Image via Flickr by megaul
You trudge into your should-be oasis after a long day at classes, only to be ambushed by the heavy scent of sizzling carcass. Now, if you’re a new vegan, this smell might tantalize. But if this isn’t your first rodeo (pardon the omni cliche,) you might just gag and head straight back to Marine Biology.
If you’re a vegan collegiate, or you once were, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
There’s no easy fix for sharing a space with an omnivore. However, and I do promise, it gets easier the longer you live with an “omni”. You learn to compromise with your omni roommates, and your omni roommates learn to compromise with you. There’s a chance they may even ask about your vegan lifestyle or participate in Meatless Mondays.
The first rule of vegan club
Take a deep breath. Being vegan, whether for animal-rights reasons or health, I know you know the horrors behind the animal products your roommates are eating. I know you’re angry. But when’s the last time you listened, and I mean truly listened, to someone that was shouting or being brutally harsh about their own point of view? Did it change yours? Likely not. When most people are confronted with an opinion the opposite of their own, they get blindly defensive. They safeguard their opinion, even if it makes little sense, because they feel like they’re being attacked.
Although you might feel like it’s your place to tell others about the perils of factory farming and the benefits of veganism, it isn’t your place to do so with your roommates. I’ll say it again: It is not your place. Your roommates have their own needs and values, and they deserve to live in a setting where they don’t need to feel on the defensive 24/7 (just like you!)
However, you might find that by living your own vegan lifestyle, your roommates become curious. They might ask you questions about being vegan, and they might even want to give it a try. If you want to make a change, THIS is the way to do it!
What else should you or shouldn’t you do to make living with omnivores as smooth as possible?
What you shouldn’t do
1. Don’t talk about the tragedies of slaughter houses.
(Unless your roommate asks about it, or you feel like it’s the right time.)
The right time is NOT when they’re about to take a big ‘ol bite of steak. Although this might seem like a powerful time to bring it up, it will only put them on the defensive as explained earlier.
2. Don’t paste googly eyes on your roomie’s bacon.
(I may or may not have considered this.)
3. Don’t make gagging sounds when the smell of burnt flesh wafts through your room.
4. Don’t make passive aggressive remarks when they note, “Milk is good for your bones!”
Just breathe. Hee ho, hee ho.
5. Don’t expect them to modify their lifestyle for you.
6. Don’t use Post-Its to leave messages from the graves of dead animals.
Like on their prepackaged pork butt , “I had a mommy and a daddy. I’m actually as smart as a dog. Why did you support slaughtering me? — Love, Piggy.” Tempting, I know. They’ll just think you’re crazy. Take it from me.
What you should do
1. DO ask your roommates to sit down and have a conversation about your vegan lifestyle ASAP.
Have a “conference,” and tell them that you’re vegan so there might be some things that bother you, especially in the kitchen. Write down things that might unnerve you, like using the same cutting board for vegetables as their meat. See if there are any agreements you can come to that would make everyone happy.
2. Dedicate yourself a special section of the fridge that is “Animal-product free.”
If the fridge is large enough, invest in a small basket from the Dollar Store to keep your refrigerated foods separately from the others. Personally, my roommates were nice enough to dedicate the middle shelf to being animal-product free.
3. Consider buying a mini-fridge with a large freezer.
If they sold mini freezers, I’d suggest that. Please let me know if anyone finds one! You might find that your shared freezer is a haven for frozen meat products, and it’s very hard to make spaces for non-meat items. Having your own mini fridge with a freezer can save you from having to deal with it. However, those mini-fridges with the freezer that can only hold a Freeze Pop are sad. Don’t waste your money.
4. Invest in separate cookware.
If there’s enough shared space, separate cookware can prevent any mishaps of leftover meat bits on your pan or other things that might bother you.
5. Use incense.
Seriously. Depending on the layout of your dorm or apartment, you’re bound to encounter the scent of sizzling meat. Candles are pretty, but they’re like fighting a tiger with a pillow. Incense do they trick.
6. Share your food!
If you have the time and money to make scrumptious vegan meals and desserts, be open about sharing a bite with your roommates. Most people think vegan food is a blase salad and some cold tofu. This is your chance to shine and show your roommates that being vegan can be pretty tasty.
7. If someone asks you why you’re vegan, tell them in a honest, but gentle way.
Feel out how sensitive they are about the subject. If they can handle the brutal truth, go for it. If not, tell them you do it for the animals and health reasons, and if they’re still curious they should watch a documentary like Food Inc. or Earthlings.
8. Set up your own special dinner time when other people aren’t cooking their dinner.
This might mean moving dinner to an odd hour, like an early 5 o’clock, or a late 9 p.m., but it can save you from having to deal with your proximity to your roomies cooking animal products.
Do you have any omni roommate horror stories or ongoing problems? Reply in the comments below and we can brainstorm!