I am not a vegetarian anymore however, though it is hard to pinpoint my moment of re-conversion. As a person who claims to know very little for certain, my beliefs and practices are always in a state of flux. New information is coming in all the time, from all inlets.
It doesn't seem likely that my current dietary trends are based on a desire to conform to my meat-and-potatoes Midwestern surroundings. Rather, I like when people come together as they are. The more disparate the matching the more it appeals to me. So I don’t think my current, lazy-vegetarianism* is attributal to that.
I became a vegetarian because our culture is so indulgent, and I wanted to deny myself something. I wanted to practice self-control against the buffet. This is what I would tell people when they asked, but I don’t think it was even mostly true.
In actuality, part of me was hoping I would lose weight, and part of me was trying to make myself more interesting. I have always liked to see apparent opposites come together. I like accidental iconoclasm. I often find myself modifying myself to be something different than what is suited to my surroundings. I think this is in the hope that people can like people as people, without too much trouble over ideology. I have always wanted ideology to be more like fashion, which I think it is: Voluntary apparel we use to dress up our nakedness.
That is why I became a vegetarian, and it was good for that. It let me into a particular deviant group that attracted me, and it made me like food in general more. I didn’t lose weight. I gained weight. Once I had struck meat from the menu, the creativity I was forced to use afterwards encouraged experimentation, and I did alot of experimenting. I eat all kinds of things now that I hadn’t before. The lentil is a very flexible thing.
I gradually abandoned vegetarianism because I gradually abandon or modify most of the ideas I acquire. This is a small raft that I’m on, and the water is rocky. If an idea cannot adapt to fit our current surroundings, it must be discarded. To be stripped down, to be as close to naked as possible, to have only the prohibitions and inhibitions that are necessary,seem to make a person easier to get close to, and along with. I have stopped claiming any kind of insight into the mind of God, and am trying to shave off some pretenses. It will never work of course, but it’s part of the strenuous life.
Roger Scruton wrote a good essay on moral meat eating for Harpers called A Carnivore's Credo.** It articulates well why it is not wrong to eat meat, and argues in fact, that it may even be virtuous. I had never claimed meat-eating to be wrong, just something I didn't want to do. I found Scruton's writings useful as I reconsidered my position.
So I am eating meat not to conform, but because I find my constant desire to serve as a thorn in the paw of humanity tiring, and patronizing. What business do I have trying to make other people uncomfortable? Inevitably it will happen. I am that kind of person, and I enjoy that kind of activity from time to time. It is one of my many vices. If there is anyone at all that I should be trying to make uncomfortable it is myself. If I bring some other people along with me as I work, and if discomfort suits them as well as it does me, all the better. The more the merrier.
* I still primarily eat only vegetarian. I don’t refuse meat when it is offered to me anymore, and I don’t request substitutes. I don’t scrutinize ingredients like I used to, and if I discover I have eaten meat, it’s no big deal.