“I hear from so many people whose otherwise loving and supportive family members become irate at the idea that their spouse, sibling or child has become vegan. Because they have not experienced the same desire to eschew animal products, they don’t understand why their loved one has, and they may feel threatened by any change in their normal routine. Even if you’ve said nothing to make them feel this way, they might feel judged or guilty for wanting to continue to eat meat dairy and eggs.”
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge
In Chapter 7, the last before the challenge starts, Colleen recommends finding a ‘buddy’. Basically, it is more fun and easier to stay motived and make the changes when you have a friend to do it with. More importantly, she also highlights the fact that not everyone is going to be supportive and some may even turn downright hostile.
The beginning was when I felt the most uncertain and ‘wobbly’ and could have used the most support. Unfortunately, it was also when I experienced the strongest pushback; and it felt stronger than it probably was because I still didn’t know enough about what I was doing. I couldn’t articulate the reasons clearly, even to myself. This was when I was most likely to second guess myself due to the ill-informed commentary of others.
In hindsight, it would have made sense to reach out to other vegans, and ask for support. But I think I felt that I might be wasting their time. What about if, after the year was over, I decided not be vegan?
Eating and talking about food is a huge part of what we do socially. Even simple conversations in the break room at work invariably revolve around food – eating it, preparing it, growing it, catching it. A significant proportion of that eating and conversation involves animals or the products of animals as food. I never realised how much until I stopped wanting to participate.
Talking about being vegan is unsettling. For a brief moment, the foggy veil of our culturally constructed food fantasy starts to thin. As people catch brief glimpses of the stark, disturbing reality of what our food actually is, they quickly turn away; a sudden off-hand remark with the rising intonation of uncertainty, an abrupt change of topic, a re-framing of the conversation – it’s about my personal choices and their personal choices. Maybe this has something to do with New Zealand being a nation of conflict avoiders – I know I am, but I rarely have to face open disagreement.
It seems to go against my nature to initiate conversation about ‘difficult’ topics, or even respond in time when they do come up.
“Sorry, about my meat,” she says as I sit down next to her at lunch. Without thinking, my automatic socially conditioned politeness responds, “That’s okay. How’s your day going?” Almost immediately I want to kick myself. It’s not okay. I don’t think its okay. She was asking me to give her reassurance about eating meat! If just my presence is making her uncomfortable, this is an opportunity for a conversation, a real one, not to indulge in idle office chit chat.
Something the happened at work a few days ago …
If I could have got a ‘buddy,’ I would have loved one. But … that’s life, I guess. I do have one vegan colleague. She has been vegan for almost 20 years. We have lunch together every Thursday. I like having the opportunity to prepare food for someone. I like having her around. She is tangible evidence that this ‘vegan thing’ really is something a person can incorporate into their daily life and sustain for a lifetime.