Interview: Vegan Marla Rose Will Punch You in the Face

marlaroseMost of the interviews at Weird! Why Aren’t You Vegan? are with people who are unique and different (read: not vegan). This has the normal people (read: vegans) feeling a little left out. So, to appease the masses, we now – once a month – feature a regular old, nothin’ special, run-of-the-mill vegan. This month, we meet Marla Rose.

Marla Rose (you have to say her full name) is a vegan superstar. I am so pumped to have her on the blog and pretend that we’re totally friends and we hang out. I can pretend that, because you don’t know it’s not true. And Marla Rose won’t ever read this because she’s way too cool and busy and amazing to be spending time reading this little ole blog. So, yep, Marla Rose and I are best friends. She comes over to my house and we talk about her blog, Vegan Feminist Agitator, and her website, Vegan Street. We talk about non-vegans and laugh all night. And then we braid each other’s hair. For all you know.

Meet Marla Rose.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done without shoes on?
I don’t think anything can quite top being born for excitement, but as a c-section baby, I didn’t get to do that whole water slide down the birth canal so in reality, I was probably just a little disappointed.

Given that, I am going for when I went to the Rainbow Gathering (this hippie thing in the woods) when I was in college, was probably under the influence of this or that substance (*cough*’shrooms*cough*) and lost my sandals on, like, the second day. I think I was supposed to be there for two or three more days, and then we had to drive in a big, fetid VW bus (a librarian guy named Owl was driving, of course) all the way from Minnesota back to Kansas. This would be both painful and gross without shoes. Anyway, I traded bug spray or earrings or a few mixed tapes (I don’t remember) for some shoes that were two sizes too big for me from this woman with the longest dreads I’ve ever seen, but whatever, I had shoes and probably foot fungus. Again, I don’t remember. So probably bartering for shoes in the woods is the answer to your question – not so much because it was exciting but because it was weird and memorable.

Do you do your own laundry? If so, describe your process and tell us what your biggest laundry mistake has been.
My husband does the laundry and I fold it because, no kidding, I am scared of our basement. It’s a little Silence of the Lambs-y down there and I am a very easily startled person who grew up on horror films. Given that, my biggest laundry mistake probably has to be buying a house with a scary basement. My husband does a fine job with the laundry but there are no bells-and-whistles, just a straightforward approach without anti-static sheets or anything. But I really don’t have room to complain about it.

Oh! I thought of something! In the warmer weather, I like to hang my clothes on a clothesline to dry and I remember our neighbor once, this sweet, friendly older gentleman, wanting to ask me about something when we were in our mutual back yards but he kept averting his eyes and finally hurried away. I finally realized it was because my bras and bloomers were all hanging out on the line behind me! That’s not so much a mistake as, you know, kind of weird.

Do you share your home with any non-human animals? Tell us a funny story about them.
Right now, our only monkey is Romeo, who is, in fact, not a monkey but a canine of a poodle-terrier varietal. I guess the funniest thing about Romeo is that he loves the ladies, which is how he got his name. He does not like men, though, not that he’s scared of them but he just has no use for them. One day I was walking Romeo downtown and there was this group of women and one man who we were passing. The group all got down on the sidewalk to scratch him and love on him, including the man. Romeo snuggled with all the women but straight up snubbed the guy. He literally turned up his nose to the guy, like, “No, thank you.” The guy noticed it and was all, “Did your dog just snub me?” and I was all, “Yup. His name is Romeo. He only likes the ladies.” It was kind of funny.

When we’re walking and we see a woman Romeo is interested in, which is all women, I always make sure to tell her that he loves females. Invariably, they giggle and blush and smile. (He does not discriminate by age or any other superficial factors.) I think everyone understands that it’s a compliment. I wonder if our next animal will be a total man-hussy to balance things out.

Do you share your home with any fellow human animals? Tell us an embarrassing story about them. Just kidding, tell us one about you.
I do! I share my home with my husband, who is my Vegan Street co-founder, and my son, Justice, who is 12. They are both made of awesome.

I have kind of a recurring embarrassing issue with tucking my skirt into my tights when I leave public bathrooms, but thankfully I have a decent family and friends who have let me know. I don’t get embarrassed easily, I guess.

Okay, here’s one story: About 15 years ago, my friend and I were taunted at a fancy vegan Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel by this freaky loser who was wearing a fur-lined jacket there and very obnoxious about it; naturally, we were less than impressed by his behavior, so my friend put a sticker on him that said, “I’m an asshole, I wear fur.” (Yeah, she would carry those around because she’s fabulous.) He called my friend a “bitch” so I saw red (literally, no exaggeration) and shoved him, just like that. You can call me what you want but don’t come at my friends, apparently. After I pushed him – by the way, he’s a big dude and he went flying back like I was almighty Zeus or something – he came at me with a closed fist, like he was going to punch me. My husband, who, again, is made of awesome, was there, too, and he grabbed that dude’s wrist midair and pushed him back. I still remember his hand grabbing the guy’s wrist in the air like it was a cut from a superhero movie. My husband pushed him again and again until he was out the door of this fancy hotel banquet hall, yelling, “Who the %$^% wears a fur coat to a vegan Thanksgiving?!” You have to understand that my guy kind of looks like a surfer and he’s totally Minnesota Nice. Anyway, we were all Jerry Springer-ing it out in our dressy clothes and it was embarrassing but also kind of awesome, like many embarrassing incidents. Does this count?

Some readers have indicated they’d like to know about your veganism. That seems weird to me, since being vegan is the norm and not very interesting, but here goes nothing.

When did you become vegan and what motivated you to do so (aside from the fact that being vegan is pretty much a given nowadays, and that there are a hundred reasons that support the decision and none against it)?
I went vegan on February 1, 1995 (along with my husband) so in just a couple of months, it will be our 20th! I‘ve heard that you win a lifetime supply of nutritional yeast once you hit this milestone. I am vegan for the animals; all the other benefits are just that – excellent added benefits. If I learned that being vegan would shorten my life by ten years, yeah, I’d be a little bummed, but I wouldn’t quit. Thankfully, though, that doesn’t happen and I will outlive you all. Just kidding. Being vegan is the most important decision I’ve ever made and I wake up with true excitement and gratitude every day that I am able to spread this message of compassion and justice. I am such a ridiculous cheerleader for veganism that I even annoy myself. Twenty years in and my enthusiasm for veganism hasn’t dampened even a bit. In fact, it burns brighter every day.

What is your favorite meal? It can be real or made up.
My favorite meal is anything spicy. Well, and vegan, of course. To me, I’d get to enjoy a huuuuuuuuge all-vegan buffet of Indian or Ethiopian food, stuff myself silly with my family and friends, and that would be my favorite meal. A little something with fair trade chocolate at the end or a treat from my friend Sandi Swiss and I am good to go.

What food item do you always have in stock in your kitchen?
If I don’t have ripe bananas, I am in full freak-out panic mode because you just know that if you go to the store in this state, they will all be neon green and inedible and I need ripe bananas every day. In fact, I realize that I only have two bunches (technically, what we refer to as bunches are “hands,” which I know from researching bananas for an article) so I had better stock up. Coconut milk (the canned kind), chickpeas and chocolate are always in the cupboard as well. I seem to be into the C category, but sadly or fortunately, I almost never have cake on hand. Oh, tamari, too!

marlayardturkeyDo you just eat vegan (aka, the bare minimum) or do you also speak out against cruelty? If so, what do you do? If not, what is your problem?
Girl, I have no problem! I speak out! Well, I have problems but speaking out for the animals is not one of them. I try to do it in my own way, whether it’s an inflatable turkey with a pro-vegan sign up on our lawn for the month of November (pictured on right), hosting Chicago VeganMania, creating message gear on Vegan Street or writing essays on my blog (Vegan Feminist Agitator) , but I have no qualms about speaking up. You saw my “embarrassing” story, right?

What is the easiest thing about being vegan?
There’s that little something about having a clean conscience that makes life easier. Not having to construct silly justifications or circuitous logical fallacies to avoid admitting that eating a corpse is rather selfish and icky is easy. Being able to eat cookie dough without getting salmonella makes life easier. Not getting invited to BBQs with people who talk about sports makes my life both happier and easier. The easiest thing, though, is that when you live in alignment with your values, you’re not fighting with yourself all the time and there’s something pretty great about that.

Out of the one and only reason it’s hard to be vegan (the people around you, of course), who is the worst offender and why?
I would say that the hardest part of being vegan is the vegans who seem to carry a podium with themselves everywhere they go. As longtime “out” vegans, my husband and I deal with criticism and mocking from defensive omnivores all the time and while that can be annoying at times, it is not nearly as enervating and soul-crushing as the one-upmanship, posturing, nitpicking, ego-trips, lack of perspective and propensity toward character assassination we have found among a small but very vocal and persistent percentage of the vegan population. Sorry to leave this on a depressing note, but, honestly, it exhausts me and I can only imagine how many well-intentioned people burn out, become isolated and lose community because they cannot deal with the meanness from their fellow vegans. It’s something that I’ve said a lot but I really believe it to be true: we are our own worst enemies when it comes to spreading the vegan message successfully. What hope do we have against the incredible resources of agribusiness and the profoundly powerful underpinnings of convenience, habit, culture, tradition and fear of change when we are more than willing to keep whittling our numbers down more and more over petty differences? Of course, this is not true of all vegans or a majority, but the ones who are hell-bent on seeing cynicism, negativity and opportunities for strutting around as The World’s Most Correct Vegan really do create a lot of collateral damage and this is not in the animals’ best interests. Plus, it makes you sound like a jerk.

Songs (Marla Rose wants two songs, and Marla Rose gets what she wants): “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Benny Goodman and “Rosalita” by Bruce Springsteen
Recipe: Spicy Thai Coconut Curry

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