the social problems of a sometimes vegetarian

Okay, I'm not actually a vegetarian; it's just so much easier to wear the label than to than to explain that healthy, nutritious meat from acceptable sources is just too expensive to buy and eat regularly. You can say "vegetarian" in a breath; the other, not so much (and most people don't really want details, anyway).

But vegetarianism, even my benign version, is not without stigma. Instead of asking questions, some people tend to make assumptions . . . broad, sweeping assumptions. These assumptions are not often articulated, but subtly implied. Despite the occasional alienation, it's been kind of fun to decode people's responses.

Assumption #1 - "You are a militant who wants to steal my steak and bacon and turn them back into animals."

My mental response: Do what you do, dude.

Assumption #2 - "You are an anarchist. What's wrong with McDonald's, KFC, and Taco Bell? Abundant, cheap meat is part of our heritage."

My mental response: Unfortunately, so is obesity.

Assumption #3 - "You don't eat meat, so you must be an animal rights activist. That's weird, but whatever. So you have a soft spot for chickens, just please don't spray paint my leather jacket; it was expensive."

My mental response: Animals taste good; I simply prefer them to have been happy while they were alive. Free range animals are much, much, much healthier while they are alive, not to mention healthier for you, for the earth, and more delicious to eat. Also, if you are going to eat a cow, you may as well use its hide for warmth or something.

image from blog.citypages.com

Maybe these are extreme examples, but they are real (if you can believe it). Sometimes Clark privately considers playing to the stereotype(s) just to mess with people, saying things like, "The swine flu is a scourge sent to punish those who eat the flesh of the Lord's fallen beasts." It kills me every time. Really though, do you have thoughts or know of any good writing on the social aspects and acerbic reactions to vegetarianism?

image from mychildhealth.net

All kinds of people boycott all kinds of things; it's the oldest form of protest (homespun, anyone?). Some quit sugar for health reasons, others refuse to shop at a certain store because of its business practices. So, why is it that quitting meat is so socially and politically charged? We give individual stamps of approval in so many ways: money, time, attention, laughter. It can be a powerful form of boycott to withhold support by withdrawing any of these resources. It is not a new idea. I recently saw a bumper sticker that said, "I refuse to participate in this recession." I'm not sure how that could be accomplished (spending rather than saving money?). More power to him, I guess.

Another conundrum is the dinner invite. I love to eat with friends and to feed people, but there are a few inherent obstacles. I don't want to be accommodated and the alternative is equally unappealing. I can't stomach the idea of sitting in front of a plate of chicken; I want to be a gracious guest, but I just can't eat it (at this point, I'll get physically ill - part of the reason for quitting meat to begin with). Also, people generally expect some sort of meat dish for dinner. Our default is to serve pizza. Clark makes wicked-delicious sauce and, even without meat, our made-from-scratch pizza is usually a crowd-pleaser. (Now I can even make the mozzarella!) Want some? You can even BYOMeat, if you want; we genuinely don't mind. And I won't even confiscate your leather jacket.


  1. Ugh. I lost my connection and my comment disappeared. Let's see...what I did I say?

    Like your blog title, it is funny because it's true. It seems like so many vegetarians are quite outspoken about their reasons for being a vegetarian - it's wicked to eat animal flesh or the animals suffer and it's awful to wear their skins/furs. And I don't know if I've ever personally known anyone like that, but the stigma is there. Like PETA getting all up on Pres. Obama for slapping a fly. I thoroughly enjoyed the shrimp kabobs you served us. We need to have dinner again sometime. It's our turn to host!

  2. Lindsay,
    Thanks for sharing your perspective and educating us. I have a friend that didn't eat meat for four years and decided to have a little beef with her noodle recently, but the taste of it made her feel sick.
    Your blog is well written. I enjoy reading.