I wasn’t sure what a vegan festival would be like. All I knew is that it was free and there would be beer and tons of food samples. I had high hopes for lots of baked goods. Maybe I’d even learn to like soy milk! That morning at brunch, I happily downed bacon and eggs, blissfully unaware of the horror I’d soon be witnessing.
We arrived at DC VegFest and by the entrance, there were puppies up for adoption. This is how these horrible people lure you in. WITH PUPPIES. I found an adorable little pitbull and happily tweeted photos of her. The puppy seemed sad, laying there all lethargic, just staring up at me. I assumed she was so sad because no one wanted to adopt her. I now know that those eyes were trying to warn me, “Turn back. It’s a trap! Don’t go near the vegans!”
I should’ve listened.
My sister had been talking about Sticky Fingers for ages, telling me how delicious their cupcakes are. “You can’t even tell they’re vegan!” She swore to me. I saw they had bourbon cupcakes and casually told the girl behind the booth that I run a bourbon blog. She said, “Oh, my husband would love it! What is it called?” Without thinking I blurted out, “Boobs bacon bourbon dot com!” and she grimaced. Her husband is vegan too. “We don’t eat bacon,” she gripped the knife in her hand and said through gritted teeth as gave me the most judgmental look I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know what to do. I was scared so I purchased a shitty pumpkin whoopie pie and ran away.
After a few other awkward encounters, I hunted down the “beer garden” which was just a white picket fence surrounding a few high-tops. Whatever. There was beer. I downed a Port City Oktoberfest. Luckily, my sister shares my love of silently judging others. We pounded our beers and stared in awe like we were front row at Cirque Du Soleil. From the dreads, to the sea of Toms, to the simply poorly dressed, it was like we were in another world. Apparently, all vegans get dressed with the lights off and wear clothes that smell like my grandmother’s basement.
It only took one beer for me to be brave enough to venture back out into the world of vegans with my head held high. After getting bumped into by about A THOUSAND PEOPLE because carnivores are also fucking invisible (little known fact), I approached a booth selling cookbooks. Among the cookbooks, I saw a book titled ‘Dating For Vegans’ which is supposed to help you learn how to be in a relationship with a vegan. I got too close to it and the Crazy Vegan Book Selling Booth Lady saw me.
“That’s a really good book! It’s dating advice for vegans in relationships with other vegans!”
“I’m not really interested in–”
“It’s a great book!” (the Crazy Vegan Book Selling Booth Lady was a pusher.)
“That’s okay. I eat meat…and I date men that eat meat…so it doesn’t really–”
“Well. Thank you for sharing THAT valuable piece of information.”
And then the Crazy Vegan Book Selling Booth Lady snatched it from my hands and glared at me. For the first time in my life, I felt like an outsider. These were not my people and they made sure I knew that. I played with a puppy in a tutu and tried to make the best of it, silently judging everyone around me just as harshly as they judged me. I couldn’t do it anymore. I talked my sister into leaving. I wanted to be back in the real world (Clarendon) where I could get drunk, eat meat, and rant about the traumatic experience that I just endured.
After a full afternoon in the world of vegans, my feeling is this: do what you want to do and have whatever beliefs you want to have, but don’t shit on others for disagreeing with you. I eat vegetables too, I just prefer them to be wrapped in bacon. Does that make me a bad person? No. You can eat all the fruits and vegetables your heart desires and I won’t judge you. I won’t force meat upon you. I won’t tell you that you being vegan is terrible. Being vegan isn’t terrible, but being a judgmental is. You choose your lifestyle and I choose mine and that’s okay.
- Suzie Robb