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Friday, 21 April 2017
I am 21 years old and have had severe allergies to milk, egg and nuts my whole life. Of course this has not made life easy, but often I have found the social stigma surrounding allergies more irritating than avoiding the food itself.
Upon hearing about my allergies, people typically respond with “oh god your life must be so hard” or “but I love cheese!” or my favourite line, “I would literally kill myself if I couldn’t eat chocolate”. I know they don’t mean to be hurtful, but it really grates. Would you adopt the same approach to someone who was wheelchair bound? We would never dream of saying “I can’t believe you don’t know how good it is to walk!”
People, understandably, don’t realise that I have a very varied diet. In fact, I am sure my friends could account for the fact that I am pretty much always eating. Food is one of my main passions. So it has always been frustrating that people seem to assume that I live on a diet of dry cereal and bread.
I can also be self-conscious of people thinking I am rude when it comes to being careful about cross-contamination. Sorry, person I have just met, but I can’t share my food with you because you have just had a packet of Wotsits! It feels awkward. Again, I am fearful of coming across annoying when a friend makes me a cup of tea and I have to pester them to make sure they don’t put a milky spoon in my drink.
However I have tried to turn these gripes into something positive. I understand that having allergies is something people find interesting. When appropriate, I try to use my allergies as a talk-point; a way to make small talk with people I’ve just met. If I freely talk about having allergies, I stop feeling embarrassed and people don’t have a chance to sound ignorant.
Living with food allergies will always be a challenge, but it definitely isn’t something to be embarrassed about.