I stopped eating animals several months ago now. At the time I said it was easy. I still think it is. Others think I've given up real food, and I'm scavenging for substitutes. The truth is, our diets are so rich, I've put on about ten pounds having trouble saying no to all the mouthwatering choices I have. But it turns out that not eating the animals is the easy part.
For starters there's the social stigma. I was worried about what people would think from the start. The only person I've ever told because I wanted him to know was Walter. Everyone else found out when it came up naturally. And I was right. He is the only person I know who thought I might have reasons to do so. Everyone else I know acted like I've decided to become an alien at best, or have gone out of my way to become difficult or "virtue signal" at worst. Now this is my experience of these situations, so I'm sure it is exaggerated to meet my experiences. It's not like there are long conversations when I'm not around about how weird I've become. I think not, at least.
Then there come the times when I'm actually difficult for others. For example, I was invited to a party, and was told there would be squash soup there. I was the only vegetarian who might attend, but this soup was not specifically for me. It was planned before they knew I was coming. I arrived, and was told, "Good news. There will be vegetarian squash soup. You eat eggs and dairy, right?" I said that I do, so she poured in a carton of chicken broth. Then the difficult one (me) had to explain why I find her soup to be unacceptable. Those aren't the words I used, but I'm sure they're the words they heard. She insisted lots of vegetarians eat eggs and chickens, so I should have said something when she asked.
Twice now I've been at sit down restaurants, asked the wait staff if a dish can be served vegetarian, then had to send it back because it arrived covered in meat. And it's not like I go to a sit down restaurant everyday. This is rough for me. In the past I've just accepted what arrived, even if it wasn't what I ordered. Now I'm the jerk that sends his food back because doesn't meet his standards. And I'm the guy who has to read the label before buying something.
Half the reason they find me difficult is that my understanding of vegetarian and vegan is not universal. I think it's universal among vegetarians and vegans. Vegetarians don't consume animals, and vegans don't consume animals or animal products, like dairy. I've never met one who wouldn't agree with that. I even did a quick search of the internet, and came up empty.
I've talked to several meat eaters, aka normal people, both friends and people in the food service industry, who don't think those are standard definitions. Which leaves me wondering, did I know that because I'm the kind of person who would become a vegetarian? Or maybe we're wrong, and it's the majority who decided what these words mean, whether or not they are part of that group. Or maybe I should just stop using those words all together, and state my full definition of vegetarian every time instead.