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Dating with Food Allergies

By Natascia Simone, FAACT College/Young Adult Council Member

How many of you (or your teens) are afraid to talk about food allergies with a person you just started dating? I think almost everyone is raising their hand to that question. It’s true! Bringing something so personal to a conversation on a first date is nerve wracking. So I’d like to discuss how it can be done and some benefits (yes, a positive) that can come from showing your vulnerabilities.

I have managed to carry on a healthy relationship for almost three years with someone I now consider my best friend. I can still remember the butterflies I felt in my stomach the moment he asked me out on a date. I was excited but also terrified of how I would tell him about my food allergies. It really does affect the entire date-planning process. He couldn’t just pick any restaurant. I couldn’t just say, “I’ll have what he’s having” like you see in the movies. And I most certainly could not end the date with a kiss not knowing what was in his meal!

Some people with food allergies may think that this issue can wait until the second or third date or that you can just order a simple grilled chicken and veggies dish and be safe. The truth is, you can’t. Food allergies must be discussed on the first date so none of the above will occur, potentially causing an allergic reaction to take place when no one around you knows what is happening or what to do.

I look at the positive aspect of this. A food-allergic person opening up about something so personal leaves the other individual feeling special because you were not afraid or embarrassed to discuss this matter with him or her.

I have learned from experience that this IS the best option. The times I was afraid to discuss my allergy with a date, I was anxious the entire dinner – and there was no second date. With my current boyfriend, I decided I would build up the courage and try things a little differently. I actually called him the day before our first date and explained all the details of my allergies, the severity of food allergies, and what needs to be done in case a reaction occurs. The response I received was unexpected and endearing. We chose a restaurant together, and the next night he picked me up 15 minutes early so I could show him how to use an epinephrine auto-injector. Right away there was a bond that showed his respect for me, and we shared some laughs when practicing with the trial epinephrine auto-injector. Our relationship began to build instantly. He then opened up to me about some personal aspects in his life, as well!

I no longer view food allergies as a burden, but as a gift. It allows those of us with food allergies to build a sense of trust with individuals faster than the norm. It takes time to get to this place of comfort, but with my quick tips below, you will see immediate benefits. I promise!

Quick Tips on Dating and Food Allergies:

  • Call the person the day before the date – don’t text!

  • Explain in detail your food allergy, the severity of your allergy, and other important details.

  • Choose a restaurant together.

  • Demonstrate the epinephrine auto-injector in-person.

  • Make sure what he or she is eating is safe, too (if you want a first date kiss!)

  • Be serious, but also instill humor when appropriate to calm your date’s nerves!

  • BE HONEST, and there will be a second date!

Happy Dating!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natascia Simone is in her senior year at Western New England University, majoring in Marketing Communications and Advertising with a minor in Entrepreneurship. After graduation, she plans to open her own “allergy-friendly” bakery that also serves items that are gluten-free. Natascia is currently Miss Mountain Laurel 2014, an official preliminary of the Miss America Organization, and will be competing for Miss Connecticut 2014 this June! In this position, she has spoken to students throughout her community about her platform, “Food Allergy Awareness: Be Aware, Share and Prepare.” Natascia is determined to address the disconnect between the customer and the server when dining out, the student and teacher when attending school, and the individuals who have a food allergy and the people who are part of their lives.

Natascia founded the "Keep It Safe, In Every Place" program in 2013, which is dedicated to promoting food allergy awareness in schools and restaurants. She also served as a camp counselor for Camp TAG (The Allergy Gang) and serves now as a College/Young Adult Council Member for FAACT (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team). She understands living with a food allergy and continues to make sure others understand what can be done to save a life when an allergic reaction occurs – or better yet how, to prevent an allergic reaction from ever happening.