I Hardly Eat Any Meat/Dairy/Eggs…

What is the most common response I get to people finding out I’m vegan?

I bet it’s not at all what you’d think.

I’m rarely met with the ‘but how do you get your protein?’ question that other vegans seem to get so often, and equally rarely do I get an indignant snort, followed by something along the lines of ‘good for you, now pass the bacon.’

Occasionally, I’m met with an ‘ooh, I don’t know how you do that, I couldn’t do it.’ But the most common response goes a bit like this:

‘Well, I don’t eat much meat, and I don’t really eat dairy either.’

Or:

‘I hardly ever eat meat, and I only have a tiny bit of milk in tea.’

Or:

‘Oh, I only eat meat for Saturday lunch, and rarely eat dairy.’

You get the gist.

I must say at this point, that it only ever comes up that I’m vegan in a natural, organic, way, when it is relevant to the conversation, and I never carry the subject any further, unless asked. So the people uttering the above phrases were not about to be judged in any way. No-one was asking them what they ate, and there was no need conversationally to offer this information.

My best guess as to why this is a common response is this.

They have heard the negative associations attached to the word vegan – one of them being that vegans are judgemental. Ironically, because of these preconceived ideas, they have judged ME as being judgemental before I’ve said a word on the subject. They thus feel the need to justify or explain their eating habits to a very bemused listener who had asked them precisely nothing.

My other issue with this response (though I would only bring this up in actual conversation if asked), is that we all tend to think we eat less of something than we actually do. The truth is, we never know how much we eat of something until we stop. And with dairy especially (as it has so many forms – whey, lactose etc), it crops up in everything, from cookies to cakes to tablets to sauces, so it can be difficult to keep track.

After all this time I’m still learning and trying to improve the ways in which I respond to the reactions I get if it comes up that I’m vegan. This one has always kind of stumped me, I usually just mumble something lame like ‘oh…ok.’

Any ideas?