Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Adults don't have food allergies.

Mythbuster alert.

Adults get food allergies.  Adults have food restrictions.  Even worse, adults are more likely to have dietary needs than children.  It's just more emotional for the onlookers when kids are involved.

I recently brought Bumblebee to a birthday party.  This was a new kid in her class, and I felt very motivated by the fact that she paused, sighed, suppressed a smile and said "Well, I think it would be nice to go because it would make her happy, but I'm scared to go, but maybe I'll go if you think I should."

It was progress for her.  She was going. 

Fast forward to the front door.  We're invited inside, where a few other parents are sitting, and Bumblebee is absorbed by the party-goers.  I sit, as urged, and smile at the other parents whom I recognize, and a plate is presented to me.

With a sinking heart I say "It looks delicious, but I can't.  Allergies."
There's a crestfallen look as the poor hostess begins to explain that she knows it looks strange...
And I attempt to reassure her that it really is allergies.  Serious allergies.  Others break in. 
"Really?  It might be okay, what are you allergic to?"
Cornstarch, corn syrup, gluten...
"Oh, maybe not then..."

No, probably not.
I'm falling into the vortex, now.  You have food allergies?  (yes)  So you didn't outgrow them? (No.)  I couldn't deal with it, (Wanna bet?) Is it really bad?  I mean, do you really need to be careful?  (Yes.  Thats why I'm being careful.) 

I'm later offered the 'normal looking' pizza, and answer a few more questions.  Politely.  Changing the topic, or attempting to.  Suppressing the urge to scream "Yes, I'm an adult with food allergies.  Get over it already!" 

At this point, I'm wishing I shoved Bumblebee through the door and ran away. 

But why should I hide?  And thinking about this experience, no wonder people feel awkward with their restrictions.  Of course they want answers, cures, pills.  No wonder it's so hard to track down an allergen.  And i realize, too, why exactly I've withdrawn so much from social situations.  Not that the socializing itself is tough (although it can be, when my stomach threatens) but because I'm in a spotlight.  I like being a wallflower.  I like blending into the background now and then. 

This is also why I wear my allergy awareness shirts sometimes.  They draw attention, they draw questions, but they fend off certain awkward situations.  Thank heaven I am a parent and have excuses to force myself into a social situation, however uncomfortable.  Otherwise I'd probably stop hanging out, period, after a few of these episodes. 

I'm not sure if people are in denial about the extent of their own food intolerances (many times they confide that they ignore doctor advice to give up gluten, or dairy, and live with the consequences.) or if they suffer the symptoms as a badge of courage.  "I'm an adult.  I can suffer heartburn, and indigestion, and break out in rashes, and still make it to the hockey game after a full day of work."   Or maybe they really don't realize that food and health are as intricately connected as food and socializing. 

I'm dreaming of a day when someone puts up a hand and says "food allergies" and everyone else just shrugs and keeps talking, while the hostess maybe, possibly, politely asks if there is any easy accommodation and the allergic individual can partake of safe refreshments or simply be satisfied with pleasant company.  For as long or as short as they feel like staying. 

Of course, I'm also dreaming of a day when I wake up and realize I've felt great for weeks and am actually caught up on housework (or close to it) and almost bored.  What can I say?  I'm a dreamer. 

1 comment:

Noe said...

You know... some people just freak out at the idea of having to restrict their diets. To so many of us the idea of not being able to eat what we want to is so foreign and unthinkable that the idea of someone who can't just pick up a slice of pizza or eat a cracker is strange and begs to be explored. We're lucky in that the only food intolerance we have is citrus, it can still be in the house and my boys can consume as much of it as they desire, but I have to be very careful as to how often I enjoy a glass of OJ or let the waiter put lemon in my water. The consequences aren't dire, but I certainly don't enjoy them and prefer to avoid them entirely. I'm glad to hear that you're having continued success in finding things you can eat that everyone else can (and will) enjoy as well. I also think it's wonderful that Penguin is attending my alma mater... *sigh* I remember those Jr. High school days with fondness... high school on the other hand... *shudder*