The lifestyle of an American vegetarian

Emily Brown, Opinion Editor

My 5-year-old self sat at the edge of the low, wooden table. The pine finish shined bright, and my finger traced the lines that were etched into the surface.
I sat crisscross on the grey carpet and considered my lunch. Behind me, my brown-haired mother folded clothes rhythmically on her bed.
The paper plate in front of me had a hot dog covered in more ketchup than necessary. I liked ketchup.
If it had been any other day, I would have eaten it.
“Hmm?” she said, separating the clothes into different piles for each person in our family.
“What are hot dogs made of?”
She froze before turning to look at me. Her frown was answer enough.
“Why are you asking?” she asked cautiously.
“Well, Miss Maker said that it was made from pigs.”
Little-girl me stared at her while she faced a difficult decision.
My mom knew how much I loved animals.
I would be devastated when I found out. But she figured if I did refuse to eat meat, it wouldn’t last long. I was a picky eater, and hot dogs were one of the few things I enjoyed.
“She shouldn’t have told you about that. But, yes, she is right.”
I looked back down at my plate and then back up at my mother.
“Mom, can I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

* * * * * * *

I remain a vegetarian to this day. Almost 11 years of no meat.
Well, if you don’t count the time Lauren Reardon snuck a piece of ham into one of my PB&Js. Still haven’t forgotten that, Lauren.
Most people are puzzled by my decision.
I never disliked meat — I loved it.
Hot dogs made up my diet for the first five years of my life.
I’m no health nut. Actually, I’m the complete opposite. I detest anything with too much green. Ironic, isn’t it?
I have no ideas of grandeur about saving the planet. Humans have been eating animals from the very beginning. Unless something dramatic happens in the next century, I have a feeling that really isn’t going to change much.
And I’m definitely not a hippie.
But eating meat simply didn’t feel right. Yeah, not taste. Feel.
I can’t imagine eating an animal that has the same intelligence level as my pet dog.
I simply can’t. I just feel bad when I eat it. And I don’t think that is any way to live.
So here I am, still going at it, fueled by my stubbornness and sensitivity.
When someone tells me I can’t do something, I prove them wrong. Eleven years ago, my mom thought my vegetarianism was just a stage.
It has been a pretty long stage.
I’m not saying that you should become a vegetarian, too. Honestly, I don’t care.
But stop hassling me for being one.
I don’t get in your face and mock you for your eating habits.
I don’t care why you are a meat-eater. I truly don’t. So stop trying to explain or defend your reasoning behind it.
And don’t try to convince me my decision is incorrect by pointing out my negative characteristics and blaming it on not eating meat.
I’m not short because I’m a vegetarian. I’m short because it’s in my genes.
My lack of sleep has nothing to do with being a vegetarian. It’s called homework.
My bad skin is not due to my vegetarianism. I’m just a teenager.
I wouldn’t be stronger if I ate meat. I would actually need to go to the gym.
I wouldn’t have better eyesight, hearing or reflexes from eating meat.
I’m perfectly fine with my title of a vegetarian.
I think you should be fine with it, too.
And if you are not, stop preaching at me and go eat a steak.