March 21, 2014

Is Dating a Vegan Overrated?

Some people out there might wonder why eating a different diet could put so much strain on a relationship. There's an easy answer to that – because it's not a diet but rather a whole life philosophy. Some people eat a vegan diet (often preferring to call it plant-based) for health reasons, but that's not what I'm addressing here. I'm a vegan for non-human animals, for other human beings, for the environment, and for my health. There is no aspect of my life that this belief system does not touch. So, when I look for a partner in this life, I want very much for them to share my vegan ideology.

For my entire dating life I've been a vegetarian/vegan. When I was younger and made a list of my perfect guy's attributes, #1 was always “is a vegetarian”. I became veg for ethical reasons and couldn't fathom purposely placing a piece of animal flesh into my mouth ever again, and so that was the one non-negotiable rule that I made for my dating life. After all, I thought, how can you be in a relationship with someone – and call that person your other half! – when they're ingesting dead animals several times a day, when they have such a huge disconnect with the food on their plate, when they're petting one animal and eating another?

I wasn't the type to have long term relationships, so my vegan requirement wasn't too much of an issue. I dated vegan, vegetarians, and carnists alike. My beliefs did cause some rifts from time to time, and I'm sure hindered the progress of more than one relationship. Mostly it wasn't a big deal because there were no long term plans. However, it really sucked when I'd lean in for a kiss, get a whiff of pepperoni, and all I could think about was the pig whose life was stolen for those slices of processed meat. What a turn off. No pepperoni kisses for me!

By now you're probably thinking the answer to the title of this post is “no, absolutely not!”, so you'll be surprised to learn that, yes, I do think that dating a vegan is overrated. A little bit. Sometimes.

My first reasoning is that just because someone is vegan doesn't mean that they are compatible with you, and it doesn't mean that they are a good person. A few of the veg*ns I dated were uninspiring, dispassionate, callous. I'm not saying that vegan men are terrible, not at all, but I want to make the point that people are people, no matter what ethics they ascribe to.

Speaking of people are people, that runs right into my next point. Everyone has the ability to be compassionate, to feel empathy, and to connect. I love the term pregan (pre-vegan), which implies that we're all potential vegans; some of us just haven't arrived at the doorstep yet. We shouldn't discount people because they have yet to experience the same epiphanies that we have.

Case in point, in 2007, I was this vegan radical punk girl who rode her bike everywhere, gave my time to social justice causes, and explored the forgotten parts of my city who met a radical punk guy who rode his bike everywhere, gave his time to social justice causes, and explored forgotten parts of his city. We fell madly in love. He wasn't a vegan, and that was a problem for me. Most of his best friends were vegan. He knew the gritty details of the lives of farmed animals, he'd seen the undercover videos, and he had no interest in going vegan. I couldn't comprehend this decision.

I'd find myself thinking “what if”. What if we move in and he has raw meat in the fridge all the time? What if we have children and he refuses to raise them vegan. Blah blah blah. You know what? All of that was way in the future and completely hypothetical, and except for that, our love was smooth sailing. I had one of my “live in the present moment, Marissa!” pep talks with myself.

As it happens, I found a guy who deeply respects me and admires my convictions. When we moved in together, there was no meat in the house. If/when we have children, they will be raised vegan. When we had cookouts and parties, he made extra efforts to insure that the designated pans, utensils, etc., for the vegan food were not contaminated by the meat ones. When you commit to someone, when you love them, you love all of them, and that goes both ways. He compromised because he knew how serious my conviction was. In return, I did not guilt him for not being vegan, I gave him no ultimatums (You eat vegan or I'll leave). I loved him for who he was.

More than 5 years after we fell in love, guess what? My love came to me and declared that he was going vegan. He didn't do it because I made him watch animal cruelty videos, nor did he do it because I begged him to. He made the connections on his own, and if there is ever a point that I'm not in his life anymore, those connections he made will still be there. His decision has also made us closer than ever before. So, you see, dating a vegan isn't entirely overrated!

Not every relationship will end up this way. The point is you don't know which of them will and which won't, and it doesn't mean that someone is a bad person if they eat animals. It's silly for us vegans to judge someone that we love for something that most of us had to come to in our own time. I've grown up, and I've learned that. I'm not a little girl making lists anymore.

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