A little while ago some friends introduced me to “Mira”. She is a lot of fun, very intelligent and well read, and quite outgoing. Several months ago a mutual friend hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for some of us who could not go home for the holidays. They provided the turkey and dinner staples, and the guests were encouraged to bring a dish to share. The couple slaved all day over the meal and when we arrived at the house the smell of the turkey was absolutely amazing.
I was aware that Mira was a strict vegan. The couple, also aware of this, provided several vegetarian dishes for their guest (a few others were also vegetarians, though not as strict as Mira). Mira also brought her own dish. While Mira was quite outspoken about her dietary choices, and her moral reasons for them, this was the first time I had ever been in a social situation with her where food was involved. She commented more than once on the “stench” from the kitchen. When the turkey was uncovered, we all commented on how good it smelled and looked, Mira made loud and very rude gagging noises, and made comments like, “I don’t know how you can eat that!” I was astonished that this intelligent, mature woman would make such rude comments to our gracious hosts. Since they were much more familiar with Mira than I, I thought maybe it was some odd inside joke. Surely nobody would be that rude as an invited guest.
Fast forward to this past week. Some friends decided to have a pot-luck gathering and I agreed to host. I made plenty of food, and while I am not a vegetarian, I prepared some dishes for friends who are, including a lentil soup and some beautiful vegan rolls from a nearby bakery. Mira was among those invited, and when she arrived she went straight to the table and proceeded to point at dishes she didn’t approve of, saying they looked disgusting, turning up her nose, and in general being unbelievably rude and obnoxious. I was hurt that my culinary efforts didn’t meet her standards, but I mostly felt embarrassed that my friends, who had taken such care to prepare delicious food to share, were being insulted by this woman. I tried to quietly hint to Mira that her comments were probably hurtful, but she either didn’t get the hint, or she simply didn’t care.
Once the meal was over we played some games and Mira returned to her usual charming and gregarious self. By that time, the mood had been altered and I found it hard to enjoy her company, knowing what a bore she was when food was involved.
I have no problem with anyone’s dietary choices, or whatever reasons they have for making them. I would never force Mira, or any of my vegetarian friends to eat something they didn’t want to eat. I would expect the same courtesy in those friends to refrain from making an issue of my choices. I do wonder if I should have said something to Mira about her behavior. She certainly will not be invited back to my home for a meal. 0217-15
The subject of today’s post is not about the merits of vegan eating so don’t waste your time defending/criticizing that culinary option. What I will use this particular story is to illustrate how self confidence, or the lack of it, shapes behavior.
Mira’s comments reflect just how insecure she really is about her own life choices. She issues forth with critical comments and snide judgements about non-vegan food choices as a way to bolster her own very shaky, weak foundation for what she believes to be right. There is a considerable amount of emotion that Mira is using to express her negative opinions which reveals, again, how weakly she holds her convictions. People who are at peace with their life choices and their convictions are not likely to rely on emotionally charged, rude comments to others who may believe or act differently as a means to strength . It’s as if rude behavior is the concrete that shores up their foundation. We’ve all seen this behavior before…think back to middle school where girls rate, judge and express a critical judgement on the looks of others and all the while demonstrating just how insecure they are about themselves in doing so. (And therefore I would disagree with the OP’s assessment that Mira is “mature”. ) This does not excuse Mira’s behavior but as the observer, it is useful to realize that Mira has inadvertently exposed a weakness in her armor and frankly, is to be pitied.
Likewise, confident people who are secure in their choices, their beliefs and convictions walk through life not being affected emotionally in the least by opposing opinions. Guests at the above dinner parties who are happily and confidently secure in their omnivorous dining and cooking choices are not going to be emotionally drawn into being offended at anything Mira has to say. They may acknowledge that she is quite rude but her proclamations have little effect on their emotional well-being or how they react to her. In response to Mira’s gagging noises (very juvenile) and demand, “How can you eat that?”, I would have replied, “With great relish! Watch! Yumm…nom, nom, nom!” Sometime during the dinner I would have effusively complimented the turkey chef for providing such a splendidly roasted bird. And then I would have mentally dropped the issue because it is not worth my time to fret over whether Mira dislikes my food choices and I have better things to do, like enjoying my meal.
If you happen to be an observer of the “Mira Effect” (negative commentary) you have the power within you to change the mood by offering positive feedback. An example of this happened just last week when the husband and I went to dinner at a Japanese steak house for our anniversary. While grouped in the lobby waiting to be taken to our table, both DH and I realized that one diner was a blowhard and we were secretly wishing he would not be seated beside either of us. Fortunately we were at one end of the long table and he at the other and predictably he began to act like the arrogant blowhard we suspected he would be. He was jibing the chef and griping about very minor things in aloud, blustery manner and I had a momentary second of realization that this man had the potential to create an unpleasant dining experience for all us by making our chef unhappy and tense. Time to take action! My plan was to engage the chef one on one with compliments, pleasantries and gratitude because of where I was seated I was actually the closest to him. The very first time I put my plan into action, the chef caught my eye and there was a non-verbal understanding almost immediately between us because the man was looking for an ally and I was communicating to him that I was on his side. Every time a new menu item landed on my plate, I thanked him and smiled, there were times I held up forkful of food and told him, “This is delicious, you did it perfectly”, I laughed at his jokes, applauded the knife tricks he did and made sure I set the tone for the table, not Mr.BigEgo. It worked. We had a great meal, one of the best I’ve had at that restaurant, Mr. Big Ego got quieter at the meal progressed because his negativity was being drowned out by positive happiness and the chef ended his food preparations in as good a mood, or better, than when he started. Mission accomplished. Etiquette once again empowers to take control of the situation.
Be the force for good with calm, non-emotional, positive affirmation that tells the world you are a confident, secure person.
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I don’t think Mira is insecure. I think she’s self-righteous. I don’t think she lacks confidence, I think she is a true believer of an alternate universe where he beliefs are standard.
There are a lot of people like Mira around nowadays and they are absolutely sure that they know what is best for the rest of us.
As an 9 year veteran of the mommy wars that the internet has exacerbated, I 100% agree with you.
Believe it or not, there’s a fair bit of infighting in the online veggie community as well. I’m vegan, but I’m often told that I’m “doing it wrong” because I still eat sugar and processed foods, and I don’t proselytize. It doesn’t offend me personally, but when I encounter stuff like that, all I can think is, “Sheesh, if the omnivores see us fighting with each other, they’re never going to take us seriously.”
Completely agree. I have no doubt that she thinks she is deeply, deeply correct and everyone around her is a barbarian who needs schooling. I’m vegetarian, but I never scoff at anyone’s food. I think industrial farming is horrific, so if someone wants to engage me in a debate on that, I will voice my feelings – but I do not offe them unsolicited.
I own a small farm- I sell naturally raised lamb, pork, poultry, eggs, and produce. Hoo boy, do I get an endless amount of comments, from people supporting all kinds of positions! Lots of people tell me how horrific factory farming is. I agree, and explain that my small farm is very different. Other people criticize me for not raising my animals organically. I explain that I have a moral objection to depriving an animal of medical care, just because the consumer wants “organic”. For the record, I haven’t dosed a single animal with antibiotics in over 3 years (because if one takes good care of their animals, they seldom get sick), but I want to have that option! Plenty of people think that “organic” guarantees humanely raised, and that’s not necessarily true. I’ve had people tell me that I’m an awful person for being able to eat the animals I raise… by omnivores who buy factory-farmed meat from the skeevy discount grocery store.
People like to claim that their food choices are based on their ideals, but there’s often a lot of emotional, irrational thinking behind those choices. I completely respect people who choose not to eat meat because they’re concerned about animal lives… but some of us really do put a lot of love and care into raising happy animals. We still face a lot of criticism from people who don’t understand the realities of farming. Some days I feel like people show up at my farm just to tell me how monstrous I am, complain about my prices, then leave to go buy Hormel products at Walmart…
My wannabe MIL makes gagging noises and antagonistic comments about anything that’s not organic or from a restaurant that she likes. She is an insanely militant health nut but super hypocritical and I finally found out why- she was a chain smoker for 40 years and is overcompensating. It’s always about confidence.
Mira seems to belong to that vocal minority of vegans who think their dietary choices make them morally superior to everyone else, so they have to let everyone know it. I understand that there may be some vegans whose belief that eating animal products is wrong is so strong that they truly would not want to be around food made from animal products, but if that’s the case, they shouldn’t accept invitations to places where animal products will be served and where they will just make themselves and the other guests uncomfortable.
In any case, I doubt OP is alone in not wanting to invite Mira over again after experiencing what type of guest she is. Maybe when Mira notices that people are willing to host her only once, she’ll realize that her behavior is off-putting and unacceptable.
I am a meat eater, and have had friends who were vegetarians, but never criticized me over eating meat.
A bit off topic, but when I was little and was spending the night at my grandparents house, remember vividly eating a bowl of Captain Crunch, while my grandma was preparing Sunday dinner.
The smell was horrible, but I didn’t say anything. When my folks came to pick us up, we were invited to stay for dinner, and my mom said she already had a roast defrosted, but thanks anyway.
In the car on the way home, my dad said to my mom, “Quick thinking, Maryann! God that smelled terrible!” I asked what she was making and my said, “Liver and onions….bleccchhh.”
All these years later and I can STILL smell that liver!
But, my grandparents loved liver and made it quite often.
My dad enjoys scrapple and head cheese, which just grosses me out, and he can’t stand that I love sushi.
To each his own!
Oh, just 4… It looks like your grandma must have BOILED rather than sauteed the onion. Much as I love onion and garlic, I have to say that boiled onion and “burned” garlic are revolting. Of course, liver without onion is not acceptable, unless it’s breaded and fried. 😉
@hakayama: I agree with you, burned garlic and also burned microwave popcorn are the worst!
I think my grandma was also boiling the liver, it was God-awful!
I can’t eat Captain Crunch anymore, I can still smell that awful smell of liver when I try.
I once went out with a guy that I had a lot in common with except he was very militant about the Paleo diet and Crossfit. He had lost a lot of weight but still weighed a lot more than me (and I’m quite overweight myself) so his constant editorializing about how my workout routine wasn’t right and how my diet wasn’t right really started to get to me despite the other things that we had in common and the fact that we actually had fun together when those two things weren’t a factor. Once I was out of that situation, I was able to reflect and realize that it probably did stem from insecurity but it was also him going from one extreme to another because his lifestyle change was brought about by his weight causing life-threatening issues.
So, it isn’t just vegans/vegetarians that get on their bully pulpits but this lady needs to be cut off. She’s going too far when she starts insulting others and not letting it drop.
I don’t care whether you are vegan/vegetarian/meatarian, etc., when you are invited for dinner to someone else’s house, you PLAY THE GRACIOUS GUEST, not a vulgar, philistinic barbarian that can’t keep your trap shut. If you don’t like the food, DON’T EAT IT!!! Don’t make rude comments. While we are all entitled to our opinion, we are also entitled to eat foods we like.
As I have mentioned before, my spouse has phenylketonuria and cannot eat foods with high proteins and phenylalanine. If we are invited anywhere, he always praises the food and always takes the time to thank host/hostess for producing a menu designed for him only. If they can’t he usually brings his own low pro food and prepares it.
There is nothing more boring than a person who talks endlessly about their diet, food choices, weight etc. Really, unless you are at your weight watchers meeting, it is just not interesting to other people. I have several relatives who are gluten and/or lactose sensitive or vegetarians. I am happy to make adjustments to my menu to try to accommodate them – thankfully, these folks do not go on and on about their needs preferences etc. and do not criticize others for their choices. I, in turn, do not tell them they are imagining things or urge them to eat items they don’t want. If you are invited to someone’s home, you should be thankful for the effort and the hospitality and keep your opinions to yourself regarding foods you don’t like or want.
I can’t eat pork, it makes me feel ill. I find even the smell of it gross. But if I’m a guest at someone else’s house, I don’t ever say anything about it. I do not expect other people not to eat pork just because I choose not to. Come on. The world does not revolve around me. The only time it ever comes up was if someone offered me bacon, for instance. Then I’d just say, “No thanks, I don’t eat pork.”
I was bullied in school, and I heard variations on “they’re just insecure,” and “they feel bad about themselves so they put other people down to make themselves feel better” applied to my bullies until I wanted to scream (and probably did). As if I was just supposed to put up with their hurtful treatment of me because they were hurting, too.
Sorry, Charlie. The world doesn’t care *why* you’re behaving badly. The world only cares that you are behaving badly, and you need to stop, or there will be consequences.
I like to think of myself as a compassionate person — more so than I was as a bullied child — who understands that the Miras of the world are coming from a place of insecurity. But that doesn’t mean I’d be letting her get away with her over-the-top rudeness in my home. My compassion for my other guests who don’t need to be subjected to that behavior trumps any compassion I might have for poor, insecure little Mira’s motivations.
Also, it’s possible to be entirely confident and secure in one’s beliefs/lifestyle and still not want to be subjected to someone loudly insulting those beliefs/that lifestyle. Mira’s complaints about “that stench” would not put me off turkey. But it would put me off Mira.
Doesn’t make what the bullies did right or okay to do. They need to get help for their problems before they take it unfairly out on others.
Why is Mira attending an event that ALWAYS serves meat? If she is a strict vegan, maybe Thanksgiving just isn’t for her.