This morning my blog friend LA wrote a post that really hit the nail on the head for me about allergies. LA was on a train and sat next to a woman who said she was allergic to LA’s perfume. LA got up and moved seats. But should LA have catered to the allergic woman or should the allergic woman offered to move? Whose shoulders does that responsibility fall on?
All my life I had to cater to my autistic brother’s allergies. He would become violent if he was exposed to allergens. That is what I was always told and that is what I always thought. But as I have been writing my book, in retrospect I have been able to see the situation with my blinders off.
It’s not that I don’t believe that Matt has allergies. I find it hard to believe that allergies could cause someone to act violently towards another person. He doesn’t sneeze, cough, or break out in a rash. It is possible that an allergen could cause a physical symptom that causes him to be irritable and lash out. But I no longer believe that smelling someone’s perfume could cause him to be violent.
Matt acted violently because he was severely mentally ill. He needed to be told that his actions were wrong whether he was capable of controlling them or not.
Meanwhile, we did crazy things to cater to Matt’s allergies. I wasn’t allowed to wear perfume. My parents got rid of their wood stove. Newspapers weren’t allowed in the house. No one was allowed to park in the garage for awhile because of auto exhaust fumes. My parents replaced their new curtains (new smells) with old blankets. We had to evacuate if the neighbors were spraying their fields. There were many other things as well that were very inconvenient and extreme.
But, guess what? With all of our catering, Matt was still violent.
I don’t cater to everyone anymore. It was hard at first since it was so ingrained in me to do so. Now if I host a party or holiday and I am expected to do all of the preparation, I make what I want and tell people if that doesn’t work for them to bring what they can eat for themselves. Believe me I’ve tried and I just about went crazy. This person is gluten free, the other is dairy free, another black pepper free, pork free, organic only. I wish I was kidding.
I’ve learned that the best way around it is to tell everyone what I am making and if that doesn’t work for them they can bring their own food (or host the party themselves!). I’ve made peace with the fact that I can’t please or accommodate everyone.
I do feel bad for people who are miserable from allergies. But it is also inconsiderate to expect others to cater to you if your allergy is not life threatening.