But, Bacon… Holiday Survival Tips for Vegans and Vegetarians.

I’ve been a vegetarian or vegan for the last 26 years, so I’ve been asked about my protein consumption about 50 million times. 

When I was younger, it was hard not to get defensive about the questions and the taunts (OK honestly, it’s not that much easier as an adult). But I’ve learned a few ways to more easily diffuse what can feel like attacks. 

With the holidays come family dinners, which can be a breeding ground for such … discussions. So I’ve listed a few scenarios, in hopes they might help to ease frustrations around the topic. Or, at least let you know you’re not alone.

I’m not the best at quick-witted barbs. I’m someone who needs time to process my feelings and can respond most truthfully later — I think of 10 responses I should’ve/could’ve said while on my drive home from a dinner. But recently, I was introduced “as an amazing person” whose “only flaw” is being vegan. And calmly, and with a bit of a smile, I was able to quickly respond: “I didn’t realize caring for the environment and animals was a flaw.” The introducer looked a bit surprised by my non-defensive response and apologized several times over the span of a few days. 

That comment made me realize, for maybe the first time, that many people see vegans as weirdos, who willingly deprive themselves of pleasures, rather than as people living lives that honor and respect the things they love: nature and animals. It also made me realize that the best responses are truthful and from the heart, because they’re not defensive, but more likely vulnerable.

Another uncomfortable situation is when one person at a dinner table wants to engage me in the “I’m thinking about going vegetarian” conversation that no one else wants to hear (judging by the rolling of eyeballs). Believe me, I don’t want to have that conversation either, while enjoying my night out, so I’ve starting saying: I’d love to talk about this when there’s more time to answer all your questions. Give me your email, and I’ll reach out.” 

It’s an effective strategy for learning whether they’re truly interested in gathering information or just want to play “Bully the Vegan” at dinner. If they are indeed interested, here’s a great article to share from raptitude.com.

Finally, a scenario that plays out with incredible frequency is that someone asks about the decision to become vegan or vegetarian, and then quickly meets your response with: “But bacon tastes so good!” 

This particular comment irritates me so much that I’ve had to give a lot of thought to exactly why that is. What I’ve concluded is that it’s a thoughtless response. It makes me feel like that person hasn’t really listened to a word that I’ve said. 

That response makes me want to scream: “I HAVE TASTE BUDS, TOO, YOU IGNORAMUS! I SAID I DON’T EAT ANIMALS BECAUSE I WISH TO LEAD A LIFE THAT CAUSES AS LITTLE PAIN AND SUFFERING AS POSSIBLE! I KNOW BACON TASTES GOOD!”

(I don’t recommend following through on that urge.)

Honestly, I’ve been working through the right response to that one and it’s tough to know what to say to something so silly. So thoughtless — shallow. Who knows why they even said it. I haven’t tested it yet, but in my head one potential response goes something like:  

(Deep breath.) “I agree that lots of things that aren’t vegan taste good. But your response makes me feel unheard. I gave a thoughtful response, and it doesn’t feel like you did the same.” 

The key would be to say it without anger, and with as much sincerity as possible. Because very likely, that person hasn’t given any thought to your lifestyle choice. Likely, they don’t see it as a lifestyle at all, but rather as a dietary decision.

Granted, it’s all a work in progress. If you’ve come up with better answers, I’d love to hear them. 

With lots of deep breaths and searches for compassion — we got this one. Happy holidays, friends.

With love,
Maria

P.S.
If you’d like to participate in Farm Sanctuary’s “Adopt a Turkey Project” please click here.