I became a vegetarian during my senior year of high school.
Ever since, I’ve mostly cut out meat and seafood from my diet with a few exceptions. When I was 17, I wore Juicy Couture velour pants with rhinestone phrases written across the butt and listened to Enrique Iglesias without the appropriately detached display of irony. So, my vegetarianism was really just one step in a long process of self-improvement to ensure that I would be as “with it” as possible before I started college.
Naturally, I don’t judge anyone if they choose to eat meat. If you want to tear through a thick slice of steak, I hope that it is all the bloodier and the better for you. Vegetarianism is not a concept that people should forcibly thrust upon others, unlike political views or opinions regarding that dude from Duck Dynasty.
However, I will say that I would be lying if I didn’t admit to occasionally missing the taste of meat, but I have reasons for keeping up with my vegetarianism. My family has a history of poor cardiac health, and eschewing meat is an easy way to keep my cholesterol in check. It makes me generally more conscious of what I eat — instead of cheeseburgers, chilidogs, and General Tso’s Chicken, I started opting for healthier choices. These days, items such as Blue Ranch Doritos, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and two-pound bean burritos from Chipotle are the mainstays of my diet.
However, I sometimes have this recurring dream where I am wearing a bacon dress à la Lady Gaga but without any political statements in mind. I peel the greasy strips off of my torso and pop them into my mouth. The sizzle and crunch of fried meat and fat is titillating, but I usually wake up around this point — before the dream descends into even saucier territory. I’ve never actually had a sex dream, but I think that my bacon dreams are probably more exciting and more devastating than any could be.
The last time I ate meat was a few months ago, at the very beginning of the summer. I participated in a program at my university, which housed me with eight other students — none of whom I knew. We had a tidy, cozy bungalow that was located in the middle of the forest…okay, behind the football field on campus. The inside of it felt like a 1970s’ retirement home with still life paintings of fruit around every corner and a vague sense of doom that permeated throughout.
For the first couple of days, I didn’t really socialize with any of my roommates. All of us hung out with friends outside of the program who were also in town for the summer. While at home, we stayed inside our bedrooms and came out only when we needed to cook meals. One of my roommates often sat in the living room to watch Netflix documentaries on topics like sushi making and the asexuality awareness movement. He was amicable, and I liked talking at him a lot.
Soon, I bonded with Larissa, the roommate who lived in the bedroom across from mine. Though we met for the first time at the onset of the program, we had extensively stalked one another on social media beforehand. We knew all that we needed to know about one another. For example, I knew that she had an older brother and a passionate love for Drake. She knew how many Twitter followers I had. At the time. The number has grown since then.
Larissa is a psychology major and a Scorpio. This means that she has an overwhelming depth of insight into the human psyche, especially through years of compulsively analyzing the same five horoscope predictions. Additionally, it is impossible to lie to her because she has spent most of her life dealing with older brothers who are also in fraternities. This has given her a keen nose for when people are beating around the bush. As a result, Larissa makes for a wonderful confidante. We instantly forged a connection.
One evening, Larissa and I went to a house party that was a few streets away from ours. The hosts were a couple of second-string quarterbacks on our University’s football team; predictably, the party they threw fell short of our expectations.
I posted up against a wall and scrolled through my Twitter feed, looking for SubTweets that would provide the entertainment that fellow partygoers could not. I found a stream of Tweets between a recently broken up couple I knew–which involved many angry Emojis and hashtags like #1omf or #youarentashotasyouthinkyouare. While Larissa sought out and started chatting up a linebacker with pretty eyes and prettier biceps, I began to read, gripping my red solo cup with the glee that only other people’s public angst can cause.
Roughly twenty minutes later, Larissa appeared in front of me and grabbed me by the elbow.
“We need to go,” she said.
“I thought you were talking to that dude.”
Three red solo cups deep, and I was in machine mode–passive-aggressively favoriting SubTweets left and right. I did not want to leave and subsequently lose my concentration.
“He asked me if I knew whether he could cite Buzzfeed in an essay he’s writing for his summer comp lit class. We need to go.”
I was shocked. This was a clear indication of his idiocy. Everyone knew that you could always cite legitimate publications in academic papers.
As soon as we got back to the house, Larissa disappeared to her bedroom so she could change out of her party clothes. I, on the other hand, went into the kitchen to look through the refrigerator.
When she came back, she found me on the floor of the kitchen. I had been wearing one of those uncomfortably tight bandage dresses that are designed to give anyone a curvaceous silhouette. They scream, “Look at me, I am fertile and could mother your children,” which is a concern that most 20-year-old boys have while selecting potential bedmates. More importantly, they do favors for my hips — which are as straight and as narrow as an eight-year-old boy’s.
Larissa found me with the dress unzipped and bunched up around my hips, allowing me to breathe for the first time all evening. I had kicked off my heels and placed them on the counter, and I had a plate of fried chicken in my hands, leftover from our house dinner earlier that night.
“What are you doing?” Larissa asked, eyeing my food with the face she usually reserved for watching Miami Heat games or observing our mutual friend (whose name I promised I wouldn’t include in this essay) pick his nose and flick boogers onto the carpet. Glen frequently did that when he thought no one was looking.
I pinched the skin off of a slab of chicken breast and dropped it into my mouth. After I swallowed, I assured her, “It’s okay, I’m just eating the breading.”
Feeling as though I needed to convince her, I added, “I’m still a vegetarian, you know. The breading is just, like, flour. This doesn’t negate my vegetarianism.”
“Whatever.” Larissa, smart girl, grabbed a bottle of water from the pantry. She would wake up the next morning, chipper as always, and I would wake up feeling as though someone had rammed a pickaxe into the space between my eyes. At some point during the day, I would start to wish that someone could appear and actually do that.
As she headed back towards her bedroom, she turned briefly and said, “Be flexible, dude. Life is too short not to do what you want, even if it means occasionally deviating from what you consider your norm.”
My friend, my Yoda.
After dropping that truth bomb, she left. I stared down at my plate. You know what? Larissa is right, I thought. Life is too short to mess around — especially when it comes to fried chicken. I bit down on a hunk, let the juices flow over my tongue, closed my eyes, and felt my abdominal muscles clench with the pleasure that only meat could give me.