I find it interesting that some people find vegetarians annoying. And when it comes to vegans, it’s even worse. We are pegged as morally superior, self-righteous food snobs who not only harbor deep-seated psychological problems that prevent us from enjoying the finer things in life, but who are also sanctimonious creeps who insist on making our carnivorous brethren feel bad about their dietary choices.
I have noticed that this animosity toward the veggie community has begun to generate something of a backlash among the meat-eaters. I first got a whiff of this several years ago, when Jessica Simpson appeared for a photo shoot in a T-shirt emblazoned with the logo “real girls eat meat.” Then Lady Gaga appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards in her now famous meat dress. While this was likely created for its shock value and was more in the nature of a career-boosting publicity stunt than anything else, I suspect that, at some level, it was a pie in the face of vegetarians.
Nowadays, there are some carnivores out there who appear so intent on advertising their love of meat that they feel compelled to make public displays of it. For example, I have now twice seen people wearing shirts bearing logos announcing “All God’s creatures have a place in this world: Right next to the potatoes and gravy.” Assuming that the wearers of this apparel are also God’s creatures, I have to restrain myself from asking them just when they intend to become an entrée. I really want to know this so that I can stay as far away as possible from the secret cannibals among us who enjoy partaking of such a feast. With Halloween coming up, I suppose anything is possible, right?
Then I visited the family restaurant chain Red Robin (where I routinely eat a lettuce-wrapped Boca vegan patty) and saw this displayed on the lobby wall:
I’ve always been told that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so perhaps there is some logic in the idea that the truest bovine love is manifested among devotees of the hamburger. I have visions of them marching out into the pasture with knives and forks just to salivate. (You can find me in the next field over, doing the same thing among the soybeans.)
Then, of course, there are the dimwitted/insensitive remarks that folks innocently or not so innocently make when they learn that you don’t eat meat. This has led to more than a few postings online about ways to piss off/annoy a vegetarian, some of them from the veggie community (poking fun or venting at the stupid things people say) and others from the carnivore community (ways to get back at your neighborhood holier-than-thou vegan). You can find a few of these here, here, here and here. (I particularly like the last one for its mention of Red Robin’s insensitivity.)
So what’s a vegan to do? I thought of buying a PETA T-shirt, but when I Googled that, I found this. Some days you can’t win for losing.
My current dilemma is how to “come out” as a vegan at work. I eat at my desk daily, in the privacy of my own cubicle, so I am able to keep my food choices relatively private. No one really knows what I have in that plastic container I am toting to the microwave in the kitchen area.
The problem is that I work with a partying crowd. It seems that there is a celebration of something every three or four days, and that it always involves food. Welcome the new employees. Welcome a supervisor returning from leave. Say goodbye to an employee leaving the agency. Meetings. Potlucks. It goes on and on.
It started on my first day at work, when everyone gathered to welcome me. There were all kinds of cakes and cookies, but also some fruit and orange juice. “Aren’t you going to eat?” I was asked as I poured myself a cup of juice. “Juice is good,” I replied. After a few minutes: “You’re not eating anything?” I took a strawberry.
One possible strategy is to just grab something, plead an approaching deadline and rush back to my cubicle. Not wanting to appear antisocial, however, I have been trying to avoid this. So this week, it happened again. There were all kinds of cakes and cookies, along with bagels and cream cheese. “Aren’t you eating?” I groaned inwardly, grabbing half a bagel and holding it up to show that yes, I actually do eat. Anyone giving even a cursory glance to my girth knows that I do. And regularly.
I know it’s just a matter of time before I am going to have to fess up. I’ve been trying to think of polite, politically correct ways to do this. I think I’ll begin with “I have three strikes against me. I’m diabetic, a Jew who keeps kosher and a vegan.”
Somehow I just know that this is going to blow up in my face.
You know that someone expressing intent curiosity will ask me why I am a vegan. In the past, my wife has suggested that I say “it’s a personal decision.” I like that approach very much. But I also know that my very kind coworkers, whom I truly appreciate, will demand further details. There will be no end to it. I will become the resident vegan.
And then what will I do? Will I explain about the health benefits of veganism? Will I explain that I don’t believe in visiting death upon our fellow creatures to satisfy my palate and stuff my gut? Will I explain about the shameful and cruel way that commercially farmed animals are treated? Will I explain that I harbor a weird personal preference for not eating the flesh of rotting corpses?
Will I then be forever pegged as a morally superior, holier-than-thou, sanctimonious, self-righteous ass? I really enjoy this job and would like to keep it for a while. I would prefer to piss off as few people as possible. But I know the day is coming when the tofu will hit the fan.
As I’ve heard said: You can’t win, you can’t break even and you can’t get out of the game.