Dating with food allergies is hard. I was in a long term relationship when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. My diagnosis thankfully brought out the true colors in my then-boyfriend (which is why he is now my ex). So about a year into going gluten free I was thrown back in the dating pool. Here’s some advice from my adventures in potential romance:
- Skip the Food – Don’t go out to eat on your first date. Go out for a glass of wine or coffee, take a trip to a museum, go for a walk. Save dinner for the second or third date.
- Be Prepared and Make it Easy For Yourself – Maybe your date will be a smash hit and you’ll be out for hours! Always be prepared with both a knowledge of various restaurants nearby and snacks in your bag. Taking the pressure off finding food in an emergency makes you that much freer to focus on the relationship/other person.
- Offer to Pick the Restaurants – On your first foodie date, pick a restaurant that you know is safe and fabulous, so your date has a positive introduction into the gluten free world. Get the “GF tastes like cardboard” myth out of their head.
- Don’t Let Celiac Scare You – Sometimes we get nervous telling a prospective partner about our medical condition. Don’t be nervous! Most everyone has one issue or another these days, and a decent human being will not leave you stranded at the bar because you have to eat differently than they do.
- Don’t Over Share – Be brave, but don’t get too enthusiastic. Be short and to the point. If they have questions – great! Answer them. But you don’t need to talk about your bathroom habits and your darkest Celiac moments on the first date.
- Be Positive – Emphasis that life is good. You don’t want your date to get the impression that Celiac/GF = living hell. Perhaps mention your favorite restaurant, if you have any cooking skills, and how there are wonderful products on the market that taste just like the wheat-filled counterparts.
- Kissing – Okay this one is tricky. You can get glutened from a kiss if the other person drank a beer or gluten-containing food (see my previous post – is kissing gluten free?). It’s awkward to tell someone before your date even starts “FYI I might not be able to kiss you later….I mean, that is to say if you want to kiss me later…if this date goes well…and now I’m feeling awkward…I’ll just bury my head in the sand now…” Instead, if you happen to have a conversation about how sensitive Celiac Disease is, maybe slip it in then. But if that doesn’t happen and the two of you find yourselves leaning in for a kiss, you might have to pause and say, “I hate to kill the mood, but I can’t kiss you because you drank that beer earlier, and I will probably get sick. Could I get a rain check? We could go out again on Saturday. I know a great Italian restaurant that you’d love.” These are just my suggestions. You’ll probably have to feel out the situation when you’re in the moment. Also, you can get sick from kissing someone wearing gluten-containing-lipstick (and watch out for blush/foundation/powder if you kiss your sweetie’s cheek!). If you’re worried about your sweetie’s lipstick and you’ve gone out on a couple of dates, why not buy her some Red Apple Lipstick as a gift? I don’t know any woman who wouldn’t be thrilled by their products.
- Online Dating – you don’t need to say much, if anything, in your profile. Don’t let Celiac Disease be the defining factor of who you are. Personally, I decided to briefly mention Celiac in my profile. I wrote “I have Celiac Disease, and I’m on a strict gluten free diet. But I love to bake, and I’m an excellent cook. And if I really like you, watch out – you might have some homemade chocolate chip cookies coming your way.” I figured that a little mention of Celiac with a positive spin would automatically nix out some jerks who are prejudice against people with special diets or medical conditions. What’s great about online dating is that you can quickly weed through people. When looking at other people’s profiles, if you see someone write “I’m a meat eater so if you’re a vegetarian it won’t work out” – skip that. You have no time for intolerant jerks who judge people by what they eat. Also we now have a gluten free dating website. I think the idea is fabulous. Instant empathy! Everything is easier with someone who understands your lifestyle firsthand. If I were single today I would probably join.
- Discussing Celiac in More Detail – At some point (maybe after a few weeks of dating) your sweetie will probably ask you more about Celiac Disease. In person conversations are important, but having written materials are also helpful because it can be referenced back to. The Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago’s website has some great informational pages.
- Be Patient – It may take your sweetie a little while to fully understand Celiac Disease (heck, I seem to learn something new every other week!). We were all beginners at the gluten free diet once.
- Say Thank You! – When your sweetie really gets it right and shows you that they support you, thank them. Write a card, bake them cookies, make them dinner, take them out for lunch. Having a cheerleader is a wonderful thing, so show them that you are thankful.
- In Sickness and in Health – Remember that when we are looking for long term relationships, we are looking for someone who will be there for us in sickness and in health. If they can’t be supportive of you when you are in decently good health, they probably won’t be any better if you are sick.
- Never Apologize for Being Gluten Free – You bring so much more to the table than your medical condition. You are an awesome person. Never forget that.
Overall, I think you’d be surprised by the number of people who say “oh, no big deal” when it comes to Celiac Disease or your diet. If a person really likes you, they will want you to be happy and healthy.