While waiting in line at a book signing tonight, I noticed a New Arrivals shelf. Prominently displayed on the top shelf were four "For Dummies" books.

Dating for Dummies
Depression for Dummies
Anxiety for Dummies
Stress Management for Dummies

I'm not sure what's worse, that I could use all four of them, or that I couldn't decide which one I needed most.


I think I'm doing okay on the dating front, but I could definitely use the other three. Of course, it's too much effort to go to the bookstore, I shouldn't spend the money because I'm supposed to be saving for tuition, and I'm too busy to go and buy books anyway.

Maybe Social Grace for Dummies, too; I'm currently waging an internal war over ways to respond to a friend who just invited me to his birthday celebration at one of the most un-vegan-friendly restaurants I've ever heard of. I desperately need some kind of polite template that I can use to accept and graciously eat a salad, or beg off and meet the group after dinner, because if left to my own devices I will most certainly stick my foot (which is an animal product) in my mouth.

Upon second reading of your post, it really looks like the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books are about how to successfully acquire the characteristics in question. Perhaps you and I don't need them after all.

That's true. Generally the ...For Dummies books are about embracing the ... as a hobby. Get Depressed for Fun and Profit! Explore new vistas in the field of Anxiety!

Profoundly un-vegan... Either it's a steak house/particularly meat heavy place (The Abattoir?) or its something more dairyish, like The Cheeseboard. Not that people tend to go to The Cheeseboard for birthday dinners, but still.

Yeah, it's tough, because if you say beforehand "I'm a vegan, but it's cool," you put pressure on them to change their plans. If you do it once you get there, they'll feel bad for being inconsiderate. I tend to try to avoid those situations by ordering a salad and, if asked, saying I'm not feeling that hungry today (which might well be true).

Bloody Typepad. Not only did it eat my long comment, it ate the short restatement that I tried to post when I realized it had eaten the long one. Twice.


The reason for my lack of social grace on this issue is that my friends all know that I am vegan. They all read my blog regularly. They have seen my list of vegan-friendly restaurants. They know that if they ask me for restaurant advice I will gladly give it. But certain of them passionately love dinner events at Italian restaurants and bar & grill places, and I've had it up to here with spaghetti marinara and house salads, because I don't like either very much to begin with and we've already done this dance five times this year.

To be brief, your solution is of course the polite one, but like most polite solutions it's worn out its welcome with me. I'm prepared at this point to stay home and learn social avoidance in three easy and foolproof steps instead.

Hum. I'm not an expert, by any means, on socializing, but I believe that, by this point, you've been polite long enough. Granted, this is a birthday celebration so, presumably, the birthday person's wishes should be given primacy. But I might take the opportunity to let it be known that it's fine that everyone else wants to eat meaty/italiany fare, but you're sick of having your opinions discounted. If they want to keep eating at such places, it's fine, but they shouldn't count on you continuing to put up with it.

Again, though, I'm not the author of "Getting Non-Vegan Friends to Consider Your Veganism in Restaurant Selection for Dummies." And I don't know your friends, so take all the above with a giant rock of salt.

Fairness requires admitting that in the past, at such events, I've had good luck with quietly cornering a server and asking what they can possibly find for me that's vegan. My sulky reaction is based less on the unlikely prospect of not being able to eat anything at all and more on my frustration at going out to eat with the unappetizing thought "well, I probably won't starve" instead of "I'm really excited about treating myself to this delicious restaurant meal".

Thinking about it, I suppose I don't really need the satisfaction of making a scene about my not going to these restaurant deals; if I want to make sure my friends know that I won't go to non-accommodating restaurants with them I can simply put my money where my mouth is and not go. They're smart people. If they want me to come out to dinner they know how to make it happen.

In any case, I've summoned up some reserves of politeness and promised to show up for the planned after-dinner events while declining the dinner invitation itself. Perhaps I could write Social Grace for Dummies after all.

Good call.

When these things happen to me I tend to err on the side of passiveness. Whatever people are doing may be something of a big deal to me, but I pretend as though it is far less of a problem than it is. This makes things run smoothly short-term, but tends to cause problems in the long run, because people are not adequately apprised of my feelings on the situation. They therefore assume that there is no problem, or that I have no problem with it, when, in fact, I do.

So I end up getting mad at them, over time, when it's really not their fault, per se. I'm expecting them to possess an unreasonable clairvoyance with respect to what I want, and I get annoyed when they stoically persist in ignoring my unstated desires. This is entirely unreasonable of me, of course. But that doesn't stop me from getting resentful and passive-aggressive.

What you've just described is my standard pattern for just about everything, but it's one that I'm trying to work on. I've pretty much told myself that my choices are either say something up front, or, later on when I'm stewing over it, admit that I screwed up by not mentioning it at the appropriate time and force myself to just fucking drop it.

With respect to the dinner invitations, what you're seeing is me attempting to do the latter: since I can't go back in time to the first invitation and reasonably point out that they weren't accommodating my diet, I will not go and hammer home the point by sulking through a birthday dinner.

I will also, incidentally, spare myself spending $20 on a plate of spaghetti and will instead have it for things that I really want. Selfishness comes in handy after all!

$20 for spaghetti? The very idea chills me to the core. I am, before all else, a miser. I have, on several occasions, passed up fast food-type meals of $2.50 or less, after agonizing over them for ten minutes, because I can just go home and eat a filling, but bland, bowl of millet at a cost of about 20 cents. I've walked 5 miles to avoid spending $2 on subway fare.

This is one of those things that is a big deal to me. I have learned to go along with people on it because it would be highly unreasonable for me to tell them "I don't believe in spending money. Ever." Still, it annoys me to go days without spending a cent, then wind up at dinner with some friends blowing all my savings on one meal, which I inevitably find unsatisfying because I can't stop thinking about how much it costs. And look at them! Smiling and laughing! How can you enjoy life when this accursed restaurant is robbing you out of your front pocket!

But yeah. I don't spend money. Except on frivolous crap like video game controllers shaped like slimes.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on November 16, 2005 12:09 AM.

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