Because I’ve been vegan for a million years (ok, 26), there were a good few years when I was the only vegan I knew, and the only vegan anyone in my social circles knew.
Back then, hardly anyone knew what the word even meant, and when I explained, I could tell that I was considered just a little bit TOO different, extreme, and martyr ‘ish.’
I guess because I was highly aware of how negatively people were perceiving me, I developed a bit of an apologetic ‘shtik’
There was a particular group of friends I used to go out with, and we’d often go to a Chinese or Indian restaurant. When the server came to our table, I’d always check that the dish I was about to order was dairy and egg free. As I asked the server these questions, I realised the table would go quiet and everyone would listen to me, so when I finished, I’d sort of shrug and blush a little and say ‘sorry guys, I’m the weird vegan one!’
Knowing what I know NOW, I cringe at this.
I don’t blame myself – I didn’t know any better. I didn’t have access to the multitude of information we have today that could’ve helped me deal with that situation in a more confident way.
If you’re going vegan today it’s quite the opposite.
Most people now KNOW what being vegan means in terms of the ethics, and thanks to lots of us sharing articles and documentaries on social media; the health, environmental, world hunger and social justice reasons to go vegan are a lot more widely known.
We have the courage to talk about it more as we grow in numbers so we don’t HAVE to be remotely apologetic (I didn’t HAVE to be back then, I just wasn’t equipped with the tools and information to help me NOT be).
If you find yourself the only vegan in a group of non-vegans, you may feel yourself straying into apologetic territory – if you are all choosing a place to go eat for example. While you probably don’t mind going to an omnivore restaurant if you know there are going to be adequate vegan options, you will probably want to avoid a steakhouse that you know darn well would only offer you a plate of garnish lettuce.
Here are my top tips to keep you away from sounding apologetic when you’re out and about:
1. Remember: How YOU perceive yourself is often how EVERYBODY will perceive you. If you don’t sound like you’re giving much value to what you’re saying, no one else will value it either.
It could well be that years ago when I was talking about being vegan to my friends I was doing so in such a feeble, apologetic way that I CAUSED their negativity about it, rather than their negativity causing me to be apologetic.
Always try and have at the forefront of your mind the moment when it clicked for you that you wanted to be vegan. Whatever it was that inspired that decision, keep that front and centre. This will help you radiate confidence when talking about it, and when making group decisions based on it.
2. We are not yet in the majority, but we can ACT like we are – because guess what, we should be; and sooner or later we WILL be (yay!). Act like what you’re talking about or asking for in restaurants is completely normal and if you are challenged, be surprised you are being challenged. If we act like we’re the norm, it will happen quicker that we will be. We’ll manifest it. We’ll collectively fake it till we make it!
3. Be ready for when new people ask you why you’re vegan. Tell of your ethical reasons if it’s these that inspired you to go vegan, but also have at hand a few knockout facts that cover all bases. The Cowspiracy Facts page is great for this.
4. Even though I recommend we act like we’re in the majority, we should (and I know I don’t need to say this) always be unfailingly polite. It costs nothing, and a bit of politeness and charm always help a request get heard.
I’ve never EVER had a server have a problem with me politely asking questions. I’ve even managed to get a decent meal in bayou country in Louisiana when only hog and crawfish seemed to be on the menu, and the servers were initially a little wary when I said we didn’t eat meat. When I politely suggested a few ideas we got a perfectly decent salad, and fries with Cajun spices.
Don’t forget, in the restaurant context servers are there to serve, and are aware they’ll get a good tip if they please you, so no apologetic mumbling needed here as long as we are courteous in our requests.
5. Never be afraid to suggest a different restaurant to the one being suggested. After all, others would do this based on taste preferences, there’s no reason why you can’t do this for your ‘taste’ preferences, just suggest another fun place that you KNOW has great food.
6. Know that as long as you are telling your truth, stating facts, and making requests politely – you have no need to act, or be, apologetic. Should anyone try and make you feel that you should be, this is their problem.
7. Why would you ever act sorry for saving animals, saving the planet, promoting world peace, getting healthy so you are not a drain on health resources, helping combat world hunger, helping end violence and having a positive impact on all oppressions?