Have Your Cake
Today at work I felt alone in a room full of people. One of my coworkers is having a birthday on Monday. In this particular office, traditionally the birthday person brings in a cake for everyone. This afternoon we were all goofing off waiting for four o'clock and they start asking the birthday girl what kind of cake she's going to bring. Lots of happy female chatter going on around me, but I'm not chiming in. I felt awkward. I felt like I wasn't part of the group. And I wasn't. At one point the birthday person turned to me and said something like “oh, I'm sorry – you won't be able to have any”. I replied that I was just fine with that, not to worry, etc. And I am fine with that, I really am, but the fact remains that I was not part of the conversation, and therefore not really part of the merriment.
It's a sacrifice on many levels – being vegan is not particularly vogue in most circles. I am often made fun of, ridiculed, looked at strangely, encouraged to “cheat”, asked to explain myself and quite frankly it's exhausting. I don't particularly want to get into it with random people. I'm not up for an argument or even a discussion a lot of the time. It makes me tired and frustrated having to explain myself over and over. I shouldn't have to explain myself. I get that I'm different than many people, not the “norm” (although I do think that it's changing rapidly), but I wish people would just let me be. It's hard enough trying to figure out restaurant menus, dinner at someone's house, trips etc., without this constant feeling of having to justify my choices.
I'm taking a holistic nutrition diploma (seven courses) online, and I'm finding it really fascinating – particularly the different ways various cultures eat and celebrate food – how much diet varies from culture to culture. It's an interesting thing – I rather compare veganism to the “normies” the same way. If I was new here, fresh from a different country and culture it would be rather similar. My eating habits would be very different; I'd have to explain what I was eating, how I made it, if it was tasty. People may be turned off by it, or they may think it looked delicious. Most people are curious about anything different and I don't think there's generally any ill intent behind it – but the questions can still be annoying and repetitive. I don't personally think the office is a place to discuss factory farming, global warming and other issues related to the western diet, which I suppose is another reason why I clam up.
So I'm thinking that on Monday I'm going to bring in some yummy vegan cake or cupcakes and invite anyone to try my dessert along with the traditional birthday cake – rather like a cultural day! I think a lot of the questions and arguments regarding veganism come from people who think we spend our time eating salads and tofu – and that ain't so my friends! It's easier to show people rather than tell them – let them see that a vegan cake can be (and is) as tasty as a more traditional one.
There's been a lot of lessons learned on my part since I turned to veganism a little over a year ago. As I've said before it's really a complete lifestyle make over and with that comes a lot of internal changes as well and if I'm in a room full of people feeling alone, then part of that is my fault too – it takes communication on both sides in every aspect of life. So I think the lesson here is you can have your cake and eat it too!