Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Letting my freak flag fly, version 2.0.

Oh my, I’m a grumpy burnout today. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna snap at you. Okay, I might. Sorry. But still, I’m mainlining Rob Zombie in the hopes that he will absorb some of my grouchiness.

So perhaps today is a good day to go all Vegan Freak on you. I haven’t read it, actually, because I’m waiting for the second edition to be released next month. But I’ve hung out on their website, and, if you’ll recall, I did want to comment on “Vegan Isn’t a Dirty Word.” Actually, when I posted that, I think I really meant this piece, but oh well. Read ‘em both anyway. I’m grateful for the badass work that Bob and Jenna Torres do, and I appreciate their no-bullshit approach. At the risk of sounding like Grumpy Intolerant Vegan Girl, I do sometimes wonder if my life would be easier if I had less patience with the dominant meat-centric culture. (A fallback title for this blog was, “No, I’m Not Eating That.”)

Bob makes the very excellent point that lots of people are hesitant to openly identify as vegan. I’m guilty of this myself, most often at restaurants. It was just so much easier to tell the server that I was vegetarian than to deal with the blank stare that “vegan” received. I still struggle sometimes in social situations like parties, when the choice is between eating something non-vegan (hello, pizza, mashed potatoes, and birthday cake!) or not eating at all. During dinner with Red’s family the other night, I went for the mashed potatoes, which almost certainly were dairy-fied. Had I been with a different crowd, I probably could have had a couple glasses of wine and called it dinner, but that was sadly not an option as his is a family of teetotalers.

[Full disclosure: when my mom makes me a birthday cake, I eat it. No, it’s not vegan, and no, I don’t feel guilty. When your mom bakes you a cake, you eat it and enjoy it. ]

I’m more comfortable with owning my veganism now, but it took me a couple years to get here. “Vegetarian” and “veggie” are safe, non-confrontational terms. To many people, “vegan” is synonymous with, “I’m here for your hamburger, motherfucker.” Which I am not. I would rather not touch your nasty-ass hamburger, thankyouverymuch, and I wish you wouldn’t touch it either because I know what it’s doing to your gut right now and I know what the cow that became your burger went through. But that’s neither here nor there. I came to fly my freaky vegan flag proudly once I realized that it was more a lifestyle than a diet. Calling myself a vegetarian was fine, until I kept running into people who chirped brightly, “Oh, I’m a vegetarian too! I only eat fish!” These are not my people, I thought grimly. I needed to step my game up and dissociate myself from all the half-assed vegetarians who were doing nothing but confusing everyone. As Bob puts it:

To be totally clear before I dig in here, I’m not trying to offend anyone, or hurt anyone’s feelings. I used to be an ovo-lacto vegetarian myself, and I get where many of you are coming from. Yet, being nice to you simply for the sake of being nice accomplishes nothing except protecting you from coming to terms with a set of dietary practices that still exploit and kill billions of animals annually. In other words, if I don’t say what I think, I will feel like I’m complicit in your choices, and really, the times are just too dire not to say something. So, I’m going to just be blunt, and I hope that you’ll have the patience to deal with it, and think hard about it before you blow me off, because someone being blunt with me about my so-called “animal rights” ovo-lacto vegetarianism is what got me to go vegan. It sucked in the short term, because I had a few annoying days of trying to convince myself that the logic of veganism was unsound, but I assure you, it is not.
And that’s where I am now. So yeah, I’m a vegan who fucked up and ate some mashed potatoes made with milk. Life’s full of disappointment. I’m a vegan who ate some mashed potatoes, and I will surely end up eating non-vegan birthday cake one of these days. I wish I didn’t have to make those choices, but I do. Veganism is a way of life, and yes, that involves a moral imperative to avoid animal products. But no one’s perfect. By declaring my veganism, I’m locating myself within my commitment to ahimsa (nonviolence) as clearly as I can. I make mistakes, and I own those as well. I’m showing everyone I meet that vegans are not necessarily grungy, hostile, anarchic, reeking of patchouli, or whatever flavor-of-the-week pejorative you can come up with. So no, I’m not here for your hamburger. But I’m not going to sit here quietly while you eat it, either.

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