As I’ve mentioned before, I’m 23. In the eyes of the food allergic world, I’m old. I grew up in the years prior to a peanut free table, cross contamination labeling, or the establishment of the top eight allergens. A lot has changed since 1995, but one thing that has remained consistent is people feeling the need to apologize for their food allergies.
My mom fought the majority of my food allergy battles, and as an adult who has kids with food allergies, she understands that it really is life or death, so there is nothing to argue about.
Yet as a kid, all I could see was that I was the reason people couldn’t do certain things. I was the reason my peers could no longer bring their peanut butter sandwiches to school, the reason we couldn’t glue 100 beans to a piece of paper on the 100th day of kindergarten, the reason my friends and I couldn’t go to a beer tasting, or go to a pizza place. One of my high school teachers even announced to my class, that because of me, we wouldn't be able to bake cookies in home economics. I'm sure you can imagine how that went over with the other 9th graders.
So I just learned to keep saying sorry.
I’ve apologized for my food allergies more times than I can count.
The reactions from people around me still sometimes make me feel like my allergies are something I need to say sorry for. Whether it’s the eye roll from a waiter, the impatient sigh as you read the ingredients on the shampoo bottle at the hair salon, or the mother upset that her child can’t eat his peanut butter sandwich, those with food allergies have nothing to apologize for.
We are not choosing to go out of our way and taking all of these extra steps for fun, we are trying to stay safe. The extra two minutes are the difference between a hospital visit and a safe day. Doing something to protect yourself or your loved one isn’t something that you should need to apologize for. If people are so bothered by the slight inconvenience of us reading an extra label or taking a little more time, imagine the inconvenience we would cause to their day by having an anaphylactic reaction!
Today, so many more people are educated about food allergies. But it's still hard not to let the people uneducated about the severity of food allergies get to you. I power through, thinking some thoughts that wouldn't help either of us, and instead use it as an opportunity to educate. Some people aren't aware of food allergens being in cosmetics/hair products, or what an airborne allergen even is, so I take the time to explain. And if they are aware and still give you a hard time, my vote is to move on to someone who cares about you and your health.
As of today, I am officially done apologizing, and I hope you are too.