Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dear Alicia Silverstone...


Dear Alicia,

Hi! How are you? It seems like I should be writing this letter in purple ink with my rounded handwriting and slipping it in your locker but I’m hampered by circumstances. I will concede that it’s kind of awkward approaching you in this very public way. Ideally I’d just put this note in your locker or your desk or your hand surreptitiously as we passed in the hall but I still don’t think you seem like the kind of person who would mind getting a public letter. Maybe it is presumptuous of me but you seem like an easygoing, unpretentious type of person. Also, this is the only way I thought of that could potentially reach you so there’s that.

I’ll start out by saying that I think you’re fabulous, but I’m not saying it in that fawning way that people like me might speak to people like you. I’m not one who fawns, anyway, though I totally love baby deer, which I suspect you do, too. (So cute.) Nor am I being sarcastic, though that is my natural default setting. You just seem like someone who smiles easily, has fun, doesn’t buy into the terrifying Kardashianization of Western culture that threatens to swallow us all, which seems like a trite thing to point out but isn’t. Plus you’re vegan, which is a big ol’ plus in my book, of course. I’m being serious, Alicia: I appreciate you and your approachable example of a life well lived.

So please keep in mind when I say what I’m going to say that I like you as much as I can like someone I don’t know. You seem like you’d be a lot of fun at a party and I would totally tell you funny stories over tempeh burgers on gluten-free buns that would make you laugh. Hard, too. So this is it: please, for the love of all that is good in the world, please don’t ever spit up food into your baby’s mouth again. At least don’t do it on camera again and then load it onto the internet.

There. That’s it.

As someone who has been in front of cameras from a young age, you must be somewhat image conscious. I don’t mean it with that shallow, la dee dah “I’m so superficial” connotation we have with the word “image.” (The word itself has an image problem, which is kind of funny.) With image, I mean the impression we are sending the world by how we’re perceived through our actions. Human mothers feeding their babies using the mouth as a means of transportation just is going to be problematic. A vegan mother doing this with her vegan baby is, like, a million times worse. I’m not saying that feeding your baby this way is right or wrong. It’s not for me but I also don’t care. Frankly, I wouldn’t care if you fed your baby on the wings of a mourning dove you rescued or in a hemp seed-encrusted coconut shell sent to you by Woody Harrelson over the Pacific ocean. I really don’t care. Once it gets into the public domain, though, I start to care.

You have to understand that I don’t mean to be harsh, Alicia. It’s just that many in the world consider parents raising vegetarian children to be nutty and that those of us raising vegan children should pretty much be on the DCFS “frequent visitation” list. Do we need to, you know, take this up a notch by pre-chewing and then spitting food into our children’s mouths on camera? I think vegans appear on most internal Orange Alert lists even without such provocations.

I get that this reveals such screwed up values, believe me. People are saying that feeding your baby this way is unsanitary and, meanwhile, they’re feeding their children assorted animal parts that have been “sanitized” with ammonia. Pretty messed up, right? And it’s better that the media should cover the eccentric style in which a celebrity feeds her baby then, like, dedicate time to exposing war, violence and climate change, right? Ugh. We wouldn’t want that.

This is the world we live in, though, and these are the values. Given this reality, and that veganism fundamentally disrupts some core presumptions, I think we need to minimize the weirdness whenever we can. Which is not to say that a whitewashed, generic world void of personal idiosyncrasies is what we should aspire to but to many people, we are the only vegans they know, and that is already quite weird enough.

Maybe also we should get a better handle on “good weird” and “bad weird” in general: good weird is associated with chutzpah and charm. The average person with any taste can’t help wishing that he or she had some of that distinctive, confident style. Bad weird unnerves. It disgusts. It sends eyes searching for the nearest exit. It is the difference between climbing a tree just for the heck of it and imitating a mother robin by pre-masticating your baby’s food and then spitting it into his mouth. This is a wide gulf, you know? Yes, I get that it’s all in the eyes of the beholder and kind of arbitrary but I still think you know what I mean. There’s all kinds of wiggle room there.

I have been bad weird as an outspoken vegan more times that I care to admit. My stint as a vegan stretches way back into the mid-1990s so let’s just say that sometimes I was That One who screamed at strangers in the grocery store. And dressed up as a scary clown at the rodeo and/or circus protest. And dropped banners from viaducts while raising my arms triumphantly. I do not regret that passion or those convictions one iota nor have they diminished; that’s not what the message of this is about. It’s just that when you live a public life as a vegan, you represent more than just you. Because we are still so small in number, we represent each other. I know it’s unfair, but that’s life.

So maybe keep the quirkier of your home movies to yourself and your immediate family. One day you and your baby’s father will watch the movies together and you will sigh, “Aw, hon, remember when little Bear Blu used to let me spit food into his mouth?” But when the rest of the world thinks that skimming an ingredient panel is straight up bizarre, this is just too much, Alicia.

Know what I mean?

So please keep living your eco-fabulous, vegan life and know that I appreciate what you do. You’re kind and natural and the real deal. I’m even not ashamed to admit that I’ve written a novel that I think would be awesome for you to get behind. (What would I have done in the old days if this were an actual letter and I couldn’t put a link here?) I hope that I didn’t hurt your feelings. It’s not you, it’s the world. We’ve got a lot to do – a ton – and we can’t afford to let people get hung up on this silly stuff that really doesn’t matter.

Onward and upward, right?

Take care, Alicia. I just think that from now on, you should let your little guy chew and swallow food on his own, okay? It’ll be character building. You know I’m not mad. Let’s just all vow to do a little better. The eyes of the world are upon us.

xo,

Marla

12 comments:

Rhea Parsons said...

Excellent letter. I only wish someone had read it to me first so I could digest it better.

kelly g. said...

Rhea FTW!

Rebecca said...

Marla, you are so funny!

Marla said...

This ain't no Reader's Digest, Rhea.

Marla said...

I agree, Kelly!

Marla said...

Thanks, Rebecca!

Vegan Burnout said...

Rhea officially wins at internetting today.

And Marla, as always, you are spot-on.

Rae Sikora said...

LOVE IT!!

Marla said...

Love YOU, Rae!

Carolyn Field said...

Perfect! Good weird and bad weird — perfectly expressed. Since I just discovered you recently, I love knowing that your previous posts are available and waiting for me. It's a delicious feeling.

Marla said...

Thanks so much, Carolyn! Very sweet of you to say that.

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