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Background

I’m a special li’l’ person in that I’m allergic to a lot of foods. This includes...

  • All types of nuts
  • Milk, eggs, cheese; all dairy products
  • Avocado... especially on toast :(
  • Gluten

Only a few of those foods are actually serious if contacted with (I would have to go to the hospital or I would suffocate— yikes!).

Problem

It turns out that my friends have found this to be a ‘good’ internalized joke to tease me about. A lot of them aren’t very mature, so this dietary thing I have going seems to be a good target for them.

When food is the topic of a discussion, my friends who are aware of my allergies will occasionally bring up responses like:

Whoah! Don’t say milk! Anilla might have to go to the hospital!

Or:

Stay away from my “death-shake” Anilla! (giggles)

And:

You should eat some of these peanuts Anilla... they’re to die for! (laughs)

These might seem funny at first... but when you hear them all the time it gets rather mundane and often irritating. I know most of the time my friends are just trying to have a good laugh with me... but I want them to know it’s gotten old.


How can I tell these friends/people that I don’t appreciate having my allergies continuously made a big deal of without making it seem like I’m mad at them or stuck up?

  • Could you maybe add a cultural context? As I have a quite limited dietary due to allergies aswell, not as limited as yours to be fair, but still limited enough, that I can't keep it unmentioned when it comes to having meals in a group with others. And I never faced this even close to the extend you are describing. I would say, maybe every 3rd person makes once rarely twice a joke of it when telling them the first time. And most of the time they are just very exerted to find a solution with me (and given that someone just had extra effort preparing a meal that fits me aswell... – dhein Feb 13 at 7:52
  • ....I think I owe them a joke being on me). So I can't really understand where this behavior might be comming from. This might either be as mentioned a cultural difference, or it might be, cause my group of close enough friends is very small as I am kinda selective and hence you might just have a lot more friends making this sum up?! Would be nice to get this clarified. :) – dhein Feb 13 at 7:54
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    @dhein I think it’s just become a sort of internalized meme in my friend group. Since my dietary limitations are rather large it’s become more of a topic for discussion. I guess it’s just a way for them to tease me. I have younger friends (younger than 21) if that adds any context. – Anilla Feb 13 at 7:59
  • Edit that in please, that changes the frame in which to answer this drastically, as this turns it into how to make them stop teasing you more generally, rather than it is something specific to the allergies, as I would see it. And if ti comes to teasing, yeah I think the age of the group is very important aswell, as maturity plays a big role (AFAIK) in how to approach such teasing. – dhein Feb 13 at 8:02
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First, never rule out the shortest and simplest approach. When you get one of those, just say:

Enough of that, [name.] Really.

Then talk about something else or ask someone else a question. That should work if you've mentioned before that you don't enjoy this. However, for stubborn cases, you're going to need a more direct approach. But not by ordering them to stop. Instead, ask:

Is it somehow funny that I might die?

This will probably get you a sort of embarrassed silence where they don't actually say that no, you dying isn't funny, but they don't defend the joke either. There may be some sort of "that's not what I'm saying" mumbling but you can cut that off with your followup:

Or is the joke that some of my allergies aren't deadly? I can't tell if you're freaked out at the thought of me dying from eating the wrong thing, or mocking me for not wanting to die if I don't have to, or you don't believe me, or what...

Then glare a little. Let them say "no, that's not it, it's just funny" sort of thing and finally:

Anything relating to the very real possibility of me dying will never be funny to me, and I don't want to hear it any more. Is that clear?

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@Astralbee's answer covers what you could do about this situation with close friends. I'd also like to address another dimension of the situation. And that is, with friends who are.... well, just friends (good enough to have a good time with, yet not those who you wouldn't hesitate to call at 3:00 AM).

With such friends, I'd suggest that you reply to the jokes in the same vein: with jokes.

For instance:


Whoah! Don’t say milk! Anilla might have to go to the hospital!

If milk is something that won't overly bother you, your reply could be:

Hah! You probably don't know, I've grown a little immune to milk now. It may trigger my allergy slightly, but to send me to the hospital with it, you'll need a few scientists to work on it.


You should eat some of these peanuts Anilla... they’re to die for!

Now, if peanuts are something that can really cause you some serious trouble, I can't make you pick between humor or @Astralbee's suggestion. It would really depend on the atmosphere and the setting at that point. If it's a social setting where everyone's joking around, a serious reply may not really be on the cards right then, even if it somewhere means that your condition is being trivialised. If you don't want to retort with humor, I could only suggest you to smile and ignore the comments. However, if you do want to give something back to them, your reply could be:

Ah, you seem to know me well. You really want to see an ambulance here, don't you? :)

(Don't forget to smile)


Dull jokes would die out when the people making those jokes don't get the kind of entertainment they receive, or expect, out of it. One way to kill their entertainment is to make a subtle joke in return that indirectly shows that their humor was tasteless. Hopefully, making it a practice to kill the jokes in such a way would gradually, but permanently, reduce the recurrence of their remarks.

Also, since it's not really possible to stop people from doing something altogether (i.e. stopping them from making jokes about your allergies), the only other important bit is to try and not let their comments / jokes get to your skin — as long as you reasonably can.

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The thing about "allergies" is that there is a broad spectrum of them. At one end a person can be allergic to dust which makes them sneeze a little bit, or, like yourself, a person can be severely allergic to a food that makes them blow up like a blimp and is life-threatening. When you say you have an allergy some people don't appreciate the severity of it because they may instinctively think of the less serious kind.

I can almost understand why so many don't take the matter seriously - it is still only relatively recent that food allergies became so common. Scientific opinion as to why serious food allergies are on the rise varies, but some hold the opinion that modern diets are too high in animal protein, sugar, and starch and low in fibre; as well as the fact that improved hygiene standards have actually had a negative effect on both humans and livestock making their immune systems weaker and lacking in "good bacteria". Whatever the reasons, it is universally recognised that there are more suffering from these than ever before and it may just take a bit of time for some generations of people to adjust their thinking and appreciate how serious it is for those with food allergies.

You should only need to tell good friends once how serious it is and that you don't find it funny. To avoid detailed explanations you could perhaps liken it to something that they understand, such as diabetes. Almost everybody understands that diabetes can be life-threatening if not handled properly and means avoiding certain foods or controlling diet just like you have to. When you think about it, it is incredible that most people grasp that but not your food allergies! Still, perhaps you could say:

Please could you not make jokes about my food allergies? I don't think you appreciate how serious they are. If I were to accidentally eat certain things I could die. I find that terrifying, and when you joke about it it makes me feel that you don't value my life. You wouldn't make these kind of jokes to a diabetic yet they have to avoid foods in order to stay alive just like I do.

You just need to shift their thinking away from the wrong idea that you are just a fussy eater worried about getting a rash and help them appreciate that your living with this allergy is serious and impacts on your life. If they are decent friends they will appreciate this.

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