Pippa’s first date with a food allergy

by Pippa Stacey

Photo for article on first date with a food allergy. Person with long blonde hair, red lipstick and glasses pulls away from another person with short hair trying to kiss her.
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We've reached that point in the evening where the timing is right, they lean in, and… well, we have to stop them right there. If there's even the smallest risk of an allergen being anywhere near us, this isn't going any further.

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©nicoletaionescu / Adobe Stock

First dates can be a somewhat terrifying experience for anybody, but going on a first date with a food allergy there’s a whole world of other issues to contend with.

For those of us dealing with food allergies, there’s a whole world of other issues to contend with. From rigorous preparation ahead of time to confronting the first kiss situation head-on, it’s unsurprising we often think we should have given the restaurant a miss and just gone to the LaserQuest instead. Here’s a run-down of events as they typically happen on a first date with a food allergy…

Conducting in-depth background checks into potential meeting places

So they’ve suggested a restaurant they think you’ll love. Instead of browsing their menu and evaluating how Instagrammable it is before committing, instead, you commence your in-depth research into the entire establishment. What allergens are used in the kitchen? What processes do they have in place? Can they accommodate multiple allergy orders? Are they outwardly judging me for this onslaught of inquiries over email?

It’s an absolute necessity to scrutinize any restaurant’s online allergy book in advance, to within an inch of its life, too. It’s best practice to select your entire meal, plus back-up options, before even leaving the house. Believe me, trying to decipher that squashed-up matrix of vague information in the restaurant allergy book while attempting to keep up your end of the conversation with a person of interest? No easy feat.

Trying to style out your medical equipment.

It’s no secret that EpiPens and auto-adrenaline injectors, as essential and brilliant as they are, are hefty old things to carry about with you. When it comes to picking an outfit, that petite little clutch bag, you had your eye on doesn’t stand a chance. What with two adrenaline devices and an abundance of antihistamines on your person, you’d be hard pushed not to find us rocking up with a suitcase on wheels.

Performing your rehearsed speech when ordering food

So you’ve made it to the meeting place and said your hellos… now comes the moment we know all too well: the well-known routine of placing the food order. You take a breath, make eye contact with the server, declare your allergens before ordering, laugh apologetically at whatever well-intentioned but typically ill-informed comment they make in response. Then pause for breath, nod understandingly and noncommittally while they emphasize they can’t guarantee that any of their food is allergen-free, and discreetly warn you not to sue the establishment should you have a reaction and be hospitalized as a result. You thank them politely for their borderline competence in the matter, and check your date hasn’t done a runner. And… if they haven’t, breathe. That’s the hard part over now, right?

The Intolerance Debate

If the good old allergies vs intolerances debate is going to crop up in conversation, it tends to be around now. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, you’ll find yourself on a date with ‘one of those’ people who subscribe to the theory that severe allergies are the same as intolerances. Not the debilitating and legitimate kind of intolerances which cause so many people to suffer, but the specific kind of intolerances that have become something of a fashion statement in recent years.

We take a moment to compose ourselves, and patiently explain that, unlike many modern celebrities and influencers, you can’t ‘just have a little bit’ of an allergen that will end your life on a special occasion, despite that being what your sister’s friend’s second-cousin does. And no, now is not the time to test that theory, thanks very much for asking.

Delivering covert EpiPen training

If the potential partner’s made it this far, and you think they actually might seem like a decent human being, now comes the time to train the person you’ve literally just met in emergency first aid. There’s no way to make ‘by the way, I might die without this’ sound even remotely seductive, take it from me, but this one’s important. Say it with me now: blue to the sky, orange to the thigh…

Establishing the longevity of the potential relationship based on their dietary habits

Let’s be honest, by saying ‘so tell me about yourself,’ what we REALLY want to know is their family’s medical history, culinary likes and dislikes, and an in-depth analysis of their daily eating habits.


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If they’re a complete dairy addict? No thank you, I don’t think we should do this again. It’s not you… it’s the cow’s milk. On the other hand, if they’re not so keen on one of your red flag foods, they’re a ready-made soulmate. There’s nothing like bonding over mutual allergens.

The first kiss mood-kill we all know and love

We’ve reached that point in the evening where the timing is right, they lean in, and… well, we have to stop them right there. If there’s even the smallest risk of an allergen being anywhere near us, this isn’t going any further. Stopping at that very moment to ask whether they’ve been near any nuts that day can be somewhat misleading, but unless you’d like our second date to be in the back of an ambulance, it’s something of a necessity.

And there we have it: a brief introduction to a first date with a food allergy. It’s never been more important to acknowledge the challenges of living with severe allergies and that anaphylaxis can be fatal and absolutely devastating.

However, in my eyes, it’s equally as important to find the humor in these situations too, and help others to learn by sharing our own experiences. Now, where’s the free-from pizza at?


Article by Pippa Stacey

Pippa Stacey is a psychology graduate based in Yorkshire. She currently splits her time between freelance writing, working in community management and digital marketing for a disability charity, as well as running her own social enterprise: Spoonie Survival Kits.

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