Ellie’s lot in life was to be allergic to chocolate.
She supposed there were worse things which could befall someone. Yellowed teeth. Limp, stringy hair. Stinky toes with gnarled nails.
Still, a chocolate allergy ranked pretty awful, especially as a child. All those birthday parties where she sat with an empty dessert plate while the other kids dove their spoons into brown spongy cake, fudge frosting, and moats of chocolate ice cream. A few of the nicer moms would drop one or two store-bought sugar cookies into her hand, but those hard, flat discs never looked as appealing as the birthday cake others had.
Halloweens had been even worse. Imagine devoting your entire evening to collecting a large bag bulging with sweet goodies, only to have your mother confiscate it as soon as you stepped through the front door. By the time she had sorted through the loot, you were left with a measly sandwich bag full of taffy and lollipops. That was Ellie’s Halloween every year.
When she was a child, the other girls at school sneered and made fun at her, dangling their chocolate puddings in front of her and taunting, “Sucks for you, Ellie! You can’t have any, you can’t have any. You’re such a freak.”
Now in adulthood, other women envied her allergy.
“Ugh, I wish I had a chocolate allergy. Then I wouldn’t be lugging around these five extra pounds. You’re so lucky, Ellie.”
Ellie never considered herself lucky, but if those five pounds the other girls complained about were really so hard to lose with chocolate around, then she supposed she was. That luck didn’t eradicate her isolation when throngs of tourists and city dwellers gathered outside the gigantic Godiva store in December to gawk at the wondrous window displays. Rivers of chocolate pouring through streams where chocolate bears in sugary Santa Hats fished for chocolate trout. When other people in the office oohed and aahed the mini chocolate souffles at holiday parties and occasional work functions, she could not partake in their raving reviews. Yes, being allergic to the most popular flavor in the world was akin to living on the planet Mars, Ellie thought. Of course, that was assuming Martians couldn’t eat chocolate either.
“What if you have Martian DNA?” her best friend Quinn joked when Ellie professed her frustrations over drinks one Friday night.
Ellie rolled her eyes. “Quinn, I’m pouring my heart out here. You have no idea what it’s like to feel different.”
Quinn stared at her friend.
“Really, Ellie? I have no idea what that’s like?”
Ellie winced. Quinn’s parents were white; she was Chinese. They had adopted her from China when she was three months old. If anyone understood feeling different from others, it was her friend.
“I’m sorry, Quinn. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m just being – ”
“Melodramatic,” Quinn finished for her.
“Nothing new. Seriously, Ellie, there are worse things you could be allergic to. Take my co-worker, for example,” Quinn began, taking a long sip of her muddled old fashioned. “He’s allergic to alcohol. If a single drop of anything fermented even touches his lips, his face puffs up like a blowfish and he stops breathing. Can you imagine how awful that must be, being forced to abstain from the cure-all social lubricant which can make any bad date or awkward family dinner somewhat bearable? Talk about social suicide. His life must really suck.”
Ellie tried to envision an adulthood without a glass of wine to dull a bad day or liven up a boring party. Yes, there was always someone who had it worse than she.
– Written by Miss A on September 23, 2012