Today’s Debrief is with Ellen Allard, who responded to one of my tweets seeking summer date stories. She asked instead to write about the challenges she has faced upon returning to the dating scene following a celiac disease diagnosis.
Let’s just say you met someone you wanted to date; maybe they even knocked your socks off. And let’s just say that said person, at some point, told you there could be no kissing unless you brushed your teeth, flossed, and then rinsed with mouthwash. No matter that your heart skipped a beat when you thought about, let alone were in the presence of, said person. Would you turn and run the other way?
At one point, I might’ve run.
But now I am that person, the one who cannot be kissed unless the above-mentioned “kissing prescription” is followed to the letter of the law. You see, if I encounter even a crumb of gluten on my lips or in my mouth, the damage to my small intestine will begin anew. And after everything I went through to heal, I won’t take that risk again.
In the beginning, shortly after my celiac disease diagnosis, my then-husband and I met with a dietician from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who specialized in counseling patients newly diagnosed with celiac disease. She delivered the kissing prescription to him. After a few months of following her orders, he went completely gluten-free so he didn’t have to brush, floss, rinse, and repeat.
We’re not married any longer, and now I’m the one faced with having to deliver the kissing prescription to new potential partners, without any help from a dietician. Not that I’ve had that many opportunities. Dating at 58? It’s not so easy. The idea of a matchmaker is looking pretty appealing.
According to my two adult daughters, my online profile shouldn’t include anything about me having celiac disease, for fear of turning men away. So I’ve danced around it. Instead, in my profile I say that gluten is an issue but it never stops me from living. In all honesty, that doesn’t even remotely capture the ways in which celiac disease has turned my life upside down and inside out.
For my first JDate encounter, I made the mistake of meeting my date for dinner. (I’ve since been counseled by my friends and daughters to only meet for coffee or a drink on the first date.) There was gluten involved (on his part), and when we walked out of the restaurant, I prayed that he wouldn’t try to kiss me—in part because of the gluten issue, but also because he was a total loser. (I mean, come on, when the bill arrived and I reached for my wallet, he asked if I’d see him again and said that if I would, he’d pay for dinner. Blech. See what I mean? Dating at 58. Oy.)
There were a few others, but hardly worth mentioning. Then I was introduced to someone through mutual friends. So far, he knows I can’t eat gluten, but I’ve avoided kissing like the plague. I subtly move out of kissing range before there’s even a smidge of a chance our lips could meet. Instead, I give a sisterly hug intended to communicate that kissing won’t be an option. All of that so I don’t have to deal with the kissing prescription head-on. Or lips-on, in this case.
I recently had a wonderful discussion with him about honesty and being able to walk in your power without being afraid of being judged. How ironic and timely! And we weren’t even talking about kissing or anything in the neighborhood of physical intimacy—just about speaking your truth.
In order for me to move forward and deal with my situation, I know that I’ll have to speak my truth. I just hope that whoever is on the receiving end of the information won’t consider it a deal-breaker.
Meanwhile, I count my blessings each and every day. Kissing and hand-holding? I feel like I’m 15 all over again! Bring it on. And if some future potential partner is not willing to follow the kissing prescription, well, then, all I can say is too bad for him! I’ll just open the next JDate or Match.com email suggesting 24 possible matches for my next date.
Ellen Allard is the Gluten Free Diva, a holistic health coach, published recipe developer, cooking and baking instructor, and food writer-photographer-videographer specializing in gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-based recipes. On any given day, Ellen, who is also an award-winning recording artist, performer and educator, can also be found recording little snippets of songs she composes and ultimately records, sometimes at 3 a.m. on her iPhone. (Go here for her CD catalog.)
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