I’ve always been super confident in most things but faltered when it came to dating and love. I was looking for ease and perfection. And, my celiac disease made me filter out those who didn’t seem too understanding or comforting.
As I entered my thirties, I found myself truly happy. I was in the best shape of my life and broke free from the corporate world when I started my own business from an office in WeWork.
Elan worked for the company across the hall. At first, we exchanged waves. Hellos became chats over mugs of coffee in the shared kitchen space. We discovered that we each had an Israeli parent, his mother and my father. Finally, after five weeks, he asked me out for drinks. I happily agreed.
Our date lasted four hours. I was intrigued. Elan was three years younger than me. He was mature, yet silly. He had a way of making me feel comfortable. He said exactly what was on his mind—a rarity in dating. We had two more dates that week.
Our first few dates had been drinks and coffee. Then, concluding a late-night phone conversation, Elan said, “My birthday’s this weekend.”
“I’d love to take you out to celebrate. Brunch on Sunday?” I asked.
It was our first official meal together. As soon as we sat down at the table, the anxiousness boiled up. I sat there thinking what I’d do if I got a stomach ache (run “to make a phone call”), trying to figure out what he’d think about my celiac disease. Would he be annoyed that we could never enjoy a slice of pizza together like other “regular” couples? Would he lose patience when I had days when I just didn’t feel well? I buried my thoughts and downed another mimosa.
Halfway through the meal, Elan asked, “What made you choose this restaurant?” I dug deep and mustered up the courage to tell him. “I have celiac disease and this is one of the restaurants where it’s safe for me to eat.”
I expected the confusion and questioning that normally followed.
Instead, Elan looked at me and smiled. As he reached across the table, lifting his Bloody Mary for a l’chaim, he said “I get it, I have Crohn’s.”
We’ve been married for three years. Since our wedding, we’ve both lost our Israeli parents to cancer. Every Jewish holiday, we make it a point to think and talk about the dishes they cooked and I do my best to recreate them, gluten-free.
I accompany him to his colonoscopies and he lectures waiters in restaurants about celiac disease. Sexy stuff for a couple in their thirties.
Now that we have a one-year-old daughter, we grapple with the fact that she might inherit one, or both, of our autoimmune diseases. But, we’ll be okay because we get it.
Jamie and Elan Carter live in Brooklyn, N.Y. with their one-year-old daughter. Jamie is a writer and researcher who works with organizations to help them better understand their audiences. Elan is the founder of a tech startup called Audiate.me, which helps give stories a voice by translating digital content into audio. Today is their third wedding anniversary.