Even in the hyper-liberal city of San Francisco, I get a lot of negative reactions when I say I don’t eat meat. People assume I’m going to judge them if they eat meat in front of me, or that I think I’m better than them because I prefer not to.
While I’m sure there’s plenty of vegetarians who are judgmental or pretentious, not every vegetarian is. I prefer not to eat meat because I personally don’t like the idea of ingesting something that used to be alive and walking around, but I realize that eating meat is, in many cases, the healthier choice. Everyone is different, which means that everyone’s lifestyle is different, and I think it’s ridiculous for anyone to expect everyone to eat or not eat the same things.
I decided I wanted to stop eating meat when I was 4 years old. I was eating a hot dog while watching a PBS special on lions, and the show depicted a zebra prancing along the plain, doing its zebra thing, and then all of a sudden a lion attacked it, and it was a bloody carcass on the ground. I looked at my hot dog, and realized that it used to be an animal, and then it was a bloody carcass, and now it was in my hand.
My parents looked at me a little funny when I explained this, but the next day, when we went to a potluck hosted by my preschool and I ate three hot dogs and then spent all night throwing them up, my parents decided I could give vegetarianism a try.
They raised my younger brother as a vegetarian too, until two years ago when he got into weight-lifting, and it’s not only almost impossible, but also borderline dangerous to use up that much energy without eating meat.
Even without lifting weights, trying to be a vegetarian can definitely be extra work. I was anemic for most of my life and had to take iron pills with every meal, and I have to try extra hard to make sure I eat lots of tofu and other protein-rich foods, but for me, it’s worth it.
If I had a nickel for every time I went to get food with someone and they got something with chicken or pepperoni and then mockingly said, “Oh, wait, you might want to look away when I eat this,” I would have enough money to create a type of vegetarian hot dog that isn’t absolutely disgusting.
I don’t think it’s right to give anyone any flack for what they choose to put in their bodies, and that goes for vegetarians, meat eaters or any other iteration of the two that’s popular that week. For me personally, I’m content to fry up some tofu and veggies and call it a day, but it doesn’t bother me at all to watch you go to town on a hamburger. You do you, and Imma do me.