I Had Never Met Anyone Like Herbivore

10 years ago I thought to myself, “What if I just stopped eating meat?” There was no elaborate framework for this thought. I just wanted a new resolution to aspire toward, and I had a feeling I could probably pull this one off. It occurred to me that I didn’t have a great attachment to any particular meat, beyond maybe seafood and bacon, and that in fact there were meats I didn’t even derive any particular enjoyment from eating — turkey, pork, beef. I realized that I was primarily a meat-eater because my parents had raised me to be one and, more to the point, I had never considered any other alternative.

So one day in early May 2009 I quit meat, cold turkey. Along with cold ham, cold beef, and cold… cold cuts. As a bachelor with no cooking skills, what this primarily meant was that my options in the TV dinner aisle dwindled precipitously. So in the preliminary stages of my life as a herbivore, I wasn’t assembling lush green salads loaded with succulent vegetables, or making delicately seasoned rice and beans in a slow cooker. No, I was wolfing down Easy Mac and 99-cent frozen veggie pizzas and Hot Pockets oozing with gelatinous processed cheese. I was also known to come home at midnight after my Domino’s delivery shift and eat cheesy bread and molten lava cakes until I passed out from carb shock.

Clearly my journey toward healthy food didn’t start with an overarching principle of health. (Or even food, for that matter.) So it wasn’t a dramatic Damascus Road conversion experience. More of an experiment, borne out of restlessness, for which I made myself the guinea pig. A guinea pig who was curious how it would feel to stop eating pigs, guinea or otherwise.

As anyone who has ever gone on a diet can attest, there are a dozen roadblocks that can sabotage a well-intentioned but poorly thought out plan to pursue a new habit. But you know what can do the exact opposite and effectively solidify that resolution?

Suddenly meeting someone enchanting (and beautiful) who has been pursuing that very path in a deliberate way for many years.

That’s what.

Let’s rewind a little. A few weeks before I haphazardly embarked on my meatless experiment, I much more deliberately joined eHarmony for the second time in 2 years. My first stint had been a total wash, due to making my “dating radius” so wide that I was talking to women in Albuquerque and Tucson, 900 miles away from where I lived in northwest Colorado. (Rule #1 of online dating: Don’t do that.) As a result, several months of eHarmony conversations yielded a grand total of zero dates.

This time around, I lived in the densely inhabited Boulder/Denver area and thus felt comfortable making my radius a nice, drivable 25 miles. I knew finding true love would be an uphill battle and a best-case scenario regardless of population density. But I thought maybe I could at least meet someone nice who would help stave off my creeping sense, at 29, that lonely bachelordom was becoming my most likely 30-something Facebook relationship status.

When it comes to high-stakes gambits like online poker and online dating, the third time isn’t always the charm… and the first time is almost never the charm. But once in a while, the universe conspires in your favor — in conjunction with your own best but faltering efforts — and you are given a gift. Or at least that’s what happened to me.

A few short weeks after I rejoined eHarmony, I met a woman whose profile and pictures enchanted me. And after a week and a half of guarded but promising conversation, we nervously arranged our first date. But it was not only our first date; it was my first eHarmony date ever, and my first genuine, bona fide, go-out-on-a-date date of any kind in many years. What are the odds that any such first date will be smooth, much less a smashing success that alters the trajectory of your entire life? I’d say roughly the same odds as landing your dream job in your very first job interview.

Well, I’m here to tell you that landing that dream date (and dream life partner) is altogether possible. Danielle and I are that success story. We took a hike that fateful morning in the shadows of Boulder’s towering Flatirons, and the rest is history. A whirlwind romance… an epic and nomadic journey involving 9 separate moving days… an emotionally bruising fertility battle spanning 4 years… an 1,800-mile migration with a sweet and neurotic pup in the backseat… and — against all odds — 2 radiant children we will unhyperbolically describe as miracles for as long as we live.

And it all started because 2 lonely people each had 6-month eHarmony subscriptions that barely overlapped. You simply can’t make this stuff up. It would be too implausible.

But I digress (because I can’t help myself). Back to being a herbivore.

I was 1 week into my meatless experiment when I met Danielle. And while there were a few dozen things that intrigued me about her profile and our subsequent conversations, one that caught me off guard was that she had been a herbivore for the better part of a decade. I had not known all that many vegetarians in my life, so this seemed faintly promising. (To be clear, I might have thought it was faintly problematic just 6 months earlier, envisioning my carnivorousness to be a potential source of tension with a herbivorous girlfriend.)

There are a lot of dealbreaker questions that online dating profiles help you navigate before a you waste an evening with a mismatched first date — for instance, does she chain-smoke, does she chain-vape, does she binge-drink, does she binge-watch The Bachelor, does she loathe pets, does she loathe children, is she a white nationalist, does she belong to a flat-earth cult, etc.

For some people, that list could include dietary inclinations. For the two of us, it did not. I was far too early in my meatless journey to care at all what anyone else ate, while I think Danielle didn’t want to severely limit her dating options and boycott all boys who caught fish (and other meat).

But with a decade of hindsight, it’s hard to overstate how serendipitous it proved to be that I met a remarkable woman, who happened to be happily herbivorous, just one short week after embarking on my first vegetarian venture in 29 years on earth. This overlapping dietary inclination, which grew into a deeply rooted shared value, has made our life as spouses and as parents vastly easier since we are entirely on the same page about not only nutrition but also a love of all living creatures — other than snakes and mosquitoes and house spiders — and a do-no-harm ethos. (Well, almost no harm. Sorry, PETA.)

There are many things I could say about how my experiment turned into a conscious lifestyle choice that is rooted in both dietary and ethical concerns. But I’ll save it for another blog post.

The takeaway for today is this: True love is extraordinary, and its timing is mysterious. How it can possibly be that two perfectly matched people, adrift in the vast ocean of online dating, can somehow manage to bump into each other at the exact right moment — the moment when their compatibility just happens to be at its peak — is far beyond me.

All I know is that it is possible, because it happened to me. Just like in a movie (but better).

And I’m happy to report that no animals were harmed in the making of this particular movie.


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