Thursday, July 28, 2011

My entire life I've been unusual by default, in ways that are considered even before anyone could get to know me well enough to decide whether or not I was very unusual in my own right. I was born and raised vegetarian which is so unusual (in case anyone's wondering) that the first time I met another person who had been born and raised vegetarian I was in my twenties and I didn't actually meet this person, I met their mother (raised two sons vegetarian) who had become a vegetarian herself when she was young despite the best efforts of her family. Anyway, this doesn't technically count as having met a born and raised vegetarian so you can see what the odds are. This was a woman I worked with and at the time I first started there were also two other converted adults, but I think besides us the rest of the department (maybe 55 people give or take) were omnivores. During the fourteen years I worked there I don't think that number ever went up, it maintained and I think it dropped to two of us total at some point and there was a period during which one of the current-at-the-time vegetarians was one of those suspicious ones who converted as an adult and whose politics were often very trendy and whom I spotted eating a beef flavored Cup O Noodles once and when I pointed it out he pretended to be surprised as if he hadn't event noticed and kind of went "Well it's too late now, oh well" and polished it off. That would never happen to a real vegetarian. So that's really not a lot of people. That's estimating that in this group 4-6% were vegetarian. .05% born and raised. At that point I was no longer surprised to learn there were others but I was usually surprised to hear they'd been vegetarian for even all of five years.
Being a vegetarian sucked growing up. Kids at school hated you for being different and told you openly that their only goal for the school year was to see you eat a hotdog. Eating dinner at a friends house was totally humiliating when you asked (after years of watching your parents read ingredients on EVERYTHING) why the rice was kind of yellow colored and were told it was because it had been cooked in water that chicken bones had been soaked in and when you said you couldn't eat it your friends mom looked exasperated, insulted and unwilling to compromise and tried to convince you that your parents wouldn't mind. Yes, they really would. My mom would kick people out of the house for bringing meat over with them. We lived around the corner from In-N-Out (which, if you live outside L.A. is cult fast food here -not that I will ever know why, it looks like pretend food all perfectly shaped and brightly colored) so every so often a friend coming to visit would cave in and stop on their way.
I think the most amazing example of the power of my grandmothers presence is that when she once came to visit after having moved away she stored salami in OUR refrigerator and cut it with one of OUR knives and ate it as a snack whenever she wanted to. This was my fathers mother and I must note that when once my mothers sister was babysitting for us at she had my grandfather deliver her some Kentucky Fried Chicken and then proceeded to use our silver memento, engraved baby spoons (which my mother did keep in the kitchen drawer with the rest of the silverware -it's not as if they were mounted on the wall or something) for the sauces. My mother found out (ok, we were shocked too, and very young -we tattled) and she was banned from the house and I don't think she has EVER set foot in there since.
So this is what I was dealing with growing up. Every second of my freaking life was wrapped inside this one eccentricity. I have to say, I do know that I'm an unusual person in other ways but I don't quite get what they are. When I hear the sweet chuckle of a friend observing my wackiness I'm often not sure of exactly what it was that inspired the chuckle and the things that end up being more obvious to me I think are totally normal and I forget immediately what it is that someone's just pointed out to me is unusual.
These days vegetarianism (still the majority are converts) is pretty popular and even veganism, too (which is trendier). At school at least half the people seem to be vegetarians and I can't remember if there are any vegans but a few of the vegetarians have tried it and I hear people talk about it a lot. It's a strange thing to become suddenly more "normal" in this way.


  1. I did not know you were a vegetarian! Have you ever tried meat? I will say that we are lucky in this city to have lots of veg options-I have a vegan friend in Houston who says there are ZERO vegan restaurants. In a city that huge? Wow.

  2. Oh my goodness! I can't believe I didn't notice this comment sooner, oops! Nope, never tried it. All I can say is: that's Texas for you ;)