Every year it’s the same. You gather together with family, people you truly love, people you enjoy spending time with (Okay, Uncle Norman notwithstanding). But. . . there is always the standard obligatory ribbing of the token vegetarian. You. So, you steel yourself for the predictable comments that will inevitably be tossed your way.
- This turkey I’m eating ate only grain; does that make me vegetarian by proxy?
- I read that “Vegan” is an old Native American word for “Bad Hunter.”
- I’ve considered going on a vegan diet, but I’ve heard they’re a lot harder to catch than cows.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re all very funny.
Jokes aside, we actually do love these people. Spending time with them is important. And to be fair, being the brunt of humor can sometimes actually be a love language. What’s more, I can never forget that for most of my life, I was a contented meat-eater, snickering right along with everyone else at just such comments. So, I’m gracious.
I don’t want to be that uber-sensitive relative who can’t take a joke; that person for whom EVERYTHING is serious and worthy of a sermon. You know who I mean. Someone casually mentions the plight of . . . <insert hot issue of the day>. . . and our sermon-giver will burst forth with their copious thoughts, hold the room spellbound (well. . . some kind of bound) while they pontificate in a somewhat spiral fashion on the topic. They may even reach for their tablet where they have a 52-slide PowerPoint presentation at the ready. A quick look around the table and you’ll notice that everyone is silent and holding their forks at an odd angle trying to decide if they’re allowed to keep eating while pretending to listen. No one is sure how to disrupt the wearisome tirade. With any luck, Aunt Lucinda will take this moment to interject her yearly comment about the remains of her parasitic twin still lodged near her hip bone, and then we can all move on to dessert.
So, instead of being one of those sermon-givers, what should we do? One of my favorite mental health strategies when entering a predictable and mildly-hostile environment is to create a secret BINGO card where you and a friend mark off any item you hear that matches a square.
- Where do you get your protein? (Check B-4)
- I could never give up meat. (Look. . . It’s G-1!)
- I heard plant-based diets make you weak and sickly. (Mark O-2, if you have the strength.)
- Is this a religious thing? (Hit B-3, then cross yourself)
- Here, just have a little bite. (N-2, followed by a tiny gag)
- ANYTHING about bacon (G-4. And just sigh, because if you’re honest, you miss bacon.)
Someone throws out the final comment and with a knowing wink between co-conspirators, BINGO is declared. Huzzah. Go have some hummus.
I’m able find playful strategies because I do want these people in my life. They are part of the rich tapestry of my own history and I love them dearly. But as my reasons for living on a plant-based diet have shifted from merely health-consciousness to including a heart for animal welfare, the jokes land a bit differently. I’ll admit, sometimes my soul takes a bit of a hit. I can grow a smidge blue by the flippant references. So, I save one joke in my arsenal to pull out if I need it.
Question: How many meat-eaters does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer: None. They’d rather just stay in the dark.