I am not a vegetarian. If you were to follow me around, you might think that I am. I don’t purchase any meat for my own consumption. I don’t ever cook it for myself or bring it in my lunches to work. When I go out to eat, I don’t order it, and at potluck gatherings I avoid the dishes that contain it.
If you watched me rather lazily, you might think I was vegan, because I also don’t purchase or eat fish, or dairy, except for the occasional nibble of goat cheese. You might notice that I do in fact eat eggs, but only every three days or so. You might gather all of these assumptions about me, just from my eating habits, and you might have pre-conceived ideas about who I am surrounding these assumptions you make.
But, if you were to ask me today – are you vegetarian – I would say no. Well yes, it’s true that I haven’t eaten meat since before Thanksgiving, and it’s true that there was a four year period of time in my life that I would have answered that question with a yes. But today, I would not claim vegetarianism.
Why, you ask? Why, when I would have before? Why, when you think that’s what I am, when it’s clear that that’s what I eat, when even I admit that it is my primary diet?
The answer stems multiple replies, but for the sake of brevity (though I would rarely call this post brief), I will address three reasons: Because it’s not about me. Because I honor my body. Because I refuse to put myself in a box.
Reason one: It’s not about me.
I choose to not eat meat for two reasons: I don’t particularly like it, and I like animals. I could not imagine looking into one of those beautiful doe-eyed hefers and killing it for my own nourishment. I figure, if I couldn’t kill it, I shouldn’t eat it. I like animals and I want to be kind to them. It is not about my own desires for meat – it’s about the right for the animal to live a full and happy life.
However, I approach humans the same way. I like people. I want to be kind to them. I put others before myself. And so, if not everyone subscribes to my beliefs about the consumption of animals, that’s okay. I can like them and enjoy them regardless of our differing opinions. But what I don’t want to do is segregate myself based on our differing opinions. Meaning, if I am the only vegetarian in the group, why would my eating preferences dictate the restaurant choice? If I am invited to someone’s house for a meal, and they prepare all of it, who am I to request a special menu, or even worse, bring my own dish just for me?
Whether we like it or not, many social events revolve around food. The group gathering is not about me, it’s about getting together. I try to avoid the meat dishes if possible, but I don’t want others to think they need to pick special items for “the vegetarian” to eat, or change their chosen restaurant to make it “Amy friendly.” Announcing you’re vegetarian to a group of meat-eaters in a social eating situation is akin to walking around with your nose in the air with a “holier than thou” attitude. I am not better than anyone because of how I choose to eat; it is simply what is right for me. I don’t want to project anything else.
(Granted, not all people will feel this way, but I’m not taking any chances.)
Reason two I am not vegetarian: I honor my body.
In yoga, this is what we talk about in class – respect your body’s limitations. Know what they are, and allow your body to rest when needed and allow it to be pushed when needed. Being in tune with our bodies and respecting their limitations is a cruicial component to practicing safely and effectively.
On that same line, there are times that are bodies crave meat. For whatever reason, perhaps the extra concentrated boost of protein, or the B12, or whatever it is – our bodies tell us what we need, if we listen carefully. I respect and honor my body; therefore, if my body is telling me that I need something found in meat, I will eat it. Does this make me a bad citizen? Am I contributing to global warming by my four times per year consumption of meat? Am I causing extra pollution because of these four moments that I am respecting what my body is telling me? Maybe. But I also believe in moderation. I don’t believe the world is black and white, or that everything has such concrete answers. There is a balance that we need to find between respecting ourselves and respecting the world. If we honor the animal that died to give us nourishment, if we spend a moment before it’s consumption thanking it for it’s sacrifice and doing some good in the world to follow, did the animal really die in vein? If we plant a tree and ride our bikes to work and conserve energy in every way possible, are we really contributing to global warming?
Final reason I am not a vegetarian: I refuse to put myself in a box.
What is it with our culture and having to label everything? Is it the security that it brings us, knowing that we fit into a well-defined category? Well, my friends, I am beyond categorization. You’re not putting me in any box. I will break whatever rules you think I’m supposed to follow, just because I don’t want to have a stigma. I don’t want to have a “thing”. I want to be looked at as an individual, not as a stereotype. I don’t want any pre-conceived ideas about me. Granted, I know it’s going to happen. I know that’s what people do. They label and they put things in boxes and they do what they need to do, and that’s fine. But I refuse to do that to myself.
Because, what if, one day, I just really want a hamburger? Or I go on vacation and they’ve prepared snake, and I’ve never tasted snake. What does it taste like? I do not want to die not having had an experience, just because I gave myself a label. And, I don’t want to be judged by others if, one particular day, I feel like chowing down on a chicken leg. YOLO, baby. I’ll do what I think is right 98% of the time, but on the off chance you find me on a 2% day, you do not get the joy of judging me in my weak moment – because you know what? I’m not a vegetarian.
So there you have it, my friends. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. That’s okay. I’ll do me, you do you. Live and let live. Do whatever you want, just live a respectful life – respectful of others, respectful of nature, respectful of the animal kingdom, respectful of yourself.