Like any Greek hero, I am good with spears, swords, and other handheld weapons. However, I am GREAT with a shield. Going on the offensive in battle is important for winning, but being able to defend yourself against beheading increases the likelihood that you will still be breathing when the battle is over.
I had the opportunity to use my new veganaut shield this week and I must say, it worked like a champ. I wasn’t planning on having to defend myself against surprise attacks, but as many of you vegans, veganauts and plant-based dieters know, carnivore attacks can come when you least expect them.
We live in a quiet little subdivision, nestled in a friendly little ‘burb just outside of Orlando. The placement is great~ we get all the benefits of living near a fun and exciting metropolis, yet at dusk we can still sit on our front porch watching the joggers and dog walkers make their rounds while the crickets lay down the background audio track and fireflies handle the lighting.
Norman Rockwell could have spent years illustrating our neighborhood and all of its quirky characters. He would capture the herds of children playing catch and the timeless greeting of dogs sniffing each others aromatic bits~ and probably the most colorful character of all, Carl, my rotund, red nosed neighbor who lives at the end of the culdesac. The guy’s name is not Carl, but he constantly does and says the goofiest stuff reminding me of my favorite llama with the same name (Carl the hat wearing llama is a sociopath, view at your own risk: CLICK).
My neighbor Carl has a fast car, loves fast food, and is a goofy guy that means no harm but leaves a trail of it in his wake. Often, when he speeds home from work we’ll migrate from our chairs on the front porch to our secluded spot on the back porch where it is safer. Unfortunately, we don’t do this every time he speeds home so we are occasionally reminded of why we should.
During this week’s reminder, Carl lumbered over after a hard day’s work and started the verbal parlay. It involves a running stream of consciousness on his part and as much nodding and agreeing as the rest of us can muster. We learned long ago that arguing only provokes him. After Carl gave us his take on idiot drivers during rush hour and the terrible lawn service he is paying for we were treated to a preview of his weekend.
Carl explained that his weekend would involve a Bar-B-Que at a co-workers house which he lovingly described in detail for five minutes. Then, with the theatrics worthy of a Broadway production being performed by 4th graders, he stopped himself and said, “Oh, but what am I thinking going on and on like this, you can’t eat any of this good food that I’m talking about… being a vegan is so limiting, I don’t know how you can live like that.”
Did you guys just get really pissed too? I know it is hard for me to hear people say that, but even more challenging when it is dripping with malice disguised as concern. My knee jerk reaction when we reach a conversation point like this is to yell, “Hey Carl, that kid is letting his Australian Sheppard poop on your front lawn!!” This combines three of Carl’s main dislikes: kids, dogs, and foreign sounding things. This usually distracts him long enough for us to run inside and hide until he wanders off.
The BBQ comments were not my issue with Carl, though. As a grill master, I still enjoy talking shop with carnivores. I find it funny that even though I’ve only been living the vegan lifestyle for nine months, people still act as if I’ve been doing it my whole life. They seem amazed that I can discuss the finer points of how to smoke a whole turkey while slow cooking a rack of ribs without actually eating them.
The part of Carl’s comments that make me want to grill him the most is the bit about the vegan diet being so limiting. People that think we eat only sprouts and iceberg lettuce are simply repeating the ignorant tripe that they see on sitcoms that pander to the lowest common denominator. The reality is that in my old life I ate the same 10 things over and over and over again. The quantity was always more important than the quality. Now with this new life, I still feel like I am on a vacation in a foreign country, eating and trying many new kinds of food. There is more variety in my plant-based life than there ever was eating the Standard American Diet.
Try telling that to Carl. You can’t. He wont believe you and he will need a good hour before he is done explaining why. I learned from my mistake long before. You can’t fight pig-headed ignorance with knowledge or reason. This is not a time for spears and swords- it’s a time for a shield.
“Actually Carl,” I said in my least confrontational tone. “I am not a vegan, I am a veganaut. We aren’t as strict as vegans.”
The effect was more than I ever could have hoped for! He gaped at me with his mouth half open, processing what I’d said and trying desperately to recall something about veganauts that could be used against me. When he came up blank, he found himself at an impasse. Unsure how to proceed, he stepped forward, clapped me on the shoulder and said, “Good on you, I always thought that vegan thing was a little crazy,” before turning and walking home.
Fist pump, victory dance. I am living no differently than I did for the last nine months. I am not eating cheeseburgers or pork rinds. I am not grilling chicken or scooping ice cream. I’m not even eating honey or buying leather belts. The only thing that is different is my label. Vegan is how I try to live but veganaut is how I describe myself in a world where vegan is associated with red paint throwing PETA activists. I don’t dislike or even disagree with the PETA people, I just don’t want to be lumped in with their extremist group just because I don’t eat meat or dairy. My veganaut shield protected me from ignorance and a contrived negative public opinion.
In the near future, I will tell you how the shield can also be a handy weapon. Until next time, keep your spears pointy, your shields held high, and never forget to move to the back yard when Carl gets home.