How to lose friends and alienate people.
In today’s sermon, I would like to talk about friendship. I have a friend who, after a few mighty ales, likes to declare:
‘I’ve sailed many a ship, over many a sea, but none are as important as this ship,’ then he raises his glass and toasts: ‘To friendship.’
It always gets a laugh. And so it should, it’s got everything you need in a drunken toast. It’s got boats, it’s got you wondering where he’s going (at least, the first time you hear it. I’m on my 497th time) and the warmth of realising a) phew, it’s a short toast and b) aw, friendship is awesome.
It is fitting to start with an anecdote about this particular friend, because he was one I thought I’d lose when I joined the V Gang. Our friendship boat was buoyed by kebabs. When we were teenagers and I tried to be vegetarian, he taught me to eat bacon. And lamb. And steak.
One hears a lot of bad press about old friendships post-veganism. What appears to happen is that your life choices become so disparate, the things that used to unite you (kebabs, hating vegans, complimenting each other’s leather jackets and blue suede shoes) are forever broken and your friendship hangs by a thread, a thread that can’t even be thrud (not a word, should be) from a silkworm, because now you’re a righteous vegan with opinions on silkworms and your old mates can’t be bothered to hang out with you in case their every move incites a speech much less succinct and much more strenuous than the good ship friendship speech.
I don’t mean to humble brag, but veganism has shown me that my old animal chomping mates are far more kind than I deserve.
If I was still the old omni me and my friend had announced she’d gone vegan, I don’t think I’d have displayed half the acceptance and tolerance some friends have toward me. Old Omni Me was as intolerable as Vegan Me. I know, I don’t know how I have any friends either. I was the worst kind of omni, with the best kind of friends.
This one loves roaming the finest burger and pizza restaurants London has to offer, yet when I came to stay, she so insisted on having a vegan weekend that when veggie/vegan restaurant Mildred’s couldn’t find our reservation and I suggested going somewhere else, she threw a massive paddy and yelled at the maitre d': BUT WE ARE VEGAN! We were swiftly shown to a table. She also sends me vegan presents in the post, just cos.
These two married last summer. Our invite arrived back when we were still meat mad monkeys, so I filled out the dietary requirements form with my usual smug brag: ‘We’ll eat anything!’
The bride undoubtedly had more important things to worry about than a guest changing their mind about what they wanted to eat on her wedding day, but as the wedding approached, I emailed and asked if I could be a total pain in the arse and swap a steak for something a little more faceless. She was so impossibly sweet about it and look what I got:
This is the friendship toast maker. I reiterate, he loves meat so much even said toast has Bovril on it. This man will never, ever give up meat. (And trust me, his farts smell all the more deadly for it. He is rotting inside.)
He is my dearest friend, despite our now hugely contrasting lifestyle choices. We didn’t see each other much last year as our circles spun in divergent directions. This year we promised to make more effort.
Guess bloody what? As our weekend of fun approached, L sent me this text:
‘I’ve booked two vegan restaurants. Let me know which one you’d prefer to go to.’
I WAS NOT EVEN DREAMING! My bestest, oldest friend, my meatiest, grizzliest, most anti-anything friend, had booked TWO vegan restaurants. FOR ME!
As we said our goodbyes, I excitedly told him now that I knew he didn’t hate me, we could try out other vegan restaurants together too.
‘Yeah, don’t push it,’ he said. But hey, we’ve made a beautiful start haven’t we?
These are just three examples in many. My friends have been the legends I always knew they were, hence bagging them in the first place. I love them all the more for how they have reacted to the V-gang.
I’ve gloated about my amazing friends enough. This post is called how to LOSE friends for a reason. And that reason is not just that the sentence came to me in the middle of the night and I thought it was funny and now I’m trying to spin a blog about it.
Ah… Facebook. Where 563 people you once knew, now lurk, silently judging you as you age. As my choice of status update evolved from frivolous photo to footage of agricultural animals getting beaten up in slaughterhouses, people I have not seen IRL for years emerged to battle me.
Some were offended. Others shot remarks about me being ill-informed. Apparently those sheep getting kicked and bleeding from too hasty a shearing were not categorically sheared for Uggs, as Peta were suggesting, and so I was a fool.
In my ten-year old Facebook account, I’ve never entered into any kind of agro with anyone. In my one-year old vegan life, I’ve become accustomed to Facebook spats. I’m now a Facebook spatter!
Omni’s can get ANGRY! But the good thing about veganism is that you have facts and stats on your side. To paraphrase Rudyard Kippers, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, you win. Don’t tell the omnis, but their every argument beyond an honest: ‘I don’t care about the animals or the environment or my own health, I just like the taste of meat’ requires some serious logic gymnastics and if you can stay calm and recall the facts, you can come out of these spats relatively unscathed. I mean, they give me mild panic attacks but confrontation always has, so nothing new.
No-one likes to have their life choices questioned, no-one wants to see animals suffer. No-one likes a vegan bore. It took me a few months to figure out what sort of stuff was worth sharing on FB and what alienated me from people I hadn’t even seen in more years than I’ve got fingers. Such is life. These days I try to keep it light so that people see veganism can be coolio iglesias.
But really, if you’re deciding to comment on my post for the first time in 15 years because those particular sheep may or may not have been sheared specifically for Uggs, I think the real question is, why are we still ‘friends’, by definition of Facebook, anyway?
Veganism changes everything. I have lost some friendships. I have gained some. Some have only deepened as I have feared the worst and got the best. I have learned the hard way that not everyone agrees with me. I’ve tried to master the life changing art of not giving a fuck, while still secretly wishing everyone would just love me and be nice.
Perhaps ‘How To Lose Friends And Alienate People’ was a clever yet misguided title for this piece. Perhaps ‘How to Lose A Few Old Contacts You Haven’t Seen For Half A Life And Alienate Them In A Way That Reminds You Why You’re Not Friends IRL Anyway, While Shining The Light Of Brilliance On Your Actual Friends For Being Actual Legends In The Face Of Your New Life Choices Which They Respect’ would have been a little less catchy, but a lot more accurate.