A Push for Flexible Morality

If you have five minutes to spare, I invite you to read this article.

Don’t worry. I’ll wait…

Okay, are you back? Good, because I have a lot to say on the topic. But you knew that, right? If you didn’t get to read the article, the long and short of it is that vegetarians shouldn’t beat themselves up with they decide to have a pork chop or two when amongst friends – in fact, they should feel obligated to do so just to show others that veganism and vegetarianism is “flexible.” You know, to make people comfortable around it…and therefore low-key encouraging others to give part-time vegetarianism a try.

There are so many things wrong with the author’s position in this article. Just at the surface, I find the concept of vegetarians being encouraged, nay, guilted into breaking their own moral code for the sake of others to be so misguided. From the article: “So the vegetarian guest eating meat when offered has probably shown the host that it is possible to be a (flexible) vegetarian and, at the same time, occasionally enjoy some meat without feeling guilty.” In reality, could doing so inspire others to adopt the vegetarian lifestyle if they see that it’s not such a rigid or strict discipline? Doubtful. Like with most things in life, people eat what they eat for a reason and they will change their lifestyle only when they’re ready and for reasons of their own, not because they saw a vegetarian breaking their own personal code of ethics at that dinner party last week.

My own response to this article?  It is NOT the guest’s job to convince the host or any other guest to become vegetarian, nor is it their obligation to be flexible in order to show that others can eat less meat while still maintaining a sort-of, kind-of vegetarian lifestyle.

I feel the article gives a negative portrayal of vegetarians, assuming every one of them brings a soapbox to stand on wherever they go because it’s their civic duty to coax people over to their side. But I can only really speak for myself. Do I wish people would eat less meat (or no meat at all)? Yes. Do I tell them to eat that way? No. They’re adults. They can make up their own minds on what they want to eat. But if someone is curious and asks me about vegetarianism, I’m more than happy to give them information as to why that particular diet appeals to me.

But it’s not my job to show others that vegetarianism can be flexible and therefore “easier” to the masses. Why should a vegetarian anyone be forced or encouraged or guilted into doing something that makes them physically, mentally, and emotionally ill — and is contrary to everything they believe in — just to show someone else it can be done?

To me, what should’ve been addressed is the host’s lack of manners for forgetting the dietary restrictions of a guest they presumably like and respect enough to ask to dinner. In case you didn’t read the article, the whole point that started this conversation was that the fictitious host and/or hostess forgot their guest was a vegetarian and therefore gave them a pork chop to eat. I also find it odd that out of all the meats out there in the world, they chose pork chops. But I digress.

Back to the whole “flexibility” thing…every vegetarian and vegan has their own reason for choosing that kind of diet, not least of which is to do their part in ending animal suffering. Contrary to all the jokes and memes out there, this is not a trivial reason. Some people are vegetarians for religious reasons. Does the author expect flexibility when it’s for religious reasons? Or is it only when it’s for other, non-religious, reasons? I wasn’t aware that morals were flexible, or rather, that it’s not a big deal if they are flexible. I mean, basically, the writer is asking a vegetarian to be flexible in their morals just to be polite to a host.

Then, the writer tells vegetarians to take heart in the decision to go against their beliefs and strongly held “code of ethics” because it could — could, mind you — have the positive effect of showing others that vegetarianism can be do-able for those who still want to eat meat sometimes. That’s a hell of a lot of responsibility for one person who simply does not eat meat, if you ask me.

Show and tell on the part of a dinner guest is not and should not be necessary to get this point across and I think it’s appalling to expect otherwise.

 

Missing Manners

I’m not sure what’s wrong with people these days. No-one has manners anymore. At least it seems that way sometimes.

A prime example just reared its ugly head this past weekend.  I walk out of my house to the smells of something incredibly yummy wafting on the breeze – and it’s obvious someone nearby is cooking out.  Do they not know the well-worn adage we all learned as small children:  No food allowed unless you have enough to share with everyone?

If you’re going to torture the neighborhood with delectable aromas, the least you can do is make enough for everyone. I mean, really.  Didn’t their mothers teach them anything?

What is it with Parents?

I had another run-in with a kid that wasn’t mine the other day. Spoiler alert: I almost lost my patience. Big shock, right? I don’t know what it is, but unruly kids are just a real, constant, and severe pet peeve of mine. It’s not so much the kid itself that annoys me; it’s the idea that there are parents that drop the ball on basic child rearing skills. I see it in these kids’ faces, their lack of guidance, and it annoys me to no end. I know not every kid can be given the best parents. Some are born into difficult circumstances. I get it. I’m not talking about that. I just mean, for the sake of this entry, basic etiquette. Little tiny manners that a kid should be taught from the get go. Yet, I was recently shown that, nope, this is not always the case.

I was at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant with my daughter trying to have a decent meal and we were doing a pretty good job at it. Good food? Check. Sparkling conversation? Check. Hospitable wait staff? Double check. Almost everything was in alignment for a perfectly satisfactory meal. The only kink was the group sitting next to us. There were four adults and, oh, roughly 300 kids screaming their heads off. Obviously there weren’t 300 kids there, but it sure sounded like it.

One of the kids, this little girl maybe three years old, was rocking so furiously in her chair she toppled right onto the floor. A concrete floor. It got to the point that I was seriously worried about her. A hard fall like that has “eventual head trauma” written all over it. But she kept on doing it. Or, more specifically, the adults didn’t do anything to stop it from happening. The girl fell off her chair, backwards no less, five or six times. It made for an interesting obstacle course for our server. I have to give her credit (the server, not the girl), she’s quick on her feet…able to leap around unexpected child-sized falling objects with a tray full of food with nary a hair out-of-place.

Without major injury, the child got bored with that little trick (thank god, cause my nerves couldn’t take it) and started to amuse herself by flinging her shoes off, sort of like how adults do after they walk through the front door after a long day and just can’t have those pumps on anymore. You just flick your ankle and send them across the floor a little in front of you. The girl was doing that, except being three years old, she has the coordination of a three-year old and the shoes were flying everywhere. And let me tell you, she got some good distance on those suckers. Again, the adults didn’t seem to notice, care, or think this was something that should be corrected. Shoes were landing on the table and in their food for cryin’ out loud!

Sarah and I ate our meal a bit tensely, waiting with bated breath, like a couple of nervous outfielders at a Little League game anxious for that moment when we might be called upon to catch a pop-up as it made its way to our section of the field. We didn’t want to be caught sleeping on the job and have a shoe end up in our grits.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. The real winner was when the five-year old of the dinner party came up to our table as the family was leaving. She stood at our table and stared. And stared. And stared. We thought at first she was checking out the pictures on the wall around us, but after a solid five minutes we realized, no, she’s staring at us. Standing stock still, she was unapologetically boring into our souls with her creepy little eyes. She was starting to freak me out, like one of The Shining twins, and I had no idea what to do.

The thought crossed my mind that maybe this was something she couldn’t help doing. But I had just watched her at her table for well over an hour with three other kids and was pretty confident she was nothing but a nosy inquisitive little girl who didn’t know how impolite it is to stare. (If I’m wrong, then this is just one more reason I’m going to burn in hell.)

So right about the time Sarah and I had decided to speak up, the mother apparently realized that this young member of their delightful group was missing (they were almost completely out of the dining area by this point) — but I guess thinking it wasn’t important enough to actually come back, she simply yelled across the room full of dinner patrons for the child to get herself over there. The girl grinned and took off.  And well, there you have it. Dinner and a show a la Cracker Barrel.

So what do you do in a situation like that? Fight fire with fire and stick out your tongue? That could give the wrong message that you’re in on the joke and don’t mind the unsolicited company. It could also garner you some dirty looks from other adults. Do you invite the kid into your booth and adopt her until the parents realize they’re one short? I can’t see the parents appreciating that one. Unless it goes the other way, and you wind up with another mouth to feed. Or maybe take the curmudgeonly route and say “Can I help you?” or some such thing and hope they go away? While probably satisfying…again, not so popular with the parents. Sometimes it would be nice if you could just call in the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me, we’ve all been there.

While I realize that when you’re in public, you have to deal with a lot of annoyances (trust me, I know), there should be certain things that are just a given. For instance, when you’re out to dinner, you should never, ever find yourself in the position of having to quickly sum up ideas on how to deal with an unnerving, staring child. Or catch flying shoes.