Story Time: You Are What You Eat

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On Facebook, someone asked me to do a weekly story from my life. Not a boring story or stupid one, but one of the fantastic tales of misshappery that seem to always happen to certain individuals in life, myself included. I thought you guys might enjoy these too, so I’m repeating them here. Here is the fifth (you can see the others here):

My mother has been a vegetarian for almost 40 years now. As a result, I grew up eating a mixture of both meaty and meat-free meals. I was also relatively sensitive to the plight of those animals who had sacrificed their lives in order to sit on my plate.

While my mother was never pushy about her anti-meat ideology, it was something that the animal lover in me responded strongly to. But unlike my mom, who never really liked the taste of meat (except sausages, as I recall), I love meat. I have always loved meat. I eat steaks so bloody they might make you faint. I eat hamburgers so raw that I don’t need teeth to masticate them. I. Love. Meat.

Despite that love, when I was about 11 I decided to choose my mom’s way over my dad’s and I converted to vegetarianism. Since most of my Dad’s Italian recipes had long since been converted to vegetarian, it wasn’t really that difficult. My mom’s love of sugar ensured that many days were started with cake or pastries no matter whether I was a carnivore or herbivore. My school lunches were a bit of a problem—one of my old grade school teachers reminded me a few years ago of how I unsuccessfully lobbied my small town school to offer vegetarian options at lunch. Seeing no success, I turned to junk food and by ninth grade added Combos to my personal food pyramid.

Ninth grade was a weird time of transition for me, weird eating habits aside. I was in high school and I was all about making one of two boys my boyfriend. Stephen or Ken. One of the awesome parts of high school was the introduction of study hall. During my study hall period, both Ken and Stephen were in class with me. Stephen sat to the left of me, while to my right was one of Stephen’s good friends. Ken was a few seats behind Stephen. I’d gotten Stephen to hold hands with me a few times the year before, so I was pretty confident that I could use that experience of sweaty-palmed hand-holding as a segue to full-fledged kissing this year.

But not only was I now in high school, my parents were also divorcing and my mom’s new boyfriend had moved into our apartment and was not shy about trying to be the man of the house. With the new boyfriend came the hunting equipment (my dad was not a hunter), some paintings of deer, and a whole new set of meat-centered recipes.

I may not have liked my mom’s new boyfriend, but boy did the meat he cooked smell good.

So good, in fact, that I allowed this infiltrating enemy to convert me from vegetarianism to eating meat. After 3 long years of minimal vegetables, maximum cheese, pasta, sugar and Combos, I was going to add meat to my platter.

We settled on fried chicken and a can of tuna as my re-introduction foods and on the designated night, I ate all the animal bodies with gusto. You might think that after going without flesh for so long I would have been disgusted or something, but no—I loved it just as much as I had when I let it go.

The next day, I didn’t quite feel right. Since mom had never renounced vegetarianism, none of us had any idea what the re-introduction of meat was going to do to my body, but a little tummy ache certainly seemed possible.

All day, the pains in my tummy got worse and worse, but not quite bad enough for me to call my mom until sixth period.

Study hall.

I walked in to study hall, quieter than normal and wondering at my sudden urge to burp. I sat next to Stephen but couldn’t take part in our normal banter. I just didn’t feel right.

I tried to study, but my stomach kept getting worse and worse until suddenly, I knew stuff was going to start coming out if I didn’t leave right away.

I stood up in the middle of the relatively quiet room filled with students from all grade levels and, because people didn’t generally shoot up in the middle of study hall, all eyes were on me, including the teachers.

I froze.

I stood there and opened my mouth to explain that I needed to go to the bathroom when a burp came out that tasted so disgusting, it triggered my gag reflex, and I immediately let loose a frothy river of putrid bile that screamed out of my throat and splattered on desks and people in the immediate vicinity.

When the river of vomit ceased and I was able to move again, I did what any self-respecting teen would do after puking in front of her would-be boyfriends and 30 or more other people. I ran.

And then I puked again. This time in the very front of the room.

And then I ran some more.

I wish I could remember what happened after that. I know I ended up at home, and I know that mom and I later learned about meat digestive enzymes and how they go away when you don’t eat certain foods.

Luckily, I also know that I didn’t get picked on for this and while Stephen and I didn’t end up going on a date, Ken and I did (which is a story for another week).

I continued to eat meat until I went veg again in my twenties. This time, it lasted five years and when I decided to stop, I gradually added meat back into my diet to avoid…you know…puking.

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