Being a vegetarian incites a level of simultaneous vitriol and defensiveness that instantly makes me always want to change the subject. A few people are passively aggressive, most often dismissively so. They make statements about 'not being able to live without...' or 'how can you even...' I feel their gaze, sizing up my manliness. That's probably why his biceps aren't bulging, he has no idea what game the 49ers play, and why he prefers Proust over Michener. I'm instantly captured, sized up and categorized. Like Christianity, vegetarianism typecasts you.
Most, however, are oddly defensive in a sideways manner, discussing great meals that didn't involve meat.
I rarely eat red meat any more. [defensive] Do I miss eating meat; how long has it been? [just a trendy new fad] What do I eat at Thanksgiving? [Americanism] How do I get enough protein? [health] Bacon tastes so great! [humor] Are your kids vegetarian? [poor victims] Are you grossed out by my hamburger? --this is a popular one. People apologize for eating meat front of me, which is simultaneously embarrassing and illuminating. I don't apologize for not eating meat in front of them. Are they somehow acknowledging the moral grayish-ness of consuming a once-living creature because of gustatory preference?
If all of that seems filled with heavy baggage, there's always the trump question. The question I'm always hoping they won't ask. It's a question they often ask first, only to realize they neither should have asked it nor really want the answer. The question that, with any answer, is an implicit accusation: Why are you a vegetarian?
I doubt even my closest friends have heard my honest, full answer. To do so sounds so repugnantly self-righteous, so indignant.
I'll answer it some other day in another post, when I'm feeling brave.