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 Post subject: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 10:08 am 
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Dying from Nooch Lung
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I've been vegan for over 3 years now and the hardest part for me is still how to deal with how (for me) it introduces an element of awkwardness into a lot of social situations.

For example, I just started a new job about three weeks ago. It's a small workplace with six permanent and maybe four on-and-off holiday employees, and everyone seems to get along really well. I haven't really wanted to bring up my veganism because I just don't really feel like having the discussion, so when food is offered to me, I usually just say "no thanks" and leave it at that. But now one of them has suggested I join them the next time a few of them hang out at his place to watch movies, and play with his three kitties (YAY!). It seems like a big part of the bonding involved in these evenings is eating the cupcakes that one of the attendees makes. (Like, professionally. She provides desserts for our in-store cafe.) So now I'm like, how do I address this? I mean, I'd love to hang out with them (I could use some more local friends) but I feel like the whole situation will be made awkward by my not participating in the cupcake-related bonding, plus if I explain why I'm not eating her cupcakes, then I'll likely end up having to deal with the questions about veganism, which I don't feel like doing so early on in getting to know folks.

I rarely have had to deal with stuff like this because it's been so long since I've been in a situation of getting to know new people and trying to make new friends. How do other people deal with situations like this?

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 10:50 am 
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I don't like that type of situation either. I usually deal with it by offering to bring some kind of food (in this case, maybe something savory, so it won't compete with the cupcakes?). At least you'll have something to eat while you're there and you can share it to promote social bonding. If they say it's not necessary for you to bring something, you can tell them about your dietary preferences then, otherwise, you can wait to tell them after they've eaten some of your food. I always find that veganism goes down easier when it is preceded by good vegan noms.

Also, when I'm worried people will freak out at the term 'vegan', I'll just tell them I don't eat any animal products / plant-based and leave it to them to figure out what that diet is called.

Good luck! With any chance, your new colleagues are awesome and you'll have a great time hanging out with them.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 10:52 am 
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Don't think of veganism as your Dark Secret. It can also be just another part of your life and personality.

"Those cupcakes look great! They wouldn't happen to be vegan, would they?"

Oh, you're vegan?

"Yep!"

No, they're not vegan.

"Too bad for me."

It's only as awkward as you let it be.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 10:53 am 
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I hear you, Lepelaar. I've only been vegan for a year and half and struggle with the same thing. I don't realize how big of a deal food is until I interact with other people - food seems to be the center of practically all human interaction!

I think you have to decide whether you want to not talk about veganism or not hang out with this group... Probably, unless you find that they are either not curious (rare, but sometimes people are just like "oh, ok" and move on) or already totally familiar with veganism, you are going to get questions. If you want to hang out with them, and it sounds like you do? I would probably join them for movie night and bring a small batch of cupcakes to share. This way you can participate in the cupcake bonding. If asked, and you will be asked, maybe say something to the effect of "Oh, I am vegan so don't eat eggs and butter, but who doesn't love cupcakes?! so I thought, the more the merrier and I'd bring some to share." Make it about the cupcakes, not about you, if that makes sense?


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 11:31 am 
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Thanks Cornelie, FootFace, and emmalv!

FootFace wrote:
Don't think of veganism as your Dark Secret. It can also be just another part of your life and personality.

"Those cupcakes look great! They wouldn't happen to be vegan, would they?"

Oh, you're vegan?

"Yep!"

No, they're not vegan.

"Too bad for me."

It's only as awkward as you let it be.


See, I feel like this kind of approach would work in an area of the world where veganism is not as foreign a concept as it is here. But here, I feel like asking "they wouldn't happen to be vegan, would they?" would be on par with asking "they weren't by chance baked on Mars, were they?"

I also don't really feel like veganism is my Dark Secret, but my experience has been that once people know I'm a vegan, I'm either confronted with questions I don't really feel like answering in a friendly social situation or with defensive omnivore bingo. It's never just accepted and dropped as a topic of conversation. So recently, I've just decided that I'm better off avoiding the subject altogether. Which becomes awkward when food comes into the equation.

emmalv wrote:


I think you have to decide whether you want to not talk about veganism or not hang out with this group... Probably, unless you find that they are either not curious (rare, but sometimes people are just like "oh, ok" and move on) or already totally familiar with veganism, you are going to get questions.


Yeah, I've been avoiding it, but I think it's inevitable. I mean, considering how small the company is, and the sort of family atmosphere that seems to be present, I don't think I can keep it a secret forever. I guess I'm just hoping to get to know everyone better (and let them get to know me better) before it comes up. So then it really is just a part of who I am and doesn't end up being amongst the first things they know about me.

Quote:
If you want to hang out with them, and it sounds like you do? I would probably join them for movie night and bring a small batch of cupcakes to share. This way you can participate in the cupcake bonding. If asked, and you will be asked, maybe say something to the effect of "Oh, I am vegan so don't eat eggs and butter, but who doesn't love cupcakes?! so I thought, the more the merrier and I'd bring some to share." Make it about the cupcakes, not about you, if that makes sense?


Because the other person is a professional baker and everyone raves about her cupcakes, I'd feel really weird bringing my own. It would feel insulting and also if I brought enough to share, would invite comparisons, and I'm not really confident enough in my baking skills for that.

Cornelie wrote:
I don't like that type of situation either. I usually deal with it by offering to bring some kind of food (in this case, maybe something savory, so it won't compete with the cupcakes?). At least you'll have something to eat while you're there and you can share it to promote social bonding. If they say it's not necessary for you to bring something, you can tell them about your dietary preferences then, otherwise, you can wait to tell them after they've eaten some of your food. I always find that veganism goes down easier when it is preceded by good vegan noms.



Yeah, I guess offering to bring something savory might be my best bet. Really, everyone has been really awesome and welcoming up until now, so I'm probably overthinking this whole thing. But navigating social situations with omnis without veganism becoming a point of discussion has really been the most difficult part of being vegan in my experience.

Ugh. I hate being the center of attention and I hate having a big deal made out of anything on my behalf, and my experience has been that as soon as people find out I'm a vegan in social situations, this is what almost inevitably happens.

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I'd rather have a cupcake and a matte stomach. - Desdemona


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 11:50 am 
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When I'm in this situation, I always bring food to share. Maybe bring something other than cupcakes, so people aren't comparing your cupcakes to the professional's.

Also (and this works for other topics too), if I don't want to talk about veganism, I make sure I'm prepared with some "buffer statements" I can say to redirect the conversation, such as "As a rule, I don't discuss that while I'm eating, but if you're really interested I'd be happy to talk to you later about it" or "It's a long discussion, let's save it for another time" or "have you read [name any book or website about veganism that you'd recommend]? Check that out, it explains it much better than I would." You're welcome to use any of mine if you like them, or of course you can make up your own. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 12:03 pm 
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I always avoid telling new people i am vegan for as long as possible... even when they go on and on about how great eating meat is. If it's someone i barely see, i will just politely decline their food. If it is someone who i will be eating around often, i just tell them i am vegan. I like the buffer statements! Usually i don't mind talking about it, but sometimes i just wanna eat my forking sammich in peace.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 12:37 pm 
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I don't have a lot of advice, but a lot of sympathy and just wanted to say I feel that way too, if it makes you feel any better. FF and CQ are right that you can minimize it being an issue to a certain extent, but you can't control how people feel about it completely. Food is so fundamental to so many social occasions, that not participating in that feels like it isolates you from people you want to be close to.

A friend of mine is in AA, and he will say that if he doesn't want his not drinking to become a focus, he just quietly doesn't drink, but he never says anything really about it. He'll walk around with a glass and a plate of food and if someone asks what he's drinking, he'll deflect. He feels like he can't just say "Oh I don't drink" without becoming the focus for a conversation about why, because alcohol is central for many social occasions, and veganism can be the same. Its sometimes hard to say "Oh no thanks! I'm vegan" and then change the subject, because the other person is now having their own reaction to it - sometimes curious, sometimes defensive etc.

Even in a very veganfriendly area, I find that I tend not to make a ton of new omni friends, and I often hear "oh we didn't invite you because there isn't anything for you to eat there." Honestly, a big part of the reason that I just let Leela eat almost any food at a playdate is because I don't want people to think that my veganism has to be a reason not to have us over. I try and make our get-togethers focused on something other than food, bring my own food, and don't really mention much about why I am vegan or what that means, but I still feel a bit isolated from a lot of the other moms I've met since having L, who aren't vegan. I get lots of nice questions, and lots of requests for recipes to encourage their kiddos to eat veggies etc but I still feel like my veganism becomes something that defines me to them and a focus at social events, when I'd rather just have the focus be on something else.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 1:07 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
Don't think of veganism as your Dark Secret. It can also be just another part of your life and personality.

"Those cupcakes look great! They wouldn't happen to be vegan, would they?"

Oh, you're vegan?

"Yep!"

No, they're not vegan.

"Too bad for me."

It's only as awkward as you let it be.


Do this^. If these people really can't be friends or interact with you without you eating a cupcake, then why the hell do you want them as friends in the first place?

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 1:22 pm 
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jordanpattern wrote:
If these people really can't be friends or interact with you without you eating a cupcake, then why the hell do you want them as friends in the first place?


Well they work together, and I can see how you'd want to get along well with people you work with. It just makes the day to day so much better, you know?

When I worked at law firms and banks, I missed out on a lot of socialization opportunities because I'm vegan. And I was totally all "Who needs them, if they're going to be jerks about stuff." But its hard to not get the next promotion or next deal that people staff you on because they're friendly with you. A lot happens at work because people like you.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 1:36 pm 
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jordanpattern wrote:
FootFace wrote:
Don't think of veganism as your Dark Secret. It can also be just another part of your life and personality.

"Those cupcakes look great! They wouldn't happen to be vegan, would they?"

Oh, you're vegan?

"Yep!"

No, they're not vegan.

"Too bad for me."

It's only as awkward as you let it be.


Do this^. If these people really can't be friends or interact with you without you eating a cupcake, then why the hell do you want them as friends in the first place?


I never said they can't be friends or interact with me without me eating a cupcake. I'm expressing my own feelings of awkwardness in social situations involving food with omnis (especially in an area of the world where veganism is seen as extreme and weird). Repeatedly turning down food without explanation becomes awkward, and my experience has been that even when people are not hostile or defensive when finding out I'm vegan, it still becomes a bigger issue or point of discussion than I'd prefer. I hate having to answer the same questions over and over about my diet, which inevitably ends up happening even when people have the best of intentions.

CQ, I like the idea of buffer statements. I need to figure out some that work for me, and may very well steal your "It's a long discussion, let's save it for another time". Thanks!

Tofulish, the comparison to your friend in AA is interesting! I've seen some of the social pressure put on a friend of mine who doesn't drink, and it felt similar to me. Like people just can't accept his "no thanks". They either push it by saying "Oh, come on... just one" or quizzing him about why he doesn't want a drink. I have wanted to tell people to back off on his behalf, but I don't know if he'd appreciate that or just wants to handle it himself.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 1:45 pm 
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lepelaar wrote:
Yeah, I guess offering to bring something savory might be my best bet. Really, everyone has been really awesome and welcoming up until now, so I'm probably overthinking this whole thing. But navigating social situations with omnis without veganism becoming a point of discussion has really been the most difficult part of being vegan in my experience.

Ugh. I hate being the center of attention and I hate having a big deal made out of anything on my behalf, and my experience has been that as soon as people find out I'm a vegan in social situations, this is what almost inevitably happens.

I think you are overthinking it a bit. I'd take some food for myself and to share if others like. If you have to explain a bit to people, that's ok. They may get it and they may not, but I'd focus on having fun with my co-workers rather than anxiety about being the center of attention. The build up in your head may be worse than the actual event. Be polite and funny and deflect when you can. If people press, offer to bring some vegan baked goods next time for them to try.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 1:54 pm 
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If you feel uncomfortable with a conversation about veganism with everyone, why not just have a chat with the host along the lines of "I would really like to hang out with you guys, as I'm vegan, is there anything I can bring to make it easier?"

Mat.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 2:06 pm 
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lepelaar, i think they would be pretty okay to you saying something like "your cupcakes look so awesome and everyone raves about them. i would love to enjoy them as well but i'm vegan." and if they ask you why you've vegan you could always just make it about you and say "i'm vegan because i feel better when i eat this way."

that's what i tell people when i don't feel like having a big discussion about it. this way i feel like it's something they can't argue and it's something that i make about me, not them. i'm vegan because i feel best when i eat this way. they can't argue with you about how you feel and it's not like you're dragging ethical or animal related issues into it.

i'm the same way, i don't feel like having the vegan discussion with a lot of people because i dunno, for one, i don't want them to feel like i'm judging them and i don't want them to potentially feel bad or get defensive. i will admit, sometimes it kinda sucks because i want to tell them more reasons as to why i'm vegan (ethical, social, and environmental), but then i don't want to make it awkward and i just feel like so many people won't be open-minded or up for listening to me so it's not worth my energy.

i care, i really do, but it's really tough because on the one hand, veganism is a big part of my life and it means SO MUCH to me, but on the other hand i understand that veganism is my choice and it's something i do and i can't expect others to want to become vegan and fight for the same cause.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 2:13 pm 
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Stuff your face right before you go, so when they offer you one you can say "oh no thanks, I couldn't eat another bite!" And you're not lying!

I like to use the "I feel better when I eat this way" comment, too. When I'm more comfortable with the person or if it's a more appropriate time later I can always go more depth later. But it's a solid answer and you can always follow up with A comment about kitty cuteness to change the subject.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:03 pm 
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I think the idea of bringing something savory to share, so that it doesn't compete with the cupcakes, is a good one. It sounds like these people already like you and accept you since they are inviting you to participate, so maybe try not to overthink it. Complimenting the beautiful cupcakes while politely declining, and having a couple of stock answers available may be all that you need. If you can deflect the discussion long enough to enjoy some food, a movie, some kitty snuggles and a few laughs, then hopefully anyone who is still interested enough to ask you about it later is doing so with a good impression of how easy it is to hang out with you.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:05 pm 
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I live in small-town Indiana, so I'm pretty much an exotic animal here. If I don't want to make a big deal about it I just say, "Oh, that looks great, but I'm vegan and I'd get really sick if I ate them." Which is true, since dairy and eggs really do a number on me now, but that makes it about my delicate stomach and not about their choices. There's always going to be an element of awkwardness, so it's just about sucking it up with a little bit of grace.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 4:32 pm 
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I agree with the deflect and bring something to share methods. I actually will sort of own up to it if people push but I don't generally use the word vegan - I know there's some disagreement about that here, but my reasons are basically that a) it's pretty unusual for me to encounter people in a lot of environments who even know what that means other than some stupid joke they heard on a crappy sitcom with some over the top hippie character, b) I am content to say 'no thanks, I'm vegetarian' or 'sorry, I don't eat eggs, but I'm enjoying the fruit, thanks!' or whatever because I don't really feel like I need to go into an in depth discussion of my purchasing habits and ethical beliefs with people I only know from a professional context, and c) it's nobody's goddamned business what I eat, and commenting on what other people are or aren't eating is just straight up rude. I mean, my husband doesn't like cake. Could be fabulous, professionally made cake, and he'd pass it over happily in favor of some fresh fruit or a very amateur homemade slice of pie or something. Some people are on limited diets. Some people have allergies. There are all KINDS of reasons people pass up food.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 4:49 pm 
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lepelaar wrote:
[...] Ugh. I hate being the center of attention and I hate having a big deal made out of anything on my behalf, and my experience has been that as soon as people find out I'm a vegan in social situations, this is what almost inevitably happens.

You've described how I feel so well here, so I'm looking at everyone's comments with interest.

I think everyone has given good advice- take something savoury to share, have food beforehand so you're not too hungry and relax as much as possible so you're able to talk about fun things other than food. It'll probably be easier to say "I don't eat eggs or milk" than to say "I'm vegan". So something like "No thanks, your cupcakes look amazing but I don't eat eggs or dairy. Hey, how do you do that hairstyle?" except hopefully your deflective comment is less awkward than mine.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 5:47 pm 
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I'm pretty forward about it, and try to share the "compassion" point of view. I told my current employers I'm vegan in my job interview (because they wanted to get me lunch), and it went over super well. they scoped out vegan places in the neighbourhood before I started.

it's a part of me, but it's not a "thing". I bring in snacks ("whoa those are vegan?") and usually have a banana on-hand if there's something more social to tend to.

as for specific situations, I just try to keep a smile on my face, and perhaps a snack (even fruit!) so I have a plan B if someone insists I partake. I'll tell them I'm vegan if they ask why I'm eating something else, but I'm never in a rush to bring it up, because it doesn't matter!

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 6:09 pm 
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matwinser wrote:
If you feel uncomfortable with a conversation about veganism with everyone, why not just have a chat with the host along the lines of "I would really like to hang out with you guys, as I'm vegan, is there anything I can bring to make it easier?"

Mat.


This. When in doubt in any social situation, check with the host!


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Thu Dec 26, 2013 10:52 am 
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Thanks, everyone, for all of your ideas and input! I really like the idea of turning it around and making it about how I feel, like a few of you have said, in the trend of "I feel better when I eat this way", and also Dr. Apricot's "It looks lovely, but I'm vegan so I'd get sick if I ate that" because to be honest, I was already pretty lactose intolerant before going vegan, so that wouldn't be a lie. Those should be pretty effective for keeping discussion about it to a minimum. And if people are truly curious about veganism, I can always use CQ's "that's a longer discussion, let's save it for another time".

joshua wrote:
I'm pretty forward about it, and try to share the "compassion" point of view. I told my current employers I'm vegan in my job interview (because they wanted to get me lunch), and it went over super well. they scoped out vegan places in the neighbourhood before I started.


Ha. I did let it slip during my interview with the manager, in the context of what I would do to breathe new life into the cookbook section. I mentioned ordering more vegan cookbooks (because the DO sell!) and he said (teasingly) "Oh no! You're not one of those, are you?" Then later in the interview, he joked about eating veal "because I like to ingest cruelty with every meal". He made a couple of other jabs. It was all said jokingly, and I didn't take offense because actually, the atmosphere at the store is one where people affectionately tease each other about stuff and I took it as a good sign that he felt comfortable enough to do this already (and I got a few off in his direction). But I don't get the sense he'd be open to hearing the "compassion" POV. And as far as accommodating my lifestyle when it comes to group outings (he talked about having the next meeting in a restaurant), we'll have to see how that goes, although the pickings are pretty slim in Brussels as it is. (Coincidentally, one of the few places I've heard of that has some decent vegan options is right across the street, so I'll be suggesting that when it comes up!)

Anyway, I'm going to try some of these ideas the next time I'm faced with a situation like this! I'd love to hear more about how other people address the potential awkwardness.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Thu Dec 26, 2013 12:59 pm 
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Location: United States of New England
matwinser wrote:
If you feel uncomfortable with a conversation about veganism with everyone, why not just have a chat with the host along the lines of "I would really like to hang out with you guys, as I'm vegan, is there anything I can bring to make it easier?"

Mat.


if you're uncomfortable talking about veganism then this is the best advice!
just say it casually like "oh no thanks! (about the cupcakes) im a vegan but i brought some cookies to share"
and then quickly change the subject to something else "where are those cute kitty cats at?"

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:06 pm 
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Saggy Butt

Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:53 pm
Posts: 306
It doesn't always even come up for me. I can usually refuse food by just saying "no thanks" and people don't really notice or care that much. When people do ask or it's at some event where I had to let people know ahead of time that I'm vegan (e.g. thanksgiving at someone else's house), if people ask why I'm vegan my default answer is "I have lots of reasons that are pretty personal."

Most of the time people will drop it or at least there's enough of an opening for me to change the subject to something else entirely. If nothing else, someone else will usually jump in and rescue me, because the questioner starts to look like a jerk. I prefer that to any statement about how I feel better when I eat this way, because in my experience people love to talk about diets and I already get asked if I'm doing this for weightloss and get to hear about something Dr. Oz said. That's just my experience, of course. That strategy might work really well for you.

If I'm with people who I think appreciate my weird sense of humor, I've had good luck with answering the question "Why are you vegan?" with both "It's easier to spell than omnivore." and "I was worried I was becoming too popular." Both times people laughed, said it was cool, and then moved on. I only do that in very specific circumstances though, for obvious reasons.

I think the thing that has really helped me is remembering that I don't owe anyone an explanation or justification of my choices, even though there is so much pressure to. But I'm allowed to not eat a cupcake because it has animal products in it. Just like I'm allowed to not eat a cupcake because I hate cupcakes or because I don't feel like chewing right now. Whatever. That's all fine. And that's not me being rude or unsociable or whatever we're taught from the time we're young.

I think FootFace's script is really good, but if in your circle asking if they're vegan would be too odd, I would go with something like "No thanks. They look beautiful though. How long have you been baking/how did you get into baking/how did you do xyz with the frosting?"

You can still provide the ego stroke without actually eating any of the food and most people are very easily distracted, even from such fascinating subjects like why you won't eat something, by the opportunity to talk about how great they are.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan-induced social awkwardness
PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:33 pm 
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Thinks Plants Have Feelings

Joined: Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:13 pm
Posts: 63
Location: Upper West Side, NYC
I have a fatal allergy to tree nuts and since I was a child, I have had to decline tons of offered food as I am terrified a nut has snuck in there somehow. Even if people swear that there is no nuts in their dish, I am still cautious and often decline anyway. It has proven to be awkward but it is my unreasonable fear (with good reason mind you) and I guess people have to deal.

On the same note, if I feel like I have to be the vegan ambassador that is a role I accept. I am ready to go at it with people, nicely of course, if they have an issue with my food and my decisions. Of course many people have rotten things to say about being vegan but also some have said the nicest things. You never know. People have weird opinions on so many things.

I think you have gotten some terrific advice but you should never feel awkward about being vegan. Noone is without prejudice. Champion who you are!


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