Monday, July 20, 2009

Dude. Let Me Eat My Couscous!

I'm vegetarian. Have been for about ten years now. Even if this means going to France and eating mostly couscous, or going to Japan and eating mostly ice cream, it doesn't bother me. I've eaten a lot of good things, a lot of weird things, and as long as vegetarian meatballs and buffalo wings continue to be produced, I will be content to never eat meat again for as long as I live.

That said, when you're vegetarian, there's also a small "coming out" that garners reactions-- but there are only two. It usually happens when I'm eating with a group of omnivores that I am acquaintances with. They'll see me ordering or eating something without meat, and ask if I'm vegetarian. "Yep", I'll say, wanting to get on with whatever conversation we were having. But it can't end there. People usually ask why I'm vegetarian, and I'll give a short answer. They process this, and then the perpetual two responses come. Number one: "I was a vegetarian for ___ years." "I don't eat red meat." "I only eat things that are grown locally." etc. So they're not vegetarian, but they're trying to show that they relate to my choice in some way. Number two is something like: "I could NEVER be vegetarian!" "But steak is soooo good!" "You mean you don't eat ANY meat?" and so forth. They seem to want me to admit that yeah, I have tripped up and had a few bacon cheeseburgers-- but the thing is, I never have. They seem frustrated, and are left grasping at...what, exactly?

I was discussing this with my mom, a "pescatarian", someone who eats fish but no other meat. She described the two responses as "I'm good like you" or "You're bad like me". The moral judgement is totally assumed; I don't care about judging people at that moment, just eating my couscous in peace. Asexuals are very familar with the "You're bad like me" response. ("You mean you NEVER have sex?" "Do you masturbate?" etc) However, my mom noticed, no one declares to us that they're trying to cut down on sex. Why do people think we're being holier than thou when we're really just being ourselves? Unlike vegetarianism, a choice I made to, apparently, be better than you (it's obviously all about you, by the way), we didn't choose to lack sexual attraction. Do people still feel bad and shameful for having sexual deisre? Since I don't, I wouldn't know. However, considering how messed up our culture can be about sex (oh, Gethen!) I wouldn't put it past us.

Oh yeah, I guess there is a third response, although it's not too common: "You're vegetarian? Me too!"


Gemma said...

You're a vegetarian? Me too!

Though only for four years. Mmmm, trois fromage galette when in France for me :)

Ily said...

Haha, sweet! :-)

Daisy Bond said...

I'm a vegetarian too, and very familiar with all the responses you describe. I stopped eating meat because of a paranoid fear of accidental cannibalism. The "I'm good like you"/"You're bad like me" thing starts to get really, really weird right around the time I reveal that.

: )

Ily said...

Glad I'm not the only one to notice these. What's accidental cannibalism? Is that eating humans? 0_o

Daisy Bond said...

It's eating humans by accident, specifically because it's impossible to determine the contents of, say, a hamburger in our industrialized agriculture system, and because the factory farming slaughterhouse system is, by design, the perfect way to dispose of an incriminating corpse.

I also care about animal rights and the environmental impacts of factory farming, but this was what pushed it over the edge for me when I was an easily upset 15-year-old. Sorry for the gory images!

Ily said...

Huh...that never even occured to me. And I even read "The Jungle" in school.

Moz said...

Accidental cannibalism? That might be a great new way for PETA to go with their veggie campaign. I mean, they usually seem to be out of non-sexual ideas.

Yay veggies!!

Noskcaj Llahsram said...

I really like meat, usually though my meals are vegetarian (does grains only count?), partially because I'm more of a impromptu chef; I stand in front of the fridge/pantry and just slap whatever is lying around into something. But you can't just whip out and prepare frozen meat, I usually forget to take any out to thaw.

P.S. As far as beef goes
High grain (corn in particular) diet results in high marbling
Colour of fat ranges from very yellow (wild grass) to white (industrial corn), and fat density varies among subspecies, diet, activity and age
Ipso Facto, (contrary to popular belief, but confirmed by actual cannibals) since humans taste like beef; often described as soft, and light tasting; we would most likely fallow that same rules
P.P.S if you have ever seen footage of a liposuction, you'll know human fat is very yellow (orange-red[blood]=yellow)
Hope that helps in your avoiding "accidental cannibalism"

Cicero said...

Interesting post, I'd never thought of the parallels before.

As an omnivore who is quite partial to vegetarian meals, I tend to get very confused reactions when I order something without meat. Perhaps something akin to what romantic asexuals get! ;)

Isaac said...

Asexuality can't be compared with vegetarianism; the latter is a kind of abstinence. Asexuality is more as my position w.r.t. meet. I hate raw meat, which is the star among meat. When I'm in France I avoid eating meat, since they serve it raw and you must ask for "very cooked" in order to get it tolerably few-cooked. But I like meat in other ways. It's assumed that one should like raw meat and sexual intercourse by their primary instincts, but I don't. One is deemed weird or broken if doesn't like these, or disordered if they prefer completely cooked meat or non-penetrative sex.

Ily said...

Well, I think they're similar in that we're trying to organize a community around "something we don't do". But, coming out can be an oddly similar experience even if the things you're coming out as are not so similar perhaps.

Carolyn said...

It's definitely stressing to have to represent yourself as a minority to people, but obviously you want to do it to help spread the awareness of asexuality, so why not vegetarianism too? If people just let you eat your couscous how can you help them with their curiousity about the joys of a vegetarian lifestyle that they might find fits them? It occurs to me that people also might be seeing a "holier than though" attitude when the person who is coming out, reluctantly as it may be, seems surprized or offended when reponding to people's ignorance about the topic. Maybe people just want to learn more and don't know how to ask.

Kim said...

As a non-vegetarian, I think that there's an interpretation that you're missing. I'm one of the people that generally responds with, "I could never be a vegetarian." I've tried, I just don't have the willpower to make it work. When I say this, I don't expect you to say that you've ever slipped up. It's like if I met a professional artist. Although I love painting and sculpting, I could never do it professionally because I wouldn't enjoy it as much if I got paid. When I say that, I don't expect the artist to say that they don't enjoy art as much as they used to. Similarly, with vegetarians, I don't expect you to be like me; I'm just expressing how we're different.

Honestly, I've never considered how it could be misinterpreted.