It occurred to me, about a month ago, that the only thing really preventing me from becoming a vegetarian was my fear of what other people would think. Namely, I worry about people thinking I have an eating disorder.
If we haven’t met, there are a few things I should probably clarify at this point:
1.) I am naturally skinny,
2.) There was a time in my much younger life when I was more than naturally skinny, and
3.) We’re all going to be enormous in twenty-five years.
A few years ago, I had a boyfriend’s mother pull him aside and tell him that she was concerned that my anorexic ways would rub off on him, influence his eating habits, and actually turn him anorexic (you know, like how homosexuality works). I was a quieter girl then, so instead of making an immediate bee-line to the computer to flip my shit in a cutting, well-worded email, I started stuffing my face any time I saw her.
See, I was saying, a strip of steak dangling from my bloody mouth, see: I fuckin’ eat.
It became a habit. The first time I ate with anyone, anywhere: friends of friends, relatives of friends, first dates, new employees, new employers: I’d order the biggest burger on the menu. It avoided future conflict, drama, and awkward moments. Not eating disorder. Metabolism. Clear? Clear!
Also, I’d seen the John Hughes movies. I’d watched my fair share of after-school television in the ’90s. I have never, ever wanted to be the skinny girl ordering a salad, because everyone loves to hate — and pity — that girl. That girl is shallow, and puts her body’s appearance above her body’s needs. That girl needs treatment later on.
Interesting facts that may lead a girl to order the salad:
1. Most animals wouldn’t eat corn if it were up to them. And they haven’t had to, until recently: now it’s all we feed them, because it’s cheap. This wreaks havoc on their digestive systems, which we combat by pumping them full of antibiotics. Hurray! Wait, what?
2. Think of a farm: sunshine, pigs rolling in the mud, hens clucking outside. Make a mental note to yourself to never think of that again, because it does not exist. Too bad!
3. Now think of hundreds of thousands of pigs all crammed into one large cement building so that none of them have enough room to even turn around. The ammonia from their shit is enough to give workers in the building severe respiratory problems. Hens raised in the majority of United States factories don’t even have room to spread their wings: they live in wire grid cages, so that their claws grow and become entangled in the patterned floors. If they don’t happen to be near a food source, they starve to death this way. Too . . . bad.
4. As Michael Pollan (approximately) put it, “you are what you eat, but you’re also what you eat ate.” Mmm. Want some ketchup (high fructose corn syrup) on that burger?
Okay. So here’s the thing. If I were starving in the woods, and there was a bear, I would have no (ethical, anyway) problem shooting and killing that bear to eat. I would rock the Oregon Trail. If I myself had a farm, and could see hens happily clucking in the sunshine, I’d choose a day and chop off one of their heads, pluck off the feathers, and roast the body over a fire, or whatever it is a civilized person does with an animal before they consume it. Circle of life. (Also, in the first example, perhaps I should point out that more than likely, the bear would eat me. Respect.) Point being, I’m not entirely opposed to something dying so that I can live.
But I am not okay with another being living for me, being born for me and artificially inseminated for me, forced to lead a miserable life that is so contrary to its most basic instincts: to lay down, to nest, to mate, to turn around every now and then, to spread its wings or eat grass. And all so that I can pay less per pound of its flesh, and consume something that is also for me, as a human, unnatural: meat that was raised on nothing but corn feed, with antibiotics whose side effects we’re only just beginning to see on our own health. There’s something — oh, I don’t know — kind of . . . disorderly, to me, about that attitude toward eating.
So here’s how it’s going to be, world. I’m giving up meat. It’s the less hypocritical option for me at this point, but I’m not saying it’s going to be easy.
First, I have to convince myself that it’s okay if you’re worried that I’m worried that I’m fat.
At least for the next twenty-five years or so anyway. (See Appendix A).