How To Hook Up, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My wonderful brother was recently observing that it’s a bummer, noticing attractive, nice gals — then noticing that their grocery cart is full of meat and dairy.  Or enjoying a chance conversation at a restaurant bar with a gal who goes on to order a meat dish.  Or any of a slew of etceteras.  The evidence of our food consciousness is everywhere, not least of all on our bodies and in our faces.  

This is interesting in itself, right?  You can meet someone and have no idea if they prefer the same media as you, the same nightlife, the same vacation destinations, the same anything — but it’s unlikely you wouldn’t notice that they’re consuming dead animals — which, for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to reframe as dead lil buddies, because animals are profoundly our lil buddies — because food is this constant relationship.  People who consume dead lil buddies, do so constantly.  People who don’t, are consuming something else constantly.  

He said, more optimistically, that perhaps he shouldn’t be so quick to filter out meat eaters, as (inspiringly) I’ve enjoyed nearly a 100% conversion rate of my historical boyfriends, zero of whom were vegan, veg, or even v-curious when we met.  Which, he graciously noted, is perhaps more impressive as a female vegan dating men, versus a male vegan dating women — men have their masculinity (as opposed to their humanity) all tied up in eating dead lil buddies, in a way that women simply don’t.  Possibly he could just see how things went, and whether this hypothetical She might reconsider her ethical choices.  I encouraged that perspective, and reminded him he could always break up with her later.

In no way is this setting someone up to fail.  Eating dead lil buddies simply is the dominant ideology, despite the slow steady shift, and in our society it’s unrealistic to expect that a dating candidate’s potential intelligence, moral awareness, or kind heartedness would necessarily be reflected in their dietary choices at first, despite these dietary choices representing their active support of an ongoing atrocity.  

Most people were severed from their own moral compass about meat specifically at around age five.  

Fact: All children love animals.  And at some point, all children find out that meat comes from animals.  They balk.  And it’s at this point that our parents — the people who run the fucking world, for all we know — tell us one of several things.

1. You need meat to live.

2. Meat is here for us to eat, that’s the natural order.

3. Lil buddies don’t feel pain like we do.

4. the Bible gave us dominion over lil buddies and so, as good Christians, we eat meat.

5. You can’t have your dessert if you don’t eat your meat.

(6. Our parents’ response: Yeah…it does seem wrong, honestly.)

And for most of us, that’s literally the last time we consciously thought about the dead lil buddies’ carcasses we’ve been eating for decades, now.  Carol J. Adams, vegan feminist scholar, noted that the subject of meat reduces everyone’s emotional, moral, and intellectual sophistication to that of a five year old, for just this reason.  PhD’s, GED’s, heads of corporations and stay-at-home moms — no one, at any level of functioning in the rest of their life, can articulate any rational response to the fact that meat comes from lil buddies who wanted to live and who had a right to live, based on those traits and characteristics we recognize and protect, as housing true consciousness, within our own species.  No one has any rational response to the fact that we have every alternative to eating meat.  To the fact that there’s no silver lining — it’s bad news at every level.  Bad news for the lil buddies, the slaughterhouse workers, the rain forest, the environment, the individual consumer of the meat.  I mean, we’ve finally admitted it’s a class one carcinogen.  

People — otherwise good, smart people! — manufacture truckloads of irrational responses, as if this debate and this debate alone can be won through sheer volume of response; emotionality of response.  Quantity, not quality, of response.  It’s truly sad to see otherwise insightful people shit their pants, intellectually, when it comes to meat.  And I’ve seen it many times.  You just kind of look away and hold your breath.  And hope that they eventually desire the same integrity and dignity for themselves that you desire for them.

It’s especially odd that entrenched meat eaters will object strongly to pets being abused.  Or, the way that most cinema nowadays assures us that no lil buddies were harmed in the making of this film.  Really?!?  What the fuck was everyone eating, the whole time they filmed it?

Anyway — the way this plays out in dating is interesting.  Like for my brother: compatibility in lil buddy holocaust IQ is so much more than just a preference in genre or nightlife; it’s a preference in awareness.  And not the kind of awareness where you have to literally go outside the bubble of your own life to find out they’re killing journalists in Guatamala, or some realistically quite disconnected-from-you thing.  It’s the kind of awareness where you recognize that meat is about more than different flavors of sandwich, and that you’re conducting an intimate relationship with a horrific process that turns lil buddies into slurry, slabs, slivers and slices.

This is why my boyfriend conversation rate has been so high.  I simply role model a more cohesive, integrated, abundant food lifestyle.  Eating dead lil buddies is a necessarily fractured pattern, on a level of magnitude that would otherwise be apparent to us, had we not fallen prey to the most successful marketing ploy in human history.  Not only are we enticed to want it; we’re convinced we need it!  And that we’re bad parents if we don’t force it on our children!  Despite every evidence to the contrary!  We’re convinced that eating meat equates to us being good Christians, good Americans, and most certainly good men.  (This is not a blog about the incredible masculinity of kindness, the American tradition of thinking for ourselves, the actual message of Jesus Christ, or the history of carnivorous Christians eradicating sub-sects of profoundly dedicated vegetarian Christians.  But it could have been.)  It’s just amazing.  And certainly, it’s much more comfortable for the average average person to simply acquiesce to the highly assured normalcy of it all.  

One person demonstrating grace and equilibrium, in abandonment of all that, is highly persuasive, though.  My boyfriend Nick, for instance — he had examined, but retained, much of his own conflict on the subject.  When he found out, though, that the vegan bodybuilders look even more shredded than the meat eating ones, and that consumption of dairy spikes estrogen by about 20%, he was like “fuck it, I’m vegan”.  I remain privately excited about the trend of men discovering that their dicks work better when they don’t eat meat.

The thing is, you don’t have to plan to make it all the way to the integrity finish line to justify one step in that direction.  I remind people all the time: there aren’t, actually, any vegan police.  You can order seitan and still wear leather shoes, or whatever.  That’s why my brother and I prefer the term “v-curious”.  It’s like being bi-curious, but with diet.  As in, I’m not planning on going full-blown gay, here, but I’m willing to entertain my own responses to some private, no one’s business, exploration.         

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”  

I remember one lunch break at work, years ago.  My male coworkers were declaring that pedophiles should be castrated.  This is a common male response to the problem of pedophilia.  They dislike that anyone would overtly brutalize such an obviously helpless, sensitive victim.  It’s highly relatable.  

I was watching them eat their dead lil buddy sandwiches, meanwhile, and thinking about the cognitive dissonance of my own awareness.  I haven’t had the luxury of drawing hard lines in the sand, separating the good people from the machinators of senseless violence, in…ever.  Vegan awareness means understanding that you live among mass murderers who consider themselves entirely upstanding people.  Not a single one of them would kill a dog.

Sometimes I wonder if this leap, this necessary holding of opposed truths, in itself, represents perhaps the biggest hurdle to dietary introspection, for the average average person.  If I recognize that this whole thing is actually…pretty fuckin sad…will I have to then oppose everyone?  Attempt to convert everyone?  That’s an exhausting thought, right?

My advice is, attempt to convert no one.  But for god’s sake, find your own equilibrium in v-curiosity.  Substitute plant based meat for meat, plant based dairy for dairy, celebrate the easy improvement of your own health markers (and dick functioning, if you’re a male), maybe ease into some documentaries, mind your own business about it unless someone asks, and just find your footing.  Honestly, if you’re a hypochondriac, just go ahead and keep eating meat.  You’re exhausting, even more so as a vegan.  I don’t think your ancestors survived thousands of years of famines, floods, and wars just so you could freak out about whether your tortilla was made from sprouted grain or not.  

As far as vegans and omnivores dating, I think that can work for some people.  Some vegans have a white knuckle grip on the environmental aspect, probably because it feels emotionally safer than acknowledging animals’ personhood, even on the right side of the integrity line.  So those vegans can probably date any-ol-body, because they’re essentially functioning as people on a special diet.  A diet that saves the planet.  

Ethical vegans, like my brother and I, just get bummed out when we see dead lil buddies in people’s shopping carts.  But I do think it’s important to hold those opposing truths, and find those areas of common ground, with everyone we encounter.  There’s no need to be a weirdo, as a vegan, plus it’s off-putting.  But I say that with full acknowledgement that it is really weird, once you cross the rubicon.

My boyfriend is a good example, actually, of how much a rabbit hole that rubicon can be.  Ironically, many vegans become animal advocates after their conversion, not before.  Nick had functioned gracefully as an environmental vegan for two whole years, prior to our first rendezvous — holding his own at family reunions, holding his own while dating gals who weren’t vegan, and certainly holding his own against male friends who constantly attacked his, to their minds, diminished masculinity.  He had only meatlapsed recently in response to barbell lifting and dietary bro-science.  (Environmental vegans are much more prone to meatlapse than ethical vegans.)  But never, as an omnivore or as an environmental vegan, had he allowed his own reactions to fully surface, regarding the plight of the lil buddies.  

I know this seems strange, but honestly that’s really dangerous terrain, emotionally.  It’s so dangerous that not only do we never approach it; we have the whole area wrapped up in police tape.  Here’s the odd thing about us humans: we generally can’t acknowledge that something we’re doing is wrong until after we’ve stopped doing it, once our “goodness” is no longer at stake.  We’re simply not willing to be un-good, in our own minds.  This is why I recommend a 100% role model, 0% evangelizing model of interacting with meat eaters.  You’re unlikely to convince anyone that something they’re doing is wrong, because their psyche is geared to literally not hear that.  And the wronger the thing they’re doing is, as compared to their constant awareness of the Golden Rule (do unto others) that they’ve internalized — because all cultures and all civilizations have independently developed some version of the Golden Rule — the more literally they will not hear that.  

I mean, if you want to bring out the big guns, talking to a meat eater, there’s one and only one doorway.  And it’s one that’s so distasteful and usually boring to me that I rarely go there, though I am skilled in the practice.  You have to assuage their conscience, right where it’s at.  Vigorously.  

Now, this brings up an interesting point: the vegan does not attack the meat eater’s conscience.  The vegan sits there, eating their food, and the meat eater’s conscience attacks itself.  I shit you not, that is exactly how it goes down.  With no invitation or provocation, the meat eater begins to make self-soothing, mitigatory statements.  

“I really don’t eat that much meat.”  That has been true 0% of the time someone’s said it to me, by the way. 

“I mostly eat white meat now.”  It’s a testament to the divide that any meat eater thinks any vegan gives a shit about this.  It takes a bunch of dead chickens to equal the same yield as one dead cow or pig, so congratulations — you’re contributing to many more individual deaths than you were before.

“I gave up meat, but I had x y z health problems so I had to start eating it again.”  This is the meat eater’s version of big guns.  People figured out, a long time ago, that they can get infinite mileage out of playing the health problems card.  No one can make them do or think or be anything that’s remotely uncomfortable to them, remotely a stretch, because: health problems.  I saw it in boot camp, I see it at the gym, and I certainly see it at the dinner table.  No one, by the way, can dispute the sacred validity of health problems.  In fact, they just can’t wait for you to try.  It’s a pummeling of convoluted victim narrative that, once you’ve entered, will bamboozle you at every turn until finally you admit: yes, you’ve got problems.  They are appeased.

In order to still that troubled conscience, the only doorway to true introspection, you mustn’t fight them.  In fact, you must valorize them, assure them that they are good!  Nick has learned this trick, to devastating effect, on Reddit.  He likes to throw down as a 535 pound deadlifting vegan, etc., on the bodybuilding forums and wow, there are some troubles consciences there!  Blazing infernos of wounded, threatened masculinity.  They fulminate; Nick acknowledges and soothes.  They slow to a nice rolling boil; Nick acknowledges and soothes.  They burble like a happy tea pot; Nick acknowledges and soothes.  They show their soft underbellies — “it is really sad tho”.  Nick acknowledges and soothes.  

As you can see, this is simply exhausting, although Nick is still in the phase of enjoying it.  It’s like negotiating a moral mental illness that everyone has, about this one thing.

Anyway, the point I’m driving at is that no one feels able to do anything about this unless they already have some assurance that they’re good.  That they’re good people.

So it’s from this stance, of being good people, that many people go vegan — for environmental reasons.  Also, health.  They approach the area of police tape, but do not tamper with the scene.  They remove dead lil buddies from their grocery carts and fridges and restaurant options.  Their senses clear, their health markers improve, their sense of inner integrity advances.  A lot of people stay here, and that’s great.  But some people feel safe enough, then, to tear aside that police tape and look down into the abyss.  It’s appalling, to fully, emotionally recognize that all the furry feathered people you’ve eaten — no different, in loving sweetness and desire to thrive, than your dog or cat or child — are laying down there, in that pit, discarded and torn asunder.  Because of you.  Because it was convenient.  Because your parents told you you couldn’t have dessert.  It’s a knowing that, once known, cannot be unknown.  It’s a veil, lifted from your heart.  And it’s sad.  

It’s hard, as a vegan, to date someone who hasn’t made this connection.  Or who thinks that eating less red meat and more white meat represents a compromise.  Or any of the other self-gaslighting we do on this subject.  But it’s simply not emotionally accessible to people, even vegans; not for a while. 

I feel blessed to have found this good man, with his good heart, and I hope the same for my brother, and for all ethical vegans who are single and looking.  Who knew that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s holding of opposing truths, while still functioning, could be a dating strategy?                                

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