I have been a very healthy vegetarian (mostly vegan) for 20 years. Since then, I have found dinner parties and other gatherings revolving around food stressful. People ask if I'm vegetarian when they notice what I'm eating, and always (always!) at least one person will ask, "How do you know you're getting enough protein (or calcium/iron/B12/omega-3s/nutrition)?"
I know people are curious, but it makes me uncomfortable to be put on the spot. I would never question someone, especially in front of a group, if they're sure they get enough folate or how many vegetables they eat! I have started just saying, "I don't want to talk about it," which is true but is obviously unfriendly. And I want to be friendly!
How is it possible that a vegetarian is still an exotic species?
Actually, you can say exactly that – especially since it conveys the important message that that's how you're being treated when you're subjected to such questions. A kinder version might be, "Did you know vegetarians have been grazing the earth for at least two millennia?"
If you can't say that in good fun – necessary to keeping it friendly – then I suggest something I usually don't: being willfully obtuse.
"You're worried about my health, how kind of you." No further elaboration. Of course they're not really worried about your protein (etc.) intake, they're just somewhere on the nosiness spectrum between mildly curious and self-justifying, which you well know. However, (non-)answering as if they have the most generous motives is dinner-party perfect.
Another such approach is to treat questions as a technical interest in (BEG ITAL)becoming(END ITAL) a vegetarian: "You're thinking of trying it? I'm happy to talk to you about it after dinner." No harm in deflecting the nosies while giving the sincere a chance.
If anyone (rudely) presses the nutrition point: "I'd rather not get into it, thanks."
My parents are both deceased. I have known relatives only on my mother's side.
After doing some research, I found family on my father's side a few years ago – a first cousin and her husband. We've met in person and spoken on the phone and through email.
This cousin, "Joyce," only wants me to be in contact with her – no other relatives, including her children and their families. I'm not comfortable with that. I'd appreciate your feedback!
An odd request for sure, and the best approach to any odd request is to insist, gently, on knowing why before you agree to it.
Obviously Joyce has no business telling you whom you can and can't contact, the adults at least – but because she has presumed to do so anyway, expect that ignoring Joyce's wishes will cost you Joyce. Whether that's an acceptable price is entirely up to you.