An unavoidable part of growing into a teenager is the dreaded Talk. The Talk where you sit and squirm in front of your parents while they attempt to educate you on safe sex in the most awkward way possible. My Talk, however, included an additional element. As my mother sat with me on my bed and told me to never let anyone cross the sexual boundaries I chose to hold, she also told me that I must implement another layer between me and my person of interest: I must ask, before kissing someone, whether they had eaten anything containing my various allergens in the past few hours. Now consent may be sexy, sure, but does that apply to interrogating the other person on everything they have consumed since they last brushed their teeth?
This brings me to my revolutionary STOP! NUT? concept. Conceived by my high school best friend after I told her about my mom’s idea and my concern about how I would possibly ask the essential question, she suggested I just blurt out “STOP! NUT?” immediately before my lips approach another’s. Not that that makes the situation any less awkward, mind you, but I appreciated the sentiment. Call me crazy, but that’s not quite the first impression I want to make. Luckily, I have yet to use this method in real life. Perhaps this is partially because, for some reason, a not-insignificant number of the people I’ve kissed (and an even larger number of crushes) have also been allergic to nuts. Whoever said opposites attract was clearly wrong.
My odd ability to attract other allergy kids and my lack of kissing-induced trips to the ER don’t mean I haven’t had close calls. While I haven’t quite put the STOP! NUT? into action (sorry mom), I have paused mid-make-out, remembered they had mentioned how their roommate got these delicious new snacks with some nut filling, and, in a panic, asked, “Wait, you didn’t have any of those, did you?”
You may be thinking, “That’s ridiculous, there’s no way you could get an allergic reaction by kissing someone.” But, I assure you, as if the general embarrassment of having allergies isn’t enough, this is yet another disadvantage of being an allergy kid. While I don’t have the personal experience to prove it (so far), my fellow allergic friends can affirm that one can, in fact, have a reaction from kissing. One such friend, who is allergic to avocados, among other things (who the hell is allergic to bananas?), kissed his girlfriend, who had eaten an avocado shortly before, and his mouth immediately began to itch. Miserable? For sure. But there’s a sort of intimacy in it. Ever since then, she never forgets to brush her teeth as soon as she eats something he can’t. When they go out to eat, she’ll avoid his allergens like they’re her own. I think there’s something romantic about changing the way you live to accommodate the person you love.
There is also an intimacy in the way someone checks the ingredient list before I ask, and in the way their mom already knows what I can’t eat when I visit, and in the way they warn me that something in the menu has pistachios, and in the way they alter their grandmother’s recipe so I can try her cake. When the person I had that close call with, in response to my alarmed question, rolled his eyes and said, “Of course not,” my relief was palpable and my heart was touched. So, as I tolerate the endless jabs of “having allergies is so embarrassing” and “people with allergies shouldn’t exist” (trust me. I, too, believe we should have been eradicated by natural selection long ago), I wait for the person who will no longer eat Reese’s Puffs even if it’s their favorite cereal, for the person that I won’t have to worry about STOP! NUT?-ing, for the person who will drive me to Yale Health when the dining hall fails to correctly label the food.