How to Date If You Have Food Allergies
Dating is hard enough. Add to that a serious food allergy and the prospect of a bloated airway in the middle of a date, and you’ve not only found the holy grail of romantic disasters, but you’ve landed on it straight and without a parachute.
I experienced what it was like to be with friends and dating with so many allergy sufferers that they had to live in a hermetically sealed room. GQ recently tackled the issues of dating someone with severe food allergies, but what’s the other side?
We’ve put together a few tips for those of us with food allergies and how to date if you’re allergic to anything (or everything) on the dinner menu:
Do not eat outside the home
If you want a surefire way to avoid an allergic reaction, this is obvious: Don’t eat outside the home. While some menu items may not contain your specific allergens, you can never be completely sure. The New York Times even wrote about food labeling issues that often mislead consumers into thinking they are free of allergens.
“Chances are the waiters won’t take your restriction seriously or pass the information on to the kitchen,” Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist at New York University, told Vice . “Another possibility is human error, and despite all the effort and communication, someone might forget and accidentally the allergen might come into contact with the patient’s food.”
Plan a date at home instead – you’ll have to cook, but at least you can show off your culinary prowess.
Report your allergy
So you’ve decided to go ahead and dine out, which is also perfectly reasonable. But you have to plan ahead. My friend Brian is allergic to almost everything (nuts, eggs, beans) and often plans dates in advance, he said:
One day, on a blind date, I went to a restaurant the night before, chose what I was going to eat, and then actually ate it to make sure it was safe. I figured I could avoid the embarrassing worry of food allergies and just focus on the date itself.
Brian is married now, so he will never have to deal with that anxiety again (at least in a romantic setting).
If you want to plan a little less, call the restaurant in advance and let the waiters know about your allergies. According to food allergy research and education , call during off-peak hours (so they don’t forget to take note of your requests during busier hours) and ask specifically if they can meet your needs. If so, ask if they have separate areas, cutting boards and utensils for cooking, and if you can take a look at some of the ingredients on the label. Yes, it may seem overkill, but many restaurants are equipped for allergy inquiries.
Alternatively, you can talk to your waiter upon arrival and discuss any allergies even before your date arrives by asking some of the questions above (unless you want to discuss your health concerns in front of a complete stranger).
If possible, choose a restaurant. If you find a menu that doesn’t have an ingredient you are allergic to, chances are your favor. Ordering foods with simpler ingredients has also proven to be an effective strategy for dining out without generating a terrible reaction.
Don’t figure it out (at least not yet)
So you’ve decided to dine out and everything is going well – your airways are clear and your partner wants to move. Not so fast. Even if you haven’t had food with the allergen, your date may be allergic, and physical contact can still lead to an allergic reaction. GQ highlighted the importance of communicating with your date if and when it becomes necessary:
This was not a problem for me, and it is, yes, my humble bragging that I kissed a woman and lived to tell this story. All of this to say, before you start kissing, it’s probably best to ask your date and make sure it’s okay first.
Tell your date that you are allergic, especially if your medical condition warrants it, and ask if they have used the allergen recently. While there is no hard and fast rule, research suggests waiting four hours before swapping saliva.
It doesn’t have to involve lengthy conversation or be ashamed of open dialogue. Allergies don’t have to weigh you down emotionally, and let’s be honest: anyway, when it comes to dating, we all have our baggage (some of us just hide it better).