How to be an ungrateful jerk

How to be an ungrateful jerk July 24, 2012

The title here is, of course, redundant. Ingratitude is the key to jerkery. If you want to be a total jerk, then you’re going to have to learn to cultivate ingratitude.

This is harder than it seems. Wherever you go, you will find yourself surrounded by and confronted with constant reminders — reasons, causes, demands — to be grateful. You must guard yourself against them. You’ll never achieve true jerkhood if you allow gratitude even the smallest toehold in your mind.

Becoming a world-class jerk is just like becoming a world-class athlete — it takes training, discipline and practice, practice, practice. Given time and determination, you can train yourself to convert even the most obvious demands for gratitude into occasions for obnoxious ingratitude.

Here we’ll just briefly look at four common hazards — four everyday potential summons to gratitude that you can learn to twist to your advantage.

1. Handicapped parking spaces.

Train yourself to complain about these. Keep the focus on you. Ask yourself: “Why should I have to park all the way back there when they get to park right by the door?” Try to perceive this as an intensely personal affront and nurture that sense of grievance. Try to think of the people who use these spaces as “lucky” — as privileged. Emphasize how this inconveniences you. Dwell on the extra 50 yards you had to walk. At all costs, do not allow yourself to acknowledge the disastrously gratitude-inducing fact that you can, in fact, walk those 50 yards, while others cannot.

2. Braille signs on ATMs and elevators.

Convince yourself that this is an unjustifiable inconvenience. Keep that thought as broad and vague as possible, since the presence of such signs can’t really be said to inconvenience you in any way. Try harrumphing something about “government bureaucrats” and “red tape.” That makes it sound like it must entail some additional cost of time or money, even if you never actually experience any such added cost. The mantra “your tax-dollars at work” can be useful here. Again, keep your focus there — on you and on your perceived inconvenience. And whatever you do, don’t allow that braille lettering to serve as a reminder that you can see while others can’t. That way lies the enemy — gratitude, empathy, and their bastard child, generosity.

3. Food allergy warnings.

They’re there on the menu at the restaurant and on the labels of much of the food you buy in the supermarket. The danger, yet again, is very real. You could easily see one of these omnipresent food allergy warnings and be prompted to recognize how difficult it must be for others to have to maintain a constant vigilance against peanuts or gluten or dairy products. Don’t allow that to happen. You want to sit around having sympathy for others’ hardships, feeling grateful that you’re privileged to be spared such challenges? Fine, you go ahead and do that — but you’ll never be a real jerk if you do. If you want to achieve jerkery, then you’ve got to turn that around. Don’t think, “Everywhere I turn I see these reminders of the difficulties others face,” but instead think, “Everywhere I turn I’m harrassed by these food allergy warnings. Give me a break, it’s like they’ll never leave me alone.” Again, keep the focus on you — you’re being inconvenienced, you’re being put upon, burdened, bled dry. If you can’t be bothered to complain unless you’ve got something substantial to complain about, then I’m forced to question your commitment to being a total jerk.

4. Trigger warnings on the Web

By this point the pattern should be clear. You should be able to recognize the dangers, and to apply the proper counter-measures. The danger, again, is that such reminders of the hurdles and challenges others face can prompt unwanted feelings of gratitude, empathy and generosity. And the response, again, is to avoid thinking about them and to keep the focus on you. Turn this into something to complain about. Train yourself to perceive the presence of such trigger warnings as an inconvenience, an affront, a burden, a personal insult. Resent them.

The theory is simple. The practice is hard. Being an ungrateful jerk is not for the lazy or the faint of heart. The perils of epiphany lurk around every corner. At any moment, you might see a handicapped parking space, a sign in braille or a trigger warning on a website and be overwhelmed with gratitude, empathy and generosity. But you’ll never be an ungrateful jerk if you let that happen.


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  • arcseconds

     I’ve been concerned about these matters for years, and I don’t have any
    worked-up answers, but my take on it these days is to try to work on the
    notion (in myself and in others) of a discussion as a discovery
    process.  You’re either trying to mutually work out the truth, or
    mutually trying to work out what each other’s position is (maybe at the
    same time).   You can always default to working out each other if there’s not enough agreement to work on the truth.

    It is of course a problem if one party has no intention of altering
    their beliefs, no intention of understanding the other, and will accept
    nothing less than absolute capitulation and conversion (which may of
    course be to atheistic materialism as much as evangelical

    So don’t be that person.

    Other things to keep in mind is that argument isn’t the only way of
    changing people’s belief, and actually I think seldom works qua argument
    on its own (I’ve got a few ideas of what does work which I may relate later).

    (and also, it’s not the only way of interacting with people!)

  • Ruby, have you ever read Fables?  I ask because there are storylines focusing on Hansel’s career as a Witch Hunter.

    Of course, I also ask because Fables is generally awesome and well worth reading.

  • arcseconds

    discussion as a process of discovery of course immediately legitimizes steel-manning.

    if you’re more interested in the process  than in the outcome, and recognise the process is a mutual one then that also means that something else you’ve mentioned, which is quite important to me, comes into scope, namely trying to improve each other’s mental skill-set.  to the extent that the participants have a skill differential this part of the relationship is likely to be asymmetric, but the more skilled person can still often learn something, even if it’s just how to teach better.

    this is important to me because I’m far less interested in people believing the right things, than I am in them being able to reason well. if they believe in the wrong things but can reason well, then they can correct this themselves.  If they believe in the right things, but can’t reason to save themselves, then they can easily start believing in wrong things.   (  I actually think that being able to reason is a good in itself that’s worth far more than believing true things, but even if you’re just thinking about it instrumentally it’s more important than believing true things.)

    the other thing that I’d recommend is learning to ‘bracket’ your own beliefs, so that discussions can proceed entirely about what the other person believes.

    plus, be open to things not making any sense at all. the way they structure their beliefs and think about them may not be at all what you’re used to.

    (For example, I’ve become aware recently that non-western cultures aren’t necessarily big on logical consistency.  they just don’t see it as a problem to tell one origin story on one occasion and then a different origin story for the same thing on a different occasion.  once I used to think this meant something was obviously nonsense and didn’t bear any further thought, but now I think it’s kinda cool! )

    as I alluded to earlier, having emotional distance from argument and belief I think can end up meaning you’ve actually got nothing at stake in the discussion, so ironically it becomes a way of protecting your beliefs once again.

    I think what I’m saying here means that in a sense you’re putting more at risk in a more meaningful way than simply your sense of self-worth.  the bracketing doesn’t mean your beliefs are taken off the table entirely, in a way they’ve been neutralized from playing an active role, so they’re now more vulnerable than formerly.

  • Yep, read it, love it. 

    I have never been one to go the theatre just to see a preview, but I just might for this one.  :D

  • Kiba

    And the mods (Kit seemed most active, hapax least, but I have no way of knowing how their behind-the-scenes interactions went) – anyhow, the mods were NOT interested in considering different perspectives or convincing the other side or figuring out whether there was a truth they hadn’t noticed.


    Also, the community response of, “Well, they don’t do that to me” isn’t particularly helpful at all. Just because they treat you differently/better than someone else doesn’t negate the feelings of the person who feels unsafe/uncomfortable and tends to actually reinforce it. It also makes it very hard for that person to try and express exactly why they feel the way they do if they are just going to be dismissed out of hand anyway. 

  • arcseconds

     the final thing I have to say for now is picking up on Caravelle’s mention of ‘what if you’re much better at arguing than someone”.

    what if other people are too?

    what I mean is, it’s common to wish that people were more swayed by rational arguments.  But there’s a considerable danger here.  Imagine someone who’s not all that knowledgeable or either good at or inclined towards thinking through things themselves, but can recognise a rational argument when they see it, and always changes their beliefs on the basis of a rational argument.

    That means that they’ll agree with you when they’ve just spoken to you.  But if they meet a libertarian tomorrow, they’ll be a libertarian, up until the point where they meet a marxist, then they’ll be a marxist, and therefore a materialist, until a few days later they meet a Christian, who convinces them of the existence of God…

    Or, alternatively, they might just get bewildered and become totally unsure of everything.

    So maybe we should be glad that rational argument doesn’t always persuade.

  • caryjamesbond

     But if they meet a libertarian tomorrow, they’ll be a libertarian, up until the point where they meet a marxist, then they’ll be a marxist, and therefore a materialist, until a few days later they meet a Christian, who convinces them of the existence of God…

    I would argue that a hypothetic person with no inherent beliefs of their own but an ability to recognize rational arguments by others would…not be converted to any of those three things.  Especially since it strikes me that the most “rational” argument is from observed reality which….more or less rules out Marxism. And probably libertarianism, unless this hypothetical person LIKES the middle ages for some reason. Christianity…I’ll leave alone. 

    Also, where’s my homie Dan Audy?  Dan! We’re yellow card comrades!  *fistbumps dan*

  • Lori


    And I’m not just saying that because it will feature Jeremy Renner kicking ass while wearing leather armor. 

    You’re not saying that, but I think I am.

  • Well, I said I’m not just saying that.  ;)

  • Dan Audy

    * awkward fistbump*

    To be honest I wish we weren’t though because that would be an indication that the Slacktiverse mods were listening to criticism and trying to change how they operate. 

  • Lori

    There have been a couple of discussions in the comments at Tom & Lorenzo about the appeal of Jeremy Renner. Some folks see it, others do not. At one point those who do were attempting to explain it to those who do not (as always in matters of taste, this was pointless but it was done in a totally friendly way and so made for fun conversation instead of a tiff).

    I literally LOLed when someone finally summed up her feelings by saying, and I quote, “He’s one of those guys that may not be conventionally attractive, but looking at him you can bet he’s NASTY in bed…in a totally good way.”

  • Man if you keep bragging about your yellow card everyone will want one!

  • arcseconds

    Well, this is an excellent case in point.

    i think every day for the past couple of years gives us further proof that Marxism has a lot going for it.  I think it’s pretty clear that the rich, capital owning people really do have very different interests to ordinary people who trade on their labour, and they act on those interests, and this results in bad outcomes for working people.  Marx (and Hegel) also foresaw that capitalism would result in perennial crises, which has basically been a fact of economic history for the past century or so.

    It’s the people who think free markets and enlightened self-interest results in the next best thing to utopia where everyone’s wants are met to the best they can be that seem to be divorced from reality to me.

    My point here isn’t to argue for Marxism, but that I don’t think it’s as bankrupt as you appear to think it is, and I’m pretty good at arguing my corner.  So if our epistemic wanderer happens to encounter me, they probably would come away thinking Marxism has something going for it.

    (actually, i also have some understanding of free market arguments and libertarian arguments, so I could probably turn them that way too, if I felt inclined.)

    BTW, I don’t have it in mind that they’re ideally rational, more that they avoid obvious fallacies.  I’m not even sure what discussing something with an ideally rational but fairly ignorant person would be like — it would probably be very strange, and you might not be able to convince them of much.

  • Lori

    I think Marx correctly diagnosed the problem and then managed to come up with a solution that’s actually worse. If you’re looking for a useful lens for analysis then Marx is your man, it’s when you start shopping for solutions that the term “bankrupt” applies.

  • Gotchaye

    Presumably arguing with an ideally rational person would be pointless; they’re ideally rational and would already have worked out everything that it is rational for them to believe given whatever they’re taking as given.  You don’t argue with ideally rational people who are wrong; you /show/ them that they are wrong.  They can’t respond to new arguments (there are no new arguments for them), only new information.

    But your general point is an interesting one.  I think the best response here is that we definitely do want everyone to avoid obvious fallacies, but that “avoiding obvious fallacies” doesn’t come anywhere near completely describing how someone forms and updates beliefs.  Obviously such a person is doing more than just that, unless they’re thorough skeptics, in which case you probably won’t be able to convince them of anything no matter how good you are.  They’ve got a set of pre-existing beliefs, and some tendency to modify/expand those when encountering new arguments or information.  If this person first encounters a bad proponent of libertarianism, perhaps they’ll become libertarian.  And then they might become a Marxist after encountering a good proponent of Marxism.  But I don’t think this person would flip back to libertarianism unless they encountered an even better proponent.  They still remember the argument for being a Marxist, presumably, and will only switch back if the argument for libertarianism outweighs or refutes the Marxist argument, and if it’s of comparable strength one would expect agnosticism to result.

    Basically, rationality isn’t sufficient for functioning, although perfect rationality might still be a nice thing to have, and a weaker ability to merely avoid “obvious” logical fallacies still sounds pretty great to me.


    an ideally rational person [..] can’t respond to new arguments (there are no new
    arguments for them), only new information.

    There are many different ways to envision an “ideally rational” person; that’s true for some but not all of them. It’s not incoherent to separate being rational from having certain data, for example; I might present Rational Sam with an argument based on data they hadn’t previously been exposed to. Nor is it incoherent to separate rationality from intelligence; I might have worked out a line of argument demonstrating something that Rational Sam didn’t work out, because I am smarter than they are.

  • Caravelle

    Thank you for you replies arcseconds, they’re awesome ! ^^ And it occurs to me this last bit :

    Or, alternatively, they might just get bewildered and become totally unsure of everything.

    does mesh well with people here talking about feeling “gaslighted” after arguments in the Slacktiverse that prompted them to leave.

    For the record though I’ll note two big problems with my post, one that I didn’t include because it was too long already and another that only occurred to me later.
    First, doing all that stuff takes an enormous amount of effort so I don’t think one should try to do it all the time, let alone require it of people. Unless not doing it actually leads to problems, in which case… dunno.
    And second, while the stuff I brought up would definitely help with getting to the truth, and it might help with convincing people (I mean, convincing people is such a negligible part of arguing that I’m not sure anything can really help, but it certainly won’t hurt), but it isn’t clear to me anymore that it would make a good arguer less intimidating to others. I think I’d want to know more about what it is that makes an intimidating argument intimidating. Fear of losing ? Fear of all the effort one knows it will take to respond ? Fear of disapproval ? It’s probably lots of things but some may be more important than others.

  • Caravelle

    BTW, I don’t have it in mind that they’re ideally rational, more that they avoid obvious fallacies. I’m not even sure what discussing something with an ideally rational but fairly ignorant person would be like — it would probably be very strange, and you might not be able to convince them of much.

    In fact if we assume the ideally rational approach is a Bayesian one, you wouldn’t be able to convince them of anything if you aren’t providing them good evidence, i.e. making them less ignorant.

  • arcseconds

     Well, as I mentioned what I’m trying to get at here isn’t some kind of super-ratiocinator person, but someone like an ordinary person, just with no particular investment in their beliefs, has some ability to follow a rational argument, and always updates their beliefs when presented with a rational argument.

    Kind of like, you wish upon a star that your friend was more rational and not so damned set in their ways and prepared to believe in things for emotional reasons.  and you get your wish, and they turn into someone who’s still not exceptionally bright, but end up turning into a kind of epistemic weather-vane.

    i don’t think i want to assume that they can necessarily remember the arguments, because people don’t.   I don’t (it’s very annoying) and I’m a lot better at this than average.

    But even to the extent they can remember, I’m not sure it helps as much as you think it does, or at least it might take some time for their beliefs to stablize.  They meet a bad libertarian who gives them two reasons for being a libertarian – so they become a libertarian.  All the marxist has to do is to knock down those two reasons and give two more reasons for being a marxist.  If they encounter another libertarian, they don’t need to be an awesome libertarian, they just need some counters for some marxist points and some arguments that our friend hasn’t heard before.

    ‘two reasons’ is just a sketch – my point is initially it won’t take very much.   Also, I have it in mind that our friend is not very good at doing their own reasoning (no better than average), so they won’t necessarily be able to come up with fresh counters. 

    If they had been following this discussion, they might be going “yeah, yeah, arcseconds is right, they would be pretty flippant” then later, “yeah, yeah, Gotchaye is right, each proponent would have to be much better than the last, so it wouldn’t be so bad” and now “yeah, yeah, arcseconds is totally right, they’d forget stuff, so in a few months time the initial libertarian can just reconvert them. they’d be flippant”.

  • arcseconds

    How ideal do we want an ideal rational agent to be?

    i mean, arguably anything short of deductive closure is a departure from ideal rationality, but someone with a deductively closed set of beliefs is not something that it’s easy to imagine.    They’d believe an infinite number of propositions, for example.

    The Bayesian analog of deductive closure I think would be someone who on the presentation of new evidence would immediately update all propositions in their belief-set with new Bayesian probabilities  (sometimes the probability might not change, but then it ought not to change), so that no further application of Bayes’s theorem will result in a probability change.   They’d be a super-Sherlock Holmes at the very least – no sitting around smoking enormous quantities of shag tobacco ruminating on anything, every case would be solved immediately the last piece of evidence is gained.  Every piece of data would immediately yield them all the data it was possible to gain from it.  They’d be fantastic on the stock market, presumably.

    Again, it seems very hard to say what such an agent would be like. Even just having numeric probabilities for everything would make them very different from any actual human being.

  • Caravelle

    That is something like I was imagining, yes.

    Of course they’d be very different from any actual human being, because just like perfect logicians they’d have infinite computing power (or arbitrarily high computing power). Aside from that difference… let’s put it like this : I won’t argue the point because I haven’t finished reading Jayne’s “Probability: the Logic of Science” yet, but the bits I’ve read made a convincing case that humans do reason in a Bayesian way even in cases where it isn’t intuitively obvious they do (for example, some apparent contradictions disappear when you account for the level of trust one has in a source).

    But any ideal reasoning agent is going to be quite different from humans, however you define them. Otherwise you wouldn’t call them “ideal reasoning agents”, you call them “Joe, in Bournemouth, see who I mean ?”.

  • arcseconds

     Presumably with both deductive and bayesian closure, they could just decrypt any cyphertext using a known algorithm as easily as reading it.

    They’d already know all finite ASCII strings on reading the ASCII standard (deductive closure), and for each of those strings, they’d have a probability of it being the plaintext already in this case given what they know (i.e the plaintext is English, the plaintext has been written by a South African male working in the banking industry (so it’s unlikely to be a mathematical discussion of astrophysics or a synopsis of the Noh theatre scripts), etc).

    There’s a mapping from every plaintext/key combination to every cyphertext.  So the agent already knows the mapping of all finite ASCII texts to every possible cyphertext knowing the algorithm and key length.

    On reading the cyphertext, the agent would then know what plaintext/key pairs could result in that cyphertext, and given what they already know about the message probably only one mapping will have any significant probability, and that probability would be quite close to 1.

    I’m just saying this as a trivial example of the sorts of magic this being could perform.

  • Gotchaye

     Yeah, I got that.  But I think you’re limiting this person more than you ought to.  Like you say, we all sometimes forget arguments.  But it would be a very strange person indeed who always remembered /what/ his or her factual positions were but had no sense at all of how strong the arguments for those positions were.  I have beliefs that I don’t necessarily remember the arguments for (of course some of my beliefs don’t have arguments for them, and this is important and not necessarily irrational unless thorough skepticism is the only rational thing to believe).  But I still have a sense of how sure I am of those beliefs, which, if I initially establish my degree of certainty only by rational argument, is going to be a decent measure of how good those arguments were.  Your friend will still be attached to his beliefs for emotional reasons, but the emotional significance will have initially attached to the beliefs just because and to the extent that they were argued for.

    Shorter: An epistemic weather-vane would be an odd sort of person.  But I don’t think that a regular person, plus avoiding all obvious fallacies, gets you there. The person doesn’t have to remember the arguments, exactly, as long as he or she at least has a sense of how convincing they were.

    Maybe some of our disagreement here is the deductive/Bayesian distinction you get at later.  Obviously most interesting beliefs about the world, like whether libertarianism or Marxism are true, aren’t going to be established on the basis of deductive argument from reasonable premises.  I assume that even this rational-but-ignorant person is going to object when the libertarian says “first, assume that all humans are rational maximizers” or similar.  Non- question-begging arguments for libertarianism or Marxism depend on contingent facts about humans, and the evidence for them is in large part observational.  So standard deduction isn’t going to help much, and it seems to me that someone who “avoids obvious fallacies” in this context is something like someone who assigns rationally appropriate weight to evidence presented.  There are different ways of defining what that is, exactly, but I think we more or less expect that better arguments and stronger evidence will push up the person’s confidence in X more than weaker arguments and weaker evidence.

    At the very least, one could present this rational-but-ignorant person with an argument that, given their tendency to flit back and forth from belief to belief, they should hesitate to affirm something unless they get to the point where a handful of somewhat plausible arguments for the other side won’t sway them.  Possibly people without much ability to evaluate the strength of arguments /should/ generally be very hesitant to affirm many things for which the primary evidences are complex arguments.

  • caryjamesbond

    See….THIS is why slacktivist is the greatest website ever.

    i think every day for the past couple of years gives us further proof that Marxism has a lot going for it.  

    I would agree that a marxIST viewpoint is incredibly useful- its essentially “dude- follow the money” combined with “HELL with rich people.”  MarxISM, the political idea that we should all feed our products into a centralized overarching government distribution center that then redistributes the goods produced based on need….has some issues.   The reason I think capitalism works so well is the close relationship between action and payout. I go to work, I get a check every week. I harvest grain, I sell it, I get money.   Marxism puts a significant delay in there. I make an amazing amount of grain, ship it off to the warehouse and later on I get…the same amount of grain + toilet paper as always.

    The key is to look at capitalism as a useful tool.  A rock on a stick was a useful hammer. But we refined and tweaked and developed new technologies and now I can get a shatterproof well balanced hammer with a claw and ergonomic grip with a titanium head. Same basic thing, much more effective.  Capitalism needs rules and checks and balances to work as effectively as possible. Unfortunately, some people see it as a religion instead. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Capitalism also works very well because as a society we’re very willing to throw poor people under a bus in exchange for popular shoes.

  • Surprisingly, I agree with you :P

    (Cue shock from the people who wonder how a self-proclaimed socialist lefty would agree with this assessment of capitalism :P )

    I’ve heard it said that capitalism is a good servant, and a bad master.  The basic principles of capitalist economic functioning – linking effort and reward – are very powerful and direct. But they must serve the broader community, not be ends in and of themselves.

  • In the suing culture that I understand is prevalent in the USA (not first-hand; I’m in Europe) I wouldn’t be surprised if someone bought peanut butter, spread it on their bread, ate it, got sick, and then sued the shop or the manufacturer because they weren’t warned about peanuts.

  • caryjamesbond

    (Cue shock from the people who wonder how a self-proclaimed socialist lefty would agree with this assessment of capitalism

    I’d say the chances of you seeing this are slim, but if you do…

    I consider myself more or less a socialist. However, the distinction I make is different from the common one. As the media uses it, it’s the middle spot on a continuum that goes liberal>socialist>communist.  But I fundamentally disagree with that. Communism is type of economic structure. Communism isn’t the opposite of conservatism, it’s the opposite of capitalism. It is a different way of regulating and dealing with commerce.

    Socialism, on the other hand, is a type of social structure, so in that sense it is comparable to conservatism and liberalism.  It is a statement of how a society is structured. You can have a conservative communist state (which is what I would argue the USSR was at some points) or a socialist capitalist country, which is essentially what Sweden is. You cannot, however, have a communist capitalist society. 

    So, I wouldn’t say that was odd.  More common sense.  Communism works well in outline, but is absolutely destroyed by the details. (Like- WHO determines what your “need” is?  And how do we keep that guy from being corrupt? )

  • Joe Smith

     I’m confused.  You have APD, but you are also concerned about peoples feelings?  Is that a thing?  Genuinely curious.

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s difficult to explain why without coming across like… well, a
    heartless sociopath. But yes, for various reasons, some of which are
    purely selfish, like “if I aggravate the wrong people, I may get hurt.” I
    like to think that I’m concerned with the state of the future and have
    compensated for my lack of empathy with a sense of connection with other
    people. I’ve come to understand that mutual cooperation will get us a lot further than everyone pushing and shoving to be first in line, regardless of actual feelings for one-another.

    Try watching Hell’s Kitchen. The men’s team almost each and every season is full of people who fist-bump and shout and holler and cheer, but lose almost every single night. Meanwhile, the women’s team is full of vindictive, evil wenches who backstab and plot against each other, but win almost every single night because the moment the night starts, they shut up and start working together. That’s kind of how I view myself: Individually capable of great evil, but by necessity, part of a whole which I should work to the best of my ability to improve, as much for my own sake as everyone else’s.

    Granted, when I was younger, I was bad. Really bad. Exactly the diagnosis, although back then, it’d have been classified as conduct disorder. Over time, I’ve trained myself to resist bad habits and be conscious of my impulsiveness so that I don’t do something I may regret later and now I’d be classified as nomadic antisocial, which is less “Disney villain come to life” and more “the hell are these emotion things anyway? they’re squishy.”

  • Joe Smith

     Thanks for replying, Sam.  This is fascinating. 

  • The_L1985

    I do think it’s kind of silly, if your child is bringing a sandwich from home, to panic over other people’s allergies. Just tell your kid, “Your classmates X, Y, and Z are allergic to peanuts, so you need to wash your hands after lunch, too, to make sure they don’t get sick. Eating or touching peanuts could be very bad for them.”

    I can see why schools shouldn’t provide peanut butter in cafeteria food, because that’s a trip to the ER waiting to happen. But I think you can be considerate of people with food allergies without banning common allergens. Plus, it’s a way to teach your children to be considerate of other people’s needs, too.

  • JenL

    The thing about food allergies is that they can be extreme. I’ve seen a woman break out in large hives because she sat down at a table after someone who ate a ham sandwich. That person had apparently accidentally dropped a few crumbs of the sandwich, and picked them up afterwards. Putting her arms down on the table 30 minutes later and touching the oil was enough to set off a severe reaction.

    Protecting from that kind of reaction goes beyond teaching your kids to wash their hands after eating the sandwich.

  • Psst, look at the date of the comment you replied to.