this is one of my big pet peeves since moving to seattle, and i know that posting about it carries the distinct possibility of making certain people very upset. but i am going to throw some caution to the wind and assume we are all adults and we can handle a little bit of discourse…
since moving to seattle, we have come into a world where people are freakishly crazy about being allergic. there is not only an entire segment of the population who makes a career of having allergies, but there is an even wider segment who makes it their business to bend over backward to accommodate people with allergies, even if that means they will then fail to accommodate people without allergies.
back in detroit, people just lived. the few people who legitimately had allergies handled their own business, whether that meant taking medications or avoiding triggers. they knew what they had to do to manage their conditions, and they took responsibility for it. in cases where small children had truly life-threatening problems, they were segregated from other kids during times that were dangerous for them, like when lunches and snacks were served at school. if they went to birthday parties or sleepovers, and if their allergens were really serious, they brought their own food, since it was never ever assumed that a host would be able to reliably avoid all of their allergy triggers. that was that.
in seattle, though, allergies are a lifestyle. they are very en vogue. it is chic to be allergic, to the point where i honestly believe that only about 2% of the people who claim to be allergic probably are. in seattle, having allergies is like having dogs- if you don’t have your own, you covet someone else’s. if you can’t borrow one, you pretend to have one of your own because it gives you something in common with everyone else.
a guest in our house recently talked about her close friend who has such a severe nut allergy that she couldn’t even be in someone’s home if they had packaged food with nuts in it. she was very adamant that this applied even if the packages were closed. so i asked her if she goes to 7-11 (i know for a fact that she does). of course, she replied. oh, so i guess the packed nuts there don’t bother her then? i asked her if she was able to go into grocery stores, since they clearly have not only products that contain nuts, but actual nuts! and after hemming and hawing for a few minutes, she admitted that she did. so much for her world-crushing nut allergy. now this is an adult we are talking about. this is someone who is old enough to know what she can and can’t tolerate. and here she is crying wolf and putting everyone in a panic about her supposedly life-threatening nut allergy, which clearly exists to create drama and make her a conversation piece. very Munchausen syndrome-y…
i know that there are people who have genuine allergies, and i know that those allergies can be genuinely life-threatening. in detroit we knew a child who was hospitalized many many many times for his multiple allergic issues, and he was constantly broken out and on steroids and inhalers and nebulizers and a whole host of other- very necessary- medications. i have no doubt that his symptoms were real and his parents’ caution was warranted. but even in his case, his family knew that the onus was on them and not on others to guard his health.
what is really irking me in seattle is the way that everyone tries to kowtow to the allergic crowd by banning allergy-provoking foods from everywhere. the biggest offender seems to be nuts, with an ever-wider net of nut-free zones in all sorts of places. i am very supportive of an allergic person’s right to participate in society, but i think the accommodations for their participation need to be on them and not on me.
so when my daughter- who will pretty much only eat peanut butter and jelly for lunch- has no other options because her school is a “nut free zone”, i have a problem with that. if her school wanted her to sit at a separate table with her peanut butter sandwich, or even in another room, i would be completely supportive of that, but to totally ban nuts from the building goes a bit overboard.
to my mind, that’s like banning microwaves from a building because someone entering it might have a pacemaker. or banning certain radio frequencies because they could interfere with someone’s hearing aids…
when my son, who is in an older class with kids who are certainly able to be completely responsible for their own health issues and wouldn’t share snacks or put food up their noses or anything, can’t bring peanuts or trail mix with nuts because again, they are in a “nut free zone”, it just about drives me bonkers. there are so many nutritious and easily packable snacks that my kids love and that would, frankly make my life a whole lot simpler.
so, for the one or two allergic kids in the entire building, i think it’s just plain unreasonable to ban nuts from the whole place.
it’s very kind.
and it’s very compassionate.
but it’s very misguided.
and in an effort to be so kind and compassionate to the two, the school ends up irritating the bejeebers out of the entire rest of the parent body.
i know this is super non-PC to ask, but what ever happened to treating the sick kids like the sick ones and letting everyone else live their lives?
because, um, here’s a news flash: the kids already know exactly who is “different”. they know who goes for allergy shots and who carries epi-pens and who is allergic to what- and most of that is because the kids themselves talk about it! and nobody makes fun and nobody really cares any more than they care who has red hair or who has dogs or whose family drives a minivan. they are just part of the fabric of who is who. so why the school goes to so much trouble to pretend to erase those markers by not “outing” the allergic kids by just moving them to a different table at snack time and letting the other kids get on with their lives leaves me quite puzzled.
it is a standard getting-to-know-you question here in seattle to ask someone you are having over if they have any food preferences or allergies. that alternately cracks me up and makes me berzerk. if you are so food-sensitive that you have to give someone a list, then just invite people to your own house or bring your own food. if there is one thing you can’t eat, then just politely refuse that one thing when you eat at someone else’s place, but good golly, why assume that everyone else should care that you can’t tolerate okra? there are people here who i literally will not have over because i just can’t deal with their dietary/pseudo-allergy rigmarole, and that’s just a darn shame.
but here’s another news flash: just because your nose ran once after you ate bananas in 4th grade doesn’t mean you are allergic to them. if you have a stomach ache and you think you may have had a tomato product within the last 72 hours, you really don’t need to go and get allergy tested for the night-shade family. and everyone sneezes when they encounter enough dust; it doesn’t mean you’re allergic.
if you spent all day at the park with your kids and forgot to drink and there was lots of yelling and screaming and running around and then you went to get ice cream afterward and you put the kids to bed and you realized you have a throbbing headache, you are probably not allergic to the dairy in the ice cream.
if you ate the leftover chinese food that was sitting in the fridge for 2 weeks and it was slightly warmish but you ate it anyway cuz you were so hungry that you barely even tasted it and then you felt queasy and you almost threw up, you are probably not allergic to the MSG (please don’t tell me about how bad MSG is because that is not the point here at all…).
i think it’s time for people to let go of their allergies and embrace their lives.
i think it’s time for institutions to get rid of their “nut free zones” and create “people friendly zones”. people with real allergies will be able to cope; i have confidence in them.
this is not about hating on people with real allergies; it’s about restoring balance and sanity to life that includes both people with and without allergies.
please don’t comment about how you or your loved one has all kinds of serious allergies and i am being insensitive and limiting their ability to enjoy their lives and whatever.
really. please don’t.
maybe i am cuckoo for cocoa puffs…