Friday, May 22, 2009

My New Motto / Rule / Whatever

As I walked in to work this morning with the sun in my face, I heard a friend say a cheery "Good morning, B" followed immediately by a more neurotic, "please don't judge me." I hadn't even noticed her sitting there nor the cigarette in her hand since the sun was blinding me, but I reassured her, "not at all." And that's really what I'd like.

Not at all. No judgment. Even more than non-judgment, I would like non-concern and non-notice of certain areas of my life. What I'd like people not to notice this week: what I'm eating. Unless I'm breast-feeding you, it does n0t affect you and is none of your concern. In my etiquette readings, I have learned that it's actually a rudeness to pay any mind to what people are eating. While I wish that much more etiquette would be remembered (even if means that my indelicate mention of breast-feeding gets me a slap on the wrist), this one seems particularly important when food is busy being demonized.

How this wish came to my attention was in discussion about vegetarianism with a colleague. She's a veggy, A's family are veggy, many of my friends are veggy and I usually eat as a veggy. Some of the wacky hijinks of A's family revolve around issues around vegetarianism and reasons for becoming and maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle. So I was discussing with a friend and had fondly remembered a bite of prime rib that I had greatly enjoyed and my mom's cooking which is often heavy on the meat and strikingly delicious. My colleague said something that made me pause for the rest of the day and the following night, "it sounds like you don't want to be a vegetarian."

Wow. Did I? Do I? The answer surprised me. No. Not if being a vegetarian means that people will be watching to see if I eat meat. Not if it means that I cannot enjoy local cuisine when I travel in the world. Not if it means that I have to alienate people that I love. Do I want to eat a lot of meat? Do I want to eat meat with every meal, daily, regularly? The answers to these are also no. It comes back to my not wanting to be labelled. I mostly want to eat as a vegetarian, I even prefer to often eat as a vegan, because if I'm really concerned about animal welfare/rights, I think the egg and dairy industries are oftentimes just as bad if not worse than the meat industry. But I also want to be able to take a bite of something. I also want to be able to enjoy the community and ceremony of eating meat occasionally. I mostly want to be able to be open to experiencing those things that I choose to experience without being punished or judged for them.

So, I'm setting my intention to not notice what other people eat so as to set the example for what I want. Maybe that means I'll have to ask people "how" they are eating on a regular basis, but this is no more than the same negotiation that is required when any group of people are trying to pick a restaurant or plan a shared menu. But I'm not going to notice - I'm going to let other people be responsible for their own choices and their own labels. And I'm going to reject any label and eat what I choose. And if/when I have children, I will, with my partner, decide based on what I think is healthy and good for them, how they shall eat until they are old enough to make those choices for themselves.

I guess it's not really a rule or a motto, but whatever. It's just a good feeling to stop feeling like I have to lie or hide who I am, what I want, the choices I make and the things that I really like. I hope that others can experience this feeling someday, too.

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