I quit Facebook a couple months ago. Shut down the account, the whole thing. I didn’t announce it; I just sort of backed out- exhausted by the veil it provided for people to say offensive things they’d never dream of saying in real life. It was glorious. I couldn’t believe how much time I recouped. My house was so clean!
But I ran into a couple of hitches. One being that most of the people within my immediate social circle use it to share exciting life events and I was missing “stuff” I didn’t want to. Another issue came when I went to log into things I’d previously signed up for using that super handy ‘Sign In With Facebook’ button and I couldn’t log in. [That Mark Z is a real trickster…] So I put my page back up. I told myself I’d check it once a day. It was fine.
And then today I see this little gem run across my feed:
I ate peanuts on a plane today and nobody died.
Hilarious. Right? It’s not the first thing I’ve come across to joke at an allergy-sufferers expense. It wasn’t really surprising and only a little upsetting. Mostly it’s just insensitive, I think. There have been memes suggesting food allergies are merely a form of natural selection. Hilarious. There have been giggles about really obvious food allergy labeling [like peanut butter saying in bold it contains peanuts]. Hilar. Waitstaff rants about catering to allergy divas. Hardy har. Everyone probably has some thing they’re sensitive to that others are more flippant about. At first I spoke up. I wanted to educate them. “Some people have airborne food allergies. That really could have killed them.” “Do you know how helpful detailed food labels are when you have to read the food label on every item you buy, every time you buy it (even if you’ve bought it thousands of times before!) to make sure it’s free from six different allergens.” “Sorry? We don’t eat out much because it’s really not convenient for us, either.”
I guess that’s why I quit Facebook. Why get mad or upset about something said by someone you really aren’t even friends with? I don’t feel like there are people in my everyday life who are flippant about my kids’ food allergies. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s friends keeping sunbutter on hand in case we come over. Changing their lunch menu to look like ours so my kids aren’t left out. My mom stocking her pantry full of my kids’ favorite [and expensive] allergen-free food before we visit. My sister-in-law having an allergen-free brownie sundae bar just for my kids at her son’s birthday! We are wrapped in love by friends who are willing to be educated and inclusive about food allergies.
So that’s what I remind myself of when someone wants to make a hilarious joke about food allergies. Maybe they’ll have someone in their lives they deeply care about one day who can show them what food allergies really look like. Maybe they’ll read this and decide 12 likes on their status isn’t really worth a joke about something so serious.
For now I’ll leave them with this:
I have a daughter. She’ll tell you she’s five. That she’ll be six in five months. And that she’s our “#1 kid” [our firstborn. hehe.]. In that order. Immediately upon making your acquaintance. We found out when she was very young that she had food allergies. We found out because she had weeping sores all over her legs that no amount of steroids would heal. She’s allergic to eggs, peanuts, milk, and wheat. And not just a little allergic. Eggs and peanuts can send her into anaphylactic shock. Yes, that’s something you learn the hard way. She need only eat trace amounts of eggs to begin vomiting with facial swelling and compromised breathing. Her body will cover itself in hives that arc all the way to the lymph nodes under her arms. It’s scary.
She has a brother. He’s only 19 months old. He’s a baby. He also has food allergies. And we keep finding more. At first it was the same issue. Eczema that we couldn’t heal. We had him tested and found out he was allergic to peanuts. Six months later, he ate some adorable cheddar bunnies and his face began to swell and raised hives spread all over his body. We had him tested again and found he’d developed an allergy to milk. No, I don’t know how food allergies develop either. No, neither my husband nor myself have food allergies. Six months later we were enjoying a dinner with our family on vacation when he had a tiny bit of hummus and his face began to swell. He started swaying when he tried to walk. It took Benedryl, two Epi-pens, a trip to the emergency room, and an adult-sized dose of oral steroids to stop the allergic reaction. A third round of allergy testing revealed he’s now allergic to eggs, peanuts, sesame seeds, almonds, and milk. At least that we know of. He’s just a baby.
So maybe I am a little angry tonight. Mostly I’m just sad for my kids. But to all those jokesters who think it’s hilarious to make light of food allergies, here’s my baby: