Dear Baroness, I think I'm a bit high maintenance, when should I tell my date my issues?
I have a kind of boring yet important-to-me question. I have lots of dietary restrictions/allergies and a few other personal issues you might consider weird and am single. I want to go on dates but don’t want to bore a potential date with all my body’s workings too soon, you know?
What shall I tell them and when?
No meat, no dairy, no garlic, no sugar, no fun.
Darling boring (no fun),
Oh dear me, I’m terribly sorry. That’s not at all kind and not at all what I meant to write. But here we are and I’ve not edited it out …. I guess I’m being a bit judgmental.
There are many things to discuss here: How soon to tell someone you’re dating about a potential deal breaker or at least a game changer and if it’s any of their business or not and then the details about what this eating thing is, because, believe me, people will ask and want to know why.
There are many diet fads and eating habits. There are those who are vegetarians or vegan for political or health reasons and those who just prefer not to eat meat. These are choices but not necessarily dictated by one’s health (though I know this point can surely be argued).
If you have a medical condition like Crohn’s or Celiac Disease then yes, this is a real problem. If you are sensitive to gluten (many people are) or lactose intolerant, then these are real things too, though it would not kill you to eat gluten or have milk. You may feel horrid after but you can have it.
No one wants to be the person who has to call attention to themselves by asking what is in everything on the menu. And the people around you likely won’t love it either. Sometimes it’s a cute affectation - like when your aged Aunt Helen, who lived in India for years and changed her name to Sultana and only eats non-processed food, asks the waiter to bring the package of every non-house-made ingredient to make sure it’s to her liking/standards/health rules. For the one time a year you need to dine with her, it’s somehow endearing.
As I see it, you really have two choices: you can steer the dating or you can just talk about your issues up front. By steer the dating, I mean that you can suggest non-food focused dates at first and then you can offer to cook or go to restaurants where you know you have options. After you have determined that this person with whom you’ve been spending time is kind and understanding, then there should be no problem telling them about your issues. Any person worth their salt will be supportive and may even be interested in trying to learn more about your challenges and how they can help you.
We all have things we are scared about sharing with a new person in our lives and there is always the question of how much is too much to share and when. This is something you have to feel. A good rule of thumb, of course, is not to share all the gory details of your ingrown toenails and your penchant for eating Big Macs in bed on the first date. As my mama always said, “Always leave ‘em wanting more.” I think she was referring to things of a more sexual nature, but the lesson fits here as well. Mystery is a good thing. Don’t forget this. So is honesty. And you can be both mysterious and honest. Trust me. And it works a charm.
I am of the opinion that if you have a food preference or intolerance or allergy, that you take care of you. Order what you want and need. Ask about the ingredients. Don’t be foolish with your health in an attempt at being less high-maintenance.
But I also think that you must not assume the world owes it to you to change their ways of eating. If you are, for example, staying in a chalet on a ski holiday and you are the only one of ten people who is vegetarian and each person cooks one night, that does not mean that everyone has to cook a vegetarian meal. You are responsible for your special needs. Some people might provide a vegetarian option, but you should not assume or expect one.
Not everyone agrees with this. I’ve gotten into some heated arguments on this topic, but I’m not backing down on this one.
So there you have it. Take care of you. Don’t share everything in the first five minutes and remember, everyone has their proclivities - things someone else might deem weird or high maintenance. Everyone. We’re all scared to open up and share who we really are, warts and all, as they say. But it’s also our silly little isms and otherness that make us unique and that’s how we fall for a person. “I’d like a shell of a human with no brain, no soul and no heart,” said no one ever. Fly your freak flag and see who joins in your parade.
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