The Second C of Dating: Confidence
Allison Davin and Anna Masciola talk about the importance of having confidence when dating with food allergies.
Check List Number 0
By: Anna Masciola
Everyone has their own list of qualities they want in a partner. Some people want someone who is physically active, loves dogs, or loves the same old 90s TV show. People with food allergies have the same ideas, but many of us become nervous to introduce a new “restriction” upon a relationship. Socialization in our society is based around food: a first date to dinner, a potluck at work, or drinking at a party, and it is so easy to feel as though our allergies take away from a “normal” relationship experience.
When I was in college, I was asked on a date by a guy; we’ll call him Greg. I met Greg a week earlier at a club event, and we got along very well. After some texting, he asked me out on an official date. I was flattered. He had the idea of having me over to his house for a fancy, home-cooked meal. Granted, I had met this guy only a week before, and he had no idea I had food allergies. I did not feel comfortable going to his house to eat, as sweet as the gesture was. Instead, I suggested going to one of my favorite allergy-friendly restaurants. I had explained then that I have several food allergies and I felt more comfortable eating somewhere I was familiar with. Greg responded with, “Oh, okay. That’s alright, we don’t have to.”
After that conversation, he never texted me back. I was surprised, as I thought he really wanted to take me on a date! With his response, he disengaged from the entire relationship altogether. I reasoned my food allergies might have been a contributing factor.
Needless to say, our budding relationship did not work out. From then on, I had a new philosophy when meeting a potential partner: “Check List Number 0.” People with food allergies have one extra item on their list: willingness to understand and be informed. On my list of what I’m looking for, effort and respect is Number 0. It comes before anything else. You see, Greg’s response told me he was not willing to put in the effort to be educated on food allergies, and I was able to find this out even before the first date. We were not meant to be, and that’s okay. However, “Check List Number 0” goes a tad deeper. To me, someone who respects my food allergies and takes proper precautions after being educated is the bare minimum of who I want in a partner. There is no point in wasting time, money, or energy into someone who simply does not want to put in the effort to keep you safe. Anyone who is truly interested in you will jump at any opportunity to spend time with you. It shouldn’t matter how that time is spent. This is just another layer to the screening process that food allergies allow!
It is naive to take this concept at face value, however. The age-old saying states: “Actions speak louder than words.” Humans are complex creatures. I have been on dates with people who told me numerous times how they understood my food allergies and were willing to take precautions, but their actions told me differently. This person (we’ll name him Tom) was almost excited that I had food allergies, because he had a sister with similar allergens. I was ecstatic: “Someone with experience! They’ll understand!” I thought. Over time, however, I quickly realized how he wasn’t willing to learn about my food allergies. He seemed to assume all allergies were the same: “My sister can be in the room with cooked eggs, so it’s okay if Anna is too.”
I sat Tom down to explain how everyone’s food allergies are different. For me, I cannot be in the room with cooked eggs. Tom seemed to understand, but continuously would cook eggs for breakfast if I was visiting his home. This told me that he was not making the efforts to make sure I was safe. He did not seem to care about what I had told him, and was not respecting my comfort level. It is important to remember food allergies are not a personal dietary preference. It is not a life-threatening situation if a vegan without allergies accidentally eats an egg, while it can be deadly for someone with a severe allergy.
It is very easy to blame yourself when these situations happen. You might feel like a burden or an inconvenience. However, regardless of the allergy situation, it is unfair for you to be in a relationship with someone who does not take your feelings seriously. That is just a recipe for disaster. No date or relationship is ever worth sacrificing your own personal boundaries. A new relationship should make you happy and excited! However, remember a relationship is a two-way street. Understand that a potential partner may struggle with this lifestyle change, and that’s okay. No one is going to be perfect at handling the situation at first; they need your help to understand what changes need to be made. The effort they are putting in is what really matters. Your gut feeling and how you feel around them is what will really tell you if they are the right match for you.
On the other hand, just because they care about your allergies does not make them God’s gift to the planet, either. Your relationship is not based on allergies alone. Food allergies are a part of you, but they aren’t you. I dated a guy who was extremely caring about my food allergies, and put in extra effort to make sure that I had food I could eat on Thanksgiving Day. Our relationship ended because our personalities didn’t mesh well, a normal reason for a relationship to end that had nothing to do with food allergies. Remember, respect and effort put in for your allergies is one of the multiple prerequisites for a relationship. It is number 0 on your checklist, meaning it is your bare minimum standard. Do not forget to consider other personality factors in your potential partner that resonate with you and your personality and interests.
So, what does it mean when someone respects your food allergies? That totally depends on you and your comfort level! For me, trust builds over time. I want to see someone who is asking questions and educating themselves about what food allergies are. I want someone who makes themselves aware of what I am and am not comfortable with, and respects those boundaries. To put it simply, effort makes all the difference in a new relationship. Additionally, know that YOU are deserving of this effort. You are not a burden. You are not a problem. You are not an inconvenience. Remember that.
You Are Not “Too Much”
By: Allison Davin
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
You are not a burden because you have food allergies.
You are not “difficult” to date because you have food allergies.
You are not asking too much to feel safe in a relationship.
You are NOT “too much.”
If you’ve ever told yourself that you are any of these things because of your food allergies, STOP. Food allergies are one small aspect of who you are! While yes, they can be a hurdle for your significant other to understand and adapt to, if they care about you, they will! Look at your parents or guardians or siblings. Did they expect you to have food allergies? Probably not. But when you developed your food allergies, your family kept on loving you and changed their lifestyles to help keep you safe! I’m sure your friends do it too! I have many stories of friends who have told me they look at food differently now because I’ve educated them to be more aware to help keep me safe. I receive texts every now and then from friends that say things like “Allison you’re not going to believe the cross-contamination I saw at this restaurant today…” or even “Just an FYI: I know we’re going to be eating lunch together today so I made sure not to pack a PB&J.” When people care, they are capable of going out of their way to make you safe and be more aware of the food situations around them.
So if we can see that our families and friends are so willing and able to help keep us safe, why do we so often think it’s going to be different with a significant other? Yes, the guidelines for a significant other go a little further because there’s hand-holding and kissing involved, but that doesn’t mean you deserve any less in a partner!
Every person is different and comes with their own unique traits that others have to adjust to. It could be something silly like being terrified of bugs - or something bigger like physical health conditions (like food allergies or diabetes or asthma). Don’t let your unique traits hold you back in your dating life. Food allergies are a part of who you are, but they are not everything you are. Anyone would be lucky to date you - food allergies and all - and you are in no way “too much.”