“How do you find the vegan at the party? Don’t worry, they’ll find you.”
Oh, that old stinger. It’s so dumb and patronizing, and I cannot recall any time where I’ve approached someone just to let them know my dietary habits. In fact, most of my family and friends tend to periodically forget that I’m vegan. It only ever comes up on the off chance they’re cooking for me or when I’m ordering at a restaurant and most of the time it still takes them off guard.
But alas, here we are. It’s me, the vegan! I’m proving your dumb joke’s point just because I think it’s time we had a little chat.
I became a vegetarian back when I was 10 or so. As soon as I really was able to comprehend what meat was, the act of eating it felt super uncomfortable for me. And after sneaking on to my parent’s computer to see one too many PETA videos, the deal was sealed. Over the years I slowly inched my way to the dark side, and finally mid-last year made the decision to take the plunge into veganism. Now, after dealing with years of questioning about my meat-free diet and the little teasings from family members, I thought I was pretty well equipped for the backlash I’d get from going vegan.
But I was wrong.
Okay, kind of wrong. It was the same line of questioning but the intensity of the questioning quickly became really, really extreme. Suddenly, everyone I spoke to was an expert on vitamin B12, a doctorate in protein deficiencies, and had a vast depth of stories about vegans who died for some reason or another. No joke, my grandma told me that she heard a story of a vegan who just the other day dropped dead. Dropped dead simply from being vegan.
Now, I want to stress that before I went totally vegan the only animal products I was consuming were very small amounts of cheese and bread products with eggs. Besides that, I was essentially a vegan anyway without the official title. But now that I’ve embraced the title, everyone and their brother is a certified dietician and must tell me all the reasons why my diet is wrong. And I kind of get it, it’s a weird thing that someone chooses to live a life different than yours. It’s something you don’t quite understand or agree with.
But you need to leave it alone.
I eat a fresh, organic diet. I buy local when possible. I don’t rely too heavily on soy or processed imitation meats. I eat a lot of healthy proteins and yes, I get my B12 through supplements. I even have a vegan multivitamin on hand for days when my regular diet just doesn’t suffice. It has been over a decade since I’ve eaten meat and I’m still standing just as strong as ever. My diet is safe and it doesn’t need your commentary.
I appreciate the concern, but let’s be honest here. Why does the word “vegan” make you so unnecessarily worried about my health? You never cared about my diet before I was vegan. Just as I really didn’t care all that much about yours. Would I prefer that everyone eat an organic vegan diet? Absolutely. It’s better for our environment, better for your health, and ethically responsible. As an environmentalist and health-conscious person, those things are important to me. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to shame you for eating meat if you’ve made the decision to.
What I do ask is that if you choose to eat meat you source it responsibly. You’ll get a higher-quality product without a lot of the negative consequences and if you go local you can help support your local economy and farmers that need work. Also, factory farms are just really awful. But I won’t even yell at you if you buy meat out of a factory, I’ll just give you the side eye and judge you internally.
Lesson learned here is that everyone’s diet is their own choice and mine being different from yours is no reason to subject me to scrutiny. Have faith in my ability to make my own choices and I’ll have faith in yours. And if you invite me to dinner, don’t worry, I’ll bring my own dish.