When having dinner with a vegetarian, it’s best to assume that this guest is not quietly hoping the discussion will swing over to food philosophies. Still, people rarely hesitate before asking vegetarians why they don’t eat meat, as if the answer couldn’t possibly transform lively dinner table discussion into a sad symphony of fork-scrapes. They also seem shocked when, unlike the couple that’s designated cheating “hall passes” for celebrities or whatever, we haven’t left even one kind of meat option as a loophole. “Not even fish?” they might ask, bewildered. Disbelief then leads directly into maternal concern over whether we’re getting enough protein, the entire table inexplicably morphing into one hydra-headed grandma.
Even worse than an infantilizing spinach inquisition is the experience of having somebody peg you, in all regards, as hippie ambassador to the animal kingdom. Some people seem downright offended by vegetarians, just in general, and are always looking for ways to prove that meatlessness is meaningless, because animals are going to suffer at your hands one way or another. It’s an exercise in futility, though, to challenge a vegetarian on the supposed hypocrisy of eating eggs or wearing leather or whatever. For one thing, pretty much everybody is a hypocrite about something. More importantly, though, it’s entirely possible to not be a hypocrite and still be an asshole.