living with hippies

I thought I wouldn’t have a problem living with hippies. I was wrong about that.

I only moved in with them out of desperation. Trying to find a long-term place to live in Australia while I was still in China proved to be almost impossible, and in the end the only thing I was able to get was a one-month stay where I was taking the room of a guy who was going on vacation. And I only got it by lying.

We had a house interview over Skype, and one of the questions the girl asked me, in her perky Australian accent, was “What’s your favorite vegetarian meal to cook?” I told her it was eggplant risotto.

That was a lie. I’ve never cooked eggplant risotto in my life. In fact, I’ve never cooked anything with eggplant in it. I don’t even like eggplant. But I figured since I’ve never cooked any vegetarian meal in my life, my ‘favorite’ one was kind of an arbitrary distinction.

Still, I just sort of assumed I’d adapt and get into the swing of things once I moved in. I didn’t. Yes, I understand the concept of communal living, but I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. I always felt guilty when I was digging into food that I didn’t buy, and they often wouldn’t eat the food I bought because it wasn’t organic enough, or something.

There was one point where we all went to this big outdoor market to buy fresh produce and whatnot. I figured I’d buy some milk and eggs and other staple foods that someone besides me was likely to eat, and my housemate helpfully pointed out where the eggs were. Sure enough, there were stacked cartons of free-range, organic, carefree-chickens-who-live-full-happy-lives, eggs.

For $12 a carton.

Fuck that. I mean, I don’t want chickens to suffer unnecessarily (as much as they’re capable of ‘suffering’ with a brain the size of a raisin), but I’m not paying $12 for eggs. And that’s Australian dollars too, which is like….something more than $12…..in American money. For that much the chickens should be coming to my house and clucking out the national anthem while laying the eggs directly into the frying pan and then turning around and picking out the eggshells with their beaks.

Which, to be fair, would be pretty awesome. Hell I’d even pay as much as $13 for that.

Seriously though, we had a party my first Friday in Melbourne, and my housemate made vegetarian Mexican food. Which was pretty good for the most part, but it seemed like every hippy had some kind of food allergy or aversion. So we had to have regular and rennin-free cheese, regular and gluten-free tortillas, guacamole with and without garlic and onions, and so on. And the funniest part? At one point they started talking about how when they went on vacation and could no longer force everyone to cater to their whims, their allergies ‘mysteriously disappeared’.

And that, pretty much, is why I hate hippies.

Well, maybe ‘hate’ is too strong a word. And my housemates were both really, really cool. Both continued to share their food with me even though I never cooked (well, I cooked once, risotto sans eggplant), and I tried to do the dishes as much as possible to make up for it. Still, despite my efforts it was pretty obvious I didn’t fit in with the dynamic of the house at all.

Thankfully, I moved to a new place. I’m now living with Indian guys, and it’s fucking awesome. I get along with them really well, I can buy whatever food I want and not worry about it, and I don’t feel like I have to ‘fit in’ with their lifestyle or anything. One of the guys cooked dinner for me—a wonderful chicken curry—so I’m going to cook Mexican food for him one of these nights. And the thing is, it’s cool because I actually want to do it, rather than feeling like I’m obligated to do it because I’m living in a hippy house.

Plus it was like $585 a month. Here it’s only $300. That’s like $285 more of beer money per month!

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About Critical Awesomeness
I'm a 32-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry and a green hat. Only one of these two things is really important.

11 Responses to living with hippies

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    Haven’t checked your blog for a while, but this really gave me a belly laugh. Thanks.

  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    Back in the late ’60s my ex wife and I lived in a communal situation with two other couples in Chicago for nearly two years. It worked out pretty well as no one was a vegetarian nor were we “hippies” in the traditional sense. We all had “real” jobs. I was a magazine editor and my ex was a production manager at the same publishing house.

    I think if I’d been doing an interview and was asked what my favorite vegetarian dish was I would have had some kind of “technical difficulty” with my Skype connection and logged off. A while back on one of my first visits to Panama I spent a pleasant afternoon with an aging Panamanian hippie chick. We sat out in a wonderful gazebo eating fresh pineapples and papayas and gabbing away. She started on a riff about the benefits of a vegetarian diet and I had to tell her that was all well and good but most of the time I preferred a nice slab of bleeding dead cow on my plate. And I do.

    You know what they say….Stop smoking, exercise, eat right…DIE ANYWAY!

    • Honestly I don’t see anything wrong with communal living, so long as everyone is on the same page. I definitely exaggerated things to make the blog post funnier, but in reality both of those guys are really cool – I just didn’t fit in with them. And yeah, I only moved in with them in the first place because I was desperate to find a short-term place to stay.

      The fact is a mostly vegetarian diet is better, but humans cannot live without vitamin B12, and that can only be obtained from animal products (or artificial supplements). But I agree with you, better to have what you enjoy than sacrifice everything that makes life fun for the sake of being “healthy”.

  3. ellielawson says:

    Well… I really try and avoid any rants that might remind me of my former hippie days, but I have to correct you. I was vegan for ten years with no supplements and never had even the slightest deficiency. A healthy diet will provide you with B12. Also, most vego’s are vego’s for ethical reasons. Even hippies who bang on about treading lightly on the earth. Price is only a factor when non-free range etc is still acceptable food. If you found it unconscionable, price would be irrelevant. You’d just stop eating eggs. Having said that – I loved this post. I have some hippie horror stories I’m really just waiting to unleash on the world. Love to hate them – and my kids go to a steiner school so I’m well and truly surrounded.

    • Bear in mind I have a PhD in biochemistry. Humans simply cannot absorb sufficient B12 from plants. Still, plenty of cereals and soy milk are fortified with B12, which should do the trick for most vegans. The saddest thing is when you hear of babies dying because the mother was a vegan and B12-deficient, and thus her breast milk didn’t provide enough of the vitamin for the child.

      Regardless, I don’t hate hippies at all. If people want to do that I think it’s great, so long as they don’t bother me with it. I exaggerated quite a bit in the post to try and make it funny.

  4. ellielawson says:

    But stupidity was the real cause of death… no? I mean your baby is emaciated and you do something about it, vegan or not. And let’s face it – vast numbers of children die every day around the world of malnourishment and neglect. Those parents were all simply bat-shit craaaazy like the thousands of others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read of starvation resulting in death and the serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies, but because the parents weren’t vegan, you don’t hear a peep about the diet. It’s kind of Today Tonight reporting at it’s worst. Blerck.

    • I’d call it ignorance rather than stupidity. Until relatively recently I didn’t know that you can only get B12 from animal products (or fortified foods) and I don’t think the average person can spot a B12 deficiency offhand. I just don’t think it’s something that would occur to most people.

      The only thing I’ll say is that anyone interested in pursuing a vegan lifestyle really should do their research carefully, because while it certainly isn’t what our bodies are designed for, it most definitely can be done with a little care and planning.

      (Of course I can’t resist adding this one last comment: one of the symptoms of B12 deficiency is brain damage. That certainly might explain some of the vegans I’ve met…)

  5. ellielawson says:

    Those ‘few’ babies died of starvation. They were literally starved to death. A B12 deficiency was a symptom. Period. To pretend each case was an instance of benign neglect is simply dishonest. You can not have a 5 pound baby in your arms, limp and unable to hold it’s head up, receive multiple warnings by authorities, and then claim ignorance. Those parents ranged from being fruitarians to refusing medical intervention or allopathic treatment or advice, to feeding their babies not breast milk but soy milk mixed with apple juice, to literally ignoring the signs of impending death. These were not instances where vibrant, thriving children died one day of an undetected B12 deficiency. I don’t know what annoys me more, the fact that I’ve wasted ten minutes of my life discussing something with a person who is being blatantly dishonest about the details, or the fact that this kind of dishonesty is so widespread. Please, if you want to cite your phd as evidence that you know what you are talking about, then try a little harder next time not to conflate two completely unconnected subjects. Be more concerned about all the MILLIONS of obese children whose parents think butter is a vegetable and who have nothing but cancer to look forward to, rather than a HANDFUL of idiotic parents who watched their children literally starve before their eyes and in whom veganism was no more a key factor than shoe size. I’ll see myself out.

    • Look I don’t know what your problem is, but every single thing I’ve said has been true, while a good portion of the things you’ve said have been wrong. Google “Vegan B12 deficiency baby death” for the specific case I’m talking about.

  6. I so totally want one of those chickens! I mean, its a total pain in the ass trying to break the eggs without getting shells in it, so if they were trained to break their own eggs and pick the shells out, OMG, so effing awesome I could cry!

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