So this year it’ll have been nine years since I last ate meat voluntarily. Vegetarianism is way more common these days, but nonetheless when I meet people I am still often asked the question when and why did I decide to become a vegetarian. This is where it gets awkward– explaining to people the real reason why I stopped eating meat. Sometimes I say “for health reason” or “the texture” but statements like that are simply a cover-up. For one thing it’s hard for me to tell the real story because it most often comes up when people are eating (that’s usually when they notice I’m a vegetarian). But sometimes people get just a little too pushy, and I have to tell them the truth. I’ll tell you now, and this way you’ll never have to ask again, and likely you’ll never forget.
Well, we already know that I hate fish– so giving that up was no problem. I’d always disliked eating things like shrimp or clams anyway because clams are creepy and with shrimp I’d always imagine that I was eating a colony– a whole little family of shrimp wiped out in one breaded and fried bite. Eventually though, this feeling started to affect me while eating meat too. I saw an episode of The Simpsons that had a particularly poignant effect on me– a little lamb told Lisa that she was “tearing him apart.” That little lamb became a frequent meal-time visitor.
But really, it was the stomach problems that got me. It seemed like every other week I was getting food poisoning from eating meat. My whole family would have the same dinner or my brothers and I would eat the same gas-station hot dogs, and somehow only I’d end up sick. Then one day I was out shopping with my mom. Of course, being the rotund child that I was, I was not going to leave the mall with out a slice of pizza. So there it was, glistening with grease under the golden light of the heat lamp at Sbarro’s. I bought a slice of that pizza and I gobbled it up.
But several hours later, something was wrong. Very wrong.
My stomach was gurgling. I felt naucious. I’d never experienced any feeling like it before. At that time, I hadn’t even heard of food poisoning before. I’d heard of a guy named Montezuma, but he lived in Mexico, far away from me. Then it happened. Just as I thought I was about to vomit everything up, I shit my pants. Right there in the living room, curled up in fetal position on the floor far from any bathroom, I shit myself. I was alone, but it was a shame like no other. I just sat there for a moment, waiting, praying for Jesus Christ to come out of the dark and shoot me execution style, because no one should have to go on after an experience like this. But I did. I was sick for two more days, but eventually life returned to normal, and until now, no one knew about the incident except for my mom and myself.
But that wasn’t when I stopped eating meat. Just a foreshadowing. The day I stopped eating meat was several years later. I believe it was a Tuesday…
You see, every morning my lovely grandmother would prepare my brother, Randall, breakfast. I usually skipped breakfast or ate something light like cereal, but Randall enjoyed the full course ensemble when it came to breakfast foods– eggs, bacon, toast, juice. Let me just say, my grandmother was not known for her cooking skills. She was generous with her knowledge of cooking– after all, she once taught a cooking class over at the Braille Institute– but she was in no way a good cook. Her signature meal was an egg covered in thick white paste served on a piece of toast– which she called “creamed eggs and biscuits.” So on this particular morning my grandmother was making bacon as usual, only something was off. The bacon itself was off. The kitchen was rancid with the stench of this expired bacon frying on high heat. The windows were closed and the smoke was thick. I looked around at my family sitting calmly in wait for their helpings. What was wrong with these people? Didn’t they realize that we needed to evacuate? I was suffocating.
I had no choice but to leave them behind. I ran. I ran out of the kitchen and into the laundry room. I stood there for a moment and then I vomited. I, a person who never vomited (only occasionaly shit my pants) did so for three minutes straight while my mother stood at the door of the laundry room in disbelief. I will still not go into any more detail, but it was bad. Like “Linda Blair ain’t got shit on me” bad. Luckily, I got to stay home from school that day, but after that I was scarred for life. I’d had it with shame-causing meat and literally could not bring myself to eat it again. I’d been lucky these two times– these events happened in the privacy of my own home, but I was not going spoil my odds.
Sometimes I regret not having had the chance to have a “last meal” or sorts. The final meat item I ate was they day before– some dry popcorn chicken from my school’s snackbar. At the same time, I don’t miss meat at all. One day I would probably like to try a lobster, with garlic and butter while shouting something like “Bib me up Scotty!” But that’ll probably be sometime when I’m old. And really, my being a vegetarian has been a good thing. I haven’t had food poisoning, I’m no longer the rotund child that I was, and reducing my carbon footprint is a plus.
So now you know. Don’t ask me again. Don’t tell me to just have a little bit, or that I’m being difficult, unless you are fully prepared to deal with the consequences. It’s not like smoking marijuana; it’s not going to be more fun because it’s with you.
I am a vegetarian and I’m proud. Now, let’s never mention this again.