Dating and Diet: Can a Meat Eater and a Vegan Be Happy Together?
How one couple has negotiated the meat/meatless divide.
Things are easier said than done, or so the old adage goes, and we couldn't agree more. That's why we do The GOOD 30-Day Challenge (#30DaysofGOOD), a monthly attempt to live better. Our challenge for June? Go vegetarian.
My friends and I have a game we play when we’re bored. It’s called Deal Breaker. We work our way through the alphabet, taking turns naming characteristics that, in a prospective romantic partner, are cause to call it quits. For example, a deal breaker for the letter “D” might be “doesn’t know how to read.”
The other night, I was playing Deal Breaker with my boyfriend as we sipped wine on his porch. It wasn’t as fun with only two people, but it was proving to be rather revelatory. The letter “V” was his turn, and we made eye contact. I knew what was on the tip of his tongue.
He didn’t say it, but if we had been playing Deal Breaker a year ago, I’m sure he would have. When I decided to go vegan a few months ago, he was skeptical, and he didn’t think my plan would last.
Well, it’s lasted, and I have to say, being in a relationship with a meat eater is the worst. Before I became a vegan, one of our favorite things to do together was go out to eat. We’d order a bunch of small plates and have a blast sharing them.
Now, picking a restaurant is pretty challenging. We often end up just swinging by Whole Foods, where we can order burritos within eyeshot of each other (there’s a vegan taqueria right next to the regular one) or prepare our respective beef and tofu pho. Then we eat our meals out of cardboard containers at one of the booths. Let me tell you, it’s romantic.
If my boyfriend were a vegan, too, we could try new vegan restaurants together and come up with yummy vegan recipes to cook at home. I think our shared veganism would be a satisfying replacement for our shared small plates at regular restaurants.
But instead, he is totally thrown off by the whole vegan thing. The tension came to a head a few weeks ago when we were on vacation in Palm Springs. The lone vegan-friendly place in the greater Palm Springs area is a vegan-only place, and the menu was rife with fake cheese and fake meat. I get that my boyfriend is creeped out by fake animal products posing as the real thing. But sometimes I just want him to bite the proverbial bullet and at least pretend to enjoy a slab of barbeque seitan. After all, every time we go to a regular restaurant, I’m forced to either nibble on a piece of lettuce (possibly with a slice of tomato on top) or risk getting my food spit in by the server who has to listen to me rattle off all the modifications I want to my meal.
I ended up talking him into checking out the vegan restaurant in Palm Springs (Native Foods, a chain with a Los Angeles location, too), and it was delicious. After that, we made a deal to eat at vegan restaurants whenever there is a special one with great reviews in the area, or when there are no other vegan-friendly options for me.
That’s fine when it’s just us, but when there are other people involved, it can be awkward. When I first became a vegan, I really struggled with social eating situations: I didn’t want my dietary restriction to be the deciding factor in choosing a restaurant, but neither did I want to starve as I watched my friends chow down on burgers at a restaurant with nothing vegan on the menu. I’ve gotten used to it and found ways to be comfortable without being imposing, but I still feel awkward when my boyfriend and I go out to eat in a group with other people. He always seems slightly embarrassed and apologetic that his girlfriend is a vegan weirdo.
But for all his eye rolling and complaining, my boyfriend respects my choice and how I’ve stuck to it. He might tease me, but he isn’t the type to try to control my ethical eating choices. If he were, well, it would be a deal breaker.
Meghan Joyce writes about her life as a vegan at Meghan the Veghan.