My child is a [bleeping] vegetarian.
I’m a [bleeping] vegetarian too. Not in a militant way. I won’t, for example, run up to people enjoying a hamburger and smack it out of their hands and tell them: YOU’RE EATING AN ANIMAL THAT WAS TORTURED TO DEATH YOU MEAN POOPHEAD. I used to do that when I first became a vegetarian back in my combat-boot wearing youth (minus the actual smacking and use of the word poophead.) But in my old age I am a lot more mellow. I don’t mean “mellow” as in “relaxed” or “not prone to road rage,” so much as “tired and would like to have a beer.”
In fact, I have a strict Do Not Wish to Discuss Anyone’s Dietary Choices policy. Which really is a Please Do Not Ask Me to Discuss MY Dietary Choices policy. Because despite the fact that vegetarians have a reputation for being militant, I’ve found it often goes the other way. I’m shocked at how often people argue with me about my choice to not eat animals, like somehow this is something I’ve spent the past 20 years doing just to be an asshole to them. And now that I am raising a vegetarian daughter… Whoa… WHOA… WHOA!!!!!! Stop the presses. I am clearly a child abuser! An opressor! Forcing my wackjob ideas on an innocent child. Yeah… me and all the Jesus Camps. What else is new?
You might be wondering what inspired this particular rant. Oh, a few things here and there. A lobster boil during a recent family vacation. A daycare provider (NOT my current one) asking why I wouldn’t let my child eat rice if it was “only” cooked in chicken broth. A few friends teasing me that they were going to do my child a favour and take her out for a hotdog when I’m not around. Ja. Ja. Ja. Hilarious, guys. Very funny.
But these are ongoing. What’s new is that my daughter is old enough to ask questions about why we eat what we eat, and don’t eat what we don’t eat. Which puts me in a VERY uncomfortable position. My child thinks animals are our friends. She watches t.v. shows with cute talking animals as the protagonists. I make extra efforts to point out all of the “wonderful” animals that frequent the park near our house: squirrels, geese, sea gulls… (not a fan of any of these but my former life as an actress is really paying off). I even signed up to volunteer at the school’s petting zoo, so that I could reinforce the message that pigs are SO CUTE AND SMART. Sheep are SO NICE AND FRIENDLY. We are SO LUCKY to know a chicken. Blah blah blah. I’m not really prepared to explain that the food on other people’s plates used to BE one of these animals, because that would involve concepts she’s not ready to understand, like… death! And not even accidental, we-all-feel-sad death. On purpose, I-Think-Bacon-Is-So-Delicious death.
Whoops!!!! There’s the old militant me popping out. And whatever, I get it. I think pizza and gelato are so delicious, and they get me every time I go vegan. In the long run, I really think what people eat is a choice and it’s not my interest to get in other people’s business about it. I have chosen my political battles and my adorable friend The Pig didn’t make the cut… I care A LOT about racism, about war, about the criminal justice system, about immigration reform. And that’s where I put my activist energies. In fact, a lot of vegetarian/vegan activism makes me really irritated. (PETA, for example, lost me after that campaign targeting immigrants crossing the border.) But I feel strongly about being a vegetarian. And protective of my child. So every time someone makes a joke about feeding my child animals behind my back, or worse, tries to ask me all kinds of “well-meaning and concerned” questions about my parenting, I just want to smack them! Like really… smack them! But I don’t. I smile. I change the subject. I make nice. Because to do otherwise would be to get real about something I don’t want to confront. Like how I can raise a child to believe that hurting animals for any reason (kicking them, eating them) is “not nice” but that her friends and family who eat meat –including her other parent– are sweet and loving people. Which, of course,they are.
So basically… I’m confused. And steeling myself for the day my daughter puts two and two together. And worried I’ll come up short with my answers. But I’m also irritated, which is code for “totally irritated” which is code for “pissed.” Because I’m not sure why I’m so worried about sounding like a militant jerkwad when I explain why I’m a vegetarian, why my daughter is one too. Why I’m so worried about nosy people’s feelings? When did not eating an animal become such an awful thing to do?