Chocolate, flowers, stuffed animals, perfume and jewellery - that pretty much sums up most Valentine's Day presents. Not that there's anything wrong with them, though I'm not sure what to do with the stuffed animals, except give them to my niece.
So, I think we can do better. And, if you have an allergic/atopic girlfriend or boyfriend, I know we can do better.
respiratory, nasal and/or skin reactions, like contact dermatitis . If in doubt,
skip the scent entirely. Focus on creating an inviting atmosphere with heated towels, relaxing music and unscented candles.
If you've decided to go all out and book a massage with a registered massage therapist, do your research and pick a reputable place like spas in hotels or salons that carry your favourite vegan brands. When making the booking, make sure they are aware of your girlfriend's/boyfriend's allergies and can accommodate. If you get the sense that they don't "get it" over the phone, find another place or find another gift.
2. Chocolate - Good quality chocolate that is free of dairy and nuts is a difficult thing to find. Cross-contamination is a common thing in chocolate processing. There are some allergy-free chocolates available, but sadly they're not always great quality. Pacari is a great chocolate since it's pretty much dairy-free. However, there are nuts in some of its products. However, chocolate availability is different from city to city. So, find your nearest and best chocolate boutique and have a face-to-face conversation. When chocolate wrappers say "may contain", it usually does contain. This year, Ange Gardien (located in Boucherville, Quebec) is offering lovely, boutique-style chocolates which are egg-free, nut-free and dairy-free. Any guy who did his research and bought me these, would definitely be in my good books!
3. Jewellery/Watches - You really can't go wrong here, as long as you're buying something of quality. Be aware of nickel allergies. If you're buying that stunning, diamond solitaire in a platinum band, you're probably okay. Local artisans are very aware of what they use in their jewellery; so, email or talk to a designer your beloved admires in order to find something that works. Something else to consider this year is MedicAlert's line of beautiful and casual bracelets - leather, beads, crystals and silver. These might not be worn everyday; so, a special and thoughtful gift for that special someone is appreciated. Make a gift certificate for them and participate in the ordering process.
Low-Pollen Flowers. What's available will depend on where you live; so, ask your florist for advice.
5. Dinner - Those of us with food allergies can get a little tired of always having to interrogate the restaurant staff about everything before we put it in our mouth. So, once again, you have two choices, DIY or find a safe place. In the case of DIY, it's more than okay to discuss with your girl or boy ahead of time if you don't know everything he or she is allergic to. Ask questions and be interested. It shows a level of dedication that is certainly romantic.
If you're going to take your sweetheart out to a restaurant, try to stick to either a cuisine or restaurant with which they're comfortable. Valentine's Day is about being romantic and showing you care, not having an adventure (a.k.a. trip to the ER). Talk to your significant other and make sure they're comfortable and call the restaurant ahead of time to book and discuss allergies with them. Valentine's Day is busy; so, make time a few days in advance to speak to the chef and advise him or her of the allergens to be avoided. On the day of, tell your server of the allergies and that you've spoken to the chef. A written card with the allergies on it is a great way to make sure no miscommunication happens on a busy night. Review my previous post "Eating Out With Allergies" for more tips.
6. Perfume/Cologne - Skip it. With the countless chemicals and scents contained in any vial of perfume, you're doomed before you begin with this present. From contact dermatitis - allergic and irritant - to asthma and nasal reactions, you can't win. So, unless your darling has requested something specific, keep shopping.
7. Movie Night - This can be as simple as agreeing to see something at the theatre (that you wouldn't otherwise agree to) or spending a wonderful night in with a few movies, wine and allergy-free snacks. This can be as fancy or as casual as your relationship calls for.
In the end, maybe it has nothing to do with allergies or atopic conditions at all. A visit to a great art gallery exhibit followed by drinks at a nice wine bar can be a great way to spend an evening. Romance is in the eye of beholder.