Last August, I sat in a small, hipster art-gallery-turned-bar in the west end of Toronto. It was a friend’s birthday and everyone was gathered around a bunch of tiny tables. It was fun… until the cake came out.
Not just any ordinary cake. A huge, rectangular white cake. With coloured, frosted flowers. The kind of birthday cake you get as a kid, that you special order from the local supermarket, the cake that you look forward to all year. You never cheat and have it any other time except for your special day, even though of course you could. That’s just not done. It’s the cake you dream about.
This was my own birthday cake. Until I couldn’t eat it anymore.
Usually I’m okay with the fact that I have food allergies. At first, in the first six months of giving up gluten, dairy, and eggs (which I’ve introduced back into my diet but only in the form of baking), I mourned the loss of pizza and those huge blueberry muffins from Starbucks and most of all, nachos. I lived for nachos, piles and piles of them, and basically overdosed on them whenever I met friends for a drink. My first week on my elimination diet, my new way of eating, I met journalism school friends at a bar on Friday night. And they literally ordered everything I couldn’t eat: quesellidas with melty, gooey cheese, pita bread and dip, and nachos.
There was a certain loneliness to that evening. I was confronted with what I wasn’t supposed to eat. And I didn’t. I focused on my glass of wine and tried to get over myself. It wasn’t such a big deal — lots of people suffer from food allergies.
Another lonely moment? Last August, when that huge cake came out. Normally I don’t mind when people eat gluten and sugar and dairy in front of me, because life is too short to be upset about things that you can’t change, and of course I would never expect people to give up those things, too (can you imagine?). But this time, on this warm August evening, surrounded by people who could eat that cake, I felt super lonely. I felt like the loneliest person in the world.
A bit dramatic, maybe. Okay, probably. But that’s the thing about living with food allergies: you feel kind of dramatic sometimes. And I truly believe you have a right to. Because let’s face it: giving up gluten and dairy and white sugar is pretty hard. You’re surrounded with it everywhere you go: in TV ads, in magazines, in cookbooks, when your friends order a bacon cheeseburger, when your parents make normal pasta for dinner.
That’s why the world of food blogging is so powerful. When I discovered blogs along with my allergies, I felt comforted. Here were other people, amazing people, smart and funny and sweet, people who could come up with super creative ways to get around their allergies, and who could post such well-written, inspiring posts with such beautiful photos. I felt like there was a way out. Like it would all be okay.
And it was.
Do you feel lonely about your food allergies sometimes? How do you deal with it?