By Jeff Girod
I got an email, then a typed letter, reminding me that my son’s school is a “nut-free establishment.” Not only is he supposed to refrain from smuggling in any PB&J’s, they want us to scrub him down prior to entering school for “nut remnants.” The school even has taped signs on the doors with a cartoon peanut in a red circle with a line through it.
Nut remnants: These nut allergies, they’re serious stuff.
My son’s school isn’t the only place that’s gone nuts. All over America they’re nutrageous. Just this week, an entire school district in Massachusetts banned peanuts prompting one online reader of the Daily Hampshire Gazette to post, “When peanuts are outlawed, only outlaws will have peanuts.”
The number of American children living with nut allergies appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It affects 1 in every 13 kids under 18. (That’s roughly two in every classroom.)
If this threat was giant angry killer bees or eye-sucking weevils, maybe I could understand it. Or if somehow all of the pretentious bottled water we’ve been drinking for the last three decades had turned our kidneys into lemon frappes, then yes, that would also probably still make more sense.
But c’mon. This is peanuts. This is Jif and Skippy’s. It’s the same brown gooey paste they’ve been digging out of the ground and smearing on sandwich bread since George Washington Carver.
When I was a kid, I didn’t know a single child who was allergic to nuts. We used to think it was a big deal if one kid had an inhaler. Was everybody just tougher? Do kids just complain more? Is that even possible?
I tend to believe it’s a combination of several factors. It’s probably pesticides, antibiotics, pollutants and global warming. And if you believe the Republicans, somehow Obama is involved.
I also believe you can’t continually wash your hands with antibacterial soap that boasts, “kills 99 percent of all germs!” without the other 1 percent finally rising up and taking its revenge. You mark my words: That angry 1 percent of germs are nestled deep inside the crevasses of your dark, powdery nuts. (I’m not sure what that sentence even means, but it sure was fun to write.)
If you spend your kids’ lives hosing them down with Purell and handi-wipes, and rubbing their noses with aloe moisturized Kleenex, it’s no wonder they can be taken down by a withered piece of peanut brittle.
Not all germs are bad. And if they are, so what? Sometimes you need a little crap in your life.
Some researchers have suggested that our overly hygienic lifestyles have hamstrung our ability to build up the proper antibodies. Others believe what we have is not an epidemic of nut allergies, but an epidemic of doctors diagnosing nut allergies and overly protective helicopter parents.
Somewhere along the way we started sanding over the rough edges and putting protective bumpers over every sharp corner. Everyone became special, every experience had to be unlimited and nobody got to be bored or disappointed anymore.
Obviously there’s no direct correlation between that and nut allergies, but it’s the mentality that everyone and everything has to be perfect, purified and crystal clear like it’s been run through a Brita water filter. Maybe if things were a little less rounded and symmetrical, we could all enjoy the imperfect essence of a dirty, salty peanut.
I’m not here to denigrate nut allergies. Of the roughly 3.3 million Americans who have nut allergies, about 150 die from allergy-related causes each year, according to the British Medical Journal. But another 100 people die every year from lightning. And 45,000 people die from car crashes.
You can’t draw a cartoon picture and put a line through everything. We all can’t live in your “zone.” You shouldn’t. Life is dangerous, but it’s also interesting and beautiful and terrifying and wonderful.
If my son’s school wants to be a nut-free zone, then sure. So be it. Whatever. Let him eat bologne. Last week he tried to eat my car keys.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org\