I think I know your secret.
Well, to you it’s not a secret- it’s just who you are.
I’ve worked with kids long enough to know that the seedlings of their eventual “lifestyle” as an adult are plainly evident, sometimes as early as age four. As difficult as this is for me to already be thinking about, your mother and I have to be ready for the time when you realize certain differences about yourself, and help to foster a confidence in you so you can live openly with those differences.
There will be people who say this is just a phase. There will be others who condemn us as parents for emboldening something inside you that they don’t see as “natural.” The truth is, I don’t care what other people think. I care about family- and luckily, we have other people in this family who have managed to live proudly out in the open, pushing back against cultural normalcy with their choice to live a life true to themselves and no one else.
You are my son, and I love you for who you are… a vegetarian.
I’ve seen you when that Carl’s Jr. commercial comes on- the one with a scandalously clad Kate Upton salaciously devouring a Southwestern Patty Melt at a drive-in movie theater whilst gyrating, sweating, and doing all the other things that apparently make men want a burger. I knew exactly what you were looking at the whole time- the jalapenos. You might not know this about yourself, but I’d be willing to bet my meager income on the fact that it’s just a matter of time before you swear off meat altogether. Night after night I watch you push the protein around on your plate while begging for a second helping of berry, nut, grain or root.
Being a vegetarian is a hard road for an Arizonan with recent ancestry in slaughterhouse-heavy Wyoming. While it’s estimated that 5% of American males have sworn off meat, finding sympathy and accommodation for this lifestyle choice is hit or miss. If vegetarianism, or even veganism is something your natural dining proclivities lead you to, you’ll need to understand that you are not in the majority, and the majority will not see a need to bend over backward to assure the ease of lifestyle of a small minority. Your comfort is your responsibility. Plan on being teased, harassed, and incessantly asked “Are you sure you don’t like meat?”
There will be friend’s mother after friend’s mother convinced that you just haven’t tried the right meatloaf… their meatloaf, to be specific. They might look at a polite “no thanks,” as an insult. You aren’t trying to hurt anyone- you’re just being you, but those differences are hard for some people to understand. Life against the grain… or rather, for the grain, ain’t easy.
If and when the time comes that your alternative dining choices become a part of who you are on more than a part-time basis, we’ll do whatever we can to remind you that your status as our beloved son isn’t dependent on whether or not you like sausage.