Hello my GIMBers! I’m probably in flight, or just landing, or getting lost around the rues of Paris. In my absence, I’ve asked the lovely — and gluten-free — Caroline Donahue to guest post.
Caroline was the very first celiac I met in real life. She also exposed my sister-in-law to gluten-free dining way before I was also afflicted, so I’m forever grateful that she got a family member all primed and ready for a gluten-free me. But most importantly, when I connected with Caroline right after my diagnosis she was the first person to tell me that anger was an acceptable response to my new “lifestyle.” I just kind of ran with that.
So now, I’m thrilled to introduce Caroline, and her story of gluten-free dining and crying. Since we all know those two things go together like peas and carrots. Meet Caroline!
Caroline Donahue is a writer and marketing professional, living in Los Angeles. When she isn’t licking the windows of illicit bakeries, she enjoys running, sewing, photography and getting the hell out of town for the weekend.
This week, I found out that my boyfriend can make perfect French baguettes. He is a fantastic cook, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised by this information. We were sitting over dinner when he relayed this information casually, as if talking about a phone call from home or a minor exchange at work.
“Can you make croissants, too?” I asked. I have not had a croissant in over three years.
“I’ve made them once or twice,” he said.
I looked down at my plate. There was a beautiful piece of grilled fish, salad with dressing he made from scratch, and broccolini with garlic. All delicious. But right then, I was only thinking about one thing.
“I’ll never be able to eat your bread.” I said.
It had been a long time since I was hit with this kind of gluten heartbreak. The first year was hard. I’m now pushing four years and I don’t even look at bread baskets anymore. I even have the kind of easy time ordering in restaurants that I used to have when I was a vegetarian: fewer options, pick the one I like the most. Simple.
But that first year, it’s emotional. That’s the only way I can put it to newbies. Every necessary refusal feels so charged with ennui. The wedding cake I couldn’t eat at my first friend from college’s wedding. The cake at a friend’s child’s first birthday party. Dinner parties at less-known friends’ places where I either felt I was inconveniencing them terribly or that I was destined to starve.
And then there was brunch. French toast. Toast in general. Biscuits. And fresh house-made donuts. Once, a whole table of people gushed over some cream-filled fluffy delight and there was nothing else to talk about at the table but how magical and delicious this thing was. It made life worth living.
I had to get up from the table. I retreated. And suddenly, I was crying in the bathroom. I didn’t want to be one of those people. I am lucky. I have wonderful friends. I live in an exciting and culturally rich city. I have a nice apartment and supportive family. But right then, at that moment, there was only the feeling of not fitting in, old as grammar school.
That wasn’t the only time I cried in the bathroom that first year. And I did learn to make my own donuts, that even gluten eaters love. There are solutions and there is progress. But it’s slow and it’s harder than people realize when they first begin.
So if you find yourself in a bathroom hiding from waffles and pancakes and other treats, or worse, snuck back in the corner of a stall, know that you aren’t alone. One of us might even be in the next stall over, sniffling along with you. You will make it. It’s ok to break down. It will make you stronger in the end.
And once in a while. you catch a big break. This weekend, I will attend the first wedding that will allow me to eat everything everyone else does. Tacos and wedding flan. Now that really is magical. I can move along to the real evaluation tool of whether or not I have progressed in coolness since school: the dance floor.
Image via Kevin Dooley/Flickr