I was more than blessed enough to be married already when I was diagnosed with celiac disease.
I can’t imagine dating while dealing with the food issues we’ve got to deal with.
As Mrs. Dude says jokingly (I think)…”Good luck finding somebody who will deal with all your issues.”
She’s got a point.
Which brings us to today’s guest post. It’s from Erica over at Celiac and the Beast, a fantabulous blog you should put on your “must-visit” list. She’s funny, interesting and informative.
Erica has been thru the gluten-free dating scene. And it isn’t pretty.
Erica…the floor is yours.
I’ve been gluten-free for a few years now, but I was single for way longer than that. So when asked to write a post about living with Celiac disease, I first thought of what I was really really good at, and that was being single. I feel like a lot of people out there in the blogosphere can relate – as not everyone can be in a healthy, committed relationship. Some of us are stuck on Match.com and OkCupid hoping for the next best thing to appear in our inbox. Let’s have a chat about gluten-free dating, okay?
Like every single person, dating was the absolute worst, yet necessary, part of my singledom existence. Dating before going gluten-free was easy – you could go to any restaurant, anywhere, and order something tasty to share over what was sure to be an awkward first meal. That was hard enough as it is without adding in any dietary restrictions!
When I first starting eating gluten-free, before I was 100% confirmed as a Celiac, dating now became an anxiety-provoking activity.
I’ll start with the story of Boy #1 – for those loyal readers of my blog, this is not my current Non-GFBF that writes with me.
When I met him, I sheepishly talked about my issues, and talked about going gluten-free. At first he seemed really supportive and we went forward with trying to date like normal people. I knew that alcohol was safe, so the bars would be the only place I would go at first. After exploring local restaurants, I had about a handful that I thought were safe (years later, I know that they weren’t, but everyone makes mistakes at first).
So, at least I had four or five places that I would go to that I could eat without having to ask the waitress a million questions at the table. I struggled with coming off as too agressive when dating, because I always had to choose the restaurant ahead of time – it was never my date’s job. He could never “surprise” me with a date, we had to plan on when and where we were going to eat.
During the course of our short relationship, I think we went to just two gluten-free restaurants. Every other date, we would just hang out because it was too difficult to deal with finding a restaurant. I think the worst part about it all was that he would drink my favorite beer in front of me! Now, I never wanted my potential life partner to go gluten-free – that would just be too perfect, but c’mon – don’t drink my favorite thing I could never have in front of me! It was just plain rude. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t work out, not just because of the gluten – but I think that was a part of it.
It really wasn’t him, it was me.
My early relationships mirrored my early gluten-free years in general. It was early in my gluten-free life and diagnosis and I was too timid, I was too afraid, I didn’t feel like myself. I couldn’t approach waitresses, restaurant staff, and chefs like I do now. I just assumed that everything was gluten-free and cross-contamination didn’t exist in the world. I didn’t take the reigns on my own health, because I was afraid of standing out and looking like a fool demanding food that was not going to poison me. I was afraid of asking questions, and afraid to question anything anyone said about their food. How ridiculous.
I went through several relationships after that – say Boy #2 (a chef who liked gluten-free, swoon!) and #3 – and every time I was stronger in my gluten-free convictions and more set in my ways. I was going to Mayo Clinic and felt more informed than I ever have been, even on dates.
“Oh, you don’t know the in’s and out’s of gluten-free? Well, let me educate you.”
“Oh, you’re going to take me to a non-gluten-free-friendly restaurant? I don’t think so.”
“You’re going to eat gluten in front of me? You better brush your teeth before you get a kiss from me.”
I was finally in charge of my health and I didn’t let dating get in the way! I started off my introductions with new guys as “I’m a celiac – that means I eat gluten-free. No wheat, rye, or barley. No, it’s not that bad, there’s plenty of places for us to eat!”
I began to feel confident again, and realized that someone who was going to love me was going to love me for all of me – even the weird food and the cookies that always crumbled because they had no elasticity.
But, alas, several relationships ended, as I’m just terrible at dating (but apparently really good at asking if fries are cooked in the same fryer as chicken nuggets now). After a while I was beginning to think that I was just going to be alone in my lifelong autoimmune disease, and really thought about adopting a few cats.
But then I met him – my Non-GFBF. I came in with the confidence of a champion and laid the wooing on thick. We started dating and I realized something awesome about this one. He 100% genuinely cared about my health, my diet, and everything about gluten-free. He praised me for doing something that “normal” people think is so tough – giving up all the great things we eat and subbing them for…ahem, more interesting versions of the products.
He began to start eating only gluten-free things when we went out for dinner. He started going shopping with me to natural marketplaces, and preparing meals together that we both could eat. He learned how to bake gluten-free, and even surprised me after a long flight home with a GF pizza at the airport he made from scratch. I had never found someone who was so willing to sacrifice his own gluten happiness for a relationship. 10 months later, we’re still going strong and now live together in a 99% gluten-free household (Seriously cats?!?! Why can’t you eat gluten-free food!).
He almost never ever eats gluten in front of me unless it’s an emergency (cookies are sometimes considered an emergency) and tries to keep his gluten relegated to occasional lunches at his office – far far away from me. He brushes his teeth as soon as he gets home so I don’t have to worry about cross-contamination. He gave up beer and has switched to New Planet or Green’s when the mood fits him for a lager. He is practically a celiac – but he’s 100% amazing.
I am so lucky to have someone who puts up with everything it means to be a Celiac – restricted diet, crazy anxiety, more expensive groceries, crowded expos and strange restaurants. I’m so madly in love with him, and who he is as a person. His momma should be very proud.
Was that meant to be braggadocios? No, it was meant to inspire all of you single Celiacs/gluten-sensitives out there that this is someone out there for you.
And you can find someone who’s willing to embrace your special trait and celebrate it with you, not make you feel timid and afraid to be you (and healthy) out on a date! Not all of them are going to go gluten-free for you (I mean, can you blame them?), but they will be respectful of your diet and follow rules to make sure that you’re not glutenated and sick.