Jared and I paced outside of the 72nd Street subway station. The blaring taxi horns that echoed in the streets were nothing compared to the growl of our stomachs. “How about the pizza place on Columbus?” he suggested. I gazed down the street toward the restaurant, loathe to object. “I doubt they have dairy-free cheese as an option,” I murmured.
This date was not going well. I could feel his annoyance increasing each passing minute. He walked two steps ahead of me and kept his hands firmly in his pockets.
Since I became a vegan three years ago, it has not been all sunshine and soymilk. The burdens that accompanied this new diet—extended excursions to the grocery store to examine ingredient labels, the dissection of restaurant menus for something I could eat, and the discouraging taste tests to find an edible dairy-free alternative to cheese—were nothing compared to what it did to my dating life.
Diet differences between my vegan-self and carnivorous dates kill the romance. As a lactose intolerant who gags at the smell of meat, dinner dates regularly start with the difficulty of finding a suitable restaurant and end in utter frustration.
As it turns out, I’m not wrong when I feel the eyes of a meat-eater judging my vegan ways. Sixty-six percent of respondents to a survey on Today.com said they would never date a vegetarian or a vegan. With a little flexibility, however, co-diet relationships can still stand a chance.
In response to the Today.com survey, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher said that diet communicates much more than only what is for dinner. As humans, we associate particular personality traits with certain food regimens. And if, like me, you’re vegetarian or vegan, the reputation isn’t exactly stellar.
“Vegetarians are advertising a particular lifestyle, that they are high maintenance,” Fisher told Today.com. “Their needs require others to bend, even if their philosophy may be a healthy philosophy.”
Take Suzanne Davis, for example. At 28, she knows firsthand the impact diet can have when it comes to relationships. We sat on her plaid sectional sofa in her New York City apartment as she recounted how her last serious relationship came to a halt after Suzanne found out that, in addition to her dairy intolerance, she had developed a gluten allergy. Her ex-boyfriend ended the relationship because this sudden allergy meant she couldn’t eat pasta.
“He listed out his reasons to break up with me and my diet was at the top of his list,” she said. “I can see guys not wanting to deal with it. It’s a burden. It’s baggage.”
So to my fellow vegans I ask, does this mean that we soy cheese and Tofurky eaters can only find peaceful coexistence with other vegans? Are vegetarians only to date their kale-and-carrot-juicing peers? Are carnivores only capable of dating those with whom they can share a rack of ribs?
Amber Kelleher-Andrews, matchmaker for Kelleher-International, a worldwide matchmaking firm and NBC’s show Ready For Love, says not so fast.
“Look for someone who matches 80 percent of your interests,” she said. “If the remaining 15 to 20 percent is about religion, politics, or food, don’t let that be an issue.”
With the right person, seeming obstacles like food differences can be overcome with a healthy dose of patience. All one needs in today’s world of unlimited options is to do a little research. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free menus are abundant in mainstream restaurants these days. Google restaurants in your neighborhood, get a Yelp app on your smartphone, or call ahead to make sure the restaurant will cater to the needs of your date.
The truth is that food personality works in much the same way as any other personality differences; sometimes opposites attract.
Now if someone would go tell that to Jared.