I am sitting in my desk on the first day of school, next to a new girl who appears nervous, as she should. The principal’s voice can be heard over the intercom. “We have a new student in Grade 2 this year. Her name is Heather. She is allergic to peanut butter, so no one is allowed to bring any food containing peanuts for recess or lunch. A little girl was never despised so much so quickly. The future contains every second kid being a big nerd who’s allergic to everything, but for now, for most of us this is the first we’ve encountered the condition in a way that directly impacts how we can live. Seven years of age is no time to be forgoing the primary ingredient in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but here is where we find ourselves.

The delicious nutty spread is relegated to home, and lunchtime will never be the same. Never the most patient child, a week into our new lives, I am the first in our class to openly declare a loathing for people with allergies. I am careful not to direct this towards Heather, like she wouldn’t know or something. Heather moved away two years later, after making a single friend, and one glorious January day we went back to eating peanut butter freely.

I have never come to grips with my unfair disdain for the allergics. They should adjust their lives for us, not the other way around. Heather and her ilk should be wearing masks. I stand by my childish stance, even now. Many of these sensitivities develop from the absence of the allergen early in the person’s life. A sheltered child, helicoptered away from nuts, shellfish and the outdoors, will understandably become intolerant of peanut butters, shrimps and pollens. It takes a few scrapes to figure out your way in the world, and the earlier you can start getting knocked around, the better off you’ll be. Coincidence or not, none of my really good friends have serious allergies, just the way I like it.

[Author’s note: On a weird somewhat-related note, most of my good friends are also the youngest child in a family of three kids.]

July 20 – Judy Greer gets an allergy reaction
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