I recently had the privilege of sharing an original piece at the first Cruelty-Free Arts showcase in Nashville, benefiting Nashville Animal Advocacy. I didn’t get a recording of the live reading, but here’s a recording I made, and the text below. If it impacts you, it would mean so much to me if you’d comment and share it with a friend. <3
sorry // not sorry
by valerie martin
I noticed my uncle Keith didn’t eat the turkey at Granny’s house at Thanksgiving.
He says he hasn’t eaten meat for a few years and I learned it’s called “vegetarian.”
But everyone else eats it, so it seems kinda weird…
Sorry, maybe it’s rude to call it weird. I don’t really know.
“I’m sorry, ew, can you pick it up? Raw meat grosses me out. You can see like the tendons and - yuck.”
But no one else seems grossed out, so…
I guess I’m just too girly… or delicate… or something.
My first vegetarian friend, Sara. She orders her Happy Meals without the patty.
And she can’t eat bacon — that must really suck.
“I’m sorry, I can’t eat that, I’m vegetarian.”
I say it smugly, sixteen and a girl possessed.
Sure, I like animals, but mostly I’m terrified of calories,
These tiny monsters that warped my lithe little body,
That created these rounded hips and these sturdy legs.
With everything else going on, I can’t deal with this, too.
One insult from the football players and I’m done for.
Puberty be damned.
Not eating animals is a convenient way to not have to eat much at all.
“Um, sorry, I only wanted the white meat.”
After all, it’s only 28 calories an ounce -- the perfect lean protein.
And honestly? Eating meat off the bone still kinda creeps me out.
I’ll save my calories for the good stuff — Blue Bell Cookies ‘n’ Cream.
I did spin class today, so it’s fine.
More vegetarian friends.
The guilt is there, but I do my best to smother it.
At times, I join them. But I never last long.
“I don’t have the willpower,” I say.
“I just love hot dogs, and the veggie ones are kind of gross. Also, bacon.”
I’m sorry, I get where vegetarians are coming from, but I just do NOT understand why someone would not eat cheese. Queso is like my reason for living.
It’s not like taking the milk for cheese kills the cows or something.
And sure it’s fatty, but how disordered do you have to be to decide to NOT eat cheese and ice cream because of that?
Orthorexic, much? It’s so sad.
I drive past you every morning on the way to work.
I see you roaming in the fields, sometimes having to wait in my car as you’re being herded across the street from one pasture to another.
I try not to look in your eyes.
I laugh to myself as I sit in my office and reach for my phone, thinking it was vibrating, but it’s often just you with your low “mrrrrrrr…. mrrrrrr”
I go across the street to the farm-to-table restaurant and have a grass-fed burger for lunch.
But at least it’s grass-fed… right?
At times, the dissonance grows louder, and I try to stop.
But I have every excuse in the book.
“It’s so hard not to eat meat in the south.”
“I don’t want want to restrict my food, what if it makes me crazy again?”
“I need protein to have energy.”
But really? I just like it.
And sorry.. I want what I want.
At my yoga teacher training we’re talking about this concept called ahimsa.
It’s Sanskrit for non-violence.
The subject of eating meat came up and the teacher said something like “that’s a choice everyone has to make for themselves.”
But I’m pretty sure he eats meat, so it’s not like a requirement.
Okay, maybe I’ll try just fish.
Fish are practically not even real animals… they’re like from another planet.
They’re nothing like me, and they probably don’t even feel pain the way mammals do.
I mean I’m no marine biologist, but probably, right?
And it’s really easy — you can get fish almost anywhere.
But...it’s been six months and it feels like I’m white-knuckling.
I feel deprived, even self-pitying.
And that pepperoni pizza just looks so good.
Everyone else is eating it without a second thought.
I was doing one of those loving kindness guided meditations today.
It got to that part where you picture sending love and compassion to the whole universe: May all beings be at peace, happy, and free from suffering.
Fuck. Off to McKay’s for some vegetarian cookbooks.
As I’m browsing, I see the book Eating Animals by novelist Jonathan Safran-Foer, and add it to my stack.
I start reading it, and I’m appalled. I’m in tears. There goes fish.
I watch the documentaries I’ve always avoided, even rolled my eyes at.
What the fuck, that’s dairy? And eggs? THAT’S what animal research looks like?
Jesus Christ. I’m done.
A switch in me quietly, but most certainly, flips.
Heavy research ensues.
My eyes are open.
I see now. I understand.
When I drive past you now, I make a point to look in your eyes.
Because maybe I’m the only one in your life who will.
And while I don’t feel that same gnawing guilt, I feel so sad.
I think to all the ones before you: “I’m sorry. I’m so, so, so sorry.”
It’s been two years, and this is the best decision I’ve ever made.
I’m never looking back.
And you know what I’m not sorry for?
I’m not sorry for having “special dietary requirements.”
I’m not sorry for sharing upsetting articles and videos from PETA and Mercy for Animals, because it fucking should be upsetting.
I’m not sorry for being vegan in the field of eating disorder treatment where it’s usually criticized and assumed to be “disordered.” Obviously I get it, but please don’t just assume.
I’m not sorry for being difficult to shop for or make plans around.
I’m not sorry for the discomfort people feel when my choice brings them face to face with the dissonance of their own choices and values.
I’m not sorry, because there is work to be done, and the animals need my voice.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
“May all beings be happy and free.”