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How Not to be a Pompous Ass of a Vegetarian (or Vegan) or How to Be Everyone's Favorite Vegetarian (or Vegan) I've been

vegetarian for over 13 years and during that time I've heard over and over again, "you're my favorite vegetarian." It's not because I'm particularly a wesome, charming, or handsome (although my would tell you that I am handsome). I t's because I'm not a dick to my meat eating friends. Making the decision to live a cruelty-free (or less cruel) life is a wonderful w ay to spare the animals on the planet a one way trip into your belly. You feel b etter about your place in the world and I'm sure there would be some health bene fits if I could keep from shoving french fries into my gullet every chance I get . Being vegetarian doesn't define who I am, but it is something that's very impo rtant to me. I'm passionate about the plight of animals and I"m sure my fellow v egetarians (and vegans) feel the same way. But that doesn't give us license to b e jerks to our friends and families and expect them to continue to be cool with our demanding diet. Real-talk time my fellow herbivores: You and I, we made a decision. We decided i n a culture that slaughters and beer-batters carcass and serve them up with a si de of mashed potatoes and corn that we would skip the main course and go right f or the sides. But remember it's our decision. And it's time we took responsibili ty for that decision and stop playing the victim every time we go out to eat. If you're noticing that you're getting fewer and fewer invitations to eat out it might be because you're a pain to accommodate. Don't be the person that rolls t heir eyes or sighs heavily when a burger joint is suggested. I've actually seen other vegetarians throw temper tantrum and declare, "Well there's nothing for me to eat there. I'm not going to go." Now you're a two-year old that's guilted hi s or her friends into going to a one of the two places you deem worthy of your v ery special stomach. No one likes hanging out with two-year old that pouts becau se they didn't get their way. Instead of turning into captain whiny pants, go to the restaurant with your frie nds without raising a fuss. Nearly every restaurant has something you can eat. W hile restaurants have insisted that salads now require meat, you can usually ord er one sans dead chicken. Even a few sides can be thrown together to make a mea l. Or just order a drink and enjoy your friends company. While you're at the restaurant do not pummel the waitstaff with 20 questions abo ut each item on the menu. Sure the fancy restaurants will have trained the staff to tell you where the beets were grown in your salad, but at this point in your vegetarian/vegan lifestyle you should know what's safe to eat. For example, nev er order soup, Ceasar Salad, refried beans, anything with Jello, or items you do n't recognize. Know what you can and can't eat while wandering out in the wild. It'll make your fellow diners happy too because they won't have to watch a haple ss server run back and forth to the kitchen asking if there is chicken stock in the soup. There is always chicken stock in the soup. ALWAYS. Accept it and order a baked potato and a salad. Or better yet, if you know you're going out, eat beforehand. I'll have a small m eal before heading out with friends if I'm not sure where we are heading. That w ay if they pick Bob's Big Steak House of Murder and Sadness, I won't be sitting at the end of the table with a growing stomach. If you end up somewhere with a l ower ratio of death, you can order a nice small meal or splurge on an awesome de ssert.

That's right, you get to eat dessert while they're eating dinner. Seeing being a cool vegetarian or vegan is awesome. In fact, eating before going out is especially important when invited to dinner or a barbecue. Do not expect someone to make you a special meal. It's wonderful when it happens. Sometimes what's made for you is better than the main dish beca use it's been cooked in a small batch. But making someone create an entirely sec ond meal just for you is something the dictators of small nations and spoiled ch ildren do. Barbecues can be especially tricky. If you want to grill something, you're bette r off bringing your own tiny grill or wrapping your food in foil. Do not expect the grill to be cleaned for you. Plus, you're Boca burger is going to touch thos e other burgers or be flipped with those greasy tongs. Save yourself the hassle. In fact, I've started bring my own sandwiches. Usually tofu Banh Mi sandwiches from Little Vietnam Cafe in the Richmond. Of course that doesn't always stop som eone from trying to shove meat in your mouth. Politely pass when offered the over-cooked flesh offered you and inquire about t he salad or inform you the host that you've already eaten. This usually leads to the always awkward questions about being a vegetarian while being surrounded by a photo spread for Dead Animal Monthly. Stop and count to 10 in your head. This can be tough. For the most part, I've ha d very good luck talking to meat eaters about my decision to become vegetarian w ithout them being aggressive. Of those that have been aggressive, the underlying issue usually has to do with the person feeling like I've judged them as a bad person for eating meat. You can diffuse the situation by talking calmly about yo ur life and your decision without being graphic. Telling the assembled guests ab out how cows are killed in slaughterhouses is great if you want to have the most awkward dinner ever. I tell people that I've drawn a line on what I will eat and inform them they hav e also drawn a line for their diet. Maybe that line ends with cute animals. Some people won't eat deer or rabbits. It's hard to eat something that's been a char acter in a Disney film. Maybe that line ends with people. That usually gets a fe w chuckles and we all go back to talking about how much we hate Los Angeles. Eve ryone loves a good cannibalism joke at the dinner table. Once the lines of communication are open, people are more likely to understand w here you stand on this whole not eating animals thing. These are the conversatio ns that make a difference. These talks are much better than the ones where you'r e using the words holocaust to describe chicken processing plants or screaming a bout how a pastrami sandwich is destroying the planet. Attacking people makes yo u a jerk plain and simple. Don't be a jerk. Instead share information. Finally, don't be complete push over. Many of my meat-eating friends have been s urprised at how good the food is at vegetarian restaurants. Remind your friends that you went with them to that steak house that let you pick which cow would en d up on your plate and that it's only fair that you try out the new vegetarian p lace that only serves legumes. Being vegetarian is part of your life let them un derstand that without eye rolling, fake gagging at the sight of meat, and protes t soundbites. Maybe you can turn them all vegetarian (unlikely). But until then, enjoy those d inner rolls and watch out for bacon. They want to put that shit in everything no w.