Coming out at work
I’m so disoriented. I don’t even know what floor I’m on. This building is so big. I just met 30 people in approximately 10 minutes and I am expected to know all their names and positions. I’m really trying to fit in, but I look silly in my dress shirt. My mouth hurts from smiling so much. When’s lunch?
Trying too hard on your first day of your new job is pretty much an epidemic, but the question is, at what point do you out yourself as “vegan”? When you unleash the “v-word”, most people don’t understand exactly what that means (e.g., “Wait, so you, like, don’t eat cheese? But everyone eats cheese!”), some nervously start to talk about how good meat tastes, others start to feel judged and get all awkward or confrontational (e.g., “I don’t mind vegans, just don’t preach to me”), and the worst are those who can’t accept what you’re telling them and insist that you have no idea what you’re talking about and that you’re going to die very, very soon. I chickened–or Yves’ Cuisine chick’n’d–out; I kept my v-word secret. At least for the first day. Who wants to hear that you don’t share a desire to eat dairy icecream or put cheese on everything to hide the blandness of a dish? I was trying to “fit in” after all. But there were times I was cornered. My boss recommended a gelato place, and I just had to tell her that I don’t eat ice cream.
Big scary boss: “Why?”
New yellah employee: “Well, I don’t eat dairy… yeah…”
Big scary boss: “Oh. But there’s sorbet made without dairy. You should still check it out.”
New yellah employee: “Oh yessum! I will, I will indeed!”
No v-word mentioned. Why is it just as taboo as the g-word?
But then I realised that coming out as vegan wasn’t just a personal project, but a challenge that would help to normalise veganism for all and I could be considered a pioneer in the struggle for vegan recognition and acceptance. So I whipped out the v. At lunch, when interrogated by a colleague regarding my lasagne ingredients, I had to note that there was no meat or cheese, and she duly asked why. I told her I was… vegan. She accepted with a smile. Phew! Wasn’t as bad as I expected. I repeated my confession to other colleagues thereafter with equally polite acquiescence. The question remains: Am I now the weird “new guy” on floor 10 who doesn’t eat as the good Lord intended? Should I be thus ostracised and scorned for my brazenness? (Did I mention I also like country music?)