Every Thursday, Peaceful Dumpling answers your questions about healthy eating, veganism, diet, fitness, wellness, life, love…and everything in between! Ask us using the contact form below or at contact [at] peacefuldumpling [dot] com.
I am 60 years old and have been living a vegan lifestyle for about 5 years. Most of my friends are not vegan. I used to think that being included in a social event was as easy as offering to bring a vegan dish to share. I recently realized that my friends are reluctant to include us in dinner invitations because they think we are judging their eating habits! Although my husband and I are very serious about our vegan lifestyle, we definitely have a “live and let live” attitude and aren’t interested in judging others. Finally, the question: Will you please offer a suggestion about whether or not I should talk about it to our friends, and if so, what are some examples as to what to say?
Thank you, Ms. Dumpling,
Thank you for your question, and I’m sorry to hear that you are stuck in such an awkward place with your friends. I’m also sorry that this is an all-too-common situation for so many people with any kind of special diet–from voluntary veganism or vegetarianism, to those adopted for medical reasons. That being said, there’s a lot of wisdom out there in the universe on the topic that will hopefully help you get back on the guest list to your friends’ events.
In complete contrast to what your friends think, it’s not you and your husband who are passing judgment on your friends, but your friends who are judging you. They are projecting their judgment on you, and there’s no reason that people, most of all people who know and like you, should be passing judgments on your lifestyle choices in this way. But as you say, you should definitely try talking to your friends and explaining that there’s no underlying conflict–at least nothing from your and your husband’s side. Often, it’s merely that people are making assumptions about others that is the root of the problem, so once you tell your friends that you’re not judging them or their food choices it might just go away. Try bringing it up somehow in a separate context at first, not necessarily at the dinner table.
For example, when I meet someone new and explain that I’m vegan for the first time, I add: “Becoming vegan was one of the most natural and effortless ways I could be a better person and be positive for the world, but I think we all contribute to it in unique, personal ways. For others it might not be veganism, but something else completely different–and I totally respect that.” That might plant the seed for having more open conversations among you going forward and establish that you’re okay around non-vegan things. In the end, the entire idea of being vegan is respecting others (whether they’re animals or people), so it makes complete sense that you aren’t evangelizing and being aggressive about imposing your beliefs on others.
If that strategy doesn’t work, and you don’t get an invite back to your friends’ house, you might ask them out to a restaurant (rather than your home, where I gather that you would only be serving vegan dishes) that has vegan and non-vegan foods, which in and of itself indicates you’re okay with that kind of setting. If and when the issue of meat or dairy comes up while you peruse the menu, be forthcoming about your attitude. Try something like: “Even though I’m not interested in x/y/z, I’m sure the dish is going to be delicious! Everything at this restaurant is good,” etc. Order things that you can all share and suit everyone’s preferences so there’s no exclusion. You might then also make them aware of some unexpectedly vegan options, such as dishes with beans, falafels, guacamole, soups, etc.–things they’ve no doubt eaten themselves, like, and yet aren’t expressly “vegan.” Educating people on the facts of veganism has always resulted in increased compassion, in my experience at least. My father, for instance, would eat meat and cheese exclusively if he could, until his new favorite meal became a completely vegan lentil soup I made one Easter. When I used the v-word, his expression was of genuine shock, and I think from then on he didn’t look at everything I ate with such skepticism.
I hope that your situation improves–it’s no fun to be left out, especially when you’re trying to encourage a more open and generous eating experience with those you love.
More Ask Peaceful Dumpling: “How do I Transition to a Clean Yet Nourishing Diet?”
Photo: docmoreau via Flickr