I’m not that dark of a person.
A kind of embarrassing truth about myself that I have come to accept over the years is that I have a pretty cheerful, optimistic nature. Why would this be embarrassing? As someone inclined toward the arts, with a passion for the radical, a preponderance of black clothing, and the dark coloring/pale skin combination that is such a perfect fit for goth-y gloominess, I was always kind of an outcast amongst others of a similar bent. I was born with a loopy (some would say zany) energy. I definitely didn’t fit in with the pep squad but my temperament also clashed with the perpetually sighing artists. What worked for me eventually was to find friends who also defied categorization: depressive cheerleaders, happy poets, stable performance artists, serene radical feminists. These friends have an important place on my personal island of Misfit Toys and have made my journey in life much less lonely.
Despite my essentially happy nature, though, I am painfully aware of how much of the world rather, well, sucks. As vegans, we know this all too well. Maybe the reason that I am pretty happy is that I’ve always had an outlet. Whether I’ve been painting or writing, my thoughts have been explored, processed and, finally, released. My annual Disgruntled Alphabet is honestly therapeutic at this point and I fully encourage you to add your favorite letters and corresponding gripes in the comments. We need to release all this angst so we can get back to being the good examples we strive to be, right? Or just to get it out of our system before embarking on a fresh new year. In case you're thinking that I am making the case for why veganism sucks, I'm not. It is awesome but, as the expression goes, hell is other people. Maybe next week, I'll come up with a Cheery, Happy Vegan Alphabet for Optimists. For now, though, I present the 2012 Disgruntled Alphabet.
A is for Anatomy because, come on! Learn it. There is a freaking world of difference between a tomato plant and a cow and NO, they both don’t feel pain. We don’t live in a world in which we can pretend to not know about sentience, neurological and circulatory systems, brain waves and so forth. Anyone who asserts that plants feel pain – anyone who is older than, say, five - is just illustrating how willing he or she is to abandon logic and escape to the puffy, swirly kingdom of Magical Thinking [see M] instead.
B is for B.S., which I call whenever I hear a variation of the “I was vegan for a week and then all my hair fell out, and then my limbs atrophied, and then my organs started attacking each other and I was put on life support because I have a really, really rare amino acid thing,” story, which apparently happens more than would seem possible.
C is for the Caterer at the wedding, who very thoughtfully and painstakingly prepared a spectacularly grey plate of boiled broccoli and cauliflower on a bed of iceberg lettuce for your gustatory pleasure.
D is for Diversionary Tactics, which re-route us from honest and thoughtful discussions about the ethics of eating animals to pulling up a chair at the all-you-can-eat “lions-kill-gazelles-plants-feel-pain-what-about-the-Inuit-people?” smorgasbord of random delights from Excuseistan.
E is for Eggs: I don’t care if they came from a virgin meadow of the softest grass where the hens are serenaded by classical violinists and gently massaged by the finest avian masseurs each day as they dine on organic, free-range grubs and are lovingly tucked into bed each night by a trilling Snow White herself. Eating eggs is unnecessary and exploitative but keep dreaming up those sustaina-bull [see S] fairy tales all you like.
F is for Forgetting, because it’s embarrassing when you forget that one of your friends is not quite vegan and it just dawns on you after you said something pretty snarky about how gross it is to drink milk and then it’s all awkward between you. Oops!
G is for "Get a Life!" which we are told that we don’t have if we care about the billions of sentient, gentle beings who are abused and slaughtered with each moment. Because one proves that one has a life by not giving a damn, right?
H is for the Hassle you go through every year when family members squabble over the annual dinner out together when your peevish great uncle comes to town and you always end up eating a plain salad with nothing on it at his favorite steakhouse anyway. You'd better be in that geezer's will.
I is for “I know that I shouldn’t say this to you, but I couldn’t live without bacon.” Yes. You. Could.
J is for the Jack of All Trades who strikes up a conversation with you about the Problems with Veganism at the annual company holiday party: he’s a dietician, an anthropologist, a historian, an elite personal trainer, a philosopher, a biologist and an expert on world cultures all rolled into one. And you thought he was just an accountant.
K is for knife, which is yours but your roommate sometimes uses it to cut meat and doesn’t see what the big deal is, anyway.
L is for Lighten Up, which we need to do because needless suffering and slaughter isn’t really all that big of a deal, either.
M is for Magical Thinking, which brings omnivores a whole host of interesting diversions, such as Plants and Their Feelings, All I Eat is Happy Meat, Death is Life/Life is Death, By Eating Animals, I Am Showing My Respect for Them and more. The realm of Magical Thinking is a shiny, happy place that omnivores can skip off to whenever they don’t want to face the reality of their habits. They can stretch out on a puffy cloud, float over a crystalline pond and frolic with the glittery free-range unicorns any time they like through their Magical Thinking escape hatch.
N is for Neurotic, because caring about what you put into your mouth and spend money on is just so high-strung, isn’t it? Meat is a metaphor for hot, carnal sex. We get it. We’re prudes. And you're a necrophile.
O is for Opinions, which we shouldn’t mistake for facts, right? Like it is an opinion that the life of a tomato and the life of a chicken are roughly equivalent but it is a fact that plants and animals have very different anatomies and physiological functions for evolutionary reasons and purposes but let’s not let facts stand in the way of a little romp in the land of Magical Thinking. Oooh! Glittery unicorns!
P is for Passive-Aggression, without which we wouldn’t have hostile family meals, a persistent mispronunciation of the word vegan by your significant other, knowing smirks between coworkers when you get the leather gloves in the Secret Santa gift exchange, your brother-in-law describing veganism as a “lifestyle” with little quotation marks that just seem so snarky with his stupid, mean fingers and other really fun things like that.
Q is for Quack because, honestly, you can send me all the wackadoo videos you want from that chiropractor talking about how soy will turn boys into girls and how our “inferior protein sources” cause our brains to shrink like thirsty little walnuts and how vegan children are all pre-diabetic Children of the Corn and I still won’t believe you.
R is for Rights, which omnivores are pretty obsessed with, as in their “right” to eat or do whatever they please as opposed to another being’s right to live free from intentional harm. Clearly the “right” to a pepperoni and cheese pizza is more worthwhile and valuable than a sentient individual’s right to sovereignty and self-protection.
S is for Sustaina-bullshit because it defies mathematics and basic logic to believe that you can eat as much grass-fed, organic, free-range blah-blah-blah as you like without an ecological impact as long as you buy it from cute little heritage farms. A form of Magical Thinking, Sustaina-bullshit rewards those who want a reassuring little pat on the back and cup of organic cocoa rather than more substantive actions.
T is for the Trauma of Thanksgiving. T is also for Therapy.
U is for Unless you plan to bring your own food to Thanksgiving, you can expect a dinner of cranberry sauce with a side of defensiveness and a generous dollop of guilt-tripping. Okay, you'll get those extras even if you do bring your own food.
V is for Vermont: Weren’t we supposed to have a vegan commune there by now? Near a mountain or a river or something and we’d all eat massaged kale salads all day? Let’s get on that already.
W is for “Well, I was a vegetarian for ten years but then I read that the Dalai Lama eats meat so…”
X is for X-Ray vision, which you don’t possess but you can still see the layers of subtext and insinuation buried within the offhand remark of your cousin that she “doesn’t think it’s right to mistreat animals but there are more important issues in the world and it's nothing to get all crazy about.”
Y is for Yay! Your new officemate just put up a Heifer International calendar where you can see it every day! And your manager is pressuring you to buy candy bars for her son’s elementary school fundraiser! And you have to meet an important client for lunch next week and he’s on the Paleo diet! YAAAAAY!
Z is for Zen. We’ll get there one day. Or we won’t. Whatever. Is that Zen enough?