Imagine Tipper Gore buying a Humvee. Or Susan Sarandon going Republican. What would Al and Tim think? How would they feel? What would they do?
What do you do when your mate chooses to act in ways that are against your belief system? What do you do when the person you love the most lets you down? When you start thinking that he or she is a hypocrite? That's a big, bitter pill to choke down. How do you deal with it?
How do you balance your beliefs with another person's freedom to choose? How do you define dealbreaker and how does that definition change from when you're just dating to when you've been living together happily for ten years?
I have been a vegetarian for eighteen years. It's one of the ways I define myself. My mate stopped eating meat pretty soon after we met. He did it completely on his own, after reading Diet For a New America by John Robbins. I was thrilled; not only was I madly in love with a person I admired and adored, he was now a vegetarian, too! I had never imagined having the good fortune to share my life with a fellow veg. Seemed too good to be true, especially after the years of dating meat-eaters who put up with my lifestyle but didn't understand it.
For five years, nary a morsel of meat passed his lips. Then a temptation became too great and, while I was shocked and dismayed, I didn't go ballistic. I thought (or was that hoped?) it was a one-time thing. Trouble is, the one time turned into several more over the years, and lately they're coming fairly regularly.
Pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut? Like that was good when you used to eat meat? Why? Why? Why did you eat that?
I don't get the eating of it but even worse is the doing it behind my back.
My feelings run deep and strong on this subject—and he knows this. I don't harp on others about their eating habits; if you want to eat dead animals, go for it. It's disgusting—to me—and while I don't hate meatheads, I do hold a very special place in my heart for vegetarians. Besides, I learned long ago that people have a hard time giving up the meat, so I gave up the preaching and converting shit years ago. But animal rights and my respect for the little voiceless buggers are just very big to me. I believe that it's wrong to raise and kill animals for the purpose of eating them. But my hub is his own person with his own free will, and I can't make him do anything he doesn't want to do; nor can I ask him not to do what he wants.
Ok. That's one solution. Leave him be and go on my veggie path alone. Recognize the fact that he is no longer a vegetarian. Get over it. Move on.
Or end it. I can't overlook that option. It is not what I want, but it would certainly eliminate what has been making me weep for two days: how can I live with a person who cares so little for me that they keep doing the one thing that bothers me more than anything? And why should I stay with a person who has changed so fundamentally since we were married? What would Al do if Tipper went off the environmental deep end and started leaving every light in the house on, bought a big-ass speedboat and an SUV, and became a raving NASCAR fan? Would he let her live her life as she chooses or boot her energy-wasting ass out the door?
Each time D. has eaten meat over the past few years, I've either gotten really really upset and angry (and we've had many discussions over it) or I've resigned myself that there is nothing I can do about it (especially when we're dining with others, and I've had no choice but to keep my mouth shut). BUT. IT'S. NOT. OKAY. It's not ok. It's not ok like he never puts shit away is ok. It's not ok like he's not that great at laundry is ok. We all have our strengths, and dear hubby has many. The reasons I love him are also many. He's one of the finest humans on the planet. He is one of the best people you'll ever meet. This is not about him, however. This is about ME.
The biggest piece of my "who am I?" pie chart is "animal lover/vegetarian". The two bits are inextricably linked together. I have been a vegetarian since 1989. That's most of my adult life. And I've defended it, explained it, and snarked about it for all of that time. I've really had it up to my ass with the whole explanation thing. I hate feeling defensive about it, yet I seem to be put into that position far more often than I ever thought I would. Food is a powerful connection point for us humans. If I reject what you eat, I reject you (or some seem to believe).
So while I care what everyone else eats--in the sense that if they didn't eat the animals, it would do a lot to improve the world—I don't make a big stink about it, and I don't choose my friends depending on their food choices. I make one exception; I very much care what D. eats. I care because I love him and he loves me and we are two peas in a pod making a life together in the world and we've been through oh! so much and we're still here and still strong ten years into it. I care because I live with him and I want him to think highly of me and my ideals. I want him to respect my very very strong feelings on the subject. I care because it matters to me that he not eat dead animals because that pretty much disgusts me to no end and I care because I married a vegetarian and thought he would always be one, only he's not anymore.
D. is not a vegetarian.
D. is not a vegetarian.
D. is not a vegetarian.
I'm trying to come to terms with this.
This is very difficult to reconcile.
So, for the past day and a little more I've been pondering this new reality. It is enough to make me weep. I go back to the choices I can make, based on this soul-wrenching issue that he has presented me with.
And this time, I think, I cannot bear it. I cannot turn a blind eye or pretend it's ok with me because it just is not. It's too big a part of me to not expect--or demand--that my life partner support me and respect me enough to grant me this one, very important request: do not eat the meat.
And then the tears come again because I know he won't do this for me. And it's the knowing that makes me so very sad. The knowing that he doesn't care enough. The knowing that he's not the moral person I thought he was. The knowing that he does not have the courage of his convictions. This, the guy who just a week ago was agreeing with me that we need to brush up on which companies conduct animal testing. Now he's eating the pepperoni.
So what do I do with this new, hurtful knowledge? Ouch. Cry a bit more, take the dog for a run with my Ipod on my workout playlist and cry again when the shuffle hits Save Me by Queen and dear Freddie is pouring his soul into the lyrics and he gets to "How I loved you, how I cried. . ."
And, then I get home and I'm still depressed and I can cry instantly and unexpectedly just sitting on the deck. And I realize that I love D. very much. I love him and I love him and what am I supposed to do with that?
I try to talk to him again. He is hurt that I rejected his previous attempt at reconciliation. I thought he was trying to brush it off, pretend it didn’t happen and nothing was wrong. Our nerve endings are raw and we're not as nice as usual. He suggests seeing our counselor, which is great; I was thinking a check-in with her would be a good way to work through this.
Then I ask the question, "Can you stop eating meat?"
And he says, "Sure."
And I think, why didn't he just say so?
I think we're ok again. And I think this time, he's doing it for me. For me. And that feels really, really good. I'm crying again, but for a whole different reason.
There were two ways for this to have ended; both involved one of us giving in out of love for the other. In the end, love prevails. And you don't get through ten years of marriage without it.
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