I never thought it would matter if I dated a carnivore or a herbivore. You like who you like, right? Wrong.
I always grew up knowing that my dad had converted to vegetarianism for my mum. She was managing a vegetarian cafe at the time they met, and he would come in daily to order lunch (despite being a meat-eater at the time), and then stuck around to chat to the cute waitress. So the story goes, he took her out for their first date and when it came to order dinner he went for the vege option once again, proclaiming he simply couldn’t eat meat in front of her. They were engaged six weeks later, and my dad was a born-again vegetarian. It’s a story I love, but I never knew how important it was to me until I dated my first boyfriend who pretty much loved bacon more than life. Basically, my dad set the bar pretty high.
This was a good few years ago, back when vegetarianism was still slightly out there, and people would always ask if I minded that boyfriend #1 ate meat. At first I honestly didn’t. It was still a weird concept - I was the odd one out - so how could I expect him to change his diet for me?
It started to annoy me that he ate meat about 8 or 9 months into our relationship. He knew how important vegetarianism was to me, yet he chose to not only continue to eat meat - but ate it in front of me. It wasn’t the reason we broke up but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a contributing factor. When we met up for brunch one day to ‘catch up as friends’ after parting ways a month or so earlier, and he ordered a side of bacon on an otherwise vegetarian meal, I knew I’d done the right thing. It made me so upset and angry that I swore to myself then and there I could only ever marry a vegetarian.
Cue boyfriend #2.
It’s funny to admit but I really wasn’t into CJ when we first started dating. I was more going along with it because it was hilarious - we had so much history between us (or at least we did in my head) and this was the first time he was actively chasing me - it felt good.
He ordered the vegetarian option on our first date too, and seemed actively interested in why I was vegetarian, so I gave him a few documentary titles to watch. But I really, really wasn’t that interested in him. Nothing could match how infatuated I had been with him at high school so every date seemed a little below par. I went to Sydney with my friend Polly a few weeks later and still remember when he text me to say he’d watched Earthlings that evening and subsequently ‘chose tofu over chicken’ at dinner that night. Polly and I were in the bathrooms of a dirty backpacker bar at the time the text came through, certainly a few wines deep, and the look on my face must have been love... because Polly’s reply: “Gina, you can’t like him just because he’s a vegetarian” has stuck with me ever since.
I’m not with CJ because he’s a vegetarian - but I probably wouldn’t be with him if he wasn’t. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more sure about what I want, and what’s important to me. Food choices represent so much more than what a person eats.
To me it’s about education, awareness and compassion. It’s to do with the whole way you look at the world, and how you choose to partake in modern society. What you approve of and what you don’t. And it’s incredibly important to find someone who shares your values and outlook on life.