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A Beef With The Weed Eater

I'm a 20-year-old college guy, very much in love. My girlfriend and I see ourselves getting married and having children together in the future. The problem is, I eat meat; she doesn't (she doesn't believe in harming animals). This might seem like a silly complaint, but food is an extremely important element of my everyday life. I'd looked forward to cooking gourmet food (especially meat) and sampling exotic cuisine with my spouse. I'm not sure I could deal with always fixing separate meals. Plus, her diet would put a burden on my family, with whom I'm close, because the meals we come together for usually revolve around meat. Another issue: I'm 6'4", 200 pounds, and very athletic. She's over a foot shorter, 90 pounds lighter, and hates doing anything physical. Finally, I love to travel and have adventures; she hates crowds. As much as I love her, I'm troubled by our differences. Do you think we can make it work?

--High Steaks

IF ONLY YOU TWO could spend the rest of your lives staring into each other's eyes like love-drunk wombats. Eventually, though, you've gotta eat. That's where it gets tricky.

You could take her out for a nice, juicy slab of...congealed lentils, pressed and die-cut into a steak shape, then faux-finished with stripes of soy sauce for that charbroiled je ne sais quoi. (A delightful change of pace from braised particle board! Try not to drool.) On the other hand (the hand that swerves the car into the McDonald's drive-through), you could make dinner a family affair -- one featuring your relatives huddled around a dead cow, tearing off pieces with their sharp incisors.

Might there be a middle ground? One where a handful of soy pellets nuzzles up to a sexy little pair of amputated chicken legs, perhaps on a bed of sauteed spinach? In light of your slavish devotion to animal protein, probably not. Especially not if your girlfriend practices veganism (the Hezbollah of vegetarianism, chef and author Anthony Bourdain calls it). These dietary fundamentalists refuse to wear or eat any animal products (not even honey, "because bees are used against their will to produce it," a vegan informed me). Vegans have an unfortunate tendency to preach; often by staring teary-eyed into the steak on your plate and wondering aloud "whether it used to be that cute white one with the black spots on its nose."

You're right to worry that your girlfriend's idea of adventure seems to be staying home in her plastic bubble checking her skin for signs of premature aging. Still, it's values that matter most -- what somebody stands for as opposed to the things they like to do. Say, these days, her values lead her to mutter "murderer" under her breath every time you order a cheeseburger. Assuming she's about 20, she's a larva of the person she's going to be at 25; she might be only microscopically recognizable as the same person at 30. Although the crumbs from her wheat-free, sugar-free, taste-free muffin seem to be spelling out "break up now!" it is possible that she'll start sneaking out in the middle of the night to join you for a nibble of haggis. It seems more likely, unfortunately, that you and she will eventually find yourselves about as compatible as an Amish person and a Satan-worshipper, forced to agree on whether to bring their children up to thump their bibles or their pointy little tails.

Copyright ©2002, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 70 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.