No one will argue that we vegetarians often have a unique perspective on things. In a meat-eating world this can, of course, lead to the occasional social faux pas, possibly resulting in the death or dismemberment of the vegetarian in question.
But never fear, my fellow faux pas-ers. Help is on the way! As a public service of this column, and despite the total lack of cooperation from Miss Manners and Ann Landers, you can now test your knowledge of how the model vegetarian should handle him or herself in a variety of challenging social situations. Just answer the exciting questions below:
Situation #1—Dealing with Rednecks. You are at a stoplight in your trusty Yugo when five large men in hunting outfits pull up next to you in a pickup truck. Their tongues loosened by malted beverages, and their intellectual curiosity piqued by the bumper stickers on your car, they begin making such enlightened comments as "What's the matter—afraid to eat a little meat?", "Hey, is that tofu, or is that your face?" and "Your mother wears army boots." Do you:
a. Patiently explain your vegetarian philosophy, and ask that they join you and your mother for dinner (so they can see she really prefers Birkenstocks).
b. Get out of the car and show them your vegetarian biceps. Then quickly paste a bumper sticker on their truck and run like hell.
c. Refuse to engage in any incendiary dialog, at least until they offer you a beer.
You are correct if you answered b. Scientific studies have proven that people quickly adapt their own behavior to the values advocated by their bumper stickers. Had you followed this simple procedure you would have avoided conflict and had them drinking carrot juice before the light changed.
Situation #2—Dealing with Neighbors. You do a good deed for Mrs. Frupendorf, the sweet old lady next door. Later that afternoon while you're working in the yard she "thanks" you by bringing over homemade cookies and a big glass of milk. With an innocent smile she says, "I really want to watch you enjoy this!" Do you:
a. Patiently explain that you are a "vegan," and that means the butter and eggs in the cookies, not to mention the milk, aren't on your diet. (After which, she will stare at you blankly and ask why you don't like her cookies.)
b. Excuse yourself to answer the phone, and let her stand in your driveway until she gives up and goes home.
c. Pretend you are enjoying her gift, while secretly putting everything down your shirt.
The correct answer is c. Vegetarians should always be polite, even at the expense of some physical discomfort.
Situation #3—Dealing with Relatives. Your rich Uncle Hairy (his mother couldn't spell) is dying. He's never agreed with your diet, and now he promises to leave you $5 million if he can just have the satisfaction of seeing you eat a steak on his deathbed. Otherwise the money goes to the Friends of Pork Chops. Do you:
a. Eat the steak, hope you don't die, and ease your guilt by giving half the money to the vegetarian charity of your choice.
b. Take advantage of Hairy's failing eyesight by hiring a starving actor to eat the steak.
c. Explain the conviction of your beliefs one more time, and hope that Hairy will respect you enough to leave you the money anyway.
Don't even think about answering c! Vegetarians must be opportunistic if we have any hope of surviving in today's world. No, b. is the obvious choice here.
Situation #4—Dealing with Authority Figures. You are 17 and madly in love with Susie, the cutest girl at school. She invites you over to meet her father who, it turns out, is the infamous Marine Colonel Charley "Nukemal" Morris. When the good Colonel hears about the diet of the fellow dating his daughter he calls you a communist and threatens you with grievous bodily injury. Do you:
a. Beg his forgiveness and promise to start eating meat.
b. Change the subject by asking how he got the nickname "Nukemal".
c. Challenge him to a fight to the death over his daughter.
Answers b or c could be hazardous to your health. No, the correct answer here is a. We vegetarians are a peace-loving lot, and prefer even a tad of dishonesty to violent confrontation. Anyway, the Colonel is a control freak and will get a charge out of this. Just make sure you leave before dinner.
Score Your Vegetarian Social Awareness:
0 correct—Your vegetarian social skills are nothing like mine (thank goodness!) Congratulations!
1-3 correct—You are "average" in every way.
4 correct—You've been reading this column way too long. Get a life.