It started online. We met through okcupid.com. Mistake? Possibly.
I have a close friend who is now madly in love with her boyfriend, who she met through Ok Cupid.
I exchanged several emails with Fred (name changed for anonymity). I was interested when his messages were a little more than strange come on lines. We exchanged four or five messages and he invited me to tea.
When I first met Fred my main concern was that he was a yoga teacher. I prepared myself for the possibility that he would be fully immersed in an alternate yoga world, speaking a language full of flowery imagery and spiritual jargon. We met at a tea house. He wore jeans and beautiful off white earrings. His eyes lit up with a nice sparkle. He had an interesting way of speaking. It reminded me of spending time living with Korean folks, and losing some of my English language skills. He had a way of cutting out parts of speech without losing the meaning behind his words.
I was pleasantly surprised. He told me stories about his crazy Italian mafia family in New York City. Okay, he was a yoga teacher who cared about things outside of yoga, like family. This seemed good.
We went to a folk concert on our second date. We shared similar tastes in music. This was great. We talked a little before, after and during intermission.
A few weeks passed. Fred went on a trip out of state and I was busy with life. We’d talked about taking a hike when he returned. When I didn’t hear from him after his trip, I figured he’d lost interest. So I let it go.
After “liking” one of his Facebook posts he emailed me. We decided on a hike soon after.
The hike was fine. I love hiking and enjoyment comes naturally. He told me some personal anecdotes about his life. I opened up about mine, and we rushed to the bottom because he had to teach yoga. The next day, he sent me an email that reminded me of a journal entry. It was a poetic pondering on life and his current predicament. He invited me over for dinner that night. I accepted the invitation.
As he prepared dinner I sat on a cushion on the floor. He had no furniture in his apartment that raised higher than the five inch thickness of his sleeping pad. We talked about the day, random chit chat. He asked what I thought of the email, and I told him that it reminded me of a journal entry. He asked me again, seeming to want a different answer. We talked a while about the contents of his email.
We ate a delicious vegan feast. Pho chicken, some other deliciousness I can’t remember, and a whole lotta love put into the preparation. Fred was a talented vegan cook. He told me about his vegan social circle and regular gatherings. I thought a vegan potluck could be fun. Spending time with health conscious folks who love food. I love food and am health conscious, so it sounded great.
He told me about his friends, a gay couple. One eats meat and the other is vegan. They don’t keep meat in their home and the meat-eater gets his animal protein when eating out.
He asked me what I thought about his gay friends who also happened to have an open marriage. I told him that I was glad they could work things out. He kept asking what I thought about it, so it started feeling like he was looking for a different response. Was he trying to figure out for himself if he could ever live harmoniously with an omnivore? Or did he want an open relationship? He told me later that he’d only dated vegans and vegetarians before I came along, so it was new for him.
A few nights later he invited me to dinner with his friend and her boyfriend. We met at a crazy deli/liquor store/psychadelic-videos-playing-place where they happen to make the best gluten free pizza I have tried so far in Boulder.
What do you get when you take a vegan and gluten free omnivore? In our case it meant we couldn’t share pizza because he couldn’t do gluten free (eggs) and I couldn’t do regular (gluten). He had coupons for our dinner. His friends both ordered pizzas. I wanted pizza. He wanted to use his coupons to get salads. I ordered salad and shared some of my new friends’ pizza. They helped themselves to some of my humongous salad. My date said little that night. I mostly engaged with the new people before me. They were great and there were some enjoyable conversations, if a little scattered in the multi functioning restaurant/liquor store with psychedelic videos playing in the booths.
There were good conversations and fun times being had, and then my date got word of a yoga class he had to teach the next morning. Within a few minutes we all stood to leave upon his subtle request. I think he silently motioned to his friend that he wanted to go. Slightly like a deer in headlights, I caught on as we walked out the door. I went and got my bicycle and they hopped in my date’s friend’s car to zoom off. “Good night!” rang through the air.
The next day he told me that his friends liked me. I said I’d had fun meeting his friends. I got the feeling he had just okay’d me with his friends. There was some chat about how it’d been a little awkward leaving so abruptly and how we’d barely exchanged words.
I was still open to exploring dating him, and we made plans for another dinner a few nights later. This time he had a busy day and the food wasn’t as lovingly prepared. I came over late after a tutoring session and was tired. We had some leftovers and potatoes. Not bad. The green pepper substitute for bread was challenging for me. It was cold, raw and a lot of pepper. It was a creative gluten free substitute though.
We sat on the floor to eat. He asked me if I was ready to hear why he chose to be vegan. Sure, I told him to go for it. What kind of readiness was he referring to? Ready to hear about him? Ready to hear about animal cruelty? Did he assume I had never considered the food I eat? Ready to become privy to the truth?
Or ready to defend myself from the hefty bottle of vegan whoop-ass that was just around the corner?
Did he want to share about himself and choices to be vegan, or to illustrate why being anything other than vegan was wrong?
As he told me about animal cruelty, I ate and did my best to listen. “I don’t know if you’re ready to hear this,” he repeated. “I only share this with people when they’re ready.”
I noticed myself becoming uncomfortable. His excitement grew as he poured out his passion for veganism. “It’s really bad,” he said in reference to the animal cruelty that has motivated many to eat only plant-based foods. I started to feel my defenses kick in, and a frantic search to defend the reasons I eat meat. At the same time I lost my appetite and began to wonder if Fred wanted to hang out and get to know each other, or if he had an agenda of converting me to veganism.
He talked for quite some time, reiterating his many valid reasons to live as a vegan. I give him kudos for his commitment and dedication to what he believes in. It wasn’t very romantic, but dating and relationships aren’t always romantic. I am glad he tried to shove his veganism in my face right off the bat, rather than holding back until later. It clarified a few things. It brought me out of my idealism around working with lifestyle differences. It brought to light how easy it is for us to fall into black and white ways of thinking and living, and how easy it is to try to put our way of living on others. I never thought about his veganism being a barrier before that night.
Let me be clear on one thing: I have no problem with veganism and yoga, or any other lifestyle trait. The problem I have is when we become so black and white in our thinking around lifestyle choices that we become blind to the ways we treat others who have different ways of living. Are there any vegans out there who are embarrassed by the reputation created by this type of experience? It also works the other way. I know plenty of meat-eaters who laugh at the thought of veganism or vegetarianism.
My lesson through all of this is simple. Never date a vegan. Just kidding.
Meredith J. Potter lives in Boulder, Colorado. She enjoys biking, yoga, art, the outdoors, and exploring her environment. She works on supporting local agriculture, movement toward a healthier life for the planet, and joyful celebration of life! A background in education and yoga inform her perspectives and lifestyle.