For several years after I chose a vegan lifestyle, I went out of my way to hide my aversion for eating or wearing animal products from strangers.
When I would meet work friends at lunch, for example, I would order food nonchalantly, explaining as little as possible. “I’ll have a veggie sub, toasted, no cheese. Thanks.” Unless people hung out with me enough to see a pattern to my meal habits, almost nobody picked up on my being vegan. I didn’t wear hemp clothing or comment on anybody’s diet or animal welfare. In fact, except with people who I kept a close relationship with, I would avoid the question if it came up. If somebody asked point-blank,”You always order the Veggie sub. Are you a vegetarian?”, I would laugh and dodge the topic, “I guess I am today. Did you hear about that thing in the news?”
I liked it that way but I decided to be more open with people in 2011, so I began sharing I am vegan if it came up naturally in conversation. Once I shared it the first time, though, it came up often.
There are plenty of internet memes and jokes poking fun at vegans with snide phrases like, “How do you know if someone is vegan? Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.” The thing is, for most vegans, it feels like the opposite is true. “How does everybody know you’re vegan? Don’t worry. The first time you order quinoa, someone will ask.”
Sure, there are the PETA people–the vegans and vegetarians exclaiming their borderline psychologically troubling love for other species every chance they get, to anyone who will listen. Associating the nutters with all vegans, though, is like assuming all white people are just like Fred Phelps.
Most vegans do not launch blogs and picket outside McDonald’s. Personally, I am glad that some do (I’m not a PETA fan but I am glad there are people trying to do well and taking up a fight for such an important philosophical distinction). Most vegans, though, do not care if anyone knows they are vegan. They do not care if you are worried about their protein (don’t worry–they are probably getting more protein than you are). They do not care what you think about being vegan anymore than you care what vegans think about the Chicago Bears being called “bears”.
Most vegans are not trying to scare you, harm you, blame you, or shame you. Most non-vegans seem to do that to themselves. Vegans do not care if you know they are vegan, I promise. The vegans I know just want to enjoy great food that didn’t cause any pain in the world. Not even to your ego.
And maybe that’s worth bragging about , but we try not to.