A vegetarian at the table, an elephant in the room

Part of my personal feminist framework led me to vegetarianism back in college. Seven years later, I am still a vegetarian, and still navigating those ever-fun family dinner gatherings. Anyone else out there who lives in the world of dietary restrictions may relate with what I’m talking about here. You really have to wonder if your mom actually used veggie broth to make her famous stuffing…or if she just wants you to eat it already. Your in-laws may go way overboard, preparing something totally out of the norm so you have something to eat, and send you home with a whole family-size tray of veg-friendly foodstuff that no one else touched. You might have the distinct challenge of dining with loved ones who really don’t love vegetables at all—hello plain mashed potatoes for dinner. You most likely answer questions like, “So, do you think this is a phase?” or “Don’t you miss turkey?” or “I don’t get it, is this about that animal rights junk or something?”

Being a vegetarian can be a bit awkward, but for me, it doesn’t even compare to some of the other awkward or uncomfortable situations that hanging with “the fam” for extended periods of time can bring. Having a very deliberate social justice framework for your life could mean that you have to explain, over and over and over again, why telling rape jokes makes you really uncomfortable. It could mean having weird-seeming discussions with great Aunt Tillie about why your youngest cousin shouldn’t have to hug her. In some cases, it means figuring out how in the world you’re going to navigate the political conversations about the President of the United States of America that stem from internalized racism.

For all of you out there who are going to navigate some difficult conversations this holiday season, I thank you. Having those conversations with the people we love is hard, sad, frustrating, invigorating, and so very, very important. I wish you well in your travels, your trials, and your many, many T-day talks!