Being middle aged, male, Caucasian and not particularly thin, I’m often greeted with looks of confusion when people find out I’m vegetarian. The image that most people have of those of us who’ve gone veg is still an Indian mystic, Buddhist monk, or a teenage girl who will eventually come to her senses. But don’t worry, after a few months of annoyance, you’ll come to greet these most common reactions with the same bemused familiarity that I do.

Since I don’t proselytize and don’t wear “I’m a  Vegetarian”, most people find out during mealtime. They always react in one of these 6 ways:

One: Hmm

People assume that vegetarians cannot read. They develop a compulsive desire to look at their own menu and read off all the selections you might like. They mean well, but I’ve been a vegetarian for more than a decade and have eaten out before. Thanks, I can read. And they’re invariably wrong in what they choose, but whatever it is they always start with “Hmmmm…you could have…”.

Two: The Challenge

 “My cousin was a vegetarian for 3 months and she at fish” or “You eat cheese, vegetarians don’t eat cheese”.  My favorite is “you eat chicken, right? Chicken’s not meat” Um…yep, it is, trust me.

Three: The History Lesson

Be prepared to discuss the dietary habits of everyone in each of their families. Apparently, because you’re a vegetarian you’ve expressed a de-facto interest in all things dietary. It’s best if you bone up on Wheat allergies, kosher and halaal diets depending on where you live because someone they used to know used have/be/do/eat that way.

Four: The Protein Question

“How do you get your protein?” It’s universally assumed that if you don’t eat meat you must take some kind of protein supplement or you will suffer grievous consequences.  It’s best to try to dodge this question. I’ve tried to tell people that I haven’t been sick in a decade and really don’t require meat-protein to remain healthy. They’ll just never really believe you.

Five:  Me Too

Young or old, thin or fat, in every part of the nation after you tell someone you’re a vegetarian they will announce the probability of their success or failure doing the same. “I’m practically a vegetarian already. I only eat meat once a week. Wait, is chicken meat?” or “I could be a vegetarian, but I could never give up BBQ.”

Six: The Announcement

From the moment you tell someone, especially a family member, that you’re vegetarian they will feel an overwhelming need to announce it to others.  Some people I’ve eaten with don’t even wait for the waitress to get all the way to our table before they announce “He’s a vegetarian”. Of course, this starts the cycle all over again when the waitress starts reading you the menu.