Food Allergy 101: I don't have to play 'Simon Says'

What if my food allergy was a real, live person? And what if I could talk to him about what he's taught me over the years? Every Thursday, I get that chance...

Thursday Hands.PNG

BLOG POST #131 — I’m sitting at the coffee shop when Mr. A., my allergy, arrives. When he sees me, he approaches the table, reaches into his pants pocket, and immediately pulls out a tiny container of mints.

"Here, eat a Tic Tac," he says offering to shake a green mint or two into my hand. 

"No. That's OK," I say. "I'm good."

He looks at me and then looks at the ingredients on the Tic Tac label. "No milk. No nuts."

"I'm fine," I say. 

He shrugs and, as if on cue, moves the container to his mouth and shakes it a few times.

I continue reading my book as he settles into a seat. Like a bored four-year-old boy, he's looking around the shop. Then his eyes light up as he grabs a quarter from his bag and runs over to a group of candy dispensers. I watch him place the quarter in one of the machines, twist the handle a few times and open the little trap door to catch the falling candy. He runs back.

"Here, have a Spree," he says opening his hand to show me seven sugary circles.

"No. That's OK," I say. "I'm good."

He looks at me. "There's no milk in a Spree."

"I'm fine," I say.  "You know I avoid any unpackaged candy from machines."

He shrugs and continues looking around. Over the course of the next 10 minutes, he'll interrupt me a number of times.

"Here, chew a piece of gum."

"Here, crunch this chip."

"Here, taste this drink."


After hearing a number of "No's," his patience finally starts to grow thin. "You never take anything I offer you. You're rude."

I stop reading and stare directly at him. 

"Remember that game kids play, Simon Says?" I say to him. "You know, 'Simon Says touch your nose and Simon Says clap your hands three times.'"

He gets a big childish grin and claps three times.

I continue to explain: "Well, I learned a long time ago that I don't have to do something just because someone suggests it. Kids with food allergies don't have to play 'Simon Says' in real life."


JJ Vulopas is a rising senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @thelandofcan.