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How I Date With a Severe (Like, Deadly) Food Allergy

Oh, you want to kiss me? First, tell me exactly what you've eaten in the past four hours.

Hello, I’m Jenna, a 27-year old writer, Reiki healer, and nutrition adviser who also happens to have a severe dairy allergy as well as a corn allergy, gluten intolerance, IBS, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Sound like a mouthful? Yeah, it kind of is...and it also makes my dating life pretty interesting.

For starters, my chronic illnesses and food allergies make the obvious things like pizza and ice cream dates literally impossible. I also have to ask dates if they’ve eaten anything containing dairy within the past four hours—otherwise, there’s no way in hell I can let them kiss me. But dating has still been light, fun, and freaking enjoyable for both me and my dates, tyvm.

“You will never find someone who will be able to put up with your food allergies and health stuff better than I have,” my manipulative-AF ex-boyfriend of almost five years would always tell me. Unfortunately, I believed him for a long time. But then, I smartened up and dumped him.

Just this year alone, and against my ex’s odds, I’ve been out with roughly 35 potential boyfriends who made it through my swipe screenings. I’ve dated a couple of them seriously (aka went out with them for longer than a month) and slept with more men than I had before I even met my ex.

That said, ending up on a date with me takes several extra steps more than the average person who doesn’t have a severe allergy and/or chronic illness might realize. Allow me to explain my method:

It’s a hard Swipe Left on anyone who so much as mentions pizza or cheese in their bio. I don’t care if the man has Ryan Gosling good looks. If dairy means that much to a person that it makes it into their two-sentence dating-app bio, they’re probably not for me. They will also most likely think that not being able to eat dairy four hours prior to kissing me is a major hassle. Not my guy.

The whole “Let’s get food!” thing waits for a second or third date. Imagine how hard it is to truly get to know someone when you’re more concerned with whether your meal has been cross-contaminated or if you’re going to need to down five Benadryl or potentially stick yourself with an EpiPen.

But if a date does show up hungry, I can’t deny him food (I’m not a monster!). It just expedites the get-to-know-Jenna process fairly quickly. “Oh, you didn’t realize I can’t eat pizza? And that’s a deal breaker? Well, this is awkward....”

First-date kisses don’t happen until three or more hours in, so I can be sure they didn’t eat dairy right before we met up. Some men don’t realize certain things are dairy-laden, like dressings, butter, yogurt, fancy coffee drinks, and candy. SMH.

I also don’t kiss someone immediately upon seeing them—whether it’s the third date or the fifteenth. It doesn’t mean I don’t trust them, it means I’m a type A Virgo and humans make mistakes and forget things.

One time, I had an entire conversation during a date with a boy about my allergy. He seemed to understand, although he still ordered a quesadilla. At the end of the date, he tried to kiss me. Long story short: I dodged the kiss, he felt awkward, we had to have the whole “I AM ALLERGIC” conversation again, he felt butt-hurt for some unbeknownst reason, and I never heard from him again. Cool, cool.

Pizza and ice cream dates are impossible, but dating can still be light, fun, and, yes, enjoyable.

Another time, this one dude got to the café a little before me and ordered a blue cheese salad (gross) with glutinous croutons and lots and lots and lots of cheese. When I showed up, he continued to eat the salad even after I explained my allergy and told him I couldn’t have any.

From that point on, I was so consumed by making sure his blue cheese spit wasn’t flying into my wine or water glass that I couldn’t care less that he was eating in front of me. But the worst part? When he walked me home, he asked if he really couldn’t kiss me…twice. Yeah, buddy, as if I’d make up my allergy to get out of a g-night kiss? And then, the night ended in this fun little textual exchange:

But don’t worry about my single self: I’m doing juuust fine, and there are some definite positives that can come out of my “intricate” situation. Like, when I get to the point with someone after the first date who understands the allergy thing, isn’t bothered by it, and makes it fun, then it gets pretty flirty. See the receipts:

Honestly, what’s a better pickup line for me than: “So when do I need to stop eating dairy?”

Like everything in life, even weirdness can become routine. I’ve found my flow, my rhythm, what works for me, and I’ve understood that my dates probably have health stuff they’re consumed with too (more people have allergies and autoimmune conditions than you could imagine), which helps take a lot of the pressure off of me.

I’ve found that when I’m confident and living my truest self, and I stop thinking I’m an inconvenience for something I literally can’t control, my light shines through and others notice. I hold the power and the kisses, and if someone doesn’t understand my circumstances, they’re not worthy of my time...or a use of my EpiPen.