For any kid, talking about kissing is uncomfortable. For any parent, I’m sure it’s just as uncomfortable. But for a kid with food allergies, talking about kissing can, unfortunately, be do or die.
And while these are some strong words that I never thought I would write, they must be written.
There are too many cases of kids with fatal food allergies dying from a kiss.
A kiss. Something to be celebrated. Something to be embraced and remembered for the rest of your life.
A kiss. The gateway drug to love. The antidote to hate and all things wrong and bad in this world.
A kiss. A threat to anyone with fatal food allergies.
And while you might read this and think, too many cases? Well how many cases are there?
My response is: isn’t one already too many?
Talking about a first kiss with a kid who barely knows algebra, how to even spell antidote or understand the meaning, and is already going through so many unwarranted and potentially embarrassing bodily changes is difficult.
And what’s even harder than the conversation you might have with your kid about the potential dangers of kissing with a fatal food allergy is the conversation that kid will inevitably have to have with the single person they absolutely do not want to have that conversation with — the person they want to kiss.
But because I went through it with my first kiss, my second kiss, and every kiss after, I have a few words of advice for both the parent and the kid.
For the Parent:
Be gentle. Be patient. And be excited.
This isn’t a conversation that needs to embarrass your kid. Make sure they know it’s ok to kiss. That it’s not taboo. That it’s beautiful – of course all of this being with the right person. And that it’s the first step towards love and romance. And that is all so exciting. That it’s normal to be nervous and not know what to do.
And once they feel a sense of security about the topic they’ll be more willing to open up to you about how they’re feeling, what they’re nervous about and, most importantly, how to navigate the whole fatal food allergy thing.
Navigating the Whole Kissing with Fatal Food Allergies… Thing
This is how I manage it. That doesn’t mean it is right for everyone, but it’s how I’ve done it since my first kiss in the 9th grade.
I always make sure it’s an open dialogue with the person I want to kiss. That doesn’t mean the minutes before kissing, that means the conversations leading up. I sneak it in there in the very first conversation about the severity of my food allergy.
I usually say something like, “Ya it’s pretty severe. For example, if you eat peanut butter and there’s some left on your hand and you open a door and right after I do too, I will have a reaction. Or if I kiss someone who has just eaten peanuts, I’ll have a reaction. Even if it’s like… a few hours before.”
That puts it in their mind well before the actual moments leading up to kissing.
I’ll then reiterate it before I want to kiss them… but casually. Usually something like this:
“Hey did you eat today?” To which they’ll usually respond yes. “What’d you have?” To which they’ll usually give me a weird look and then ask why I’m even asking. And then I’ll tell them the truth.
“Just wanted to make sure you didn’t eat any peanuts or nuts before coming to see me. I don’t know how this date will go but I just want to feel totally safe with you. ”
I’m not revealing that I want to kiss them but if I decide to later on, then I know if they’ve eaten my allergen or not. I can then be prepared to either lean in or tell them why I can’t.
For the Kid:
It gets easier. I’ve been kissing boys (not a lot of boys, but I’ve still been doing it) for about a decade now. The first boy to kiss me did it very awkwardly on my front porch with his mom waiting to pick him up in my parents driveway.
But I still closed my eyes and braced for whatever unknown feeling was coming my way.
And since then, having that conversation I detailed above gets easier. And you will find your own creative way to have the conversation so that you feel comfortable.
My way might not work for you – and that’s ok. What’s important is that you find a way that does.
And as you go from being a teen to an adult, people become more understanding and accommodating. You will weed out the inconsiderate ones and be left with people who truly care for your well-being, your safety, and your happiness.
And if for no other reason, you can thank your food allergy for that.