Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Intimacy and Food Allergies - Part I

 The dangers teens and older people face with food allergies are not well-documented. Deaths from kissing or intimacy are not often portrayed by media, but when they are, people wonder if they're really true and if it really can happen.
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Can a kiss really be dangerous?

Speaking of food allergy from kissing, I have an interesting personal story for you, one that still haunts me to this day.

 My Story

About eight years ago I was going from audition to audition, trying out for Broadway plays and films. I was not new to the audition scene; in my teens, I was auditioning for Broadway musicals and recording contracts while taking singing lessons. In 1996 I was cast on Amateur Night at Showtime at the Apollo and sang, "I Will Always Love You." Fast forward eight years and I landed extra work in an Indian music video, appeared as an extra in urban  feature film and appeared as an extra in a Bollywood movie. Soon after, to my shock (since I believe I am the world’s worst actress) I nabbed the female lead in a short romantic film. My leading man happened to also be the director. 

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My acting and modeling headshot

I had to go upstate to film, since most of the movie was to be filmed in the benefactor’s mansion over the course of three days. No script, just improv; I was terrified, but I went since I figured I could get a reel out of it to submit to directors and casting agents.
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Fantasies of Hollywood stardom danced in my head.
I made the trip to Yonkers and quickly befriended the cast and crew for this 30 minute short which was to be submitted to numerous film festivals.
Mike, the director, was good looking, Italian and ambitious. I had huge reservations about him since he also seemed like a player, but the attention was flattering and his sense of humor was hard to resist. We were from two different worlds, him a sporty, urban jock engrossed in rap and hip hop;  I, a deep-thinking artist with life and death struggles he’d never known and probably never would. 

The first day went smoothly and of course, my biggest mistake was not divulging my allergy to the cast and crew.

Its regrets like those that give this song.....special meaning to me.
The second day was scheduled to include a jacuzzi scene as well as a couple kissing scenes, so flirtation between Mike and I was at its peak. We snuck kisses around 5PM for 'practice’ when nobody was looking. Big mistake.
Several hours later after a couple of makeout sessions, I started itching really badly. Blotches started appearing all over my face, arms and neck; the telltale array of tiny goosebumps that signify a bad reaction were peaked all over my arms and my allergies were joked about as I became nicknamed, "The Itchy and Scratchy Show." My lips were slightly swelling, but the splotchy, raised rashes were beginning to show through any attempt I made to cover them with makeup.

Since I had pizza for lunch, I took an Atarax thinking it was a bad cross-contamination issue from my soy allergy. It was not until about six hours of extreme hives, wheezing, sweating, swollen and raw open skin, violent scratching with bleeding cuts all over my arms along with eight Benadryls in a ten hour timespan that I realized this had to be more than just a soy allergy reaction and I needed to go all the way back to Long Island for Prednisone or to the nearest hospital. I was worried. Not only about my allergy but accidental antihistamine overdose.

So I asked, "Mike, did you eat anything today with peanuts in it?" to which he replied, "I had a Snickers bar during lunch....why?"

That answer threw my already spiked stress levels into a tailspin; could I be having anaphylactic shock from his saliva from five hours earlier? Very likely. The 'waves' of hives kept coming on just when I thought the antihistamines were starting to work. I have no health insurance. The last thing I want to do is go to the hospital about a half hour away and bring my family more debt due to my shenanigans. They would be so mad at me for not having all of my medications with me. So I downed glass after glass of water, hoping in vain to flush whatever proteins I was exposed to, out of my system.

For the most part, the few people on set who knew what was going on were extremely supportive, but berating me with question after question was making things worse. Mike was outside smoking every five minutes and was useless for support; he was upset and bitter.
 I'd ruined his chance at stardom, of creating this masterpiece he planned on networking to a big named celebrity with 'The Godfather' claims to fame. If he took me back to Long Island, it would severely cut into the time he had setup, the non-paid actors would leave (and possibly not come back) along with the paid crew and his budget.

I was suffering, barely awake from the antihistamines coursing through my veins, at a loss of what to do. Since severe allergic reactions are so unpredictable, I knew I was teetering on the edge of anaphylactic shock and since a hospital could monitor me, a visit could save my life.
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The unpredictable nature of food allergies is like a fragile feather in a violent thunderstorm.
Finally, after a half-asleep moody conversation on my part from the effects of eight Benadryl and allergic brain fog, Mike agreed to drive me home. The movie had to be wrapped and the crew said they could edit what they had into a short. I had had enough and I had to think about me.

The verdict was that he would drive me home and if I felt the wheezing start up again or other symptoms of anaphylactic shock, he would drive me to the hospital.

Ironically, in my bedroom drawer in Long Island, I knew I had Prednisone sitting there in case of a severe reaction, along with my Epi-Pen.

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My food allergies have taught me that the opportunity to live should never be taken for granted.
I don't remember the rest of that night except he didn't talk much. I never got to see the final cut of the video because when they had the wrap party, I couldn't go. He called me last minute about it and I was having an allergic reaction that day to something so I was not about to jump, even if I was a lead. Frankly, once I heard his curt tone when I said I wasn't going, I didn't want to go.

I never saw that movie and don't care to; it was a bad dream and a hard lesson. He never sent it to me.

And to think, this was actually the mildest of the few worst allergy-related experiences of my life.

This topic on dating with food allergies is rarely discussed and is a prominent part of any food allergy sufferers life. I hope with my story, you will see not only how dangerous innocent 'puppy love' can become but all the psychological ramifications and topics that this brings up. It brings up the factor of trust and how quickly you learn how much people care or not. It brings up deep-rooted fears in the person with food allergies and anxiety that not many people understand. The fears and anxieties of dating with food allergies are not issues the average person deals with and very few will 'put up' with but in the end, tell you the truth about people and what true love really is.

Click here for Part II.


  1. Thanks for the comment you left on my blog, it means a lot :)

    That's so horrible to think that you have to be wary of what the other person has eaten before kissing you! It's given me a whole new stand point.

    Personally I don't have any known food allergies so I've not experienced that before... but intimacy in general brings on my urticaria :( people just don't seem to understand just how nasty skin conditions can be!



  2. You're welcome. I look forward to reading more =) Yes, its definitely a big issue for people with food allergies; so many psychological factors and ethical values at play. Food allergies are kinda like that old adage, 'you never know who your true friends are until you're at your worst' well this makes me think about my own criteria for choosing the closest people to me. Would this person visit me in the hospital? If yes, they are a true friend.

    Similar character traits are at play in relationships and really allow those with food allergies to know who really cares. Will they change their entire diet for you or not?

    I know we have closely related issues with heat urticaria, since some people prefer hot weather over cold and skin to skin contact for several minutes at a time gives me rashes as well (sweat allergy).

    I could go on and on lol.

    Thanks for stopping by =)

  3. I find that people without food allergies don't understand it. Before Christmas I had a reaction from some taco spice I had tried - it tasted great but it made my fingers swell, got hives and the skin peeled off. So comes Christmas Eve and my neighbor drops off the gift. She saw my raw fingers and asked "Did something bite you?" - she knows I have food allergies but thought the reaction was from an animal bite.

    I've had strange guys come up to me in public places and ask me out. I explain to them my food allergies and I don't think they get it. I asked one of the guys point blank if he'd stop eating all of the processed food and he said NO. As far as I could tell, the guy was a creep only interested in one thing (he made it very clear), but I tried to educate him anyway. I really don't see any guy willing to cook all food from scratch and live like he's in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" time period of 1750s because that's what soy requires. They like their snacks, chips, soda, crackers, candybars, meals in boxes, etc.

    When I talk to people, I am finding more people with food allergies. Before I found none. I also noticed the PLAIN Greek yogurt at my local Target sells out while the stuff with "natural Flavors" tends to sit there. I always thought people preferred the flavored stuff but maybe things are changing. I'm just shocked and happy I found a yogurt I can EAT. The brands are "Chobani" and "Fage", in the big containers.