When it comes up I often get a blank stare with a bewildered question.
“If you don’t eat meat or dairy, where do you get protein or iron or calcium or vitamins?”
From all over the place, babe.
It’s still a fresh thing for me: I’ve only been Vegan for about a couple months, and I understand there is much ignorance about it – especially among those raised around dairy capitals like myself. Deer hunting forests and farmland surrounded my childhood home in Indiana.
But about five months ago I was flipping through Netflix and stumbled upon Food Inc. That prompted me to go all organic. Then a couple months later a friend recommended the documentary Earthlings. I called my boyfriend at the time with an exasperated “Can you BELIEVE what we’re putting into our bodies?! And how those animals are being treated?!” He laughed, I imagined while munching on a pig’s ear, while I quickly did some of my own research in my Chicago apartment. It didn’t take me long be sold on the lifestyle. The veganism diet is pretty clean cut: No meat. No dairy. Some vegans I know ban all animal products. But I’m not here so much for animal rights as for my own health. I’m no good Samaritan; I just love my organs. And I’m not going to preach to you the health benefits – like, say, that Vegans have ridiculously low rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, a decade longer life expectancy, exceptionally low cholesterol. But that’s not really why I joined the group.
I jumped on the bandwagon for three discrete reasons.
One: Social status. Branding yourself Vegan in a conversation immediately plants you in a specific group. It’s simple Modus Ponens principle at work, people: If A=B and B=C, then A=C. Or in this case, if I don’t eat meat, then Me = Better Than You. And even better, veganism opens a door to the elusive Hipster status. I have been trying to be accepted as a Hipster since I moved to Chicago two years ago. I bought Converse. I bought a bicycle (which was stolen two weeks later by the way! I’m still looking for you, turd.) I cut my own hair. Heck, I even started listening to MGMT. But the day I began vegan, I marked the occasion by stopping by Karen’s, a raw-food/organic/vegan friendly café in the city’s Lakeview burrow. I was welcomed with smiles from skinny jeaned 20-somethings in tight vintage t-shirts and worn All-Star sneakers. I proudly bit into my less-than-juicy-but-i-know-it’s-healthy-so–I-eat-it Black Bean Burger and soaked in the acceptance. The girl behind the counter (wearing glasses with no lenses) gave me a thumbs up. I knew I was in. Nothing says Hipster like “damn the man” interests. And nothing says “damn the man” like carrying a Trader Joes bag with Tofu and organic soy nuts inside as you walk past a Chicago hot dog cart. I do that wearing my Converse= I’m Hipster = I’m cooler than you. YES!
I should interject here quickly – I have stumbled. Once. It was 9:30 pm on a Tuesday, and I was cowering in the kitchen at Hostelling International (my day… er… night job in Chicago). I stood in the dark pouncing on a two-day old piece of pepperoni pizza from Giodanos that was left by a guest that day. Cured meat and greasy cheese had never tasted so good. As I wiped my mouth, I couldn’t help but grovel in my carnivorous pit fall. I had failed. But when I got home that night, I took a shot of organic soy milk and proclaimed myself “dairy and meat free” once again. A post-it-note sticks proudly on my fridge. Don’t you wanna be my roommate?
Reason Two. It helps you navigate the dating field. Now, there are plenty of guys in Chicago who claim they would “never date a vegan.” But they’re typically found around donning polo shirts with a Jersey Shore attitude. So, the tools are automatically weeded out. Sweet! And really, have you ever met a lard-ass vegan? Granted, a lot of us look like we could be snapped like a pretzel stick. But considering a lot of city apartments are more like closets, the smaller your frame the better the bang. Yeah, you read that pun right.
Reason three: Oh, have I not mentioned all the health benefits?…cutting meat and dairy from my diet has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (it ranks up there with buying that first Ace of Base album). I feel better, I look better, and let’s not forget – I’m suddenly better than you because of it. I get more work done and still have energy to go out and grab those pitchers of PBR at a corner dive bar. I am home. Won’t you join me?… Just bring your own soy milk. This stuff can be pricey.