my team won’t accommodate my allergy, coworker brings in homemade food and hides it from management, and more

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

1. My team keeps holding lunches at a restaurant that doesn’t accommodate my allergy

I have a peanut allergy that isn’t life-threatening, but is severe enough to put me completely out of commission for the rest of the day if I accidentally consume peanuts. I work on a team where organized group lunches are a regular occurrence (every few weeks). A certain restaurant gets chosen for this repeatedly because it is close to the office, can easily accommodate a large group, and has something for the vegan, vegetarian, gluten intolerant, and lactose intolerant members of the team. It was also the source of the first peanut reaction I’ve had since childhood (from a dish that was supposed to be peanut-free). As a result of that reaction, I’m no longer comfortable eating at that restaurant.

I’ve asked the person who usually plans the lunches to choose other restaurants. Thet said they understood why I wasn’t comfortable there but that the restaurant worked well because of the reasons mentioned above. We brainstormed some other restaurants and we went to one of those for the next lunch. The time after, however, we went back to the first restaurant and it continues to get chosen most of the time. When I talked to the person again, they said it’s more difficult to go other places because we have to make a reservation to accommodate a large group (the first restaurant doesn’t require this) so we have to plan further in advance.

I’m not asking the team to never go back to that restaurant, but I’m feeling excluded when 80% of the team lunches are at a restaurant where I’m not comfortable eating. Am I being unreasonable for wanting to go to other restaurants more often? This is not the only restaurant in town that accommodates everyone else’s dietary needs. When the team does go to a restaurant I’m not comfortable with, how do I avoid the appearance that I’m being antisocial or don’t want to hang out with the team?

Due to coronavirus, we’re not currently having team lunches, but since I’ve got a long way to go until retirement, this is a situation I’m likely to face again so any insight would be appreciated.

You’re not being unreasonable. There are other restaurants that would work for everyone, but they require advance reservations? Then the solution is to make advance reservations. Go back to that person and ask if they can start doing that “so that I’m not excluded from team lunches.” If that doesn’t work and they’re in an admin/support type role where they won’t be the final word on this, talk to someone above them. It’s very possible that the person organizing the lunches is picking what’s easiest for them, but that someone above them will put a higher priority on ensuring the full team can attend.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Coworker is still providing homemade food for the office — and hiding it from our management

My coworkers and I are having a debate regarding the behavior of an employee in an adjacent department. This person is very opinionated and can be pompous, but overall they are competent at their job and not unbearable. This person also has a habit of bringing in homemade food to share with the office. I thought this would stop during the pandemic but it has not. They brought in a dish during the first week of reduced operations and they became very defensive when someone pointed out that this wasn’t the best idea. This person insisted that they were clean and they didn’t have the virus since they had been tested a week ago and the results were negative. Their supervisor was asked to weigh in and the dish was later removed from the kitchen.

Since then, the employee has brought in baked goods at least twice, only now they go around offering it privately to each employee and they put it away when a manager is present. The debate my colleagues and I have is this: should we escalate this and have upper management weigh in or do we stay out of it and let everyone make their own decision to partake or not?

For what it’s worth, both the CDC and the FDA say there’s currently no evidence of the virus being transmitted through food — although it’s quite understandable that people would be wary anyway, particularly with food prepared by a home cook rather than by food professionals following cleanliness and food safety regulations.

What I’m more bothered by is your coworker being sneaky about this — only offering the food when a manager isn’t present, and hiding it when they are. If their manager asked them to stop and they’re doing it anyway while deliberately hiding it, that’s a real problem, totally aside from the question of how much risk this poses. If it weren’t for that, I’d say to stay out of it and let your coworkers make their own decisions … but someone deliberately ignoring safety instructions and trying to hide it from their management is a pretty messed up thing, and that pushes me over to thinking you should say something. Frame it as, “My impression is that they’re deliberately hiding this from managers, so I was uneasy not flagging it.”

3. People think I don’t work when I say I’m a freelance artist

I’m an artist and permalancer for a large, household name company — let’s call it Chocolate Teapots Ltd. — doing 40-60 hours of work a week for them on some really cool brands. I recently hit the two years experience mark and decided it was time to get a bigger variety of clients instead of putting all my eggs in one basket. Pre-COVID, I went to networking and social events to meet new people and float my name around.

The problem is that everyone I’ve talked to, from entrepreneurs to Tinder dates and even other artists, hears “freelance artist” and immediately thinks “unemployed.” I can see the very visible shift in their demeanor and tone after I say I’m a freelancer. One person I met at an event actually laughed out loud and said, “Sorry, It’s just hard to take that seriously.” I end up going on this defensive, bumbling tirade of, “Well, I’m basically full-time at Chocolate Teapots. No, I’m not actually employed there. Seriously though, I make plenty of money, ha-ha. I worked on the Dragon and Fire Teapot lines. Yeah, I think they’re cool too.”

I yo-yo between feeling like I’m not advocating for myself to feeling like I’m bragging just to prove I’m a legitimate artist. It doesn’t help that I’m 24 and look like I’m 16, either. At first, I tried just saying “I work for Chocolate Teapots,” but that didn’t feel entirely honest and the whole freelance thing would inevitably come up later in the conversation anyway. Do you have any ideas for how to better handle my introduction once COVID dies down and I can put myself out there again?

You work 40+ hours a week for Chocolate Teapots; the specifics of whether you’re paid as an employee or a freelancer aren’t anyone’s business. It’s fine to just say, “I’m an artist for Chocolate Teapots.” If they say, “Wow, as your full-time job?” it’s perfectly honest for you to say yes — you’ve been giving them full-time hours for two years. You don’t need to explain to anyone exactly how your employment is structured. The salient fact is that this is what you do with the majority of your (numerous) working hours.

But since it sounds like you also want people to know you’re available for freelance work, you could say, “I’m an artist, mostly for Chocolate Teapots but also for brands like X and Y.” Or, “I do design work full-time for Chocolate Teapots, but I sometimes take on other projects as well.” Or just, “I do art for brands like X and Y.”

You can leave “freelancer” out of it entirely. Just talk about what you do and who you do it for.

4. How to announce my layoff on social media

I’m trying to figure out language to announce on Facebook/Linked In that I’ve been laid off and am looking for new opportunities. Everything I’ve come up with so far seem too negative and I feel like I’m greatly overthinking it, especially when this is (unfortunately) common nowadays. Do you have any scripts I can borrow?

Be matter-of-fact! And offer your own help too if you can. For example: “I’m one of the many people who have been laid off during the pandemic, and I’m looking for roles doing X. I’d love to talk with anyone hiring for X or who has suggestions for X right now. I’d be glad to connect people with my own network too, if there’s anything I can do to help others.”

5. When should I mention the weeks off I’ll need for grad school?

I have a question about the interview process. During my job search, I got into grad school. It’s a two-year program that’s online, except for a three week intensive on-campus each summer. Should I mention this in the interview process? The first intensive is over a year away at this point and I’m worried about being pushed out of the running if I need three weeks either completely off or working remotely (if that’s possible).

Wait until you get a job offer and see if you can negotiate it at that point. At that stage, they’ll have already decided they want to hire you and will be more likely to negotiate an agreement around it — and if they won’t, you can decide if the rest of the offer is appealing enough to trump your program.

Also, if your education would benefit them, try to negotiate the time off as a separate thing from your normal PTO allotment. You don’t want the answer to be “yes, but that will use up your vacation time for the year.”

But do negotiate it before you accept the job, so that you aren’t springing it on them after you start (and possibly being told they can’t accommodate it).

{ 560 comments… read them below }

  1. many bells down*

    I just can’t with the first one who’s willing to accommodate EVERY OTHER food need/preference but not the ALLERGY. That’s gotta feel really personal.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I’m guessing that one peanut allergy is easier to ignore than the vegans/gluten-free/every other issue for these people. Still sucks, though. But what’s so terrible about making a reservation for a large crowd? I’d like to know ahead of time if I have to bring lunch or am getting it free today anyway.

      I have friends with food allergies and I don’t think it’s something that comes up as a problem in any of their jobs, but none of them do office work and in An Office, yeah, it can be an issue. My office hasn’t been super great at figuring out food for vegans, though around Christmas I guess at least some of the catered food was vegan so it worked out.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        I have anaphylaxis to nuts and sea fish.

        I trust no restaurant. My reactions came after I called and talked to the restaurant chef/prep help and still wound up in the ER with 3 IVs in my arm. They used a wiped knife that had chopped up shrimp.

        I don’t wine and dine clients. I don’t travel for a living, so the eating out would certainly complicate things if I did. When I eat with my fellow cube mates, I get a garden salad and shove it around my plate. I eat at before or afterwards. No one cares 2 glasses of wine or beer into the meal what I’m eating.

        I figure fair is where you get cotton candy, and the anaphylaxis isn’t fair, but its my problem.

        The twisty permutations of find a place where everyone can eat within a budget isn’t worth it to me. Even if they did all that, my anxiety would eat me alive.

        I do know vegan, vegetarian accommodating places by me have dishes with nut creams/nuts as a binder. I still wind up with a baked potato and side salad.

        OP double down on the call ahead if this is a true business lunch. They need to feed you, the planner spends a little extra time, so be it. I don’t think it should be beyond them.

        I don’t bother because my situation is more “let’s bond as a team” after work. It’s not worth the huffy eye rolls. We have halal, vegan, vegetarian, GF/CF and keto at my work. Living in the midwest where Coney Islands/Bar food hold sway makes planning interesting.

        1. dolphin girl*

          ” fair is where you get cotton candy”-this is my new go to! My father taught me at a young age life is not fair and I have carried it with me since. I try very hard to never use that word. I am def stealing this!!!!!!

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            “Life’s not fair” is usually just what people use as an excuse to be shitty. It’ll never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do what we can to make it fairer.

            1. Ilima*

              Since life’s not fair I guess the admin can do the extra work of making a reservation at the restaurant LW said would work for her.

            2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              Life isn’t fair, which is why we should make more of an effort to treat people fairly. Massachusetts is cold in the winter, but we don’t just shrug and say “winter isn’t warm”: we build insulated houses, install heating systems, and buy warm coats,

            3. merp*

              ^ This exactly. Sure, it’s never going to be fair for everyone and sure, there are going to be people for whom “it’s not fair!!” is a lifestyle. But where you can do good, you should try! This is one of those times for the company.

    2. Uldi*

      I’m also puzzled as to why they keep going back to a place with obvious cross-contamination issues.

      1. Cinnamon*

        Unfortunately they probably think it’s not a big deal because LW #1 said it’s not life-threatening. The others may not have obvious symptoms that they realize are from the restaurant so it looks like only one person is complaining (which still should be taken seriously!). I have a newly GF-free co-worker who didn’t realize his mild symptoms were something to look into until his Dr suggested rounds of testing.

          1. AnonEmu*

            Yeah honestly I am surprised the GF person eats there given OP’s issue? Like if I went to a place and they couldn’t get something like a peanut allergy sorted, I wouldn’t trust them to avoid CC on my food either. Maybe OP could approach GF coworker and suggest it be a team approach to getting stuff changed? That said, I’ve been in this situation before re a friend group, where the place bossy friend insisted we eat at kept making me ill, but she refused to eat anywhere else. One of the reasons I am glad we aren’t friends anymore, but yeah it definitely makes one feel unwanted. I’ve also had plenty of times where prior bosses would bring food for everyone but never anything celiac-safe, and it makes you feel really left out. I am so glad my current workspace really tries to make sure everyone can eat stuff at events. My sympathies to OP, it is a shitty situation to be stuck in.

            1. MayLou*

              They might be gluten-free without being celiac, there are people who avoid gluten because they believe it’s healthier to do so, not because it is an allergy or disease that requires them to do so. In that case they might not even realise if there’s cross contamination.

              1. Myrin*

                Or she might have a milder form. I have a friend/former coworker who isn’t allergic to just gluten but to any and all corn, so no wheat for her, but also no rye or spelt or whatever else there is. However, we had dinner together before Christmas which included a dessert of ice cream with a little waffle stuck in it and while she gave me the waffle she could eat the ice cream itself no problem, even though the waffle was inside of it. She can eat a few stray crumps of, for example, breading which got into the pan with her food in it, but she can’t have a whole thing that’s been coated in bread.

                1. Lady Heather*

                  Spelt and rye – and barley – contain gluten (though less than wheat – some people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can eat spelt, rye and barley).

                  (Oats can go either way – in and of itself they don’t contain gluten, but unless they’re certified gluten-free, they have been contaminated by wheat.)

                2. Fikly*

                  First of all, there is no mild form of Celiac. There are asymptomatic Celiacs, which means they may not notice if they eat gluten, but it’s actually still doing the same bad damage on the inside of your body, including increasing your cancer risk, so if you have Celiac, you need to avoid all gluten, including cross-contamination.

                  Fun with oats and Celiac – around 5% of Celiacs have an issue where their body cannot tell the difference between gluten and a very similar protein (in structure) in oats, so they will have a Celiac reaction to oats, even certified gluten free oats.

                  This is a part of why there was so much confusion for decades about whether or not Celiacs could eat oats.

                  These days, the recommendation for newly diagnosed Celiacs is to avoid all oats for around a year, and once you are clear of all symptoms, try a small portion of certified gluten free oats and see if you react.

                  Sadly, I was in that group. I miss the oats more than gluten.

                3. Ann Perkins*

                  Everything Fikly said. My husband is largely asymptomatic for Celiac. He didn’t know until he was applying for a new life insurance policy and his liver enzymes came back high and he went to a GI dr and they ran a blood panel and did an endoscopy. Endoscopy revealed severely damaged small intestine. I’m chiming in here just for educational purposes that if someone has Celiac, they may have mild symptoms, but they still need to avoid all gluten and all cross contamination.

                4. Lord Gouldian Finch*

                  It’s possible to have a gluten intolerance without having celiac. It’s a subset of IBS. In that case it can work like lactose intolerance, where you actually can digest small amounts okay but large amounts make you sick.

                5. nonegiven*

                  She also may have symptoms that might not be obvious to her are from cross contamination.

                6. Myrin*

                  @Lord Gouldian, yeah, that’s exactly what my friend has (and I never said that she has celiac but I see now how it could be interpreted that way from the way I replied). I didn’t want to go into details too much but I didn’t think of how people tend to go “but what if…” if you don’t provide sufficient examples.

              2. Tidewater 4-1009*

                I avoid wheat because of the high fructose content. I am not allergic to wheat, but I have fructose sensitivity and wheat has a very high fructose content that doesn’t agree with me. So I look for gluten-free recipes but it’s not the wheat or the gluten, it’s the fructose.
                If I got, say, wheat pasta instead of gluten-free at that restaurant, I would get a fairly bothersome upset stomach and I wouldn’t want to eat there anymore either.

                1. Aitch Arr*

                  I have a wheat sensitivity/intolerance so I tend to go GF to make things easier.

            2. Red Red Panda*

              Came here to say something similar: Why are the people with other dietary restrictions still eating at this restaurant? As a vegan, I would not want to eat at a restaurant that misrepresented a dish as peanut-free. Eating something non-vegan accidentally may not be life-threatening to me, but I still want to avoid it. If a restaurant can’t get the details right about an allergy that IS life-threatening for some, why would I trust them to tell the truth that my dish is actually vegan-friendly?

              1. hufflepuff hobbit*

                exactly this. when looking at food allergies, peanut is one of the ones that can kill you in an half-hour from an extremely small amount (celiac disease can absolutely kill you, but it does so over many, many years). If they can’t keep peanuts out of a dish, WHY WOULD ONE TRUST THEM on anything else?

                The co-workers may know that this is not a life-threatening allergy, but the restaurant should be taking this seriously

                1. nonegiven*

                  Also, just because it isn’t life threatening now doesn’t mean her next reaction might not be.

            3. frostipaws*

              Yeppers! Our administrators bring in lots of stuff containing meat and/or cheese, but don’t really have many vegan options. It doesn’t help when my coworker says I act ungrateful for not wanting to eat what our employer has so kindly provided. Having to pick cheese out of everything gets old quickly. They have done better at vegetarian dishes, but I don’t think they’re supportive of people with other conditions, as many of the things they provide are junk food or fast food. Since they have to pay part of our insurance, you’d think they’d promote healthier options. *shrug*

            4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              I’m thinking it’s a Thai restaurant, where you can easily get vegetarian or vegan food, and rice/rice noodle dishes outnumber wheat noodles, but peanuts are plentiful.

              Which also makes sense to me as to why there’s pushback (even though it is wrong) about skipping that restaurant to accommodate the peanut allergy, since Thai food is popular and most people like it, and probably grumble at the event organizer when it gets pulled out of rotation.

            1. Cinnamon*

              Haha, I should inform his wife that their loving marriage is still very stable!

        1. KoiFeeder*

          It’s never a big deal until you throw up directly on them.

          I’d say or until the tomatoes make you bleed from the mouth, but that actually doesn’t bother people as much as it should.

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            You’re hanging out with the wrong people, I’m very bothered on your behalf!

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Haha, this was all lower-middle-high school incidents. I don’t hang out with people anymore. The koi are a lot more pleasant and they don’t care what I eat.

      2. pancakes*

        Apparently because it’s also a place that doesn’t require reservations, even for a large group. I don’t understand why that’s so appealing for an office that plans large group lunches.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Really. If you make a reservation, they are ready for you. If you don’t you have to wait around for them to move tables together or figure out how they are gonna accommodate you. Unless they are usually super empty around lunch… which is not a great sign.

          1. Colleen DeViliers*

            Right, I would worry you would always have to wait. And do they not plan these frequent lunches in advance? Who decides when they take place? It would annoy me if lunches were currently just sprung on me. I use lunch to do frequent doctor appts….

            Also, bizarre they WILL actually accomadate everyelse. Which makes me think like Alison said that the person coordinating is just doing what’s easiest.

        2. Brett*

          Being on a large (50+) work team, this is a big deal for lunches.

          There are two extremes to the problem. One is the “Your whole party must be here” restaurants. You make a reservation for 27, 22 people have shown up, and they _still_ won’t seat you until the last 5 show up. Except the last 5 got pulled into something last minute and might be late or might not show up at all.

          The other extreme is the “This is your number and we are sticking to it” restaurants. You make your reservation for 27, and two more people figure out they can make. The restaurant refuses to seat two extra people, and so two people have to eat at a different table on the other side of the restaurant 20 minutes after everyone else. (Or worse yet, they don’t have a reservation so they don’t get seated at all or have to sit at the bar.)

          So a restaurant that can accommodate 20+ people without a reservation is huge. We still call to let them know we are coming, but it means we don’t need an exact number for us all to sit together.

          1. pancakes*

            Those are pretty extremist extremes! The policy of not seating a group until they’re all present is common in my city, but it doesn’t make any sense for a restaurant to be so rigid about it with a group as large as this. It’s poor management. And would clog up the entryway to the restaurant or the bar area, if that’s where everyone is meant to wait. Having the space to accommodate a group that large that isn’t ordering anything yet sounds like a suburban thing.

    3. Avasarala*

      I’m also surprised by this.

      Of course OP should start with putting pressure on the organizer and their boss, but in the future, I wonder if they could also find allies among the vegans, lactose intolerant, GF, etc. since I’m sure they’re used to being the “difficult one who can’t be accommodated.”

      I would also not be above Replying All (or post-WFH, calling and waving as they head out) “Have a good time! As you know, I can’t eat at Restaurant due to my allergy so unfortunately I can’t join you. Bummer! Hope to make the next one!”

      1. PeanutFreePlease*

        Letter writer here. The person organizing the lunches is one of my team mates. On other teams it’s typical for the manager to organize this sort of thing, but our manager is pretty hands-off (not opposed to the team lunches, but doesn’t care to organize them and usually doesn’t attend). Based on previous experience bringing concerns to this manager, I don’t feel terribly optimistic about getting much help from them.

        1. Avasarala*

          Ah I see… in that case I would follow Alison’s advice to put pressure on the person in question, and try to develop allies among your teammates. Even those without dietary restrictions, as any good teammate would be properly horrified to find out you were being excluded from lunches over such an easy fix.

          Also if you’re willing to take some of the effort on yourself, you could offer to make the reservation yourself. I was unhappy with my team’s restaurant choices and decided to organize it myself; downside is now I have to organize it, but upside is we actually go to good, interesting places instead of “If I didn’t have to eat I wouldn’t” coworker’s awful choices. That’s a worthy tradeoff for me.

          1. urban teacher*

            I was going to suggest they start organizing the lunches. I always think the person who cares enough should organize.

          2. KayDeeAye*

            It just seems so obvious to me. If you have to make reservations in order to ensure that everybody can join the lunch…the thing to do is the make reservations! Yeesh. This isn’t difficult at all, but clearly the person making the arrangements isn’t willing to make even this small amount of effort. I assume they don’t actually wish the OP to get ill, but they are dismissing the OP’s health concerns, and that’s kind of a jerk move when *all it would take* to accommodate these is to simply make the dang reservation already.

        2. Roscoe*

          Can you maybe suggest rotating who organizes the team lunches then? I’m not sure how this person ended up doing it, whether they volunteered, or were voluntold, or it just fell on them. But if other people want to rotate this responsibility, you being one of them, you can take some of the pressure off of her AND go to places that work better for you. I can definitely see if its something she doesn’t really want to do why she would want to just do what is easiest. But if she only had to do it once a year instead of once a month, then maybe it would be better for everyone.

        3. RandomPoster*

          If organizing lunches isn’t part of this persons job, just something they picked up, I’d offer to take it on myself.

          1. Annony*

            Yep. And that could even be part of bringing it to the manager. Tell them that the organizer is not willing to put in the extra work to accommodate everyone and volunteer to take it on yourself so that it is officially delegated to you.

          2. White Peonies*

            This is what I was coming to say with the new information that this is just a co-worker organizing because the boss doesn’t care, OP needs to offer to take over organizing the lunches or at least ask them if you can start making the reservations. The person doing it now it is doing it as a courtesy to the group, and likely was only doing it when they needed to send an email to let everyone know which day lunch was. They most likely don’t have or want to take the time to make reservations (someone always complains about something in every group).

            1. Kiki*

              Right. I could be wrong, but it kind of seems like maybe a co-worker agreed to make calendar invites and/or remind people when they’re going to lunch, but didn’t agree to become *The Planner of Team Lunches*

            2. Tidewater 4-1009*

              Since the boss doesn’t care, are the lunches even necessary? I have to wonder why they’re being done if the boss isn’t motivated. Maybe just stop the organized lunches and let people go informally wherever they want in smaller groups?

        4. Kiki*

          It sounds like the organizer may be someone whose job is not actually to organize team lunches but has volunteered/picked up the slack?
          If that’s true, it may be most effective to volunteer to make reservations in advance.
          I want to make it clear that it is not cool that the planner keeps picking a restaurant that they know excludes a team member, but it can be hard to be the one planning lunches that accommodate and please everyone, especially when it’s not actually your job.
          I’d also bring this up to the whole team the week before the next team lunch, if you haven’t already. It may be possible your teammates were complaining to the organizer about not liking whatever other restaurant y’all went to, making the organizer frustrated and more likely just to go back to routine. If more people care about going somewhere you can eat, they’re less likely to be putting pressure on the organizer for lesser reasons.
          And I’m sorry you’re going through this, it is truly unkind of your team to keep excluding you.

          1. Vina*

            For myself and most people I know, I’d rather eat at a 2nd tier restaurant and have everyone else there than go to one a coworker couldn’t enjoy.

            Of course, this type of outcome is why I don’t enjoy large group outings. All it takes is one entitled person, and it can spoil the whole endeavor.

            1. Kiki*

              Right, there are sometimes groups of jerks, but most people I know would prefer to go somewhere that works for everyone. I’ve just experienced a situation where people aren’t aware they’re going somewhere to accommodate someone, so they complained about that choice for small, personal preference reasons when they’d probably keep mum if they knew it’s the only place that works for a coworker.
              And for an organizer whose job isn’t actually to organize, it can be overwhelming to hear a bunch of criticism of a choice and hard to separate what they should actually take into consideration (one person’s allergies) and what they shouldn’t (several people complaining that X Restaurant is our tradition!!!).

            2. SheLooksFamiliar*

              A former grandboss hosted a dinner for our management team at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, as a reward for successful project launch. One of our team was a vegetarian and, as a group, we asked our boss to reconsider. At that time, RCSH didn’t really have vegetarian options on its menu. Maybe they still don’t, I haven’t been back. Grandboss insisted we deserved a ‘white tablecloth experience’ and wouldn’t change his plan.

              I felt so awful for this manager, poking at a salad and some steamed veggies; the server said ‘that’s what our chef came up with for your vegetarian.’ You know, as if it were a huge favor…anyway, this manager and I were chatting and I asked if it was difficult for him, eating in a steak house. He said he was used to it and had eaten at home first.

              For the next ‘thank you’ dinner, we insisted on a restaurant that had menu options for the entire team, which by now included vegan and GF options. There wasn’t a white tablecloth in sight but everyone enjoyed themselves…which was the point, right?

              1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

                I used to have to do to a lot of white tablecloth restaurants for work purposes (I supported the biggest volunteer bigwigs), and I have lost count of how many specialized items I’d gotten over the years because our fixed menu for the evening included shellfish. We warned them ahead of time, and the chef could create something totally separate and delicious. So, “white tablecloth experience” should never mean being excluded; your former grandboss is a jerk.

          2. Coco*

            Yes to this. It sounds like organizing lunches isn’t part of the team member’s regular job so OP should volunteer to pick up the task.

            Or maybe make it a rotating one. Maybe the team’s unofficial planner just doesn’t really want to plan and everyone on the team should take turns.

            It sucks to be left out and it sucks to have to do the planning. It sucks all around. Making reservations is not always easy. The actual call or website reservation maybe easy but if you have to provide a credit card number to reserve the seats or if your workplace is like mine where problems can pop up that can’t be put off some people may be late to the lunch or can’t make it and the restaurant won’t seat until all parties are present and will only hold the table for 15 mins (all of which are valid restaurant requirements but may make things difficult for lunch planners ).

        5. BluntBunny*

          OP have you told the restaurant you had a reaction? They should be made aware of it so they can put more controls in place and training to prevent it happening again. They also may be willing to give you a refund or something like that as an apology. If you aren’t happy with the restaurants response you can share that with the organiser and team. I think this would be a good idea even if you don’t want to give the restaurant another chance, as other people who suffer with your allergy can benefit as I imagine they would feel more comfortable going to a restaurant that is accommodating vegan and gluten free diets.

        6. Rachel in NYC*

          I was wondering if the issue is in the organizer’s head it was one time and it won’t happen again- or until it happens again, it isn’t a problem. I have good I avoid to prevent myself from getting sick- and I was served one of them in a restaurant by mistake, it was dark and I almost ate some. I can’t eat there anymore- I don’t trust them to not make the same mistake.

          I wonder if the organizer can’t understand that thought process.

          1. pancakes*

            I’m not sure that’s comparable. If someone with an allergy chooses to eat food they can’t see well enough to identify, I don’t think that’s the restaurant’s mistake.

            1. kt*

              That’s not what Rachel said; she said she was served the wrong food and almost ate it, not that she chose to eat it. If you’ve got an allergy and you’re served the wrong food, to which you’re allergic, well, that there is a problem regardless of the lighting level.

        7. Nesprin*

          If the sticking point is making reservations at restaurant B, can you volunteer to be reservation maker?

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I kind of like this idea. You’ve asked the organizer to take your needs into account and they won’t, so I really wouldn’t feel guilty about using one of Avasarala’s script’s to let the rest of your team know that you’re not skipping the lunch because you don’t want to spend time with them, you’re doing it because the lunch is taking place at a restaurant that’s not safe for you. And with that many other dietary restrictions on your team, I’m willing to bet that once they know your dietary needs aren’t being taken into account, they’ll probably start pushing for other restaurants themselves.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP1 it’s not just that your uncomfortable eating at that restaurant. It’s UNSAFE for you to eat at that restaurant. Allergies change over time, and just because you had a mild reaction in the past doesn’t mean you will always have a mild reaction in the future!
      (Sorry if I rant… this is a hot button for me. A family member has had ER trips when people didn’t take her allergy seriously.)

      1. Violaine*

        This. Due to the anamnestic response, what may begin as a mild food allergy can absolutely become anaphylactic with increased exposures. OP should be taken seriously because this could end up being life-threatening.

      2. HR in the city*

        Exactly! Allergies aren’t a choice. Being vegan or vegetarian is a choice. I applaud people who do it but it is still a choice. Sometimes Gluten Free is a choice too. I have a family member who had to go gluten free due to an insensitivity that effective his life so bad and made him so sick that even the dr was surprised he didn’t have celiac once tested. So we accommodate him when we go out to eat. I myself am low carb due to diabetes. So for the team to accommodate everything else but not something that the OP can’t control is odd to me.

        1. regular lurker*

          Not all vegan/vegetarian diets are by choice. There are egg allergies, meat allergies, and dairy insensitivities that are all medical rather than lifestyles.

          1. Wing Leader*

            True, but most of the time being vegan/vegetarian IS a choice. Allergies are never a choice.

        2. Jo*

          I hear what you’re saying, but I’m not sure the distinction matters. For people who chose to become vegan or vegetarian some time ago, accidentally eating meat can make the person very sick.

          Yes, it might have been an ethical/religious/environmental/ or health choice initially, but it affects your ability to digest meat.

          1. pancakes*

            I was vegetarian for around 15 years and did not get sick, let alone “very sick,” when I decided to start eating meat again. I don’t know anyone else who has either, even among vegan friends. I don’t think there’s a solid scientific basis for saying that bodies work this way.

            1. Em*

              Right. People say this all the time (that vegetarians get sick from eating meat), but I really don’t think it’s ubiquitous. I was vegetarian for 11 years and was fine when I started eating meat again.

              1. Amy Sly*

                The only possible problem I’ve heard about is that your gut biome evolves in reaction to the food you eat. If you never eat X, the bacteria that best process X will not be in your gut. This means that X might take longer to digest, causing gas and constipation, or might pass through “lightly processed,” shall we say. Unpleasant sure, but not “very sick.” Moreover, if the person’s diet includes yogurt or other sources of live culture bacteria, they should have a diverse enough gut biome that can react to anything they eat.

                1. Swiftly Tilting Planet*

                  Interesting! I was a vegetarian for 20+ years, but I didn’t get sick when I started eating meat again either.
                  I also grew up eating plain, probiotic yogurt, Bavarian style, with buttermilk, every single day like it was manna from heaven, and it was my #1 staple food all of my vegetarian years, so there’s my probiotics!
                  And even so, I wasn’t so strict that I wouldn’t occasionally eat a vegetable dish that had been cooked with meat -like when my parents wanted to go out for Chinese food w/multiple shared dishes- and they’d always get all-veggie options too, or maybe a bean & cheese burrito from a place that I knew must use lard, so that probably helped too.

        3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          To me, there’s kind of a hierarchy of food needs. For example, I:

          (1) am allergic to bell peppers. If there are bell peppers on the pizza, I cannot eat it or will become extremely ill. I may also have an eye or respiratory reaction from simply being near it depending on the ventilation system in the room and how close I am. (I had to walk out of a final exam once because the instructor bought pizza for the class and I had trouble breathing.) There is no possible way I can eat the pizza or anything it touched, and to be included in a group meal it’s safest for me if it’s not even in the room. I also may have trouble being in the room after lunch if any of the pizza was thrown away in trash cans in the room or anyone saved any leftovers, or if the room was not given a chance to air out.

          (2) am a vegetarian. If there is sausage on the pizza, I will not eat it. If there is no other food available and I’m hungry enough, I might peel off the entire meat/cheese layer and eat slightly saucy bread crust, but I will probably not be a good sport about it unless there are some very extenuating circumstances.

          (3) dislike olives. If there are olives on the pizza and it’s not a professional situation, I’ll pick them off. I like olive oil just fine and cook with it regularly, it’s just a texture thing.

          I feel like a work lunch needs to accommodate things in the (1) and (2) category for everyone, and if it’s an event specific to me (for example, it’s supposed to be my birthday lunch) then I might bring up (3).

          The problems come because it’s much easier for people to deal with a (3) situation (where it’s fine if a stray olive got picked off late in the process, or the same knife was used to cut up the olives and the tomatoes, or it turns out some olives were blended into the sauce), and if they don’t personally have a (1) or (2) situation they don’t really “get” how it’s different since you can’t even really tell that the food contains [allergen] and/or you can eat around it. It is, in fact, very annoying for someone planning a large group lunch to work around my pepper allergy! I understand why they’re always looking for loopholes, since it makes it hard to have “normal” vegetarian options like veggie pizza or veggie subs. I just need them to do it anyway, because I’m pretty attached to this “breathing” thing and want to keep doing it. (I am glad that, due to budget cuts, we are unlikely to have any work-provided lunches for a long time even once we’re back in the office. I used to have to go to these multi-site 100 person training sessions several times a year, and the person planning them refused to adjust the lunch menu in any way because “we should be grateful we were given a free lunch”. Neither my boss nor I were ever able to make any inroads into this and it was pretty miserable for me.)

    5. Mazzy*

      Can someone suggest what type of restaurants you go to for peanut allergies? I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. Maybe Italian?

      1. Katefish*

        Italian, most Mexican (except mole, which breaks my heart because delicious), most American food including burgers, Japanese, Korean, Cuban are all good as far as peanut allergies go, at least in my sometimes painful lived experience.

        1. Clorinda*

          Peanuts tend to show up in desserts. As a savory ingredient, you’re most likely to encounter them in Thai and other Asian foods. They can also sneak into breading. But OP didn’t order something with satay sauce; the problem was cross-contamination, and that can happen anywhere that has even one peanut dessert on the menu.

          1. Llellayena*

            Also places that use peanut oil in their fryer. The oil can get ANYWHERE in the kitchen even if you don’t order fried food.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Mexican is especially good for group with vegetarians and vegans – that’s where we always eat out with my vegan friends.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I’ve had nothing but trouble at Mexican restaurants, personally. Undisclosed lard in the beans and surprise chicken stock in the sauces for “vegetarian” dishes have both been regular problems.

            (I, personally, have a lot of trouble at Mexican restaurants anyway because of the peppers thing, but other vegetarian friends share my lard and stock issues.)

      2. JustaTech*

        When my work group had two people with peanut allergies, a vegetarian and a person with a soy allergy, we ate out plenty. We went to the really authentic Mexican restaurant. We went to the really Americanized Mexican restaurant. We went to the Italian place, and the sushi place, and the Indian buffet (but maybe not with the peanut allergy folks?). We went to the “American” places, the sandwich shop, the French place. The only place we didn’t go was the Thai place across the street, because there’s too many dishes with peanuts.

        When the vegetarian was (briefly) vegan and gluten free we went to the Mexican and Japanese places more often, but that was the only real change. And when the person with the soy allergy had to avoid eggs and dairy as well I made sure to read the menu carefully to be sure there were at least two things she could eat.

        Yes, it takes a bit more effort, and you need to be somewhat proactive, but it also gives you the opportunity to try new things!

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          The main thing with soy allergy is the oil they cook with. The stuff called “vegetable oil” is soybean oil.
          Many American-style and almost all fast food restaurants cook with it IME. Mexican and Latin American restaurants usually use corn oil but some use soy. A soy-allergic person always has to ask.
          We always have to watch soybean oil in buns and flour tortillas, salad dressing, and other foods often not made in-house. And desserts – the stuff called vegetable shortening or vegetable lard is also soybean oil.
          Not many restaurants use peanut oil anymore but I would always ask about that too, just in case.

    6. Wino Who Says Ni*

      If they are a large group, they should always be making reservations. It’s very rude to spring a large group on an unsuspecting restaurant.

      1. boo bot*

        Yes. Also, if they’re making reservations, they can tell the restaurant ahead of time that one member of the party has a peanut allergy. It’s a lot harder to accommodate that with no notice!

    7. Aquawoman*

      We can believe they should accommodate everyone without putting relative value judgments on people’s needs.

    8. I'm just here for the cats*

      I wonder if the organizer is one of these people who don’t believe allergies are real, or think it’s like seasonal allergies where all she will so is sneeze.
      If talking to her again doesn’t work I would go straight to a boss or HR.

      1. JustaTech*

        I once had to explain to some people I was sitting next to on a flight how serious nut allergies can be. Before we boarded the plane the airline asked everyone to eat now or otherwise get rid of any nuts before boarding the plane, or at least not take them out for the whole 5 hour flight, because someone had an allergy. The folks standing next to me were like “why? Is it that big a deal?”
        I explained how quickly nut allergies can be life-threatening. The phrase “have to land in Montana to offload a corpse” may have come up. “Oh my goodness, I had no idea!”

        1. willow for now*

          The phrase … may have come up. Oh, I am dying here. (oops, no pun intended, srsly!)

    9. WhatDayIsIt*

      I remember when I was hanging out with a big group and people wanted to go for ice cream. I was in the process of testing for lactose intolerance (among a lot of FODMAPs) and once I pipped up that I couldn’t eat there, someone said okay! Let’s go somewhere everyone can eat! It’s that easy.

      1. rayray*

        It’s nice when you have a group where everyone can be reasonable and accommodating. I definitely know who of my friends/associates are going to raise a stink when it comes to deciding a place to eat. Whether it’s someone complaining when everyone wants Mexican food (*I hAd MeXiCan foOd LaaaSt WeEeEk!!!!*) or someone who just refuses to back down and consider what anyone besides them might like. Allergies, Intolerances, Religious Reasons, and man more are justifiable reasons to not want to eat somewhere, but simply just wanting it your way is not a good reason to be picky and leave people out.

    10. JSPA*

      It’s emotionally 100% normal to connect “the place where it happened to me” to “the problem,” but that’s not always factually correct. Sometimes, the contaminant enters via a trusted supplier that’s common to multiple restaurants, and “where I got sick” is incidental to that upstream problem.

      In a perfect world, no restaurant would have a bad batch of something from a trusted supplier (or an intentional but stealthy change in a previously satisfactory product). In the real world, this can happen to almost any place, and to anyone.

      I read labels before buying, but sometimes I’ll re-buy a known item (a brand of chili-paste, say, that I’ve been using for a decade) only to find out that one of my allergens is now on the ingredients list. I pull out the seemingly identical old jar from recycling: 100% identical, except the ingredients list. I pull up the ordering info online: the old ingredients list is still featured / the item is still listed in the “ingredient-free” section.
      It’s also possible for a site to recognize and fix a problem. For example, if the separation of the streams isn’t baked into the system, but requires super-vigilant employees, every new employee (or employee under unusual strain) is a risk. A site might recognize this, and retool its supply, storage, internal transport, cooking and cleaning regimens.

      Now, if they’re storing and cooking gluten and non-gluten, peanut and non-peanut, dairy and non-dairy in the same places / with the same gear, and not intending to change, then OP has been the canary in the coal mine; the restaurant, whatever its other virtues, is actually unsafe for all the people with dietary issues. Ditto if their response is, “eh, dunno, not going to investigate further.”

      But if nobody has reached out to the restaurant, or if that’s been done, and OP doesn’t want to hear it (and especially if other people have shared–in confidence, because it’s health information!–that the other restaurants have also had occasional lapses / that they’ve felt unwell after lunch in ways consistent with a violation of their dietary needs) then there’s further conversation needed.

      Unless the letter was cut, OP does not mention whether there was any effort put into clarifying the situation, or if OP defaulted to, “no second chance, regardless of how it happened and what was done about it.”

      That’s an understandable rule of thumb for oneself. (Many people would not comfortable walking into a place where they sustained any sort of injury, whether or not the injury was not a result of negligence.) But if everyone in the workplace applies that rule, every restaurant can end up being removed from the list of acceptable places, without any restaurant or supplier even finding out that there was a problem that needs solving. That seems counterproductive for all.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Urgh. I HATE it when things are reformulated and don’t announce it on their packaging. I wish they were required to stick “New and Improved!” in big letters on the front for a year whenever they change ingredients around.

        I remember back in high school a brand of cream soda I’d been drinking for years added caffeine, and they changed only the words above the nutrition label on the back from CAFFEINE FREE to CONTAINS CAFFEINE in identical font/placement, and added it to the ingredients list. I did not handle caffeine well at the time, and I had a week or two of bad anxiety spikes at school from my previously “safe” daily soda until I realized. I still avoid all products from that brand decades later because of how angry I was over the whole thing.

    11. Mama Bear*

      OP is also fortunate that for now the allergy is not the life-threatening sort, but it could be come so. This isn’t a preference, this is a health concern. I hope OP goes over that person’s head if they won’t take the time to make reservations and would rather exclude OP or put OP at risk of a serious health event. Frankly, if the group is going there and OP is not, I’d be upfront. “I’m sorry, but I am allergic to peanuts and had a reaction to their food. It’s not safe for me to eat there. I need to bow out of this lunch unless another restaurant is chosen.” Say this to the boss, to the other staff, etc. Let them know exactly why it’s not possible to eat there.

  2. bookartist*

    LW3 – A few of my FL friends who also are permalancers say that they own their own agency — and no one has to know that agency has one employee. Might work for you?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      An artist friend I know has stop saying “I’m an artist” and instead specifies the product she works on and what she does with it.

    2. Grateful*

      I agree with this – give yourself a business name and make yourself the owner. That’s how my artist friends handle this!

      1. Ilima*

        Freelance writer here. I tell people “I’m a writer” and if they want more details I tell them some of the companies I write for. In business settings I’ve also said things like “I own a writing business” which is true. I’ve found a lot of people don’t really understand the business side of a creative career. Like when they find out I’ve written a couple of books they’re super impressed and figure that’s where all my money comes from, when in reality I make almost nothing from books, and 95% of my income comes from corporate writing, which nobody wants to hear about. So you can just say whatever sounds impressive on your resume and most people will take it at face value.

    3. Dagny*

      Yeah, “I run my own business and X is one of my biggest clients” sounds a lot better than “freelancer.”

      Make business cards.

  3. LoV*

    Re: LW3: I wonder if you could say “consultant” or “independent contractor” instead. Hmmm…not sure if those are better or worse.

    1. Eleanor Konik*

      Maybe because of where I live, “contractor” is 100% respected and code for “employed full time but without the longevity assurance and benefits” and wouldn’t evoke nearly the same sense of “scrambling for work” that “freelancer” does.

      1. JessaB*

        That’s what I was thinking, stop using freelance and use consultant, it for some reason has more gravitas. Consultants are important people brought in to fix problems or something, I dunno. But a shift in title is a good idea.

        1. willow for now*

          In my experience, “consultant” frequently means someone who has a lot of good ideas in their own minds but are in truth unemployed.

    2. alienor*

      At the company I work for, ‘contractor’ is exactly what we would call someone who did work for us on a regular, full-time basis, while ‘freelancer’ would be someone who was brought in here and there for one-off projects. So I think ‘contractor’ is the perfect way for LW3 to describe themselves!

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      LW3 is trying too hard to be too honest too often. You don’t have to make sure everyone understands exactly what you do at all times. It’s okay to have a couple of different answers, and it’s okay if every answer does not perfectly encapsulate your full 50 hours. Artist might be the best answer sometimes. Freelance artist, contractor, contractor at Chocolate Teapots, Chocolate Teapots employee, and other combinations all might be the right answer sometimes. Sometimes I say I’m a government employee. Sometimes I say I’m in communications. Sometimes I say I’m a writer or speechwriter or editor. Sometimes I say communications director. They’re all true, or true enough.

      The bigger problem is that the people LW3 is talking to are jerks. Even if someone told me they were, like, a clown with a specialty in sadface mime and a minor in speed juggling, I wouldn’t laugh in their face. LW3 needs to care less about the opinions of obnoxious people.

      1. MayLou*

        I agree – I tell people that I work full time. Which I do! I just work full time across four different jobs, two of which are self-employment. If they need more detail, for instance if they’re administering state benefits or dealing with taxes (or if they might be a client for my self-employed work) then I’ll expand but otherwise it’s easier to use the shorthand.

      2. Smithy*

        Really well said.

        I work in nonprofit fundraising – which depending on the audience can generate a weird response. If I’m at a wedding, three drinks in, I don’t want someone’s Uncle Jerry asking me for a three minute elevator pitch. So often I just “work for ABC org” and leave it at that.

        Certainly if you’re professionally networking, then using language to indicate an availability for more work is important. But socially, that level of detail isn’t dishonest – it’s supporting the kind of relationship you want to develop. With friends or dates, it sounds like you’re looking to communicate being professionally stable. Maybe that means 9-5, maybe you get to humble brag you can set your own hours and sleep in on a Monday? Maybe it’s that you’re really excited to be 24 and have found your professional niche? That you’re working on cool things?

        None of this is about being dishonest. It’s about developing the kinds of relationships you want. And I think getting into “freelance” is a lot more than you need in most conversations.

      3. The Original K.*

        Exactly this. I’ve been in the same positions you have been, GammaGirl, and I just used whatever title I had, or I would say “I’m a consultant at Acme Explosives, working on Project ABC,” or whatever. I’ve worked places, as both a contractor and an employee, that used contractors for basically as long as they could get away with, and you could never tell who was a contractor and who was an employee. I remember one graphic designer who had been a full-time contractor there for two years, and he was finally made permanent (HR told his boss to fish or cut bait), and aside from getting benefits, his working life didn’t change at all – he still worked full-time for that place and did other design work on the side.

        I cannot imagine laughing in someone’s face when they tell me what they do for a living.

      4. Mynona*

        Yes, this. I work in the arts and interact with members of the general public, some of whom don’t respect intellectual and creative pursuits, esp. the arts. I’ve encountered it more frequently over the last 20 years (in the U.S.). You aren’t doing anything wrong or saying anything wrong. This is a common reaction to artists, musicians, dancers, etc, in some communities.

        When I meet new people, I always give my title and explain what I do at the same time, like: “I’m OP and I’m an artist. You might know my design work for Chocolate Teapots.” OP could identify as a “commercial artist,” which is broader than “illustrator” and implies you work for a company. Within the art community, you would say “I’m an artist and I do commercial work for Chocolate Teapot” if you have a separate studio practice and don’t want to emphasize your commercial practice.

        Try dropping “freelance” and see if it helps? Most employed commercial artists are contractors these days, so you might be compounding confusing terms there. But honestly, you’re already doing these things. It sounds like you are encountering a lot of these philistines, so maybe you live in a conservative community? Many artists form circles of like-minded friends so they at least don’t have to encounter hostility in their social life. And never date anyone who isn’t completely charmed by the fact you’re an artist! That should be a competitive advantage for the right person.

        1. Sally*

          Or around people with more blue-collar backgrounds, or who have known a lot of self-styled “artists” who don’t really make a living off it. They’re being rude for sure, but also it doesn’t seem like “freelance artist” conveys the actual job very well, particularly to people outside of creative industries who may think of “artists” as being people in the fine arts more than in corporate positions.

        2. LW3*

          Thanks, this helps a lot with not feeling like it’s just me! I live in Boston where everyone you talk to is in medicine/engineering/finance, and I think that’s where the stigma comes from. I tried saying “digital sculptor” which confuses people, so I think “commercial artist” would be a good compromise that gets the point across! Using phrasing that sounds more serious/professional like “contractor” or “working primarily in X industry” like you and some of the other commenters suggested make a difference too, I think.

          Post-COVID I’m also planning a move to a different city with more of my own community, so fingers crossed people are a bit more open-minded there.

          1. JSPA*

            Specifying the sort of art is helpful. In a world where anyone who’s at loose ends will likely call themselves an artist or writer, “I do 3-D graphics of X for Y company” or “I design the boxes and social media graphics for FamousBrand” or “I do the character design reference sheets for GameGameCo animation” or “I’m responsible for color choice and style updates for AttitudeClothing Co” says, “I do actual work.”

          2. Cookie Monster*

            I just want to lend support to your frustration LW3.
            I am 41 and still look like i am in my 20s (according to annoying people) and constantly get condescending remarks about my age and profession.
            I have a “regular” job, but am I also do music work on the side and have a background in professional music and I just feel so much everything you said-and it was even harder getting people to take me seriously in my 20s.

      5. Reba*

        Yeah, maybe this is because I’m in a somewhat creative sphere, but being a freelancer is… extremely normal? not worthy of remark? Let alone jerkface commentary! I was pretty shocked by that in the letter.

    4. MK*

      Also, I think it would help if the OP used another word than artist, or possibly add a short explanation, as it’s very vague. If they explain they are contracted to make the art for the company’s packaging or their ad campaign, say that rather than that they are an artist for the company.

      1. Allonge*

        That is what I was thinking – make artist into a bit more specific, to avoid the ‘starving artist’ association. If you say I do graphic design / whatever, mainly for Company X, it’s a bit more information to latch onto.

      2. EPLawyer*

        If LW were a computer programmer no one would be laughing at her for saying she’s a freelance computer programmer. Everyone would know that means working for yourself for a variety of companies. But say you are a freelance artist and people feel its okay to laugh in your face and call you unemployed. Because the arts are not as valued as “real” jobs as STEM.

        If the people you are trying to reach for more work have this attitude, then you need to change your approach. If your FRIENDS are laughing in your face, are they really your friends? Basically you need to modify your approach as noted above for the situation.

        1. MK*

          However “computer programmer” is a job most people can visualise, and what’s more it is something that is often outsourced to freelancers. Even in STEM, people would get confused looks if they introduced themselves as a freelancer+something vague, like a freelance mathematician/physicist/computer scientist.

          Also, the undervaluing is often about not the arts in general but about its commercial application, and based in ignorance. I wouldn’t say that, say, artists who sell their paintings in galleries are treated with derision; but many people don’t realise the need for commercial art or the work it requires: they see the image on a product, say, and imagine it’s something the manufacturer found online and copied, not the hard work of a specialist professional.

        2. kt*

          I don’t know; I’m a data scientist and at Python and R meetups, etc., it can still be useful to avoid the word “freelance” because it’s so often used by people who are looking for a job but don’t have the skills to get one. I’m sorry to say that and it sounds really harsh. Some people are freelancers who do good work and simply enjoy working on a project basis; many people are ‘trying to get into the business’ and so have taken a Coursera course and are trying to network and take the advice to say “I’m a freelance X” but it’s code for “I’m faking it ’til I make it”, and comes across worse than “I’m transitioning to X”.

          I guess I was particularly attuned to this because for a while I wanted to do data science consulting and so was considering how to present myself. Finally decided it’s way easier, for me, to just get a ‘normal’ job than to run the business (I hate the tax paperwork etc).

        3. LW3*

          I live in a very STEM-heavy city, so I think that’s definitely a big part of the problem. I’ve been struggling a bit to be more specific than just saying “artist” because “digital sculptor” is the best description for me and people usually get confused and think I mean technical CAD work. “Commercial sculptor for X industry” like some people here are suggesting would probably help a lot, though!

          Also–it’s not my friends who do this! They are completely fine.

          1. JSPA*

            “3-D graphics” / “I do the 3-D design of all the tree species and rock formations in CoolCorp videogames, which requires not only shape but ability to take shifting colors depending on time of day, without looking anthropomorphic, obscene, distracting or just plain wrong, from any angle” (depending how long a conversation you want)

      3. Aquawoman*

        exactly, phrasing is the thing–“I have my own graphic design/illustration business,” or “I’m a full-time contractor in art and design.” That person who laughed is an ass.

    5. Tyche*

      Yeah to this. Unfortunately, I think “freelancer” has acquired a bad reputation, because it was used and abused from various proponents of the gig culture: “You have to freelance on your free time / have a second job as a freelancer etc” “You should freelance!”

      I admit I could give some serious side-eye if I don’t know you, and you proclaim yourself as a freelancer, until at least I understand what you mean.

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        But why does this deserve side-eye? There’s nothing wrong with asking for more details if you’re curious, of course – freelance can mean a lot of things – but why does it need judgement? Even if OP was only working part time, so what? Maybe they’re disabled, or caretaking for someone who is, or just getting a new freelance business started, and sure, maybe that business won’t succeed, but so what? The reactions OP describes are flat out rude. The only people it really should matter to are people whose finances are tied to the OP’s. Random acquaintances? Who cares how much money they make or how steady their income is?

        1. A*

          OP also mentions online dating. I don’t think it’s over the line for people dating each other to inquire about their work beyond the basics. Also, it’s a shame and 100% not OP’s fault, but these kinds of titles are frequently abused and misused in the online dating world. I have been on far too many dates than I care to admit with people with titles along the lines of ‘freelancer’, ‘consultant’, or god forbid the dreaded ‘self employed / entrepreneur’ and it has literally – every single time – actually meant they were unemployed. Actively misrepresenting themselves, and unfortunately in part due to gig culture I think they view these titles as easier to ‘pull off’ or ‘get away with’ specifically because it is so vague.

          Obviously I would never ever laugh at someone who told me that was their career path, and I agree OP’s friends sound like jerks – but there is another side to this that I feel is being glossed over. I think it’s something people might not be aware of the extent and severity of if they are not actively involved in the online dating scene (within the last few years, this is something that has changed a lot over the last 5 years or so).

          1. StrikingFalcon*

            Sure, if you’re dating someone you need to know how much work they’re actually getting. But I wouldn’t extrapolate from the fact that people misrepresent their employment status in dates to all interactions with anyone who says they are a freelancer. And I would still reserve the “serious side-eye” until after you confirm that your date is in fact lying.

            Although I agree with Alison that OP’s status as contractor/employer isn’t relevant in small talk, and they are fully entitled to just say they work for their main client.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, people who have a visibly negative reaction to “I’m a freelance artist” are assholes.

          That said, I agree with people who are saying that “contractor” or other terms sound more accurate for this OP.

        3. Abbey Rhodes*

          I’m with you 100%. I’m a freelance journalist, and I’m honestly pretty confused about why the suggestions on this thread are so in favor of avoiding the “freelance” term, as if it’s something deserving of shame or judgment. In the year 2020, the freelance economy is rapidly growing, and tons of people in a wide range of industries identify as freelancers. If people have a problem with that, then that’s THEIR problem, not yours as a freelance artist. You make a living doing something that you love. You don’t need to reconfigure your word choice to accommodate people with a very narrow-minded view of what a “real” career should look like.

          1. EBStarr*

            Yeah… my reaction to #3 was, “OK, so now you know who NOT to talk to.” I mean, seriously… even if it were reasonable to assume freelancing = not working as many hours (which it’s not), why would you side-eye someone just because you think they might not be working 40 hours a week? That’s problematic in all kinds of ways.

            And as for the person who laughed in OP’s face and said they don’t take her job seriously… I just don’t see the reason to take *that* person seriously in any way. They sound like an awful human being.

            But, OP is 24, and it’s easy for me to say this now in my 30s. I’m sure it would have bothered me when I was 24, and that’s OK! In my experience, for a lot of people this stuff gets easier to ignore as you move to your late 20s and 30s. Until then, it makes sense for her to talk about the main work she does at Chocolate Teapots without giving the person a full rundown of her W-9, if that’s easier.

      2. pancakes*

        I’m not sure what you mean by “proponents of the gig culture” — do you mean tech executives? I’m also not sure what you mean by side-eyeing freelancers. Do you mean you’d be rude or snotty? Or . . . ? I’ve been freelancing off and on for nearly 20 years and I have met people like you, of course, but I’ve never had the chance to ask why you are the way you are.

        1. JSPA*

          It can be as simple as, someone who’s full time employed with a company is marginally less likely to be misusing a friend or dating platform to cultivate business contacts (unless, I guess, they’re in sales with that company).

          We’ve had letters here recently about people using dates to pitch someone on a business idea or a book manuscript; it’s a thing that happens, and it’s a kick in the teeth, when someone who seemed to be interested in you, for yourself, is actually interesting in you for the connections, power or dollar signs that you represent to them.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t see where you’re seeing that particular concern in Tyche’s comment. I can certainly understand why someone would feel used by a date who’s trying to network with them rather than actually date them, but 1) that’s not a problem the letter writer is asking about, 2) side-eying everyone who says they work as a freelancer isn’t addressing that problem.

        2. Tyche*

          With “proponents of the gig culture” I mean simply what I said. If you search the term on the web, you’ll be inundated by blogs, videos, books where some “self-made person” or internet guru, or financial expert talk about “freelancing” as a side-gig to earn more money, start your own business, get out of debt etc. I think that the term is so abused! And I see talking with many persons online (especially webdesigners and tech people!) that it has acquired a slight negative meaning.
          I don’t see where I wrote that I’m rude or snotty to someone who says they are freelancer, could you point it to me?
          But, yes, I’m a little suspicious, until I understand what they mean with it.

          1. pancakes*

            It’s the part where you said “I could give some serious side-eye if I don’t know you, and you proclaim yourself as a freelancer” that suggests that you intend to be rude or snotty. Did you really not have a sense that that’s the part of your comment I was referring to? That’s pretty obtuse.

            1. Tyche*

              Really? Sorry, but I try to read something as it’s written, and not to give it my personal interpretation.

    6. Katie's Cryin'*

      Freelance designer here. The rise of Fiverr, 99Designs and other similar sites that devalue my field as well as so many design hobbyists (many under 18) and unemployed/underemployed people doing design as a side gig have also tainted the term “freelancer”. For many, it actually does indicate lack of employment when they’re seeking to be employed full time. I can see the term fading away soon because of these reasons.

      I don’t ever use that term anymore because of this. “I work for myself as a designer” works fine, as does “I own my own agency” with more details to follow in the conversation. “Consultant” or “contractor” can work but creatives, especially if they’re straight designers and not so much involved in strategy/marketing-type roles tend not to go with these terms. Anything other than “freelancer” unfortunately.

      1. pancakes*

        I see what you mean about those sites, but you don’t think people describing themselves as “owning my own agency” while not in fact owning any sort of agency will devalue that phrasing the exact same way? There have always been people who take a fake-it-til-you-make-it approach to describing their work and there always will be.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Sure, but that’s how the euphemism treadmill works. People don’t like the negative connotations of a word, so they come up with a new one. As the new one grows in popularity, the negative connotations of the old word become to be associated with the new word, and then another word has to be used. Hence over the last hundred years we’ve gone from “idiot” to “moron” to “retarded” to “intellectually challenged” to “special needs” to … what’s the current one? “Neurologically atypical”? Which will last another couple years until kids start yelling “Neuro atyp!” at each other and we’ll have to add “the n-a words” to “the r-word” and the “m-word” as euphemisms for the words we don’t say in polite company.

        2. Katie's Cryin'*

          You make a good point. Semi-unrelated but when women say they own their own business now, it’s often taken to mean they’re part of an MLM, so that term is tainted as well.

    7. Walnut Meatballs*

      I agree, I would say “I’m a full time independent contractor for X company doing their Y (eg art, design) and I also do some freelance work for other clients”.

  4. Bubbles*

    OP #1: As a vegetarian (religious reasons, lifelong, yes literally from birth, no I’ve never had meat and don’t plan to), I would happily go to a steakhouse and have a salad and a roll if it meant my colleague didn’t have an allergic reaction, no matter how minor. The fact that some people are so offended when other people’s preferences don’t line up with their own is baffling. It’s like they are personally alighted that others don’t agree with them. I’m so sorry you are experiencing this.

    I work at a school and we have one student with a peanut allergy severe enough that they can’t inhale it. One of the most favorite food vendors who come to campus 4 times a year as a special treat makes deep-fried Uncrustables. (Yes, so disgusting and unhealthy but top it with flaming hot Cheetos and the kids go crazy). We had to stop that item from being provided because of this one student. And guess what? NOT ONE STUDENT complained once they found out why. They didn’t need to know who the student is. They just knew someone could get hurt and they were fine with it.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Oh, that’s so nice! I would normally expect a lot more whining and shit being given these days. You have good students.

      1. Elizabeth*

        It is because they dealt with the kids and not their parents. The parents would have complained.

        1. Bubbles*

          Exactly. Parents only focus on what the kids don’t get or can’t have, while the kids themselves couldn’t care less.

          1. SweetestCin*

            And kids can be so much more empathetic. I’ve seen a Mom go practically bananacrackers over Susie not being able to have XYZ “just because Timmy’s allergic to it, maybe Timmy should be home-schooled instead” and all the while Susie, while giving Timmy a hug, telling Timmy its okay and she’ll make sure she doesn’t bring it because she doesn’t want her friend to die.

            I wish I was exaggerating on people declaring my child should be home-schooled over her food allergies. I’m not. First time that happened was during preschool parent orientation. I’ve even had a complete stranger comment while in a store that “it must suck to have to buy expensive food just because your kid is in the same class as another who is allergic. Maybe you should ask the school if they can force the allergic kid to be home schooled because its not fair to other parents”. Because I was reading labels. To send in a treat that was safe for the entire class.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              I am so sorry you’re dealing with that. My daughter is dairy free and her daycare is completely nut free. Because of her allergy, I send safe food from home for her to eat. Do you know how hard it is to make dairy AND nut free food? BUT I STILL DO IT ANYWAY. Because other people’s needs matter too.

              1. SweetestCin*

                That is one of the worst combinations, because so many things mimic the “creamy” with blended nuts. We’re in a very similar situation because we do need to worry about milk and peanuts, but we don’t need to worry about tree nuts. Most of her “safe treats” at home are akin to Larabars – lots of tree nuts.

                1. Blueberry*

                  Have you tried making fruit bonbons? (Freeze dried fruit ground to powder, sugar, and pectin in a little water; makes a doughlike mixture that can be rolled into balls. ) If you like I’ll post a recipe Saturday.

                2. Third or Nothing!*

                  I love Larabars! I use them as fuel on my long runs because they’re processed sugar free/dairy free/egg free and I get bad reactions if I don’t avoid those things. I don’t give them to my daughter, though, because she’s a toddler and eats like half of it and throws the rest away and those things are too expensive to only eat half.

                  Do you happen to have an Aldi near you? They sell these little wafer cookie type things that are made out of coconut, cashews, sugar, and flavorings. My daughter LOVES them, and so does my husband.

                3. Third or Nothing!*

                  Blueberry, I’d love a recipe please! Would excluding the sugar change the texture too much?

              2. Blueberry*

                For some reason I can’t reply below. I don’t think leaving out the sugar would change the texture too much, but it might affect the keeping qualities. Anyway, I’ll post a recipe on Saturday.

            2. pancakes*

              Wow. I have to think that is someone who has a really disordered relationship with food or a personality disorder, to be so aggressive about wanting kids excluded from school solely on account of it limiting their snack selection.

              1. Kiwi with laser beams*

                Nah, sounds like classic “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” to me. (I’m not saying a parent isn’t allowed to feel a bit stressed about having to remember something else when they’re already very busy, but we’re talking about people who think it’s OK to demand that kids with allergies be homeschooled.) No need to bring people with disordered eating or personality disorders into it.

                1. pancakes*

                  Approaching a stranger who’s reading the labels in a grocery store and urging them to exclude a hypothetical child with allergies is not the behavior of someone who is mentally well.

            3. Quill*

              Yeah, parents are more likely to react to their inconvenience (has to remember not to pack peanut butter) kids are more likely to step up and tell their friend that they’ll protect them from the mean peanuts.

            4. Wing Leader*

              Funnily enough, I actually had the opposite problem with a parent once.

              I used to keep a small group of toddlers for a few hours every morning. We would always have a mid-morning snack to keep the kids from getting cranky before they went home for lunch (usually goldfish crackers, pretzels, etc.–all the parents knew about this and were fine with it). One day, we had a little girl named Abby join our group that had quite a few food sensitivities and allergies that would make it difficult for her to snack.

              I spoke to her mom and asked her what Abby could have so I can get an idea of some new snacks I could bring that everyone could eat. Mom told me that Abby would be fine and didn’t need to snack, and that I could keep feeding the other kids whatever they normally ate and Abby could just eat when she got home.

              Um…so I’m supposed to sit all the kids down with their snack and juice (this was usually their favorite part) while I try to tell your daughter that she’s the only one who couldn’t have anything? Sheesh. I didn’t feel right giving her a snack without her Mom’s permission, but I felt so bad for that kid.

            5. KoiFeeder*

              Yeah, I went to school with a kid who got that sort of flack from parents (and the faculty! one teacher used to make passive-aggressive comments about how we all had to eat “cheese sandwiches” because of him! that was so messed up!). Didn’t understand it then, don’t understand it now. You’d think that it would be obvious that not killing someone is more important than the sandwiches, but something about becoming an adult seems to make people forget that.

              1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

                You’d think so, but you’d also think people would understand that not killing people is more important than a haircut.

                1. KoiFeeder*

                  Or, if you’ll forgive me for soapboxing, that not killing people is more important than making a profit off of healthcare.

            6. Lynn*

              I was born in the late 70s. We never had all these treats from home at school or activities like kids do now, so it wasn’t an issue. I’m not sure how it became the norm.

        2. JessaB*

          I was reading on the Not Always site, and something like this occurred, a poster put in a story about explaining to people not to touch the artifacts in the museum. Then turned to the kids and stage whispered, “I’m not talking about you, you kids know how to behave but sometimes grown ups don’t.” Next thing an adult is fingering a textile and their kid pipes up “Don’t Do that, the guide said don’t touch.”

          Sometimes when handled right kids can be so much more agreeable than adults.

          1. Atlantis*

            I had something similar happen as a lifeguard. I was dealing with a camp of kids who kept digging holes right in front of my stand, which was a huge hazard if I had to jump off to go do a rescue. I had to keep telling them to move, but then a new kid would come over and start digging. Eventually one of the counselors heard what was going on, and came over to the stand and drew two lines in the sand running from my stand to the water. He then stood outside the lines and anytime a kid even walked across the line he’d say “get out of the zone!” Within 5 minutes the other kids had picked it up, and started telling each other not to go through the zone. It worked perfectly.

          2. Paperdill*

            Sounds like my kids at the farmers market today (yes, I had no choice but to take them): “I’m moving away two big steps from that person”, “Mummy – I need the sanitiser again! I accidentally touched my face!”, informing a gentleman lined up behind us “You must stand on the cross so that we’re a far apart”, whispering to me “That person didn’t wash their hands at the gate”. Hilarious.

            1. KaciHall*

              We had to bring my kiddo with us on a trip out of town to go to a couple stores, even though it meant he’s be sitting in the car the whole time while we alternated shopping. He was asleep when dad went into the first store, but woke up before dad came back. He absolutely freaked out that we went shopping and didn’t have our masks on. I showed him the masks on the car, and he got all worried that dad wasn’t wearing his – so my husband sent me a selfie with his mask from inside the store. Like kids can definitely be better about following the rules when they want to.

          3. MusicWithRocksIn*

            If you give a kid a rule they can hold against an adult it is gold. My dad used to not wear a seatbelt, ever, until my school taught me that everyone should always wear one. Eight year old me legit bullied my dad relentlessly about it and he wears one to this day.

      2. Blaise*

        People talk a lot of trash about “kids these days” but I’m a teacher too and there is FAR less bullying now than in the past, overall. Diversity is such a thing now, when in generations past it wasn’t something valued at all, that now kids are around people of all ethnicities, language backgrounds, gender identities, sexualities, etc. that it doesn’t really occur to most of them to use those things against someone. I think every single generation has gotten better with this, now that I think about it.

        Of course there’s still bullying, because some kids have traumatic backgrounds and kids are still learning how to act as human beings, but it rarely stems from some fact about the kid and more just ends up being troubled kids picking on the easiest targets.

        1. anon for this*

          I think it’s always been true that you have to be carefully taught. (Look up the song I’m referencing.) It’s always the parents. Kids don’t learn to discriminate and bully without it coming from somewhere. Maybe their parents aren’t teaching them as much any more :)

        2. KoiFeeder*

          Honestly, yeah. When I was a kid, most of the bullying I experienced was from the faculty. I’ve never had hard feelings towards the kids that bullied me, it was always pretty obvious that they were just doing it because the adults were.

          1. Bubbles*

            This was my experience as well. I had a health issue in junior high and high school that caused a visible change to my body. The adults were the ones who had the most issue with it. They assumed I was suffering or that I was some sort of failure and doomed to jinx the rest of the school with my endocrine disorder, but then they liked to parade me around as a sample of their emotional support and diversity. It was a giant crock of shit… and I told that to my homeroom teacher when she insisted I stand up in front of the entire class and explain to the other kids what was wrong with me and what they could do to make sure they don’t catch it from me. It was an endocrine disorder. Which she knew because she had been present for the meeting with my parents, the principal, and I.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              That’s always so infuriating. You’d think that teachers would be the ones to know that things like autism and endocrine disorders aren’t contagious, but that’s apparently too much to ask of them.

        3. Running & Coffee*

          This is SO true. My teen daughter watches John Hughes movies with me and thinks the meanness of the characters is an exaggerations…she doesn’t know how real that was in the 80s!

    2. Courtney*

      One of my friends is allergic to protein (that’s the easiest way to describe it, although it is more complex than that) and she regularly does things like this – of course we always look to ensure restaurants have a good vegetarian menu (vegan menus are out of the question usually because of the high protein level in vegan food) but she will and has gone to steak houses and eaten just a green salad, to try be accommodating for others. She especially had to do this when we were younger and less conscious of her needs. She loves salad so we didn’t see a problem, we have learned since then!

        1. Courtney*

          It’s a rare genetic thing, only 900 people in Australia have it! It’s called Phenylketonuria, and because of it she has to take a special type of protein tablet every day – 50 of them!

            1. Courtney*

              I’m glad you like it, I was worried I was being insensitive for oversimplifying it so much

              1. AnonEmu*

                No that’s a really good way of describing it! I covered PKU in my biochem class last year when I taught, I might borrow that phrasing if I teach that again this year?

          1. MayLou*

            Fun fact: this is why a lot of soft drinks (in the UK at least) state “contains a source of phenylalanine”. I always figured that was a substance that was bad for everyone, but no, it’s to help people with PKU. It’s also one of the conditions tested for in the newborn blood screening, as it’s manageable if you know about it but doesn’t show symptoms until serious damage has been done.

            1. Jemima Bond*

              That’s so interesting, I always assumed that phenylalanine was one of those sweeteners that some like to avoid, like aspartame, or a colourant that might make you go a bit loopy like tartrazine or sunset yellow…

              1. Lady Heather*

                You’re almost correct! Aspartame is actually what you get when you paste phenylalanine and asparatic acid – each amino acids – together (in a methyl ester). When you eat aspartame, your body breaks it back down into phenylalanine and asparatic acid. In people without PKU, it then breaks down those two amino acids – in people with PKU, it breaks down the asparatic acid and the phenylalanine builds up.

                So, a lot of the products that say ‘Contains a source of phenylalanine’ say it because it contains aspartame!

              2. Jam Today*

                It is a component of aspartame, in the US you’ll find the same label (“Contains phenyalinine”) on diet drinks that use it.

                1. Pomona Sprout*

                  This is fascinating! I just grabbed my bottle of Diet Pepsi and checked the ingredients, and you’re right! “Contains phenylalanine,” at the end of the ingredients list. I swear, I learn something new every time I come here!

            1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

              Me too! I love this site…..not only do I learn good business/employment behaviors, but I learn other cool things that I never knew existed.

              (Plus I can vent about my crappy boss….win/win/win!)

          2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Thanks for clarifying: I knew about PKU but hadn’t seen it phrased that way.

          3. nonegiven*

            They run that PKU test at the hospital on every newborn in the US, or they did when my son was born.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Oooh, those are my food allergies! Also, fun fact: the casein present in cow’s milk and goat’s milk are two different proteins. Some people who can’t do cow’s milk can do goat’s milk, like me. Isn’t the world a fascinating place?

          2. JustaTech*

            Oh many, the two months where my coworker tried to avoid dairy and eggs because her son who she was breastfeeding was allergic were exhausting for everyone. Not only could she not eat most of her normal foods, but she also discovered that she didn’t know what was *in* most American foods because she didn’t cook them at home. So then she would ask the rest of us to help her figure out if she could eat things like fresh pasta (no, eggs) or hamburger buns (never figured that one out).

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          There’s also alpha-gal syndrome, where a tick bite (from a Lone Star tick) can trigger an allergy to red meat (beef, pork). Mostly US Southeast, but spreading as the tick migrates. Chicken is still ok.

      1. Bubbles*

        I do get excited for steakhouses because I love a good baked potato and I love wedge salads (no bacon!). Mmmm.

        1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

          OMG we need to go out to eat together! I have never known another person (besides my dad) who loves wedge salads!!!!! Give me a nice wedge salad, and a massive glob of Thousand Island Dressing (or Ranch) and I’m about as happy as I can get! Add in that baked tater (with tons of butter and sour cream) and we got a winner folks!

    3. Fikly*

      On the other end of the spectrum, I am still boggling over a former roommate who had a severe peanut allergy like this, but didn’t voluntarily disclose this to me.

      I only found out because I told him, as a matter of standard safety, just so you know, this is where I keep an epipen, and he said, oh, here’s where I keep mine, so I asked him what he was allergic to. I could have killed him!

      1. A*

        Wow! That’s scary! I wonder if there was a reason they didn’t share it, or did it just not occur to them? How terrifying, especially with an allergy to something that is commonly hidden in sauces etc.

      2. snoopythedog*

        Right! I was out for coffee with a friend one day who disclosed her severe milk (?lactose?dairy? not quite sure) allergy to the barista and asked for soy in her latte. They came back to her saying they weren’t feeling comfortable serving her a latte because they didn’t have separate milk and non-dairy milk frothing jars. She told them it was fine if there was a bit of cross contamination because she’s within 15 minute of a major hospital…. LIKE WHAT. Luckily they refused. I backed them up.

        1. Wing Leader*

          Uh, what. “Oh, it’s cool if I start asphyxiating, the hospital’s just around the corner.” And there are SO MANY PEOPLE who would say that and then—as soon as they realize they’re having an allergic reaction–they would start talking about suing the pants off the establishment for nearly killing them (not saying your friend would do that, but just speaking generally).

        2. JustaTech*

          I had a coworker with a nut allergy (specifically walnuts, he insisted it was mild) who would eat the things my coworker and I baked even if it had nuts in it. “Oh, it’ll just make me cough a bit!”

          After he came back for a second helping of brownies while still coughing I swore off baking with nuts for work until he left. I can’t control what other people eat/do, but I’m not going to put them in harm’s way.

    4. NowI'mHungry*

      1) That’s very empathetic of the students, and it’s an encouraging thing to hear about the next generation :)
      2) A deep-fried uncrustable topped with flamin’ hot cheetos sounds AMAZING!

  5. Barbara Eyiuche*

    #3 I would just say you are an artist. You don’t have to add freelancer. You could say you’re an artist, you work for X Company, and also do other projects.

    1. Jimming*

      Yeah. You could even say something like “I’m open for commissions” if you can take on extra work. I’ve seen independent artists take commissions to take on one-off projects.

      1. LunaLena*

        I’d suggest “full-time [art type], and I take freelance work on the side” if LW3 is looking for extra work. I’ve said that for years as a graphic designer and it’s worked out fairly well for me.

    2. She of Too Many Pets (maybe)*

      I really wouldn’t. “Artist” (or worse, “writer”) so commonly equates to “my parents are supporting me after a useless college degree because I don’t want to hold down a real job”. It’s very often not true (I dated a professional artist who both worked insane hours and made truly impressive amounts of money) but that’s the gut reaction a lot of people have.

      1. Wing Leader*

        Yes, but it’s a gut reaction people shouldn’t have, so I think it’s good to call yourself an artist and give people and education on what that actually entails. The “lazy, starving artist” stereotype needs to die.

    3. Eliza*

      I’d personally be a bit careful about the “work for X Company” wording. I’ve worked as a contractor with companies that were very insistent that contractors not say that they work “for” the company, because that was seen as presenting yourself as an employee. The language I tend to use is something along the lines of “lately I’ve been doing a lot of work with X Company.”

      That might be an industry-dependent thing, though, since we have a customer base that’s unusually interested in our company’s internal workings and insider gossip, and people love to spread rumours that start with “I met an employee of X Company and you won’t believe what they said”.

      1. Wing Leader*

        OP could say something like, “I’m an artist and I currently do Houndstooth Graphic Design for XX Company, and I’m also open to new work.” That would be true and wouldn’t be calling herself an employee.

      2. Sally*

        That’s surprising – I’d expect that contractors/freelancers/consultants would need to sign an NDA.

        1. Eliza*

          We do sign NDAs, but if somebody breaks one it’s not usually a realistic possibility to enforce any consequences beyond not working with them again and torpedoing their professional reputation. Most people involved in the kind of work we do are doing it as a side job and don’t have their main source of income riding on their reputation in this industry, so the incentives for people not to leak info are not particularly overwhelming if they’re sufficiently motivated to do so.

          1. Eliza*

            Also, our NDAs don’t tend to be blanket “don’t talk about anything” ones: there are some things we’re actively encouraged to talk about with the public in order to spread word-of-mouth to build hype for a new product or something, but we need to be clear about what capacity we’re talking about them in.

    4. Mainely Professional*

      Yep! I handle a bunch of freelance artists, writers, and copyeditors in my job, and most of them do it full time, with a few that this work is a sidehustle to a 9-5, but they’re full time freelancers and I don’t think they’d have any problem saying “I’m an artist and illustrator/3D sculptor/animator/whatever specialty. I’ve done work for X, Y, and Z company, but these days Z company takes up almost all my hours.”

      1. LW3*

        “X takes up all my hours” is a great way to put it, thanks! Implies busy, employed, but not tied down to one company. I’ll steal that for later.

        The worry I have about saying I work for X company is just the misrepresentation thing. If I say I work for X, the conversational follow-ups are always, “oh, they have an office here?” (no) “cool, they let you work from home?” (well…) and that’s what leads to me saying I’m freelance.

        1. anon for this one*

          One thing I just tried out in my head is the difference between “I’m a freelance artist, mostly for X” and “I do freelance art work, mostly for X” and the latter definitely sounds like it’s emphasizing that you DO WORK!

    5. Joielle*

      Or maybe “commercial artist”? “I’m a commercial artist, right now I’m working on some projects for X company.” If people care to know more details about the arrangement they can ask.

    6. Emily*

      Or “I’m a professional artist” — because you get paid for your art. I think folks who don’t work in industries where freelancing is common think it’s more casual than it is.

  6. Seal*

    #1 – Does the rest of the team know that you’re uncomfortable with this restaurant? If I knew one of my colleagues wasn’t able to go to regular lunches with the group because of a food allergy, the person that organized the lunch would get an earful. Especially if the organizer knew about it and refused to accommodate because it was inconvenient for them.

      1. SweetestCin*

        It is definitely great when your coworkers/friends are willing to have your back on this.

    1. Doctor What*

      I was going to ask if the rest of OP#1’s co-workers know that OP had an allergic reaction (“mild” or not) at this restaurant. If I knew a co-worker had an allergic reaction to something they ate, at a restaurant we went to, I wouldn’t want to go there!

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        I’d add that it was an allergic reaction despite the restaurant saying the food didn’t have the allergen in it. That last part – that the restaurant screwed up – is really really important.

  7. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    LW3: I hear ya. I’ve been a freelance editor since the start of ’15; I have happy clients and what one client called “an impeccable reputation.” Yet my brother-in-law has described my freelancing as “retirement” or “fun-employment.” Luckily, he’s the only person I know with this attitude (and he’s easy to avoid as he lives overseas and I recently unfriended him on social media).

    1. Maxie*

      Oh yes, quarterly taxes, extra documentation and paperwork, deducting expenses, calculatiung net and gross, keeping abreast of IRS regulations, paying both halfs of FICA, buying our own health insurance and being responsible for our own retirement funds are so much fun.

    2. londonedit*

      Yup. I’m an editor, and I was freelance for a few years. I totally had the ‘not really working’ response from people. My housemate at the time would come home and see me working at the kitchen table and say ‘Oh! You’re working today?’ Yes, just like every other day! Other people would think it was perfectly fine to ask whether I actually made enough money to pay my bills, or ask whether I was looking for a ‘proper job’. I often got a general sense that people didn’t believe I had a ‘real job’, or that they thought I spent all day sitting around in my pyjamas watching TV and playing at working. So I can really empathise with LW3!

      I think I mainly dealt with it using sarcasm if it was a friend doing the commenting, but that’s just me, and if I met someone new who asked me what I did for a living, I’d definitely just say ‘I’m an editor’ and try to leave it at that. If that wasn’t enough, I’d try to really play up the amount of work I had on, throwing in the names of the major companies I did work for, etc. But it was really frustrating feeling like I had to do that in order to justify the way I worked.

      1. BethDH*

        I wonder whether this kind of attitude might change a little now. I think it’s somewhat similar to people who think working from home isn’t really working, and we’re getting a lot more cultural exposure to that now.

        1. londonedit*

          I’ve been wondering the same thing. I definitely think a lot of it came from the ‘Oh ha, yeah, “working from home”, you mean slacking off watching TV in your pants, ha ha’ sort of attitude that a lot of people had before vast numbers of people started working from home for weeks on end. I think a lot of the ‘freelance = not a proper job’ attitude that I experienced came from people latching on to the ‘Oh, working from home all day, yeah, wouldn’t we all love to do that’ thing.

    3. Vina*

      yes. If this were a coworker who wasn’t going to lunch and I found out why, I’d definitely be addressing it with the organizer on their behalf.

      I think a lot of us would be outraged even if we had no real relationship with the person with the allergy.

      LW, even if you don’t have friends in this group, you probably have plenty of people who would be allies.

    4. LW3*

      Oh man, I can’t imagine having to deal with that attitude from family. I got snark from my aunt when I was still in art school (to my parents: “you’re seriously LETTING her do that?”) but since I graduated and got work it’s been fine. Glad your brother-in-law lives far away, at least!

  8. Pennyworth*

    #1 – If the restaurant triggered your allergic reaction with a dish which they claimed to be peanut free I wouldn’t regard it as a safe place to eat for anyone with allergies or intolerances of any kind. I would emphasise that you can’t even go there and order peanut free dishes because of this history.

      1. AnonEmu*

        That was 100% my thought as well, I have celiac, and if they can’t get a peanut allergy right, I would not bet they could be ok for gluten, since it’s in bloody everything. I think OP needs to let GF person know, if they don’t already, and put that in their ear – “if they can’t get mine right, how long before you get sick?” . Solidarity in numbers and all that.

    1. Paloma Pigeon*

      100% this. The order that caused a reaction calls into question the safety or even the presence of unwanted food in any order. If a restaurant can’t take an allergy request seriously in 2020, that’s a problem. Can your team order in? I’m sure many restaurants are delivering, especially now during the pandemic. (this would be after you are back in the office).

      Also, OP, just because the allergy wasn’t ‘serious’ once doesn’t mean it can’t be again. Previous reactions are no indicator of how serious the next reaction can be. Take care of yourself.

      1. Wing Leader*

        Just one quick caveat: A lot of people are assuming that the restaurant was just lazy and didn’t take her allergy seriously. It’s very possible that they did, but just made an honest mistake. As a former restaurant employee myself, it’s hard to know exactly what everything touched at all times. And sometimes things touch other things before they even arrive at the restaurant. Not saying that makes it okay for OP or others with allergies–and obviously more care should be given as much as possible–but I’m just saying that the restaurant may have tried to do everything they could to keep her food safe.

        1. Em*

          I have a relative with anaphylaxis to egg, and there are certain types of restaurants he just doesn’t eat in, because the cross-contamination risk is too high, even if everyone is doing their best.

          1. willow for now*

            The Egg & I?
            The Delectable Egg?
            Egg Shop?
            Okay, I made that last one up. Sometimes the restaurant does the work for you!

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Someone needs to open up a restaurant named Eggslut STAT! But not me, cause I can’t have eggs.

        2. Observer*

          In a practical sense, this does not matter. If they can’t prevent cross contamination, they can’t prevent it. And anyone for whom that can be a problem needs to be aware of it.

          There is a place the consistently messes up my order – they are very nice when I order, but inevitably, there is something that I absolutely cannot eat. Stop telling me that you can do this if you can’t. Period. At this point I will absolutely not order from them, no matter what they say because they either won’t or can’t keep my food safe for me, and they won’t tell me that either.

          Another place told me up front that they can’t prevent all cross contamination but they can avoid certain ingredients in certain foods. I continue to order from them because I know what I’m getting in to and I know that when tell me something I can rely on it.

    2. Threeve*

      I’m sort of curious exactly what the restaurant claimed–unfortunately a dish that doesn’t have any ingredients that contain peanuts is never a guarantee of truly peanut-free. A friend has a life-threatening allergy, and the only way we can expect food to be truly allergen-free is by calling ahead and letting the restaurant know. Some places will assemble components of the allergen-free meal when they first start the day’s prep work, so it’s ready to serve without coming into contact with anything else.

      1. A*

        THIS. It isn’t clear from the letter if OP requested a peanut free dish that was confirmed to be such, or if they ordered a dish that didn’t list peanuts as an ingredient (bad business practice, but it definitely happens especially with sauces etc.)

  9. compte*

    Advice to #2 question is so weird. Who cares? If you don’t want the food, don’t take it.

    I thought Alison didn’t usually recommend tattling, but “My impression is that they’re deliberately hiding this from managers, so I was uneasy not flagging it” is the tattletale’s dream phrase.

    1. JessaB*

      The problem is not that it’s food, the problem is that sneaking around and hiding things don’t parse as good behaviour, what else is this worker hiding, or lying about after being told to not do something? The fact that it’s about food is sort of irrelevant. Management came down with “do not do x” what other rules is this coworker breaking?

      1. compte*

        It actually doesn’t say what the person was told, if anything. If the person is lying about other things, good managers will quickly figure it out themselves.

        1. Not Australian*

          I admire your confidence that ‘good managers will quickly figure it out’. First, this requires good managers, which are by no means a given. Second, it requires them not to be so overwhelmed with other matters that they have the capacity to notice there’s a problem. Thirdly, the first thing any manager will say if they discover the situation for themselves will be “Why didn’t you/anyone tell me about this?”, after which the whole office could potentially be seen as complicit in a cover-up. This is an outcome to be avoided if at all possible, and the OP should be proactive in getting out in front of it while they can.

        2. Fikly*

          Well, the managers haven’t figured out the food, so why do you think they’d notice anything else?

          And why are you assuming the managers are good, now that I think of it?

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right, someone who’s directly told “don’t do this” for safety reasons (if that is in fact what happened, which sounds likely) and then sneaks around to do it anyway is a serious problem in an office. This isn’t like telling your boss Bob sneaks out two minutes early every day.

        1. leapingLemur*

          Also, COVID-19 is still new; as much as the experts don’t think it can be spread through food, they aren’t 100% sure. Why not be careful?

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I read an article last week that said doctors don’t recommend sharing food, not because you catch the virus by swallowing it, but because when you’re sharing food you’re also probably sharing serving utensils and touching things that other people are likely to touch.

      3. NerdyKris*

        Yes, it’s like the “bowl of green M&Ms” rider on contracts for musicians. If they notice that was skipped, it’s a sign that they might have skipped things in more important areas, like the amount of weight the stage can handle.

        In this case it’s a bad sign that they’re going around a safety precaution, because it means they’re willing to ignore safety procedures they don’t feel are necessary, which could be dangerous in some types of jobs. Like if at my job someone decides to argue with the “Everyone wears a hairnet on the production floor” rule because they’re bald so it shouldn’t apply to them, a manager is going to worry what else they think isn’t an important rule, like shutting off machines or proper forklift safety, even if it is silly to make a bald person wear a hairnet.

      4. SomebodyElse*

        Did the manager say don’t bring food in? I reread the letter and it didn’t actually say that…

        ” Their supervisor was asked to weigh in and the dish was later removed from the kitchen.

        Since then, the employee has brought in baked goods at least twice, only now they go around offering it privately to each employee and they put it away when a manager is present.”

        I can easily imagine a manager saying “Hey, some people are uncomfortable with homemade food being offered and left out in the break room. Keep it at your desk for the time being”

        As for the offering it privately and putting it away… again unless they are doing a secret international spy type dead drop with other employees, it sounds like they are just being low key with it.

        I think the OP is overreacting here and just needs to let the Sally Snackbringer get on with it, and let people decide for themselves if they want to partake.

        1. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

          This was my thought as well. The manager could have just as easily said “I don’t care what you do, but I don’t want to hear about it.” and the employee interpreted that as put it away when the manager is around. I do not see why the manager was involved in the first place. If I don’t want food someone brings in, I do not eat it. I do not get so offended by its very presence that I feel the need to involve management to make a ruling. I think LW’s personal dislike of this employee may have influenced their irritation at the homemade foods.

    2. Lancelottie*

      I don’t understand why this ever invokved the manager at all. This isn’t like someone who refuses to wash their hands or wear a mask in close proximity to coworkers; the food is just sitting there, its not airborne, and people can freely decide whether to eat it or not. I don’t see why that would be problematic enough to escalate to the managerial level again.

      1. She of Too Many Pets (maybe)*

        My office has been very, very serious about trying to keep the people who still need to physically go in safe. The breakroom is actually shut down for anything except for microwaving your food, getting water, etc. No eating in it, no leaving stuff there, no socializing. All shared utensils/cups/etc have been removed for the duration. Everyone is required to wipe down anything they touch in a common area from the printer buttons to microwave with sanitizer before & after use. Conference rooms are locked & not to be used; any double doors/interior doors are propped open so no one has to touch more handles than necessary. And so on. (Yes, this office has been a poster child on how to do things right.)

        This person would absolutely be reamed out in my office…if nothing else, we aren’t supposed to even be talking to people in person if we can avoid it let alone going cube to cube like this. Even for someone in the building, we IM or call rather than wander over to cubes.

        Is it overkill? Maybe. But it’s not that hard and there are at least a dozen people who work in this building that I know of who have serious medical conditions who would quite likely end up on a ventilator if they get this. Why risk it over cookies?

        1. Amanda*

          Yes, and I don’t agree with Alison that it’s the dodginess that makes this an escalatable offense.

          I would presonally think it’s no big deal if someone brought baked goods to an office and left it in the break room or something. Going from cube to cube to offer them is what makes it cross the line, it’s recklessly dangerous, and THAT is something worth bringing to the manager’s attention.

        2. Threeve*

          Yep–coming into relatively close contact with everybody unnecessarily is a major problem.

          If you’re in an office, maybe people are going to enter your bubble sometimes, but they shouldn’t be doing it if they don’t have to.

          And people may be comfortable turning down food, but not comfortable saying “actually, please don’t approach me at all if you don’t need to.”

      2. LizM*

        The problem with infectious diseases is that you don’t just make that decision for yourself, you make it for everyone you come in contact with.

        If someone decides to take a risk, but then 4 days later is in an elevator with me, I’m potentially exposed even I avoided the risk.

        I do think there’s room for debate about baked goods, but as a manager, I would want to know if an employee was taking it upon themselves to decide which safety rules to follow and which to ignore.

      3. Avasarala*

        For that reason I would think it would actually be better if the food was left on a table, and worse now that the employee is going to each coworker individually (probably within 2 meters) and offering the food.

        I don’t think there is particular risk from food, but I also understand simplifying safety rules to the lowest common denominator.
        There are lots of things we could do safely like walking outside without masks and socializing with a few neighbors and close family, except that people hear that and go “Oh OK, so I can go about my normal life as long as I run my hands under water sometimes… huh I kinda have a cough now”.

        1. MayLou*

          One of my neighbours believes that her family will be fine because they’re very clean.

        2. Mongrel*

          “I don’t think there is particular risk from food, but I also understand simplifying safety rules to the lowest common denominator.”

          There’s also the fact that however You, I or The Home Cook judge the effectiveness of a ban or the disagree on the safety of home cooked food, the work place has decided that a ban is in place.
          Right now it means that the home cook is disobeying a request from his manager, it shouldn’t matter whether that’s don’t bring food in, we’re maintaining our uptight dress code or no fish in the microwave. If they think the edict is wrong they need to go through channels to appeal it, not flout it (and get pissy when they’re caught out)

          1. Avasarala*

            Agreed. The rules have been simplified to what they think they can get everyone to do, and now we have to follow them (even if we think that we personally shouldn’t have to follow them–that’s how rules work).

      4. Betty*

        I wouldn’t have escalated to managerial level in the first place if it truly was just leaving obviously homemade baked goods in a kitchen that was still open for normal use. People cab take their chances there IMO if they know what they’re doing.

        But once they have been told to stop and they double down and hide it, that is actually a big attitude problem that says they’re willing to disobey direct orders and sneak around to do so. Not OK at work!

        1. Amanda*

          I honestly wouldn’t care overmuch about the attitude issue. That’s between her and her manager and, unless it’s affecting me, I personally prefer not to tattle. I also wouldn’t care about the original baked goods left in the kitchen or break room.

          But what she’s doing now is. dangerous. She’s going cube to cube, and presumably standing close enough to coworkers to offer food. That’s a much greater risk of infecting herself and others with a freaking deadly disease, so this goes way beyond an attitude problem! She needs to be reported immediately for wilfully putting everyone in danger.

          1. Observer*

            People with an attitude problem about safety don’t affect you till they do. And sometimes in a really bad way.

          2. LITJess*

            Yes, and I think this is the part that’s worth reporting. OP doesn’t know exactly what was said to co-worker, though between the food disappearing from the break room and the hiding it from management it’s not as hard to guess as some are pretending.
            If your company has a problem with bringing in food from home to share, chances are great they’re not thrilled about unnecessary face time between staff right now. Report that.

      5. LH Holdings*

        I also don’t understand why this was a manager/HR level problem. You don’t need someone’s permission to decline food and you don’t need to “borrow” the authority of your manager to do so.

        1. Fikly*

          No, but if there’s a workplace rule against bringing food in, you sure need permission to break it.

    3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Framing a potential safety problem as “tattling” is unhelpful, IMHO. The management has decided to view this as a risk they aren’t willing to accept and this person is deliberately concealing a violation. Maybe the risk that the dish they are being served from has become contaminated in the process of going from this person’s kitchen to the office is low, but that is beside the point to me. It’s about refusing to follow a direct instruction and concealing it. Quietly advising the boss that a safety measure is being ignored is not “tattling”.

      1. A*

        Yes, I think the public health factor changes things and moves this away from the territory of ‘tattling’.

    4. Miso*

      Yeah, I don’t understand neither the letter nor the answer. If you’re scared, don’t eat the food, what’s the problem…?

      1. Leah K*

        Because that’s not how infectious diseases work. If you avoid taking risks, but you coworkers don’t, they effectively undermine your efforts to stay healthy. It’s like hiding in a shelter in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and somebody saying “Well, if you worry about getting infected, don’t go outside. I am not worried, so I’m going for a walk”. And then they get bitten, get back to the shelter without telling anyone, and end up decimating the colony. You don’t get to decide what is a safe level or risk to expose other people to.

        1. Doe-Eyed*

          Right? I’m sort of shocked that people think if they just don’t touch the food that all the people communally touching the same dish will know that, and then their germs will just go around the person not participating?

    5. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, considering that the health risks of this are pretty negligible, I’d hold my peace rather than risk being known as The Cookie Tattler (Tart Tattler? Cookie Quisling? Noms Narc?) for the rest of my time in the office.

      Save your cred for when there’s actually something dangerous to report.

      1. allathian*

        There’s little evidence that the virus remains active on food items. That said, going from cube to cube to offer it means getting into the personal space of others mandated by social distancing.
        That’s what I would have an issue with. And in any case, she’s been told by management that she can’t bring in food and offer it to others. She’s doing it anyway and that needs to stop. You can’t break the rules set down by management, even if you consider them inconvenient, stupid or just plain wrong, and expect to get away with it.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Did they, though? The exact words were “Their supervisor was asked to weigh in and the dish was later removed from the kitchen.” It’s entirely possible the manager told her “look, I don’t have a problem with it but Deborah from accounting is flipping her lid, so maybe instead of leaving it in the kitchen you just privately offer it to whoever wants it?”

          Regardless, if the managers feel that strongly about it they can investigate it further, but I ain’t narcing over something so petty. The management didn’t even care about it until someone else asked them to step in. Chances are good that if you bring it up to them again they’ll see you as an annoying whiner forcing them to get involved in a pointless spat.

          1. Avasarala*

            It is so weird to me to use words like “tattle” and “narc” and “whine” about raising food/health safety issues during a pandemic. This is a safety concern, not snitching on a drug deal.

            1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

              For real. I’m really disappointed with some of the comments on this.

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              Consensus from the experts is that there’s very little risk of the virus being transferred via food.
              There isn’t a safety concern, there’s a feelings concern – which makes this pointless tattling.

    6. kittymommy*

      I’m kinda of the same mindset. While I don’t agree with hem blatantly disobeying the supervisor like this , if the LW and colleague had stayed out of it in the first place (and just not eaten the food themselves) then it’s likely the supervisor wouldn’t be involved. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. There. Simple as that. Getting managers, managers of managers, etc. all weighing in scolding people is just ridiculous.

      1. EPLawyer*

        But it did go to the manager. The manager presumably told them to not bring in baked goods. It is now a matter of insubordination. The fact that the baker is hiding it from managers makes it pretty clear they were told not to do it. Earlier in the letter it was made clear this person has an attitude. This is just more evidence that the baker knows best — regardless of what they were told.

        It is very much the manager’s business to know that someone is ignoring a direct order that affects the health and safety of other employees. It is not tattling to let the manager know.

      2. pancakes*

        Alternatively, it’s pretty ridiculous for someone to be so committed to going around the office with food as to insist on doing so during a pandemic, after they’ve been clearly told not to.

    7. Doe-Eyed*

      The issue is not really the food but potentially spreading virus, which will affect them. The food itself is unlikely to be contagious, but I have a hard time believing that every person grabbing from the same dish is meticulously washing their hands doing so, and asymptomatic people are the most prevalent way that coronavirus is currently spread.

    8. Grateful*

      I am concerned and curious about why the coworker feels so strongly about bringing food for her coworkers. Is she lonely or just loves cooking for others?

      1. Blueberry*

        Me too. I say this as a person who Loves with a capital L to cook for my coworkers. It’s a great way to try a recipe and not have to eat the entire quantity, and also a great way to make people happy.

        I’m also in charge of my office’s reopening plan, and one of the rules I myself added is “no food sharing.” because it’s not a good idea right now. So I don’t really understand why this coworker needs to so much that she’s flouting instructions.

  10. Maxie*

    #3: That really stinks that people are being rude and judgmental. I am a writer and whether I get paid as staff or independent contractor is just an accounting thing for me. It doesn’t impact the work. It’s the same for you.

    You shouldn’t have to change how you talk about your work because people are jerks, but it sounds like you do in order to be taken seriously. Alison’s recommendation is good and is an accurate portrayal of your work. But maybe you could also say contract artist rather than freelance artist and refer to the companies you work for as clients: “I’m a contract artist and my biggest client is Chocolate Teapots. I just finished working on XXX interesting project.” Just for fun, talk about how heavy your workload is or reference needing to remember to put money into your retirement account.

    Several years ago I transitioned from independent contractor to a sub-chapter S Corp, again just accounting stuff. Under both structures, it was hard to start referring to it as my business. Instead of freelance or contract writer, I taught myself to say I have a writing business.

  11. Dynamite With A Laser Beam*

    I stopped calling myself a freelance copywriter after a friend of my parents opined that freelancing was just what people did when they couldn’t get a jinx NGL, it stung, especially since that’s exactly why I was doing it. That was in about 2010. Anyway, I started saying I was a commercial writer instead. People can be dicks.

    1. anon for this*

      I think this so depends on audience–if you told me you were a freelance copyeditor, I would assume you work full time/nearly full, or perhaps manage a feast and famine schedule with your clients, and manage on generous savings when work is low. That’s my experience as someone who hires a lot of freelance copyeditors and has done it myself :)

      I have to assume people like this and like the OP’s talking about have no clue what working in the field is like or what a professional attainment being a copyeditor or artist is. Like…I get copyeditor applicants who aren’t good! They don’t follow the style guide/fail the test, or are stuck hard on making heavy changes when I request light, or can’t explain their edits. Like anything else, there are good ones and less good ones! Good ones make cash MONEY.

      1. WellRed*

        Agreed. When I hear freelance x I always am impressed they have enough hustle to get clients and do the work. I wouldn’t be rude to anyone about what they do, but I do think “artist” without slightly more framing raises the thought of unemployed. Which in itself isn’t a character flaw.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          And there are so many people who hear the “free” part of freelance and don’t realize that this is actually a very small business. They think it’s like a hobby or something. Maybe it’s polluted by the phrase “free time”?

          1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

            Exactly. I used to be freelance writer, and whenever I said that, the response would be, “Oh, and have you gotten anything published?” I wanted to be like “….” But because at the time I had a hangup about proving myself, I would dutifully kind of babble through all the publications I wrote for.

  12. Maxie*

    That stinks that your office insists on choosing restaurants that are dangerous for you because it is too much trouble to call and make a reservation. I bet this is a lower level person. Alison’s advice to escalate it is excellent. I am a vegetarian and get cranky if all I can eat is salad, but a food allergy is way more important than my choice to not eat meat.
    Just for perspective, even children get this. My 14 year old daughter has a friend with airborne nut allergies. In the past, we changed party food to keep the friend safe, even shopped around to find homemade henna one year that was not made with nut oil. Much as my daughter wanted the henna, she was willing to give it up if her friend wouldn’t be safe or could not participate the same way other kids could. My daughter was at a restaurant event with this girl and other friends last summer, and my daughter’s salad came with pecans., My daughter likes pecans, but she sent it back because it posed a risk to her friend sitting next her her. The restaurant still messed up in some way and the girl’s mom took her to the ER in the middle of the event because she started going into anaphylaxis.
    If kids are so responsive, why can’t adults be the same? It’s not that hard.

    1. Katie's Cryin'*

      It may be a last minute thing – “hey, let’s all talk about XXX over lunch” at 11:30 AM. Not an excuse but all things being equal (meaning if the allergy wasn’t a concern) that ease of access would give this restaurant a much higher ranking.

      1. JustaTech*

        Right. But when the allergy is a concern, you cross that place off the mental list and pick someplace new.

        When there were people in my group with peanut allergies we never even considered the Thai place across the street for group lunch because it wasn’t safe for them. (I don’t eat there now, even though the folks with allergies are gone, because that specific restaurant doesn’t do “mild”: it’s either totally unsauced or so spicy I can’t eat it and it’s just humiliating.)

    2. Pretzelgirl*

      I don’t understand this either. The only thing I can think of is often people don’t associate allergy with life threatening. They hear allergy and think “Oh you get a rash, or have the sniffles”. Not an anaphylactic reaction. I am incredibly allergic to penicillin. Like I have an anaphylactic reaction. I get that its very rare, but I have even had doctors not believe me or doctors prescribe a penicillin type drug accidentally. Thank goodness for diligent pharmacists who caught and refused to fill it for me. I was also pregnant at the time. I hate being allergic to penicillin it is the worst. But I imagine a food allergy would be a lot worse, as you would have so many more chances to come into contact with the allergen.

      1. Reba*

        Yeah, sadly there are a lot of people who are aggressively denialist about allergies being dangerous, or even that they exist. It makes no sense and is cruel to boot, but there you go.

        1. Swiftly Tilting Planet*

          I was about 3, in 1970, when I was first diagnosed with serious allergies (and should have been diagnosed with asthma as well, but it was missed) and I remember my Depression era parents being floored- they had never heard of anything like that, never known anyone with allergies or breathing problems.

          And that’s NOT because, like the ignorant like to muse, that these diseases didn’t EXIST, it’s because before vaccines, antibiotics, and other miracles of modern medicine, people like me didn’t survive infancy or early childhood.

          I think that’s what a lot of people don’t really get. Allergies didn’t “seem” to exist at one time, because before we had the means to deal with them, people who had them simply died, so they must be some new fangled thing that’s made up like that A D Doo.

          It’s…kinda infuriating, actually.

      2. Observer*

        Even if that’s true, that’s a pretty awful attitude. How does anyone think that getting “just” a rash is a reasonable thing to expect from someone?

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      I’m confused about henna having oil in it? I use henna on my hair all the time and it’s just powdered plant material plus water. Was this for mehndi? Does that use oil?

      1. Maxie*

        Sorry, this is for henna tattoos, which is basically a paste. I wasn’t familiar with the term mehndi. Thanks for telling me. I didn’t know about the nut oils until the girl’s mom told me. I found a woman in my City who made it homemade without nut oil.

    4. Nana*

      As a 50-year-old, Cousin suddenly developed an allergy to ONION, which is in everything! He prefers going to a casual dining place…and having a banana split. No muss, no fuss, and no danger.

  13. pcake*

    LW#1 – Please don’t let the planner frame this as you’re “uncomfortable” at that restaurant. Be sure to always make sure that person understands this is an actual allergy, and that sometimes it can affect you much more strongly than other times. You might want to contact the restaurant directly, also. If the dish was supposed to be peanut-free, perhaps they use peanut oil in part of the dish or use a pre-prepared ingredient that uses peanut oil, and maybe there’s a way to skip it. It’s even possible they use a different ingredient that are you have an allergy to that you’re unaware of.

    But peanut allergy is very common. Perhaps talk to the restaurant and see if an accommodation can be reached or push back harder on the lunch planner. Considering they’re willing to accommodate everyone but you, well, you shouldn’t be left out because the restaurant is easier for them.

    1. Maxie*

      pcake, I disagree. A restaurant that served peanut products to a person allergic to peanuts is not to be trusted. There is no level of education provided by a customer that would make that a safe place.

      1. Betty*

        I wouldn’t expect the LW to go back, but I do think it reasonable to suggest they inform the restaurant. If I thought I was serving peanut-free food, I’d want to know if I wasn’t!

      2. Jill*

        Do we know if she told the restaurant she had an allergy though? From a cook line perspective, “no peanuts” and “allergic to peanuts” are incredibly different things. From changing gloves, to prep knife that was used to chop all of the ingredients for a salad, cutting board, etc.

    2. Pennyworth*

      I agree that peanut allergy is common, which is why any business serving food should be meticulous when they supply foods they state are peanut free.

      1. A*

        Agreed, although in this case we don’t know if the dish was marked as or confirmed as being peanut free, or if it just didn’t have it listed as an ingredient. Obviously that’s bad practice, but it unfortunately happens a lot especially in relation to sauces etc.

    3. Colette*

      I actually think the OP should start making the reservations. It sounds like the person organizing the lunches finds her preferred restaurant less work, and others are more effort than she wants to put in since you have to make a reservation in advance. That’s not likely to change, so if the OP wants to go elsewhere, the most effective way to make that happen is to do it herself.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yes, this is what I thought. Can you do more of the legwork of the arrangements? If this isn’t actually part of someone’s job to make the reservations, whoever is doing it now might be at the limit of the work they are willing to do for group lunches.

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        Why is that OPs problem though? If OP is female/young/junior, it plays into crappy stereotypes. Regardless, their manager might not appreciate OP spending time assuming someone else’s responsibility.

        These are business-sponsored lunches, not friend-group social events. It’s on the business to make sure their employees are accommodated. If it is too difficult for the organizer to do (letter makes it sound like not the case, but for the sake of the argument) – the organizer should go to the boss and say – this isn’t working, here’s why, what would you like to do.

        The business has been accommodating thus far, it’s weird they are being indifferent about the allergy, my guess is the person doing the organizing is one of the many in the “allergies aren’t real” camp, and this shouldn’t be on OP to solve

        1. Sarah N*

          Well, it depends if these lunches are officially someone’s job to organize or if this other persion (who, we don’t know, could also be female/young/junior) is taking on organizing lunches outside of their official job description. I think it matters a lot if this is someone who regularly organizes meals and that’s part of their job versus someone who’s taken on a volunteer social organizer role. If the latter, I agree it makes a lot of sense for the OP to just at least share some of this duty.

          1. Colette*

            If it is someone’s job to organize the lunches, I agree they need to accommodate the OP. But it doesn’t sound to me like that is the case. In many groups, someone takes on the unofficial role of planning informal lunches for the team – and if that’s the case, they are allowed to put in as much work as they want. And in that case, the OP offering to take on some of the role will likely get her the outcome she wants.

        2. Koala dreams*

          It sounds more like social lunches, not business-sponsored lunches. (Other teams have business lunches, but not this team.) It would make the most sense to rotate the restaurant choice between the participants, but since that didn’t happen the second best solution would be that the letter writer organizes a few lunches. I don’t agree with the stereotypes argument, it’s a very different thing for someone to take on organizing lunch because they are the youngest woman in the group, and taking it on because you disagree with the restaurant choice. Yes, it’s weird that this one person don’t care about including a co-worker with an allergy, but it’s equally weird that nobody else has stepped up and organized an outing to a different restaurant.

        3. Chips and Dip*

          The OP stated above in the comments that another teammate plans these, and the manager doesn’t participate or care. So it sounds like the person doing this is sending the email about when not really planning and not getting paid for this. So the OP is likely going to have to do the work (making a reservation) to get this to change

  14. introverted af*

    I think the concerns people are having re: safety in #2 may be less about the food itself and more about the dish (and serving utensil and plates/napkins/etc) in the common space, the germs that may be brought in on them, and then multiple people touching it once it’s in the office. People may need to use the kitchen anyway for their own lunches/etc. and then be faced with the currently nerve-wracking prospect of avoiding the non-essential baked goods. I know for myself, when I buy pre-prepared food or order takeout nowadays, I’m less concerned with the cleanliness of the food itself than I am with how many people may have touched the packaging.

    I feel like it could be significantly less of a problem for the LW’s office though if the person bringing food in kept it in their space and could dish up a plate for people as requested. You’d opt in to the risk of fresh brownies if you chose to go ask for one.

    1. Pennyworth*

      The only food we share in our workplace istuff that comes as invidually wrapped items – we can wipe down the wrapping if we choose and only the person eating the food touches it. Probably excessive, but everyone feels safe.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That’s not the issue here though. She was told to stop bringing in food and now she’s sneaking it in against direct orders. That’s the issue that needs to be dealt with, not that people are uncomfortable about eating homemade food.

      1. introverted af*

        I agree that’s the issue to deal with, but I felt like Allison’s comment that COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be spread through food maybe missed what seems to me to be the more pressing concern.

      2. Paulina*

        Is it against direct orders, though? The wording in the letter is unclear about that. The supervisor weighed in, the dish was removed… but maybe that was “don’t bring food in” and maybe that was “it’s an obstacle in the kitchen that may cause problems for others.” The apparent furtiveness suggests the former, but possibly the latter was part of the reasoning, so that she tells herself she’s in keeping with the spirit of the rules.

  15. Serena*

    #4….have you logged into LinkedIn at all during Covid-19? Every other post I see is someone announcing their layoff. I am not even in a hard hit industry. Just type in lay off on the linkedin search bar, select Content and you will see heaps of people announcing their layoff. Copy and Paste or at least get some ideas.
    Good luck!

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      I did it out of curiosity and your advice is sound, it did turn up the announcements # 4 is looking for.

      Off topic though, there was also so much bad advice targetted at laid off people! One “consultant” was advising laid off people to continue working for their company for free to avoid a resume gap,

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, my last job was in an industry devastated by this, so early April was packed full of examples. The one major trend I noticed is that almost everyone speaks very, very positively of the company that laid them off. Great company, hoped I would retire there, wish them the best, etc.. Not typical of non-Covid “I’m on the market” posts.

  16. Beth Jacobs*

    #1 I think it’s ridiculous a person in charge of making lunch arrangements is in fact unwilling to… make lunch arrangements! Afterall, the distinction between the restaurant that doesn’t require a reservation and one that does is really not as clear cut as they’re making it out to be.
    Unless the restaurant in question has unlimited capacity (which is impossible), there’s still a possibility they simply won’t have twenty free spaces. The only reason it has worked out so far seems to be that the place is always empty, which is likely a comment on their quality of service and food safety.
    I would never bring a large group to a restaurant without making arrangements first, regardless of any specific policy. That’s just common sense.

    1. MK*

      I wouldn’t assume anything about the quality of the restaurant by the fact that they can accommodate 20 people easily. Possibly they have more floor space than most places and a couple of large tables for parties/celebrations, that don’t usually get used at lunchtime.

    2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “Unless the restaurant in question has unlimited capacity (which is impossible), there’s still a possibility they simply won’t have twenty free spaces. ”

      They’ve been there many times and know what is possible most of the time. Sure, there might be an exceptional moment, but this theoretical lack of space isn’t a strong objection to choosing that place since it is clearly working in that regard.

    3. Colette*

      I’m not sure the person making lunch arrangements is actually in charge of doing so. Often these things are done informally and someone chooses to do it, rather than it being part of her job. So she’s willing to get the group together to go to a restaurant down the road, but she’s not willing to call a day or two in advance for a reservation (and possible try several places before she finds somewhere that can accommodate them.)

      1. Smithy*

        I think that may be a significant issue.

        I used to work for an organization that was across the street we’d often go to for happy hour. Long hours, close by, some free food, large menu, could fit a large group, etc. A lot of these happy hours were attended by a number of people – but it was no ones job. Had it run against someone’s allergy, the group would have made efforts to find another spot – and certainly wouldn’t go there for official work events. But it would likely take a bit more work to take the “regular spot” out of the rotation.

        1. Amanda*

          Yes, if these lunches are more informal, it may be in OP’s best interest to organize these lunches herself. This worked wonder for me in my previous job, as a picky eater with food allergies.

          And even then, if the group actively likes this restaurant, OP should also be aware sometimes they’ll still want to go there, even if that means OP can’t come, and she should be willing to accept that.

          1. Smithy*

            Yes – in another work context, there was a semi-formal group created for everyone with my job title that came along with lunch that we had a budget for. I stepped up to take on leading the organization of the group, but when it came to lunch – I made it clear that would be a rotating responsibility among participating colleagues. The group was small enough, so instead of catering, it was more about picking a place and then collecting orders.

            To the best of my knowledge, this process encountered no major hurdles with dietary preferences/allergies. However, had it been on me to do lunch every time – finding an easy solution and not thinking much further could have easily happened. Yes it was a role I did volunteer for that included lunch, but when it came down to my top work priorities – dynamic lunch options wasn’t one of them.

            By rotating lunch responsibilities we got diversity and different preferences, and no one burned out on a task not truly connected to their job. This may very well be a genuine part of this person’s job duties, making this more problematic. But stepping up to lead on this may be the easiest fix.

          2. Beth Jacobs*

            Yeah, I guess that makes sense. I was reading the lunches as official events but on a second read it could very well be an imformal and purely social thing.

            1. Amanda*

              If it’s a company lunch, OP’s restriction should absolutely be respected. But I honestly read it as a social thing all along, and still do, despite many commenters focusing on it being a work event.

      2. Kiki*

        Right, and if this restaurant is within walking distance and other places involve organizing a carpool/figuring out transit/etc., I could see how someone whose job really doesn’t actually include planning lunches could be resistant to changing things up. And while it’s really inconsiderate of them to just dismiss LW’s allergy, it does also suck when you volunteer for one very small thing that is not your job and have it evolve into something that involves advance planning and fielding input and complaints from coworkers. I think LW should either ask the planner if they’d like for them to take over reservations or talk to some teammates about their allergy and have them help advocate to go somewhere else sometimes.

    4. doreen*

      I know few restaurants that have a private dining room that is typically used for parties and such but if you go there at lunchtime on a weekday, that space is typically not being used and they will seat large groups there. It’s not a comment on the quality of the food or service- it’s reflection of the fact that weekday lunchtime parties are not that common. You can make reservations for that space in advance – but you won’t be able to book it as if it was a “table for four” . You’ll have to book as if it was a small party, with whatever deposits/minimums are involved.

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      It can also to do with the size of the place. If I wanted to bring 20 people to the little local sandwich place, I would absolutely have to call in advance since that would take up most of their seating and they would probably want to prep things before we got there. (It might even be a “put in everyone’s specific order the day before” situation.) Or the other hand, if we wanted to go to the food court at the local shopping mall and didn’t care if we had to sit at multiple tables, there wouldn’t be any reason to call ahead since that would really only add 2-3 people to the lines for each of the places unless everyone wanted the same thing and it wouldn’t be particularly noticable. (This is one reason I like to take large-ish groups to food cart pods or food halls rather than restaurants. Another reason is that it’s much easier to have everyone pay when they order rather than deal with splitting a check at the end.)

      Most places are somewhere between those extremes, but it’s not so much that there’s a certain number that’s a hard limit for always calling ahead but rather if you’re going to increase their throughput by more than a certain amount or if they usually run so close to capacity that they have no room when it becomes an issue. Some places need warning for 6, others don’t have a problem with 20, so it’s a case of knowing what makes sense for that particular restaurant.

  17. LAMM*

    My guess for OP #1 is that it’s a Thai restaurant. They tend to be lactose/gluten friendly/vegetarian friendly. I also have a non-life threatening allergy to peanuts. I (incorrectly) assumed if I ordered something without peanuts, I’d be ok. But because a lot of the dishes are cooked with peanuts, the oil gets everywhere and my neck was bright pink within the hour.

    Luckily we tend to get food to go and there’s a Mexican and a Mediterranean place in the came plaza. So they get their Thai food, and I get something that won’t make me swell up like a ommpa loompa

    1. LAMM*

      I’ve also had luck responding “hey remember I can’t do Thai food. Let’s do Chinese (or whatever) instead.

        1. LAMM*

          How? People are very forgetful and short-sighted if it doesn’t relate to them. Sometimes a nudge (hey I can’t eat that remember?) or two can help. OP said after they suggested another restaurant it helped, but then they went back to what the office was used to. It often takes speaking up a few times in instances like this to make a difference.

          In my experience if the person in charge of restaurants doesn’t have an allergy, it’s hard for them to relate. Like a ‘oh well just don’t eat the thing then’ without realizing how cross contamination occurs.

          1. A*

            Ya I don’t think there is anything wrong with your comment. I had to be on the receiving end of those reminders a few times at my last place of employment. My Grandboss was extremely allergic to peanuts – but we rarely interacted with him, and one time when we were looking for a place to grab a bite after a conference I suggested a restaurant that definitely was not allergy-friendly. Grandboss made a joke about me trying to climb the corporate ladder by whatever means necessary – it was a quick and friendly reminder, and we all got a good laugh out of it. It wasn’t belittling to the issue, or anything like that.

    2. Avasarala*

      I suspected Thai food as well because of the peanuts. But honestly a lot of traditional Thai food has seafood in it, so if local restaurants can do vegetarian Thai, then I would expect other local restaurants to be able to accommodate OP and coworkers easily. Many Asian cuisines should have lactose free/gluten free/meat free/peanut free options–honestly of those the vegetarians might have it the hardest!

      1. Quill*

        Cross contamination on nuts via oil is possibly harder to avoid than cross contamination via seafood.

        1. Avasarala*

          I can’t speak to that but I do know that a lot of cuisines that are considered “vegetarian friendly” in the US are actually very reliant on seafood. China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam… everyone loves fish and the cuisines use many fish-derivative sauces and elements in dishes that don’t have chunks of meat. It’s actually super difficult to get vegetarian soup stock in Japan for example.

    3. Apocalypse How*

      I was thinking either that, or an old-school vegetarian/vegan restaurant that tends to rely on nuts for protein. When my husband’s family met up in a city for a family reunion, we went to a locally-famous vegetarian restaurant since we had a lot of vegetarians and vegans in our group. I was looking at the menu and discovered a little peanut symbol next to a bunch of the food, indicating “contains nuts.” The bottom of the menu said, “We cook with many nuts in our kitchen and are unable to avoid cross-contamination. If you have a nut allergy, we urge you to eat elsewhere.” This was a problem, because my 4-year-old nephew is allergic to cashews. My SIL and MIL asked the waitress if he would be ok since he is “only allergic to cashews.” The waitress replied that their most popular salad dressing contained cashews, that they have had people leave the restaurant in an ambulance because of cross-contamination, and there was really no way to guarantee my nephew’s safety if he ate there. They ended up taking him to a nearby schwarma stand for dinner instead.

    4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Chinese buffet restaurant/takeaway are on that line too. I always have the vegetarian choice. However, the ones I know are not gluten-free nor lactose intolerant friendly, because they just don’t go there.

    5. Oh No She Di'int*

      I too have a peanut allergy and won’t even walk into a Thai restaurant, which gets me branded as an uncultured rube, but at least I’m staying alive. I found out the hard way that even the restaurant employees often don’t know what does and does not have peanuts in it. And they are seemingly everywhere in Thai cooking.

      1. japonica*

        Yep. I have had people patronisingly explaining to me about how things don’t have to be spicy. I like spice, but my immune system has decided peanuts are poisonous.
        The other thing is that if I eat a peanut (or honey, oddly) I will throw it up again fairly soon and with very little warning, together with anything else I ate recently. Nobody wants that.

      2. Avasarala*

        You should clap back that any cultured person would know how much Thai people love cooking with peanuts!

  18. Lady Heather*

    LW1, I wonder if your jurisdiction has laws regarding disability accommodations that this would be covered by?

    Especially if this is a ‘we have a team bonding lunch where we also tangentially discuss work projects every six weeks’ – I imagine it’s less likely it qualifies if it’s a ‘a bunch of us get together for lunch and gossip whenever we’re sick of being at the office’ thing.

    1. Betty*

      I find it very sad that basic human decency needs to have disability accommodation laws brought in to sort it out.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        It’s bizarre to me how often this comes up with food allergies. So many people seem to think they aren’t real, or not a big deal, or what have you. It boggles my mind.

        1. Mongrel*

          I think some of it is far too many people use ‘allergic’ instead of ‘don’t like’ and the service staff can become a little blasé about it.

          Head over to any site that has stories from the service industry and you’ll see loads of Customer said they were deathly allergic to X but then scarfed companions dish which was X tart, see also the ongoing Non-celiac gluten free people. Should they treat every allergy statement as true, yes but it’s easy to see why they might get jaded about those requests as well.

          1. Katie's Cryin'*

            Yep. They say 4 out of every 5 “Beware of Dog” signs are posted in front of houses that have no dog, and 9 out of every 10 Alarm/Security System signs are also false, so thieves over time have learned to disregard them. The fakers over time have diluted the situation, which hurts everyone. Same for those who claim to have an allergy but they just don’t like something – it’s become very suspect.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I had a relative who was an ER NURSE who though food allergies was a joke. It took two years of refusing to eat anything she cooked to get through to her that I was serious about my allergy and my distrust of her. She grudgingly accepted I was serious about not eating seafood (all of it) because of an allergy.

          1. Lady Heather*

            After four weeks in hospital, I inquired with the nurse if they could ask the kitchen where they got the gluten-free bread because it was de-li-cious.
            Then, I found out that all the ‘medication side effects’ I was having were not medication side effects at all, but caused by the milk in said bread.

            Different hospital didn’t realize that you need to wash your hands between serving wheat to person A and gluten free to person B. When I and my parents (I was a minor) complained about that, they rolled their eyes, promised to do better, and didn’t do better.
            (I wonder how my recovery would have gone if I had, y’know, not been continuously poisoned by the staff.)

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            She’s an ER nurse? That’s horrifying, and she has no business being in that career.

            Unfortunately, my experience (as with Lady Heather) is that hospitals blithely ignore food restrictions, so I wish I were more surprised.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I had really good luck with the hospital food staff the one time I was hospitalized long enough to develop meaningful opinions, but I suspect it varies a lot. They were really good about tracking allergies, and also were really trying to push eating more fresh fruits and veggies, so it worked well for me once I realized that I could have a side of steamed broccoli and a fruit salad with every meal. Of course, it helps that I can eat dairy, which makes protein easy because I can always have a glass of milk for that if none of the mains work for me. I had such a better time with food in the hospital than I ever did in a hotel.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Relative would follow directions at work – but would always grumble and complain off work about silly food rules and how allergies were figments of your imagination. Complicated and conspiracy prone were apt descriptors of that relative.

            3. willow for now*

              Last time I was in the hospital and told that I would be on a limited carbs plan for food due to T2 diabetes, the nurse then offered me a snack – graham crackers, pretzels, or Goldfish. I looked at her incredulously and kind of shreiked “Those are all, like, 100% carbs!” (I was really hungry, close to hangry, and my filters were shutting down). She looked at me for a few seconds, then agreed, yeah, they totally are, huh? Like she had never thought about it before. Too bad it was too late to get a steak.

  19. Jemima Bond*

    If freelancer LW wishes to change how she describes her job to defuse rudeness then that’s fine but I think she is also more than entitled to address the rudeness (still describing herself as a freelancer if she herself is fine with that – she shouldn’t have to pander to wrong assumptions). I’m appalled by some of the reactions she describes and think such ridiculous assumptions should be challenged. Tbh if it were me I’d want to have some responses on hand – like “that’s rather rude, of course it’s a serious job”, “what a strange thing to say, freelance doesn’t mean part time or retired!” , or “I’m sorry; I’m not sure I’ve understood you, do you mean to say that freelance work isn’t a real job somehow? I assure you it is!” Or simply, “why would you say that?” Adjusting for how freely you can speak with that particular audience of course.

    1. Katie's Cryin'*

      Soft skills are important and if you don’t give someone a chance to save face and choose to punish them instead, you may feel better but they may just write you off and not consider changing their attitudes.

      If you want to feel good, this kind of verbal face-slapping works. But if you want to actually elicit change, you must use more finesse.

      1. pancakes*

        Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but it seems like we’re talking about people who already had a chance to “save face” and rejected it because they wanted to say something snide instead. They could’ve simply chosen not to say anything snide or oafish to the freelancer.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      So how would you suggest OP address it instead? Just not address it at all?

      Verbal face-slapping tends to make people defensive in the moment, but often it sticks in their minds later and eventually leads to change.

    3. epi*

      I agree that the reactions the OP describes are over the top rude. I get lots of weird reactions to my job no matter how I describe it (PhD student? cancer researcher? epidemiologist?), including people who have asked me if I have a job. But still, no one has ever laughed in my face.

      The OP is taking on a ton of responsibility here to head off rudeness. But there is nothing they can say that will cure other people of being ignorant and rude before they even have a conversation. What has really helped me with these folks is simply realizing that maybe *I* don’t respect *them* and letting myself off the hook for trying to convince them to like me or respect me or be nice to me. Conscientious people like the OP do a lot of work to keep social situations moving smoothly: they act interested, ask follow up questions, pretend not to notice when the other person does something rude or awkward, help include everyone in the conversation. What if they just withdrew that effort from people who openly mock them?

      It’s not the OP’s fault that these people are awful and it’s not the OP’s job to fix them or protect them from feeling that they offended someone. The OP’s social contacts don’t necessarily know how being a professional artist works, but they certainly know how courtesy works. The OP’s professional contacts don’t even have the excuse of not understanding what OP is saying. Even if the OP is being unclear or making themselves sound much less successful than they are, it’s not appropriate to laugh in a professional contact’s face when you find out they are junior or unemployed. These people are unfit to work for and unfit to date. The OP is definitely not the only one who will notice.

  20. Rainy Cumbria*

    OP1 you’re definitely not being unreasonable. They’re prioritising convenience over what can be a very serious health issue.

  21. Half-Caf Latte*

    LW #3 – you’ve been able to be successful as a freelancer, for over two years, which many people aren’t able to achieve.

    Not to mention, you did this as a very young person, and as a freelancer for a major brand, and are now looking to grow your agency/portfolio/whatever.

    You’re impressive. I’m impressed.

    1. LW3*

      As someone who tends to always compare herself to other artists and never feel good enough, this is really touching! Thank you.

  22. Koala dreams*

    #3 For the rude people who don’t believe you, you don’t need to defend yourself, just a short comment like “Wow, what a strange thing to say!” is enough. Some people are just mean, and the less thought you give to them the better for you.

    For the reasonable people, you might have better luck explaining that you work as an independent contractor and your customers are mostly magazines/TV networks/teapot companies (whatever is applicable). If people say strange things in response, a simple “What do you mean?” can subtly make them realize they are being rude. If not, well, that’s their problem.

  23. Mina*

    OP1, if you don’t want to spend capital fighting this fight, you can probably bring food into that restaurant from another restaurant. if you want you can even check with them first, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t care: they get the sales from all of your Co-workers vs none and they made you sick before so it’s reasonable to say i won’t let you poison me again.
    also, by the way, you could frame it like that if you do want to fight the fight. when you bring it up again,”i don’t want to back there, as they poisoned me last time i ate their food”. or, could “we please go somewhere where i can eat safely, with out fearing being poisoned?” (dose makes the poison, or in this case toxicity)

    1. Colette*

      Most restaurants aren’t going to let you bring in outside food. They will in fact care.

      1. Vina*

        It can put them in danger of losing their licensing and ranking (in health grade states). So, they are not being jerks. They shouldn’t allow this.

        1. Fikly*

          There have been rare occasions where as a Celiac, I’ve had to bring in outside food for a work thing at a restaurant. Last time this happened was at our annual retreat in a rural area with really limited food options.

          I worked with the woman organizing the retreat ahead of time, and for the one meal at a place that were unable to provide safe food, we asked them ahead of time if they would be ok with me bringing in my own food. They said yes, but I don’t doubt that us asking ahead of time and explaining why, as opposed to just showing up and being annoyed about me being unable to eat anything, made a difference. It may also have been that we were around 100 people, and we reserved the entire place.

          1. A*

            This. Some places will accommodate extenuating circumstances (if they truly cannot accommodate in terms of providing the type of food needed) if called ahead, definitely don’t just show up.

            1. leapingLemur*

              And in this case, where the restaurant once served the OP tainted food, they really should allow this.

  24. MommyMD*

    We work with Covid all day long. We also eat everything homemade that staff brings in. There’s no data suggesting Covid has anything to do with food. If you’re worried about surfaces, your coworker is touching surfaces all over at work. I think it’s misplaced fear. Which is understandable right now, but a few homemade cupcakes are not a threat.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That’s not the point. She was told to stop and she’s defying a direct order. Telling people their fears are misplaced is not helpful, and there’s plenty we don’t know about this virus.

      1. J*

        There is plenty we don’t know, but the science is increasingly showing that surfaces are not a meaningful vector in any way. The data for this is strong and getting stronger.

        (Source: I heard the NIH clinical center’s chief epidemiologist present on this yesterday.)

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            1. Assuming you aren’t a mindless drone, whether or not the policy is stupid should matter, when considering whether you’re going to tattle over it.

            2. It’s not policy. The management has made no announcement saying “don’t bring in food.” Someone complained and the dish was removed from the kitchen. It’s possible the woman was told she could bring food but not leave it in the kitchen. Regardless, OP wasn’t told shit and so she don’t need to say shit.

          2. J*

            I’m not saying it’s not. I’m only addressing ThisColumn’s statement that we don’t know a lot. Scientists actually do know a fair bit about surfaces and their danger as a disease vector, so I think it’s helpful for the general public to know that too.

            We are not actually operating in a vacuum where we have no information– researchers are working like mad and making progress every day. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of bullshit, but there’s also concrete evidence starting to coalesce. I’m trying to offer this as a reassurance, not a take down. There’s plenty that we individually and collectively need to remain vigilant about. Surfaces is not likely to be one of those things, so it’s best we allocate our necessarily limited psychological and material resources elsewhere.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        Was she? I think people are assuming that, but the LW doesn’t actually say that.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          “Their supervisor was asked to weigh in and the dish was later removed from the kitchen.” They got her supervisor involved and the food was removed. Maybe they didn’t come out and say “Don’t bring food in to share”, but you have to be a blockhead to not realize that you need to stop after the first incident. Not to mention she’s sneaking around with the food, so clearly she’s aware that she’s doing something she’s not supposed to be doing.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            I guess I’m a blockhead then :) , because the manager could have just as easily said… “Hey keep it at your desk and not in the common room”

            Without knowing more details, you don’t know if she’s sneaking around mission impossible style handing out muffins or is just being low key about her offers because the manager said people were complaining about shared food.

    2. LITJess*

      Except at their office, after the initial dispute between coworkers, management was called in to make a decision. They decided it’s not an acceptable practice at this time, for whatever reasons, and coworker is now disregarding those directives in a way that is more likely to spread transmissions (bringing the baked goods around cube by cube).

      This is an issue for management. Coworker was told no, decided no wasn’t what she wanted to hear, and did it anyway. OP is questioning their judgement and probably so would management. What other “nos” hasn’t she liked?

  25. Granath*

    I disagree with OP#1 and the general consensus here.

    1. The OP says they’re “not unwilling” to go to restaurant #1. So that means that this isn’t a health issue – at least not as severely framed by many here.
    2. Trying to find a restaurant that accommodates vegan, vegetarian, gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant and any other allergies; also doesn’t have any peanuts (no steak places with free peanuts); is also available for large groups; has a decent selection and decent food; is close to the office; and finally has prompt service is not necessarily going to be easy. That’s a lot of requirements and in my experience very few restaurants can actually accommodate this. There really may not be many other options.
    3. It’s not that the restaurant has nothing they can eat either. It’s they had a poor reaction once, perhaps akin to food poisoning. If 15 people have been there dozens of times and one person had one bad experience, it seems overblown to suggest that the entire group can’t eat at that restaurant.
    4. These aren’t work lunches, they’re just group lunches. I think this is a point that many people missed. This isn’t even necessarily a company activity, just one semi-organized at the company.

    It’s not that I’m unsympathetic. I have an allergy to almost all seafood, especially shellfish – enough to put me out of commission for a couple of days spent miserably throwing up. I’ve worked at a company where the rest of the team loved a local seafood place. They liked to have group lunches there and at a Mexican place pretty much every other week. I didn’t raise a fuss, I just declined to go because there was – quite literally – NOTHING safe I could eat there (which is far more severe than the OP’s issue). But I didn’t stamp my feet and insist they change their plans. You know why? Because the world doesn’t revolve around me and they’re free to do what they want during their lunch hour!

    It’s a group lunch that happens “every few weeks”. Don’t go if you don’t want, but it’s absurd to demand that they select a different restaurant because you once got a peanut reaction. Just bring your lunch that day and go on with life. Feel free to organize your own informal team lunch as well at a different spot. But stop asking everyone else to change – again, when you may simply be passing the problem on to another team member – when it’s pretty clear the group enjoys this restaurant.

    1. Gloria*

      “If 15 people have been there dozens of times and one person had one bad experience, it seems overblown to suggest that the entire group can’t eat at that restaurant.”

      If that bad experience is an allergic reaction, it’s perfectly reasonable that OP doesn’t want to go back there. Yes, OP could just skip the lunches, but she would be losing out on opportunities to socialize with coworkers, which I realize a lot of people around here don’t care about, but in the real world a lot of people enjoy that kind of stuff and feel that it’s beneficial to their work.

      1. Vina*

        Yes, and there is truly no one restaurant to accommodate everyone, then you either skip outings in favor of eating onsite or you alternate restaurants so the people with food restrictions of any flavor can make at least some of the meals.

        What you don’t do is always accommodate everyone else and exclude one person each and every time.

        Also, LW was pretty clear there are other options b/c she had researched it. So several of your points aren’t right.

        Finally, even if it’s only a minor issue, she shouldn’t have to bear it. Just b/c she might be willing to go doesn’t make it right. A lot of people are inculcated to be submissive and people pleasers.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            You’re pleasant. They are clearly willing to accommodate everyone else’s dietary restriction except for OP. Just because OP’s allergy isn’t life threatening doesn’t mean it isn’t cause for concern. I wouldn’t trust a restaurant that served me something that made me sick either. This is laziness, pure and simple. The person arranging these lunches just doesn’t want to have to do extra work to make sure everyone is safe for meals. If there is truly not one other place nearby that can accommodate everyone, that’s different. But there’s at least 1 other place that requires a reservation and the ability to plan ahead. It’s really not that difficult to be a decent human.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Also, from painful personal experience food allergies can provoke escalating reactions. Just because that one time it was a minor reaction doesn’t mean that the next reaction would also be minor – it could be much worse. I’m not going willingly back to a restaurant that has made me sick from a reaction to my allergy in the past again.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I had some similar thoughts. OP doesn’t say how big the team is, but it sounds like it’s large enough that there are multiple dietary restrictions, making it hard to accommodate everyone. It may be that instead of lunches they need to do group brown-bags so everyone can bring their own food or do some other team activity that doesn’t center around food.

    3. EPLawyer*

      But the OP did say they found other places that would accomodate everyone — including her allergy. The only difference is they required reservations and the usual place doesn’t. So most of the problem of finding a place is solved. It’s just the issue of whether or not its worth the effort to make a reservation to keep a co-worker from getting sick.

      Group lunches with co-workers ARE work lunches. You might not be discussing the Mifflin Paper Contract but you are discussing work, getting to know teammates and bonding. It’s kinda why all male beach weekends or golf outings are discourged. They might be “fun” activities but excluding one gender (person) fromm team events can lead to other exclusionary activities. Again, this is not a matter of well we can’t find any other restaurant that accomodates everyone so suck it up buttercup — there are other options. The organizer is choosing not to take the options.

      1. Vina*

        Yes, this is a work function, not entertainment. It’s not something that’s as optional and insignificant as the poster in this thread is making it out to be.

        I also really loathe the ‘suck it up buttercup” position. That should never be how empathetic, decent humans think.

        Excluding someone should be a last resort after all other options are excluded. It shouldn’t be the go-to when people are mildly inconvenienced (e.g., having to make advance reservations instead of last minute ones) by having to accommodate another person’s basic humanity.

        Personally, I find the attitude of the coworker deeply problematic. If I were her manager and someone said she wasn’t accommodating everyone b/c she didn’t want to be bothered with advance reservations, she and I would be having a talk about her attitude toward others .

        1. Granath*

          It’s not a work function unless the company is paying for it. This wasn’t framed as mandatory. It’s a casual lunch with coworkers. But even then it’s paid for by the company that means very little. Why?

          Because she’s not excluded and it’s not like there’s nothing there for her to eat. She’s choosing to let one incident stop her from going there again. That’s her choice, but the rest of the group – who seem to have made their preference for this place pretty clear by coming back to it – isn’t beholden by her choice. This isn’t a case where she can’t eat anything (as it was in my example).

          Personally, I loathe the “world revolves around me” position. Empathetic, decent humans by nature are reasonable and I find asking 15-20 people to change their dining habits on a personal outing over an isolated incident unreasonable. Twice is a pattern, once is not. You adjust for a pattern, you don’t for an isolated incident. And again, nothing prevents the OP from organizing her own lunch.

          If I were her manager and someone came up to me with this, I’d tell them that I’d prefer they focus their time and energy on work and to stop bothering me with perceived slights over where to go for lunch once every 4-6 weeks.

          1. EPLawyer*

            She had an allergic reaction. Should she go back and see if she has a worse one this time? This is not a case of “I don’t really like Italian, can we go to the Armenian place instead?” This is an ALLERGY. You don’t mess with those because other people really like the restaurant.

            The OP also specifically stated they don’t mind if the lunches are there “sometimes.” She just doesn’t want it to be the default because then she would be excluded all the time.

            If it takes place during work hours and only includes coworkers — it’s a work function. Excluding the same person from a work function, even a lunch is a serious big deal.

            1. Jill*

              I disagree that one bad allergic reaction at a restaurant should be enough to prohibit you from ever eating at that restaurant, but I do think that missing these events will affect her work relationships. I’m allergic to soy and a few other legumes, every now and then somebody messes it up and I’m in the hospital, I don’t get a ban hammer out just because someone made an honest mistake. My dad once put crab in an Alfredo dish forgetting my aunt was allergic to seafood, she didn’t tell him never to cook for her again she just made more of an effort to remind him before for a while, I’m sure the restaurant feels just as horrible if they know about this. Plus, I’m interested to know if she told them she had an allergy or if she just ordered an allergen-free dish and had a reaction, you should always let the chef know.

              1. Swiftly Tilting Planet*

                Who’s prohibiting anything? OP is simply choosing to manage her own personal risk in a way she feels comfortable with, just like all of us with allergies (food or otherwise) get to do.

      2. Amanda*

        No, it’s not a work function if you can choose to skip it. This is a bunch of coworkers getting together for lunch, it’s no different than happy hour. And it’s very likely organizing these lunches is not part of anyone’s job, and making reservations is adding to someone’s workload.

        OP can offer to make these arrangements if she wants to, and then she can choose another restaurant. That would probably work most of the time, and she’d be able to feel more included. That’s what I did in my previous job, where the go-to restaurant was one I had nothing I could/would eat.

        But the fact is, even then, there will be times the group will want to go to that restaurant if they truly like the food, and they shouldn’t be guilted out of going. It’s their own lunch time, they get to make that choice.

        1. Vina*

          A lot of etiquette guides and not an insignificant number of courts disagree with you.

          Just because it isn’t paid work doesn’t mean it’s not a work function.

          If it impacts LWs job and advancement opportunities, the it might not be paid work, but it’s not the same as friends getting together.

          Even if it’s not work, it is so adjacent as to be important enough to include everyone.

          This is not the same as 2-3 friends in a department of 50 going out for lunch. If it’s 49 out of 50 and she’s always excluded, it’s a problem no matter what label you put on it

    4. sfdgf tr*

      It sounds like there are quite informal – more like “hey want to get lunch today?” and not some scheduled 6-8 week thing. It just happens to occur once every several weeks, but necessarily on a set schedule. In that case, I can see how making a reservation is not ideal. Rather than get up and walk around asking who wants to get lunch and just leaving. You need to actually schedule it. I also suspect the restaurant they do go to just sort of “happened” – it’s near work, easy for people to get to, etc – and not that someone spent time trying to accommodate others and this is where they ended up. It just coincidentally works for all the rest. All that said. it should be easy enough to suggest elsewhere at least some of the time – when people are gathering for lunch a quick “how about we go to X today, instead of our usual”?

      1. sfdgf tr*

        but NOT necessarily on a set schedule.
        (ugh. changes the whole meaning of the sentence)

    5. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I think it’s not unusual to want to avoid a restaurant after a bad experience. Many of us, even without allergies, have had the experience of having severe gastrointestinal issues after eating a food or at a restaurant we’ve never had an issue with before and have felt iffy or out right refused to try that food again. It’s always possible, as you say, that this was a one off fluke (There was an incompetent new Fergus who was fired the next day, maybe), but I certainly understand op’s desire not to chance it.

      All that being said, it might be wise for OP to offer to take on the reservation making call.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Because people have networks. If I get laid off, the first thing I will do is go on LinkedIn and announce it because someone in my network might know someone who’s hiring. Facebook too, because I also have friends who might be able to help.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It’s not about the announcement, it’s about reaching out to see if anyone can help them find a job. Most of the time getting a job is more about who you know than what you know.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        But why not? I don’t see how that’s particularly “weird.” I have a bunch of friends who do different things. I need a job. They might have a job or know someone who does, and we might not be connected via LinkedIn. Also, getting laid off is a pretty big deal in someone’s life, and if they use Facebook to give people updates on their life, then I can’t see why that would be “weird” to share. Getting laid off is not something to be ashamed of or anything like that.

      2. Legal Beagle*

        Many people use Twitter to connect with their professional networks. I’ve seen recent layoffs announced there and people offering to mentor/advise/connect others who are laid off in their industry. There’s nothing unusual about using social media platforms besides LinkedIn for professional networking.

      3. Aria*

        When I was recently laid off I got a lot of help and support from posting on LinkedIn, Facebook, and twitter. It was a fairly simple step that helped me a lot.

    3. A*

      I assume for networking reasons. Also it is sometimes easier to just post a general update rather than go through months of ‘oh ya, I’m no longer working there….’ when it comes up in individual conversations.

      It’s extremely common in my professional and social circles.

    4. Colette*

      I’ve gotten my last 2 jobs because I posted on Facebook that I was laid off. But also, it’s something that people who care about me want to know, and it’s easier to make one announcement.

    5. I'm jus here for the cats*

      When I had to do unemployment I was told by the workforce center that you need to let everyone know and announce it on social media because someone you know or are connected with might know of a job opportunity. I can’t remember the Percentage but they rattled off that x amount of job seekers get jobs from their network not from job sites.

  26. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    OP 3, I’d still insist on calling myself an artist. It’s also ok to mention you work at Chocolate Teapots. I know very well the prejudice against artists in general, and the current situation has done nothing in its favor. There’s nothing wrong in saying you’re, for example, Chocolate Teapots mascot, like Nyango Star or Pengsoo.

    1. Persephone Underground*

      Off topic – I love your username. Initially wondered why the shoes had to not be in the US… to avoid counterfeit/copyright laws like those “Gucci” bags with stylized C not G? :P (Assume you mean “I’m not in the US so workplace laws are different for context”.)

    2. Persephone Underground*

      Hmm- I think it might be just too vague, because freelance artist encompasses both paid and unpaid activities in casual conversation. (Of course the rude people are still rude, but they’re also useful data that the LW may not be communicating what they do in a way even not-rude people understand accurately.) Alison’s advice to be more specific without being over-explaining or defensive is good because it’s providing more value to these networking conversations anyway. If a friend tells me they’re a freelance coder that’s actually not enough info for me to know what jobs to send their way. Web developer working for (tiny local company)? QA Engineer consulting for (medium tech company) full-time? Vulnerability Researcher at (government contractor)? Network support for (non-tech company)? This makes a difference.

      So the LW can avoid the rude people and the miscommunications by being more specific where it matters and also not sweating the details that don’t matter to their audience like freelancer/contractor/employee. The point is (1) here’s a more specific title (illustrator? Sculptor? Designer?) and company maybe (2) I’m looking for more work.

  27. Creamsiclecati*

    For #1, I don’t know if this has been said already, but even as someone with no food allergies or sensitivities, if I knew that a restaurant was allowing cross-contamination like that, I would not want to patronize that restaurant. Even though peanuts accidentally ending up in my food is not dangerous to me physically, I would be worried about what other mistakes the kitchen is making, because next time it could be a dangerous bacteria or virus that ends up in the food. Are they washing their hands? Are they wearing the proper protective gear? Are they washing their equipment and utensils correctly and often enough? Food safety is serious because one mistake from the kitchen can make an entire restaurant sick if they’re not careful. I’m honestly a little surprised that your coworkers aren’t concerned about possible in proper food handling overall.

    1. Vina*

      My POV is that either the restaurant is careless or they did it on purpose. Neither are something I’d want in a restaurant. Yes, doing it on purpose does happen. If you visit any of the allergy Reddit’s you’ll see this.

      In either case, even if the allergy doesn’t impact me, I’d not want to eat at the restaurant and be very trouble that a coworker organizing an event was so cavalier about this. After all, if she does this wrt to an allergy, would she do something more insensitive if it’s just a preference or food aversion.

  28. Creamsiclecati*

    My comment for #3 is actually related to my comment for #1 above regarding food contamination and safety. Although there might not seem to be evidence that the coronavirus can live in food, it can probably live on the dish or plate that the food comes in. Which means that every set of hands that touches the dish and every surface that you put the dish down on can get the virus on it as well. It’s possible that even the most vigilant hand washers and most frequent to disinfect their surfaces might not remember to wash after each contact with the dish, plate, tray or whatever means in which the food is transported from coworker’s home.

    1. JustaTech*

      My work had pizza and salad for everyone who was in the lab earlier in the week and all I could think was “heck no”.
      Was the food probably fine when it came in? Yes. Are all of my coworkers really, really good about hand washing and PPE? Absolutely, it’s our job. Is it still a single place of congregation of a whole bunch of people? Yes, and therefore, no thank you.

    2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Exactly. The food itself not so much a threat, but the dish it’s being brought around the office in and the fact that this person is apparently going to everyone’s work space seem problematic to me. I’m imagining a plate or plastic box being touched by multiple people, and they are probably not staying 6 feet away when they offer it to others. That’s the safety problem, not the actual cookies or whatever.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I like cookies and I like friendly colleagues. I don’t know the science on the corona virus well enough to know if it lives in/on plates, dishes, food, etc. but I don’t want myself or colleagues to find out the hard way. So if an employer is being, perhaps, overly cautious by banning food sharing for a time, it’s literally one of the easiest things to do. Just don’t do it. The baker insisting on sharing food is either willfully obtuse or has some other systemic management-related problem and it’s showing itself via oatmeal raisin cookies.

    I’m also a little uncomfortable with the idea of going to management about it. I think another effective way to deal would be to band together with like-minded colleagues and refuse all treats from her. With no audience she’s got nowhere to go.

  30. Not Alison*

    #1 – I’m just asking a question so please don’t all jump on me. Because the OP said that sitting in the restaurant does not cause an allergy problem (just eating the food does), is there a possibility to bring their own food into the restaurant? I’ve seen this done in restaurants in our city when there is a food issue with a whole group.
    Again, I’m just asking the question – perhaps if the OP were to agree to eat at the offending restaurant bringing in her own food say every other time or every third time, perhaps the group would be amenable to eating at other restaurants on the other times (particularly because the offending restaurant is so close to the office).

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I think the bigger issue is that they’re willing to accomodate everyone else’s food needs, but not OPs. It’s a matter of rudeness, methinks.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Don’t know for sure, but I would think this is something you can’t do because the restaurant had no control over the food that was brought in, how it was prepared, etc. and it could be a potential liability.

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      I think this can be workable if there are conflicting restrictions that mean a group solution is otherwise impossible, for example, the only vegan place in the small town is not gluten-free.

      But the LW said there are other options that meet everyone’s needs, so I’m really not OK with the idea that she has to accommodate everyone else’s preferences to ensure her health, even “occasionally”.

    4. Persephone Underground*

      I think it depends on the restaurant- they’d have to ask them. There may be good reasons they can’t allow it as noted by others, but they might also be fine with it. I’ve found this can be different at different places. So if that’s possible and easier for the LW than other solutions, maybe they can just come along anyway with their own packed lunch sometimes.

    5. Observer*

      Most restaurants will absolutely NOT allow outside food in. In fact, in some areas they not even allowed to.

      The OP has made it clear that they are fine with accommodating the other. But it would nice if sometimes THEY were accommodated.

  31. Blue Eagle*

    OP2 – If the situation were that OP2 was the only person who knew about the breach of the rules, it would make sense to “tattle-tale” on the baker. But in this case everyone but the manager knows that the baker is offering treats – – which seems to up the ante that for OP to tell the manager is tattle-taling. I say either leave it alone or try to organize your co-workers to refuse the treats, then it becomes a nonissue.

    1. WellRed*

      If no one eats the muffins, whatever attention the muffin maker gets from feeding people muffins goes away and maybe they stop.

      1. A*

        Ah, yes! The gold old reverse muffin version of ‘if you build it, they will come’. Haha! It’s a good point.

  32. Third or Nothing!*

    OP1: I’m in the same boat, except I’m the only person in my office with dietary restrictions. When I’ve asked for accommodations for the monthly all-office catered birthday lunches, I’m usually told that they don’t let anyone else choose their own meal so I don’t get any special treatment. I was making some headway with a higher-up starting to enforce inclusivity, but then Corona happened so who knows what it’ll be like when we all go back.

    I hope you have much better luck than me. Especially since they’re already accommodating other dietary restrictions so they’ve proven they can make it work!!!

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      ALSO!!! You are NOT being entitled. I’m so sick of this whole toxic mentality that asking for accommodation for stuff that isn’t life-or-death is being difficult or entitled or whatever.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Even if it isn’t life or death it’s just rude. Personally I don’t have any food restrictions except a few things I don’t like, but I would not have an issue with making sure that the catered lunch has something for that one person who hates onions or what have you. I would definitely make sure that religious or health restrictions are accommodated. It doesn’t matter to me if a restriction is a preference or a necessity, by refusing to accommodate it you are communicating that you don’t care about the person.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          You know, your last sentence really hits the nail on the head of why not being accommodated is so hurtful. I’ve worked at this place for 7 years now and been dairy/egg free for 5 of them. I definitely feel like most of my coworkers don’t actually care about me. Maybe that’s why I’ve enjoyed working from home so much.

    2. Amanda*

      That’s awful, and they should be accomodating your restrictions for EVERY company event. I’m pretty sure not accomodating you is against the law in many places.

      For OP, though, I read it as being an informal lunch, not a company function. And that’s different, since organizing this is not part of anyone’s job, and the rest of the group is just getting together on their free time. Presumably, everyone would like to have OP come along, but don’t remember/want to plan that far ahead. So the easiest choice would be for OP to organize these lunches, at least sometimes.

      If I read it wrong, and these are company-paid lunches, then we go back to that being awful!

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        She wrote “organized team lunches” so that sounds like the company is paying for the whole team to go out. Offering to make reservations sometimes would probably help, but only if the informal organizer is willing to hand the reins over. (It’s not unheard of – that’s the situation I’m in. I guess my coworker likes the small bit of power it gives her? Or maybe she’s weirdly attached to making sure my entitled choosing beggar self doesn’t get special treatment? People are weird sometimes.)

        And really, the core issue is that she’s being excluded when there are other restaurants that accommodate the entire team that take only a little bit more effort.

    3. Persephone Underground*

      Wow that’s obtuse. You’re not “choosing your own meal” by asking that it be something you can physically eat! You’re ensuring that you actually*get* a meal, period. (I know I’m preaching to the choir but really, this is beyond stupid. This is “building a wheelchair ramp would be special treatment” territory, straight-up.)

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Oh there’s a whole entire saga I’ve been posting about on the Friday open threads from time to time. IDK what is up with Texans but I encounter the “you’re being entitled/a choosing beggar/unreasonable/difficult” mentality pretty often. One time, for a personal group that meets weekly, I was asked to sign up to provide breakfast for the group…when I never get to eat the breakfasts people bring in. Yeah. Kind of tone deaf.

    4. kt*

      When I ask for gluten-free for a lunch, I generally don’t get to choose — I get an unwich or a taco or a salad or something on gluten-free bread, which I generally dislike, but hey, it’s an office lunch, so who cares. Half the time the catering restaurant chooses because they’ve got a standard thing that’s easy for them. Your office people are jerks.

  33. WellRed*

    Why, why? Permalancer? That’s one phrase I wish would die. No need to give companies a whole list of things to call people who aren’t employees.

  34. Lady Heather*

    OP3, can you use a different word than ‘artist’? Designer, illustrator, sculptor, writer, dancer – all those imply more of a ‘I create/do things for people’ while artist implies more of a ‘I express myself through a medium’.
    Or, in different words, ‘designer’ and ‘writer’ and ‘dancer’ present the picture in my head of someone who is commissioned to make something, and ‘artist’ brings up the picture of someone who makes things and then tries to sell them (or does not try to sell them).

    Maybe different people have different pictures in their head with the terms, so this might not be universal – but it’s what would work for me.

    For me..
    I personally also have a small negative emotional reaction to people who self-describe themselves as artists, or their work as art, because of.. a long and complicated story, but the TL;DR is that if I paint a canvas a solid red, call it ‘art’, and try to sell it for ten thousand euro, people will laugh at me – but if I had family connections, moved in different circles, maybe had a different gender, it might have sold. And that kind of art – that only the privileged can sell, that only the privileged can buy, and that (for the most part) only the privileged can appreciate.. I don’t like when people call that ‘art’ as though it’s something I should be impressed by if I wasn’t too stupid to see it.
    So if someone calls themselves an artist, my first reaction might be suspicion/derision which will improve if it turns out you’re a designer, or you do things on commission, or even if you’re a ‘duct tapes bananas to walls’ person who acknowledges that it’s not for everyone.

    Yes, this is probably my flaws, and my prejudice, and it might make me a bad person. I’m sharing it not to justify myself or people who feel similar, but to explain that some people do have this association, and that at least for me, ‘I’m a designer of tea towels’ or even ‘I’m an artist – I design tea towel patterns, currently for x company’ will mean I don’t have that negative association and if you want to avoid people having that reaction, it might work for you.

    1. A*

      Just popping in to say it doesn’t make you a bad person! We are products of the world around us. In my case, online dating ruined all titles along the lines of ‘freelancer’, ‘entrepreneur’ etc. and I refuse to be painted in a negative light because of it. I challenge anyone who questions it to go on several years worth of dates with people who have titles like those, only to find that it translated to unemployed every. single. time.

      It’s not OP’s fault, and it’s a shame all around, but I don’t think these negative associations should just be glossed over as ‘that’s those people’s problems’, or as one of the commenters higher up stated makes someone a jerk for questioning it. Hate the game, not the players!

      1. Resting easier now*

        Same experience here for on line ‘artists’ (also those who said self employed, contractor, handy man, etc). I never did meet someone on line with those self proclaimed professions who actually earned a living doing anything (legal).
        But if the letter writer were to say “I’ve been working more than full time designing x for y company for 2 years, but I also have side jobs with a, b, and, c doing projects l, m, and n” I would have a much more favorable impression.

  35. bananab*

    Freelance designation isn’t needed at all, I’ve done book design for others for years and that’s what I say: I’m a book designer.

  36. I'm just here for the cats*

    So I had a thought. Could there be a hidden agenda with why they always choose this restaurant? Like maybe she’s related to or knows the owner and wants to bring them business? Could she maybe have a side arrangement that she will only schedule at that restaurant? I know it’s a bit conspiracy theory like but that’s where my brain went

    1. remizidae*

      It’s more likely that everyone else likes the restaurant and the person who schedules it doesn’t want to deal with the complaints when they choose somewhere else.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Now my brain is there too. With all the other options available, why is this one restaurant a hill for the organizer to die on?

      1. EPLawyer*

        extra work to make reservations. although seriously just calling an hour ahead and letting the restaurant know that 20 people coming is not a big deal.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Yes, it’s laziness. OP gave all the reasons this restaurant gets chosen time and time again; there’s no need to go in weird conspiracy theory territory, although it’s fun.

        2. Smithy*

          I think it largely depends on exactly where they are. I used to work in DC around K Street, and casually getting a lunch spot for 10+ was not something you could easily do ahead of time.

          Even with some serious foodies I know, I’ve never met anyone who really enjoys researching food options for work events. Even if their job is events planning, once you’re taking into account a number of restrictions (price range, distance from office, food allergies/restrictions, availability) it’s just a task. And if there’s an “easy” solution, phew – one less thing to spend hours on.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I would enjoy it! I love researching and planning. I’m probably an outlier though.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        What EPLawyer said. It’s pure laziness. Making reservations means planning ahead, which takes more effort.

        1. Fulana del tal*

          Since this seems to be an informal lunch gathering, I believe the OP should take the lead and try scheduling the lunches.

        2. Colette*

          If it’s her job, I agree – but the way I read it, it’s a nice thing that she does on top of her job; it’s not her actual responsibility. If calling to make a reservation is more than she wants to do, she doesn’t have to do it. It might be better for her to directly say “You know, I don’t have the bandwidth to call to make reservations in advance. Can you take over?”

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            I don’t agree that it has to be in her job description. She’s taken the initiative to arrange these lunches, and she’s accommodating every other person’s food need except for OP. She’s knowingly excluding someone in the group. That’s a problem. It’s about being a decent human, not a “not in my job description” issue.

            1. Colette*

              But the alternative to accommodate the OP is more work for her (making reservations in advance) and she may not be willing or able to take that on. So assuming that’s the case, either she stops organizing lunches all together or she continues doing what she’s doing – or the OP takes on the extra work that she’s not doing.

            2. Fulana del tal*

              It’s an informal lunch not a job task. If she feels trying to arrange a meal that accommodates everyone is too bothersome she has every right to back away and let others do it if they think it’s no big deal.

  37. Cee Cee Dee*

    OP#3 Have you ever considered creating your own LLC to represent yourself at these events? If you want to expand on your freelance work, create a business name as a way to put yourself out there. If you need business from these fools, it would be a way to play the game.

  38. remizidae*

    #LW3—take it from a blunt person. When you say “freelance artist,” people are going to conclude you make very little money, if any. My first thought is that you’re probably living off your parents or husband. If that’s not the case, find a different way to put it.

    1. Bekind*

      EEEK! I preferred the term professional artist. It’s true that many artists do not make a lot of money. I didnt live with my parents for the 7 years it was my career, but I didnt have benefits, job security (because you work on commissions, contract work and gallery sales.) It is very hard work to be an artist and go more gently on the people pushing to make it their career. I almost gave up the first couple years, but there is nothing like selling out your first solo show.

    2. pancakes*

      My first thought is that people who make that conclusion probably have pretty small lives in pretty small towns.

  39. Dancing Otter*

    #2 I picture a person in an oversized raincoat, holding it open, whispering, “Psst! Need cookies? First taste is free.”

    1. Buttons*

      My first thought was “she is like a drug dealer!”
      C’mon man, I need my 3:00 cake fix!

  40. Ugh*

    #3 I think Alison’s advice is spot on. It’s not OP’s fault, but there definitely are negative associations some people have with those kinds of titles. As someone at the mercy of online dating, honestly I am extremely skeptical (to be honest at this point I just fully avoid them) of anything along the lines of ‘self employed’, ‘entrepreneur’, ‘freelancer’ etc. not because I’m a naturally untrusting person or anything but because in my experience it has literally never – not once – translated to anything aside from unemployed, or occasionally that they work for an MLM.

    Again, not OP’s fault by any means. My only point is there is a reason people are skeptical, and it’s a shame all around, but it’s really the people misrepresenting themselves that are to blame here.

  41. Princesa Zelda*

    #1– I have a fairly severe garlic intolerance and a growing onion intolerance, which doesn’t present symptoms until a few hours after I’ve actually eaten the garlic. This means that I have to avoid entire regional cuisines — no Mediterranean food, no Korean food, no Thai food. Even Classic American must be approached with care. This makes me incredibly difficult to accommodate. Everywhere I’ve worked so far has done it anyway, even with potlucks where I’m guaranteed to at least be able to eat my own contribution, including my job in a big-box store renown for its poor labor practices. You are being perfectly reasonable!

  42. Buttons*

    I have never heard anyone say they were a “Freelancer”, say you are a consultant! Everyone oohs and ahhs over a consultant title. :)

    1. pancakes*

      That’s not my experience. For many people “consultant” evokes companies like McKinsey, which in some circles are considered parasitic.

  43. Stella*

    Suggestion on the not directly addressed portion about how to not seem unfriendly with any future peanut restaurant trips. I’m not sure how exactly peanut allergies work, but if it is possible, you could go every so often and eat in advance. Or potentially bring your own food to the restaurant, but with allergies that seems like it could end badly somehow. You will get some questions this way, but when asked, you can just say you have a peanut allergy and have had cross-contamination issues there in the past, so you ate ahead of time. Only do this if you think it is worth the trouble, but I’ve done this fairly often as a vegan and sometimes it works nicely.

    If that isn’t an option, I’d suggest just mentioning the peanut allergy every so often. Or even asking how it went afterwards.

    Both of these options end up making it clear to some number of people that the restaurant that is usually chosen does not accommodate you. This can be good or bad. It may be a good thing for you in this case.

    Go with Alison’s advice first but you can use these options as well if they appeal.

  44. Phony Genius*

    So how is the person in #2 able to covertly give food out without violating distancing rules?

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Email, IM, winks over a mask as they walk by, muffin dead drops while coworker is in the bathroom…

      There are are lots of ways. Minimizing contact does not equal nobody must ever get closer than 6 feet ever.

    2. Paulina*

      I’m having a vision of her with one of those long-handled paddles used for pizza ovens. Which she then hides behind her when the manager walks by :)

  45. Emma*

    OP 1: If I was any of the other people with dietary restrictions I would not be okay going to a restaurant that I know already messed up with the food for someone else.

  46. Sarah N*

    For OP1: I’m not sure who the person is who is making restaurant choices, but from the wording that this person ‘usually plans the lunches’ it sounds like it’s possibly just a person on the team who goes to the trouble to plan these events (but not someone whose job description includes “planning team lunches”)? If that’s the case, I think you should just take over planning a certain number of the lunches. I don’t necessarily think this is right, but at the same time, if you’re asking someone else to take on the trouble of advance reservations, and they think that’s a pain, but you think it’s a minor thing — maybe just do it yourself?? It sounds like you guys have already identified restaurants that should work for the whole group, so being the one to make the phone call shouldn’t be a huge inconvenience.

    On the other hand, if this is an admin for whom scheduling events falls squarely within their job description, I agree with Alison that you should talk to whoever is above them (the team lead?) and ask them to resolve the problem.

  47. Ellie May*

    1. A good allergist will tell OP that allergic reactions ESCALATE, meaning each subsequent allergic reaction will be WORSE than the previous one. This is how allergies become life threatening – they worsen each time. It sounds like it isn’t life threatening because reactions have been limited thus far (in the restaurant, it was the first one since childhood) – this isn’t a pass for the future. Stick to your guns on this and demand another restaurant.

    And please, see an allergist and discuss current de-sensitization protocols that are helping those allergic to peanuts. Your condition will worsen with exposure.

  48. Batgirl*

    Op3, I think calling yourself ‘An artist at Company’ is the best, most accurate descriptor for networking, but ‘freelance artist’ is just fine for dating. It sounds like it’s proving pretty useful in screening out jerks. When I met my fiance, he actually was unemployed and describing himself as an artist. Partially because he was testing it out as a career path and partially because it was the answer to ‘What do you do’. My response was to ask him about the art. I can’t imagine being enough of a jackass to give some of the responses you mention. Even if that were the responses of work connections, it would give me pause about working with them. I wouldn’t continue underwhelming your position at Company, but the information you’ve already got is useful.

  49. WonderWoman*

    OP3 – It’s the frustrating reality that many people don’t take professional artists or designers of any kind seriously, with very few exceptions. I used to work in a design field that has some particularly damaging stereotypes (some of which are true, but not the ones that pertain to anyone’s intelligence or work ethic or capabilities), and I can’t count the number of insulting and ignorant comments that I fielded.

    I think you could try a technique that Allison has highlighted in the past: when someone makes a rude/ignorant comment, ask them to explain it. If someone says they can’t take your job seriously, pretend to be really surprised and ask, “Why is that?” And, don’t be afraid to call out how strange and uncomfortable these comments are, like, “Huh, it’s really weird that you said that.” It can also be helpful to have a job description in your back pocket so you can quickly and concisely describe what you do.

  50. WonderWoman*

    OP 3 – The unfortunate reality of being a professional artist of any kind is that people will say rude and ignorant things about it. I used to work in an artistic field with some particularly notorious negative stereotypes, and I cannot count the number of times I fielded demeaning comments from strangers.

    1. WonderWoman*

      whoops, sorry, my browser malfunctioned, I thought my original comment didn’t post, so then I tried to re-write it!

  51. Lord Gouldian Finch*

    #3 – I suggest you call yourself a “consultant” for Teapots Inc. It’s similar to being a freelancer but at the moment lacks the stigma you’ve discovered. I used to to archival consulting work. You can do artistic consulting work. It suggests you’re employed but available for outside work, which seems to be what you want from calling yourself a freelance artist.

  52. SherBear*

    Freelance artist sounds so interesting to me! If I met you at an event I’d love to hear more about it – as someone who sucks at creativity but loves looking at/buying art and doing paint by numbers (LOL) I am fascinated by people who are good at it. I work in insurance for 40 hours a week – I enjoy my job and I’m great with numbers but let’s face it – art is sooo much more interesting than Excel!!

  53. Phony Genius*

    The situation in #1 reminds me of a situation that happened while I was in college. It was a small class of 16 students for a course in public policy. The professor brought in a guest speaker who agreed to take us all to lunch at a Chinese restaurant two blocks from campus, where we would have our discussion. We had done the same in a previous semester in another class with the same professor, and that went well. But this time, one of the students was a strict kosher observer. The professor tried very hard, but she could not find any restaurant within walking distance that met his needs. So, she had to cancel the lunch and instead had the speaker just give us a lecture in the classroom. The speaker and professor then went to lunch alone.

    I think she did the right thing. If there was literally no place to go that could accommodate everybody, then we couldn’t go at all.

    1. Bekind*

      I think in that case though the student may have not wanted to be centered out like that? It’s hard to say. He would not have been breaking faith to attend and have a glass of water and support an entire class of people who wanted to be treated to Chinese food by a guest speaker. At least I hope not! (I’m Jewish too and I would have been MORTIFIED if an event was cancelled under those circumstances, it’s not an allergy!)

      1. Phony Genius*

        He wasn’t pointed out. We were just abruptly told it was canceled. I asked the professor privately and she told me what had happened, only because I was one of two students who had been to the previous event. Nobody else really knew, and if they did, nobody complained.

      2. Observer*

        I imagine that the student was mortified, even though no one made a public announcement about it. But it’s actually not necessarily true that he could have gone without “breaking faith”.

        I don’t want to get into a whole discussion about the matter here, but it is the case that a lot of people would not have been able to go.

  54. blackcatlady*

    For #1 – peanut allergy. It sounds like your group is large and goes to this restaurant quite frequently because of the many options for dietary restrictions. And you ARE a restriction that should not have been overlooked. It may be worth calling the manager for a little chat. Point out that an allergic reaction is VERY bad for the restaurant in terms of reputation and legal liability. And that their kitchen is causing a repeat customer loss by their carelessness and cavalier attitude. Someone in the kitchen didn’t take it seriously enough and needs to have a lecture. I’d be wary if I were in your place but you may be able to salvage this. You need to talk to the waiter at ANY restaurant you go to and stress the importance of your allergy. This is very different from not liking cilantro.

  55. Vox Experientia*

    I guess i’m taking the unpopular side of the debate about allergies. it isn’t a question of “OP must go to peanut only restaurant” vs “lots of other places that don’t have peanuts”. the restaurant has non peanut options – they just made a mistake once. it’s no more likely that restaurant will do it again than any other restaurant that serves dishes with peanuts. it could happen any where. if twenty other people want to go to that restaurant and the OP is the only one who doesn’t – the op should either go and order a non-peanut dish (and explain to the restaurant about his allergy so they’re extra careful, which he should be doing everywhere regardless), or bring his own dish. why should everyone else have to go somewhere they don’t want to go just for one person? it’s selfish. i love thai food. thai has a lot of peanuts. i’m not giving up thai food because one person can’t eat them. people need to take responsibility for their own problems. quit making them everyone else’s problem.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The problem is that for a peanut allergy there is probably no way a Thai place can accommodate them. There is very possibly risk in even going into the Thai restaurant if the person reacts to airborne particles. In that case the only safe thing to do is decline to go (and yes I have that level of allergy to a different food, and I have many times had to skip work events because people didn’t “understand” that for me breathing was non-negotiable.)

    2. EBStarr*

      I mean… you don’t have to give up Thai food? Just don’t go to a Thai restaurant when you’re with someone who could get sick from it. You’ve presented a false dichotomy here, which doesn’t bear any relationship to the situation of making an accommodation at a once-a-month work lunch.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I was just about say this! No one is asking you to give up your favorite food altogether. You can just…go get Thai food some other time? You have like 718 other meals in a year (2 meals a day minus the 12 work lunches) where you can eat the peanut filled goodness.

        And really, going somewhere EVERYONE can eat is just showing common courtesy. How would you feel if you couldn’t eat seafood, for instance, and your colleagues insisted on going to Ocean Extraordinaire for every group outing?

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      Wow, it takes some brass balls for *you* to lecture OP about being selfish. Look in the mirror sometime.

    4. JustaTech*

      I used to have two coworkers with peanut allergies. The closest restaurant to our office was a Thai place.

      We never even suggested going there with those coworkers. Not once.

      I could eat there went I was eating with other people. I could get Thai for dinner or lunch on the weekends. I could bring my Thai leftovers to work! I wasn’t “giving up” Thai food just because I didn’t eat there with Boss and Tall Guy.

    5. Observer*

      When it comes to serving food, there is no “three strikes” option. ONCE is generally enough. If you know a place really well and you *know* that it’s seriously out of character, then you have a talk with the manager. Otherwise, seriously?

      It is NOT true that a place that messed up is no more likely to mess up than other places. At minimum a careful place that doesn’t serve peanut heavy cuisine is less likely to mess up. But also, careful places either manage or they TELL YOU that they can’t manage.

      As for bringing their own dish, most restaurants don’t allow it.

      Also, why should the OP be the only one whose health needs are not being accommodated?

      No one is asking anyone to give up Thai food. But the idea that the food LIKE trumps someone’s HEALTH in *group* settings is so selfish that it makes your use of the word highly ironic.

  56. Nikki*

    OP#1 – I have a tree nut allergy, so I’m familiar with this kind of social chess.

    Realistically, you can’t eat at that restaurant again. They caused an allergic reaction, allergic reactions can get worse over time, therefore it’s very dangerous to eat there.

    So, next time your coworkers invite you to that restaurant or ask why you won’t be coming, why not be honest? You can’t come because you can’t eat there.

    This isn’t a magic bullet — your coworkers may decide that other things are more important than including you. But at the very least, you’re making them deal with the awkwardness of that choice.

    Other phrases I like to use:
    “I can’t eat it because I could die.”
    “My doctor recommended that I stop eating there because of the reaction.”
    “I wish I could eat it too, but it’s not worth risking my life.”
    “Last time I ate there I got really sick, so I don’t/can’t eat there anymore.”
    “It’s really dangerous for me to eat that because of cross-contamination.”

    If your coworkers try to include you, it’s worth investing the time to teach them about allergies and how to check if a restaurant is allergy-friendly. HOWEVER, if you have to turn down food in the moment, I recommend giving as little info as possible. Otherwise you get stuck in the loop of “But I’m pretty sure my cake doesn’t have nuts in it!” or explaining the finer details of cross-contamination. It’s much harder to argue with “I can’t eat it because I could die.”

    Finally: if you were diagnosed as a kid I recommend going back to an allergist and asking them to educate you like a new patient. I learned that I should be carrying two Epi-Pens, when a reaction counts as “serious,” and exactly which nuts I’m allergic to. Medicine has changed a lot in the past 20 years and what was “best practice” when I was a toddler is no longer accurate.

    Stay safe out there! :)

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      My personal go to for the folks that want to argue is, “breathing is non-negotiable, food XX is negotiable.”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes, please mention it to others in the group. Maybe you can get them to pushback as a group.

      I’d be truly angry if someone else was preparing this stuff, so I’m just in the background going along with it and wonder why June never comes with us. Only to find out that it’s because they don’t care that June has frigging allergies and the place almost killed her once before.

      I’d offer to be the one who makes reservations even if it’s too much for whomever is organizing it. JFC, to be so flippant about “Oh well we can accommodate everyone’s preferences but your life/death situation would lessen their choices, so nah you can sit out constantly!” Nope.

      1. Nikki*

        Yeah, at the end of their question OP asked “How do I avoid the appearance that I’m being antisocial or don’t want to hang out with the team?” and that feeling totally resonated with me.

        As you can probably tell from my comment (haha), I’m generally a very direct person. But even I struggle with asking for “too many” accommodations or being the lone person who says “actually, I can’t eat there.” Nobody wants to be a downer and talking about your limitations isn’t fun! And a lot of times I weigh the value of speaking up vs the value of just grinning and bearing it.

        Given all the times OP has spoken up with the organizer, though, it’s fair at this point to just be honest. If you invite somebody to a place you *know* they can’t go, that’s… not really an invitation. OP won’t be rude to say, “Hey, I can’t eat there, maybe another restaurant?” or “Can’t eat there, guess I’ll catch the next one!”

        My hope is that some of OP’s coworkers will be like you and speak up! One of the silver linings of having an allergy is that you get to experience people’s genuine care and kindness. Friends have taken time away from major events (birthdays, engagement parties, weddings) to help me find the caterer. Colleagues have translated for me on work trips so I can eat safely. Even people I barely know have brought me the empty box of cake mix so I can check the ingredients. I remember the times I got left out, but the times I was included are particularly sweet. :)

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah, my annoyance really lands on the organizer here, they’re shitty at their job [or if it’s not their job, they shouldn’t be volunteering for something they lack the skills at either.]

          I’m used to working with folks who hate to speak up, so I make it a point to make it part of our company culture to put forth the big flag of “I want everyone to be able to participate.” This isn’t a “Be happy you get anything, take it or leave it.” kinda place. I’ve been personally responsible for changing cultures from places I’ve been before into this idea either. So really, you never know who’s on your side, until you speak up.

          I would just mention it during the announcement phase into the wind. “Oh it’s at Peanuts R-US again? Drats, got sick there the last time I tried it out. I’ll have to pass.” and move along. Don’t dwell on it, don’t make it a “thing”, just throw it into the wind and see if it catches any ears.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          “I remember the times I got left out, but the times I was included are particularly sweet.” Same, Nikki. Same. Anyone who goes to the trouble of making sure I can participate in a group meal/snack wins my undying loyalty. I live in an area where food allergies are seen as an individual problem with individual solutions (i.e. if you can’t eat the group lunch, then you’d better bring your own). The only people who care are the people who love me, like my family and my dear friends. The few times acquaintances/strangers have made an effort to include me, I’ve totally cried.

  57. Anonapots*

    #3 I think what you’re running into is the way freelance work is portrayed in pop culture. It’s pretty common in sitcoms when a main protagonist who’s a creative loses their job and declares they’ll go freelance. I think it was even a thing on How I Met Your Mother. They never get any work, inevitably they learn that freelance sucks, and they go back to a corporate gig because blah, blah, blah. I live in a city where freelance is common, especially in some of my circles, because it’s home to many people in a specific industry where artists are hired for one-shot or short term gigs. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were people here who weren’t familiar with that particular industry, but it does surprise me that people don’t understand that freelance = small business owner.

  58. Shanna*

    OP3: I’m a musician. I find I get a much better response when I say “I’m a professional musician” instead of “I’m a freelance musician.” Try that: “I’m a professional artist.” The word “professional” is a trigger that “yes I make money doing this.” People tend to just respond with “oh what sort of art/music do you do?” and then you can talk about your work for various clients and your willingness to take on new clients.

  59. Anon for this*

    Ugh, the ignorant stigma of both “freelance” and “artist” still exists in the minds of those office drones who A) don’t understand how totally f’n lucrative it can be or B) didn’t have enough hustle and talent to make it themselves. It is to laugh!

    Signed, a freelance artist who makes a higher salary than half her lawyer friends while picking and choosing her clients and schedule.

    1. JustaTech*

      Hey now, that’s pretty unkind.
      I don’t look down on freelancers at all.

      I can’t freelance. It’s not just because I don’t have the “hustle and talent” to do it: science and public health (my chosen fields) are not amenable to freelancing because of the very nature of the work. It’s not because I’m lazy, it’s because what I do requires structures and organizations that don’t work for single individuals.
      I respect your work/career/business, please don’t tell me I’m lazy just because mine looks very different.

  60. Sally*

    Thank you, Alison and commenters! When I’m in the thick of a stressful situation, it’s hard to find the right wording for… well, anything. So this is very helpful. I’ve just started sending emails to my contacts, and I wasn’t sure how to deal with this on LinkedIn.

  61. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Honestly, if people get cold to what you do, they’re fickle AF and not a good date, nor a good networking tool. This is probably me being the partner of a writer though flaring up a bit.

    But I do agree that you could use “contractor” or simply say you’re working with Teapots Ltd as an artist. Key word “with” not at. They most likely aren’t listening closely enough to hear the difference. But you are working with them, as their freelance artist.

  62. DCLite*

    For #3 – Contractor. You’re a contractor. I’m a graphic designer working on my own much like you, full working hours taken up but paid as “freelance” for each company. I 100% know the glassing-over look in the eyes you describe when you tell someone you’re a freelancer. A contractor, which is what you are, also shifts control of the position back to you. So, for example, “Chocolate Teapots is one of my clients.” Which is both true, and for most people makes them take your work much more seriously.

  63. Bananasinpyjamas*

    I feel really awful saying this, but I really think OP#1 is…. I mean not in the wrong, exactly, but I do feel a bit like they’re asking a lot. They had an allergic reaction at this restaurant in childhood, which is presumably at least 10 years ago. The restaurant will almost certainly have changed hands, got new chefs, had some sort of food safety training, etc. OP says themselves that there is stuff they can eat at this restaurant, it’s just an aversion to going there. I feel like that’s very different to ‘I absolutely cannot eat anything there and I’m therefore being excluded from attending’.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      For clarification, OP1 had a reaction while out with the work group on one of the lunches. She mentioned the childhood reaction as the last time she had a reaction before that more recent incident.

  64. nnn*

    For #3, being more specific about what you actually produce might make it sound more like a “real job.” People who are skeptical about the arts are sometimes less skeptical about “This is the tangible thing I made.”

    Examples: “I’m a portrait painter.” “I’m a caricaturist.” “I design 3D printer templates.”

  65. nonegiven*

    #1, don’t say you aren’t comfortable going to that restaurant, say you aren’t safe going to that restaurant. Because you are not.

  66. Gazebo Slayer*

    Even if OP3 WERE unemployed, people’s reactions would be cruel. Laughing in her face? Ugh.

    About 14% of the US population is currently unemployed! Being unemployed does not make you worthless, and treating unemployed people as if they are unworthy is awful.

  67. Relentlessly Socratic*

    Yanno: Post-COVID-19 for a lot of places, they will ALL require reservations (and I think it’s jumping the gun to think there will be large parties anytime soon). Frankly the problem will likely solve itself when making reservations becomes a new-normal. IF they STILL won’t accommodate you for a different lame reason, then it’s clearly a coworker problem rather than a laziness problem.

  68. HerGirlFriday*

    If the lunches are that frequent, it really can’t be that hard to set regularly scheduled reservations with the restaurants that can actually accommodate everyone.
    Such as first and third Tuesday’s at Cafe ABC, second and fourth Tuesday’s at XYZ Buffet, Wednesday’s at Global Burger, and payday Friday’s at Planet Pizza.
    It also takes the guess work out of ”where are we going today?”
    Maybe consider a corporate delivery account with a couple of places. I worked at a Kosher office and we had that type of accommodation with a local deli and the boss’s favorite pizza place.
    Also – if anyone really wants Peanut Palace, they can go any other day without the whole team.

  69. I'm jus here for the cats*

    I think what they were getting at was that ignorant people who treat freelancers bad feels that way because they don’t understand or didn’t have hussle. Not that you feel that way because your not a freelancer. Unless you laugh at freelancers don’t take it personally

  70. Lemonbalm*

    LW1 As someone who organizes a lot of lunches and planned our company holiday parties. I make sure we can accommodate everyone. Those with allergies always come first. I make sure to let the venue know in advance (even restaurants) to ensure that they know it is serious. If someone had an issue I would cross that place off the list of suitable restaurants. I am sorry the organizer is not doing more to accommodate/ be more inclusive.

    I have also worked as a cook and would always wash everything down before prepping anyone who identified an allergy. Unfortunately there are people who take advantage and tell people they have allergies or restrictions. When they don’t. I.e the person who asked her Cornish hen to be taken off the bone because as a vegan she couldn’t eat meat off the bone… this was at a upscale restaurant in a major city…

  71. #WearAllTheHats*

    Post #3: Add a descriptor to what you do. “Artist” often seems to conjure up thoughts of tye-die gauze dresses and flighty “love and light” thoughts OR thoughts of shiftless burnouts who claim “art is just my thing, man”. Is it right? No. But you’re often with lowest common denominator folks. (As an artist and licensed massage therapist in a former career, I’ve been referred to as a hippie and basically a prostitute because massage=sex, apparently. I’m used to the mislabeling.) Anyway, “Freelance Graphic Artist” or “Freelance Art Director” or “Freelance Designer” or whatever you’re actually doing for them lends credibility. Or just skip the “freelance”. ;) Your employment situation is nobody’s biz, really. But “freelance” can always lead to opportunities! “I’m freelancing as an art director for Chocolate Teapots, but I’d love to chat with you about what you need for Llamas United!”

  72. Hedgehug*

    #1 Why does the team have to go to a restaurant? Why can’t the office just order in catering, that way you can order in a lunch and bill it to the office? Win-win.

    #2 Why is your co-worker so aggressive about pushing their home baking on all of you? As a team, just stop eating their baking.

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