This is the thing: I am often looked at like I’m crazy for being a vegan. I don’t know if it’s because most people just aren’t vegan, or if it’s because people don’t understand something they’ve spent most of their time not knowing anything about.
It hit me this week, when I visited my parents. They live a few minutes away, and I took them a pumpkin I’d gotten at the local orchard.
It’s been strange since I went vegan. My mom loves to cook meat, drench the salad in Ranch. So whenever I visit, she has no idea what to make for dinner. She just assumes that I will eat whatever still, but I often have to say “no, thank you.”
It’s difficult at times, because she’s in her fifties, and it’s not like she…has ever been a vegan. No one around her has been, except for me. She’s seen me grow up eating meat, and suddenly, I don’t drink milk that isn’t made from coconuts. It’s a big change for her, to try to understand something she’s lived decades not having to understand.
But surprisingly, all it took was giving her a piece of my vegan chicken for her and my dad to start digging.
“Wait, this isn’t chicken?” she asked me, looking up with these wide, incredulous eyes. She handed a piece to dad and even he looked at me in shock.
And here I had thought they wouldn’t have been amused. Wouldn’t have understood at all. Or even liked it.
This got the conversation going, though. Suddenly, dad wanted to know why I gave up meat, why eating meat products like dairy is not something I do, and what my eating habits consist of. Mom asked if I save money on food now (I do). She asked if I missed meat, or if when I cook for my boyfriend, if I feel… tempted (I don’t, which is surprising, even for me).
Truth is, it’s astonishing what a person can get used to. I went from one end of the spectrum to another, and I don’t even feel like… I miss that at all. I just really enjoy being a vegan now, and my food choices make me feel really good.
And seeing people as hardcore carnivores like my parents look at me in some kind of unspoken understanding when I explained the benefits of being a vegan, and the effects of eating meat on the environment, was enough for me to realize something else: they might never become vegan, and that’s OK. They’ve gone most of their lives not knowing this stuff. And why should they change now? That’s something for them to decide, not for me to convince them of.
As long as they understand me, and why I eat how I do, that’s enough for me. I can go into Wendy’s, order a plain baked potato and a mixed green side salad with no dressing or chicken, and have the woman look at me like I’m crazy. You know why? Because I know I’m doing something awesome for me, animals, our planet, and my health. I know my loved ones understand. Even my boyfriend, who loves meat and will always love meat, supports me whole-heartedly. And that’s all that matters to me. To have people close to me who know why I do this, and don’t look at me like I have a screw loose.
And plus, we all know that when I get home with that baked potato and salad, I have vegan butter, cheese, chives and light dressing anyway.
Does this mean that all of us should go around leaving others in the dark? No way! If someone does ask me about what it means to be vegan, I will explain. But I think we all have this stigma of thinking we’re better than others, or of trying to shame people into eating like us. And that’s just not something I want to be a part of. I don’t believe in pressuring someone to make a huge life change. We’re all adults here. Waiting for them to ask before you explain is the key. At least in my opinion.