If you met both of us, you’d instantly know which one of us is the extrovert, and which one the introvert. Indeed, you’d probably also notice that my fiancé, Eric, is usually the one speaking up for my veganism—before I even open my mouth—even though he’s an omnivore.
Wherever we go, Eric wants to make sure my needs are met—even if this means eating at a spendier, vegetarian restaurant or driving past three conventional grocery stores before reaching the farmer’s market. He doesn’t question my commitment to veganism. Rather, his most frequent questions are “Is there anything here you can eat?” and “Did you get enough?”
Over the years before meeting me, he’d gradually moved away from a diet of mostly fast food towards one that included grilled chicken, scrambled eggs, whole wheat bread, and the occasional veggie—but still mostly meat. Since childhood, he’d been accustomed to thinking of meat as the “the meal,” the rest decoration.
When I met Eric almost three years ago, I was an omnivore as well, but meat had never been particularly interesting to me. Whole grains, pastas, and fruit (lots of apples!) were the staples of my childhood. Thanks to my parents, I never developed a taste for really processed foods, including sodas. To Eric, I may have seemed a little “crunchy” in this regard, but eager to become more health-conscious, he embraced my cooking style.
Only a few months after we started dating (and after ploughing through a few books on plant-based nutrition), I became a vegan. Eric was supportive, but ever the scholar, he wanted to hear the well-researched reasons for my transition. He was wary of celebrity nutritionist “detox” diets (even though they pique my interest!) and pushed me to seek out credible sources—if there wasn’t a bibliography of peer-reviewed sources in the back of a book, I was to proceed with healthy skepticism. (“Yay, skepticism!” He says.)
We’ve developed a pretty good system at home. I do most of the cooking, which always includes veggies and usually a whole grain like quinoa or brown rice. We start every meal with a salad and homemade dressing—Eric is always impressed that we finish off the giant tub of salad greens before any of it wilts. Sometimes, he’ll supplement his meal with a chicken breast or scrambled eggs, but over the few years that we’ve been together, he’s eaten less and less meat—and certainly more veggies. He’ll be the first to tell you.
At no point have I tried to “convert” Eric. (As long as raving about green smoothies doesn’t count.) Rather, like his transition away from fast food, he’s gradually moving towards a more plant-based diet, which he acknowledges is good for weight loss and better nutrition (he’s interested in getting his vitamins and minerals from whole food sources). If he gave up meat cold turkey, he says, he probably wouldn’t stick to it for very long. Slowly losing the craving for meat is probably the most effective way for him to transition.
I’ve never had the experience of being single and dating as a vegan, but I’ve met so many open-minded omnivores (I was once one of them), and I’m fortunate to be engaged to one.
That being said, I sense that veganism is perceived as an “affront” to some—simply because it’s a different way of life. While traveling through the U.S., Eric and I found many a gas station T-shirt reading things like “If we weren’t supposed to eat meat, why didn’t God make broccoli more fun to shoot?” Eric was probably more offended than I was.
You see, I don’t let that kind of negativity get me too down. Life has made me optimistic. Being with Eric (and being with myself, if that makes sense) has shown me that many people are more eager to learn than they are to judge. Although Eric’s parents have a very different diet than I do, I feel that their home has become my home, too, since, like Eric, they make sure I have enough Mary Things to eat.
I try to share my veganism in a positive way. It’s hard to contain how excited I am about the way I eat. Although there are many things that get under my skin—like, must we really keep testing cosmetics on animals?! How is this practice not outdated yet?—I do feel there’s a positive shift afoot. Like Eric, more of my friends and family members are becoming more animal and health conscious in their own way and in their own time. As vegans, it’s important for us to remember that for many, change represents a grey area (it certainly did for me) and often doesn’t occur overnight or in any single way. Our best bet is to hope that people have the courage to pursue what’s healthiest for them because, let’s face it, change does take courage.
Of course, Eric and I aren’t just an omnivore + a vegan, just as we aren’t just an extrovert + an introvert. We’re whole people, interested in literature, hiking, good movies, and chocolate. We’re obsessed with our cat, and we’re both looking forward to raising children one day. Our vegan-omnivore relationship feels more organic than black and white, but I think I prefer it that way 🙂
Also see: How to Attract True Love in Your Life
Photos: Mary Hood