I am from a new “meat-free hippie” generation. Rather, those were the words used – scarcely spoken and in a low voice – by my family and friends to describe everyone following the vegan diet, whether for health or animal rights reasons.
You’ve probably read all about how it starts – veganism that is – and the challenges faced by the people “suffering” from it. It’s true. A cause, like our well-being or a creature’s life, can push us to completely eliminate animal products from our diet. Although, I like to look at it as simplifying our eating habits instead of restricting them.
There are things you should know that a vegan may not be willing to admit. So hear me speak for the entire vegan culture as I relay to you my own dark secrets of this “conscious” lifestyle.
Foremost, like any strange species you may encounter, we are varied.
The first type of vegan who comes to mind is the health-nut. She should probably be the most respected because she accomplishes something most of us cannot: saving other lives while taking care of her own. Most likely, she eats only organic, or tries to. She likes fresh fruits and vegetables, maybe even sprouted grains (the rawer, the better, for your body). Besides meat, dairy and eggs, she doesn’t like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or Oreos. She does enjoy hikes in the Northwestern part of the country, herbal teas and yoga.
On the other side of the spectrum of veganism is the junk-food vegan. She supplants the chicken and cheese with pretzels, potato chips, candy and soda. If you come over for dinner, she’ll entertain you with frozen Boca patties or burritos and oriental Ramen noodles on the side. Her claim: “I do it for the animals, not myself.” She buys grocery bags made from recycled materials but always forgets to bring them with her. Not one to save money, she prefers trips to 7-Eleven over a restaurant.
Finally, you have the righteous vegan. Her actual diet may fluctuate between the two previous types mentioned, but her politics are always the same: if you eat meat, you’re wrong. She has no tolerance for different opinions or lifestyles because what she is doing is the right thing. Don’t bother going out to dinner with her because you’ll lose your appetite after she spews random and arbitrary PETA facts or shows you pictures of pigs turned inside out. Despite her strong-headed opinions, however, she is the most likely to give in to meaty or milky delights when she’s feeling weak.
Now that you know the different kinds of vegans you may encounter, you will know how to handle any situation. We’re not all the same, and just because we share something does not mean we all like each other.
One major thing to remember about this cause: it’s a sacrifice. Not only do you have to believe in it, you have to act on it, and it affects different aspects of your life tremendously. This distinguishes it a great deal from other causes. For example, feminism only asks you to believe. You don’t necessarily have to hate men or stop shaving to be a part of it. You cannot call yourself a vegan unless you give up animal products (and that means clothing and food, too).
Therefore, one should not be incredibly judgmental if you see us breaking our “vows.” I’ll admit it, I indulge every now and then, usually after I overdraw my checking account or I find out my cat has gingivitis. So if you catch me, I’ll probably say something like, “Cheese is my vice. So what?” or “I’m not a vegan, just a person who eats vegan food sometimes.” We all do it, even if we are too virtuous to say so.
The last thing I want to say to all the omnivores out there is it’s easy to take a jab at someone rather than respect them. So, don’t tell me there’s cow blood in my black bean salad or brag about how tasty your stupid hamburger is – you’re not original. My uncle even thought of that one. It’s like the childhood Golden Rule: if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I won’t say anything about your slab of cow flesh if you don’t say anything about my harmless grilled asparagus.
Sarah Sanders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.