I swear I get nightmares every time an extended family gathering comes round the corner. My Vata mind races through every possible worse case scenario that might rear its ugly head. Will I be poked at for being a fussy eater? Be berated for making things ‘difficult for others’? Maybe there wouldn’t be anything untainted I could eat. But perhaps overwhelmingly, I receive the most agitation from the air of ignorance and lack of practical sensitivity which extended family members tend to be guilty of one too many times.
Funnily, dining with friends never seems to give me these many headaches. Knowing my unconventional dietary needs beforehand, most handle the situation cordially asking once if I’d be fine, which is what I deem standard protocol anyway when partaking of food with anyone with dietary restrictions of any kind. In contrast, extended family members seem to think they own the entire event and greet your different eating habits as somewhat of a pain in the ass inconvenience, a stain on what would otherwise be a delightfully smooth and problem-free affair.
Enter the awkward extended family scenario, which seems always like THE perfect occasion to fall prey to mindless questions and general ignorance towards respecting the privacy and differences of others:
Oh my god why make things so difficult for us with your finicky eating habits. Get a life! Why can’t you be like the rest of us??
Said no one aloud as verbally articulating such inner thoughts ruin the special occasion. So instead these tend to distillate in not-so-subtle behaviors and speech that belie a slight tone of condescension and pity:
Oh I hope there’s food for you to eat. I was worried you wouldn’t have anything. Are you enjoying yourself? Are you fine?
Yes I would f*king be if you all wouldn’t come up to me one by one every 5 seconds, poke your noses at what I’ve been helping myself to at the buffet table and ask that same question with that pitiful look in your eyes. And yea, if you was that worried why’d you pick this place?? Roll eyes. I actually appreciate some privacy rather than you hawk-eyeing the contents of my plate every time I come back from the buffet area. Like seriously?
2. Here have some of this! I know you can eat it!
Uh no. I don’t want that. There are only that many options I can have and guess why I didn’t pick that? Cos I don’t want it. So stop patronising me. I get it you pity my deprivation, oh poor me but I still don’t want whatever thing it is you’re offering me!
Sometimes the unlucky ones who get to sit around me start to exhibit some sort of a guilty conscience, that their enjoyment must be denied since I can’t possibly be enjoying myself as much as they are since, wah hey, I’m denying myself all the ‘droolsome’ offerings at the table. As annoyed as I am about this obviously implied sense of pity I get, I usually manage to gather enough composure to prevent myself from otherwise exploding in a declaration that,
1. I don’t bloody give a shit about what’s on your plate
2. I don’t WANT to eat that kind of stuff anyway and
3. Do I think I’m worst off than you for having a cleaner diet, choosing to respect my body’s needs, the needs of other beings and the planet by eating more mindfully? HELL NO.
Quite conversely I should think the pity is all mine – why, you don’t have access to all the joy I’ve had since becoming vegan! The bondage of materialistic desire for fleshly food, the feeding of emotional problems by succumbing to lustful cravings, and feeling inhibited by conditioned habits of the past beyond my control have all been released since taking ownership and responsibility of how my eating habits will influence myself and others.
From my standpoint it therefore appears strange indeed that clinging onto conditioned meat-eating habits and eating foods that one rationally knows can’t be good for oneself (but are gonna eat anyway) can even be seen as a celebration of one’s autonomy and freedom when such is partaken more so out of a superficial sense of pleasure that contradicts the body or the soul’s true needs. Could we truly have pleasure out of eating a carcass with the full realisation that its life was taken unnecessarily just to satisfy the whims and fancies of the modern human diet? I don’t know about you, but I definitely wouldn’t like that so thank you very much but I’d rather give most of these dishes a miss than contradict my true beliefs and desires, which incidentally would be a lot more painful than playing into your perception of sound dietary habits.
I think you should be able to eat this, right? Huh? It’s got what? Ghee? What’s that?
There are always one or two of the wise ones, who courageously take it upon themselves to play personal advisor on what’s safe to eat. I would have appreciated it if you actually knew more than what I did about the likely-to-be-used components of each dish. Otherwise, f*ck off. I don’t need a dietary adviser.
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In case I’ve come off as being a bit harsh, I’d like to end off my post/rant that I have absolutely nothing against these people who probably might’ve really been at least somewhat concerned about whether my eating habits were sufficiently accommodated for.
Still, I gotta say I’d wished they could’ve at least been a bit more aware of their painfully deluded perceptions about being vegan, and for god’s sake, could you just give it a rest? I promise not to stare at that heart-attack/indigestion/cholesterol on your plate if you’d stop asking me whether I’m fine with (only) having veggies tonight.