So, as a vegetarian, there are certain things I have become wearily accustomed to. I am used to being offered various meat products by everyone which, when it’s someone I’m hanging out with for the first time seems like a nice gesture, but when it’s my dad whom I’m relatively certain has known me my whole life, it’s just redundant. That stopped being funny when I was ten. I say ten because that’s when my memories really start coming in to focus, and if this was ever funny, it definitely wasn’t by then. I am also used to being asked by every new person who happens to discover that I’m a vegetarian if I eat fish. When I say no, the question is almost invariably followed up by asking me if I eat chicken.
No, Internet. No, I don’t.
However, while those things are admittedly pet peeves of mine, I can usually just smile and shrug. This is my lot in life. No one is forcing me to be a vegetarian. I can deal with these examples of lameness. Recently, though, my father repeated a joke that he had heard on the radio back to me: “The difference between vegetarians and vegans is that vegetarians are annoying. Vegans are really annoying.”
You can’t hear it, but I am sighing audibly. Jokes like this? They’re harder to shrug off. The truth is, I know there is a stereotype. I know there is a stigma. It seems like whenever a group of people do anything remotely different from the majority, it’s got to be bashed by someone, somewhere. The sad part, though, is that I understand why vegetarians are made fun of. I understand it so much, that I am recently reluctant to tell new people that I even am a vegetarian. It’s all these new hipster-vegans coming out of the woodwork, driving their Priuses and giving all their meat-eating friends that icily pretentious stare that clearly says, “I’m better than you because of my DIET”.
Hipster-vegans, you are DOING IT WRONG.
Just as I learned a long time ago that I don’t like being poked and prodded about what and how I eat, I know that meat-eaters don’t like that either. You’re not scoring yourself any points with anyone when you stare at your friend’s food and judge them based on the amount of animal they are about to consume. For my part, I figure it’s one of those “live and let live” type deals. You want to eat cow? Please, eat cow! Eat cow all day, every day. Enjoy it, dammit. I may not like it; it might even make me sad if I think about it too long… but hell if I will ever mention that aloud to a friend who is about to tuck happily in to dinner. Hell if I will ever mention it to a friend at all. It’s not my business, and it’s not my place. As long as they’re not giving me crap about my heaping plate of broccoli florets and carrot sticks, why should I even care?
Now, the epic level of irony in this post has not escaped me. I realize that I am more or less stating that I was a vegetarian before it was cool and that I’m better at it than everyone else, which in turn makes me seem like a hipster vegetarian myself. I won’t deny it. I won’t even argue the point. What I will say is that I was a vegetarian before it was cool. I became a vegetarian when I was 5, and that was before anything was cool. At some point there has to be some kind of line between when saying that is irritating, and when saying that is just true. I remember when being a vegetarian just meant I didn’t eat meat. Now, apparently, it means I’m a tree-hugging animal rights activist. True, the stigma’s always been there, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s significantly worse these days. I partially blame Alicia Silverstone, I partially blame the democratic party. I mostly blame animals.
My point, anyhow, is never get in involved in a land war in Asia. My other point is this: It’s good to have ideals and to stand by your convictions, but it’s less good to constantly throw them in other peoples’ faces. You extremists are giving the rest of us a bad name. I don’t want to have to add in my little, “But I’m not crazy” disclaimer every time I tell someone I don’t eat meat.
I’m talking to you, PETA.