“I Will Not Eat Your Sandwiches” by Sarah Berry

I am not afraid of a sandwich.

I probably really should be.

I have food allergies. Nasty food allergies. Lots of them.

I cannot eat at restaurants. I cannot get takeout. My own shared kitchen is a minefield.

My life has been dictated by the whims of my immune system. The high school I went was chosen because it was close enough to home that I could probably make it back under my own steam if I had an allergic reaction. I tried and failed to get a Saturday job because I could not take any jobs where I would be working with food. I was so ill during my exams that I barely got the grades to go to university. But go to university I did.

Every couple of years or so, I develop a new allergy. No one has yet told me why. Gradually my life is becoming more and more restricted, and yet on it goes.

I have a job. I have developed an allergy to my job but I still go. Being unable to work safely does not negate the need to earn money. I do not get to call time out until I catch my breath. One day soon I will get a new job and I will go to that instead. With any luck my body will not take issue with this one.

My body has failed me in so many ways, but this cannot be seen. I am tall. I am healthy. I am smiling. I am strong. I am a martial artist. I am a pole dancer. I have two degrees. I am laughing. I can play the drums, and the guitar, and the piano. I will take no prisoners. I have nothing to be afraid of until lunch time.

People forget that I am not like them. I cannot imagine eating something without checking the ingredients first. I do not voice this and they do not see inside my head. All appears normal. I wash my hands before I eat. Hand sanitizer does not get the allergens off. It just moves them around. People forget that too.

I wonder if my allergies will kill me one day, or if it will be a bus or a heart attack or nuclear war. Presumably I won’t ever find out. The important thing is it doesn’t bother me to think about it anymore. Something will kill me and I will avoid it for as long as I can, but ultimately I will not be thinking about that when it happens. I will be living my life on my terms, and death can fuck off with his sandwiches.

Sarah Berry is a contributor to Crescent Waves and a lab technician with a background in Human Biology and Forensic Anthropology. She has an interest in feminism in science and is using her platform on Crescent Waves to highlight the work of female science writers. She can be found on Twitter using the handle @BonesofBerry.

Photo by Oliver Sjöström.

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