Yesterday was sunny and warm. My friend and I took the dogs for a walk through the gardens and by the river.
Sitting on a seat in the rose garden cooling down under the shade we watch as kids climb trees, couples canoodle among the roses, families finish off picnics and even a group of oddly dressed adults play fight with prop swords.
And one of my best friends calls me a “food nazi” for not wanting to eat an ice cream with her.“I feel like an ice cream. But I don’t suppose (sigh of annoyance) you’ll have one.” “Nope – I won’t.” “You’re such a food nazi these days (more annoyed sighing)”. “I’m not a food nazi!” “Yes, you are.”
To derail the spat before it escalates I suggest we go to the garden cafe to get her ice cream and besides I could use a drink; it’s a warm day.
Aside from the obvious – exterminating millions on the basis of a racist ideology and plunging an entire continent into war in no way correlates with refusing to eat an ice cream – it’s an extreme reaction. (It’s not the first time she has expressed annoyance with my decision to go vegan.) I’m sure that if I just didn’t feel like an ice cream she would not react like this.
People you know don’t always react well when you change the rules on them. If they are used to doing certain things and talking about certain topics together and suddenly you decide to do things differently there is bound to be some resentment.
I doubt there is any way around people getting defensive and over reacting. Because no matter how you slice it, being vegan is fundamentally an ethical and moral choice. My refusal to participate in a violent cultural practice and carnist ideology, at least in intent if not always perfectly executed, is a challenge to anyone who does. I don’t even need to say anything; I become the problem.
My refusal to eat ice cream shouldn’t affect her at all, but it does. Somehow it interferes with her ability to enjoy the dairy in her ice cream. It’s not about my not eating the ice cream, it is about why I am not eating the ice cream that matters. Perhaps for a moment cogitative dissonance weakens enough and an uncomfortable connection starts to form. I’m sure it is subconscious, but calling me a “food nazi” makes me the problem, the one who is being difficult and disrupting a “harmless” moment.
If I had had my wits about me I would not have tried to smooth over this uncomfortable moment by being the one to say we could go get her ice cream and I would have a drink. I should have continued to let her do the work on this, to sit with the discomfort for longer. Made her be the one to say we would go get the ice cream, or not.
It took me 46 years to finally wake up and start putting the pieces of this puzzle together, so if I can do it, anyone can. For awhile I have been trying to figure out how to make it so people don’t feel uncomfortable, because they seem to. Maybe I should stop that and instead let it go and be glad that I am making people feel uneasy just by being in the room, eating my food and talking differently about things.