You’re meeting your boyfriend’s family for the first time or finally meeting his friends when you realize in horror at the last minute that most of the event consists of meat-related dishes. You are strongly opposed to it, but you also fear making a bad first impression. Guilt washes over you: they took the time to prepare this meal, they put in such hard work, you fear you’ll look rude if you don’t sample Uncle Bob’s famous lamb dish…
Vegans are sometimes made to feel bad for not eating meat. People might say that they’re self-righteous or difficult. Of course, this is not the case, but that doesn’t mean you might not fear being seen in such a light. It's similar to someone who doesn’t drink and might feel pressure to do so, or at least have one glass. Do you remember the scene in Notting Hill when Julia Roberts’s character, a vegetarian, eats meat when having dinner not to offend or hurt the host? Everyone looks at her with pride. Although this scene is something that might flutter into your mind, it’s really not worth agreeing to eat meat if you are strongly opposed to it. Even if you want to make a good first impression and not create waves at dinner.
- 1. You Hurt Yourself
Sure, people might be happy that you’re eating meat, or they might be pretty indifferent to it. Whatever their reaction, chances are your own will be negative. Later on, you are the one who will be left with a bitter taste in your mouth. Perhaps you will experience guilt or self-resentment over eating meat. This will be what you remember from the meal. It’s not worth making others happy if their happiness is in violation of your values or your happiness. Period.
- 2. You Set a New Bar
If you eat meat once, chances are the next time you’re with your partner and his loved ones, they’ll expect you to do so again. They might think that since you broke your vegan lifestyle once, you will be open to doing so in future. This causes more distress. Sticking to a firm stance from the start will prevent you from having to compromise your vegan lifestyle.
- 3. You Sidestep Your Values
You might think that you can avoid having to answer lots of questions about why you're vegan as well as those arguments from meat eaters trying to change your mind if you just try the lamb. But in actual fact, it doesn’t have to be a mission to deal with those statements or questions. All you have to say is that you have chosen the vegan lifestyle. Be proud about it. Be polite - you are not there to convert the meat eaters into vegetarians or vegans. And they shouldn't be there to try to do the opposite with you!
- 4. You Disrespect Your Lifestyle
If you allow yourself to be swayed by other’s opinions about veganism or meat-eating, you take chances with your own emotional wellbeing. Why should you be bullied into doing something you don’t want to? If all else fails, ask yourself this: if you are diabetic and someone offers you a massive candy bar, would you risk your health to try it? If you are severely allergic to seafood and someone offers you prawns, would you take them? No! Make animal products part of your 'under no circumstances' food category, just as respected as an allergy or health condition. Instead of focusing so much on how others respect or disrespect your lifestyle, honour it first yourself.
And next time, try to find out ahead of time what the meal is going to be so you can bring along some delicious potato salad.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.