Coping with teasing

Never mind Last Christmas, this was my first. Christmas as a vegan that is. After 10 years a vegetarian, being the proverbial ghost at the feast isn’t new to me. All the same, I’m braced for the comments as we sit down to eat; vegetarian-baiting has become as much a festive fixture as a highly competitive round of Pictionary in our house, something I’m sure many of you can relate to.

Although I’m ready, I can’t help wishing they could rise above it just once (or maybe that that I could). Seriously, the jokes are older, tireder and lamer than the ones in the crackers. I mean, how much extra mileage can they really get out of the fact that I want margarine on my mash this year?

I don’t know about you but I find there are certain times of year when the soy milk of human kindness seems to be in shorter supply. Namely those ritual occasions when meat features most heavily. i.e. at Christmas and round the barbeque. It seems like some people can’t fully enjoy their burger/turkey/turkey burger without the added garnish of pointing out how much better it is than yours. “Mmm, what a shame you can’t enjoy it” (not can’t, just don’t want to), “sure I can’t tempt you?” (well, if you’ve been unsuccessful for the last 10 years what makes you think you can now?) “you don’t know what you’re missing” (heart disease, high cholesterol and mad cow disease you mean?), etc. etc. yawn.

My mum always said sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. She failed to mention how irate inconsiderate implications about the inferiority of my lifestyle choices will make me. What is it about our choices that inspires such vitriol in some people?

My personal theory is that we make people uncomfortable because we force them to think about what they’re eating. According to the brilliant Melanie Joy in Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, eating animals relies heavily on ‘psychic numbing’ to suppress the contradiction between values and behaviours. I think it’s no coincidence that some of the worst teasing I’ve had to endure has been from those queuing up to spoil my dog with the leftovers of their burger…

Everyone has their own way of dealing with this. What’s yours? I’d love to tell you I’ve developed cast-iron comebacks but, apart from the above, the truth is these days I find it easier to just ignore the jokers; I find it stops pretty quickly when they don’t get a rise. However, I can’t help thinking that I’m missing an opportunity to challenge their behaviour so if you’ve found any better responses I’m all ears!

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