i’ve been wondering about eating meat occasionally. mostly, i suppose, because of james, which would really anger some people – why, i don’t quite understand. after all, it’s only natural that the people in your life closest to you would affect you. i could also say that i don’t smoke because of james, and no one would really judge that. but being a vegetarian has really become something other than just one’s diet. like so many things, it’s become wrapped up in a persons identity, so much so that for some people, it becomes political and therefore, confrontational.
i think that the biggest reason i haven’t made a decision about whether or not to eat meat is that i can’t seem to look at it as a purely dietary question. it is absolutely a label that i identify with and feel that in some way, it defines me – if nothing else, it’s a box i check on certain applications. and after all, isn’t that how we are characterized?
of course, i’ve been eating fish for some time now and i seem to conveniently ignore that fact when i’m ticking these boxes, or describing myself to others. though it is something that i eat (mostly only in sushi form), i haven’t yet banished the ‘vegetarian’ from my way of thinking of myself. it helps that some people don’t see the distinction between being a vegetarian and a pescatarian, but i most certainly do.
i suppose the real focal point here for me is not necessarily about what i’m having for dinner or when i’ll finally give in and try chicken wings, but what composes someone’s ‘identity’. did i acquire my specific labels from years of introducing myself at new schools? and did i give them to myself, or where they decided for me? and how long do you have to feel like something in order to add it to your list of words/ideas that define you?
if i think of who i am, of the labels i’ve adopted throughout my life, some have been with me forever, some have been added later and some have even been left behind, as some new version of myself emerged. i am or have been: a leo, a californian, an srfer, a tenenberg, a rabbit person (worst pets ever), a virgin, a blonde, a poet, a druggie, a good driver, a depressive, a girlfriend, a flirt, a capital-r-romantic, a student, a teacher, a social smoker, a best friend, a city person, a professional walker, a lost soul, an american, a roommate (and even a flatmate), a book lover, an artist, a crier, a spanish speaker, a drama queen, a sister (and a godsister), a plant killer, a wife, an ex-pat, an illegal immigrant (and now, thankfully, a legal one), a hippie, a daddy’s girl and, of course, a vegetarian.
influential people in my life (dr solomon and dr harrison) have repeatedly said to me that affirming these labels is what continues the cycle, that it’s as much my saying i’m a depressive as the lack of serotonin in my brain that makes me depressed. to be honest, i haven’t really figured out how to deal with that. while i do agree, attempting to say, i take my sam-e for my happiness and even focusing on it while i swallow the pills, hasn’t made me less depressed. or has it? i wouldn’t have any way of comparing.
eating meat, on the other hand, would absolutely make me not a vegetarian. but what would i lose? far from being political for me, i think being a vegetarian is more religious and cultural than i’ve let on, even to myself. it’s wrapped up in my childhood, in srf, in the chai tea and badly wrapped saris of india night and the mushroom burgers that master used to make when they had a café on the grounds (and someone replicated on special occasions). it’s completely ingrained in the fabric of who i am, from the confused looks and puzzled questions in the third grade (you’re a what? what’s a vegetarian?) to the first meeting of the gender studies group at lewis & clark, where i ate a piece of cheese pizza and was glared at self-righteously by someone thinking they understood my label better than i did.
the most important thing here is the sentence that i was just about to write: take it all away, and what is left?
is there something essential underneath all of the societal definitions that is more, way more (less?). and therefore, why do we need an identity? is it to remember who we are? to wake up in this skin and think, oh yes, i am laura, a girl, born in july, quite sensitive, married to a man (james, british, a pisces, hard-working, a sweet boy…) and a vegetarian.
some days, i wish i woke up and didn’t remember. despite the fact that in actuality, that would be quite scary, i’d like to see what i’d do with a day that had no shoulds and no habits already occupying it.