After my mom passed away in February last year, my life has changed drastically. She moved to Spain when I was around 17 years old after my sister denied her from seeing her grandchild. This eventually lead to my sister cutting my mom out of her life. I, however, kept the contact with both of them and I’ve been renting my moms apartment here in Norway ever since. Fast forward 15 years later I then found myself in a predicament where I might be without a home because my sister might claim my mom’s apartment instead of letting me buy her share out. My sister has always been somewhat greedy and aggressive when it comes to money, and during the inheritance, she showed me her true colors. After she lied to me and broke agreements, I confronted her about it. She ended up cutting me out of her life. I told her that after the bad treatment I had gotten from her I had no problem with not seeing her again. However, I contacted her husband to try and make him talk some sense into my sister so we could finish our inheritance work. He answered: “You don’t have to say anything Kim. I already know everything. I don’t have the need to listen to your side of the story and I don’t want anything to do with you.”… I was shocked and speechless. How do you react to something like that? I had babysat his children, been to every birthdays and Christmases, attended church with them, seen graduations. I had also been driving his wife, to the hospital when he didn’t feel like it, twice, and I had known them for 25 years. I tried contacting my niece and nephew, but there was total silence. I tried contacting their grandparents, and there was no answer. How can someone just be erased from the family without being listened to? I have a theory to why, and it might partially be because I am vegan…
My goal with this blog-post is to explain why veganism is not always practicable, based on my own experience. In order to do that I need to share some of the things that have happened to me. So in other words, this post is kind of personal.
During my childhood, I had grown up with an alcoholic mom so Christmas time was always unpredictable and sometimes filled with sorrow and anger. I sometimes spent Christmas with my sister and sometimes with my friends. However, when I became an uncle I started to consistently spend Christmas with my niece and nephew. I didn’t want them to go through what I went through during Christmas so I didn’t drink alcohol, except when I first introduced my boyfriend and my first and third years as a vegan. You might be able to imagine why. However, in spite of the fighting and anger when celebrating Christmas with my mom, I have to say that the worst Christmas I’ve ever had was my first year as a vegan when I was with my sister and her family.
I’ve talked about this following incidence before on my blog, but here is a brief summary of the time I was sent to the principle in high-school. Our teacher said someone in the class had taken her keys because she always had them on the left side of her backpack, but now they weren’t there anymore. She said she was leaving her backpack in the classroom for a few minutes and when she came back the keys better be back in there. As she left I checked the right pocket of her backpack and I saw the keys were in it. I sat back down (not touching the keys), the teacher came back and asked us all to write on a piece of paper what we had “seen”. Over half the class wrote that I had either put something “shiny” into the backpack or “heard” that keys were rattling, which none of that was true. I was sent to the principle and psychologist… I think this incident happened because I was already being bullied by most people in my class due to my sexuality. It’s like they were looking for an excuse to make my life difficult. My first Christmas as a vegan I felt like I was right back in the classroom again, being alone and frozen out.
After a lot of sarcastic comments during my first vegan Christmas-celebration, with little to no eye contact, no questions about my cooking or veganism, I was so heartbroken. The “family” I chose to celebrate with was suddenly full of judgment and resentment. I didn’t care that they ate animal products, but you could tell they sure did mind that I ate fruits and vegetables. The people I had trusted for so long and I considered family had now become the bullies from high-school. There is this play by Henrik Ibsen called “A Dollhouse”, which is about maintaining tradition and keeping up appearance because it’s expected of you. To summarize the play, you basically can’t live the way you want to because the norm says its wrong. During the Christmas “celebration”, and other get-togethers, I felt like the protagonist in “A Dollhouse”. Unable to fit in, unable to speak, unable to live according to my values. What point is there for a voice if no one listens? Why listen to hypocrisy when you know the truth? Why speak up when you’re being silenced?… Not only did I lose my mom when she passed away, but I also lost my sister, niece, nephew, and everyone around them.
I think that my sister cutting me out was kind of inevitable. As I’ve grown older I’ve become more skeptic to information. If someone claims something that I think is wrong I want the sources of their claims. My sister only had a lot of claims with no references to back them up. As I grew stronger I had the courage to stand up to her manipulation. I think being vegan has left me the odd one out which furthermore made it easier to just cut me out. Even if I was still eating meat, I don’t think that my sister and I would have contact today. However, I do think that the family around her might have taken the time to listen to my side of the story, and who knows where we would be then. You see in my experience, even if what you’re doing makes perfect sense and is the right thing to do, as long as it’s not mainstream you can become a victim of pre-judgment. When people pre-judge you there is no dialogue. They have already made up their minds about you before you open your mouth to defend yourself. This kind of behavior will not promote change when it’s needed and it also undermines the person you’re pre-judging. Only when you have an open dialogue where you listen to both sides of the story, you can make an informed decision. Judging someone should only take place once you have all the facts. Even after 25 years of family-gatherings with my sister and her family, I still was not given the chance to tell my side of the story. It makes you wonder how strong you’re family truly is. It seems like the bond was only based on keeping up appearances, wearing a “porcelain mask ” if you will, like in the “A Dollhouse”-play.
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
In my experience, it’s not practicable to be vegan around certain people. That extra stress that comes with it and potential bonds ruined is in my opinion not necessarily worth it. I have now “loosened up” my veganism criteria, where I limit veganism to my home and I chose the most vegan option there is in restaurants. If family members serve meat then I will eat it, not because I want meat, but because of the potential, life-altering havoc that might follow if I don’t eat their food. I never thought in a million years that people in my life would care if I ate fruits or vegetables, but boy was I wrong there. To me, this behavior it’s the equivalent of cutting someone out of your life because you’re a Democrat or feminist. Don’t get me wrong, many of my friends totally respect that I’m vegan and still want to cook vegan dishes for me, but some people are just too set in their own ways that making room for a veggie dish that I bring to the party is out of the question.
What sparked me writing this blog-post was a video from ModVegan (see below) where she talks about how to create a vegan world. She mentions the problems with being a “perfect vegan” and how some people want to change the definition of veganism because it’s too strict. I happen to agree with her on that it’s not the definition that needs to change, it’s the way people use it. So, now that I rarely eat meat, am I no longer vegan? Well, that depends on who you ask. I never buy animal products and I only eat meat if people serve it to me. In my opinion, I’m following The Vegan Society’s definition. I stay away from animal products as much as possible without letting it ruining my life. In other words, I think I’m still vegan, but other people might not think so. And that’s ok 😉