There are many moments in the lives of us vegetarians that turn out to be, well, just plain awkward. It's dealing with omnivores that's the problem, of course. Let's face it, nobody ever said it was easy to be enlightened in a world full of dunces. (We can just imagine how awkward it must have been for those few, brave and visionary souls who prophesized—before anyone else knew the truth—that the world was round, that diseases were caused by germs, that Nixon was a crook, and that O.J. was innocent!)
For me, one of the awkward moments that keeps coming up over and over again is when I have to make the big confession to someone I've just met that my diet doesn't include the various items of muscle tissue, glandular secretions and reproductive matter that most people love to eat. It's always a shock to them, and it's always uncomfortable for me. I have to believe lots of other vegetarians must have this same problem.
Of course, awkward moments of confession are always worst when we have something riding on the underlying relationship. Consider, for example, these classic conversations:
"Sally, I haven't known you that long, but already I can sense that we have something very special between us."
"You really feel that way Jason?"
"Yes I do. And I think we should start planning now for a blissful life together."
"Oh, Jason, that's wonderful! But I have to tell you that I'm a vegetarian. That's okay, isn't it?"
"Yes. You don't mind, do you? We could have beautiful little home, with a vegetarian kitchen, and vegetarian children, and a vegetarian dog. And every morning I'll fix you a delicious tofu and seaweed scramble, and a big glass of sprout juice—"
"…Have I ever told you about my several sexually-transmitted diseases?"
"Farnsworth, speaking as President of Boxcar Industries, I have to say that a young man of your talents could go far in our organization. That's why I wanted to meet you here at Charlie's Steakhouse to have dinner and discuss your future."
"Thank you, Mr. Rumphorst!"
"And by the way, don't even think of ordering anything but the New York Strip here. It's fabulous, and is the absolute favorite of everyone on our Board. Yes, it's time you joined our little club, my son!"
"Oh, …gee. Actually, I think I may have to order the steamed vegetable plate..."
"Hrumpf. [pregnant pause] Farnsworth, you're really pretty much of an idiot, aren't you? As I was saying, we may have an opening in the mailroom. I'll have my secretary get back to you on that."
"So, you're Michael! You know, when you eloped with our Ashleigh we were pretty upset, but now all that matters is that we have you both home for the holidays."
"Thanks Mrs. Pillbottom!"
"Tonight we're having pot roast for dinner, and tomorrow I'm going to fix lamb chops—Ashleigh's favorite!"
"Actually, Mrs. Pillbottom, I'm a life-long vegetarian, and since we've been married Ashleigh has decided to go vegetarian too."
"Oh, I see. Michael, come out to the garage and help me with something, would you dear?"
"Sure Mrs. Pillbottom. …Gee, Mrs. Pillbottom, why are you starting the car? You know that's not very safe in a closed garage. …Mrs. Pillbottom, did you know you locked your keys in the running car? Where are you going Mrs. Pillbottom? Mrs. Pillbottom, you seem to have locked the door behind you. I'm sure it's all a mistake, but it's getting kind of cloudy in here, Mrs. Pillbottom. …Mrs. Pillbottom???"
Well, as you can see, these are all awkward moments for both the vegetarians and meat-eaters involved. So, how can we handle these situations better when they present themselves in the future? My suggestion is to be aggressive. Yes, I for one am tired of apologizing to people for my vegetarianism. It's the thing that I'm the most proud of in my life, and I've decided to flaunt it rather than be sorry for it. I think all vegetarians should take this approach.
Imagine how the situations above could be different with just a slight change in attitude:
"Oh Jason, I want to be with you too! But I want us to go through life as vegetarians. You know what that means Jason? More happy years together, better health, better breath, and better sex. Think of it Jason, sex all the time!"
"Mr. Rumphorst, I want you to know I'm a vegetarian, and I want you to understand what that can mean for the success of Boxcar Industries. It means I'm not afraid to be my own man, Mr. Rumphorst. It means that I think for myself and act decisively. That's the kind of man you need, Mr. Rumphorst. Yes, I've got my eye on that Executive Vice President's office next to yours, and you'd be crazy not to give it to me!"
"Mrs. Pillbottom, I want you to consider what vegetarianism can do for your daughter's future. Why, think of the money we'll save on food! Think how much healthier and more energetic we'll be when you and Mr. Pillbottom start drooling on yourselves and we have to take care of you! Put down that knife Mrs. Pillbottom, and stop being silly. You're going to like this, Mrs. Pillbottom. Trust me."
Yes, it's pretty clear from these examples that life can be better for us vegetarians if we're aggressive, confident, and blatantly self-righteous in our dealings with meat-eaters. Try it—I think you you'll like it. And the next time you find yourself in a locked garage with the power off and the car running, you'll be at peace. You'll be happy knowing you asserted yourself.