Having a ‘dairy episode’ on a date is my worst nightmare.

If being lactose intolerant only restricted my ability to consume dairy, it wouldn’t pose that much of a hinderance.

But it doesn’t. In fact, it sets off a ripple effect that impinges upon multiple facets of my existence. Dating, perhaps at the forefront. “How does being lactose intolerant affect your dating life?” you might ask yourself, as you stir a little whole milk into your morning coffee. Sit back and allow me to explain.

I was first diagnosed with lactose intolerance, which is to say I diagnosed myself with lactose intolerance, sometime around 11th grade. Whenever I’d consume dairy, typically in copious amounts?—?be it a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or a block of gruyere?—?I’d find my body in shambles.

It was truly tragic. Because back in high school, dairy was necessary.

One minute you’re asking a girl out for ice cream as “friends,” next thing you know you’re both deciding whether or not a cul-de-sac would be the best place to raise your future kids.

See, ice cream dates are the hemp leaves of the juvenile dating world: They are gateway dates. When you’re 16, 17, years old, there’s no better way to show a young lassie you’re romantically interested in her, than with a cone of ice cream or, in my case, some sugar free, fat free, frozen yogurt (I grew up on Long Island).

Asking a girl out for “drinks” before you have a follicle of facial hair simply wasn’t an option in high school, but ice cream was; and, from there, you were poised to advance onto bigger and better dating milestones. See what I mean? Gateway date. One minute you’re asking a girl out for ice cream as “friends,” next thing you know you’re both deciding whether or not a cul-de-sac would be the best place to raise your future kids.

Unfortunately, ice cream dates were calculated risks I opted not to take. I’d have nightmares about what could go wrong, after having a ‘dairy episode’ while out with a female, much less one I was attracted to (and trying to appear “cool” in front of). Sure, I could’ve ordered a water ice or something, but what kind of impression do you think that would’ve made? Water ices are the poor man’s ice cream. And so I steered clear of ice cream dates, entirely.

By the time I hit college, ice cream dates lost a great deal of their pizzazz. Especially considering that I went to college in Binghamton, New York, which was like 52 degrees in the middle of the summer, so nobody was eating ice cream. And I was ecstatic about it. I figured my days letting lactose intolerance inhibit my dating affairs were over. Oh, how wrong I was. While ice cream dates become sort of insignificant in your 20s, dinner dates rise to prominence.

Although dinner seems like a pretty straightforward concept to master, you’d be surprised the types of curveballs dairy can throw at you. Deplorable as they might be, gender roles reign supreme at the dinner table, whether you know it or not. And I knew it. Oh boy, did I know it. The first time I became fully cognizant of the impact lactose intolerance had on my perceived masculinity, I was scraping the cheese off the top of a salad, like a real he-man. This isn’t really the type of behavior that’s gonna leave many women aroused.

Truth be told, I don’t even bother to do this with pizza, anymore—I just assume I’ll have the bed to myself that night and enjoy the mozzarella. You ever see someone rip the cheese off a slice of pizza? It’s fuckin’ disgusting, and a dating death-wish, at that. When I’m really prepared, which is about 6 percent of the time, I’ll carry around a couple lactase enzyme pills in my wallet—and lie about their intended purpose.

Realistically, I’m not sure why I tell women it’s some prescription anxiety pill, but it feels a whole lot cooler than saying they’re “Lactaid.” Everyone has anxiety—but not everyone starts convulsing as soon as the chef adds cream to the vegetable soup.

To this day, my faithful reader, even my one night stands are plagued by my lactose intolerance. The other night I had a girl sleep over, only to get heckled the morning after, once she spotted the unsweetened almond milk chilling in the corner of the fridge. That went over real well. On the one hand, I didn’t really feel the need to clue her in on my dietary habits—but, on the other hand—outside of “I’m a hipster,” explaining why I use the milk of nuts was a pretty deep hole to climb out of.

And ultimately, this is my love life’s pitfall. One large, crater sized—typically soy or almond based—hole. So, until I find my own lactose intolerant goddess to spoil with everything this world has to offer (aside from milk fat), the fight wages on.