Ever since I was a little girl, everyone has known me as the girl with the dairy allergy. From kindergarten through college, it was my “thing.” Everyone I’ve met for my entire life has told me, to my face, that the most interesting and unique thing about me is my dairy allergy. And while there’s more to me than my dairy allergy, for the most part, they’re right. As I grew into the vibrant, mature woman who always makes her bed that I am today, I realized the label of “Dairy Allergy” girl both created me and trapped me, so allow me to set a few things straight:
Yes, I get loose stools, abdominal cramps and varied rashes on the rare occasion that I consume cow’s milk and I regularly inform waiters of my condition. But no; my body’s rejection of dairy does not define who I am. I also have an entire handful of lukewarm interests and beliefs that compose who I am on the inside. Okay, maybe just four. Three, really. Okay, there’s not much more to me other than my dairy allergy. Fine.
In spite of all of the challenges a dairy allergy brings, I’m sick and tired of being defined by it and nothing else. For example; I was a C-section birth and enjoy quality network TV programming! My inability to properly digest cow’s milk is, of course, the loudest and most obvious part of my personality, but it’s not the end-all-be-all who I am.
So who am I, then? I’ll need to get back to you on that one.
There’s a lot more going on in my life than this really inconvenient reaction to products made from cow’s milk; for example, I like stepping on crinkly leaves in the autumn. I like snoozing my alarm for five extra minutes. I like not eating products that contain goat’s milk (I’m not allergic to goat’s milk, I simply do not like it or the products it yields).
Okay. I think I’ve succinctly convinced you that my life is rich and vibrant.
Now I want to clarify something important about myself that sets me apart from other people: I’m not lactose intolerant, I have a dairy allergy. They’re two different things. I’m exhausted by ignorant people conflating the terms “dairy allergy” and “lactose intolerance.” As you can see, there’s more to me than meets the eye, particularly with regard to the subtle nuances of my dairy allergy.
So if you take away one thing from my experience, it’s this: Take time to get to know people before you call them “The Girl With The Dairy Allergy.” I know my inability to digest cow’s milk is my zaniest quirk, but it’s not the beginning or the end of me. Dig a little deeper before making judgments about people based on their body’s rejection of specific mammalian milks, and discover that, yeah, maybe there’s not a lot going on beyond that. I have a feeling you’ll learn a thing or two about yourself along the way.