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What It’s Like To Be An Adult With Deadly Food Allergies

I don't even feel afraid anymore. Just really, really annoyed.

Back in the '90s, I was the only student in my school with food allergies. My teachers had a secret stash of my own snacks (usually Zebra Cakes) so I wouldn't feel left out if someone brought in nut-laden birthday treats. Going out to dinner with a friend's family would result in odd looks when I explained to the server in shy-kid terms why he really did have to check to see what oil the onion rings were fried in.

Oh yeah, I had to learn the word "anaphylaxis" at age 7, which is probably why I straight-up annihilated every spelling test.

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Today, our society is far more accommodating to food allergy sufferers -- I'm honestly shocked by it. Schools have peanut-free lunch tables, restaurant menus have disclaimers about allergens, and airlines increasingly hand out pretzels instead of nuts. It certainly makes living with this less of a struggle.

As an adult, the "fate is in the balance" hold the allergy has over you fades -- at least it did for me. So much so that it's not even frightening anymore; it's just really frigging annoying, another inevitable nuisance of everyday life. Like dealing with insurance providers, or being stuck in a group text. Let me explain.

  • The EpiPen is so annoying
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    Ah, the dildo-shaped life-saving apparatus that is the EpiPen. The upside: It can stave off anaphylactic shock. The downside: Look at it! How is a normal member of society supposed to lug around this ancient sex toy-looking thing at all times?

    Kids can stash the Epi in their backpacks, but where does it go for a full-grown man? I can't put it in my pocket, lest I look like someone who just mainlined Cialis. Truly, the only reason I ever wanted a girlfriend was so that I'd have someone to carry around this massive hunk of medical equipment in their purse for me.

  • Ingredient labels are so annoying
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    Reading every nutrition label turns grocery shopping into the world's worst word search. (By the way, we food allergy sufferers were the OG ingredient-readers, doing it way before everyone pretended to care what was in their food. /drops mic)

    The labels themselves are befuddling: "Manufactured on equipment that processes products containing peanuts" or "May contain peanuts." Both somehow manage to provide too much information and not enough, and that second one is a genius example of legal finesse. They're basically telling us our food is just a hodgepodge of random crap, so by that logic, it should also say "May contain trace elements of bug."

  • Eating delicious food abroad is so annoying
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    If you're allergic to peanuts or sesame seeds, entire chunks of the globe are pretty much eliminated from your list of dream vacation spots (looking at you, Thailand).

    For me, traveling with that hulking EpiPen sparks a deep dread every time I go through airport security/customs. I'm convinced they'll scan it in my carry-on and think it's some rudimentary hijack weapon and/or banned sex device and I'll be thrown into a secret prison, during which time the EpiPen will be used during the interrogations, if you catch my drift.

  • Peanut oil is so annoying
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    It seems like the more ubiquitous nut allergies became, the more food was being cooked with peanut oil. Snyder of Berlin used to be the only peanut oil chip game in town, but now it's on trend for every kettle chip. Chick-fil-A, all the good fries, deep-fried turkey, Five Guys ... it all uses that artisanal death grease.

  • Peanut butter substitutes are so annoying
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    My mom used to go through trial and error trying to make homemade fake peanut butter out of Wheat Nuts so that I could inhale PB&J like every other kid in my grade. It was awful, a sand paste that defied the basic laws of matter by being dry and wet at the same time. But I forced it down, soggy-cotton sandwich by soggy-cotton sandwich.

    Today, there's a variety of mass-produced substitutes which are also impossibly greasy and dry — I.M. Healthy's SoyNut Butter being the closest approximation to peanut butter. They're all pricey and hard to find, and also, your tongue isn't an idiot.

  • Mortal enemies are so annoying

    I can't be the only food allergy sufferer with a nagging fear that one of my enemies will get word of my condition and poison my food like I'm a medieval king, right? Kinda makes me regret writing this whole thing and exposing my weakness to all.

  • EVERYTHING is so annoying

    With food allergies, you know your body can destroy itself very rapidly, just because you did something that your body requires you to do multiple times per day to stay alive. That's a pretty heavy thought to have in the back of your mind.

    So how is one supposed to survive this food allergy fallout? I get through it by looking at it as just another of life's many, many frustrations. That, and I laugh whenever someone gets in a huff about a lack of vegan or paleo options at a dinner party (dinner parties, another annoyance!). Because aww, you have a voluntary dietary restriction, that's cute.