I have a lot of the same conversations. There is one in particular that I can pretty much autopilot my way through. Once I see that the other party has a tiny grasp on my life and is ready to move on, I reengage. It goes something like this: Me: Well, I have celiac disease. So I have to eat gluten-free.
Him: Oh wow. Seriously? How do you even do it? I couldn't live without pizza and beer! What do you eat?
Me: *Insert canned response about it not being so bad, thankful for my health, able to eat more than you'd think... blah, blah*
And once I see the mixed look of disbelief, horror and pity leave his face, I change the conversation and the whole bit is usually over for at least five minutes. Until he realizes I can't have fried pickles or something, and the cycle repeats.
But recently I went on a date where this conversation didn't happen at all. In fact, we didn't even get to celiac disease until about an hour or two into the date.
For a while I was pretty impressed. I had successfully navigated drink ordering with a sexy selection of red wine, and it was too late to order food so I bypassed that whole "what are the gluten free items on the menu?" bit. This was definitely a new record.
But in this date's Second Act I accidentally walked into "The Beer Talk" as I like to call it. Maybe you all are familiar with this, but The Beer Talk is basically a "who's coolest?" competition masked by semi-genuine interest in the local craft variety, and the whole point is to like what no one else likes and to convince them that their selection is wrong and your hoppy whatever trumps everything.
In a one-on-one setting I can usually avoid The Beer Talk, because whomever I'm with already knows I have zilch to contribute. But this fella didn't. We hadn't had the "I'm Celiac. Now You Freak Out About It." talk yet. And when we finally did, it went something like this:
Him: *Rambles on about all the beers on the menu in an obvious one-man discourse*
Me: Yeah I bet a lot of those are good. I actually can't drink beer though.
Him: Psh, yes you can. Why not? Like it gives you a stomach ache or something?
Me: No, I really can't. Like I'm celiac.
Him: Oh. I guess that's kind of serious.
Yep. Then we moved on.
No other questions asked. No freak out about what I can and can't eat. No questions about how long I've known or if I miss donuts or anything. The only mention that even came close to any further conversation about it was that he noticed my cider was the same color as his beer... Yep.
And as the date continued I sat there asking myself what I was upset about. Wasn't this what I'd been wanting? To go out with someone new and not have celiac disease dominate the entire conversation? If that's what I'd wanted why was I feeling offended now?
I know this is a classic case of "the grass is always greener" but I think it was more than that for me. My disease is a big, huge, fat-guy-in-a-little-jacket part of my life, and I want people to know about it. I want them to know that I'm better off for it. I want them to know that knowing I have it saved my life. I want them to know that I appreciate so much more, on so many levels, because of it. I want them to know that it's helped make me who I am.
Maybe this guy just didn't know how to react, or maybe he was trying to be sensitive about it for me. I'm sure he's not nearly the antagonist I've just made him to be. But I learned something about myself through this date. I want to talk about it. I want to go on autopilot and help him navigate through the list of things I can't eat. I want to see those facial expressions relax after he's processed it, and I want to throw a big ol' smile at the look of pity he'll give me when he sees what gluten-free buns look like.
I want to talk about it. At least, a little bit.