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05/30/2013 11:54 am ET | Updated Jul 30, 2013

What It's Like to Date When You're Allergic to Everything

By Marla Pachter for HowAboutWe

I have a lot of food allergies. Like, a lot. Whatever number you're thinking, double it. Then have an elephant sit on it. Peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, lentils, coconut, peas (and carrots!), apples, seafood, chickpeas, red meat... to name a fraction. I am, quite literally, a freak of nature. Luckily, I don't have any allergies of the throat closing variety, but they will shut me down for the day, either lying by the toilet or in a Benadryl coma.

Like most things in life, there are upsides and downsides. The down being illness and/or even potential death, and the up being never getting overwhelmed by the choices on a menu. For the most part though, it's other people who are bothered by my allergies. (Apparently it's a sin to be allergic to steak.)

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When you're dating, having a metric ton of food allergies can make things highly awkward. Let's say you're out at a bar and you're feeling kind of slutty (in the good way). There's a guy you're really getting along with, and you're not sure you ever want to see him again, but hot damn is he sexy and you do not want to leave without playing a little tonsil hockey with this Greek god.

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Now, let's say you're me. Despite a desire to make out with random strangers, I am completely incapable of doing so. Because instead of just going for it in the moment, I have to ask a question, seemingly out of nowhere:

Me: What have you eaten today?
Random Hot Dude (RHD): Uh... I'm sorry, what?
Me: (muffled)Er, what have you eaten today?
RHD: I don't know. Like, a pack of Skittles and three Red Bulls?
Me: Okay, we can make out now... although I think I'm less interested in you as a person.

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Worse, if they have eaten something I'm indeed allergic to, which is likely (elephant amount and whatnot), I now have to ask the poor guy to brush his teeth. AND THEN, I get to be the weirdo who has to-go toothbrushes in her purse, just in case she decides to make out with someone that night.

I did this once. True story. My friend was setting me up with his incredibly beautiful vision of a man friend who was in New York for one night, and one night only. But they came to the restaurant I worked at first, and I knew what he ate for dinner. It was not Marla-friendly. So after work on my way to the bar they were hanging out in, I stopped in a Walgreen's and bought some to-go toothbrushes for him. I felt gutsy when I purchased them, but the moment never felt quite right to say "Brush your teeth, I want to rub my face all over your face."

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The truth is, even if he is in the clear, I get neurotic and over-think everything. What if this guy is all brawn and no brains? What if a pack of Skittles and three Red Bulls isn't really everything he ate? I mean, let's face it, all that Red Bull has gotta have some repercussions on your brain cells. I could DIE trying to kiss this stranger. Yeah. No. Not happening, buddy.

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And what about first dates? Dear God, first dates. Let's ignore the fact that I'm deathly allergic to Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, and basically any other ethnic cuisines. (Not to mention, my body can't process alcohol, so I can't even drink to curb the awkwardness -- but that's a whole other story for a later post.) When a date begins, you don't know what's going to happen, and you don't want to make assumptions, either. So it's usually when he's halfway through his tutti frutti salmon (I can't eat seafood, so I have no clue -- that's a legit salmon dish, right?) that I mention I'm allergic to it.

First Date (FD): Want to try some of my tutti frutti salmon?
Me: Uh... actually, I'm allergic to seafood.
FD: No, you're not. You're allergic to shellfish.
Me: No, really. I'm allergic to all fish and sea creatures. People can be allergic to anything, you know.
FD: That's not true. My doctor says I'm allergic to my sister, but I think the hives are just a nervous reaction. She's super hot.

Okay, my allergies aren't the only problem with these dates sometimes.

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Even if my date isn't disturbed, now kissing is completely off the table for the evening. But what was I supposed to say? Three minutes into meeting a guy, and I'm all, "Hey if you wanna kiss me later, avoid these foods!" Then hand him a handy checklist. "If you are a polite gentleman and don't want to kiss me on the first date, I respect that, too. I even like that quite a bit. You can order the tutti frutti salmon if you really want it."

If only life were like a movie, and I could just magically end up in the emergency room next to the man of my dreams, who has the same laundry list full of allergies. We have everything in common, and we understand the importance of full mouth brushing before a good make out session. Hey, wait. That's not actually a bad idea. Gotta kiss a few poisonous tree frogs to find your prince, I guess.

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