If you are like me, you are vegan.  Also, you may enjoy crunchy leaves and pancakes made into animal shapes, but for the purpose of this article, I want to stick to veganism.  You see, vegans get a lot of flack for eating weird food and throwing red paint at people, but the truth is, we’re not so strange as people think.  If you’ve met one of the vegans on campus, you know how true this is.  Who knows, you may even find yourself sampling the scrumptious vegan cake balls in the dining hall. Veganism is something that more people are becoming aware of, but many still have questions.  So, I’ve decided to talk a little about my experience as a vegan to show you how normal we really are.

Most people become vegan because it’s better for the environment and it’s a compassionate lifestyle choice.  Aside from the ethics of it, being vegan also comes with a list of perks, and they’re a little different for everyone.  You may like that you loose wight or that your new circle of friends includes people with names like Ziggy and Moonbeam.  At the top of my personal list is that it has completely changed my dating life.  Being vegan is an excellent excuse to avoid the type of guy who would eat a 20 oz steak at Longhorn.  You know the one.  He probably has a John Deer hat and  a closet full of flannel and shirts with witty sayings like “get-r-done”. He may have a shot-gun proudly displayed in his bedroom and his pickup might sport images of Mudflap Girl.  His idea of a good Christmas present is re-gifting fireworks.  His name might be Cody.  He definitely doesn’t call you on your birthday.

Being vegan does come with some disadvantages, too.  It can alienate you from your friends and family.  When I decided to be vegan, I went home for Thanksgiving and decided to make my own vegan dinner.  You can imagine my irate mother, who was, at her best, frantic about her daughter’s flagrant disregard for her dietary needs, and, at her worst, absolutely horrified at the image of her daughter stuffing a tofurkey.  There was an uneasy stillness at that table as my family watched me eat tofu across from a turkey carcase.

You probably don’t know it, but it would behoove you to befriend a vegan.  We’re a compassionate, jolly sort, we vegans.  When someone knocks your taco to the ground, a vegan will be there to put you back together.  When you feel like you’re out of options in the scramble room, you can look at your vegan friend’s bowl of rice and beans.  When you get crap at work, a vegan can tell you the horrors and dangers facing workers in the meat-packing industry.  We have a great way of putting things into perspective, like, “At least your parents didn’t raise you for food! It could be worse.”

Indeed, it could be worse.  You could be vegan, subject to all the judgment and stereotyping that goes with it.  You see, telling someone you’re vegan is a little like when you tell someone you’re a Christian Scientist.  People immediately judge you based on all the other vegans they’ve met.  And it’s usually just one person, one really eccentric, weird individual.  I’ve run into this several times.  I’ve been lumped with people who walk around in hemp overalls and tye-dyed Phish t-shirts, people with bottle-cap glasses and BO accumulated over a weeks.  Only some of that applies to me.  People also feel that there’s definitely something wrong with a person who won’t eat a steak or drink a glass of milk.  Santa drinks milk.  Vegans must hate Santa, too.  Yes, we vegans have a tough go of it sometimes.

In the end, being vegan is basically a lifestyle choice that anyone can make, though few do.  And why is that?  It’s because in order to be vegan, one must give up precious food staples such as milk, eggs, ice cream, and escargot.  Many lack the strength and willpower it takes to give up these foods.  Many people don’t have the eyesight or patience required to read the fine print of ingredients lists.  Others lack the gall and gusto it takes to ask our fine food providers what cockie leekie means.  If you’re vegan, you’re definitely going to have to put more effort into scramble room choices than the average wake-and-eat student.  You have to be better than that student who goes into the scramble room with their pants on inside-out and drool still caked on their cheeks. So, if you’re up for the challenge, try a vegan meal.  You may discover it isn’t as bad as you thought.