Join Date: May 2011
I've been vegan since I was nineteen, and vegetarian for eight years before that, and I have lost track of the number of times that friends and family who knew damn well what my dietary needs are have given me food I couldn't eat. In one case, I didn't realise that I'd just eaten something with a lot of cheese in it until afterwards, about the point that the food intolerance kicked in and I had to spend the rest of the night in the bathroom. Another friend is prone to giving me lovingly wrapped, beautiful-looking boxes of dark chocolates where she forgot to check the ingredients, assuming no doubt that because it's dark chocolate, it's vegan (hah - maybe 5% of dark chocolate is vegan, the rest has milk floating around somewhere. Her mother's vegan, I'm still surprised that she doesn't think to check). I thank them nicely, say I'm not hungry if applicable, and find another recipient to hand them to.
Some people make mistakes, and some people resent my having made a dietary choice based on ethics (they would never do this to someone who is kosher or halal) and make a point of trying to force me or trick me into accepting something non-vegan. The latter have always been family. My aunt hosted all the (dire) family dinners, and would refuse to make any vegetarian food, so that we always had to bring something for me. Well, she'd give me soup, but I think it was just bouillon and hot water, and one year it had bits of chicken floating in it. I'd never dream of doing something like that, I always enquire whether a dinner guest has any dietary needs I should know about (you really don't want to mess up with a nut allergy, for instance) and go to whatever lengths necessary to make sure they don't feel singled out. I don't accept clothes from my mother any more, she's deliberately lied to me too often about whether they contain animal fibres, and I know perfectly well she's doing it to score a point. Anyone playing silly buggers when they know you're dieting is probably in the same category. Gift-giving can be about control a surprising amount of the time, and can involve trying to shame people as well.
There's a novel by Margaret Atwood, Lady Oracle, about a woman who becomes obese in childhood and gets bullied by her mother about it. Eventually an equally obese aunt of hers dies and leaves her a legacy on condition that she loses, erm, might be 100lb, but anyway she has a fixed weight to get to, and I think she's around twenty but still living with her mother. She does it, she starts dieting and changes her life. It's only when she starts doing it that she realises that her mother was the one pushing her into obesity the whole time. She'd always felt guilty because she'd see a cake lying on the counter and snaffle it, but as an adult she looks back and realises that her mother was deliberately buying cakes and other tempting foods and leaving them out so that exactly that would occur. Once she starts dieting, the mother really panics and keeps trying to push her off the diet. Thankfully she gets away from her mother and her life improves a lot. Do not underestimate how much some people can try to play games with you in this respect.
With regard to your partner, I think all these suggestions that he give you big pieces of jewellery or a day at a spa are daft, although I'm hoping they're jokes! Because if he offers you a small gift and you turn round and say you want something really expensive, it's not about your diet any more, it's about money and accusing him of stinginess. Ask for flowers or something else of equivalent price instead. Is there perhaps a healthy food which is still a nice treat that you could request, exotic fruit or something? Or maybe something that lasts so that you can look at it fondly afterwards, a book or houseplant, say? And if he continues to give you chocolate, give it away, and sooner or later he will notice that the usual chocolate-eating frenzy is not occurring. If he never does take the hint, well, you will no doubt have a friend who is happily accepting regular infusions of chocolate from you by then. And if he really does insist on giving you chocolate after you have nicely and clearly and repeatedly explained why you don't want him to, think about whether it's symptomatic of something larger going on in your relationship that needs attention, or whether it's just a small random blip.
Speaking of flowers, my partner and I are coming up to our fifth anniversary and in all those years I've got flowers from neighbours, friends and my parents, but never once from him. I drop the occasional hint, but I don't think flowers are really on his radar, bless him. He gets me the most incredible presents, generous, well thought-out and beautifully wrapped (honestly, he must start looking for appropriate giftwrap and cards months in advance), so I am very much not complaining, and I'd rather have books than flowers anyway. Just... it'd be nice once! Going back to chocolate, I was slimmer when we first got together and had a fondness for chocolate drops from my local supermarket which were miraculously vegan (it didn't last). He teased me about them, and occasionally he would hide them, usually somewhere I couldn't reach. I would grumble about this, but then he would also buy these chocolate drops on the sly and hide them where I'd find them as a nice surprise later.