I am allergic to Cipro, which causes elephantiasis-hives in my hands, groin, and armpits.
I am allergic to the word “panties.”
I am allergic to the word.
I am allergic to the feeling.
I am allergic to the mindset that created the word.
I am allergic to my own lazy thinking, and yours also.
I am allergic to either/or, and all the ills that spring from it.
I am allergic to Trump.
I am allergic to the collapse that Trump induces in others.
I am allergic to the puffing-up that Trump induces in others.
I am aware that allergies are battles.
I am aware that battles give the body a sense of aliveness.
I am aware that my body is alive even when I don’t have grapefruit-sized hives or virulent disagreements, but that either of these can have a tonic effect.
I am allergic to the brown dust coating anything that stays unmoved in my studio for more than one day. Where does it come from, this Lebanese dust? It is the crumbling of unmoved things. It is dog-fur powder, and the earth releasing from between muddy dog-toes. It is whatever was on top of the rafters that didn’t get sealed in when the insulation guys turned the whole place into a snow cave. I am allergic to the reminders of what a big fucking mess I am likely to leave behind, stuff-wise, when I die. Also, the big fucking messes everyone in my family is likely to leave behind.
When my husband and his friend parked the moving truck with his stuff outside the house and opened the rolling door, everything had tumbled into a heap, because our street is so steep. I took one look at that heap, and could only imagine setting fire to it, right there, right then. I was having an allergy to the idea of cluttering up our new house with old crap. I was having an auto-immune response to domestic life.
I am allergic to the itchy feeling at the back of my throat. I am allergic to the middle finger on my right hand turning grey the minute the temperature drops below thirty-five degrees. I am allergic to being soothed. Don’t try to soothe me when I’m feeling allergic – it will go poorly.
Once when Timothy was having an allergic reaction brought on by hiking through chest-high grass and we didn’t have any drugs along to help, I lay him down on a sleeping mat to cool off. I helped him breathe more slowly and held a damp cloth to his forehead. Slowly he brought himself out of the panic of allergy. Slowly his body remembered the existence of something other than battle.
Elliot is allergic to the propane delivery man, who came this morning. It’s confusing to him when I don’t endorse his sense of the apocalypse. One part of him is geared to attack, remove, protect. And then another part wants to align with what I’m telling him, which is, Shhh. It’s OK. I can see in his body how hard this is: his hackles are up, his teeth are bared, and he’s whimpering. I tell them to go in his crate and lay down. When he can do this, the fear passes. He doesn’t need to be in charge. The battle ends. He stands down. But it’s hard. It’s hard to let go of a good allergy, once it gets going.
I’m allergic to this election. It’s true. In one week, another round of we’re-not-sure, but… and late-night elect-o-meters will begin. When I’m having an allergy attack to election results, the worst possible feelings about other people show up as a symptom of battle. How could they? How COULD they? Giant hives form on my brain, and I need to lay down.
What is hypoallergenic?
Do a bunch of rabbits always have to be recruited into battle, to figure this out?
What if I committed, no matter what happens a week from now, to not think the worst of everyone? I would need to lay down in a hypoallergenic place like a safety closet and curl up with my dogs (who don’t care about elections). There, my hackles could come down and my whimpering could subside. I would learn there how not to gloat or grind my teeth, how to reflect on the vulnerable imperfection of our human systems.
I wonder how much discomfort I could commit to, towards undoing the allergies I have harbored all my life, the ones I’ve caught from others, and the ones I cooked up on my own? It could be like a dance-a-thon. Each minute I spent sitting in the fires of snotty-nosed not-liking would be a dollar for a good cause, a balm, an ending. All night, loathing by loathing, I would burn, and you could join me. We would wear our best itchy costumes and support one another through the shivers, swellings, shit fits, sneezes, wheezes, and barks of the detox-process of laying down arms. The buffet would be covered in everything we hate. We would nibble our way through canned mandarin oranges, green kool-aid, frosted lemon cookies, lima beans, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, and gnarly fruit taffee. We’d emerge exhausted the next morning, emptied, cleansed, and free to move around unhindered by what we once thought we could not abide.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.
108 Names of Now