Different is not difficult

3 Feb 2022

A chum was popping round for dinner. Ahead of time, he sent me a text detailing what he could and could not eat. It wasn’t through choice, but for good solid allergy reasons.


I told him it was no issue; clarified a couple of things and said we’d sort out something tasty. And we had a great time. He thanked me profusely. ‘Sorry for being difficult’ he said. I thought about it later and clarified it afterwards. He wasn’t being difficult; he was telling me what didn’t make him ill. Why use the word difficult? Oh, he said, that’s what the family say.


I was appalled. Difficult? Really? To a family member? How does that work? If the family member has only one leg, are they being difficult in slowing everyone down when out for a run?


My work involves preparing reports for Court. We are taught that we can’t use words like disseminated or distributed (as in funds); they are capable of subtext which is not positive for a defendant. Paid is the word we should use (and if you think I am being difficult over this, you haven’t had the debate on subtext with a barrister when in a witness box).


Paid is factual, unemotive and uncontroversial. It is also entirely objective. So is ‘different’.


Difficult, on the other hand, implies fault. It is subjective.


Also, difficult for whom? The family? Yes, it’s a shame that one of them must have different food. It’s a shame that two meals must be provided. But that’s what a family is about. If one person loves peanuts and another is badly allergic to them, who gives way? To me it’s obvious and I’d describe anyone continuing to want to eat peanuts in such circumstances as difficult (and other words too, all unrepeatable and entirely subjective).


If I want your company and I must eat differently, so what? I have friends who don’t eat pork for religious reasons.  Visiting them reminds me that I eat too much bacon. It doesn’t mean I avoid them. Your company is more important than my convenience.


Having mental health issues makes us different from a lot of the population. It doesn’t make us difficult. It makes us, us.


Not difficult, different. And Vive La Difference!


A Moodscope member.

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