Chad and I had met at a vegan café and immediately hit it off. He was smart, charming, and handsome to boot. The fact that he also frequented my favorite vegan café didn't hurt.
I have been vegan since I was 14. I learned about the way animals are treated in the industry and immediately adjusted my lifestyle without hesitation. My mom was none too pleased, but she let it happen, eventually turning vegan herself. Despite what people think, it is actually a very sustainable and healthy lifestyle, so long as you ensure you eat enough and always buy what fruits and veggies are in season. For me, veganism is more than just a diet—it is a way of life.
I assumed Chad was a vegan himself. While the café I frequent does get the occasional carnivore on a health diet, they mainly cater to full-time vegans. Therefore, it seemed obvious to me that Chad would be a full-time vegan (a mistake I will never make again).
Our conversation led to the exchange of phone numbers and a long stream of decidedly flirty text messages back and forth. Finally, Chad asked me on a date, and I struggled to tamp down my excitement before saying yes.
We went to a slightly upscale vegan restaurant where I got a couscous veggie medley and Chad ordered miso soup. The conversation flowed back and forth without issue, each of us sharing stories about our childhood, our college days, and our current jobs.
Before I knew it, dinner was over and I didn't want it to end, so when Chad invited me back to his apartment, I didn't hesitate to say yes. I wasn't planning for anything to happen, but I figured one drink and more conversation at his apartment couldn't hurt. Boy, was I wrong.
When he asked me over, I teased him, saying, "I hope you aren't expecting to get into my pants on the first date."
"Cross my heart," he replied, showing off his charming smile and dimples. We caught a cab to his place, which was only a few blocks from my own, I noticed. Certainly convenient.
We arrived after ten minutes to a brick building in a nice neighborhood, surrounded by a few hole-in-the-wall restaurants and local grocery stores. We entered the building and then the elevator, and Chad hit the fifth floor, holding my hand the entire way up, causing me to blush and giggle like a schoolgirl.
I walked into what appeared to be a tastefully decorated, normal apartment, from what I could see. Then the lights came on.
I was surrounded by heads. Not just any heads, but animal heads—all stuffed and staring at me with little beady eyes. I stared in horror, struggling to come to terms with the man I had been on a date with and the fact that he was obviously into taxidermy. What kind of vegan is into the taxidermy? It is sickening. It is unheard of.
Confused, I looked at Chad imploringly, hoping he could provide a reasonable explanation. Maybe they were his roommate's and he hated them as much I did. Maybe they were just stuffed animals or something. I was unable to form words, so I just waited silently for Chad to speak.
"I imagine this is a surprise, so let me explain. I'm not vegan. I'm actually a happy carnivore, as well as a hunter and a taxidermist. I'm sorry to have misled you, but it was important that you be willing to come back to my apartment with me."
"You're a..." I began, still so shocked I seemed unable to complete a full statement.
He looked at me curiously yet cautiously, obviously waiting for my reaction.
"Why...why would you date a vegan? And why would you bring me to your house full of dead animals?" I asked, feeling the shock wear off and anger taking its place. "Do you have any idea how disrespectful this is, not only to me, but these animals? To display them like trophies rather than living creatures is sickening."
"I figured you'd say that. But just hear me out. You seem to be reasonable, which is why I picked you."
"Picked me?" I exclaimed.
"Yes, I needed to pick someone who was vegan to listen to my arguments in the hopes of swaying you to my side, helping those other vegans see the light. What you all do is not natural. Humans are meant to eat meat. Denying that is to deny basic humanity, and you all need to see that," he replied earnestly, seeming completely serious.
"I'm sorry, what? You took me out and brought me here to convince me to give up my vegan lifestyle and convince my friends to do the same? Why would I do that?" I asked.
"Well, I'm gonna cook you up a nice steak for you to eat, and I imagine that will do the trick."
Feeling sick, I stood perfectly still. I could not believe this was happening. I felt myself pinch my arm, hoping to wake myself up from this nightmare. Yet it stayed. The eyes of his taxidermied animals continued to stare at me, adding to the sense of unease I felt.
"I'll go into the kitchen right now and get it started cooking. How do you want it cooked? I imagine not too bloody, for starters, although I'd be lying if I said rare isn't my favorite way to go," he continued on, beginning to move towards the kitchen and, I assumed, the fridge where he kept his meat.
"Stop!" I yelled, grabbing his attention and stilling his steps. "I am not going to eat meat. I am a vegan because I choose to be. I ate meat for fourteen years and eventually switched because I found the meat and dairy industries to be repulsive. Nothing is going to change that, and most certainly not a steak. Now please, I am going to go, and you are going to leave me alone. Do not contact me again, and if I see you at the café again I will have the owner kick you out. You have no place telling people how to live their lives. Just because it isn't how you choose to exist doesn't make it unnatural, it just means it is alternative."
I stopped, catching my breath. "I'm going to go now," I said again, walking to the door without hesitation.
"Wait," he said right before I opened the door. "Does that mean you won't help me?" he asked.
I stared at him in disbelief before responding, "You fucking bet it does."
I slammed the door behind me for emphasis and ran out of there as quickly as I could. Talk about the worst date ever.