Stick with me though, if you can be bothered.
Not that long ago, stating you were a vegetarian was an accurate way of letting people know you enjoyed naked bushwalking, showered in alignment with the rising of the Pagan moon (which is rarely) and had dreadlocks by accident.
Now though, times have changed.
Have you ever had to fill out those forms when you're attending a function or whatever, detailing your dietary requirements? Me, I usually leave it blank as I'll eat almost anything, providing it's not made of vomit and insects.
Today at work today we got this:
I have severe allergies and need to have a meal with:
no artificial flavourings
no natural msg
low amine vegetables
low salicytate vegetables
Absolutely no cherries
absolutely no strawberries
absolutely no blackcurrants
absolutely no raspberries
absolutely no blackberries
absolutely no kiwifruit
is it possible for you to cater for me?
Of course it's possible to cater for you! We have boundless amounts of water! Also, there's some dust gathering on a plate by the windowsill over there, so you can have all that dust too.
This sounds like recipe for everything on the menu in purgatory.
Is this what we've now come to then?
Is this out of necessity, or is this a result of a society gone haywire?
If you're eating a tofu ragout with a legume salad, dressed in a reduced soy jus off a burlap plate with utensils made of recycled hemp shoes because you want to, or because it's healthier, or because it's more sustainable, then good on you. High fives all round.
However, if you're going to claim that you're doing it because you're allergic to everything else, then I call 'humbug!' and insist you take a good look at yourself.
What did people do ten years ago when they didn't realise they were allergic to everything? Oh that's right. They burped. They felt bloated. They farted. Because it is normal. Feeling a bit bloaty after eating ten pieces of toast is normal. It doesn't mean you have to now purge every time you walk down the cereal aisle in the supermarket. Getting greasy hands after eating chips isn't a medical condition, it's from the oil they were cooked in. It's normal.
What we're doing these days, is an excellent job of putting the hype back in hypochondria... Err... Hypeochondria?
Ten years ago, if you had allergies, you carried around an epinephrine shot because if you got stung by a bee you died. Allergies in the 90's were things that killed you or made your face melt or turned you into the elephant man. Ten years ago, you didn't create a veritable Noah's Ark of banned foods that are forever denied entrance to your gullet because they made you loosen the waist on your designer sweatpants a little bit once.
Sort. Your. Life. Out. People.
It's one thing to be lactose intolerant, or have Coeliac, and yes, I may go so far as to say, you may be one of the rare people to actually suffer from a bunch of allergies, but when you start listing every goddamn organic item under the sun as an allergen, it may be time for you to pop back into your hermetically sealed bubble and quietly leave.
Back to my incredibly witty hype-hypochondria pun; All of this is a result of hype. The same thing happened with ADHD. And with Swine Flu (Or H1N1 as the science people like to call it.)
The more people hear about the incidence of these things, the more prevalent they become. Why? Because of influence and hype.
The science people I mentioned earlier are still debating over whether the spike in ADHD diagnoses in the last decade is a result of more people becoming aware of the symptoms of an already prevalent condition, or whether it is because of the ease inherent with putting a problem in a box. Is it easier to discipline your kid or is it easier to buy in to the hype, have him/her diagnosed with ADHD and medicate?
Same goes with these supposed food allergies. It's the power of the herd (Although 'the herd' sounds like a bit of a wanky marketing term to use). It's the principle behind Digg. And The Hypemachine. It's a hashtag in Twitter. It's viral marketing (pardon the pun).
Something is recognised as being 'it', a few people of influence highlight it, a few more people take this is run with it and voila! Everyone's allergic to something and has to take a 15 tablet-a-day course of supplements to ensure they don't die from "high amine vegetables".
Anyways, I had a point in there somewhere and I think the point was this: Hype giveth and hype taketh away.
These exacerbated medical conditions are the negative result of hype. The facemasks on the train are a result of hype. The proliferation of sensationalist media is a result of hype.
But good things come from hype: Brands that people love. Start-ups with brilliant ideas. Your new favourite band.
All of these have hype and 'the herd' to thank/blame.
I guess what I'm saying is that if you find out your new favourite band has a rider that looks like that list at the start of this post, they're probably not going to be around to make a sophomore album.
NB: Yes, this is disjointed... I'm just hoping it sounds more inane-rant-ish, than insane-homeless-man-on-a-soapbox-ish.