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| The New Hope Journal
The Poetry, Essays and Personal Journals of Larry L. Dill
|And Now for Something Completely
By Camen Gupta
Why is it so outside normalcy and hard to grasp until you've had the "Ahh" moment? There is no explaining it--it just is. I can't even imagine having a beef burger now but less than a year ago I was sad, almost crushed, heartbroken in fact, when my sister told me excitedly that she had become a vegan. I wanted to cry. Not outwardly of course. I would never want to seem unsupportive for what is obviously a wonderfullyng unselfish and detoxifying act.
|But we would never again together share in the orgiastic consumption of a good bowl of mac ‘n cheese or a gooey ice cream sundae on Oscar night. It never occurred to me that I could one day understand it or even feel the same way about my own sister again. She was totally non-judgemental and not preachy and not accusatory and not even hard-core – except in her enthusiasm for her new enlightenment. She told me about a really kick-ass book that she thought was amazing and revolutionary and so simple but life-changing, really. It was called Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. Here's a sampling.
Think about what you've been eating. What we call salmon, hamburger, steak, chicken, bacon, sausage, ham, roast beef, salami, bologna, turkey, hotdog, and duck are actually decomposing, rotting animal carcasses. Bon appetit! Closing your eyes to the problem will not make it go away. You don't want to see it, but you'll eat it? So, yeah, if you want to get skinny, you've got to be a vegetarian - someone who doesn't eat dead animals or seafood. Quit whining. We weren't raised by hippie-crunchy-granola parents on vegetarian communes. Growing up, we both ate meat, all day, every day. We scoffed at tofu and spit on vegetables. Really. Kim's addictions included such delicacies as corned beef hash, canned Vienna sausages, and daily Big Macs. Every single day in 1992, Rory ate a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich for breakfast, followed by a bacon double cheese burger, fries, and a soda for lunch. Dinner was always a dead chicken, fish, cow, or pig. Now granted, we didn't give up meat just to get skinny. We both became vegetarians after learning about the treatment of farm animals. But we each noticed big changes in our minds, attitudes, health, moods, and asses when we gave up carcass. So before you say, "I could never give up meat," realize that nearly every single vegetarian on the planet said those same words. Then shut the fuck up, look at an inspirational picture of a skinny bitch, and clean out your freezer.
For the last 5 or 6 years at least my sister and I have shared an interest in weight, fat, health, nutrition, and good food. And by good food I mean yummy, fattening, decadent, white trash, hedonistic food – mac ‘n cheese, tator tots, pizza, guacamole, cookie dough, egg rolls, fried cheese, nachos – ummmm hmmmmm! To take away such an important part of our relationship (who knew it was such an important part??) was a profound loss from my perspective. Her enthusiasm for this book made me actually go out and buy it. Thinking it would be the kind of cheerleading diet book that I could use to help myself drop some pounds and gain a clarity about the yummy crap I ritualistically “treated” myself to when I was celebrating, feeling depressed, or just plain being lazy. The book was SOOO something else. It caught me by surprise and unsuspectingly woke me up. And I laughed my ass off the whole way. I’m so thankful that this was my first literary introduction to the idea of not only vegetarianism but veganism. Had I read something else first – something that I couldn’t immediately and personally relate to – I might never have reacted in the same way. The next book I read, Vegan Freak, which Jess had left on my coffee table when she flew back to Texas after a visit – waiting for me to pick up and discover- changed my way of thinking forever. This book related the important and ethical issues of animal welfare to my myopic desire to give up or at least avoid the kinds of food I know are not healthy and not only bad for my body and the environment, but also just selfish and ignorant choices.
I always knew this truth but I was – like everyone else – avoiding the reality. Why confront it? No one else was. Why should I inconvenience myself? And this was a major inconvenience. A real pain in the ass inconvenient truth. Too late. Once I read what goes on on the farms, in the factories, in the heart and bowels of human consumerism – I could never go back to my blissful ignorance.
Don’t get me wrong. Not once since I held my breath and jumped into this truth have I felt inconvenienced. There was no internal argument about what I would do next. My desire for meat of any kind was gone. I am not a killer – nor a contributor to it. So I stopped contributing. And I didn’t tell anyone. I knew I couldn’t tell anyone who hadn’t yet reached the same conclusions that I had just realized without making them feel threatened, alienated, confused, and generally freaked out. I mean, I knew how I felt when my closest friend, my only sister, told me how excited and psyched she was about her discovery. So I told her and I told my dad – who has been a vegetarian for 20 years. Because Jess and dad were already there. I even thought I would pretend like nothing had changed, and my closest friends – even my husband – wouldn’t notice for months. Then I would gently break the news and by then they couldn’t think of me as a freak – or my behavior as freakish. How could they? I was “normal” until I brought it to their attention that I hadn’t been eating meat for the last six months. Well, Veneet figured it out almost immediately. And he was amazingly, surprisingly, completely supportive, it turns out. So long as I didn’t act superior or accusatory. I tried not to. I’m still trying. To what I thought was an innocent remark – “if you read what I have read, you would understand” he balked. This kind of comment did not go over well. It continues not to go over well. But he continues to be supportive of my new behavior as long as I don’t criticize his.
So now my conscience and I continue to try and do what is right by the animals and the environment. A small struggle in the scheme of things, really. I think now of a married woman in Bangladesh (“Bangla-what?”) and how her daily struggles don’t consist of thoughts such as “Should I make tofu enchiladas tonight? Will he hate them or accept them or feel put upon? Should I stop and pick up some ground beef for him? Or should I stop in the Gap on my way home and buy myself some new sandals that will make me feel comforted, safe, complete.” The rampant, blind consumerism of America grips me and it is a constant struggle to beat it off: to turn a blind eye to the Whopper and to the leather strappy sandals. But I feel the responsibility welling up inside me to not just turn a blind eye but to actually, actively, participate in the struggle, the discussion, the search for the truth and what is right for the earth and for what feels right in my heart.
Ever since I saw the movie, “Defending Your Life” with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep, I have always wanted to be able to look back on my life when judgement day comes – whatever that means – and feel proud – or at least not mortified when looking back that I had been a complete leech – a burden on this earth and on the people I care about – to have made some little difference somewhere for the better. For once I feel like my passion for this way of looking at life could one day translate into something meaningful for this world. If I can summon up the courage. The courage to get off my ass, to not be lazy, and actually work towards a cause I not only believe in but I feel is imperative for the earth’s survival and for the strengthening and evolution of my soul.
To paraphrase a poet I know, “We have important work to do.” And I do. And I’ve gotten my wake up call. As Melissa Etheridge sings, we need to wake up. And as the editor of this great, introspective, inspirational journal purports - let’s face the music and dance.
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Photo of Camen Dill circa 1980 on the Original New Hope Farm near Nacogdoches, Texas with her milk goat Sugar.
copyright 2007 by Larry L. Dill