Who’s got your back?

May 3, 2010

In last week’s newsletter, we talked about how making veganism look easy was actually a lot of hard work, and the importance of taking breaks to recover and recharge. If you missed it or aren’t a subscriber yet, you can read about the topic here.

One of the ideas that came up was having a vegan friend or colleague to connect with, possibly to vent a little, but also to have someone nearby who understands and who you can talk to without needing to defend or promote veganism. Someone you can just be yourself with. It’s possible to rely on a sympathetic non-vegan, but no matter how understanding they might be, it’s not really the same.

One of the things that I try to watch for is a bias towards this idea that everyone knows 40 awesome vegans, because that’s obviously not the case for all of you. You might not have dozens of vegan restaurants where you live, and you might not even know any other vegetarians, let alone vegans.

That said, I want to make it clear that finding new aquiantances of any kind is hard work. Making connections outside of your immediate social circle, especially if it’s just one or two people, can be tricky. As a society, we like to have our friends know each other, if only to make parties easier, but with veganism there are these underlying issues (real or imagined) about integrating meat-eating and vegan friends. It’s possible, for some of you, that there really aren’t any vegans you’d want to meet in your area. For the rest of you, and I’d put that as the majority, you can do it, but it’s going to take some effort, even if it’s just finding or starting a Meetup group.

Speaking of the internet though, it’s done some amazing things for our community, just like it has for countless others. Many of us have made connections to people we’d consider to be friends, even though we’ve never met them in person, and this works for finding other vegans too, through things like Facebook, Twitter, forums, blogs, and other stuff.

Are you connecting with other vegans on a regular basis? Is it in person or online, or through some other method I haven’t thought of? How did you meet them?

This is one of those future-thinking posts that I’m throwing out there for some feedback, so I’d really love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Who’s got your back?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Edanator May 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I know in some places they have a “vegan mentor” program, that seems to be a great success. New vegans are assigned a mentor (or the other way around) to help and support them through the transition period and beyond. This is a great idea, I think!

Colleen May 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I have a lot of veg friends that I can spend face to face time with. I don’t need it so much anymore for moral support though; I know what I am and don’t take guff from any omnis. (Unless it’s funny guff. I will only accept being made fun of if it’s original and hilarious.)

For me, it’s important to have veg friends for two main reasons: First, I know that having dinner at each other’s houses is safe. Second, it’s important to me to be able to talk about where the movement is going with people who give a damn and are concerned about that too.

The thing is, though, for me, someone being veg isn’t enough by itself to make me want to be friends with them. In fact, we have to get along well enough in other ways that I’d want to be friends with them regardless of their dietary and lifestyle choices.

michelle May 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm

For the first time ever, the majority of my friends are vegan, or vegetarian to some degree. I attribute this to the fact that we’ve moved across the country and have had to actively make new friends. Of course, we sought out likeminded people, starting with Meetup groups and networking events, and then moving into Twitter. It certainly makes eating together with friends much easier, which we do a lot, but it’s not the glue holding us together. We met *people we liked* within these groups. We’ve met many others we like who are not vegetarian, so it’s not the only thing we look for. It’s mostly a great bonus.

Al May 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm

My best friend went vegan around the same time I did. And now she’s my wife!

So, if a vegan is lucky enough to have a vegan as a partner, then there’s a lot of face time right there. And we utilize it. We talk about veganism at least every other day. Whether it’s in regard to raising our kids vegan or a conversation one of us had with someone or some annoying link we saw on Facebook, it’s nice to have that immediate connection and interaction.

That said, as with most things, one person (even if (especially if?) they’re your significant other) usually isn’t enough to stay sane. We’re lucky enough in our city to have a pretty active vegan parenting group, but even without that I think we’d be all right. I’ve found support online in the past, on the Vegan Freak forums mostly. For the first few years of being vegan, my wife and I pretty much went it alone. Only when we had kids did we feel the urge to seek out a real live face-to-fact community. And we found it. In fact, we helped build it.

Cara May 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Though I have two close friends who are vegetarian, I know literally zero vegans. I partially attribute this to the fact that I go to a fairly preppy college filled with rich private school kids (Boston College), but I think it also comes down to the fact that I make friends based on how well we connect on a level that has little to do with our diets or beliefs about animal rights. The lack of vegan friends, however, definitely makes things a lot more difficult, especially when it comes to ordering food on a Saturday night. I often don’t realize the disparity between my omnivorous and me until something sets me off on an animal rights tirade and I realize I have no one to vent to.

Melissa May 3, 2010 at 11:19 pm

My husband and I went vegetarian at the same time. I am going vegan and I don’t know if he has noticed that he is too or not, lol!! Just kidding.

I have found a great little group on cafemom.com for vegetarians and vegans that has some wonderful vegan women on it. 6 years ago I used to really like the veg*n group on livejournal.com but they became very argumentative and everything became a debate, it was no fun anymore. Today I discovered a website called vegweb.com and it looks like they have some networking and recipes etc for vegans and vegetarians alike I haven’t had a chance to really check it out but it may turn out to be really cool.

Colleen May 6, 2010 at 11:32 am

I’ve been thinking since I commented above and I think I ought to mention that when I was a new vegan, I did need a vegan community – specifically, a community that could provide a lot of information. Because I didn’t actually have one for the first 8 or so months of being vegan, I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of things the hard way. Being able to simply ask someone what casein was would have been helpful, for example.

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