Continuing my thoughts from a few months back about online forums...
Participating in a message board discussion (argument, depending on your POV) earlier today that started with the original poster saying that vegans annoyed them, and then other posters expanding on that to basically say that everyone annoys them. One poster was particularly annoyed by people who call themselves 'vegetarian' but still eat chicken and fish. I chimed in with a thought on that, then went somewhere else that struck me interesting:
They call that 'pescetarian,' but the sheer number of terms to describe people's dietary choices is on the exasperating side of exhausting. I've been thinking about it a little bit since this thread went up, and it actually has a lot in common with [what another thread on the board had to say about] rejecting labels.
I completely understand the confusion and annoyance about what people call themselves versus what they'll actually eat. I can only say it's cultural-specific and it runs both ways, much like sexuality and religious choice or any other thing that people do that's either a little or a lot different than the majority of people around them. We've all met people who call themselves 'vegetarian' and have only really eschewed red meat. There are also plenty who look at you blankly when you say you don't eat meat and then offer you pork instead. Easy enough - for a lot of people, the only reason they could conceive of not eating meat is religious. Since I'm Jewish and my wife is Catholic (and Puerto Rican to boot), I have that particular conversation a lot.
My sister has been various points along the vegetarian to vegan spectrum over the last twenty-five years, and I learned a lot about how not to handle dealing with it, particularly at social or family occasions. The goal on my end is not to be a drag on people or make them put in ridiculous effort just to satisfy my particular choice.
For the record, the way it feels sometimes when I talk about being vegetarian with people reminds me a lot of when I'd be in a group of Christians growing up and get called out as a Jew. People's reactions run the gamut from curiosity to barely veiled hostility, like 'how dare you be something other than what's normal?' There's a great episode of '30 Days' where an atheist and an Evangelical woman switch families for a month, and the husband of the Evangelical woman simply cannot wrap his head around the concept of there not being some other kind of overarching pseudo-religious belief system that fills the presumed void left by turning away from religion proper. He presses the atheist woman on what book she reads to base her life on.
What replaces the Bible when there's no bible?
Someone replied 'corn liquor' to the open-ended question, which I thought was funny. The other poster - the one who was fuming at people mislabeling themselves - chimed in again and deepened their stance on it, to which I responded:
I don't disagree with you - words have a specific meaning and they're definitely not using this term correctly. Vegetarian means no animal flesh at all. I have a friend who insists and persists on calling himself an anarchist, but his definition of the term is so far from what most people think of when then think of anarchy as to be useless. Which may be part of his point, but I find conversations with him on the issue deeply frustrating.
It's just a lot easier to not worry about what other people call themselves or call you.
When message boards really do their work on me is when they force me to see all sides of an argument. Maybe there is something to the idea that shared dialogue online can bring greater understanding. Even if it just does it for me, I'll be satisfied.