There is an ongoing joke among vegans that if you don't like someone then tell them within your first conversation with them that you're a vegan and they'll be sure to leave you alone. In the midst of mentally preparing myself to come to a small college campus, I had to have a self-talk. Did I really want to tell people that I was a vegan in the first week of school? Although it's something I am extremely proud of, the question plagued me. Telling people in a small school would be "detrimental to my friend-making" as one very opinionated friend informed me over a lunch of braised tofu. It turns out I didn't have to figure out how to broach the subject. Since it's a small school the word traveled fast and I soon found myself launched into a new environment of questioning omnivores.
The list of things I have learned about being vegan on campus is as follows.
1. Gluten-free diets and veganism are apparently the same thing.
Upon several trips to the cafeteria it became apparent that two different health movements have been merged together in people's minds. "May I have a vegan pizza?" turned into a half hour discussion with the chef that, no, I do not want gluten free crust, just dairy-free cheese. No, not cheddar cheese. Vegan cheese. No, a gluten free crust isn't necessary. No! Really, I can eat gluten I promise!
I find this response everywhere I go. If I ask a bakery if they have any vegan cupcakes left I am often left with a "no, but we have gluten free"! I went to a pizza place and asked for their vegan option and the waiter automatically said "Oh, so one gluten-free and vegan pizza....". Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't complain if whatever they gave me to eat was gluten-free. As long as it's vegan I am happy. It's just incredibly confusing to me why everyone associates the two. Normal dough is vegan, so why automatically assume I am also gluten free?
2. Everyone thinks their vegan jokes are original...they really are not.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me a joke about plants having feelings or replying to anything I say with "mmmm...bacon" I would be rich enough to buy my own island to build an all inclusive vegan resort.
3. Fish isn't a meat.
"So, can you eat fish if you're vegan?" is one of the most common questions I get from people. Well, I don't believe it's a plant. And I am pretty sure it is alive. So I am going to safely assume that as a vegan I do not eat fish.
4. Alternatively, plants are sentient beings.
As mentioned in number two, everyone is absolutely certain of plants' sentience. It appears that the only way I can avoid hurting anyone is to keep up my steady diet of rocks.
5. You're incapable of knowing if the food you're eating is actually vegan.
"Is that vegan?" they ask as I shovel some stir fry into my mouth, as I pick up the peanut butter from the store shelf, as I throw a burrito into the microwave. One thing I am an expert as is label-reading. Vegans are constantly reading labels to check for the "CONTAINS MILK" warning label. I can quite assure anyone who asks that I have quadruple checked the label before I consume the product. No need to worry.
6. In all seriousness.
everyone on a small school campus is super accommodating and amazing about my personal choices. The cafeteria workers go out of their way to make sure I am happy with my meal. The new people I meet are never judgmental of my choices. All of their teasing stems from a place of affection. I am certain that if I was at a larger school I would not be receiving such wonderful treatment and feel so welcome. People's kindness has touched me greatly and has only solidified the idea that my choice is a good one to make. This welcoming atmosphere allows me to spread my message of happiness, health, and a cruelty world in a safe place.