishment hasn’t accepted them. I worked with the LEAP mediator release test in 2004, and it works well.
            However, I never had the test myself because at that point I had figured out *myself* what I’m allergic to when a lifetime of doctor visits hadn’t helped me.
            Please don’t assume I don’t know about my health and my body. I’m the only one who does because MDs have *chosen* not to help me!

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              Yes my phrasing was really problematic and i am sorry. I used you when I was thinking generic and it came off like I am telling you what your health is. That’s not cool and I am sorry.

              I was thinking of my FIL for example who says he’s allergic to beans. He’s probably not – most likely he has a gi issue but like a lot of people who think they have an allergy he just avoids the food. In his mind he has an allergy and that’s the end. He hasn’t asked a doctor to investigate – because they can’t cure allergies right?

              I know so many people like this which is what I saw the article as portraying by distinction along responses. Not suggesting sensitivities are less important or minor than allergies.

              I also know your pain about allergy testing. My allergist refused to test my latex allergy. Confirmed my cat allergy and confirmed I have no floral allergies so parfume is an intolerance.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                You could be allergic to the chemicals and other ingredients in the perfume.
                The ingredient that’s listed as “parfum” in the U.S. is made of chemicals that *cause* allergies – pthalates. Pretty much anything scented is likely to have this ingredient, except natural products that are actually natural – many natural product companies are trying to sneak in chemicals too.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Can we stop this anti-chemicals thing? Literally everything is chemicals.

                  I have headaches that are triggered by a lot of scents (I can’t go in the laundry aisle in stores), but most especially by florals. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $2 Body Fantasy body spray from WalMart or the finest essential oils: headache. I use shampoos, body washes and lotions that contain pthalates, so it’s probably not that.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  The thing about pthalates is, they change the immune system reaction and cause new allergies. I avoid them (which is difficult, since even many “natural” companies use them) because the last thing I need is more allergies!

        2. Michaela Westen*

          I might be overly reactive because I’m having a bad day, but this article is infuriating. Like my life and the last ~30 years of medical knowledge never happened.

      2. Tinker*

        For everyone who is not the person having the condition and their doctor, the relevant point is: they have expressed in some way sufficient to convey the concept that they wish to have their food prepared in a certain way, so either prepare it in that way or tell them you can’t. It might be nicer if they use the most accurate label known to describe the nature of their requirement, but it’s not necessary and really it’s typically not anyone else’s business; “I’m allergic to X” is functionally equivalent to “I don’t eat X”.

        I’m fortunate enough that my food thing is a true allergy (and, before we start down THAT road, one that happens to be formally diagnosed) to a thing that most everyone takes a couple steps back upon hearing, but even so I have run into people who have misconceptions as to what I can and can’t eat, and there are some aspects of the sort of reactions I’ve had and my personal risk management decisions around those that depart somewhat from what a lot of people seem to expect.

        Still, that is definitely the way my body works, and there are cases where I end up needing to say that if the food in front of me is clearly X I absolutely cannot eat it, and that significant amounts of non-obvious X in a food will cause me some highly alarming problems — regardless of what anyone else understands about it.

  7. Lady Phoenix*

    I only get off on the 25th of December and the 1st of January. That is it. I work every other day in between except fot weekends.

    And when I was in a mom and pop store, we only got Christmas off.

    Now I have been hearing that the government is trying the make Christmas Eve a national holiday too, but who knows (the shutdown didn’t help matters).

    So I am surprised people get the whole week off, unless they are in education.

    1. Artemesia*

      A fair number of businesses close the week from Christmas to New Years. My kids have both had jobs in companies that did this. It was not counted against vacation or leave time and they were salaried positions that paid during this week.

      1. Khaleesi Esq.*

        I work at a company that is considered very generous in holiday time off, but even we just follow the federal government plus we get Christmas Eve off too — so this year we worked December 26, 27, and 28.

        I admit I found it odd that the OP included her birthday — the 28th — among the days she was taken aback by the employer asking about availability, ha. Employers also don’t generally think about days a candidate might spend wondering after an interview how well they did and if they’ll get an offer (though a thoughtful employer might consider preparation issues ahead of an interview).

        1. LW4*

          Oh, I wouldn’t say I was ‘taken aback’ (in the sense of, like, offended, I guess) by being asked to interview then, LOL, just mildly frustrated. Having a birthday around this time of year is always tricky, even outside of job things!

          One or two people in this thread so far have pointed out something that I perhaps should’ve addressed – the education field (not what I’m applying for) definitely has a different schedule year-round than most other fields. Both of my parents are teachers, so I more or less grew up thinking it was common to have that time of year off unless you worked in retail/tourism/first responder/etc positions. The last time I worked in a place that had Christmas off, it was as an intern at a school, in fact!

          So, overall, that’s still something I’m getting used to, that any day that week other than Christmas Day itself would *not* be a day off in the working world.

          1. Cat wrangler*

            I had a job interview – or maybe more than one – on my 24th birthday. My then-boyfriend accompanied me to the vicinity, disappeared into an exhibition and met me afterwards to go to the next one. It was a great day and having the chance of getting a new job was my birthday present to myself. My birthday isn’t in December though and rarely coincides with religious holidays.

            1. Magenta*

              I took the Civil Service Fast-Stream graduate exams on my 21st birthday. I was a day long thing that involved various academic exams plus a personality test.
              I didn’t pass, but to be fair it wasn’t a terrible thing for me because it was a high-stress, low pay position and a lot of them ended up being made redundant when the government changed.

          2. Mookie*

            I guess I don’t understand the frustration because, as Alison says, they asked not told or demanded that you submit to interview during that week and, if you end up in the role with that organization, presumably you won’t be working that week, either, unless the office that you mention being closed is not the one you’ll be working out of.

            As an atheist and a secular person, both, yeah, I’d rather be working during Christian holidays, which are the religious holidays that become federalized here, but it sounds like you expect the time off (for your birthday), anyway, and are extrapolating their motives/biases from the limited information you have. Maybe ask, if this would be a cultural deal-breaker for you.

          3. Judy (since 2010)*

            In my experience, the actual holidays are the 25th and the 1st, but many, many people reserve 4 days of vacation time to take the rest of the week off at large companies. So there is not a shutdown that closes the office, but basically the offices are ghost towns. On my team of 9, 3 people were working, all newer employees who only have 2 weeks of vacation. Our team does not have coverage requirements.

            Usually production facilities have shutdowns, but they also do require vacation or leave without pay.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      “Now I have been hearing that the government is trying the make Christmas Eve a national holiday too”

      No, this was just political games. Trump declared December 24 a national holiday [for reasons having to do with the number of days the last Congress would be in session and the bill he needed to veto or sign (not getting into it to avoid off-topic)].

      As far as I understand it, it was a one-time national holiday and not a forever-or-until-declared-otherwise national holiday, which I guess is something that can happen. Weird, right? Also I’ve worked every national holiday at some point during my working life, the designation doesn’t matter much to regular folks.

      1. whistle*

        Dec 24, 2018 was not declared a national holiday in the US. There was an executive order that gave the Government permission to close (and pay Government employees as if it was a holiday). The executive order does not use the word “holiday”.

        This was not done for political reasons. It was done because Dec 24 was on a Monday and so a one day closure gave most people a four day weekend around a holiday that is considered important by many. Any Government office that felt is should remain open was allowed to remain open. (I work in medical staffing for federal installations. Dec. 24 was business was usual for us.)

        1. Ego Chamber*

          My mistake. It was explained to me poorly with an eye toward conspiracy theories and lacked the historical context you pointed out.

      2. Flower*

        Dec 24 has historically been declared a national holiday when it fell on a Monday (three times since 2000). Similarly, Dec 26 is sometimes declared a national holiday when it falls on a Friday (2014). I’m all for scorning this president, but in this one case, it was actually pretty normal.

    3. londonedit*

      In the UK, December 25th and 26th, and January 1st, are public holidays (January 2nd is also a holiday in Scotland which seems eminently sensible to me, but sadly the rest of the UK has to go back to work!)

      Companies deal with the Christmas break differently. Some places will shut completely and no one has to take holiday, some (like my company) will shut down for the duration but everyone has to save some of their annual holiday allowance (we get 25 days) to cover. This year we were closed December 24th-January 1st inclusive – the office usually closes at lunchtime on Christmas Eve but this year they gave everyone the day off for the ‘price’ of half a day’s holiday. And some companies only close on the public holidays, and if people want to take the time off then they need to use their holiday allowance and figure out who is going to be in and out over the break. It’s definitely not a guarantee that companies will shut over Christmas – there are many that do open on all but the actual holiday days.

      1. StellaOfTheDump*

        Also UK.

        Some places can’t shut completely, even if they only run a skeleton staff. For example, in my field we have to be contactable every day the official offices are open – equivalent to accountants having to have staffing every day the government tax office runs. It’s common for offices to have reduced working hours (say it’s usually staffed 8-6 but between Christmas and NY it might be more like 9-4) and maybe only one member of staff of each type in the building, so say one attorney, one paralegal, one secretary.

        The national official government body is in Wales and there are a few differences in public holidays between Wales and Scotland so I know there have been occasions where there needed to be juggling and “public holiday in lieu” headaches for HR.

        The vast majority of people will be out of the office from lunchtime on Christmas Eve until early January but that doesn’t mean the office itself shuts down. It’s quite a good time to be in as it’s quiet enough to clear any backlog or tasks you have been putting off, and traffic/public transport is blissfully quiet.

        1. Cat wrangler*

          I’m in the UK and just in my opinion / experience, if it’s important to someone to have free time over the Christmas – New Year period then look for industries that have ‘shutdowns’ such as construction / civil engineering / education. There are probably others but avoid any emergency services as they never shut. Local authorities in the UK sometimes award a ‘priv day’ at Christmas which is a day’s paid extra leave which doesn’t come out of your own allowance but it can depend when Christmas Day falls.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        (January 2nd is also a holiday in Scotland which seems eminently sensible to me, but sadly the rest of the UK has to go back to work!)

        Those Scots, man. They do things right.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When I working NYC, a handful of industries had the whole week off, but still more didn’t. The two companies I worked for there did not close during the week of Christmas. I would totally have scheduled an interview that week, on either side of the table, because things were generally very slow since so many people were on vacation. It was a great time to get the process rolling. Interviewing can be really hard if there’s a lot on your plate, so it makes perfect sense to schedule interviews during slower periods.

      Then I moved to a medium city in the Southeast and learned that the norm is to close for the whole week. My current company does. Most of my friends are off. It’s nice, but I was kind of floored by it at first, to be honest.

    5. Project Manager*

      I may have missed something on Christmas Eve being declared a holiday, but if you’re referring to it being a holiday for federal employees last year, that’s not anything really new. It’s not an official federal holiday, but the president will typically give fed employees the day off. Obama used to give half-days for the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, and Bush used to give Christmas Eve off.

      1. Marthooh*

        Fearless Leader proposed making Christmas Eve a federal holiday, in a tweet or something, I think? I dunno, I can’t keep up.

    6. Alfonzo Mango*

      My building was closed on Christmas eve, forcing me to take a vacation day to miss work. I was in W/TH/F, but the rest of my office was out because they had vacation time to burn. A lot of older employees with tons of vacation time can take that week off without issue.

    7. Allison*

      I can imagine there are a few industries where companies feel A) there’s no real demand for their services during that week, B) most people use vacation time to take it off, and C) the people who do come in, most of whom only do so because they’re trying to conserve their vacation, don’t have much to do; so the executives and HR department figured it’s easier and better for overall morale to just give everyone that time off.

    8. Becky*

      My company doesn’t close except for Christmas Day and New Year’s day but about 80% of people are on PTO that week. Our clients are just as depleted so it isn’t usually ever a problem

  8. Nonsensical*

    3) I don’t think it is weird that they asked to schedule interviews during that period. I had an interview on the 28th. It is absolutely normal to have interviews, if you’re not available during that period, then ask them to interview another week. I actually applied purposefully during Thanksgiving/holiday periods because of advice I have read from Allison that other people stop job searching during the holidays that make it a good period to actually ramp up the search! I would expect a job candidate to give their honest availability and it is just a phone interview.

    4) There is nothing strange about crouching. I would focus on things that are actual issues with the employee and not small things like that.

    1. Willis*

      I agree that it’s not weird to schedule things the week of Christmas. Especially a phone call. I get that for the OP it would have been less desirable to interview then, but some people would probably appreciate the opportunity to do it on a week they were possibly already off from work or where things were slow and it was easier to take time off. Just depends on your situation.

      Also, I don’t think it’s on the interviewer to be concerned with when you’d have to prep for an interview or be thinking about the results.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This last bit–I’d hesitate to rule out a bunch of days just on wanting to not be thinking about the interview past or future. (There’s A Christmas Carol reference in here somewhere.) Most of us work on our birthdays, for example.

    2. Liza*

      This. I’ve worked in 24-7 industries all my life and I have quite the opposite problem where I can’t get my head around the idea of a business closing for a prolonged period over Christmas. (How does that work? Do you get paid? What if you don’t have any holiday time left? Who makes sure the building doesn’t burn down?!) I considered myself very lucky in that I was able to get Christmas day and Boxing day off every year because my family were a few hours away and the trains didn’t run on those days, so I would have two days off and then work the horrible shifts at New Year’s to make up for it.

      While a business like that generally expects other people to have plans for Christmas day (and probably Christmas eve or Boxing day depending on where you live) the rest of the week is probably business as usual. My take would be they’d not be particularly surprised if people aren’t available, but they’re using that time to get through some of the interviews earlier on to free up later weeks.

      1. Quackeen*

        How does that work? Do you get paid? What if you don’t have any holiday time left?

        Different places will have different policies. My husband has almost always had jobs where he gets that week off and it’s “free” in the sense that they get paid but don’t have to use their PTO. I had one job where we got that week off, pretty much because the owner really didn’t want to work that week. We didn’t have to use PTO, either. I have read letters even on here where people are forced to take the week off and use PTO for it, though.

        Mostly I’m used to working that week and having it be a very quiet time where I can get a lot done and maybe slip out early…also, the people who are working tend to bring a lot of treats in and dress more casually!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Kudos to that owner. One of the champion bits of second-hand bitterness on here was the accurate prediction that the managers saying No One Gets Time Off Over The Holidays This Year would all be out of the office that week.

      2. Nonsensical*

        I wasn’t suggesting that she give interview prep as the reason. She could just as easily say that she is travelling during the period. Businesses wouldn’t be really surprised if a job candidate wasn’t available during major holidays. My point was more if she was concerned about it, she could ask to move the interview. I would interview during the holidays because I want a job and the holidays doesn’t really impact me but everyone is different. I am also Jewish so it is really just a free day off for me.

        1. Allison*

          Right. I always travel around the holidays, I wouldn’t feel an ounce of guilt telling an employer I can’t interview on the 26th because I’m driving back to Boston from Philadelphia that day, and the earliest I could be available was the 27th. Even my “dream job” can wait an extra day so I can spend a little time with my family at Christmas.

      3. londonedit*

        I work in book publishing and all the companies I’ve worked at have shut over Christmas. I think it’s a hangover from when the printing presses used to do a full shutdown over the Christmas period – if the printers weren’t working, there wasn’t much point in the publishers working either! Where I am now, it’s stated in our contracts that we get 25 days’ annual leave, but 3.5 days of that needs to be kept to cover the afternoon of the 24th (the office shuts at lunchtime) and the period between Christmas and New Year. So you just don’t count those days as part of your leave allowance. I’m sure if someone joins in December and doesn’t have enough pro rata days, they work it out with them somehow. The whole place literally closes – they put a hold on post deliveries, there’s literally no one in the building. I guess it’s small enough that we don’t usually have things like on-site security, and there are alarms with direct lines to police/fire/certain keyholders higher up in the company.

        In other companies, we’ve had something like 20 days’ annual leave, but the company has shut down over Christmas and employees wouldn’t need to use their leave – so effectively we’d get an ‘extra’ 3.5 days each year.

  9. Agent J*

    OP #1 — If it makes you feel better, I tell a similar story with wasps. I’ve never been stung by one but was told that my dad was stung by one when he was younger and had a severe reaction to it. I’m not sure if allergic reaction to wasp stings are genetic but whenever I see one, I freak out a bit as if I am allergic. When people ask, I just tell them I’m allergic.

    In your case, since the school nurse is concerned, I would just use the script Alison gave you. I don’t think the nurse will judge you; they just want to be prepared. It will probably be a slight relief to them—one less thing to worry about!

    1. NonnyNon*

      And that is exactly why people don’t take allergies seriously. People claim it and aren’t allergic, and usually get caught out over it later.

      1. Junior Dev*

        This is unnecessarily shamey and also misplaces the blame.

        I get nauseous whenever I eat large amounts of eggs. If someone asks me if I have food allergies, I will say “eggs” because they really don’t need my entire history with food to know what not to serve me. Even though it’s not a literal allergy.

        Knowing a family member is allergic to something and telling people you are allergic too, when you’re not sure but the consequences of being wrong could be deadly, is pretty reasonable, and has nothing to do with jerks who refuse to take others’ needs seriously.

        1. J*

          Yes, truly. It’s valid to be concerned and also: saying she’s allergic to wasps doesn’t inconvenience anyone. It’s not like she’s going to the house of someone who has dozens of free-roaming indoor pet wasps that now must be captured and contained in a tank.

        2. Lilo*

          Actually, in a medical context saying you are allergic to eggs when you aren’t could be pretty bad. Eggs are used in the manufacture of some vaccines so it could, say, affect which flu shot you get. My employer has a clinic that I know gives out two flu shots and one is the injectable that uses eggs and one is the live virus spray that you can’t take if you are pregnant or have other conditions. So you could be inadvertently disqualifying yourself from some treatments.

          Especially with doctors, it is important to be super clear on actual allergies. They have shown, for instance, a lot of people say they are allergic to antibiotics they aren’t actually allergic too (antibiotics can make you sick to your stomach which is not an allergic reaction but people wrongly think it is). But then out of caution the doctor has to give the patient a different antibiotic which can lead to using a tougher drug with more potential side effects (like higher rates of C Diff).

          1. Myrin*

            I’m pretty sure JD wasn’t talking about medical contexts but rather social ones where food gets served. Doctors have a right (or even need) to know all kinds of things which aren’t really anyone else’s business normally.

            1. Colette*

              Even from a social perspective, saying you’re allergic to eggs causes problems for people. A lot of foods may have eggs in them – pasta and bread for example. And if you’re at a restaurant that takes allergies seriously (as they should all do), they have to take steps to make sure your food doesn’t come into contact with anything that might contain eggs. That’s a huge hassle. Getting nauseous when you eat a large amounts of eggs is not an allergy, and shouldn’t be communicated as an allergy.

              1. Quackeen*

                The language I’ve used in the past is “sensitivity” rather than “allergy.” If pressed, I say that I get a rash and GI symptoms but not anaphylaxis.

          2. Guacamole Bob*

            I know that studies say a large number of people who report having had reactions to penicillin family antibiotics as kids aren’t actually allergic as adults. I tell my doctors that I had a rash reaction to amoxicillin as a kid and that I don’t know if I’m allergic, but they mostly just write it down as a known allergy to the entire penicillin family and prescribe accordingly. It’s actually a bit frustrating, given what I know of antibiotic resistance and the expense and side effects of different families of drugs.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Interestingly, when we tell doctors that our child had a rash reaction to Zithromax as a toddler, lately they’ve been saying it’s no longer relevant.

            2. Nonsensical*

              I have had reactions to most antibiotics as a kid and my doctors write it down as allergies. I have tried them and I still have the same reactions. While it doesn’t apply in your case, it is better for the doctors to assume on the cautious side because those of us who had allergies as kids do still have them as adults. I am still allergic to the three antibiotics I was as a kid.

            3. Clisby Williams*

              I should tell my 22-year-old to check that out next time she has a medical checkup. She had an allergic reaction to amoxycillin when she was 13 or 14, and the doctor advised her that any medical history should list allergy to the penicillin family. However, I suppose it’s possible she’s outgrown it.

            4. Evan Þ.*

              I had that too, but one of my doctors when I was twelve or so decided it was worth giving me a “challenge test” and I turned out non-allergic. Now, I’m really glad.

          3. a heather*

            I have a not-officially-diagnosed latex allergy — it’s not life threatening, but causes a rash/irritation when it comes into contact with my mucous membranes, but not my skin. I explain this to my doctors, and every time they mark me as allergic to latex, which means I get a red flag when I’m in the hospital. It seems to me that doctors are generally more accepting of this kind of thing than the general public.

            1. IHaveMyEpiPen*

              Also, latex allergy has a way of becoming more severe with more exposure. When I was very young I could play with latex balloons without issue. Then when I was 5 I had an allergic reaction (my entire face swelled up) to balloons (though we didn’t know at the time that was what triggered it); then when I was 7 my heart stopped and my lungs collapsed in the middle of surgery due to latex. It is smart of them to go latex free with you to forestall a more severe reaction.

              A number of years ago (before may places went latex-free) I read a statistic that about 20% of the medical profession were allergic to latex in one form or another.

        3. Mookie*

          Total agreement with your second para. Whole families and circles of friends will become magically ‘allergic’ to something to avoid unnecessary risks in certain, largely social or communal situations. It’s unfortunate that ‘allergy’ commands respect where ‘preference’ is disregarded, but that’s the world we’re living in. The medical community is also expected to accept and anticipate that reality and adapt to it.

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          FYI if you tell your doctor you have an egg allergy, it makes you ineligible for a lot of common vaccines. You may want to clarify that.

      2. Indie*

        No, the people who don’t believe in allergies are just jerks. They achieve jekdom all on their own. They are not confused by the world being less than literal sometimes.

      3. Myrin*

        I don’t think it’s all that likely someone will be caught having lied about wasps, of all things. It could happen, sure, but I feel like getting stung by insects is somewhat rare in general (depending on where you live and what you work as, of course).

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I agree it’s rare, but it’s also probably not a good idea to claim to be allergic to something that usually results in getting a shot of epinephrine and a ride to the ER as treatment. Better to say you’re afraid of them (which is reasonable) or say the thing about having bad swelling from the last sting and not wanting to be stung again (also super reasonable).

          Storytime: One of my friends told everyone she was allergic to bees all through high school and when she got stung on a class trip, a helpful parent/chaperone responded by sticking her with an EpiPen and calling an ambulance to treat the allergy she didn’t have. Her dad was so pissed. And I guess getting a shot of epinephrine you don’t need is also a really unpleasant thing to experience.

          1. Lilo*

            Yeah an epi pen is no joke, especially if you have any kind of cardiac issues. I had a friend in college who has a nut allergy and was having a milder reaction (he had had much worse ones in the past) and was trying really hard to decide if he needed to use it or not because it was so unpleasant and he would have to go to the hospital. A friend with EMT training stayed with him the whole time and he had the pen in hand.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Aww, that sounds terrible. I’m sorry for your friend. :(

              Media always makes it look like you get stuck with the EpiPen and then you’re good to go, but I knew someone who needed 3 of those suckers on the way to the hospital to keep their airways open because they were way out of town when things went wrong—it’s not really a treatment, it’s just buying time to get to the treatment, is the way I understand it.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                That’s why you often have to carry two with you, because one is not always enough. It really is the best option, but for severe reactions you need multiples. I’m guessing in hospitals they give you a larger dose,* but if you go to the hospital and they just load you up with Benadryl instead of giving you epinephrine, they aren’t following best practices.

                *The one time I had to have a doctor administer it, I was not in the right frame of mind to ask how the dosage compared to my epipen, so I don’t really know.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              It is unpleasant, but it’s not *that* unpleasant for most people. I say this because I don’t want to scare people off from using one, not to say your friend was wrong about how it affected him.

              It makes your heart go fast for sure, and it can make you a little shaky. When I’ve had to use it, the most unpleasant side effects were from the allergic reaction itself, not the epipen. Your friend might have had an unusual reaction, but for most people, it’s not that big of a deal once you know what to expect, though it can be jarring the first time you use it. (and you are supposed to go to the hospital anyway after you use an epi-pen anyway because if your reaction is bad enough for epinephrine, you should be checked out by a medical provider). It’s really not a good idea to avoid using it if you think you might need it, because by the time you decide you will use it, it might be too late.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                And I don’t want to derail on this, but in fairness, a delay in administering epinephrine can lead to a more serious or even fatal reaction. I’m not sure of the scientific basis for it, but if the epinephrine isn’t administered until after 30 minutes or an hour, say, it can be less effective when administered. It may be unpleasant, but there almost no contraindications to using it. If you are debating whether you might need epinephrine, you should use it.

          2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            That’s really on the chaperone though- allergies come in varying levels of severity, and if the girl didn’t have anything on file for needing an epi-pen, she shouldn’t have been stuck. My father is anaphylaxis-level allergic to fire ants, but only mildly allergic to other species of ant, and he can get away with just taking a benadryl if he gets bitten by those. So, he insists on taking the benadryl first in the event he gets bitten and waiting, epi-pen in hand, for it to either get worse or go away. Dumb, probably, but he’s had to go through the epi-pen-hospital routine enough times that he doesn’t want to go through it again unnecessarily, as it’s highly, highly unpleasant.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              My FIL is also anaphalactic allergic to fire ants. He was telling me once about being bit on the golf course, taking his pen, and resuming his game. I was like OMG, talk to your doctor but I’m pretty sure you are supposed to go to the hospital after using the pen.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              In the chaperone’s defense, the girl was a total drama-llama and had talked about her fake allergy for years, including when she pointed out the big ol’ beehive on the class trip (that part was stupid, and the teacher who was supposed to be in charge was not paying attention). When she pointed to the hive, the chaperone asked if she had an EpiPen and she was like “Oh nooo! I forgot it at home!” so it was implied she needed one.

              Then a few hours later the poor chaperone was mobbed by a group of screaming girls all yelling about how Drama Llama was dying. Chaperone’s own kid was allergic, I don’t remember what to, so that’s why she had EpiPens on her. It did not go well.

              I hope your dad is okay. I totally get why he does it the way he does, and I hope it keeps working out for him.

      4. Mookie*

        I mean, we’re grown-ups who understand the lay usage of terms like “allergies” as a catch-all that includes allergies, sensitivities, avoidance for personal/health/cultural reasons and also the paychosocial reasons behind the latter (using the term helps you escape from pushy people, de-escalate weird situations where you don’t feel like explaining yourself, et al). This is a non-medical situation where the lay usage is completely defensible. That they’re prepping for an emergency is more-or-less fine, in that it might benefit someone else. I’d make it clear you don’t want anyone at work administering drugs or therapy to you without your permission (in case someone gets overzealous) and leave it at that, really.

        There are a few nightmare scenarios where this might somehow backfire, but I think they are unlikely, and I also think it’s okay for the LW not to ‘correct’ this if she doesn’t want to. It goes without saying that, no, the LW is not perpetuating a stigma or harming anyone else by doing so. People choose to cross boundaries and play armchair skeptic with other people’s health and choices all on their own.

        1. Mookie*

          Correction: I initially interpreted the request for an allergy plan and epipen as the achool advovating on the behalf of the LW and requsting funding and support to accomodate her, but re-reading her letter, it sounds like they want LW’s own personalized plan+pen and that these cases are treated as indivudualized for each staff member. I don’t know if this is legally obligatory or a best practices way of managing this—if obligatory, the school likely needs to train or has already trained the relevant staff in responding to urgent allergic reactions—or if the school is even public/private, and if it’s been issued a prescription for business use prior to the LW’s appearance, but if this is optional I’d thank them and decline.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            As far as I understand, having a medical plan on file and any relevant medications kept in a secured area in the school (usually either the office or with the school nurse) is standard in both public and private schools in the states. This is definitely done for students, and I assume they just use the same procedure for the teachers/other workers because they already have everything in place for the students.

            Requiring these things to be on file and available once a medical condition becomes known to the school is most likely a way of keeping their liability at a minimum. From that perspective, it’s not a bad idea. I don’t know whether she can decline without giving some explanation, that would depend on the school’s policies and the surrounding laws.

            1. Mookie*

              Well, if she’s in the US, she’s not legally obligated to do so as far as I’m aware. In California, schools have to provide EpiPens for students, but she’s not a student, either.

          2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            We do that at the start of every school year, identify the kids with allergies and what is their preferred treatment plan. Some manage with their own epipen. Others feel their allergy isn’t serious enough warrant any attention but we still have to be aware just in case.

      5. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        People make this claim that “people don’t take allergies seriously.” I don’t think that’s actually true.

        Maybe a waiter will roll their eyes when someone claims to be allergic to something, but I think that’s the extent of it. And nobody (except the psychotic mother-in-law in that one Dear Prudence letter) is going to try to expose someone to the allergen just to make sure.

        1. kittymommy*

          Want to make a bet?? I’ve had more than one person not believe that I was allergic to shellfish and avocado. “Oh you can have a little…oh i did use the same pan/knife/bowl/whatever for both version…I bet you’ll like my guacamole/” I have heard these and various versions my entire life. I know someone (a colleague) who told me she’s served dishes to people with food they are allergic to because “allergies aren’t a real thing”. There may not be large swaths of people doing this, but it certainly is a thing. Most people I know who have food allergies have at least once been confronted with virulent opposition to their allergies.

          1. pancakes*

            That is infuriating! I don’t have allergies, but friends & family do. Wtf, are these people flat earthers as well! I’ve heard of it, of course, this being a thing, but still can’t get my head around someone not believing that a common immune system reaction…exists. Or that their acquaintance couldn’t possibly have such a thing. I think it’s at or near the level of necessitating a neurological check-up. It’s very disconnected and very aggressive.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Sorry, no. That’s not my experience, and internet forums for allergy sufferers are full of similar stories. Lots of people don’t take allergies seriously, from waiters to coworkers to family members. Many do take them seriously, thankfully. And if you have allergies and have only ever had people take it seriously, then that’s great. But every single person I know with allergies has plenty of stories of people not taking it seriously, from waiters to coworkers to family members. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a dish served to me at a restaurant with an ingredient I told the waiter I couldn’t have because of an allergy. I personally know a number of people who have had relatives or coworkers deliberately try to sneak them food with an allergen because they didn’t believe the allergy. My own grandmother used to give me food I was allergic to when I was little because she didn’t believe it made me sick, she knew I liked it, and she didn’t want to deprive me of it (fortunately at that age it “only” caused gastrointestinal issues).

          We can debate whether people falsely claiming they have allergies is the reason or part of the reason some people don’t take them seriously. But you’re just wrong that the only extent of people not taking it seriously is a waiter maybe rolling their eyes.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Imagine what that eye-rolling waiter will do next. Not inform the chef because he doesn’t feel like dealing with your allergy? Or make snarky comments about people who “think” they have allergies?
            Do you want such a person in charge of your food?

        3. Michaela Westen*

          A few weeks ago (?) someone here on AAM mentioned a restaurant cook who deliberately puts allergenic food in customer’s orders because he doesn’t believe in allergies.
          It’s only a matter of time before he kills someone.

        4. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

          I’m allergic to shellfish, which is a challenge in the crab-and-shrimp obsessed family into which I married. At a cookout a few summers ago, I took a bit of macaroni salad and asked “what are these soft bits [which had not been clearly visible when I served myself] with the vegetables?” only to be told that it was chopped canned shrimp. “Well, I never thought to tell you it was there because I didn’t know you couldn’t eat *canned* shrimp!”

      6. Name of Requirement*

        This is what scares me about my nut allergy kid going out in the world. People deciding it’s not serious.

        Can’t people just say they have a bad reaction?

        I have a relative who has panic attacks around wasps- due to her increasingly poor allergic reactions after being stung. At this point, the breathing issues are worse than the aftermath of a sting, but both are valid physical responses.

      7. pancakes*

        People who choose not to take allergies seriously do so because they make a choice not to, not because someone lied to them once or twice and thereby doomed them to a lifetime of questioning things that really aren’t any of their business. Whether they make that choice due to being a busybody with a sense of entitlement, or to being ignorant about how bodies work, etc., doesn’t really matter.

  10. nnn*

    When I saw the headline for #3, before I got to the part in the letter where it’s a man, I thought the letter-writer would be a co-worker of the LW from a couple days ago who was having Braxton-Hicks contractions and had to stand and walk during meetings.

  11. Enough*

    #3 Actually the standing and crouching may be an issue with the lack of attention. LW indicates that it will be something that was covered in a meeting. If he can’t sit he is more like not taking notes. And if he is uncomfortable he is also more like to forget things.

    1. Anoncorporate*

      I understand the desire to stand during meetings, as someone who is restless and also has attention issues. (I don’t do this though, because I know I will get reactions like the LW’s.) However, I still haven’t found a way around my attention problems. I’m not diagnosed with ADD or anything.

      1. Lucy*

        I find that minuting the meeting helps me focus (relevant: I have a hearing disorder so the transcription process also helps me hear better).

      2. Susie Q*

        I have ADHD and one of the things that I do is write almost everything down in meetings.

        It looks weird and like I have a terrible memory but I get distracted if I’m not taking very detailed notes.

        1. Quackeen*

          I do the same thing for the same reason. it’s actually saved my butt a couple of times when someone has questioned something I did and I can flip to my notes and say, “Well, on December 11, when we met, we discussed taking X action.” People also know that if they need any refresher on something that was discussed, I’m the person to come to.

        2. irene adler*

          No idea if I’m ADHD or anything.
          Just found that the note-taking was a good way to keep focused. Nice to see I’m not the only one.

          It got a property management company into trouble (i.e. they lost our account) because the other HOA board members said they were not doing their job since I “had” to take notes as I did. Tried to explain…no one believed me.

    2. Lena Clare*

      Yes! I thought this too. It’s very possible they are connected. But the LW isn’t the boss so it’d be difficult to bring it up, unless it affected their productivity in some way.

  12. Anoncorporate*

    I’m not sure why LW1’s coworkers gave them a weird look in the first place – being scared of bees is very common! These things HAVE STINGERS. Either way, I think you can come clean to the nurse and they would understand.

    1. Airy*

      I think it depends on what their “panicked a little” looked like. Did they just flinch and give an exclamation like “Aah!” or did they leap away with a mighty shriek? Some reactions are more startling to witness than others and also people have different ideas about what is “a little” or will downplay it later if they’re embarrassed about how strongly they reacted.
      At least LW didn’t flee and knock a colleague into the road like that one dude with the bird phobia.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        At least they didn’t shove someone in the path of a car thereby breaking their arms, like the bird-phobic guy.

    2. Approval is optional*

      I wondered if the LW interpreted it as ‘weird’ because she was already feeling self-conscious about her reaction.
      I’d use Alison’s script with the nurse LW – as someone above said, she will almost certainly just be relieved not to have to worry about one more epi-pen user in the school. :)

      1. Susie Q*

        I wonder this too. If I am feeling self conscious, I tend to think that anyone’s reaction to me is negative when that’s really not the case. I’m betting OP’s co-worker just showed concern like “are you okay” because they were worried not judgmental.

    3. Lilo*

      Although I will note that sometimes a fear reaction to bees/wasps can be a self fulfilling prophecy. I have seen someone get badly stung trying to kill/swat wasps or panicking when nothing would have happened if they had left the thing alone. I garden and deliberately plant bee friendly plants (we all should, poor things need help) and the only times I had been stung the animal was just defending itself (like I accidentally stepped on one). That is what I have worked to teach my kid.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        The only two times I’ve been stung by bees I was literally not bothering them in any way. One landed on my toe at a pool and stung me, the other one FLEW INTO MY BATHROOM, across the room, landed on my lip, and stung me.

      2. ElspethGC*

        Bees are chill, wasps are not. I don’t freak out, but I don’t like them.

        I’ve been stung by both; the bee was my fault, it was on the tent door/flap and I didn’t see it and put my hand right on top of it and it stung my palm. The wasp? It landed on my wrist and I tried to get it off without annoying or hurting it – leaving it to fly away on its own, gently blowing on it, shaking my arm. After five minutes or so, during which time I didn’t touch it even once, it stung me then flew off.

        I welcome bees and bee-friendly plants, but I don’t like wasps. They apparently have a vendetta against the human race. I don’t panic or flap at them, but I do shy away if they come close. (Then again, I also do that with big flies. I just don’t really like things doing high-speed fly-bys of my face.)

    4. Bekx*

      I’m apiphobic and have used the ‘I’m allergic’ excuse before. People are really weird about phobias. They think you’re kidding. I’ve had people email me bee photos to be funny, or making buzzing sounds around me as a joke, or have given me weird looks when I panic/flinch/run when I see a bee, or have told me to get over it because it won’t harm me.

      But in the very few cases I’ve used I’m allergic, it’s been invaluable. My HOA immediately sprayed for wasps when they were GETTING INSIDE MY CONDO, whereas they are slow to react on other things. I guarantee if I had just said “I’m phobic” I wouldn’t have gotten sprayed until the annual spray three weeks later. So therefore I would have had to find an alternative place to live in the meantime for weeks. Not very feasible when you have a pet and no family or friends around the area.

      But I’m reading the comments about lying about allergies and taking that in. I don’t want to hurt anyone or diminish anyone with allergies and I will try to be more thoughtful about it in the future. It’s difficult when mental illness is so stigmatized, and in my experience and in my geographic location, people really do think phobias are a joke.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        Yup. I made that point upthread too. It’s amazing how little people respect things like phobias or food aversions, but those same people will instantly be the picture of understanding the moment you say you’re allergic. It sucks. I wish I didn’t have to choose between saying I’m allergic to something and being ridiculed for being a wuss. Or worse, as you have also experienced. Saying you’re allergic is often the path of least resistance and seems to magically turn off the “asshole switch” in a lot of people.

        Honestly I think it’s a symptom of a deeper problem. Yes, allergies are serious and I know my actions are not helping, but why is it still cool to be a complete jerk over an issue that *isn’t* an allergy?

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          You are very lucky if every one you’ve encountered has been the picture of understanding when you say you’re allergic!

          1. Dr. Pepper*

            No not everyone, but vastly fewer people are jerks if you say it’s an allergy over any other explanation.

        2. cheluzal*

          I’m scared of dogs, bordering on phobic. A tiny little fuzzball could walk by and I freeze and my heart rate increases. I’m working on it slowly, but it’s from a childhood dog attack.
          If I hear, “It’s okay–they won’t hurt you” one more time, I will scream. a) I have issues; b) I hate the germs of a strange dog touching or jumping on me. My go-to response now is: That’s not how phobias work. Only one apologized…the rest act like you’re a child killer…

      2. Agent J*

        Ugh, people can be such jerks. I understand that claiming to have an allergy when you don’t have one may diminish the experiences of those with allergies, but I think your experience is a good reason why people do. It’s a shame people have to use certain words before having their experiences be taken seriously.

        I think the context in which you claim the allergy is important. In your case, I think it worked out fine. But I can see other contexts where it could be frustrating. For example, I have a friend with celiac disease who truly cannot eat gluten without becoming severely ill. I can see how people claiming to have a gluten allergy when it’s truly a preference for a gluten-free diet can make those with celiac disease and others roll their eyes. But food can be a very personal, touchy subject (see peanut butter thread above).

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          I’m sorry, I don’t want to be a jerk, but I honestly don’t understand how claiming you have an allergy when what you do have is a phobia/sensitivity/etc is harmful to those with allergies, assuming that you legitimately avoid the thing you claim to be allergic to all the time. I get your example of people claiming to be allergic to, say, wheat, but then “oh, a beer is okay” is harmful as it’s boy-who-cried-wolf for that waiter/friend who might not be as sensitive to cross-contamination next time, but bees? Nobody LIKES to be stung by them, and the severity of allergies is a range- it’s not like there’s a one-size-fits-all What Bystanders Must Do protocol that might not be followed next time.

          1. Les G*

            Phobia is a medical term just like allergy. Lumping a phobia in with sensitivity (as opposed to allergy) actually *is* harmful to folks with phobias, I’m afraid (no pun intended there).

            1. TootsNYC*

              A sensitivity is a medical thing as well–no?

              I think if people want to use whatever label for themselves they’d like, we should all just respect it. Then maybe they’ll feel free to use a more accurate label.

              (and speaking as someone w/ celiac, I have NO issue with people who claim sensitivity to gluten without actually having it. People then are more attuned to the “there are people with REAL problems out there!” and I can say, “I have a REAL problem” and they believe me)

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                Thank you- you said it much more succinctly than I did. Essentially I don’t see the harm in people using the label that gets people to take them seriously, until such a time that they can be sure they will be taken seriously when using the correct one.

                1. bonkerballs*

                  Exactly. And I think when we get angry at people who use allergy when they really mean sensitivity, fear, really strong preference, whatever – we’re getting angry at the wrong people. The people who are in the wrong are the people who can’t respect consent and boundaries and are pushing people to mislabel themselves in order to be taken seriously.

    5. WellRed*

      Well, the LW also mentioned they are already self-conscious so they may have also, uh, read something into the coworker’s reaction that wasn’t there.

    6. Jennifer*

      I think she may have felt a bit silly and said the first thing that came to mind. I can relate, especially at that age. Now I would just laugh it off. A woman here just “panicked” because she saw a spider and freaked me out. I thought she was dying. We had a good laugh.

  13. FabTag*

    Wow Alison, I just read your post about the firm that plagiarized the cover letter you wrote. If you ever decide to go after them there’s a New York city based copyright law firm that works on spec, i.e. no cost to you unless they win. I found them in an article at Slate which may be enough to find them if you’re interested.

  14. MommyMD*

    Maybe you can just say you have a mild localized allergy to bee stings that doesn’t require an epipen. I’m worried they are going to think you are a liar or exaggerate and the nurse will tell others.

    1. J*

      Eh, I think for something this minor it’s fine to fess up. Unless this person had a history of exaggerating things, I wouldn’t think anything of it. And explaing that she’s actually just very afraid of bees would provide context. Sadly, I think we’ve all known people who had to tell a white lie like that because other people didn’t respect their fears.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      Those are super weird assumptions to make based on zero information. Most people understand that scared people do strange things when they’re scared. Is this not understood in the medical profession?

        1. Quackeen*

          No, because she’s a coworker and not a patient. It’s bad practice to tell others, but HIPAA doesn’t apply here.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            She isn’t asking for information as a coworker, though. She’s asking for this information in her capacity as a nurse (who may have to treat the OP if she gets stung). It sounds to me as though HIPAA would apply.

            1. Mary*

              Goodness, I’m pretty sure this would be covered in the UK. If the nurse is entitled to ask for medical information, then the colleague is clearly a patient and all the usual medical rights and responsibilities apply.

          2. WellRed*

            I think, though, that the nurse would still be bound by HIPAA. However, the best thing is for the letter writer to use Alison’s script is move on, lesson learned.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yeah, the nurse would be getting this information because of her role as a health care provider at the LW’s job, so I do believe HIPAA would apply.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        It probably should be – but I feel like school nurses just aren’t as used to thinking about confidentiality. They are used to discussing problems with the kids parents, the kids teachers and just in general being less used to discretion that other nurses would be. While my first thought was to just tell her you have a bad phobia, worry that the nurse would mention it to someone is making me lean towards say you have a bad local reaction but don’t need an epi.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I think most nurses nowadays get this hammered into them.

          But if you were worried, you could also say, “I’m trusting that you won’t talk about my medical information–either way–with other people.”

    3. TootsNYC*

      I think all you have to say is, “I’ve been ridiculed in the past for simply being afraid, so I’ve started telling people I’m allergic so they’ll leave me alone about it. I’m not actually allergic, but it shuts people up, so that’s what I say.”

    4. pancakes*

      As far as lies go, this one is just about as minor as minor gets—spontaneous, trivial, victimless, and easy to give a sincere and convincing apology for. I think they should explain exactly as Alison suggested.

  15. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    OP1, it’s perfectly possible to have an allergy to stings that doesn’t require an epi-pen! I’m allergic to wasp stings, and getting stung causes me serious pain, itching and almost comedy-levels of swelling (like the time I got stung on my hand and had to have my wedding ring cut off….!)

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yes, I said something like this below – I have a similar reaction and manage it with benadryl.

  16. nonegiven*

    If they require a higher internet speed than you pay for, how much of the difference do they pick up? If they require a separate network do they provide the router? If they require a soft phone do they provide the equipment?

    1. Miss Fisher*

      My company didn’t provide anything. Our work phones ring through to our cell phones, we had to supply own computer and make sure it has antivirus. That is about it because everything else is in the system we can log in to. We can’t print anything so no supplies needed there.

      1. Anonymity*

        Same! My employer has nearly a thousand employees, most of them work from home, and the only thing they provide are company laptops to the sales team and the handful of project managers who are constantly traveling because they need to work on the road. The hundreds of other teleworking employees provide their own everything.

  17. RG*

    Maybe I’m missing something about #3 – is it not possible for y’all to meet in a conference room? It seems odd to me that y’all would repeatedly hold hour long meetings in an office that you know doesn’t have enough seating.

    1. A. Schuyler*

      It doesn’t seem that odd to me, especially if it’s an informal internal meeting. Conference rooms are hard to book in our office, so we have weekly 30-45 minute meetings with 12+ people standing around the edges of a room that usually seats four.

  18. Jolie*

    Good food for thought on the CV versus cover letter topic!

    I work for a small charity that does work rights and employability advice; our service is entirely free to the users (we’re funded by small donations and a few grants from foundations). We do a lot of CVs (we write and format them together with the person, not on our own or we give feedback on CVs that people come to us). With cover letters, which we do more seldom, I do find the client does need to be a lot more hands-on while our role is pretty much step-by-step teaching (as in : look, this is what should be in each paragraph, this is how you could phrase your achievements), then proofreading and formatting for spelling /grammar / general expression. (Many of our users are immigrants with a decent, but not flawless standard of English, and we also signpost to ESOL classes a lot). We usually do a “basic template” based off one job they want to apply to and then explain to them how to modify and tailor it to the next job they apply for.

    A few points where there would be room for more nuance : a lot of the people we support work /look for fairly traditional working class skilled jobs, where writing is very much not a big part of what they are expected to do ; but being able to present their skills clearly, concisely and in good English still matters. In this situation I’m more Ok with doing a lot of hands-on cover letter editing / spoon-feeding to them “this is how you could phrase it” than in a very writing-heavy job (case in which I’d probably take more of the “you write it how you see fit and then I’ll give you feedback” approach).

    On some level I kind of also feel that a free service that reaches out to vulnerable people stuck in toxic /precarious /exploitative /sometimes black market jobs is at least a bit different from a for-profit service that generally middle class people pay for. Would love your thoughts on that!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I think what you’re doing is absolutely necessary.

      We have a woman living in our house, and she absolutely needs help in writing a resume. They’re needed even for the minimum wage and unskilled jobs that is her target, and she doesn’t have the skills to write that herself. She hasn’t worked outside the home for many years, and doesn’t remember when and where she did work. She needs help. And she is getting help. I’m glad it is available.

  19. Atheist Mom*

    Re letter 3: “The organization is not associated with religion or secularism in any way.”

    This might be a cultural thing, as I’m from the Netherland, but I would fully expect a secular organization to be the default. As in: unless they specifically state they have a religious nature, I’d assume them to be free of religion and thus secular.

    Also, doesn’t ‘not associated with religion’ make them secular?

    Can someone clear this up for me?

    1. Lena Clare*

      I wonder if the LW is wrongly associating secularism with atheism? Otherwise, it’s possibly a mis-writing and they just meant ‘not religious’ but were overly descriptive.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      I’m in the states, raised in the states, and expecting a secular organization to be the default is normal here too.

      The difference is that over here a lot of secular organizations (in the sense that the organization itself has no religious connections, affiliations, viewpoints or objectives) will have owners who are very religious and/or a majority of employees who are very religious, and who make religion a part of the work environment to an extent that other employees who don’t share their religious views are subtly driven out due to “culture fit.”

      This is super illegal here, but it’s still common enough that I’ve seen and experienced it multiple times.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        This unintentionally sounds more nefarious than it is.

        People here are generally religious, but companies and organizations are not religious unless they specifically self-identify as being religious. However, people who are very, very religious, to the point that they don’t feel comfortable working with people outside their religion, tend to work together—and that’s when it all goes to hell for anyone else who accidentally gets hired. They don’t mean to be assholes, they just can’t understand why other people don’t believe exactly the same things they do, and the constant interrogation takes a toll.

        1. Birch*

          Yeah, this. Even for people who are not super religious, in a lot of areas it just seeps into the culture. I had a supervisor once out of the blue tell me about “God’s plan for [me].” There was no way she could have known what religious affiliation, if any, I had, but she assumed I was Christian. It’s so, so common! I don’t think it always has such an extreme effect on other employees who don’t “fit” the culture, but it does alienate people when religion is an implicit part of the social aspect of work culture.

          1. Marthooh*

            “There was no way she could have known what religious affiliation, if any, I had…”

            Eh, no doubt God told her while He was explaining His plan for you.

          2. Ego Chamber*

            Oh, no doubt! I didn’t mean to imply it’s all the time/everywhere.

            I was actually kind of thinking of this burger franchise I worked at in high school: the owners were super-religious and talked about it constantly and invited people to “accept the Lord, repent, and avoid an afterlife of damnation and misery!” on the regular.

            Eventually, it was just all the people from their church working there. And stubborn, Atheist me. Then one of the managers accused me of stealing from the register. I quit right after they figured out it was actually the manager who accused me and he got fired.

    3. londonedit*

      I wondered that too. I understand it’s different in many parts of the US, but where I’m from it would be the default for a company to be ‘secular’ and/or have absolutely nothing to do with religion. The only organisations that might have something to do with religion would be faith schools, or charities with a religious history or affiliation, or maybe something like a publisher of religious books.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think it might be that it’s nonprofits? I think most of those are secular, too, but if you started out in, say Catholic Charities coordinating with some Jewish and Baptist charities, maybe it doesn’t seem that way?

      2. LJay*

        There are plenty of nominally secular businesses that have strong religious affiliations however.

        Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby come to mind. Neither of them sell religious items or have a religious mission, but both are strongly associated with Christianity due to the owners beliefs, and some of their business practices like closing on Sunday.

        B&H Photo is another one, associated with Judiasm. They are closed on Saturdays, take major Jewish holidays off, etc. But they don’t sell anything religious or have an explicitly religious mission.

    4. LGC*

      It is the default in the US! I think the LW was…a little inartful in their phrasing – they thought it was odd that they’d interview the week of Christmas, but might have been more understanding if the organization was non-Christian faith-based. Barring that, the standard in her sector is that organizations close the week of Christmas. (And this one was closed.)

      For what it’s worth, this doesn’t apply to all nonprofits! I work for one and we were open Christmas week (we closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). But that’s because our customers are open that week.

    5. Anon Atheist*

      I work for a ‘secular’ org that has no official religious affiliations and zero religious purpose.

      The org sends out Thanksgiving cards to clients with New Testament verses on them, distributes “holiday” hams to all employees and starts all employer-provided meals with a prayer referencing Jesus.

      None of this is made explicit prior to hiring, the default assumption is that everyone is a Christian of some stripe.

      We recently had a ‘secular’ employer of 32,000 employees who successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the owners’ religious beliefs regarding their employees’ healthcare should prevail over federal law.

      Funnily enough, I worked at a non-profit that actually had “Christian” in the original name, that made a point of being inclusive of all faiths and non-faiths and using non-denominational invocations.

      Assuming that a secular employer in the US will be “free of religion” is likely to be a losing bet. As long as an employer doesn’t blatantly and provably discriminate on the basis of religion, employers are free to pervade the workplace with their religion. We can’t even get our governments, federal, state and local, and schools to stop promoting Christianity over other beliefs despite the 200 year old Constitutional prohibition against that.

      1. Frozen Ginger*

        Okay the part that really gets me about your org is the ham part. Like, of all the meat products they went with pork…

  20. Ellen*

    CHECK WITH YOUR ISP, REGARDING HOME OFFICE USE! Mine doesn’t actually make any promises regarding services, and mostly shrugs thier shoulders if you try to get across any level of urgency. I’ve made more than one hurried trip to the local free wifi donut shop.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yes – unless you pay for business WiFi, “I need it for work” doesn’t get you any higher on the priority list if you’re having issues and in fact they’ll tell you flat out that home-rated Internet isn’t guaranteed to the same service level business-rated Internet packages are, that’s why the business packages are more expensive.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (Er. Business internet, not business WiFi.) That said, depending on your local internet provider quality, the home version might still be enough for you – I work remotely full time and my housemate does 3/5, and I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had internet hiccups in the last like two years, let alone any larger outages. We do pay for the unlimited option instead of Comcast’s normal terabyte monthly cap, but that’s because even aside from working, 3/4 of our house is into online gaming, we stream a lot of media, etc, so we would be in Comcast’s 1% anyway :)

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      And on that note, if your company provides a cell phone, clarify your data usage rules. In emergencies, either at home or traveling, I use my cell phone as a hotspot and that’s fine with my company. At my last company, that was very strongly discouraged.

    3. LW#5Sarah*

      Letter writer #5 here. I have since accepted my offer to work from home and am currently writing this from my home office. I work for a very small company and I was able to basically set up my office how I needed to. Our IT guy came out and made sure that my existing internet speed was sufficient for what I need it for. I am ready to upgrade to a business plan (on the company dime) if need be. I negotiated for the company to pay for 50% of my internet cost and had a separate phone line installed (I am responsible for answering the phone for the business).

      Something I left out of my letter is that the previous office is closed and we all now work from home. Not paying rent has saved the company significant money and I mentioned that when asking for certain expenses to be paid while setting up my office. The company purchased a desk, new phone, and a few other things. They have been very accommodating.

      So far, it’s been great. My new coworker has really bad breath because she is my dog.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        That’s awesome! Great job getting what you need.

        Unsolicited advice- don’t hesitate to invest in better mice, keyboards, chair, etc if you need it. I have found with working from home that I’m sitting a lot more, so replacing my chair with a nice ergonomic chair (found a used office supply company nearby so prices were reasonable) has made a huge difference. And the ergonomic keyboard/mice has really helped reduce strain.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Haha, I adopted my younger dog about 3 months after I started working from home full time; she still insists on climbing into my lap every morning and curling up so we can start working. Even though she is now 50 pounds with ten miles of legs. :) the older one is almost 11, we joke that she retired as Puppy Emeritus so she could keep her pillow in my office.

    4. zora*

      This is a good point. Our company provides an internet hotspot/MiFi to certain high-level employees who work from home, as a backup in case they have any problems with their home internet. Precisely because it is much more difficult to get immediate support for a home than it is when an actual office building’s internet goes down, and there are no IT people on site to help.

  21. Jane Matthews*

    Am I the only one who read #3 as crochet? I was like that is probably just a culture thing.

    1. Tight Hooker ;)*

      Was there a letter or question recently about knitting during conference calls? Maybe that memory leaked into your reading!

      1. stampysmom*

        I actually have crochet during late night server upgrade calls. I’m the PM not the Sys Admin doing the work but I need to be on the call. Since its at 3am (production website) I crochet to keep awake.
        I also work from home. Sometimes during a call where I’m not running the meeting/having to contribute, I clean my kitchen or do laundry. I find that if I sit in front of my work computer I get a work instant message or an email, get distracted by answering it, and then I miss portions of the meeting. I find a lot of people saying “sorry can you repeat that” a lot due to heavy workload and multi-tasking. However, when I’m cleaning up the kitchen or walking up and down the stairs, I’m fully listening and receptive to what’s happening on the call. I’m rather easily distracted unfortunately – SQUIRREL – so its a bit of a win/win. Paying attention and getting a clean kitchen.

        1. Jane Matthews*

          That makes so much sense! When I experienced it, it was at the yearly all-staff meeting after hours, in a darkened room, where all we had to do was listen. It probably helped them to listen and concentrate just like you :)

        2. TootsNYC*

          I think that would work for me as well!

          Cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry don’t take much mental bandwidth, so whatever else I’m focusing on can take my attention.
          (I used to make phone calls while I baked–the attention load was well balanced as well)

          And that reminds me of one of the reasons whistling has died out–when you were walking behind the plow, you had to be there physically but not mentally. So your attention (and your mouth) was free to practice whistling.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I used to knit during conference calls when I worked from home. It’s one of the biggest things I miss now that I’m in an office. Although I rarely have conference calls or meetings here at work, so that’s a nice plus!

      3. Jane Matthews*

        If there was a letter about that, I must have missed it. I think my mind immediately went to a temp job I had where about a 1/3 of the staff knitted during a staff meeting and my mind was blown, especially by a few who was standing up while knitting! While on the other hand I have never seen anyone crouching at a meeting :)

  22. SherSher*

    Some bee sting allergies are minor. Just tell them it doesn’t rise to the level of an epic-pen, just localized swelling. Unless you work for a parks system, I can’t imagine this is necessary anyway!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m slightly confused. You’re saying only an outside parks job is cause to keep a bee sting allergy plan in place?? No. No. No! I’ve been stung many times inside. I’m not allergic but it sure stinks for a little while. You should be prepared no matter what. It’s part of being required to have first aid available.

  23. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    #5: I’ve been fully remote for almost five years. My org provides me a computer and software (with two monitors, keyboard and mouse, and headset for my software-based office phone) and that’s it. I am expected to provide my own hardwired high speed internet, any office supplies I feel necessary, and my own desk setup (and required to have a fire extinguisher in the room). We are actually not allowed to connect a printer to work computers unless we are onsite – I work for a hospital, so no printing out patient documents if you’re not onsite with the big shred bins. (In five years I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually needed to print anything, and I think the total of office supplies I’ve “needed” is like two pads of post it notes, a couple of pens and a dry erase board. We are truly a paperless department.)

    1. Lexi Kate*

      I have been fully remote for going on 3 years we are a large fortune 300 company, I am a midlevel director and have 2 remote teams. My teams and I are am provided the same things to work at home: a highspeed internet business line, a Skype phone line through my computer, a standard headset, and a laptop anything else is at my/our expense not the companies expense. Keep in mind anything the company provides they can check up on and keep track of. So last year my husband was Nerding out and while our home internet was being switched over to fiber he used my business line to support his scanners online for his scanner hobby and within 24 hours I got a call from IT wanting to know why I was using so much bandwidth.

    2. LW#5Sarah*

      Thanks for the info. I’ve since accepted the offer to work from home and so far it’s been great. The company has agreed to purchase for me or reimburse me for purchases for anything office related. I work for a very small company and have the kind of role where I do a little bit of everything- and they have been incredibly generous.

  24. Bookworm*

    LW4: It may have been just easier for the interviewer at the time (like they expected post-Christmas to be very busy or would be away) to interview during Christmas week. I know someone who started at my org recently who has scheduled a trip now (as in, right after the new year) due to scheduling/she didn’t know if she would have a new job when she booked her trip.

    It could certainly be worth keeping in mind if you get to the interview stage regarding the org’s culture but as of now it might just been a scheduling thing. Good luck!

  25. Dani_in_the_PM*

    It’s genuinely fascinating how LW4 phrased this. When a similar situation happened to a friend, she said, “they wanted to interview me on a week the company is closed,” and the focus was there. Implying, “they’re not a Jewish organization so OF COURSE everyone would celebrate Christmas,” is very odd.

      1. Nonsensical*

        It is not an unfair assumption to make in the US, even if they aren’t Christian, many people do celebrate Christmas secular.

    1. LizB*

      I was thinking the same thing about letter 4. It read to me as, this company doesn’t have any explicit reason to not celebrate Christmas, therefore they must celebrate it because everyone does. Which is definitely a pervasive view in the US, but I’d really like it to be less pervasive. (Hope you get the job, though, LW4!)

      1. LW4*

        I can understand this interpretation, but I had always assumed that it would be general family time off in industries that don’t 100 need to be operating during that time of year, even for people who don’t celebrate Christmas, just because there are a lot of people who celebrate secularly or go home to their families during that period. For instance, my mom has a Hindu coworker who (with her husband) flew to India to be with her in-laws during Christmas week.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          You’re missing the part where your mom’s Hindu coworker went to India during Xmas week because she works in teaching and has that time off. It doesn’t prove Xmas time is family time, it’s just incidental to the nature of Christian holidays being recognized in the states like they’re special or something.

          I’m an Atheist, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to turn down a free day off if one’s given to me.

  26. Susie Q*

    LW4: I would actually prefer an interview over Christmas week. I already take the time off so I wouldn’t have to use more leave to interview. Most places are slower so I could theoretically spend more time in my interview, ask more questions, etc. without the interviewer being rushed. Plus I always look forward to a little break from my family.

    1. Emilitron*

      Yes, I was just thinking of all the letters about how to interview so their current employer doesn’t know they’re looking, and how convenient it would be to schedule an interview during a time when my current office, though open, is mostly absent and nobody would question taking time off. It would be an interesting look at the company during a down time; and I’d definitely have questions for them about holiday and vacation policies. The main down side in my opinion would be if I could only really talk to the hiring manager because the rest of the team was mostly absent.

    2. Arctic*

      Right but on the flip side, if you don’t already have scheduled time off that’s the worst time of the year to ask for it last minute. Even just a couple of hours.
      I was asked to interview on the day after Thanksgiving once. I didn’t mind in theory but I was supposed to be one of the only people in in my department. I couldn’t just leave for an hour or more.

    3. whistle*

      Also, if you really need a job, the time around Christmas and New Year’s is the WORST. You know your job hunt is going no where, you have no ability to buy presents or go out and spend money, and all your loved ones are asking you about your job search. It’s totally demoralizing. Most people in that position would love to have an interview scheduled during that time!

    4. TootsNYC*

      yes! If I were hiring, and my company was open during that week, I absolutely would rev up my “get them in for an interview” efforts for that week, because I would hope that it might be easier for people to come for an interview (if they’re in town) without having to ask for time off.

      Or easier to camouflage the time off–if their company lets out at 2pm on New Year’s Eve, I can stay an extra hour or two so they can come to an interview with me. Or they might find it easier to talk their boss into letting them leave at 1 without giving an inkling that they’re interviewing.

      If they’re out of town or the holiday schedule means they can’t ask for the time off, no problem–but it might be advantageous to them, so why not?
      Not being able to interview in the week immediately after I call you is not something that makes me put a black mark against you. If anything, I’d be more understanding of it during that week!

  27. Lexi Kate*

    #4 I don’t think its odd to interview during Christmas week, a lot of businesses don’t/can’t close for the full week.
    Also during the holiday the people who do work during that week use it to get the things done they don’t usually get to when the office is packed and outside clients are calling in. Christmas Eve was my favorite work day of the year until I had kids, the office was a ghost town, no line at Starbucks, my email barely dinged, and my phone at the office never rang not once all day.

    From my point of view I do think its a red flag for them on you that you would add a birthday to days you don’t want to interview, for me it would come off as your not as interested in this position.

    1. Fergus*

      I go away for my birthday that is the week I take vacation, but that is in June so I am away., usually gone 4-7 days so I wouldn’t be interviewing either

      1. Scarlet*

        I think saying you cannot interview because of a trip you’ve already booked comes across quite differently than saying you can’t interview because it’s your birthday. The former would sound perfectly normal to me, but the latter would give me pause, to be honest.

        1. puppies*

          I would probably prefer not to interview on my birthday (depending on how I was spending the day), but I wouldn’t explicitly tell a company that (TMI). I would just say that day didn’t work for me.

          1. TootsNYC*


            We don’t know if the OP said, “Not the 28th because it’s my birthday,” or just said, “Not the 28th” and mentally thought, “It’s my birthday.”

            Even if she’d said, “Not the 28th–it’s my birthday and I have plans that day,” that wouldn’t be a red flag to me. It’s that she has plans, and the birthday is the occasion.

            1. LW4*

              I did actually have plans! I should’ve specified that in the letter above. Ironically, though, my plan, which was to take a day trip out of state, ended up getting moved to a New Year’s trip instead. In the email where I responded to the interviewer, though, I *did* specifically say that I would be out of town; it wasn’t as though I just said “and I won’t be available on that day either,” with no explanation.

        2. wafflesfriendswork*

          I didn’t think there was anything to suggest she explicitly said it was her birthday, just that she said she had no availability that day and was explaining to us that it was her birthday.

      2. Lexi Kate*

        I take the friday of my birthday week off for a birthday weekend, I don’t see anything wrong with taking your birthday off from work. I think it looks bad to not be willing to interview because its your birthday.

  28. pop*

    Seriously, sitting too much is the new smoking. If you sit all day in a desk chair, it’s ridiculous to think that someone standing for half of an internal meeting is unprofessional.

    Let people be. He may have had a DVT in the past, back issues, or just needs a break from sitting.

    The things people comment on as unprofessional is ridiculous sometimes.

    1. Alldogsarepuppies*

      yep, my doctor wants me to utilize my standing desk option for at least an hour a day to avoid DVT, if it was a time when i was in a meeting where half the people had to stand anyway, i’d def use it. and crouch….I know some culutures have squats be a natural position to hand out in, so there could be shades of that too.

  29. Snow Drift*

    #1 I get that this isn’t your issue, LW, but I do NOT understand the “keeping the Epi Pen at the nurse” thing. I’ve worked in a lot of schools (subbing throughout 10+ districts), and all of them have classrooms that are significantly far from the nurse’s office, even if you’re lucky and the halls are clear. If it’s passing time between classes, forget it. You’re looking at upwards of five minutes to fight your way through the traffic. The need for an Epi Pen is often extremely urgent. If I still worked in education and I was expected to keep my (or my child’s) emergency medication far away like that, I would push back very hard. I’m not going to drop dead because you “have a policy”.

    1. sometimeswhy*

      And the nurse might only be in 15 hours a week. It’s a mess.

      But sometimes your options really are (1) store it at the nurse’s office (2) carry it anyway and risk being expelled for violating their zero-tolerance drug and weapon policy (3) send your kid to private school. We’ve had deaths in our district where there were students whose families couldn’t pursue option 3 and they STILL won’t budge their “policy.” Pointing to the actual human cost hasn’t made a lick of difference.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I’m very surprised that the school district hasn’t been charged with murder then. Because that’s essentially what that is – murder by policy.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          I don’t know whst surprises me more: that they haven’t been charged with murdet or that none of the parents have sued them for wrongul death.

  30. JumpyJess*

    “When people are annoying in one way, anything else they do that’s even mildly annoying can start feeling more frustrating.”

    The office equivalent of the infamous “B*tch Eating Crackers” meme!

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Nope, it’s just called “b!tch eating crackers” in offices too (or “BEC” if your office is like my office). It gets mentioned in the comments here a lot actually.

  31. Resumegirl*

    I don’t think all services are bad for writing resumes. I used one that came highly recommended. After she put my resume together I got 2x the amount of calls for interviews than I did before. She had a fresh take on my resume I had for several years. Rearranged the way stuff was written and formatted the resume. I realize this may not be the norm. But sometimes they can workin your favor!

  32. Armchair Analyst*

    Re #2. My resume coach/writer was $125/hour and the # of hours was based on the 3 hours that we spent together over 2 sessions. It was a factual representation of me, just written better. I feel very grateful and have recommended her to others!

  33. Ms. Non-Emergency Itchy Swollen Rash*

    Re: bees: FWIW, not all allergies are anaphylactic. Some present as rashes, itchiness, rhinitis, swelling, etc. I understand why the school nurse requested your epi-pen and response information, as a precaution, but it’s a bit presumptuous. So hopefully being honest and taking things down a notch will not present any difficulty. Because it really didn’t need to go to 11 in the first place. Good luck!

  34. CommanderBanana*

    RE: the standing and crouching, maybe he’s got back problems? I’m recovering from a back injury and when it was really bad, sitting was agony because of nerve pain down one leg, so I had to stand.

    1. Zona the Great*

      I stand when I’m bored or about to fall asleep. Or for no reason. Let people be and try to compartmentalize what annoys you from other innocuous actions people do.

  35. learnedthehardway*

    LP4 – I would not worry at all about the company culture wrt interviewing in Christmas week. A lot of businesses are open during the holidays. Sometimes, it’s the only time you can get the hiring team together in one place.

    We had interviews for a couple positions happen on Christmas Eve – we were fully prepared to not interview until the new year, but it turned out that the candidates were available. One was fine to interview on her way to the airport for a flight in the afternoon. I thought that was pretty amazing, but she was concerned that she wouldn’t be back until after Jan 10th.

    Like Allison said, if the company gives you a hard time about not being available yourself to interview over the holidays, THAT is a sign that the company has issues.

  36. ThatGirl*

    I will say (forgive me if this is repetitive at all), I have a mild allergy to bee stings – it’s a local reaction (site gets puffy, itchy and painful) rather than anaphylactic – so it may be too late but you could say that instead as a little white lie. I definitely try to avoid bees and I am wary of it getting worse, but so far in the three stings I’ve had it’s mostly been annoying.

  37. Jennifer*

    A bit confused by LW3, but I think Alison’s advice is spot on. I think the LW is just super aggravated by this guy’s poor work performance and is at the point where EVERYTHING he does rubs her the wrong way. His gender and the boss’s gender really have nothing to do with the issue. I know a lot of people who prefer standing at least part of the time at work for a variety of reasons.

    LW4 Our firm stays open that week too. Usually we just close Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. This year we got Christmas Eve off. It was annoying to have to work New Year’s Eve, which was a Monday, then be off on New Year’s, but what can you do? It didn’t seem worth using a PTO day.

  38. Michaela Westen*

    #3 reminds me of two execs I worked for early in my career. Both had attitudes of “I don’t need to take notes, I remember everything!”
    Both were wrong about that, and their managers spent significant time refreshing their memories.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Me too! It says so much… they don’t have realistic expectations of themselves, and don’t understand their limitations.

        1. Jennifer*

          I cringe even when a server says it at a restaurant. I’m always thinking, “get prepared for our orders to be wrong.”

    1. hbc*

      “I remember everything” is highly correlated with “No one told me that” or “I never got that email.” They absolutely believe it’s true, but they’re still wrong.

  39. puppies*

    Religious organizations still hire people outside the religion to work there. I have several non-Jewish friends who have worked for Jewish organizations (not at all a pre-requisite to being hired) and they still got Christmas off.

  40. CupcakeCounter*

    Interviews during Christmas week are completely normal. I had several that week since I was a December grad – its usually really easy for the hiring manager since there isn’t a lot going on at that time (lots of people out, business usually slow, etc…)
    A Christmas week interview when the business is closed that whole week is a little odd though but I would adjust your expectations that all business close that week. They really, really don’t.

  41. Observer*

    #4 – Two things struck me about your letter. Firstly, that you assume that in the non-profit sector the time from 12/24 – 1/1 is seen as “time off for all”. That’s just not true. It’s true for a lot of schools and a lot of school based programs, but that’s it. I’m not saying that no non-profits close down during that period. I *am* saying that at least in areas like NYC it is not standard.

    Secondly, while I understand why you wouldn’t want to be worrying about how your interview went on your birthday or New Years, expecting an interviewer to take that into account is really totally unrealistic. I mean, in terms of your birthday, it’s totally something you can’t even expect the interviewer to have ANY thought about. But even regarding the actual generally recognized holidays, you simply cannot expect a company to worry about this.

    The fact that you consider this a potential red flag says that you may need to really reset your expectations of what’s normal, expected and reasonable for an employer.

    1. coffee addict*

      Wow, your comment is a little harsh. If I was in LW4’s shoes, I probably would have had some of the same thoughts. Every single office I’ve ever worked in, as well as the offices of both my parents and most of my friends, have generally considered the week between Christmas and New Year’s as “time off.” At the minimum, it’s considered a week where pretty much nobody works. Give the LW the benefit of the doubt, that in their experience, it’s pretty common that most people take that week off or that very little gets done during that time.

      As to them not having an interview on their birthday, what’s wrong with that? It didn’t seem to me like they were offended that their birthday was offered as the date of a potential interview, just that they would prefer to interview on a different day.

      They had a question about what’s considered “normal” in other people’s experience, and they asked it. There’s nothing wrong about that and nothing in their letter led me to believe that they needed to reset their expectations. They weren’t complaining, they weren’t whining, they were simply curious as to if this was normal. As it turns out, it is. That’s ok, that’s what a Q&A website like this is for.

  42. Jennifer*

    Sidenote – There are a lot of letters on this site from people who are used to not working the week of Christmas or New Year’s. I’ve never worked anywhere that closed that entire week. I wonder if it’s mostly people fresh out of school who are used to having that time off.

    1. TootsNYC*

      For the last 10 years or so, I’ve worked at places that closed this week, and where a lot of office jobs are closed that week.

      But earlier in my career, this did NOT happen. Not at my companies, and not at other companies I heard about.

      I wonder if it’s less that they’re used to school, and more that they’ve entered the workforce somewhat recently.

    2. TeacherNerd*

      Might depend on the type of career they have. Some offices are more flexible. And some of us actually work in education so we DO tend to close. :-) Since workplace culture can vary so widely, it can really be difficult to know which offices will remain open or close, or which will be flexible. (While I work in education, both K-12 and higher ed, my husband works for an airline that allows some flexibility in terms of office closure so mileage really can vary.)

    3. periwinkle*

      It just depends on the organization, it seems. I’ve now worked for two companies which shut down for the week, and while I don’t consider it a major perk which would attract or retain me, it’s nice.

      My husband and I both work for Fortune 50 companies; I had the week off, he only had Christmas and New Year’s Day. On the other hand, our full week is in lieu of, rather than in addition to, holidays such as MLK Day.

    4. LW4*

      Ha, it’s a combination of being fresh-ish out of school and of having worked for organizations before that do close during Christmas week, in some cases plus another week as well!

    5. pancakes*

      I don’t think so, I think it probably varies regionally / locally and by industry. FWIW I graduated from college in 1997 & law school in 2004. I have occasionally worked that week, when very busy, but the office has always been very sparsely populated that week—lots & lots of people are off &/or out of town.

    6. Star Nursery*

      Most my jobs have not been closed more then on Christmas day and New year’s day. However I work now at an Accounting firm and they are closed all week of 12/24.

  43. TootsNYC*

    most of the options that week would have left me either preparing for my interview on one of those holiday days, or worrying about how my interview went and the potential outcome while trying to celebrate them.

    This, especially the bolded, struck me negatively.

    I can understand that indeed this might be the case for some people–that they’d have trouble setting aside the interview, mentally. But I don’t think anybody else should have to accommodate that in any way.

    Welcome to the world!

    1. LW4*

      See, this is why I wrote in my letter that I was concerned about having been spoiled, LOL. I get your point completely. I know that’s not something for the interviewer to stress about in general; I just thought that given the whole surrounding circumstances (holidays are a busy and/or sacred time of the year depending on how you celebrate them), that perhaps it might be a little odd? But that’s it.

  44. GrandBargain*

    #3. I have hip and IT band issues on my right side. Even though I can do lots of physical things (bike, hike, elliptical) easily, standing still just hurts like hell. In less than a minute, I will be bending over, stretching my back, and shifting from side to side. Crouching down is one position that can help a lot. Sitting on the floor is good too, but that might be even more problematic in a professional setting. Sitting in a chair is the best.

    If that were me, I would just make sure to bring a chair.

  45. WFH Mom*

    #5 – As a full-time remote employee, I agree with Alison’s advice, but will add that the culture of the company will come into play. Alison’s scripts will work well, but expect to get to know what’s acceptable at the company before asking for the world.

    Current Job is full time remote, and my company provides a laptop (I travel to visit clients) and monitor. I will occasionally ask for reimbursement for things like a headset for web conferences, or minor things, but for the most part I don’t really bother asking. For me, the trade off has been my ability to live in a low cost city since the office is in NYC, and not commuting into an office has been a huge cost-saver. Even for a person who drives a fuel-efficient vehicle and does not have a habit of eating out. My company also provides a monthly partial reimbursement for mobile phone and internet. I’m quite happy with the arrangement.

    OldJob offered full time remote work for employees who did not live within commutable distance of an office. Company provided hardware (laptop, monitor, printer) and mobile phone, but did not reimburse internet. This was a company that preferred employees in-office and the general attitude towards telecommuting was that it was a privilege. At CurrentJob, majority of staff are full-time remote so attitudes are more favorable towards it.

  46. still recovering from the last week of 2018*

    ” I’m used to that time of year being seen in the nonprofit world as time off for everyone.” <– I heard somebody else say this recently, and it really mystified me, as someone with decades of experience with various non-profits.

    Non-profits that provide services typically do so 365 days a year. We don't shut down domestic violence hotlines or stop feeding the animals at the shelter (or shut down the homeless shelter or stop cooking up soup for hungry families) during the holiday season! And, of course, in the Northern hemisphere, the holidays fall during winter, when many weather-related emergencies occur and demand for services of many kinds is highest. Holidays are also high volume times for domestic violence, suicide, and overall demand for mental health services.

    In addition, the end of the year is the time when the preponderance of donations come in, and a non-profit would be seriously remiss to quit sending out newsletters or social media posts during the all-important week between Christmas and New Year. And so, my experience has always been that the holidays are the *most* busy time of the year, with that last week the busiest of all, because then you have to be doing all of your year-end fundraising and thanking while still doing the work itself, which may be heavier than usual too.

    So… where does this idea of non-profit folks kicking back over the winter holidays come from?

    1. LW4*

      Mostly from working in theaters whose active seasons are only during the summer and early fall, LOL. I should’ve clarified, but didn’t for the sake of anonymity – – I mostly meant arts and education nonprofits. I definitely didn’t mean domestic violence organizations or things like that, who, by nature, are essential year-round. For what it’s worth, the theatre I worked for over the summer is closed from mid-December through New Year’s.

      1. Nasturtium*

        Non-profit accountant for an arts organization here–I am also still recovering from the end of 2018. November and December are when the majority of donations come in, and a lot of people seem determined to get their donation in at the last possible moment before the new year comes in. The end of the year is crunch time (and overtime), not vacation time. So it isn’t really industry-specific, either.

  47. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – no it’s not a red flag to be interviewed during Christmas week. Not at all, most businesses operate then.

    More of a red flag = being asked to interview at 10 o’clock at night, or if you get an HR call at 11 pm.

    Now THAT’S a RED FLAG.

  48. Not A Morning Person*

    TL,DR. Regarding allergies, I’m confused by so many of the comments that seem to assume that an allergy means death or something similarly serious vs. a painful and/or damaging reaction. Sickness and/or death may be the consequence for someone who has that serious of an allergic reaction, but I’ve never heard it assumed that you must not have an allergy unless the consequences are so dire. That’s not in the definition of an allergy and not all allergic reactions are deadly. My sibling and I both have allergies. I’m allergic to dust, and it won’t kill me to be exposed to it, just make me stuffy headed, sleepy, congested, and miserable. I might want to die rather than feel that way all the time (thank you to my allergy medication), but the allergy won’t kill me. On the other hand, my sibling is allergic to bee and wasp stings and could die without treatment. Again, we both have allergies. We have differing levels of responses to our particular allergies. I think it should be fine for the OP to say to the nurse that the allergy is not a life-threatening allergy and that no particular precautions need to be taken.

  49. Recovering Journalist...*

    I am a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and I felt compelled to comment on the issue of resume writing services from my point of view.
    In my humble opinion, the CPRW certification is a bit dodgy but unfortunately it is a bit necessary for me to get any kind of work in the resume writing industry. (I’ve been a freelance writer/editor for many years and it’s very tough to get work in other writing arenas these days.) The CPRW certification is the easiest and cheapest to get. It mainly involves taking some written tests and creating a resume package based on information given you. I passed mine the first time and simply paid each year to renew.
    As to pricing, I’ve found prices all over the board — I’ve seen as low as $20 per resume from a really low-rated “resume mill” that burns through writers at an laughable pace. For all the work involved, writers make well below U.S. minimum wage. I know somebody in the next Midwestern town over from me who charges over $1000. She claims to be an industry leader but her arrogance in real life puts me off.
    As for me, while I take my own clients I mainly subcontract, earning about $100 per resume.
    As to my clients, I have consistently been told that I’ve helped them get interviews because I uncover accomplishments and present them in a compelling manner to potential employers. Some people truly cannot write. Some truly don’t know how to think about their accomplishments. Some truly do not have the time to do the work themselves — they’re still working.
    I refuse to overcharge (like my acquaintance does). I think my average charge of $100 is fair for the work I do and the speed I can do it. (Journalism has taught me to write fast and to edit well.) I recognize that my clients are coming to me in stressful situation and I feel honored to help them take the next step in their careers and to get jobs that put food on the table.
    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  50. Pomona Sprout*

    “People who love peanut butter cannot conceive of someone who is revolted by the very smell.”

    Actually, you could change this to “People who love [fill in the blank with the name of any random food] cannot conceive of someone who is revolted by the very smell.”

    As a charter member of the Very Picky Eaters Club, I can attest that there are many foods that snell about as appetizing as a toxic waste dump to me that others find delicious, and (they tell me) “If you’d just try it, you’d love it, too!”

    To whch I reply: “Yeah, NO. And as much as you may think I’m a freak for not looooving whatever it is you love, I quit letting people browbeat me into eating foods I hate shortly after attaining the status of adulthood, and I’m not about to go back now.”

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      This totally posted in the wrong place Sorry!

      I am now going to copy the content and paste it in thr thread where it belongs.

  51. Lynn 744181*

    I would also want a defined time frame I am to be available. Some companies assume when you work from home, you are available 24/7.

  52. Cat mom*

    I am allergic to bees and carry an Epi-Pen. I have no allergy plan other than “carry a current Epi-Pen and teach your team how to use it if working outdoors.” It’s possible for someone to have a strong reaction to stings (the reaction to which can vary by insect) without a full episode of anaphylactic shock with the result that medical people may warn you to be cautious about stinging insects in the future as the sensitivity can build to a stronger reaction.

    If your fear is from a painful and difficult but not life-threatening previous incident, a medical person might advise you to pay close attention and possibly suggest an Epi-Pen in the future. My earliest reactions were atypical, such as a sting on the leg causing a hard raised welt the size of a dinner plate and became increasingly severe over time.

    Check with a professional if you have strong concerns.

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