I used to be of the opinion that people who complained of allergies were just nerds with a piece of duct tape holding the bridge of their glasses together, whose whiny, neurotic mothers warned them of all the world’s dangers, and  then sent them out of the house to watch the other kids play, with inhaler safely in hand.  It just seemed impossible that the constant complaints of allergies were anything other than fussiness gone amuck. You have all known the Mom who holds up the deli line to make certain that the slicer for the cheese that her son is allergic to was cleaned thoroughly before her ham order was done.  And the memos constantly send home from schools about what tree nuts, gluten or other deadly items had been found in someone’s lunch box.   I found myself rolling my eyes until they stayed like that, completely annoyed with such people.   That is, until I turned into one.

I was on a mussels marinara bender, ordering them fairly often from any nice restaurant that seemed safe to order seafood from, and was also branching out into other seafood.  The particular night in question, I had ordered sea scallops… the biggest, sweetest scallops you have ever laid eyes on.  Man, they were good – up until the moment that the slightly scratchy feeling in the back of my throat started taking up more and more of my attention, until it felt like I was choking on a piece of crusty Italian bread.  I’m sure the coughing until my eyes were tearing up was pleasant for the other diners, and I finally had to go to the ladies’ room to try to get myself together.

I have no idea if I could be heard in the restaurant, but I was sure that something was lodged in the back of my throat, and enough heaving and coughing would help me hock it up and get it over with.  Finally, the friend I was eating with, who was a nurse, came to look after me and said that it seemed like I was having an allergic reaction, and we should go get me some Benadryll.  By that point, anything short of Roto-Rootering my throat sounded like a much better idea than hiding in the restaurant bathroom hoping for a change in things, so we left.  20 minutes after taking a Benadryll, it was as if it all never happened! 

Of course, not willing to believe that I was allergic to my beloved shellfish for good and it was just a one-time event, I performed a science experiment at home the next night with the scallop leftovers and a Benadryll next to me.  I was so disappointed when it all happened again, a few scallops in.  A subsequent visit to the allergist proved it – I was part of the few, the chosen – the Allergy Nerds.

Now, I’m that annoying person who stops the waiter to ask what things are made of, if they include this or that ingredient, and threaten them that if they are not sure, that they personally will be driving me to the hospital if they screwed up.  That is the only way to get cooperation from waitstaff, who like me before the significant Scallop Event, think that I am being a pain-in-the-ass fussy bitch.  I may well be, but after hiding in yet another ladies’ room, this time trying to work out how my Epi-pen should be stabbed into my thigh, because the “vegetable puff” that some ignorant waiter passed me was really stuffed with hidden bits of SHRIMP (true story) – well, let’s just say that on the life of any waiter in the Tri-State area, that is never happening to me again. 

If it was only shellfish, I would probably only be an honorary member of the Allergy Nerds, but I have become as sensitive as a hothouse flower to a number of allergens – to the point that I will spontaneously develop a hive on my upper lip that makes me look like an Elvis impersonator, or like today, when I showed up at work with a bright red patch of skin under my eye, and a ring of pinkish red all the way around the same eye.  There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to these occurances, and the neck full of hives that I got the other week left marks that are still visible.  I am not only one of the Allergy Nerds, I have become their Queen.

So, I ask you, from the bottom of my itchy throat, to please have patience with the Allergy Nerds of the world – their special circumstances, their need for you to banish your cat to the other room and vacuum thoroughly before they can visit, and the quizzing of every ingredient in the appetizers.  They, like me, are only trying to save you a trip to hospital emergency room with them, or an unpleasant evening of listening to them gag up an imaginary crust of bread.  As their Queen, I beg you – please be kind.  And pass the Kleenex.  Thank you.

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