I’ve had The Talk (like here) countless times with new men I'm dating. It’s the one that goes: “I have food allergies. I’m allergic to tree nuts and fish. This is what the symptoms would look like and here is my anaphylaxis action plan. I carry emergency medication; here’s what I would use when. And don’t worry, probably nothing will happen.”
But most often, as adult with food allergies her entire life, The Talk isn’t a main source of social anxiety.* It’s all the thoughts, fears and feelings around the reaction actuality. For example, what happens if I have any kind of allergic reaction (mild, moderate or severe) around this new person? I have feelings just thinking about that possibility. How to start That Talk?
When I’m in doubt about how to have or start a conversation, I think through the very essentials of what I need to express and then I jump in with compassion in my heart and an even vocal tone. If I overthink it or over complicate that initial conversation with too many options, scenarios or tangential strands of thoughts or fears or worries, for a new person, well, it overwhelms them (and frankly, overwhelms me, too).
A new date, a man in my case, wants to know my feelings; however, initially, they really seem to want, and be able to process, the essentials: what’s the problem, what can they do, what do they need to do and/or how can they help or assist or solve. Sound familiar?
Major Nota Bene: the above statement is totally and utterly a generalization of how men think and feel. Everyone is an individual. However, you have to start somewhere. More nuanced, tailored conversations can happen later but so often it’s simply about opening the door and that can be the scariest part. My advice: get to what you want and need and jump in. There will be mistakes that's okay. A little like this creative philosophy from John Lasseter, founder of Pixar.
How I opened the door with this date was to remind him of the factual food allergy Talk we had and then to add in a few more details like: "I may be nervous to eat in front of you at a new, untested place" or "I may feel awkward or embarrassed if something does happen" (reminding him again what symptoms might be). I gave one possible scenario/example and then I gave ideal solutions: how he could help best or what kind of support I’d need. (I’m leaving these parts intentionally vague so you can fill in your own challenges and solutions.)
He engaged me in a conversation about my emotional relationship to food allergies and ultimately, I believe, this conversation helped him to get a better sense of where I was coming from, how my feelings may effect my behaviors around food and social gatherings and most importantly, it was another opportunity for us to get to know each other better. Which is the whole point.
The Food Allergy Talk is factual, brief and informational.
How to get to the feelings beyond The Talk: add one example of your concerns using feeling words behind the facts, illustrate with one scary (to you) possible scenario; be honest, forthcoming and keep it simple.
*I talk about how to have a successful Talk in my book Allergic Girl and in this e-chapter that you can download for .99 cents.