"Hey, what did you put in the sauce?" I asked my friend, as we sat down the other night to eat dinner that he had just prepared. "I put tomato, onion, garlic, olive oil, etc... and fish oil of course," he said jokingly. There it was...the allergy joke!
Throughout my life, I have encountered many variations of these jokes. Very often when people feel uncomfortable about something, it is a natural part of human nature to make a joke about it. There have been so many in fact, that I have my favorites (hint the sarcasm)-- the ones that stick out in my brain because I have heard them over and over, from many different people, over many years! I'll do a countdown of my top three favorites...
Joke #3: "What do you eat?"
I know the list sounds long when someone asks me what I'm allergic to, but in reality, the food I can eat is a much longer list! I suppose when you rattle off multiple allergies, it can sound like there is nothing else really left to eat. It does seem though, that even when I start to list the foods I can eat, people are so consumed with all that I can't, that they don't even really hear me. After my list of allergies, it is also quite often followed by a response like, "Oh, I love those foods! I can't imagine living with out them. I think if I had allergies I would just eat them anyway." Right there, is a clear indication that the person does not understand that eating them is definitely not an option! Yes, of course I would eat it too, if it couldn't potentially send me to the ER! People who can eat anything though, have a hard time grasping that food can truly do that to someone.
To me, the following scenario seems more strange. I was watching a commercial on TV for a grocery store in my area. In the commercial a mother is walking through the store, putting food in her cart, and not even looking at what is in it. After that commercial I was thinking, "Wow, most people can just walk into a grocery store and put anything they want in their cart, without spending any time looking at what it contains! That's all they have to do!" It does still astound me though that people can do that. I sometimes forget that is actually the norm, and that most people don't stand around reading everything before buying it. I don't mind grocery shopping, but it can certainly feel like a much longer errand, when I am reading everything before I put it in the cart. The only other people who might be looking at that box are people who are on a diet, besides that, everyone is free to pick whatever they want! It's amazing! Truly...it is. People are lucky.
Joke #2: "Well, at least you will always stay skinny!"
I love this one. Really? Do people really think that because I am limited on a variety of foods I can't eat, that that is what prevents me from gaining weight? I don't think so! I've always been extremely athletic, and a healthy eater. That is what gives me a healthy body size. It has nothing to do with not being able to eat certain foods! There are plenty of (although growing fewer) unhealthy foods I'm sure I could find to eat if I wanted to. Of course in a society that places such a high value on being skinny (according to most television, magazines and other media), this would become a joke!
Joke #1: Survival of the fittest- "Wow, it is amazing you can still survive, considering you are certainly not the fittest or best equipped for surviving with all those allergies!"- Or some other fabulous variation...
Last, and certainly not least, this joke has always really bothered me! Yes, I suppose a few hundred years ago, when there was less food, and even less resources, people with allergies probably would not have survived. But, at that time, if people did have allergies, they probably didn't even know they had them. Allergies have grown into an even bigger issue (most likely partially due to the environment), which back then was not a concern.
How do you or your child avoid these jokes?
At this point I do seem to have a formula answer to each of these. Jokes are unavoidable though, but the way I respond to them is in my control. I can either get upset about it, answer with some witty reply, or brush it off with all the other jokes from the past. I usually choose to either answer with wit, or brush it off with one of my standard answers. If someone really doesn't know about allergies, I also sometimes actually try to explain the severity, but only if I truly have their attention and won't scare them off. It depends on the circumstance, but many of these encounters are first or second interactions with someone. It's better not to scare them off right away, and build on their allergy knowledge as you go along!