I have been thinking about this a lot since you first posted it. Pre-diagnosis, I had two friends over the years who were T1.
In both cases, they quite honestly scared me with their D-related behavior. When I care about someone, and they don’t take good care of themselves or appear self-destructive, it’s very upsetting. The more I care about them, the more upsetting it is.
The first friend lived on Diet Coke and cigarettes and was going blind from retinopathy. This was way back in the 1970’s, and she was diagnosed as a child. At 18 she was doing downhill fast and it terrified me that she never ate a vegetable, never ate a piece of meat, just wandered around from day to day with a liter of Diet Code cradled in her arm, sucking on a cigarette, and would occasionally eat something like pie or cake but never a salad. It was like watching someone commit suicide in super slow motion.
Of course, I understand now how difficult diabetes management was back then – no home bg monitoring, no pumps, no analog insulins, no Lantus or Levemir, no HbA1C testing, no CGM’s – what 18-year-old in the 1970’s wanted to get up and go to bed at the same time every day, eat the same foods at the same times every day, boil needles, test their urine, the whole thing must have felt like a living nightmare to her and she was coping as best she could, but as her friend it was very frightening.
Fast forward twenty years and I dated a guy who was T1 when I was in my mid-30’s. He was also not taking care of himself, but in a completely different way. He was into very fringe, esoteric diets – the kind of thing that people on the Left Coast were dabbling in quite a bit in the '90’s – like (I’m not kidding) breatharianism. He was working remotely with some guru in Hawaii who told him that he should only eat foods with “yellow food energy” and so he would eat yellow apples but not red and bananas but not green vegetables, no meat of course, but yellow cheese was OK. This all came out over the course of dating him for about two weeks and I just tossed up my hands and couldn’t deal with it. I wonder to this day how confused and desperate someone would have to be to fall for a “yellow food energy” prescription to “heal” T1 and how much he was paying the charlatan in Hawaii for this kind of advice? Yikes.
So my conclusion to this is that I really cared for both of them – the T1 was in no way a barrier to me liking someone and wanting to be close to them – but being super out-of-control and flaky with self-care is frightening to non-D people. Testing is better than not testing and going high/low because of it. Saying, “I need to eat something now.” is less upsetting than turning into a clammy, sweaty, trembling mess because you didn’t eat when you needed to eat. Eating too much of the wrong things on a date without testing/bolusing, getting high BG’s and becoming irritable, snappish because of it is not appealing on a first, second or 150th date.
There is a certain kind of elegance to good self care. Confidence is very sexy. So be confident about who you are and take excellent care of yourself. It makes a person more appealing, in my opinion, than being flaky with self care, or worse, going hypo or hyper because we feel too shy about the D to test or bolus appropriately. I think it’s best to just display our mastery of D with our excellent self-care. Don’t hide it. Don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t talk about it endlessly but don’t be afraid to answer a question or two. Just be on your best behavior – isn’t that what dating is supposed to be about? Showing our best-behaved, best-groomed, most-polite self to a member of the opposite sex that we’d love to know better? To woo them? Well then, let your very BEST self-care be part of the wooing. Show them that there’s no reason to panic about the D, because you have it under control.