Dear Birdy: Vegan and Pregnant, Meat Filled Baby Shower?
I’m 31, vegan and pregnant. I’ve been vegan for 10 years. My ‘good’ friends and family organized my baby shower, in a steakhouse. How do I politely tell them to go to hell, so they look forward to the trip?
E from NYC
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Dear vegan and pregnant E,
For some of us, it might not matter how long we’ve been vegan: the people around us may never understand how to navigate it without our help. I used to feel ashamed of the disdain I felt about being treated as the odd-one-out at events centered around food, but the longer I’ve been vegan, I’ve come to view my frustrations with non-vegans as more and more valid. Many vegans consider steakhouses to be the epitome of carnism. Yes, even though it’s no better to be at a steakhouse than any other non-vegan restaurant, ethically speaking, there’s still a certain ick-factor about it: I understand why it’s the last place you’d want to celebrate the upcoming birth of your child. You have the right to tell them about your anger, and I’d go so far as to say you have the right to tell them exactly where they should “go.”
I’m betting that your frustration, though, is mostly originating in not being heard and understood. You’ve been vegan for over a decade, yet your friends and family, who love you enough to throw you a baby shower, didn’t stop to think you might have a strong opinion about where it’s held and what (or who) people eat in front of you. If you’re not a direct person, you can always rely on the ole “being pregnant has made me feel sick at the sight and smell of animal products” line, but if your desire is to truly be understood, you’ve got to say something more direct: “I have an ethical problem with steakhouses, pick a different restaurant, here are some options.”
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Sometimes reservations get set in stone, so if you’re in the mood for a silver lining, I’ve always found that the nicer a restaurant is, the more likely you’re able to request a vegan option. Fortunately, for situations where you aren’t in control of the restaurant choice, steakhouses can often fall into the super-expensive-but-open-to-creative-menu-requests category. If there’s no turning back now, have one of these “good friends and family” members make a confident request for plenty of quality vegan food from this steakhouse. Maybe by the time you get knocked up again (and are still vegan and pregnant), your besties will remember the experience and know not to make this mistake a second time. But if you need something verbatim, this is what I’d say:
I love that you care about me enough to throw me a baby shower at such a nice restaurant, but I need to make a request, and I hope you’ll understand. I’ve been vegan for ten years, and I’m sure I’ve told you the reasons repeatedly. No matter how welcome and comfortable people try and make me feel, I usually still end up feeling like a pariah when I’m eating around non-vegans. So, the last thing I want to experience at such a happy event is my own frustrations about animal cruelty. For that reason, I simply can’t have it at a steakhouse. Can we move this somewhere more in-line with my ethical beliefs, so that I can focus on enjoying my friends and family and being vegan and pregnant, and not on my sadness about what everyone is eating? I’d be happy to help make it possible.
Feel free to insert the “go to hell” part anywhere you like, and congratulations!
Best of Luck,
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