Gluten-Free Dating: What's A Single Celiac To Do?
For most of us, finding love is an important part of finding happiness. We want someone to share our hopes, dreams, successes, and even our sorrows. But gluten-free dating is not always easy. What's a single celiac to do?
When do I say "I'm celiac"?
The virtual world is now the go-to place for many celiac singles. Up to 60% of online daters report positive experiences, and more than 1 in 10 users even find a spouse. Online dating services work, as do the old-fashioned ways like introductions from friends and family, or meeting someone at a club, association, or even work.
When you set up your profile, do you include your celiac status? Request celiac-only matches? Or do you keep it in your back pocket, for revealing it at the right time?
The answer to these questions depends on the role that your celiac disease plays in your life. Is it at the center of everything you do, as it is for many highly sensitive celiacs? Or have you found another way of living with it?
If you don't put it out there in your profile, or you meet someone IRL, when do you spill the beans? Among single celiacs, the debate continues.
Some people slide it right in at the beginning: " Hi, I'm Melissa, I'm a 36-year-old architect, celiac, with a Golden Retriever named Pumpkinhead. I love hiking, biking and science fiction."
Others prefer to wait until they know more about the person; they may say nothing about their celiac disease until the second, third, or even fifth date.
I tend to wait, unless the topic naturally arises. I'd rather not obscure a man's first impression of me in a cloud of rice flour. But I understand wanting to talk about it sooner, not later. If the person reacts badly, why waste another minute on them?
What's a first date without food?
So many first dates are about food. Whether you're introduced to someone over dinner with friends, or have your first IRL date after a few online or phone conversations, the default first date seems to be brunch, lunch, or dinner.
And with this default first date can come some epic fails: The rolled eyes. The date who makes fun of you, or insists that celiac disease isn't "real," or that their cousin/friend/great-great-uncle has celiac disease and was cured by apple cider and harmonic vibrations. Or worse, your date tries to pressure you into eating something unsafe. Whole meals can be consumed with conversations focused on your celiac disease, until you feel like a zoo exhibit, "Celiacus exoticus."
Is it really best to venture into this minefield with a stranger on the first date? I think not.
Take control and take food out of the date. Find something non-food to do that you both enjoy. Most of life is not lived at the table. Why do most dates have to be?
Fun food-free dates
Cool food-free dates are all around you. Just find something you both like to do, and do it together.
Nature lovers can go on walks, join a group for an expedition, visit public gardens or zoos. History buffs can visit a nearby historic spot. History is everywhere: the museum you've been meaning to visit, heritage or landmark home tours, and more. Check out your favorite tourist website and see what your town has to offer.
Art lovers can do the same. Search Trip Advisor or google for the best museums and murals, and for galleries and exhibitions. Or take a walking tour of the best wall art in your town. You might discover new neighborhoods.
Sporty types can go on hikes or bike rides, go skiing or do whatever sport you share an interest in. Play a game of tennis and see how competitive the other person is.
What you do is not important. Just have some fun together!
When it's time for the talk
And then, whenever the time feels right to you, have the talk, whatever that means for you. You might learn something very important about this new person. They might be more understanding, sympathetic, or even interested than you could ever have imagined!
What if it's a disaster? We all see the chatter on social media: "He laughed at me." "She kept insisting one bite wouldn't hurt me." "He just didn't get it." Sadly, right along with those stories come comments like "I felt so small." "I felt ashamed" or "I cried right there in the restaurant- he made me feel picky and childish."
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
Eleanor Roosevelt supposedly said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." So stop consenting!
If this person can't respect the boundaries in your life, kick them to the curb and walk away, head high. You deserve better. And I say this as a woman who, when newly diagnosed and still figuring it out, left the man I thought was the love of my life, partly because of his response to my celiac disease. There are many more fish in the sea, just as attractive as this one. You do NOT have to put up with this crap.
Gluten Free. Got it!
Now, let's assume you've brought up the topic, at the time and in a way that feels right for you. The conversation has gone well, and your date has been generally all around OK about it. Now what?
Well, now just get on with it! Put your celiac disease in whatever part of your relationship it belongs, whether that's front and center, only briefly discussed at mealtimes, or anywhere in between. Then go on and build the rest of the relationship. Find common interests, share experiences, meet each others' friends...all the usual stuff. If it works out, congratulations! If doesn't cut your losses and move on.
For most singles, dating is part of life. For celiacs, our dietary needs are part of that life, and not something we should feel pressured to hide or compromise about. Part means just that: just one aspect, not the whole kit and caboodle, not the entirety of who we are. So put your celiac disease in its place and enjoy your dating adventures!