In my experience, nothing gets a quicker or more divided reaction than telling a mixed group of people that I am a vegetarian. Some people think it’s cool, and are eager to tell me how they tried that once, and wonder if I have any recipes to share with them, because they still really like to go meatless from time to time. Others take it as a handwritten invitation to tell me how much they love meat and offer me some bacon. Everyone has an opinion on the decision to opt out of meat consumption. There are a few things that I wish more people understood about vegetarians, though.

Most of us aren’t trying to convert you.

Yes, we have all met the ones who are trying to convert everybody. We’ve also met religious people who try to convert people, but that doesn’t mean all, or even a majority, of religious people are like that. The same is true of vegetarians. Most of us are happy to just eat plants and let you do your thing. When we mention that we’re vegetarian, we aren’t saying anything about your dietary choices. We’re usually just trying to get lunch, and understand that this is relevant information to that process.

We can eat pretty much anywhere.

This varies for hardcore vegans, but your average vegetarian friend can join you for lunch at almost any restaurant in town. My one exception is barbecue restaurants that don’t have a salad bar. Those places tend not to have anything that is made without meat. I’ll go anywhere that I can at least get a salad and fries. I even eat at Texas Roadhouse sometimes because I love their margaritas, and my boyfriend, who is also vegetarian, gets a kick out of throwing peanut shells on the floor. Almost any chain restaurant you can think of is ok for vegetarians. Local restaurants are also usually good. Nearly every ethnic cuisine has good vegetarian options, but many of us especially love Indian, Italian, and Mexican food because the options are plentiful. We would even love to go out for sushi with you! We’ll just order the avocado roll and some miso. If in doubt, just ask, but know that your vegetarian friend is not going to limit your dinner options by much.

Plant based meals are our default setting.

Sometimes it happens that I’ll mention making a veg version of some otherwise meat based dish, and a friend or coworker says, “Why not just make the meat one? Is it really worth all that effort to make a veg one?” Then I explain that it would actually be more effort to make a meat based one because I would have to go to the store, buy meat, remember how to cook said meat, and then probably get sick since I haven’t eaten meat in years. Whereas, I can make a plant based version with ingredients I have on hand. For me, plant based meals are the norm. Adapting recipes is almost second nature.

We do not share your views on humanely raised meat.

This happens often. People feel the need to justify their dietary choices upon finding out that their friend is vegetarian, and the first thing many of them say is, “I only buy humanely raised meat”. I understand that this is an important distinction to those who eat meat because it was to me at one point, but to the average vegetarian, it isn’t. It doesn’t matter how many acres of pasture that steer lived out his life on, he didn’t want to become somebody’s dinner after living only one year. I don’t want to debate this with you, so I won’t bring it up in normal conversation, but I think it bears mention in this context that the average vegetarian does not see an ethical difference in the processes. With that said, see Item 1. Since we’re not trying to convert you, there’s no need to justify your dietary choices. Just do your thing.

Your bacon memes aren’t funny.

Without fail, every time a vegetarian posts some cooking video, recipe, or food pic on social media, at least one person, and usually a lot more, reply with a bacon meme, or a comment about how it needs bacon, or some other type of meat. Even if you don’t care that this is rude, maybe you care that it is played out. Do you really want to be the millionth person to tell some joke everyone has already heard many times? Nobody is laughing by then, even if they laughed the first dozen times they heard it. Also, when is the last time I went to your page, and commented “Needs less murder” on your latest barbecue pic? Exactly. Unless you want me to do that, keep the bacon memes to yourself and your bacon loving friends.

Men often choose to be vegetarian.

This one makes me laugh. Most of the time, people assume automatically that I’m vegetarian, and my boyfriend isn’t, or that I am this horrible oppressive girlfriend who won’t let him eat meat anymore. They’re often surprised to hear that he’s been vegetarian for roughly three times as long as I have. At work, we have six vegetarians in my department. Three are men, three are women. I find that it is common for men to be vegetarian. We just don’t hear much about it.

Raising my kids this way is like any other lifestyle choice.

I don’t cook meat for my kids. They’re perfectly healthy, and their pediatrician finds nothing objectionable about their diet. People often think that raising kids on a vegetarian diet is a strange and harmful thing to do, or that they are deprived, or somehow being forced to be “other” to society. I don’t see that this is any different than any other lifestyle choice a parent makes. As parents, our kids live our lifestyle, whatever that consists of. That means my kids don’t eat meat, my neighbor’s kids regularly drink soda, some kids are raised religious, some work on their families’ farms from a young age, and some are introduced to athletics from toddlerhood. We all make choices as to how to raise our kids. Vegetarianism is like any other.

There might be more to our choice than meets the eye.

Everyone knows the ethics side of vegetarianism, but did you know that a lot of us consider the environmental aspect equally important? Many people also choose to go veg for health benefits. I know multiple cancer survivors who adopted a plant based diet during treatment, and never went back to eating meat after they were cured. I even know one person who is vegetarian because they simply dislike meat. The reasons to be vegetarian are numerous, so if you’re curious, ask. If you’re not curious, just tell us where you want to go for lunch. Chances are, we’re cool with that place, too.

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