Ice Cream For the Lactose Intolerant | Teen Ink

Ice Cream For the Lactose Intolerant

November 19, 2014
By TessM. GOLD, Lake Zurich, Illinois
TessM. GOLD, Lake Zurich, Illinois
14 articles 0 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Even if it's Friday and I've been working on not falling apart all week, it is still Friday!"

I hate ice cream.

Amber’s mom is passing it out right now; they’re in little colored cups decorated with balloon stickers, and I know that Amber must have put them on herself. It’s not the exciting kind—not mint chocolate chip or rainbow sherbet, but a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream with a few sprinkles on top. The other kids light up when they get their serving. I’m dreading mine.

I look at the head of the table, where Amber is already digging into hers. “Eat the sprinkles first,” she informs the girls on either side of her. “They taste like sugar!”

I know for a fact that sprinkles are made of sugar, but Amber either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. She’s using one of those spoons that change color, and a purple shade is slowly creeping up her pink handle as she forces it deeper into the ice cream. The other girls have orange spoons that turn yellow, or green spoons that turn blue. I hope I get a green one.

A cup of ice cream is set down in front of me, and Amber’s mom gives me a pink spoon with a smile. “You can keep the cup,” she says, as if it’s a big secret that only I can know. “Enjoy.” And then she gives the last ice cream to a girl on my right and walks back to the porch, where I can see a glass of iced tea and a magazine that looks more boring than my school assignments.

Confrontation time. I stare the ice cream down. Back when I was first diagnosed, I pretended that the harder I looked at what I wasn’t allowed to eat, the more bad stuff would drain out of it so I could have it. Unfortunately, mental power can’t defeat my one and only nemesis, no matter how hard I try. But now I’ve made it a ritual of mine, that any time I come across something I can’t have, I engage it in a staring contest. Kind of like a battle of wills, I guess. But it’s weird—food doesn’t have a will of its own, so it’s more me and my superstition.

The other girls are eating their ice cream now; laughing, chatting, completely oblivious to the heated showdown between me and my summer treat. Tears start to gather at the corner of my eyes, but I blink them away—I won’t start crying at Amber’s party. The only other girl who did was Catherine, and that was only because someone tripped over her in the bouncy house. I’m not that much of a baby, and I won’t make a scene.

But I’m really, really frustrated right now. It sucks—I didn’t even know in the first place, but because my stomach had to tie itself into knots after I had string cheese for lunch in the second grade, we found out as a family. My dad had to explain it to me: “lactose” was like dairy, and “intolerance” meant my body didn’t like foods with dairy in it. I was crushed. Does that mean no chocolate milk? Yes, that’s right. What about candy? You can still have some, but we’ll have to be careful about what you eat.

It was basically the worst thing that could happen to me, other than maybe my parents dying or something. The doctor gave me a list of what I couldn’t eat, and I spent a whole afternoon crying over it—no more cupcakes. No bread for sandwiches. And yes, no ice cream.

Okay, that isn’t entirely true. I can still eat some of it, as long as it's lactose-free. But do you know how hard it is to find that at the grocery store? Most of the time we have to ask an employee, and it’s so embarrassing. “Excuse me, ma’am/sir, my daughter is lactose intolerant and we were wondering where the lactose-free products are.” Pretty much all our conversations at the store begin like that.

But my mom had apparently forgotten to tell Amber’s mom about my small “issue” with dairy, and now I’m about to start bawling over ice cream.

None of the other girls have noticed. I pick up my spoon and draw a heart in the ice cream with its handle, then cross it out and scowl. My eyes begin to shimmer again, and this time my vision is blurring. Why is this such a big deal for me? I’ve done this before! I just give the typical excuse of “I’m not hungry” and then sit back to watch everyone else enjoy their dairy-filled food. But for some reason, I can’t stop sniffling. A tear forces its way out of my eye and slides down my cheek. My face flushes bright red with shame.

All of a sudden, I’m aware of shoes crunching the grass behind me, and Amber’s mom leans down, pushing wild auburn hair out of her face. “Eva, honey?” she asks. “Are you okay?”

I’m so annoyed with myself, I could cry—but of course I’m already doing that. “I’m lactose intolerant,” I whimper, and there it is, laid bare on the table and displayed for all to see. “I can’t eat ice cream.”

Amber’s mom just looks at me with a mixture of concern and sympathy, and then she walks over to the cooler and pulls out a carton of—low and behold—ice cream. She sets it on the table next to me, and I feel like screaming. “I can’t eat ice cream,” I repeat. “It makes me feel sick—”

“This is lactose free.” Amber’s mom turns the carton around and shows me the label—sure enough, it says “lactose free!” in big cursive. “Amber told me she had a friend who couldn’t eat dairy. This whole carton is for you, so eat as much as you like.”

Once again, I have to remind myself that I’m already crying, because the simple kindness of that one gesture makes me want to sob. Instead, I try for a smile, ugly and damp through my tears. “Thank you,” I say.

Amber’s mom smiles again. “Just don’t eat the sprinkles,” she advises. “Those little suckers have got a whole bunch of dairy in them.”

I promise that I won’t, and when she leaves, I pick up my spoon and dry it off. It turns pink again, and then I open the carton and dip it into the ice cream, feeling the cool, sugary sensation spread over my teeth. Even though it doesn’t taste quite like what I imagined, it’s still the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

Amber notices me sitting all by my lonesome, eating out of the carton, and crosses her arms. “Hey, why do you get ice cream all to yourself?” she protests. “That’s not fair!”

“This is special ice cream, though,” I explain, and for the first time, her confusion brings a grin to my face. “It’s ice cream for the lactose intolerant.”

The author's comments:

Another one of my nightly ramblings; to soothe the soul and relax the mind, ice cream is always reommended.

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