Welcome to Unsolicited Advice, the weekly column in which I dispense advice no one asked for to people who don’t even know who I am.
This week we head over to my very favorite subreddit – Am I the A**hole? On this forum, people post their dilemmas and ask for judgment from Reddit users as to whether or not they are indeed the a**hole in their stated situation. Here we find a bacon lover who is wondering if he’s wrong for bringing bacon to a family brunch celebrating grandma’s birthday and then refusing to throw it away when his vegan aunt protested.
Everyone was bringing food, so my family of 5 bought bacon. My aunt was not on board with this, saying that she hopes we enjoy the taste of tortured animals… She then “politely” asked we take all of the bacon in the house and throw it away. I thought she was joking at first, but when I realized she wasn’t, I simply said “We just bought it because everybody else likes bacon. We aren’t pressuring you to eat it.” She then said that the smell makes her think of the suffering animals and she doesn’t want that. Almost in a sad, but passive-aggressive way.
She then freaked out, called me an a**hole, and left the party. I feel kinda bad for making her leave, but I also feel like she was being petty.
There are two kinds of vegans in the world: the kind for whom veganism is simply a lifestyle choice and those for whom it is a political choice. Guess which group is the most insufferable? Bacon Boy’s aunt seems to be in the latter group. It looks to me like she was more interested in making a public statement than anything else. There were myriad ways for her to handle this that didn’t need to involve her storming out. She could have fussed at you and then kept as far away from the bacon as possible. She could have said nothing to you and kept as far away from the bacon as possible. She could have said nasty things to grandma about you and kept as far away from the bacon as possible.
She could have even just quietly left without causing a scene, but from this angle that seems to have been her main goal. I would be curious to know whether or not the aunt has a pattern of manipulative behavior. I’m willing to bet the answer is yes. After all, she stormed out of her own mother’s birthday party over a plate of one of the most common meats in the western hemisphere. I certainly respect anyone’s right to conscientiously object to a carnivore diet, but to expect others to bend to your will over their own food tastes is quite immature. Does Auntie Vegan expect everyone on earth to surrender their barbecue just because she is obsessed with suffering animals? State fairs, ball games, family cookouts, hot dog vendors…the world is full of meat and full of uncomfortable things. A mature member of society understands that living in a community sometimes means tolerating things that make us uncomfortable.
But really what is at issue here is that Auntie Vegan expected the entire family to tilt from her breeze. There are just too many people like this in our modern society these days. Too many people feel the onus lies on everyone else to adjust to their life settings. It’s a cheap way to shirk the responsibility we all have to tolerate each other. It’s projection. Auntie Vegan and her ilk cannot tolerate people who are not like them, so they make unreasonable demands and then feel justified in their intolerance when those demands are not met.
There are times when we all need to take a step back in an irksome situation and ask ourselves if it is everyone else’s job to accommodate our preferences or if the neighborly thing to do is just deal with it. A neighbor once expressed to me that she wished our HOA could force people to keep their Halloween decorations from being too scary or creepy. They would upset her three-year-old son and naturally, that upset her. I remember telling her that it’s certainly a terrible thing to see your child frightened while out for an evening walk, but she can’t expect every neighbor everywhere to bend to the needs of her child. In a neighborhood, we all have to live with different types of people with differing tastes. Instead of feeling stressed about it, I suggested she use it as a good opportunity to teach her son that some things that look scary aren’t really scary after all if you can be brave enough to face them.
It is wholly unreasonable to imagine that we should be able to exist peacefully and comfortably in the luxuries of our own preferences at all times. That’s not how society works. If a halftime show at the Super Bowl is too sexy, change the channel. If the Halloween decorations are too scary, take a different way home or figure out a way to make them less scary in your mind. If your bratty nephew brings a pigload of bacon to a birthday party knowing you’re a political vegan (and I feel pretty confident Bacon Boy knew damn well the reaction he was going to get), suck it up, fill your plate with fruit and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to your aging mother.
It is no one else’s job to give you permission to engage politely and willingly with the world around you. The control is yours. This country would be a lot better off if people demanded as much of themselves as they do of other people.
In conclusion, Bacon Boy is NTA (not the a**hole)…but he is a bit of a smarmy jerk for bringing a plate full of bacon to a vegan tantrum.