I haven’t told my parents I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian for two years now. It troubles me and I’ve been trying to figure out why the subject of not eating meat is such a daunting one when it comes to my parents. I have a long history of disputes with my father over the choices I’ve made for my life and for my future (or lack of in his opinion) and left/ was banished from home due to a clash of ideals in this arena. I have stood up to him on every single issue and struggled for my freedom, however this simple confession makes me feel physically ill. Not only am I having daddy dramas but I almost feel guilty when I consider coming out to my step mother that I am one of “those” people. In high school I willingly contended/pretended that I was a lesbian in a relationship with my bestie, that I was a pill popping drug addict, that I was having the baby of my dropkick bogan boyfriend… all just to scare my parents, why can’t I just tell them that I do not eat meat. There was a time I would have enjoyed the look of horror on their faces.
Visits home, infrequent as they are, usually equate to some small amount of meat being consumed to distract my parents from this fact. These have merely sparked rumours of an eating disorder which I have emphatically denied. I feel chained and a child again, as I just recoil and pretend and give in. And maybe I find comfort in this. I go home and I am taken care of; meals are made for me, I get a big bedroom with a TV in it, central heating, a pantry full of snacks, even a car at my disposal… I like to go back to this normality, to where I don’t make any adult decisions, I don’t have to work on any adult relationships, do any housework, pay any bills… my parents aren’t ever going to change. I have my freedom now, I have a whole separate life my parents don’t even try to understand anymore, let alone affect, but it’s also full of responsibility and stressful choices and I am free of that when I go home. I like civil even if it means repression and letting a couple of things go. I am not a vegetarian at home because I was not brought up that way, because my dad is a doctor and he knows what’s best for my health, because my step-mum slaves away in the kitchen to make good meals for me and because if I am a vegetarian then I’ve been lying for the last two years and what’s the meaning of that?
Recently my boyfriend’s mother almost outed me at a family lunch for my 21st birthday when talking about Alex’s vegetarianism asked “but isn’t Clare a vegetarian too?”( she has made me vegetarian meals before after all). Her response was “not in our house she’s not!!” with a sound of surprise from my parents.
So in their house I’m a traitor, to myself, to what I believe in, to what my body needs, and though the amounts consumed are small, I am still a coward and a fake. My parents accept that version of me and may even know deep down that I feed them a lot of watered down accounts of my life in return for peace.
I must consider now though if it is time to grow up and come out and stop feeling sick about it.
Dad, Step-Mum: I am a dirty, enviro- loving, anti-meat, vege loving, hippy and I am considering one day, when my hair is long enough, getting my hair put into dreadlocks.