CONFESSIONALS: I went vegan to save myself from family dinners

I take my one last solace hiding, never eating, in these Church’s Chicken walls

Marissa Ouyang

Written by Kim Regala, Staff Writer

Forgive me, for I have sinned. For years, I have been burdened by the torturous small talk and dad jokes that occur at every family dinner. But tonight, I have chosen to end the madness. Tonight, I choose my sanity — by switching to all-green, all-ethical, all-eco-friendly ethical choices only.

Only two hours have passed since I saved myself from Aunt Judy’s birthday dinner by transforming into a vegan.

There I was, sitting patiently on the leather couch of the living room, tantalized by the smell of ground beef taco casserole. Grilled pork chops and crispy fried chicken were set onto the centre table as everyone’s mouths salivated.

My mom was up to her normal tactics, reminding everyone of her wrath if she was to catch anyone not using a coaster. My dad? Onto his next recitation of yet another famous joke — what’s new? Aunt Darlene was pretty tame this time. She went from three weight-gain comments per minute to a shocking two. 

But Uncle Jerry was definitely on a roll tonight, trapping me in what felt like a century-long time loop, like the Hundred Years’ War of Mansplained Politics. It began with him talking about recent developments in Canada’s economy, and it ended with golf, again and again. As for how he managed to shift so fluidly, dexterously, and obnoxiously between those two topics? That, I will never know. 

After a lifetime of dealing with cases like these, I’d gotten pretty used to shutting it all out. But tonight, something inside me changed.

Blame the excessive amount of spring rolls shoved into my mouth by Grandma Lucille. Or maybe just the overcompensating laughter of my cousin Genevieve, flooding the whole room in her high-pitched cackle.

But there I was, suddenly propping myself up on top of the dinner table with a ladle in hand. In a split second, I announced the words: 

“I AM VEGAN.”

Silence filled the room in a way that has never been achieved at any family dinner.

Realizing what I had just done, I ran out of there as quickly as I could. I suddenly felt like a cheetah, moving so fast that my mom couldn’t even stop me in time to remind me to bring a jacket outside. A slender, slippery cheetah, like one of those house cats condemned to meatless diets by ill-informed owners looking to make points about environmentalism, or whatever.

I’m about to be well acquainted with “whatever,” I guess.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What kind of monster would ever want to pass up on delicious and free home-cooked meals? But hear me out: veganizing was the only way to save myself from the emotional turmoil accumulated from the endless small talk with relatives that I barely see once a year. 

Trust me, if you were in my shoes, you would have done so a long time ago. As a matter of fact, I should have too. Because I sit inside this Church’s Chicken now with a heavy chest, no longer from the burden of my family, but rather from the barbecue sandwich I’m smelling, the sandwich that lurks just out of reach. The sandwich in the hands of a customer with far less family baggage than I. 

And as I inhale the sweet scent of scorched greasy meat, feeling the loving nurture I never got from the extended family I never added on Facebook, I dig for the courage to remind myself — everyone leaves home someday.

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