I was watching JoJo Fletcher spit game on “The Bachelorette” the other night and had to wonder: Has there ever been a non-meat-and-dairy-eating contestant on the show? Probably not because it would be a major game changer. I’ve been out of the dating scene for awhile (and by awhile, I mean, I’m not going to admit how long) because I really needed to take time to myself. Time to really discover who I was and check some things off of my list. I went from a really bad “situationship” to “dating” some less-than-mediocre guys who were really just filling the void of my constant norm of being in some sort of relationship.
During that extended period of time when I made the conscious choice to make zero efforts on the dating front, I got the new job I wanted, finished the MBA-level marketing strategy certificate I had been eyeing, and finally fulfilled my dream of getting my teeth straightened. Truly, it was the perfect time to focus all efforts on creating a better Sharon. And I did.
The pep in my step was back. I knew who I was, and I now know who I want to be. But, with all that and finally feeling like I was ready to make some strides towards the scary dating world, I started to wonder: do I want to deal with the endless conversations that come with “being vegan” and “being divorced”?
One of the major parts of my new job is schmoozing. In a way, it has given me good practice for dating–except I’m always the one paying. I meet my future clients out-and-about at networking events (think: speed dating), and I follow up the next day with an email or a call letting them how nice it was to meet them; then, I am usually able to get a lunch meeting (date) without hesitation. Once at the lunch meeting (having stalked their company prior to the lunch), I now know all of the questions I need to ask to pique interest and engage in conversation. Once again, dating 101 at its finest.
But then, when it comes to ordering food, I am immediately put in the spotlight once the prospective clients realize I am ordering a number of sides, requesting from our server that there is no meat or dairy in any of my order. It never fails that even my client(s) takes a sidebar to find out a little more about my vegan ways.
Client: So, you don’t eat meat? Not even seafood?
Me: Right, no seafood or dairy even.
Client: Wow, so long have you been doing this? What made you make this change? Was it for health reasons or environmental reasons?
Me (in my head thinking how loaded those questions were): A few years now. I kind of fell into it. It was initially for health reasons while everything else that came along with it fell into place.
Client: Is it okay that there is meat on the table?
Thankfully, it’s not a real date. My dining companion is not wondering if this is something to deal with for the next several decades if it worked out. But then I think about it: dating-wise, how big of a deal is it that I am vegan? In fact, I wonder if my “baggage of being divorced” has any weight in this argument. Can a guy deal with me never picturing myself eating meat or dairy again, or would he rather deal with knowing he might be my future ex-husband?
So what is worse in the dating world? I am about to find out. Since I returned from Puerto Rico last month, it was like a switch turned on. I thought this only happened to guys, but apparently, it happened to me, too. And all of a sudden, I’m ready to meet some good guys and find out if any of this really matters. Have I been high-fived on a date after my date found out I was once married? Absolutely. But I’ve also been broken up with because an ex could not deal with the baggage that came with the territory.
While these are not the only factors I ponder when thinking of my next date (I’d actually have to be courted and asked on a date first before I worried about this), a part of me knows that most men would prefer to not have to deal with someone who leads a cruelty-free lifestyle. I’ll never forget an informal first date I went on when I jokingly told the server, “I’m complicated when I order,” and he looked right at me and said, “Don’t tell me. Tell the guy you’re with.” While the epitome of awko-taco ensued over dinner, I truly know I should embrace my vegan status and forget being meek about it. Then, maybe, it won’t be as big of a deal as it’s often made out to be.
But it is. I just want to be able to have a dinner without 21 questions of my personal choices. Because I surely don’t question the person opposite side of the table about theirs.
Are you dating while vegan? What has the experience been like for you?
Also by Sharon: How Fixing my Daddy Issues Changed My Dating Life
Related: Vegan Dating in the Age of Swiping
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Photo: Michael Ramey via Unsplash