Sunday, June 3, 2012

To the "Food Allergies Are Fake" Friend or Family Member

Hello:

You don't know me, but your friend or family member has asked that I write to you on their behalf.

I'm the Food Allergy Bitch. I say things about food allergies that other people might have difficulty saying directly. In this case, the thing that they're having trouble saying directly is that you're being an ass.

See, they don't want to cut you out of their life. They like you enough that they're giving things one more try, by handing you this letter. They want to co-exist peacefully. But you're making that difficult, which is why I'm writing to you.

We both know food allergies are not fake. Obviously, if you've paid any attention over the last little while, you know the child in question has a real health issue. You know they get very, very sick after eating even a little bit of the food to which they are allergic. You know that they carry rescue medications and can end up in the hospital, or even die.

However...you are still playing control games. Maybe you're doing a half-assed job of preparing foods, saving labels or accommodating your friend/family member when they bring alternate foods for their child. Maybe you refuse to put away the peanuts or other problematic foods. Maybe you make jokes and snide comments about wimpy kids, or "getting along in the real world." Maybe you've even hidden allergic ingredients in a food "just to see what would happen", or encouraged your own children to bully and exclude this child. You've added to the burden, again and again. 

Why are you doing this? 

Perhaps you feel that this adult is trying to control you through food allergies, by dictating what you can and can't serve in your own house. Or perhaps you have an issue with illness in general and equate it with weakness.

BUT...you're an adult. You should be able to rise above these things when a child is involved. So I ask you again...why are you doing this?

I know it's difficult. I live food allergies all day, every day. If you don't feel up to the challenge of preparing safe foods, I understand! Your friend or family member is not asking you to DO things for him or her. He/she is asking that you REFRAIN from doing certain things:

  • Offering unsafe foods in situations where the risk is increased (foods left out with a small child, open allergens like a bowl of peanuts, insisting on having peanut satay on your menu, etc.)
  • Teasing, bullying or making snide comments about the reality or severity of food allergies, especially directly to the child
  • Talking behind their back about the issue

Really - that's all they need. They just need you to remain emotionally neutral and perhaps think a little bit in advance about the menu. Ask them what they need. You may be surprised at how easy it really is.

You're an adult. There's a child involved. Can you please suspend whatever it is that makes you see this as some kind of social affront or challenge and just support this child? Please?

Thank you for listening.

The Food Allergy Bitch


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