Age 15. One of my first parties. That fateful point in the evening when we all sat down to play Spin the Bottle. Imagine my delight when the empty soda bottle pointed me toward a kiss with my high school crush. Imagine my frustration when he said, sadly, “I can’t kiss you. I’ve been eating M&Ms all night.”
A mere kiss with a chocolate-tinged mouth would have given me hives, and he knew it. That was the moment that I realized my food allergies didn’t just complicate school, and eating out, and travel. They were going to shape my love life too. No kisses for me.
Since birth, I’ve managed deadly allergies to over a dozen foods including dairy, egg, beef, soy, cucumber, shrimp, mango, melon, and some tree nuts. Even when I’m dressing up for the swankiest nightclub, I have to carry a purse big enough to fit my Epinephrine injector, Benadryl capsules, and an inhaler. People with food sensitivities fall in love like everyone else, but our dietary restrictions create some unique anxieties. So for the eHarmony community, I thought I’d share the view of how a romance goes from single to serious—as seen through the eyes of an allergy girl.
LOOKING FOR LOVE
On top of initial compatibility factors (age, geography, looks, etc.), I have to seek for lifestyles compatible with my allergies. If his job is harvesting shellfish and I’m allergic to shrimp, it’s probably not meant to be. A food writer broke up with me after realizing that, thanks to my milk allergy, I couldn’t share his passion for cheese tastings.
THE FIRST DATE
Ordering off a menu is hard enough without worrying I’ll seem neurotic or picky to my first-time date. My ideal meal is sushi, because the ingredients are usually simple and consistent. If your date has allergies, let her pick the type of restaurant so she can avoid cuisines challenging in the context of his or her dietary restrictions.
THE THIRD DATE
There’s no bigger turn-off than reminding your date to wash up. But unfortunately, I often get hives from being touched by the mouth or hands of someone who has just eaten pizza, ice cream, or other foods to which I’m allergic. When a guy passes on pouring cream in his coffee so he can kiss me later, I know he’s a keeper.
If I continue dating someone, sooner or later he’ll witness an allergic reaction. How he reacts tells me our future. Does he panic or stay calm? Is he grossed out by my symptoms? Does he help me make smart decisions about medication or whether to seek hospital care? Will he stay up to monitor my breathing after I’ve fallen asleep?
You’ve heard about His & Hers towels…how about His & Hers kitchens? Living with someone’s food allergies can intensify squabbles over cooking and cleaning. The last man I lived with ate eggs and cottage cheese daily, despite my deadly allergies, and I could never bring myself to help him by offering to pick up his groceries.
Many women dream of big weddings, but I’m terrified by the logistics of an allergen-free meal. Every hug and handshake will put me into contact with my guests. That means everyone will have to share my diet for the night—from the appetizers to the cake. Otherwise my wedding photos will show me with swollen, itchy eyes and puffy lips.
STARTING A FAMILY
It’s not likely my kids will manage to inherit all my allergies. But I worry about how I’ll run a household for kids who don’t share my allergies. While I don’t want to artificially restrict their diets, I can’t cook what I can’t eat—or clean up after a kid who spills his milk. Will my non-allergic partner be up to shouldering extra responsibility as a parent?
Over 12 million Americans have food allergies, which means at some point you’ll probably date someone facing these same issues. Though they can be daunting, these anxieties don’t stop me from falling in love…and again…and again. Because let’s face it, we can’t control the will of our hearts any more than we can control the histamines in our blood. And taking on any challenge—including food allergies—feels a lot more manageable when you have a partner you love and trust.
To purchase Sandra Beasley’s memoir, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, visit here! Watch the video here. For more information on Sandra Beasley visit http://www.SandraBeasley.com Publication date of the book is July 12, 2011; available wherever books are sold, just ask.