Does being vegan get in the way of your social life?
I know it doesn’t have to- but does it?
I will be taking over a locally-focused vegan column from JL at JL Goes Vegan now that she’s about to move from New York to Colorado, and I just wrote a draft of my introductory post. I wrote in my draft that being vegan doesn’t have to be hard, or to interfere with your social life- but does it?
When I wrote that, I was thinking in terms of dining out at non-vegan restaurants with omnivorous friends, but I suppose the issue goes much deeper than that.
I recently saw an Ask Amy letter about a woman who invited a vegan couple to Thanksgiving at her house, offering to have a separate vegan meal for them, but they declined, citing that they couldn’t eat where there was meat being served.
To each their own. I don’t love seeing a turkey on the table, but I don’t want to be alone for Thanksgiving, either, and none of my friends are hosting a vegan Thanksgiving this year. (Yes, I could host one, but I don’t know that I’d be able to get anyone to come!)
I don’t think it’s so much being vegan that gets in the way of a social life- there is no prohibition in veganism about being near meat- but it’s in how we decide to live our lives, and about who we are.
Case in point: where I work, there is a staff cafeteria. There are no vegan options other than lettuce and maybe some other vegetables (and usually apples), and there is no microwave. I don’t eat in there, but it’s not because I can’t. It’s because I’m about as introverted as people get, and I need that time to be alone (and not thinking about work). I like to nuke my leftovers, crack open a Coke Zero, and watch videos on my iPad or read a book. It’s not that I never spend lunch with other people- once or twice a week I have lunch with coworkers that I don’t get to see very often, but I have a definite need for alone time. It has nothing to do with being vegan- it has to do with who I am.
On the other hand… if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you probably know that I had been in a relationship with a vegan man for a long time, and it ended earlier this year. As I try to rejoin the dating scene, the whole vegan thing is… well, it’s there. While I have a preference for dating other vegans, I’m not entirely opposed to dating an omnivore- but that brings with it issues. If I’m to get serious with someone, it has to be someone who is okay with the fact that I’m not going to cook a turkey, even for Thanksgiving. I won’t judge others for doing it, but I just can’t.
Does that mean that being vegan is getting in the way of my social life?
I don’t know. It’s a hard question, because it does filter out those to whom eating meat is a central part of their lives. There are probably people out there who could never picture themselves dating a vegan who would be supportive if their established significant other became vegan that I’m automatically ruling out by putting it out there that I am vegan. Then again, I think most of us are looking for someone who shares or at least respects our values, whether that be veganism, religion, spiritual/philosophical beliefs, or even political affiliations. We want people who share our interests, who want to do (at least some) of the same things we do, or go the places we want to go. We want someone who wants the same things out of life.
Hanging out with other vegans is an option, too.
So does that mean veganism gets in the way of a social life?
It can. We can easily use veganism as an excuse, for better or worse.
I question myself, because sometimes I’m not sure if I’m using veganism as an excuse for not dating, or not trying hard enough. In fact, I’m sure I am, because I use that same logic with a lot of other qualities! I know it’s something that I have to be careful about.
So here are some tips on not letting veganism get in the way of your social life:
- Don’t say no to going out to eat with friends. Try to steer the choice towards a restaurant where you’ll have some options, but when in doubt, there’s almost always a garden salad on every menu. (I’ve been known to even sneak some tofu or beans in a container in my purse to put on top when no one’s looking. Don’t tell anyone on that one!)
- If you do say no to going out with friends, don’t tell them it’s because you’re vegan. That might seem like the kind thing to say if it’s because you really just don’t want to go, but it sets you up for exclusion down the road, and gives vegans a bad name.
- Don’t be judgmental. I know that this is an ethical dilemma for some (including myself, I know I can be guilty of this), but take a moment and think before you speak. How would you want someone else to talk to you, if you’re on the other side of their ethical dilemma?
- Be gracious. Ended up at a dinner where there’s nothing you can eat? Did the host go out of their way to make sure there was something there for you, but it turns out that it’s not vegan? I’m not at all saying to eat something that goes against your values, but be nice about it. “I so appreciate you trying to accommodate me- I truly do. I can’t eat this, but I’ll take some of that delicious looking salad,” is a lot nicer than a crestfallen “oh, I can’t eat that.”
- If you are someone who feels that you really just can’t be where animal products are being consumed, be careful in how you present that. A “no thank you” is always an appropriate answer to decline an invitation. You don’t have to give a reason. If pressed for why you won’t go when “no thank you” isn’t enough, be honest, but be sensitive. “I don’t feel comfortable being where animals are being consumed, but I’d love to have you over for dinner next week” is a fair response. No need to mention dead animals.
There’s a common theme here: it’s all about using good social skills. I don’t always. I can be incredibly cranky sometimes, especially when it comes to going somewhere or doing something I just plain old don’t want to do. But that’s not because I’m vegan- it’s because I am who I am. 🙂