I am probably the most annoying person to invite to dinner. Not because I'm actually annoying (I hope), but because it can be a pain in the ass to accommodate my specific dietary needs-- I’m a vegan and ninety percent gluten-free. The only thing worse would be having a nut allergy so severe you couldn’t take me anywhere within a five mile radius of Pad Thai.
“Dinner with Aubrey? Great. Guess I better Yelp ‘vegan-food-that-doesn't-taste-like-cardboard restaurants, NYC'. What’s this? Three places off a train I’ve never heard of in Brooklyn and one place in the East Village that only serves organic kale and cabbage soup cooked at forty degrees Celsius? Awesome. I must really love Aubrey's exceptional conversational skills and charming smile…” (right, friends?).
You may be wondering how I came to make this bizarre and inconvenient lifestyle choice (or you may just be wondering why the guy sitting next to you on the subway smells like burning tar and Cool Ranch Doritos). Frankly it's a long story that includes a high school speech competition and an upsetting experience with a gallon of milk. Suffice it to say I've spent way too many hours searching YouTube for "animal rights", "factory farms", and "Hamlet The Mini Pig Wants His Bottle" (don't ask). The point is, it's a decision I made years ago based on a number of factors that were, and still are, deeply and personally important to me.
But I know how it goes. You hear "vegan" and think you'll be spending the evening with someone who will look askance at the rack of ribs on your plate and ask, just as the first delicious bite passes your lips, "Um, did you see Forks over Knives?"
I promise I won't do that. I've spent years attempting to balance between strength in my own personal convictions about what I put in my body, and respect for other people's choices about what they put in theirs. But it isn't always easy. Especially when new friends, or frankly, in-laws from Texas, are involved. I hate offending people, hurting people's feelings or asking people to make concessions for personal choices I've made - especially choices that have nothing to do with them. But we all have to eat somewhere, right? And if I don't speak up I could be stuck at a steakhouse eating pickles and lettuce garnishes for the rest of my life just to keep other people happy. And I love food WAY too much to do that.
So what do I do? Do I give up on ever enjoying a satisfying meal and sit there with new friends or family members, sulking on the opposite end of our culinary-taste table? Do I compromise and eat the way other people think I should eat? Ugh. Compromise. I hate that word. It has terrible connotations. Say for instance, someone is in a 'compromising position', or someone's email account been 'compromised', you don't think-- "Yay! How awesome for them! I wish I was being compromised right now!" Why? Because compromise sucks. Be honest. How many times have you been thrilled to give up something you wanted, so someone else could get what they wanted? I'm sure you've done it. We all have. And making little sacrifices now and again for the good of a relationship is a necessary and important thing to know how to do. But it's about as fun as scrubbing a public toilet in Times Square with a toothbrush.
And how does all that compromising stuff work anyway? You'll eat at my favorite vegan sushi place one night and I'll eat at your favorite BBQ place the next? What if I can't eat anything at your favorite BBQ place? Ever? What if every time we go out to eat you're the one who has to compromise for me? And each time you do, your soul erodes a little bit until one day, as you are swallowing that last bite of tofu cheesecake at Peacefood Cafe on the Upper West Side, you erupt in a murderous rage and scream "WHY THE FUCK AM I EATING SOYBEANS FOR DESSERT??".
You know, maybe we should rethink this entire relationship. Maybe we should just admit that it will never work. Think of all the things we'll never be able to do together -- we'll never sip the same Cookies and Cream milkshake from two straws at Johnny Rockets, or split a pastrami sandwich at Carnegie Deli, or enjoy a late night gyro at a the 53rd St Halal Cart after drinking too many Irish Car Bombs at The Pig n' Whistle. So maybe the best thing for both of us to do is save ourselves a lot of future heartbreak and give up on this whole thing right now.
Or maybe we could just get coffee.
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