In 2018, I started my plant-based journey all over again after going back to meat my freshman year of college. I was trying to figure out how I could eat healthier, and in the beginning, my diet was mostly vegetarian with the occasional fish dish. I went full vegan this year and the changes were immediate. My skin became clearer, my body felt lighter after a meal, and I had more energy than ever. What I did not anticipate was that my dating life would transform as well, but not necessarily in the same positive direction.
To be frank, I became repulsed by men who ate meat as my diet started to change, even when they were deemed to have the qualities of a perfect companion. I could handle the fact that they ate meat temporarily, but every time I found myself hoping they would consider giving it up in the future. I wanted to find a man, a Black one preferably, who could grasp the reality that I no longer loved meat and was willing to be a part of that lifestyle change with me.
My dissatisfaction with meat-eating men began after going on multiple dates and hearing a spiel about why the guys could never go vegan and how hard eating in such a way must be. One guy that I went on a date with was convinced I missed chicken and debated with me about it the entire time. Other men have had preconceived notions on what veganism is and assume my diet is full of tasteless food. I once dated a guy who refused to try anything I cooked no matter how many times I tried to convince him. He was the kind of man who didn’t eat much of anything that wasn’t traditional American food. Vegetables grossed him out and he ate like a 4-year-old with a diet that consisted most often of chicken nuggets and French fries. Much of his skepticism was about what was in vegan food, but ironically, he would eat from fast-food joints, not knowing what he was really consuming. He would buy all kinds of food from restaurants without seeing who was in the kitchen and what they put in the food that would end up on his plate. Although he agreed my plant-based meals looked good, anything without meat he was skeptical of. My frustration with him, and with a number of the men I dealt with was they would turn their noses up at what I ate all while ignoring the unhealthiness of the food they enjoyed.
Eventually I got tired of going on dates just to see the men that I was potentially interested in eat meat and shame me for not doing so. If all I could think about was what they ate that day, the thought of being intimate with them turned me off. It even got to the point where I feared that if I kissed them, meat residue could touch my lips and be digested.
Still, I’m trying to redefine what it means to be vegan within my relationships, as exhausting as it may be. A partner who comes with the knowledge of veganism or desire to eat plant-based is appealing to the lifestyle I practice and want to instill in my future children. However, when it comes to the other qualities you’d want someone to have when searching for the right mate, a non-vegan diet becomes less of a deal breaker. I had to sit myself down and really think about what qualities I wanted in a man and prioritize the ones that are most important in building a future. My expectations of the kind of man I want to be with had to change because I was asking for something that I didn’t even do: If I want someone who is open-minded about what I eat, then there is no reason I shouldn’t be open-minded about what they want to eat for themselves. I don’t plan to eat meat anytime soon, but I am open enough to date someone who does if they have other attributes that are desirable. Ambition, strength, and respect are just as significant as a man’s diet and matter the most when you’re in a relationship.
If I really want to date seriously, I’ve come to realize that I have to take a different approach. Truth is, most of the Black men I have encountered in the dating market aren’t plant-based and the chances of finding one who is, and more importantly, has all the traits that make for a great companion, are slim. A lot of men who eat meat are good suitors and some part of me still holds out hope that the ones I encounter might be interested in eating plant-based one day. I even believe that I could be some sort of inspiration as they move into a plant-based journey. But in the meantime, I can casually date a guy who eats meat. I’m not looking to marry tomorrow.
I was under the impression that a man’s diet was a direct reflection of how they viewed themselves and in turn, how they would treat me. This is not always the case. Rather than looking at who they were as a person I did exactly what men did to me and judged them by what they ate. Moving forward in my dating life, I have learned to go on dates remaining open to the idea of them not being vegan (although I would still love not to be kissed with cow breath). I have let go of my sternest expectations, looking instead to find an overall good man, and in turn, I’m feeling optimistic about what the future will hold for my romantic life. Diet is still an important part of that, but it’s no longer the most important thing.