Last year the holidays were real weird. So weird that I accepted an invite to go with, E, one of my then-partners to an all vegan Thanksgiving dinner.
I am 0% vegan but as a person with complicated food issues I support others in finding the food journey that works for them. And, you know, love occasionally has a way of making us do strange things. Like eating soy curls. Or enduring a perpetually unclean litter box traversed by three cats in a partner’s bedroom when you’re allergic to the furry little psychopaths. Or errant kitty litter in the bed *shutter*
So with my adventure pants on I jumped in the car with three vegans to drive many hours into Washington; apparently there were no vegan dinners of note in Portland. When we finally arrived in the Seattle suburb where we would spend the day, everyone jumped out of the car in a hurry. The mood was stressed as it often was around E. He had a need to be right about everything and make everything about himself. So when he gotten corrected in conversation and hadn’t been able to eat my granola bar due to a non-vegan ingredient--all within 5 minutes of each other--he had one of his awkward mini melt downs.
It was going to be a long day considering he was no longer talking to me and he was the only person I knew at this dinner. So I was thrilled to walk inside and be greeted by the waggly tail of a very excited three legged dog. As a board certified crazy dog person I was instantly kneeling to pet and scritch and coo at the pup.
“The dog is invisible!” I heard from the kitchen. It sounded like a joke. Clearly I could see the dog, the sweetheart seemed thrilled to be getting attention.
“The dog is invisible. The dog is invisible. The dog is invisible.” I heard on a loop by a disembodied voice who hadn’t yet introduced itself. Now I was thinking it was one of those weird things dog owners sometimes do where they’re warning you that if you give the dog attention they won’t leave you alone all day. That would not be a problem for me.
“It’s okay I love dogs, he can love me up all he wants and I won’t mind.”
Finally a petite woman made huge with anger came near to grab the dog’s collar and drag it away. “We don’t talk to the dog in this house.” Still no introduction or thanks for joining us or here let me take your coat.
I took off my coat, shoved it in a corner and put my food on the table. By this time E was out of the bathroom, “Oh I forgot to tell you about the dog. He bites. No one is allowed to pet him. Guess I should have mentioned that.”
“Yeah, maybe you should have.” He grinned that grin I never understood the meaning of during our relationship and now recognize as him getting off on being an emotional sadist.
I went in the bathroom and gave myself 5 minutes to cry. What had I gotten myself into? I looked around at all the political stickers and posters tacked to every inch of the bathroom. PETA. Vegans for Communism. Activists for Trees. Save the Giraffes. Boobs not Bombs. Then I started to laugh. The rudeness had nothing to do with me. These people were likely more concerned about causes than people.
Determined to salvage a good time from this day, I grabbed a cider, some nibbles, and tried to converse with some of the socially uncomfortable people that had gathered. It became obvious very quickly that everyone in the room was somewhere on the autism spectrum. This made me the most socially able person in a room for perhaps the only time ever.
I listened to very awkward conversations and worked to de-escalate the frequent arguments that occurred when the guests would misunderstand one another only to immediately take the ensuing spat straight to 11. Pretending to be a slightly tipsy cultural anthropologist improved the experience so that the rest of the evening was endurable.
Then “food” started happening and I was once again lost, traumatized and confused. This, dear readers, is a tofurkey “wishbone” also known as smoke flavored cardboard. Because of course fake meat needs a fake “bone.” It was also the most edible thing provided for dinner. Everything else was textured vegetable protein this or soy isolate that or tempeh whatsit and most memorably, vegan mystery meat alternative “shrimp” cocktail. Meanwhile the naturally vegetarian things I had brought—hazelnut and mushroom wild rice stuffing and pear bourbon cranberries—were entirely ignored.
I don’t understand vegans of this sort; going to great trouble to avoid meat as a highly political cause only to go ahead and seek out fake and highly processed versions of the animals they want to protect. All instead of simply eating animal free fruits and vegetables grown from the ground. You better bet I got the stink eye all around when gently asking about this. I wouldn’t understand as someone who eats flesh…of course.
The tension grew over a diner serenaded by the worst of Weird Al Yankovich youtube channel. E still wasn’t talking to me but he was trying to feel me up under the table and making sure to butt into any conversation I had with anyone else that evening.
Don’t worry, I knew what a jerk he was at this point. I broke up with him a little over a month later, only waiting that long because he’d begged me to not leave him alone in his depressive state during the holidays. Ugh...live and learn.
A hairless cat was passed around the table at one point. For petting, not for eating. It felt like testicles. I've rarely been more disturbed.
Board games were played. Anytime my team won against E’s he would throw a hissy fit and stop talking to me all over again. As the hosts got drunker they were less likely to notice the poor attention starved dog under the table getting pets from people and distinctly not eating anyone’s face.
Finally at midnight, the long drive back to Portland began. E still wasn’t speaking to me but wanted to sleep in my lap. When I said no, the hours long silence began.
At my place, I thanked his friends for driving and being probably the only other sane people at dinner. E tried to manipulate his way into spending the night by grabbing my hand to put it on his crotch and waggling his eyebrows. This was his one and only go to move for supposed seduction. I know, it’s a wonder we aren’t still together today.
Somehow I resisted his offer, opting instead to eat the remaining homemade peanut butter frosting from an earlier baking project before passing out. It was by far the more erotically satisfying option.