in my family we typically celebrate thanksgiving twice–my parents have been divorced since i was 8 years old, so this is something i’ve lived with forever. my mom’s side hosts a dinner on the actual day, and then my dad’s side has their dinner on saturday. my stepmom’s birthday is on the 26th, so the dad’s side dinner is always a dual-purpose celebration. i always enjoyed this tradition growing up; my sister and i got to have two thanksgivings, with a day off in between so we didn’t overindulge.
i went vegetarian in 1993 (and my sister followed a few years later), so this has long been a turkey-free day for me, but it wasn’t until thanksgiving 2004 that i also passed on most of the side dishes due to butter, milk, or other non-vegan ingredients. this is my third thanksgiving as a vegan, and in a bizarre turn of events, i find that i’m really hesitant to attend one of the dinners but sort of looking forward to the other.
my mom hasn’t really handled my veganism well. she was okay with the vegetarianism, because i think she saw it as "outside the norm, but still workable," but as far as veganism goes, she can be really cranky about it when pressed. we have had long drawn-out discussionfights about it, where she has admitted to being angry with me (angry!) for sponsoring a farm sanctuary turkey. she has seemingly gone out of her way to prepare vegetables with vegan margarine rather than butter, but then blown up at me about it months after the fact. she has essentially asked me to attend all normal family functions and just eat carrots so that i don’t rock the boat.
in addition, she has made me feel that i am creating a lot of discomfort for my grandparents and my uncle. if i come right out and ask my grandma (which i’ve done, twice), she acts like everything is fine, but my mom insinuates that everyone is baffled by my "choices" and that they don’t know how to have normal conversations around me. this simultaneously saddens and irks me. i am really pretty laid-back about my veganism. almost every single person that i know and love is an omnivore, and i eat with them all the time. i never say horrible things when people are eating and i do my best to only talk about "vegan things" when i am asked. i’m not sure how my mere unassuming presence is freaking everyone out, but that is what my mom has led me to believe.
as a result, i have become increasingly uncomfortable going to family dinners at my grandma’s. i am really self-conscious, and also frustrated. last thanksgiving my husband made vegan stuffing so that my sister and i could eat it, and i brought my own soymilk and earth balance to mix into my own serving of potatoes. i also pulled some corn aside before the butter went into the bowl. everyone was "nice" about it, but i felt so weird! i felt very much like The Other and it wasn’t fun for me at all. i felt like i was making myself a teevy dinner in the kitchen while everyone else ate the "normal" food (as they saw it). i recognize that this is kind of what one signs up for when one decides to be vegan in a family of omnivores, but i’m just saying. it wasn’t fun, and i totally get why lots of vegans host their own thanksgivings and/or just eat at home alone that day.
my stepmom, on the other hand, is like a vegan-sympathetic dynamo. she treats every single family get-together as an opportunity to try a new vegan recipe and surprise me with it. i always offer to bring something, and she always "has it covered." there’s a vegan main dish, veganized side dishes (and often for EVERYONE, not just a little bowl for me), and always a vegan dessert (our family loves our desserts). it is a million times above and beyond what i would expect, and it almost makes me teary when i see the lengths she goes to in order to make me feel welcome and normal and loved. if i bring food, everyone tries it and tells me how much they like it. no one looks at it sideways like it must be made out of sticks and dirt.
so you see my dilemma. i feel sad about it, but i’m not at all interested in going to thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. i am still sick (i’m at the hacking cough stage at this point), so i’m thinking about bailing with my watertight "i just don’t want to cough all over everyone" excuse. i would much much MUCH rather stay home and eat vegan thanksgiving food with my husband. i’m not sure what i’ll do yet… i’ll probably wait and see how i feel when i wake up tomorrow.
i’ve already been informed that on saturday there will be vegan mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, and vegan gravy, rolls, broccoli, and corn… and vegan dessert. we’re planning to bring vegan stuffing and another dessert (variety is the spice of life). even though there will be a dead turkey there (which makes me sadder every year), somehow this dinner is ten times more appealing to me. i’m almost certain i’ll go, as long as i haven’t coughed up a lung.
it makes me sad that i feel so alienated from my mom’s side about this stuff. my sister has tried valiantly to intervene on my behalf, but she can only do so much. i can only do so much. if it’s weird, it’s weird, and there’s not a whole lot i can do to fix it, even with a phd in communication. that is frustrating to me. it’s times like these that actually make me wish (just a little!) that i still lived far away, so i wouldn’t even have to worry about it.