I was wrong. My body is not a temple. It’s a bucket, and I want to stuff it full of filth and revel in the disgusting pile I’ve been daydreaming of becoming. I’m still a vegetarian, still not eating meat because taste and how easy it is to cook are not good enough reasons to eat it, but shit dude, have you ever smelled a steakhouse, or fried chicken, or the toxic meat plume that billows from the top of every Burger King? I eat cauliflower and tofu while pining for blood like my cat when she sees a bird through the window.
Because I can feel my resolve crumbling, I’ve decided to revisit my reasoning for not eating meat, and maybe adding to it because I need all the backup I can get.
I think my biggest reasons for not eating meat is that I don’t have a reason to. Unlike vampires, wolverines, and small house cats with cute tufts on their ears, I can apparently get by without meat in my life. Mushrooms are amazing and vegetarian food is super tasty, and because I’ve been eating stuff with more colors than brown and reddish brown, my body feels like it’s actually ok with what’s going into it for the first time since I became free to make my own dietary decisions because those decisions were bad.
On my way to work, I ride by a steakhouse, several Mexican food restaurants, and every fast food chain America can throw at me. The smell is sinking in. So rather than just limit my resolve not to eat meat to not needing to, I’ve been adding new, more tangible reasons, things I can think of when the waiter asks if I want bacon or toast, things I can think of while I remember one of my favorite bars has 6 dollar burgers on Mondays but they’re 8 dollars if I want to get it without meat.
I can be smug. Most of the vegetarians I’ve met don’t really mention it until they’re ordering food, or they don’t mention it at all and you just slowly notice that nothing they eat has ever eaten anything else. I plan on being equally quiet about not gnawing on the musculature of animals, but I have found that I get a different kind of satisfaction at the end of a meal, a feeling like “yes, we’ve done well not imbibing of the flesh. We are healthy and pure and when the cows take over, they will kill us last.”
I’m getting better at cooking. A lot of meat dishes kind of ignore whatever is around the meat. You get a sandwich, it’s got turkey and other shit. You’ve got a steak, and maybe there are some mushrooms on it or it comes with a salad that’s mostly cheese. You got a burger, it’s a wet slab of shredded and reconstituted meat with details around it. Looking back, a lot of meals are just decorating meat with different edible addendums. This is possible because meat is delicious. Vegetarian food, on the other hand, is a complex craft. You can’t just throw a mushroom onto a bun and eat it. Even if you cook it and season it, it’s still just a mushroom. I’m getting to be a better cook because it takes work to make vegetarian food as detailed and tasty as a hot slab or grease-beef pressed between two bits of bread that are only there to facilitate the meat’s delivery into the body.
I can punish myself. There was a time during my undergrad when I thought I would grow up to be a sea captain. Well, not really a captain, more like a drifting sea author who writes on a damp notepad while listening to the playful chorus of whales. I even looked at boats, not big ones, just small yachts. I feel like there was some significant degree of cognitive dissonance in how I thought of my future because I knew I’d be a poor English graduate, but I also thought I’d have the money to own and operate a boat. Anyway, weird financial blindness aside, during that period of boat fixation, I got a B in a class I worked really hard in. I was devastated. I had built so much of my identity around being a good student that seeing that image dispelled hurt. I decided I didn’t deserve the boat.
I cleared my boat shopping cart as a way to purge the hope from my boat-dreams. The seafaring author had died because I didn’t deserve it. Nevermind that I lived in Arizona and had no car or way to deliver the boat to any body of water larger than a bathtub. I feel the same now about eating meat. I can ride by same beautiful steakhouse every day, absorb the smell every day, but the meat fantasies are just fantasies that won’t come to anything because I have no real plans of changing, so denying myself meat as a punishment for all the aspects of myself I hate is a nice way of attacking myself without doing any actual harm: I may want to stop and eat 35 pounds of still steaming steak, but I don’t deserve it because of that time I waved at someone who wasn’t waving at me.