Many, many years ago in this very space I wrote a column called The Great Vegetarian Dating Game, in which I bemoaned my experiences dating meat-eaters, semi-vegetarians, and even fellow vegetarians. I concluded that one might be able to find the perfect mate from any of these groups. On the other hand, there were plenty of good reasons why one might not.
Since writing that first column a lot has happened to me. I married a wonderful vegetarian woman, had a sadly less-than-wonderful marriage, and then found myself single again—this time in a strange new century! Now that I'm older and wiser (all right, I'm just older) I figure it's time to bemoan again, and to update my original column with advice for those who might be dating in the new millennium. Here's what I've learned so far in my brief foray into this modern world of romance…
- Everyone is Online! Without a doubt, the biggest change in the dating world in the last several hundred years must be the fact that it's all done online now. This isn't just another option that people have for finding someone—it's the only option. Everyone, it seems, is too busy to go out on real dates anymore. With the computer, single people can accumulate multiple paramours (one woman proudly confided to me that she had vast numbers of "strategically placed men") and keep them happy indefinitely with form-letter emails. Of course you can't gage "chemistry" over the computer, but that doesn't really matter. Nobody ever actually meets anyone. And of course virtual dating has many advantages over the traditional method. It's easy to lie about your qualities (I know a guy who digitally doctors his photos before sending them out), you never get weird diseases, and dumping a person is as easy as hitting the delete key.
For vegetarians, online dating is especially exciting. First, we can go to the big dating sites, where we can instantly search a huge database of potential mates for the word "vegetarian." That will reveal to us that, out of millions of single people with computers around the world, three of them share our dietary preferences (while an additional 87 say that they are specifically not interested in vegetarians). A similar search on the word "vegan" reveals that there are 518 people in the database from Las Vegas!
Dating sites that specifically cater to vegetarians are perhaps more promising. Here, as a friend of mine puts it, the odds are good, but unfortunately the goods may tend to be a bit odd. Good luck.
- The Universal Experience As bad as dating on the Internet is, it can be even worse in the real world. The first thing I notice when I take my search for a potential mate off-line is the universal experience shared by all single people over 30: "I can't meet anyone!" It doesn't seem to matter whether you are male or female, straight or gay, veggie or meat-addicted, the perception is always the same: anyone you come across who might otherwise be the slightest bit appropriate is already taken. I can't tell you how many parties I've been to where I end up with a group of men standing around the kitchen, grousing about the lack of single women. When I got divorced my friend Ray (also recently divorced, so he knows about these things) gave me a bottle of malt liquor and a paper cutout of a Barbie doll with the words "…for those lonely nights" written across it. How right he was.
- The Power of Dogs? People I respect a lot tell me that the way around the "I can't meet anyone" problem is to get a dog. Dogs are "chick magnets" my friends say. Having a dog at your side not only makes you seem instantly likable (ax murderers don't have pets?), but dogs can also be trained to "accidentally" slip out of your grip and run over to people you find attractive. Most importantly, when you eventually strike out, dogs are always there to make you feel less like a loser.
I don't really want a dog, but I would like to check out this phenomenon. If I can borrow your basset hound sometime for a spin around the park, let me know.
- Fatal Flaws (of the dietary variety) People are always asking me if I could ever date a meat-eater. "Sure," I tell them, "but only if we otherwise had a lot in common." It's true too. But then again, I suppose if we had a lot of other things in common I might not expect her to be a meat-eater for long. Of course that doesn't reflect reality. It's just my fantasy of a way to save the world: one date at a time.
My father constantly tells me I'll never get anyone interested in me as long as I'm a vegetarian. He's probably right. As strange as it seems, I think it's much more difficult for a meat-eater to be happy with a vegetarian than the other way around. I don't blame them a bit. If you're addicted to meat and dairy products and want to use those things on a regular basis, it must be a real drag to hang around with someone who finds that behavior unhealthy, gross and/or immoral. One woman I met told me outright that she had no intention of giving up meat, and that she considered my vegetarianism to be a fatal flaw that would prevent us from ever having any kind of a romantic relationship. Oh well—at least she was honest!
Finding a great relationship is tough for just about everyone. But I think it's especially difficult for us vegetarians. I keep telling myself not to despair though. There must be someone out there who can appreciate a fellow with a healthy diet, who's kind to animals and to the environment as well. That seems like a pretty good package to me—even if it does include having to put up with a weirdo vegetarian.