So much social interaction today revolves around eating: dinner out, meeting for a drink and appetizers, making a meal for each other, attending parties, meeting his/her friends or family for a meal. It’s a challenge for a gluten-intolerant person to not only date, but also try to keep themselves safe and healthy without appearing “high maintenance.” You can diminish the stress by having a plan.
First, whether you’re on a date or at a party, it is ALWAYS your responsibility to make sure you are eating safe foods, regardless of the situation. Making eating choices so you don’t hurt someone’s feelings is understandable, unless you have celiac disease (CD).
When to tell a date that you are gluten-intolerant should ideally be done upfront, before you are going to eat together. Here are a couple ways to let your date know that you can’t eat gluten:
Your date: Hey would you like to join me and some friends at Papa Murphy’s for a pizza after the meeting?
You: Yes, I’d love to. Sounds really fun. But, just so you know I have CD so I can’t eat wheat at all or else I get super sick. But I am sure there is something there that will be fine to eat. Are you familiar with celiac disease?
Your date: No, I’m not. Wow that really is a bummer that you can’t have pizza!
You: Actually it is so great to know what was causing health problems for me. It’s really liberating and not a big deal, I just have to be careful.
Scenario # 2
Your date: I’d love to have you over for dinner. I make an incredible lasagna and garlic bread that is just out of this world. Do you have plans on Friday?
You: No, I don’t have plans and I’d love to have dinner with you. I am the biggest Italian food fan! I’ve had to learn how to adapt my favorite recipes to be gluten-free. I have CD so I can’t eat wheat, barely or rye, but you’d be amazed at how many awesome gluten-free bread and pasta products there are. What do you say I make you lasagna and garlic bread and bring it over so you can taste for yourself?
Once you bring up the fact that you are gluten-intolerant, avoid the “victim” scenario and discuss your restrictions in a positive manner. This demonstrates self-confidence. It’s great to take the initiative to explain or educate someone about your food restriction. A quick concise overview works best. If the other person seems fidgety or like they’re not paying attention, that may be a “red flag" and a great opportunity for you to evaluate the other person’s suitability to spend your time with.
Signs that your date has empathy, integrity and compassion:
- It’s a bonus point if your date does some homework about CD or gluten sensitivity after it comes up in conversation and has a little bit of knowledge and even asks you questions about it.
- After ordering food, if your date makes certain that what you ordered is safe, that’s a compassion point.
- If your date accepts you as you are and refrains from making fun of you, that’s an integrity point.
- By the third or fourth date, if your date calls a restaurant or family friend who’s having you over for dinner and inquires whether or not there will be gluten-free choices for you, that’s a daily double.
Now that the communication part is over, before heading out to restaurant together it might be good to have your date over to your house and make them a meal. This way they can get a sense of what type of foods are safe for you to eat, and the type of foods that are in your fridge and pantry. Not only does this meal setting serve as a great way to teach someone about a gluten-free diet (taking the potential stress off them) but also you’ll have less stress knowing you won’t be getting an exposure to gluten.
Or, if going out, offer to choose the restaurant and go with one that you know serves gluten-free items on their menu, as well as lots of other delicious items that might appeal to your date. If the restaurant has already been selected, look the menu up online and see if there are items you can safely eat. If the menu isn’t listed, call the restaurant and inquire. (See Eating Out.)
Now, you’ve made it past a couple dates and it’s time to meet the friends and family. Here is another common scenario and how to deal with it.
Scenario # 3:
You arrive at your date’s sister’s house for a double date. You’ve only met her once and really like her. When you walk in she is really excited because she made her very favorite comfort food: homemade mac and cheese and she can’t wait for you to try it.
This is where preventive steps really come in. You want to let your date know before going to anyone’s home for dinner that you have CD, this really reduces stress and potential disappointment for all parties. Always offer to bring food to the party so you know you’ll have something safe, and bring a copy of the recipe to share.
But say the prep part didn’t happen. Now what?
You: Oh my gosh that looks and smells amazing. I didn’t know you were such a good cook! I am so sorry that I didn’t let you know ahead of time that I have CD so I can’t eat wheat or else I get pretty sick. But I brought this delicious salad as well and am so happy to be here. Thanks again for having me.
Turn lemons into lemonade, see how your date does when there’s reason for looking outside of themselves, and they’re trying to understand the person sitting across the table. That’s an empathy point. By successfully communicating ahead of time you will make meal times much easier so you can focus on what’s most important: getting to know each other. (See Looking for Mr. Gluten-Tolerant)