• Mike Matson

Allergic to Evolution

This column was published August 20, 2022 in the Manhattan Mercury.


 

I am not allergic to anything.


Strawberries and peanuts? Bring ‘em on. I have so much tolerance for lactose that I oughta do a testimonial for the dairy farmers. If there was a way to insist on extra gluten on my Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt at Subway, you would find me at the head of that queue. Shellfish? Can’t get enough of those exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates. If only I lived closer to bodies of aqua. Ragweed, sagebrush, pollen? Gimme a coupla lungsful. It’s like breathing fresh air.


The women in my life, however, are not so fortunate.


My wife, mother and sister have suffered much of their lives. As a little kid, when I went looking for my mom, I soon came to learn if I just hewed close to the trail of used Kleenexes, more often than not, I would find her at the other end, sniffling.


“Huddo, sud.” Ah, ah, ah… CHOO!


Exhaustive research (the first website I land on is “Allergy Facts,” published by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, a trade group of M.D.-types tells me hay fever affects between 10 and 30 percent of all adults in the U.S. and as many as 40 percent of children. There are estimates that more than 60 million people in this country suffer and the number is trending upward. Some estimates are than one in five Americans suffer from some sort of allergic condition.


My God, we’re surrounded by snot.


Recently in the spring and fall when my sinuses get a tad congested and I sneeze more than in winter and summer, I believe, from the bottom of my lungs, that it is merely coincidence that my symptoms emerge during the times of year the women in my life suffer the most from their allergies.


Because I am not allergic to anything.


My wife seeks to challenge these assumptions. Human beings evolve over the span of their lives, she says. Allergies develop when your immune system mistakenly identifies something like pollen or mold as harmful.


She says.



My counter argument: So, what, after 50-something years walking the planet free of allergies, I just wake up one morning and have them? So, up until this point, when I ingested pollen, my body thought it was valid and my sinuses remained refreshingly unclogged?


It’s all just a big biological misunderstanding?


Apparently.


My sister’s allergies were so severe, she needed weekly injections of the bugs to which she was allergic, under the guise that if you have more of it in you, maybe you’ll just get used to it. That seems counterintuitive. (More exhaustive research: “Adjective. 1. Contrary to intuition or to common sense expectation but often nevertheless true.”)


Most of my adult life has revolved around common sense expectations. One of my fallback go-to’s in justifying points I seek to make is, “logic and common sense would dictate…”


To combat her seasonal allergies, my wife goes through pseudoephedrine like candy. Since I get errand-running duty in our household, I’m handing over my driver’s license at Walgreen’s so often they may have me pegged as a meth lab mule, Navy blazer, button-down Oxford and khaki slacks notwithstanding.


My insistence on my own lack of allergies, despite recent evidence to the contrary, troubles her. Perhaps it’s because misery loves company. Maybe it’s because she just thinks I’m full of… snot. The upshot is when she encounters me with near constant sneezing and eye watering, her concern is tempered by her never too far from the surface, “told you so.”


Take these, she advises lovingly, and hands me two Claritin-D. Two days later, I’m cured.


Because I am not allergic to anything.


Except maybe logic and common sense.

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