Sunday, December 7, 2008
Guess What I'M Allergic To?
The more we eliminate things really worth being afraid of, the more trivial are the things which rise up to fill the void.
Take peanuts. Nowadays, any mommy who happens to pack along a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Junior may very well get an indignant letter back from the elementary school control-freak principal about how "we have many children in the school who are deathly allergic to peanuts. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM SENDING THIS TOXIC LETHAL POISON TO OUR SCHOOL" - even though there has never been a recorded case of someone having a lethal allergic reaction to peanuts without...actually ingesting peanuts. (The way these hens cackle, you'd think kids were force-feeding handfuls of anthrax to their classmates...).
Here's the thing: lots of people are allergic to lots of things. If you happen to be allergic to something, you don't eat it. It's really simple. If Suzie's allergic to strawberries, she shouldn't eat Timmy's strawberries. If Timmy's allergic to seafood, he shouldn't eat Suzie's sushi. You don't insist that everyone in the entire school district never again bring sushi or strawberries or bananas or orange juice or a peanut or whatever. Besides, it is far from certain that most of the kids reputed to be allergic to whatever substance actually are - there are no bounds to the things some mommies can manage to feel worried about.
Yes, I'm saying I think it is very possible to imagine that one is - or one's children are - allergic to something. Consider lactophobia, due any day to be replaced by...heck, probably hydrophobia ("I used to think it was milk - now I know I'M ALLERGIC TO WATER!"). There are millions of people out there who have become convinced that they, or their children, are allergic to dairy products, when there is no good evidence that they are. The most "evidence" the lactophobes ever seem to have is that they once went to an allergy witch doctor (they're all over, but if you can't find one, just ask any homeopath, iridiologist, etc.; they're all lactophobes and will all tell you the same thing) who gave them his little bogus skin test, and who then who solemnly informed them that they're allergic to milk, and "that's what explains all the things wrong with you". Okay, great, lactophobes - I couldn't care less if you never drink milk again - or orange juice or soy or rice, for that matter. Let's just not pretend that your local allergy quack is a reliable source of information about lactose intolerance. And let's not pretend that the odds of you actually being lactose intolerant, especially if you're a caucasian, are not extremely low.
Lactose tolerance, by the way, is a fantastic benefit - the ability to consume large quantities of dairy products conferred such a survival benefit on to the people of northern Europe, that the ability to do so spread like wildfire through the population. There is a fascinating little section in Nicolas Wade's "Before the Dawn" on this subject, but maybe that's a subject meriting its own entry.
Where was I? OH. Yes. Here's the greatest one of all: COLOGNE.
Who would have ever thought that cologne - a splash of aftershave, for Pete's sake - would one day be identified as a vicious bio-hazard? More and more I see signs in public saying, "PLEASE DO NOT ENTER IF YOU ARE WEARING ANY PERFUME OR COLOGNE AS THESE MAY TRIGGER ALLERGIC REACTIONS". Well - all "perfume" or "cologne" is, is a type of fragrance. So let's talk about fragrance.
Almost every soap out there now has fragrance added. So why don't the signs say, "Please do not enter if you have washed any part of your body in the past week with soap"? Actually, forget bodies. What about washing the dishes? The liquid detergent and anti-static dryer sheets have fragrance added, too. And so does your laundry detergent. And toothpaste has mint flavour added to it, as do breathmints (and there must be people out there allergic to mint). So does hair gel and hair spray. And shampoo and conditioner. And deodorant and anti-perspirant. And by the way, certain types of make-up, like rouge and lipstick, give off an odour, too. But why only focus on deliberately added fragrance? What about all the foods which impart a lingering smell? Garlic, onions, curry, chile peppers, etc...and what if someone's allergic to the odour of pepperoni pizza!!! OH MY GOD!
So, I want to say to all the the hypochondriac control freaks out there posting signs about perfume and cologne, be consistent, and put a big sign that says, "Do not enter if you bathe, brush your teeth, shampoo or condition your hair, wear laundered clothing, wear make-up, use deodorant or anti-perspirant, apply any sort of hair product, or eat or drink anything". Basically, the sign should say, "ONLY HOMELESS PEOPLE ALLOWED INSIDE". Or they could have a little picture of Charles Manson by the front door, with a sign that says, "Unless you look like THIS, KEEP OUT!".
Anyway, I have come to conclude that what I am most allergic to is the capricious, hypochondriac, narcissistic paranoia of the allergophobes.
Okay, next time I'll try to post more of a pleasant one :P.