Recently I (Allergic Traveler) had a conversation with a mom of child with food allergies about bullying. She was amazed that I am still bullied as an adult. I guess it has been happening my whole life that I have come to accept it, so to speak. Bullying of course comes in different sizes and fashions at different ages of our life. I remember the first time I was bullied. I was in pre-K. A child dumped a container of applesauce on my head. The irony is that I was not allergic to apples then but I am today. I remember thinking why in the world would someone ever be so mean? What was the point? Why would they ever do such a thing?
The next vivid memory I have of bullying was when I was a teenager. A bunch of us were at a friend’s house. I stated that I was hungry. She offered me a bagel. I told her I had to read the ingredients. She said she would read them for me out loud in front of everyone. When she got to the eggs (which I am highly allergic to) in the ingredient list, she simply read over that word. She had discreetly pointed this out to everyone else and everyone waited to see my reaction. When I uncovered what she did, again I was amazed at why she would do this? What was to be gained? I ended up having a minor reaction, thankfully, and went home.
As an adult, I am bullied in a different fashion. I attend multiple events in my daily life. I work, I attend fundraisers, I go to the gym, I volunteer, I go to weddings, I go camping, and essentially I participate in day-to-day activities where food is always involved. There is no escaping it. If you want to live, you need to eat. Sounds basic enough, right? Wrong! There is nothing basic to the way I eat and I am fine with that. I have had dietary restrictions all my life. This is nothing new to me and does not bother me in the least. I have always said food allergies are just an extension of me. It’s the others that have problems dealing with my allergies and this is when the bullying can occur. I get that my allergies are unique to me. I also get that it can take some understanding but I what I don’t get is why people feel the need to condescend or bully. Such examples of what people have said are:
“Just a little won’t hurt you.”
“If you were really allergic, you would have had a reaction by now.”
“I wish I had all you allergies so I could be as skinny as you.”
”What’s that on your arm (referring to a rash)?”
“How do you live?”
“What the he** do you eat?”
I have heard all of these comments easily in the last four months. All these remarks are pejorative. But they do have one thing in common; it shows that the person really does not have an understanding about food allergies. Isn’t this what bullying is all about? Individuals who trample on others feelings usually due to ignorance. It is our job, as food allergies carriers to educate others. How can we bring more awareness to our issue if we let such comments like this go by? This is our responsibility to patiently help others understand food allergies. If not, ignorance could be lethal!
Author: Tarah Jakubiak
After working for 20 years in the corporate world, Tarah Jakubiak founded Allergic Traveler. Jakubiak, president of Allergic Traveler has traveled the world since the age of two. She has been to 24 countries and 26 states. Jakubiak has been to all inclusives, gone on cruises, gone camping; backpacking through Europe, gone to the big cities, and little hidden gems. She has multiple food allergies but it does not stop her from seeing the world. Jakubiak is allergic to eggs, nuts, mushroom, soy, garlic, corn, sesame, potatoes, celery, shellfish, chicken, pork, peanuts, and many fruits. She is originally from Montreal, Quebec and now lives in Greensboro, NC with her husband.