How to Be a Vegan People Don't Want to Punch in the Mouth
I have a confession to make: I'm a vegan. My best friends and family members know this, but beyond that close group, I do my best to avoid letting anyone know this slightly annoying fact about myself. "But Morgan," you might say, "there's nothing wrong with being vegan! It's your choice to live how you want, don't be embarrassed about who you are." To explain my trepidation at being labelled a vegan...
I have another confession to make: I've been a vegan for around 10 years now, and I've never met a single vegan I liked. In fact, I've never met a single vegan I didn't detest. Sad, but true--vegans seem to be an ornery, pretentious, high-and-mighty, stuck-up, and rabid group of people on the whole. That's my experience with meeting vegans, at least. I've talked to friends about this and they all agree: vegans are no fun.
As such, I've found that I don't really want to be lumped in with a group of people who have a bad rap and for the most part, richly deserve it.
Now don't get me wrong, I have no qualms about my choice to become (and stay) a vegan. I just don't see any benefit from being labelled as one. Let's take a look at some pseudo-facts I just made up:
- Most vegans are annoying and self-righteous
- Most vegans think that their choice of a vegan lifestyle is the most important aspect of their lives
- People who aren't vegan don't spend all of their time talking about what they do or don't eat
Let's face it: what you do or don't eat is about as interesting to other people as what kind of deodorant or toothpaste you use. So why are vegans (and vegetarians) always blathering on about it like it's interesting? You don't hear omnivores going around extolling the virtues and explaining the minutiae of their diets, and there's a reason for it: it's frickin' boring!
So I guess you could describe me as an anti-vegan vegan. I wouldn't argue with that assessment. Don't forget though, there ARE good vegans out there. Chances are, like me they've learned to keep a low profile and not volunteer their vegan status willy-nilly.
This brings me to my point: How can someone be a vegan without being associated with the obnoxious stigma vegans(rightfully) share?
I've learned some rules/guidelines over the years, both from experience and from the writings of noted vegan musician Moby and the wonderful book "Becoming Vegan" by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina:
- If you make a personal lifestyle choice, whether it be veganism, vegitarianism, a specific religion, or a membership to the NRA, remember that it's a personal choice, not a declaration of war against anyone else who hasn't made the same choice.
- You are not better than anyone else on the planet because of veganism, your political affiliation, or any other reason. All people have the same value and deserve the same amount of respect.
- You haven't got some special insight into the human condition. Everyone creates their own path in life, and it's not for you or anyone else to judge it.
How NOT to Talk to Non-Vegans
So for those of you who are vegan and wondering how to approach those awkward social situations in which you are offered non-vegan food by an unsuspecting civilian, here's the solution:
If you're at a party or other event and someone asks you if you want a burger, steak, or hot dog, simply tell them 'No, thanks.' There is absolutely no need to go above and beyond the call of duty of full disclosure and volunteer the information that the reason you don't want their stinky festering pile of dead animal is because you're an almighty vegan and they should bow down to your moral superiority.
A lesson I learned early in life about how to lie artfully also applies to these types of scenarios: the more you add to your story, the less realistic it sounds. When your mom asks you where you were last night after curfew, just give her a surly "At Jimmy's house," and slink away with bad posture and an air of rebellious contempt. That intricate story you crafted about the sleepover and Jerry's dad working the nightshift now, so you had to get permission from his mom who was at the grocery store because they were out of milk is WAY more fishy sounding. Chances are she knows or at least suspects you were at Kim Nelson's party anyway, but at least do your best minimalist lying job so as not to insult her sense of propriety.
The same applies to someone offering you non-vegan fare. They don't need your life story, just a simple 'yes' or 'no.' In the off chance they press you to take a burger or ask you why you don't want any, there are a multitude of polite excuses you can use withouth revealing that you're a vegan:
- Nah, I'm not really hungry right now, but thanks.
- I'm on a diet right now, trying to lose a few extra pounds.
- I already ate before I came, thanks.
And some not-so-polite excuses if you hang out with riff-raff like my friends:
- Your cooking sucks dude, I wouldn't feed that to a starving junkie.
- Gotta save room for the beer, even though you bought domestic crap instead of a nice import or microbrew.
- Nah, I decided to become a vegan recently (Then pause for a second and snicker like only the biggest loser in the world would actually become a vegan).
For the record, I've used all of these excuses countless times(Yes, ALL of them) and never had a problem. At least never had a problem that wasn't caused by an overly-zealous friend or family member. Which leads me to...
TRAIN YOUR FRIENDS!!!
I can't even remember how many times I've been about to succesfully dodge an offer of meat with one of my above excuses when one of my friends or family members decided to "Help" me by shouting at the top of their lungs: "DUDE, he's a frickin' VEGAN man! Don't offer him meat!"
I had to learn the hard way to take each one of my friends and family members who are 'in the know' aside and have a little talk with them. I simply explained to them that although I appreciated their 'help,' I didn't really want to volunteer my vegan status unless absolutely necessary. They inevitably ask why.
If you find yourself in this scenario, simply tell them these 3 things:
- My veganism is MY veganism. If I want someone to know about it, I'll do it myself, thank you. I suggest you put this one politely, but firmly.
- Most people feel threatened and/or insulted when confronted with vegans/vegetarians and automatically assume that vegans think they are scum for eating meat. (Unfortunately, they are usually right about vegans when it comes to this.)
- It isn't necessary to tell everyone who offers me non-vegan food that I'm vegan; it always ends with them asking me why I'm vegan, and then I have to answer a bunch of annoying questions I've already answered around two hundred and ninety-nine billion gazillion times.
After you've trained all your confederates in crime, they'll surely stop outing you as a vegan and you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that your vegan status is safely behind lock and key.
In conclusion, just remember that being a vegan means many different things to many different people, and there is no RIGHT way to be a vegan. There are, though, many many WRONG ways to be a vegan. Please do your best to raise the credibility of vegans everywhere by thinking about and considering what I've written, even if you end up not following it to the letter(I wouldn't, and it's MY advice.) That way, hopefully someday we vegans will be able to shake off our negative stigma and become open vegans again. Even if that happens though, I think I'll still keep my veganism to myself. Most of the time I forget I'm a vegan anyway.
And all you non-vegans, please remember: If you run into a vegan who thinks they're better than everyone else, you officially have my permission to punch them in the mouth. I will testify in court on your behalf if/when you face assault charges that it was your civic duty to punch surly vegans in the mouth on behalf of 'good' vegans everywhere.