As Brandon said in our first entry, it's important to have different angles on veganism. Some choose shock tactics, unbridled politics, or relentless education of the masses. All of these are useful, fruitful, and important. We need our PETAs as much as we need our PCRMs. We need both abolition and welfare. Everything balances each other out.
That being said, not all of us subscribe to a particular angle. Many of us, in fact, see the point of all sides. Where does that leave the unaffiliated vegan, who sees the point in naked fur-free ads, political lobbying, and unmitigated leafleting? Where does that person go; who would otherwise be paralyzed by lack of loyalty to any one approach or stretched thin over all of them? Maybe it's even simpler than that. Maybe you can't bring yourself to be loud, pushy, or naked?
Well, we have the answer for you.
Be vegan awesome.
Brandon and I are sharing with you our simple plan for being vegan awesome for the year 2009. It's nothing crazy. It's not loud, pushy, or naked. It could even be sneered at as passive. Sure, it's quiet. Sure, it's passive; but it's definitely effective if done correctly.
1. Introduce yourself as you first.
Often, vegans let their veganness define them. Almost immediately upon introduction, they drop the V-bomb. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but sometimes it causes the people you are meeting to label you a certain way. Allow the people you are meeting to get to know you first. I want to make it clear that this is not a way of hiding your vegan ways, nor of being ashamed of it. It is a way to present yourself as a person, not a political statement. Let them begin to like you and enjoy your company (or dislike and hate your company) for what it is. Act like being a vegan is totally normal, not strange or different at all; thus, not meriting immediate revelation. Omnivores don't introduce themselves as such and neither should a vegan.
2. Reveal your veganism naturally and confidently.
Like I talked about in my "Sweet Potato for Awesomeness" post, no matter how hard you try to hide or not talk about it, it will come up naturally. People always notice what other people are eating and you will be no exception. Especially, since your vegan food will smell so awesome, you'll have people coming up to your desk or lean over to your table in a restaurant to see what you are eating. And when they do - when they inevitably do - you should let them know about your veganism as though it's not at all different or strange. I know this is hard to do, especially at work when you don't want to rock the boat or start an argument. Confidence, even feigned, is the key here. Have a sentence already mentally prepared, like "I don't eat any animal products. I'm vegan" or whatever suits you best. Be as un-confrontational as you can possibly be. I know this might rankle the faux fur of many a militant vegan, but just try it out. See how people react when you don't take a holier-than-thou stance. You might be surprised.
3. Don't complain and don't force your ideas down other's throats.
Please, please, please don't complain. That is one of the hardest stereotypes to get over: the complaining vegan. If you go out to lunch with co-workers or with omnivorous friends, eat what you can and don't complain or try to convince them to go to the new vegetarian restaurant and hour away. Smile and crunch on your iceburg lettuce like it's the most awesome thing in the world.
Another bad stereotype is the pushy vegan. It's tempting, I know, but try to refrain. You desperately want to tell your cubicle neighbor at work, who is wolfing down a cheeseburger and complaining about how high his cholesterol is, that a vegan diet might help him out. Refrain. Just be your fit, healthy, low-cholesterol self. You might even allow yourself to say something along the lines of, "Yeah, my cholesterol used to be high..." Try to make sure it's conversational and not preachy. He'll eventually notice how healthy you are, and he'll eventually start asking you questions. Give the guy time.
That is the point of being vegan awesome; people like you for you. You're a cool, hip person. They find out you're vegan and they are un-threatened because you are un-confrontational and not judgmental. They think, "This cool, hip person is vegan." I know it sounds silly, but think about it. Whatever preconceptions of vegans they had is now shattered. Vegans are pushy. Not Brandon, he's awesome. Vegans complain. Not Heather, she never complains. Vegans are self-righteous. Not
So there you go. It sounds simple, but it can be difficult. It might work for you, and it might not. That's for you to decide. A different approach might be a better fit. That is the beauty of the vegan movement. There are so many different ways to approach it, and none are wrong (except violence, of course). We are simply providing an approach that has worked for us. Hopefully, it'll work for you too. Now go and be awesome, however you define it.