I guess we all have fantasies where we pretend that
we live in a vegan world. Sometimes it almost seems
real -- at a vegan potluck, an EarthSave event, or
volunteering at an animal shelter. It's nice to have
these environments in which we can retreat. When we
get discouraged and feel like we're doing this alone,
they are reminders that there are others living a
compassionate lifestyle, and more start every day.
We get to stop living in our fantasy world and see
But what about in everyday life, where most of us
are surrounded by people who either grudgingly accept
our lifestyle (though they make no attempt to try
to understand why we live the way we do) or outright
ridicule us? Does pretending it all away help? At
least in one case, I've found that it actually does.
Sometimes I get so disheartened dealing with people
who don't agree with my choices that I pretend none
of those attitudes even exist. I go through life acting
as if I'm the normal one (and hopefully one day being
vegan will be the norm). Recently I went out to dinner
with someone I had just met. We all know what it's
like being at a restaurant with an omni. It seems
like we always have to justify what we eat and explain
why we are so "picky." So when it came time to order,
I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on him.
When we talked about what we were going to have and
he said "steak," I looked at him oddly and said, "Steak?
You eat meat?" with the same tone that most people
say, "Huh? You're a vegan?" -- not mean or condescending,
He looked back at me just as strangely and said,
"Well, yeah . . . of course I do. Is there something
wrong with that?"
I quickly pretended to be flustered and said, "Oh,
I guess not, except I don't know many people who do
-- it's just odd."
"Really? I thought most people ate meat."
(Big pause on my part.)
"When I think about it, I know you're probably right.
Though it seems like an unnatural choice to me, I
guess that's how a lot of people are raised -- it's
not even a choice they've ever thought about making."
I was trying very carefully not to be offensive and
just pretend as though I was someone from a vegetarian
world who had never met a meat-eater. I asked him
lots of questions about his "lifestyle choice" (though
he had never thought of it that way). The comments
I got from him were a lot of "I never thought about
that" and "I've really never stopped to question it."
I was very friendly and polite about it, and he didn't
seem to ever feel antagonized.
When the server came back to take our order, I ordered
vegetable parmesan (without the cheese) -- really
yummy pasta and veggies with tomato sauce. And then
he said, "I'll have the same." When the server left
I said, "I'm sorry if you thought I was trying to
talk you out of ordering the steak -- I was just curious,
that's all." And his reply? "Oh no, that's okay. It
was an interesting discussion, and at least right
now I don't think I could look at a steak the same
way I have all my life."
(Big internal grin on my part.)
I may not have changed the world -- I may not have
even changed this man's mind. For all I know, he had
a cheeseburger the next day. But that conversation
gave me hope again.
It's easy to look at non-vegans as unfeeling sometimes,
but it's nice to remember that most are very caring
people who just have never looked at things from another
angle. I'm glad I've had so much practice in "pretending,"
and I hope I put it to good use that night.
e x t e s s a y -