Vegetarians Are People Too, We Just Aren’t Cavemen

I’ve been a vegetarian for two years now, which means it’s been two years since I’ve eaten chicken, fish, pork, turkey, steak, or any other form of meat. It also means I’ve been putting up with criticisms, complaints, grievances, and “I don’t understand”‘s for two years. My grandmother actually asked me a few weeks ago if I could please start eating meat again because she was tired of having to think about what to fix me.

It’s not that hard. Just make your regular meal, but cook the meat separately. Then, give me the grains and veggies and add the animal to yours. Simple.

Restaurants aren’t any better, though. I’m lucky if I find a restaurant with more than 3 vegetarian options, and ecstatic if that’s not including a salad. But still I find places without an option for me, so I have to order a salad without the meat, substituting beans for protein.

On my first group date with the boy, we went to such a place for dinner and drinks. I found a salad that sounded interesting (I actually really like salads and often order them because I want them, not because I have to), but made sure to both ask the waitress and reinforce to her that I didn’t want any meat on it, just in case I read the menu wrong. When the plate came out, however, there was pepperoni randomly placed throughout the lettuce. Part of this is my fault, since I read “pepperoni” as “pepperoncini”… but I did ask the waitress specifically, “This is meatless, right?” so she should have registered that when she put in the order, or at the very least, carried it to the table while staring at the pepperoni’s on top. I asked for another salad, so when the waitress returned with a supposedly pepperoni-free salad, I began eating, thinking I was safe. I ate a few pieces of lettuce and an assortment of vegetables before picking up one piece of lettuce and uncovering hidden pieces of pepperoni. Bitches just took off the offending pieces off the top and gave me the same salad! Needless to say, I called the manager, who offered to handmake me a new one, but by then I’d lost my appetite, so my meal of booze was paid for instead. Not the impression I wanted to make on my first “date”.

I’ve also had to get used to living off bags of chips and sodas at teacher workshops since they always order food and forget about those who don’t eat meat, assuming we’d be happy to just “pick the meat off”. No, I’m sorry, I don’t just pick it off and eat the same food. I don’t like my food touching the meat. Sure, it’s not the same as eating it, and it’s probably stupid, but oh well. I also don’t eat soups that are made with beef or chicken stock. CRAZY. How hard is it to order a veggie sub or pizza? Not everything has to have meat on it to make it good. My Mom, who often organizes these events, admits to not thinking about vegetarians before I became one. I just don’t get how people can ignore an entire subgroup of dietary restrictions.

These events have made me used to bringing and creating my own meals. If I’m told a meal will be “provided,” I often pack my own just in case. I’ve been stuck eating a single apple for dinner before, or a bag of doritos, so I’m cautious. So when my diet was ignored for the second time (out of 2) before last night’s game (parents provide meals for the team and coaches since we can’t leave before Away games), I hit up Subway (again) on my way to the game (I drive separately since I’m only the Assistant and live far away from the school) and while I was irked, I didn’t let it bother me. My diet can be difficult to cater to when you’re getting bulk meals from places like Arby’s, so I understand. Like I said, I’m used to it. Especially now that I’ve cut out dairy and eggs (for the most part – I’ll still eat them if they’re used to make the product, like pasta, but I won’t eat them outright). A head’s up would have been nice, though. Don’t tell me that you’re going to get me dinner and then not deliver. But I’m used to it. The boy, however, is not.

It’s actually kind of nice, having him get annoyed about it for me, saying I should be reimbursed and that he’ll bring me food if I’m ever starving at a game. I’m not sure how he’ll manage that since he works late and goes to the gym on game days, but the sentiment is sweet.

My other annoyance is the amount of people who think that because I don’t eat meat (or dairy or eggs), I must not be “right” or must be missing out on a great part of life. I like food, yes, but not enough to define my life. So what if I gave up cheese and ice cream, both of which I absolutely love, because I’m cutting back on unnecessary products and want to live a healthier life? No, I don’t like dressing on my salads, and I enjoy putting vegan chicken nuggets in it to get that bit of protein. I won’t try to convert you to my ways, and I won’t shove it in your face, but please be respectful of my choices. I know that I have to supplement my diet with vitamins and drink protein shakes and eat foods high in these missing elements.

Yes, I have weird diet. No, I don’t miss steak or hamburgers or bacon, and watching you eat them doesn’t make me envious. No, I don’t care if you eat them in front of me. Please don’t force me to eat it, because then I’ll get sick. No, I won’t start eating meat again. So if you’re having a dinner party and invite me, either make a salad stocked with vegetables (sans dressing, eggs, and cheese), or ask me to bring my own dinner if you’re not creative enough to make a vegetarian-friendly version. But don’t disclude me or treat me weirdly; I’m not an alien, and I don’t carry any diseases. I’m a vegetarian, not a leper.

I understand that people have been eating meat since monkeys evolved into cavemen/they were created (choose your own belief system), so it’s not the eating meat that I have a problem with. It’s the overconsumption, the processing, the chemicals, and the unnatural methods used to mass produce it. Not to mention, I really just don’t like it. I’m not an animal nut, I’m not a strict vegan. But a vegetarian diet is healthier, prevents fast-food gorging since I can’t eat 95% of anything found in one, and has helped me lose and maintain weight.

In short, I’m a veggie kid who enjoys eating salads and the taste of vegetables and falafal and couscous and certain tofu’s, and I’m tired of the stigma attached to this label. Just look at it as a diet and get over it.

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