…Or at least why I told people I was a vegetarian when I was 10.
Let me back up and explain what this photo is. It is my ticket to see the movie Babe in the theater; this would have been August 7, 1993, which is why the 5:05pm show was $3.75. Last week my mom sent it to me in the mail, enclosed in one of her beautiful monogrammed Crane’s notes, because my mom is a Southern lady, with a note asking, “It sparked a lifelong change in you, didn’t it?”
My mom sends me a lot of mail (love you, Mom!). She sends me a postcard from practically every new place she visits, even if it’s only a few hours from her home; she sends me letters keeping me posted on what she did over the weekend; she sends programs from plays she sees and thinks might interest me. When I opened this letter I was expecting something that would pique my interest and make me smile, but I was not prepared for this.
I opened this letter and was immediately overcome with a bear-hug-like dose of the warm fuzzies. Involuntarily, I said aloud, “Aww, Mom!”
When I was a little lady and people asked me why I was a vegetarian– which happened a lot, since this was the mid-90s and I was in 4th grade and my family is full of deep-South meat-eaters– I’d usually tell them I’d made the decision not to eat animals after seeing Babe. It was very handy to glib response in my back pocket, plus everyone loves Babe and the other kids on the playground had a hard time arguing with me about it. The truth was, of course, more complex, but I learned early on to discern people who were curious about my decision because they wanted to learn more about it from those who were just being inflammatory. (When I could see that a friend or adult was asking about my choice respectfully, I’d tell them I wouldn’t feel comfortable killing animals, so didn’t think it was right for me to eat them.)
I was and am extremely lucky to have a family who supported my decision not to see animals as food. They never pressured me to change, and they always went out of their way to make sure I had enough healthy food to eat. My dad educated himself on how to make a complete vegetable protein, while my mom bought me issues of Vegetarian Times and stood up for me to relatives who thought I’d turn out to be a stunted weakling. (I didn’t.) My then-stepmother started insisting on cage-free eggs and chicken when she learned of the conditions the animals suffered, and my extremely mischievous sister never even teased me about my choice.
Sometimes people ask what it’s like being a vegan and living with an omnivore. For us, it’s pretty easy, and I think part of the reason is that I’ve lived with people of different diets my whole life; it comes naturally to me by now. I know this for sure, though: it starts with love. I learned that from the family I got and I’m exploring it with the family I picked.
Thanks again, Mom.
Were you vegetarian as a young’un? How did you answer the “why” question?