Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I'm not a Birthday Boy. You know the type--the guy (or girl) who goes around the office counting down the weeks and days until the big celebration. The topic gets woven into every conversation. If the water cooler talk is about bemoaning Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations or wondering when we’ll see Ryan Gosling’s abs again, Birthday Boy interjects with, “I like t-shirts in a size medium. And coconut on the cake, please.” I know people who take the day off each year. Working on such a special day would be absurd, after all. By contrast, I like the day to come and go and, if my mother weren't on Facebook, it would. So I get a few online well wishes with some carefully selected emojis and time goes on. Birthday, smirthday.

The most significant day on the calendar to me personally is July 1. When I was a teenager and a twentysomething living in the United States, it had special meaning as Canada Day. I didn't walk around with a face-painted Canadian flag or play an Anne Murray album, but I felt a quiet pride inside. A typically Canadian response, eh?

But thirty years ago, July 1 took on extra significance. That's when I became a vegetarian. Like being gay and being Canadian, it's one of the key things that define me.
I didn't make a big production out of the change. No "Last Supper" of ribs and burgers and mincemeat pie. I just woke up and decided, Enough. I'd tired of staring at a plate of food and feeling guilty, sometimes even grossed out. Meals had become stressful, wondering about the animal's life, whether it had been long and if had had a sense of the moment when it would be slaughtered.

In some sense, decision day had been a long time coming. I'd stopped eating fish after the first one I caught was presented by my grandmother as a lightly battered filet on my plate when I was seven. (Oh, god. What had I done?!) I'd given up any kind of chicken with bone attached. Its source was too apparent. (Yes, there was a time when I actually sought out Chick-fil-A.) Most meats had lost their tasty appeal. Officially giving up meat wasn't a major shift.

Still, it's the proudest decision I've ever made. My love of animals is deep and integral to who I am. I had to become a vegetarian as I could no longer swallow all the rationalizing about why we eat meat. It was caveman talk. There were plenty of other choices, even if my Texan comrades couldn’t fathom such “limitations”. I have never tried to cram my beliefs down anyone else’s throat and, when people ask why I’m a vegetarian, I usually offer a quick soundbite like, “It’s a moral/ethical decision.” Let ‘em enjoy their pastrami, let ‘em live their own lives.

But here in my blog I can use this post to quietly express a virtual smile. No emojis, thanks just the same. Thirty years ago today, I did something so right. I made a decision about how I wanted to live my life and I’ve stuck to it. It’s created occasional issues when negotiating where to eat with friends or when traveling, but it’s never felt like a sacrifice. It’s simply allowed me to live the life I want to live.

So, that said, happy day. Happy day, indeed.

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