I never officially announced this, but since wrapping up production on 50/50 (aka, the majority of the filming, aka, I went on over 50 first dates) I have taken a full time job as a writer for a tech company. Which means I now have access to over a hundred coworkers and their dating tales (and you know, health benefits.)*
Back in the kitchen a few weeks ago, I was slicing up an avocado to put over a slice of veggie quiche when one of my new cohorts asked me if I liked one of the meat quiches available. I said I hadn’t tried it, and was sticking to the vegetarian options. “Are you one of those people?” he asked. “The kind who eats the food that our food eats?”
I chuckled, admitting I was indeed one of them, and happily so. And then, the guy who had just needled me told me the story of a first date that didn’t work out:
Years ago, my coworker asked out a woman and they agreed to meet at a steak house later in the week. They exchanged text messages saying, “I can’t wait to meet you at Black Angus!” – or whatever the meat den they were going to was. Point being, they used the name of the steak house. Once on the date and seated, the woman revealed to my coworker that she was a vegetarian, and he immediately had doubts about her. Why hadn’t she said anything to him prior to arriving at a steakalicious stand?
That wasn’t the worst/weird part, though. What happened next is every bite of flank steak my coworker took, the woman proceeded to berate him for eating what used to be a living animal. “That had eyes,” she told him. “And a mom.”
They didn’t go out again.
What surprises me about this story was twofold:
1) That this woman went on this date in the first place. I think meat eaters and non meat eaters can exist together quite happily, provided they both respect one another. Clearly she came into the date without a desire to respect omnivores. To be fair, she probably didn’t know how to tell him.
2) That my coworker hated being bullied for his food preferences, but proceeded to bully/joke with me. I have a thick skin, and I can take what’s dished out (meat or otherwise). But no one likes being joshed for their preferences or choices, or feeling alienated.
It all made me think my coworker actually had felt bad about the date situation, and still felt a little weirded out about it. I can’t blame him. Dating is pretty weird.
I think that people sometimes don’t want to be themselves on dates, or in life, because they fear being judged. The woman didn’t want to tell my coworker she didn’t eat meat because she feared his reaction, but her sense of self was strong enough that when it came down to it, she couldn’t watch him eat cow. And my coworker may have feared I would judge him just the same for his meaty ways, so he preemptively struck.
If I learned anything on the road, it’s that being yourself is better for everyone: your dates, your friends, and anything that happens in the future. So go ahead: own your preferences.
*And also a really rad work environment, coworkers that inspire me to continually evolve into a better writer, and unique word challenges I’d never face otherwise.