In seven hours I will be going on a date. Am I excited? Yes. Am I nervous? Yes. However, I don’t get the same nerves I used to as I have become a seasoned pro at first dates in recent years. Yes, there are butterflies and inner questions. Will I find him attractive? Will he find me attractive? Will he talk as much as I do and not mind that fact? The list is endless. However, since February this year, I have another question in my head that makes me nervous: How will they react when I say I’m a vegan?
My anxiety comes from early dating experiences when I was still just a vegetarian and I had some negative reactions from twenty-something meat-eating guys. One seemed to question me a lot on our first date, asking why, what I eat and how he would struggle to cook for me, so not surprisingly I never I heard from him again. The other I dated for a few weeks and he knew from our first date about my diet, but he didn’t seem to have a problem with it and we had several food-related dates before he ended things the cowardly 21st century way (but that’s a whole other issue and article in itself) by text. The text said he had been out with a vegetarian before and it hadn’t worked out because she had tried to change him and he wasn’t prepared to go down that route again.
The final blow came when he wished me luck finding someone who could handle my eating disorder. My eating disorder! Yes you can imagine the words he was called. I will be honest though and admit in a moment of self-doubt and weakness I did question whether it was worth it. It was my meat eating mother who said: “Don’t you dare lose your principles for a man. You’ve been doing this too long to give up for them.”
So I didn’t. I stuck to it and a few years later bit the bullet and took it to the next level, finally feeling confident enough I could do it.
I always wanted to be a vegan, despite my love of cheese, as I knew vegetarian was only half way to guilt-free living. However it was the idea I would alienate myself from people that put me off. I didn’t want to cause a problem eating with friends, family and potential husbands. For some reason though, I got the confidence to give it a try this year (maybe it was turning 30, I don’t know) and lent was the perfect time for a trial run. It worked so well the trial run hasn’t stopped yet.
I wasn’t a nuisance to friends or family. It just required a little more research and forward planning if food was involved. I also often get to pick the restaurants, which is a bonus. As for dates, I have been pleasantly surprised by the open mindedness of the guys I have met. Since making the change I have dated six guys and all of them have said it’s ok. Three of whom, I continued to date for several weeks so it wasn’t a deal breaker for them. They didn’t say otherwise anyway. The other three just didn’t have that elusive chemistry omnis and veggies all search for. When I told them they all said ‘as long as I can still eat meat, I don’t mind’ and that, I don’t have a problem with. Just don’t kill an animal in front of me. That would be my deal breaker.
I know some of you reading this will be asking why on earth am I dating non vegan/vegetarians and I’ll explain, fully aware of the fact that some of you won’t agree with me. I like ‘normal’. I was brought up in a family of omnivores and when I became vegetarian at eleven years old, my diet consisted of Quorn to replace what everyone else was having. I made the choice myself and didn’t want my choice to be negative to other people. That mentality still exists in me today.
The only thing I have in common with militant vegans is the reasoning behind my lifestyle. While I am happy to explain veganism to people who ask, I’m not going to shout it off the rooftops to non-listeners, only to receive a negative response. Changing the world, one meat eater at a time is not my goal. I have many others but not that. But if my non-militant lifestyle eases people into thinking like I do about the unnecessary cruelty, I’ll be a happy vegan.
I am also a teacher and when students ask me why I eat differently, I can’t tell them too much for fear of being accused of preaching and corrupting young minds. I need parents on my side not against me. I love my choice but it’s only a small part of who I am and refuse to live my life as ‘the vegan’, which probably explains my dating choices. I’ve also never met a vegan/vegetarian man I’m attracted to. This next bit is controversial but I’m just not attracted to militant men who could potentially sit at dinner with my friends and family and challenge their choice to order and enjoy rare steak or cheese. And I don’t want to be in a vegan couple that nobody invites over or out to dinner. I just want to find a man (meat eater, vegetarian or vegan) who I find attractive who accepts my quirky ways, who gets along with my people and will have tofu with me when I cook. Only time will tell if my date tonight is that one? Who knows he might have his own vegan ‘secret’ to tell me.