Struggles Only People With Food Allergies Understand
There’s a reason things like meetup groups for people with gluten sensitivity and dating sites for the lactose intolerant exist: individuals with food allergies need to be able to talk to someone who understands them. If you have food allergies, then you probably know people who don’t have them can think you’re high maintenance or “making things up.” Some people think, “You just have to avoid bread. Is it really that isolating?” Yes, yes it is. Every potluck is a landmine, shared-cooktop restaurants like Korean barbecue spots are riddled with anxiety and going over to someone’s house for dinner puts you in a situation where you feel like you’re being rude when you’re just trying to stay alive. So let those with food allergies have their online dating sites; there are thousands of others for the rest of us. Here are struggles only people with food allergies understand.
The airplane meal
As if you don’t have enough to keep in mind when preparing for a trip, if you forget to request the gluten-free or lactose-free meal before the day of the flight, then the airline likely won’t have a spare one lying around. That means you just get to starve on the plane, or hope you grabbed a snack in the airport.
You’re the utensil police
If you have a severe food allergy, then, should a knife that simply touched the allergen touch your food, you’ll have a reaction. That means that at family-style meals, you have to watch everyone closely and run interference if you see someone using the same knife on the butter as they did on the bread.
When people make you dinner…
When your friend invites you over for dinner, you feel like such a jerk because you have to monitor her every move in the kitchen, asking what she’s putting in the bowl now and what she’s sprinkling on the chicken there. She’s just trying to do a nice thing for you, and you feel like you’re taking over.
You’re that person at the restaurant
You can feel your friends rolling their eyes when you ask the server a dozen questions. But you aren’t just trying to avoid butter to cut calories or request they separate your veggies from your starch because you’re picky; you’re trying to avoid a medical event.
No, you can’t split the bill
You go out to dinner with friends and everyone except for you shares several plates, family-style. You can’t do that because they order things you’re allergic to. But when the bill comes, they all just want to split it. You have to awkwardly point out that you didn’t partake in the nachos, flatbread, buffalo cauliflower or shishito peppers—you just had a cobb salad to yourself.
Surprise food gifts are the worst
It breaks your heart when a friend, coworker or someone new you’re dating surprises you with lunch at the office, or a birthday cupcake, and you have to tell them you can’t eat it. This happens more than you like to admit.
You’ve eaten it to make people happy
The really sad thing is that you have, in fact, eaten the thing to which you’re allergic because you didn’t have the heart to tell your great grandma, who got up at 5 in the morning to make what she thought was your favorite childhood dish, that you couldn’t eat the lasagna because you’re allergic. So you ate it, and suffered the consequences for days.
You eat at special restaurants alone
You have found restaurants that cater to your food allergy, but you refuse to ask your friends to join you there—you know they’re just going to be comparing the food to “real pizza” or “real shrimp” and that will ruin the experience for you. So you dine at these restaurants by yourself.
All your gifts relate to your allergy
It’s very thoughtful that your friends think about your condition, but they’ve now given you a full library’s worth of cookbooks catering to your food allergy and gifts cards to the restaurant that caters to it, too. Sometimes, you wouldn’t mind a massage or a piece of jewelry.
Buffets are no fun
If your friends get it into their heads that they want to go to a buffet for dinner, you don’t get much out of it. The whole point of buffets is being able to try a dozen things, but you can only eat, like, two things there. And yet, you still have to pay the full buffet price.
Fakers are annoying
You know the ones—they’re cutting out the food to which you’re genuinely allergic, all so they can lose weight or appear cool or who knows what. You cannot imagine why somebody would choose to live the way you have to live.
You can’t accept free drinks
You probably can’t accept the cocktail the cute guy across the bar sent you, or the shot off the tray of shots your friend just bought for everybody. You look like a total killjoy, but you really just don’t want to kill your stomach.
Ordering at a busy bar
Speaking of bars, really busy ones are your worst nightmare. You have to fight for the bartender’s attention and when you get it, he does not have the time for you to ask if the well vodka is potato or grain-based. You usually just have to stick to the one boring but safe drink you know of.
Grocery shopping takes forever
You have to read every label very carefully so as to make sure it won’t send you to the emergency room. Your friends want to go grocery shopping or hit up the farmer’s market together because “It’ll be fun” but you know they’re just going to get annoyed by how slow you move.
Traveling is very dangerous
If you visit a metropolitan area, you can likely find a restaurant that caters to your needs or at least a serving staff that is very familiar with food allergies. But if you visit towns in the middle of nowhere, third world countries, or any place where you don’t speak the language, you’re practically asking for a medical emergency.