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The vegetarian’s dilemma. July 13, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I just read that a Match.com survey of 4,000 people revealed that 30% of meat-eaters wouldn’t date a vegetarian or vegan, as opposed to just 4% of vegetarians who wouldn’t date a meat-eater. This brought back memories of my mother’s horror when I became a vegetarian: She was sure I’d never get a date again.

I guess I was lucky. I dated a hugely committed vegetarian when I was still a meat-eater, and it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. Everyone since has eaten meat while I was a vegetarian, and they didn’t seem to have a problem with that. My ex-husband, who ate meat while we were married, became a passionate vegetarian after our divorce. And our friend Ben, who eats meat when we dine out, has been very contented with my vegetarian home cooking and has made a real effort to man up to my new vegan cuisine.

The only thing that surprises me is that the percentages on both sides aren’t considerably higher. Bonding over food is one of our strongest ways to connect with others and to assert and reinforce our group identity. And meat is the food of the elite, the strong, the manly. The wealthy can afford to have their personal chefs prepare the seafood-based diets that keep them thin; for the rest of us, a steak is the ultimate luxury, and fried chicken or barbecue or a pepperoni pizza or burger the ultimate comfort food. My mother was right to be worried. Whatever sets you apart from your group isolates you, and we humans are inherently social beings. We want to belong, and if belonging means conforming, most of us try hard to fit in.

Then there are the rest of us, the ones who want to wear clothes that are flattering to us rather than the current styles; the ones who couldn’t care less about celebrities and mindless shopping; the ones who’ve never smoked a cigarette or taken drugs, and who don’t drink beer because we don’t like the taste and aren’t willing to cultivate it just to fit in. The ones who are bored to tears by sports and sitcoms and reality TV and refuse to waste their precious time watching them just to be part of the crowd. The ones who want to make their own decisions rather than being manipulated and told what to do.

Match.com, and my mother, are here to tell us that there’s a high social price for going our own way. But I’m living proof that it ain’t necessarily so. And there’s one thing I can say for sure: Avoiding the pressure to pretend to be someone you’re not makes for a wonderful, enjoyable life.

As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.”

               ‘Til next time,