How to be a happy vegan at a summer barbecue
We just spent a beautiful weekend at a friend’s house just outside of Ottawa. It was a small party of seven and involved swimming, barbecuing, imbibing and loads of relaxing. Not to mention that the weather was perfect. Of course, when vegans are ever invited to meat-eaters’ barbecues, they essentially have to brace for being around loads of meat and being the centre of attention, whether it is of awe-struck observers of one’s abstaining from eating meat or any animal products, or of excessive teasing or even inappropriate comments in reference to one’s culinary choices. I sometimes have to psychologically prepare for these kinds of events, whether to be comfortable answering the typical questions (genre: “Can you still eat eggs though?”) or to laugh along at the jokes (genre: “Is a vegetarian still vegetarian if he eats a vegetarian?”).
Often the mental pre-prep does little to help with my emotional side when I’m in these kinds of situations, but for some reason this weekend, I was able to look past it and come out on top. I’m not kidding! I was able to have a wonderful time despite all of the teasing and meat-eating from my comrades. The most uncomfortable I felt was when the conversation turned–at least 5 times throughout the party–to discussing how wonderful it is to eat meat. I still haven’t been able to confirm whether this kind of bizarre human behaviour happens more readily around the presence of vegetarians or if this is just the kind of shit that gets carnivores off regardless of who is around (as long as there is at least one other carnivore there who is able to also idolize dead animal flesh). It’s not enough to eat meat, you’ve gotta also talk all about it! Standard topics of discussion usually are limited to:
- Proclamations of one’s love of meat;
- Descriptions of how much one loves meat;
- What kinds of exotic meats one has tried;
- What kinds of exotic meats one would try;
- How much meat can one eat in one sitting;
- How much of a deal one got on the purchase of meat;
- How bloody does one like one’s meat.
There is definitely something sexual about meat. I still haven’t read the books on the sexual politics of meat, but it is totally not a far-fetched idea. Often when men (it’s always men, in my experience) talk about meat, it’s similar to the way they talk about women or men (depending on their sexual orientation). Yeah, kinda gross. But I guess the upside is, at least in my case, I am able to view this behaviour the way a scientist peers into a microscope, like a social experiment and in some ways, this helps me get over the offensiveness of the entire experience.
There are so many reasons to get angry, offended, frustrated or hurt. If you let your emotions take the best of you every time someone else was insensitive, you would be a very unhappy person. Being vegan in today’s society is not easy, because it is still generally acceptable to mock and deride veganism. It’s also acceptable to remain completely ignorant about it. When confronted with an uncomfortable situation, I try to tell myself that we are all on some righteous path, just that some people are farther along than others. I should try to accept that people sometimes just don’t get it and usually are not trying to hurt. Rather, in some ironic way, they are just trying to get along with me. On the rare occasion, I’m successful in convincing myself of this and I am able to have a great time with a motley crew.
You have to decide your own cutoff limit between wanting to have a good time and being offended. You can’t live your life hating the world. Take a break every so often from the inner turmoil and just breathe in the fresh air of otherwise pleasant and good-natured company who truly are happy that you are with them. You might even find yourself more productive in your own moral agenda if you are more accepting–or happier–in your day-to-day.