This is a guest post by frequent Mutual Menu commentator and my longtime friend, Sky Chari.
It's a question posed by many who have fancied themselves philosophers over the years: are married couples really parted by death or do our souls live on together for all eternity (assuming you actually liked each other here on Earth to begin with)? When it comes to my husband and I, however, the death in question is neither his nor mine but dinner's. It’s not like I didn't know he ate meat when we started dating, or even when I married him. It’s not like he didn't know that I was a card-carrying PETA member and vegan advocate. So, how the hell does this work? To be honest, I don't even know some days. It definitely helps that we keep a vegetarian home. I just couldn't stomach having meat around. That being said, I do let in the occasional pizza or Doritos (he's not exactly into health food). When I come home from volunteering at a sanctuary for abused and neglected farm animals, Animal Place, disgusted with how people could be so reckless with themselves, the planet, and the animals, well, I let him know in the gentlest way possible exactly how I feel. He's heard my speech; he's even seen Earthlings, for goodness sake. His response? It's just not his thing.Yeah, I could kill him. I mean, I don't get how people could have all the information and still make the decision to eat meat.
In my particular case, I couldn't stomach the idea of killing animals for food from an early age, and started my journey toward veganism at age 11. Ironically, when my husband was the same age, he had never even touched meat. Raised in a traditional Hindu home, he was actually brought up as a vegetarian! However, by junior high, he'd had too many birthday parties at McDonald's to resist the temptation, and once Pandora's box was opened, it was impossible for him to close.
Don't get me wrong, my husband is a caring, kind, and insanely intelligent person. But he also happens to be a creature of habit and proximity. The reason it's easy to keep a veggie house is the same reason I can't keep a veggie husband--he'll eat whatever is in arm's length. The less he has to think about his food, the better. Granted, he's got a lot of other stuff to think about, running a company and all, but this is something about him I will never understand. I care about every single scrap that enters my mouth. I want to know where my food is from and all the ingredients that are in it so I can best judge what its effect on my person will be. He thinks I'm nuts.
So, have we just agreed to disagree and moved on? Actually, no. I still prefer that he become vegan, and he still knows it. I learned a long time ago, however, that nagging will get me nowhere. I have given him the space to make this decision for himself, all the while keeping him well informed and letting him know that I want him to live a long life with me. After all, nothing will make you live longer than letting other beings live long as well. It hasn't been easy or instantaneous by any means, but this tactic is working. He has long stretches of vegetarianism, and for now that is good enough for me. We are not unlike most couples in that we have our differences and issues. But being able to negotiate this emotionally charged subject has actually helped us through a number of other rough patches. At the end of the day, it is everything else about him that keeps me with him and thrilled to be so. This one blip on our radar is pretty major, but it is only one blip after all, and we manage it—some days better than others. Should kids ever come into the picture (not on the radar at all right now), all hell could break loose. Until then, he's my more-vegetarian-than-not husband, and I love him...to death.
Sky Chari is a flutist and teacher in San Francisco, CA, USA. When she's not dragging her husband to one of the town's great vegan restaurants, you can find her curled up on her couch watching the fog roll in (or, more preferably, out).
If you would like to share your story or tips on how you navigate being a vegan, vegetarian, or ominvore who navigates "interdietary" relationships, please leave a comment or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you and possibly share your story. Thank you!