I’ve always taken some sort of bizarre pleasure in being different. I would even purposefully seek out opportunities to stray from the pack, but I wouldn’t be annoying about it. I tend to appreciate differences, while still maintaining a healthy dose of humility. I liked the fact that I was from the “only Jewish family” in my home town. I went to Hebrew school. I was often the only boy playing with the girls (especially when it comes to double dutch, because most boys suck at that). I was the only tuba player at high school (subsequently, the only oboe player). I liked hanging out with a motley crew of other unique people who didn’t quite fit in (or didn’t want to fit in) with the rest of the pack. And then there were those things about me that just were, and a fortunate collateral, but non-consequential characteristic of them was that I strayed from the status quo once more and took advantage of another aspect of being different. I’m referring to integral parts of who I am, without making a choice (e.g., homosexuality) and without having an ethical alternative (e.g., vegetarianism, then veganism).
Of course, to state a blatantly obvious truth, being different is not all beer and skittles. One doesn’t generally reap the benefits of not fitting in. Bullying, profiling, discrimination, segregation, bigotry, prejudice, ostracism, racism, phobias, egotism, religion, and ignorance all create an attitude of “join us or perish” or “we are better than you”, which leads to people trying to eliminate their differences or failing that, hide them.
Thankfully, in many progressive, and more socially liberated countries, much of this is changing and a lot of what was considered acceptable behaviour in the past is now frowned upon or punished as being prejudiced and unacceptable. While I would wager that one can no longer be a proud supremacist in the developed world and be taken seriously or not cause serious offense, the world has not quite accepted being vegan as an appropriate enough difference to protect. I’m not saying that we need a vegan pride day or to start lobbying the government for vegan rights, but it wouldn’t be too farfetched to consider vegetarian support groups as options for young or curious vegetarians to get advice on how to deal with being veg in a meat-eating world. People whom I consider to be intelligent and compassionate would not dare tease me about being gay or having a Jewish background or playing the oboe — ok, maybe playing the oboe — but they may still tease me about being vegan and not eating steak and not wanting to kill animals for fun. It’s odd, but it’s as if I’ve come to expect that behaviour from people and so I tend to downplay my being vegan in certain situations where despite my love of being different, I just want to fit in. It never makes me feel good, even if I am successful at winning over the other parties, because they do not learn the real me and I have not stood up for a passionate cause that I believe in and a part of myself that I consider inherent. The alternative is the more courageous and heroic path to take, and that is calling out people on their discriminatory comments and showing them the error of their ways. No one wants to be proven a bigot and so you are treading a fine line between dislike and detest directed at you. It’s just hard to always do. Vegans like to have friends, too. They don’t necessarily have to be vegan. Just like you don’t only need to associate with and be kind to those of your same sexual orientation, religion, skin colour, sex, nationality, or species. If I could give one piece of advice to humankind in general, it would be to try to find the similarities between yourselves and others and appreciate them. Then, identify the differences and be comfortable with them too. It might be hard at first, and you might feel threatened, but in the end, if you show them that you accept and value them in their differences, they will treat you with the same respect. Finally, recognize that what you do may seem currently socially acceptable, but it may go against your core belief and morality system. Be a pioneer of change within yourselves.
In celebration of being different, I invite you to try eating hot soup in the summer. Go on, it’s delicious and it’s not even my recipe (I know, right?): Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup. I stumbled across this great and easy way to fill your stomach and your soul that even your misunderstanding meat-eating friends will appreciate. It’s from a blog called the FatFree Vegan Kitchen, previously unknown to me. I highly recommend soaking your own beans over using canned. Don’t skip on the peanut butter. Seriously.
PS – I will explain in my next blog post why it has been a while since my last post. I do apologize for the delay.