No, My Food is not ‘Weird’
So, let me get this out of the way: I am a vegan, and have been for nearly three years. For two years before that, I was a vegetarian.
And from the day I stopped eating meat, I have been subjected to a gamut of ridicule from family, friends, co-workers, and even random grocery cashiers. I’ve been told “turn in your man card” and “what interesting things you’re eating” and “God wants you to eat meat.” I could say that these words are just words, and they don’t bother me. But if I’m being honest, it’s getting old.
My food is none of your business.
Here’s a joke that’s been told to me many times:
How do you know if someone’s a vegan?
Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.
Now, I have no doubt that there are vegans that are very outspoken about their lifestyle. I’ve seen it firsthand. Sometimes, these people don’t voice their opinions in a very positive manner. They give vegans in general a bad rap.
I AM NOT ONE OF THOSE VEGANS.
My vegan lifestyle is my business, and I treat it as such. The only circumstances under which I bring up my veganism is as follows:
A: When I am offered something that I will not or cannot eat.
B: When someone else brings it up first.
C: When I am writing a blog post that pertains directly to my vegan lifestyle.
I don’t have an exact tally, but I can tell you that the number of times my lifestyle choices were brought up by others far outnumber the times I’ve brought it up myself. This wouldn’t be a problem, but when my lifestyle is brought up by others, it is rarely because someone wants to have a civil dialogue.
I enjoy discussing veganism…when I’m not on trial.
There are two reasons people bring up my lifestyle. The first reason is that they want to have a discussion about it; they’re curious to know more. The second is that they want to belittle and/or ridicule me for my choices.
I enjoy discussing the vegan lifestyle when I’m being asked questions, even ones that challenge my views. It helps myself and the people with whom I am conversing understand each other better. Understanding each other leads to better relationships, and in essence, a better world.
What I don’t enjoy is having to defend myself for having “weird” food. I’ve heard a variety of negative comments about my food choices, such as:
Wow, you’re missing out on [insert food item here].
He always has something ‘interesting’ for lunch.
God put animals on this earth for us to eat. Don’t you know that?
You’re not going to bring ‘weird’ chips, are you?
Be a man. Eat some meat.
This is a small sampling, mind you. There is nothing positive or constructive in the comments above. In fact, some of these are downright aggressive. These are the type of comments that cause me to stop eating lunch in the break room at work. These are the types of comments that make me wary of big family dinners. These are the types of comments that leave me feeling like I have done something wrong — when in fact, I have not.
I am just choosing to eat plant-based food, and opt out of consuming any form of animal product. It’s a personal choice. It doesn’t affect anyone except me. The fact that people feel the need to make back-handed or aggressive comments about it says more about them than it does me.
The point of this post is not to pine for sympathy. It’s about opening up conversations. A friend of mine once told me that it is impossible to be judgmental while asking questions. He said that asking questions allows you to have open dialogue and create bridges.
The other day, I was at Costco, and the cashier ringing up my groceries was asking questions about the food I was purchasing. It was awesome. I didn’t bring up that it was vegan; I just conversed with her about the food. She ended up expressing desire to try some of the items in my cart. It was a wonderful conversation, and I left the store with a big smile on my face.
So, my message to you, fellow humans, vegan and omnivores alike, is to ask questions. And when someone asks you questions, don’t jump into defensive mode. Create an open dialogue; create bridges. That’s how we are going to make the world a better place.
And, to end with a quote from the classic Disney film Bambi: