The Gentle Vegetarian

Published April 29, 2012 by Maryanne

The other day a Jewish acquaintance offered me some popcorn.

I asked him, “Is it kosher?”

He thought I was “testing” him.

“Oh no,” I said. “Not at all. I just don’t eat cheese unless it’s rennet-less and some popcorn has cheese.”

And this led to a great discussion on why I don’t eat rennet.

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1986. I haven’t consumed meat or wore fur since then. And 10 years later I stopped buying products that have been tested on animals. And two years after that I stopped wearing leather. And finally, I gave up fish a few weeks ago.

When my new friend asked me how I felt about others consuming meat or wearing animal products, I told him that I’m a humanitarian type and believe that everyone does what is right for themselves. I do not judge people, nor do I preach.

I was commended for my attitude. And I said, “Yeah, I’m probably the one vegetarian that doesn’t respect a lot of them.”

It’s sad when something you stand for has a bad rap. People get turned off by “preachers” and I don’t blame them. We’re all adults and nobody wants to hear what they are doing is unethical. Or not compassionate. By nature, we like to believe we’re good people, doing our best in life.

Some food for thought here …. I know meat eaters who give their pets the most loving homes you can imagine and do the most wonderful things for the animal shelters. I also know a vegan — and FORMER friend of mine — who I caught kicking my cat! Not to mention all the vegans who won’t even have pets because you have to feed them meat. (Yeah, it’s gross, but you can’t argue with the food chain.)

Being a mere “vegetarian” but not a vegan will always have me in an awkward spot. Meat eaters will think I’m secretly judging them and The Cult of Vegan will be on the defense, ready to argue and bitch slap me because I eat cage-free eggs and rennet-less cheese.

For the record, I tried being vegan many times during my history of vegetarianism. Whenever I hit the eight-month mark of being vegan, I get horrible backaches and dizzy spells. As soon as I start eating eggs or rennet-less cheese again, I feel so much better. And unless there is a vegan out there (please raise your hand) who wants to lovingly assist me every step of the way  in being vegan without jeopardizing my health, please keep your fat mouth shut!

And speaking of “trying,” there was even a time in my life where I was so into the vegan lifestyle, I considered a career at PETA. I flew out to their headquarters in Norfolk, Va. one long weekend to be interviewed by PETA president, Ingrid Newkirk. Mind you I ended up being so turned off I didn’t last the entire weekend and spent an extra $75 to catch an early flight home. And I never did meet Ingrid Newkirk — which is probably a good thing.

First turn off was that only the house mother was allowed to have a cat. Had I relocated, I wouldn’t be able to take my two beloved cats! But I wasn’t told this before I booked my trip! Imagine, doing work for the biggest animal rights group in the USA and not being able to have an animal yourself! That to me is just absurd! Where would I put my cats? My cats are my babies and they go where I go!

PETA didn’t offer any suggestions or help.

The next red flag was the bathroom. Not only was it a pigsty, but I noticed many products that were known for testing on animals (Bic razors for one!) Can we say “hypocrites?”

I don’t want this blog entry to be an anti-PETA rant. However, my point is that when I tell people I am vegetarian, I do not want to be lumped in with those who exhibit disgusting, hateful, tunnel-visioned judgmental behavior.

Another issue I have with vegans and their militant ways is that they do not want to team up with anyone else unless they are 100 percent like-minded.

To me, that doesn’t do anything for society. However, if you hook up with someone who does opposite of you, you can always present an opportunity for change. It’s a sweet challenge!

One time I was bickering on a message board with a bunch of vegans who insisted they wouldn’t date meat eaters because meat eaters don’t “taste as good as vegetarians.” A vegetarian  lesbian who didn’t mind dating meat eaters piped up and said, “I never met a woman who didn’t taste good!” Touche!

My friend Stephanie is a vegetarian and her boyfriend isn’t. But she inspired him to eat meatless meals for six months out of the year! You go girl! That — to me — says so much more than any preaching ever will. She simply inspired him by her good cooking and positive attitude.

Like myself, she is a GENTLE VEGETARIAN!

So in conclusion, while I am not judging (just expressing my distaste for an extreme stereotype that I’ve encountered more times that I can stomach) I wish, in return, not to be judged myself.

If you’re a meat eater reading this, please don’t assume all vegetarians are going to start picking on you for eating meat (and also don’t assume that all we eat is grass — try some real vegetarian cooking, you may be pleasantly surprised).

And if you’re a vegan, please don’t judge me for not being not 100 percent there yet. Someday I may be, you just never know! (Nor will anyone else know because unless they ask or it comes up in conversation, I’m not going to shove it in their faces!)

6 comments on “The Gentle Vegetarian

  • Thanks for the mention! 😀

    When Nick decided to go vegetarian for six months, it wasn’t because I pushed, asked, or even suggested it. In fact, it was a total surprise to me! He did it as a birthday gift to me (a vegetarian of 20+ years). The biggest surprise, though, came two months ago when he said that he just didn’t feel right going back to eating meat and had decided to go vegetarian permanently.

    In the end, this amazing decision brought us closer together as a couple and, as a bonus, lowered his cholesterol by 50 points!

    -Stephanie

  • This was such an inspiring post for me, thanks so much for sharing! I only made the change to vegetarianism a week ago but already I have encountered so much animosity, most upsettingly from people who are my friends. They seem to think I am stupid for caring about animals or ‘sacrificing meat’ when I am allegedly superior.
    I think I entered into this with rose tinted glasses thinking it would be my business and no one would care what I do but apparently not.
    But thanks for sharing this, it’s good to know I’m not alone and to feel there is some solidarity out there!!

    • Thanks so much for your comments Maddie. Change is always hard to those around us who care about us. When I first became a vegetarian, I was young like yourself and still living at home. My Grandmother was horrified that I wouldn’t be eating her meat dishes anymore and I wanted all my veggies cooked in soy margarine. But eventually they start “getting it.” It just takes time and once they see you are serious and you’re still YOU, they will lighten up. Congratulations on your choice! And be comforted in knowing that in today’s world there are lots of great options for vegetarians. Practically every restaurant offers veggie burgers and tons of salad options. I’m sure you can find a vegetarian support group either online or in your community. If you have any questions or need to vent, drop me a line at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com 🙂

  • Interestingly this really resonated with me, a meat eater blogging about feeding my dog a raw meaty bones diet! There are raw feeders who preach about its benefits in a holier than thou way and this grates on me as it is down to individual choice and as someone once said “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. When you take the moral high ground people are much less likely to listen and if you do take that route, then I really do feel that you absolutely must have your own house in order first.

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