Renouncing my activism

Over Christmas break in 1996, I made a decision that would change my life. Or, if not my life, at least my lifestyle.

I stopped eating meat. Just like that. Boom. Cold turkey, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Now, twelve years later, I’m ready to go back.

When you look at it, I guess I’m just growing weary of vegetarianism. But after over a decade of meatlessness, how does a lapsing vegetarian quit?

I was once a fervent vegetarian. I was good at it, you could say, eschewing meat as if I had never eaten it. I began with a fire in my belly – I was going to show the world what I could do, how punk I could be, how different and socially responsible I could be.

I was a minor activist. It was all I had in the realm of punk culture. Sure, I was in a band and I listened to lots of Bad Religion, but I was a poseur in every sense of the word. After all, I washed my hair and liked my parents and refrained from getting tattoos of the Operation Ivy dancer. But being a vegetarian was my way of saying, “I’m different, and I care.”

My first test was at a fast food establishment. My second test was explaining why I was doing it. That second test has lasted since then.

Which leads me to today. I no longer have any reasons. I’m just plugging along, shunning meat because that’s just what I’ve always done. Because it’s who I am. Because it’s been so long, because I don’t want to explain it to everyone again.

The stage was set five years ago, on my honeymoon in New Orleans. Knowing our proximity, and trusting the advice of our parents, Kerrie (who has been a vegetarian for 12 years as well) and I toasted our newfound union by eating seafood – the first meat-stuff we had consumed since high school. It was tasty, and just like that we moved from strict vegetarians to vegetarians who happen to eat fish and seafood.

Looking back, that was probably the beginning of the end for me. I no longer feel a need to save every animal.

I’m ready to give it up. But after 12 years, I find myself scared to do it.

Will my stomach rise up in protest? Will people see me as a waffling who was never behind the cause in the first place? Will I pull what’s left of my hair out trying to explain that, yes, I eat meat now and, no, I don’t need you to congratulate me. (This must be what it feels like to switch political parties, or finally acknowledge a world-changing trend.)

What happens when you finally let go of an ideal that’s defined you for so long? And if I’m willing to give up being a vegetarian – if I’m willing to look nearly 12 years of contented (though passive and not exactly heartfelt) activism and bid it adieu – what does that say about my ability to continue

Is being a vegetarian part of my identity?

If so, why am I so anxious to throw it out?

This was lovingly handwritten on May 20th, 2008