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November 16, 2012 by shontemarie

being a beginner vegan is hard.

So, as some may know, I made a lifestyle change at the beginning of the year and decided I was going to be vegan. I was in a time of my life where I was feeling unhealthy and just a little bit “fluffy,” if you will…I thought a change in diet would be a good starting point to living well. So I read a bunch of literature; watched Forks Over Knives, the whole deal, yadda yadda. I bought copies of The Engine 2 Diet and Food Revolution, and happily proclaimed my new identity as a “plant-strong” warrior to any friends within earshot. [I’m fully aware that i am obnoxious and pretentious at times, and I love my friends and family that much more for putting up with me through it all!!] Overnight, I shunned animal products from my diet and embarked on a new, wonderous journey!

Armed with my new knowledge of nutrition, and proudly wearing my “meat-is-bad” epiphany like a shiny new pair of shoes, I tried to push my way into some vegan circles. I love my friends fiercely, but none of them are vegan, and I was feeling like I needed some vegan pals in my repertoire to relate to. Whether you identify with a certain religion, race, music genre, or sport, it’s nice to hang out with other like-minded people. I was looking to find my “peeps!” I figured other vegans would be equally excited to have me in their ranks. I expected to be welcomed into the vegan community with open arms; I imagined myself floating down the aisles of the local Whole Foods to throngs of cheering crowds!

Hooray!! She’s one of us now!

My first step in Operation “Make-Some-Vegan-Friends” was obviously to hit up Google and see what the inter-webs had to offer. I searched for “vegan” on every possible platform and in no time, was following a lot of really angsty and opinionated people on twitter, instagram, and various blogs. I thought it’d be smart to join a meetup group, as well, so I would have some real-life vegan buddies, not just the virtual kind.

Here’s where things start getting fuzzy. When I started reading all the blogs, I noticed more and more people talking animal-rights, setting up fur protests, and pontificating about cruelty-free cosmetics. I started to feel queasy; none of these things were issues I’d considered before I went shouting to the world that I am now a vegan! A quick look in my closet will tell you that I have never had an issue purchasing leather; I never gave it a second thought! I have bins full of leather purses I’ve collected over the years..pretty sure my budding cowboy boot obsession won’t fit the “vegan” standard, either. I wasn’t sure how my mascara and lipstick were somehow cruel to animals, but I also knew I paid a lot of money for all of it and didn’t want to have to chuck it all!! I quickly learned that while “vegan” for me meant I don’t eat meat or any animal by products out of concern for my health, there exists a whole slew of people who are vegan for the animal’s health…in addition to a meat free diet, these people stay away from any and everything having to do with animal pain. I learned about animal fats in my shampoo and conditioners, beer being strained through fish bladders, crushed beetles in everything from candies to lipsticks, and all kinds of animal exploitation that takes place in pretty much any industry you can think of.

Suddenly, I felt like a sham. I’d been skipping along touting my vegan status, when I’m sure to a lot of the people in the community, I look like just another schmuck hipster trying to keep up with the cool kids. I had no idea what to do! I’d just signed up to participate in all kinds of vegan events in my new city! What would they think of me??



I broke out into a cold sweat as I imagined the shameful looks and hushed whispers that would follow me at my first vegan-sponsored function, a veggie fair that I’d been asked to help at. Determined to stick to my guns and go through with the commitments I’d made, I decided there was no way I would bail on my scheduled engagement. I would just have to suck it up and just try to blend in with the happy hippie bunch, while fervently hoping they never caught wind of the “real” me. I was terrified I would say something that would give me away…so I prepared myself to be as vague as possible when answering any questions about my work, my past life as a meat-eater, etc. The only obstacle now in my way was the little matter of what to wear! Thankfully I was provided a shirt to wear for being a volunteer at the fair, and I was pretty sure my jeans had no animal by-products, but I was confounded about what shoes to wear. I live in my Uggs pretty much year round, and some comfy leather flip flops whenever the temps get high. I’m really not one of those shoe-obsessed women on a normal day, but now I was faced with the chore of finding vegan-friendly footwear??! I knew Uggs and leather flip flops both were out of the question, so I started googling. I was starting to wish I had aspirations to be a really awesome vegan hermit instead of a vegan social butterfly. :/ The amount of anxiety I was feeling over a pair of shoes made me want to give up on the whole affair!

Thankfully, I was able to take a step back and look at the craziness I was putting myself through, and come to a few rational conclusions:

  1. I am likely the only person who would be paying attention to my shoes.
  2. If anyone at the fair paid close enough attention to judge me based on my footwear choices, then they obviously have more issues to work through than even I do.
  3. Surely many of the vegan higher-ups were in my very shoes at one point [pun DEFINITELY intended] and probably had the same leather-worries as me once in their lives.
  4. Toms were the closest thing I had to a fully vegan shoe, so I was either going to have to make them work or go out to buy a pair of Crocs.
  5. I don’t think I would like to be the owner of a pair of Crocs.

    please don’t let it come to this.

    For the record, I had a blast at the fair, nobody mentioned my shoes, and there was only one awkward moment when I had to discuss my employment…I mentioned I work in a restaurant (no details) and immediately changed the subject. 🙂

    I’m getting more comfortable with my “leather-shoe-wearing vegan” status, and am working on defining some parameters for veganism that work for me. My level of veganism is a personal matter, and I am happy with where I am. If that’s not good enough for some out there, sucks to be them! For now, I refer to myself as “plant strong” when talking to any hardcore vegans, and I am happy to report my vegan-in-training attitude is serving me well! 🙂

    Anybody else out there ever adopt a new lifestyle that they didn’t fit into right away?? Details, y’all!!  I know I can’t be the only one! 😉



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