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August 15, 2022

I'm Allergic To My Mother

By Nathaniel Tower

I'm allergic to my mother. Violently so. To go near her is to die. And it's a painful death.

It's probably not that rare of a condition. I know others with the same affliction, but unfortunately there aren't any doctors diagnosing it right now, and there doesn't seem to be any cure or convenient pill to take to remedy the situation. It's not like pollen or something. Then again, it should be much easier to avoid than pollen. Pollen is everywhere -- think of how many millions of trees and flowers and blades of grass there are. But I've only got one mother, right? She can't be everywhere, can she?

The mother allergy is not my only one. I'm allergic to pollen as well. I manage that with some over-the-counter medicine; I just use the generic stuff. My eyes get watery and my throat gets itchy, but I manage to control it. The mother thing is a bit harder to control, and the allergic reaction is much worse. The pollen is mostly sniffles. But the mother thing, like I said before, is certain death.

This has not always been the case. There was a time, or so she claims, that I had no natural aversion that forced me to stay away. She tells tales of a young babe suckling on her breast -- for nine months nonetheless -- and in these tales, I am the young babe. Although I doubt the extent of truth, I wonder what purpose my mother could possibly have for lying to me. And so I try my best to believe.

She can spin tales and tales, more than any weaver could ever weave, about the times we used to spend so blissfully together. There wasn't even the slightest hint of an allergic reaction.

"Didn't I ever sneeze?" I ask.

Yes, but that was from other allergens or from colds.

"Didn't I stop suckling at the breast?"

Yes, but that was because I had become too big for any such activity.

"Didn't I once break out into a violent rash?"

Chicken pox, she claims.

And it goes on. Back and forth, back and forth, I questioning, she answering.

But I can see what's really going on.

There was a time when I was less allergic to her. But as time passed, and I became larger and thus forced to inhale more of her, my body began to grow deficient in its ability to ward off the particles it could not stand.

Really, from every moment I can remember, the signs of allergy -- even beyond the sneezing and the rash -- were always there, developing over time in the same way that rivers erode enormous rocks.

Take high school, for example. Any time she forced me to go anywhere with her, I had this horrible ache in my stomach, the kind you get when you eat spoiled cottage cheese way too fast. Back then I chalked it up to nervousness, the fear that a cute girl might see me alone with my mother. But it wasn't nerves. My body instinctively knew though, for it urged me to stay out of the house as much as possible, even if that meant breaking curfew every time. There was no way to avoid her completely, and my face suffered the scars of my allergy.

And then college. Having her along when I moved into my first dorm room seemed a mortifying experience. There again was the spoiled dairy feeling in my stomach, but it was coupled with sweating and shaking. Of course, not being aware of my allergy, I thought it was a combination of those pesky nerves and the manual labor of moving in during the sweltering early-September heat. But everyone's mother was there, and none of them were sweating. And none of them looked like they were about to keel over the toilet and unload rotten spicy food. No, those reactions were not the heat and anxiety. Again, my body knew what my mind did not, and so it kept me away to the point where, even though I was only twenty minutes away from her, I went weeks without speaking to her and months without seeing her.

One of the great things about the body is that when it can't adapt physically, it finds other means to get the job done.

And then marriage. My body (and my new wife) continued to keep me away from those dangerous allergens. I'm lucky to have a wife with such foresight, but I do wish she had told me about my ailment sooner. The weeks and months of separation continued.

And then fatherhood, and suddenly my mother wanted to be around more than ever. At the age of twenty-nine, my face exploded with acne, which for a moment I thought was the result of the extra oil on my face that accumulated during the long periods without showers. But now I know better. 'Twas my mom, 'twas my mom, 'twas my mom. My body begged me to stay away, but sometimes it's not the body in control.

And then I figured it out. It all added up. It all made sense.

Except for the fact that I hadn't dropped dead yet.

Through all of this, something biologically astounding occurred. The time we had spent together had put those allergens in place, but the time we spent apart had forced my body to forget to process those allergens. And thus even the slightest contact now could be lethal. Even through phone conversation or electronic mail.

I can't see how anyone, especially my loving mother, could possibly want me to endanger my life just for the sake of spending time together. Besides, wasn't all that time growing up enough? And look where that got me.

Now I look at my daughter and wonder if she will be allergic to me. I best keep my distance at times, just in case.

Article © Nathaniel Tower. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-03-19
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