I recently became a vegetarian because I lost a bet, which I assume is the only reason anyone becomes a vegetarian. This was not a permanent lifestyle adjustment, but it did last 61 days, enough time for my blood-gravy levels to fall dangerously low.
The wager was with Jeff Bayer, a tall friend of mine who is also my cohost on the “Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider” podcast. (He plays the role of “Bayer”; I play “Snider.”) We each chose nine films being released this summer and bet on whose list of movies would have the highest total opening-weekend box office. The stakes were these: If I won, Jeff wouldn’t be allowed to drink alcohol until his wife, Lisa, had their baby, which was due Nov. 10. If Jeff won, I wouldn’t be allowed to eat meat until the baby was born. You’ll notice that in our arrangement, the winner didn’t “win” anything other than the satisfaction of seeing his friend suffer. This is the basis of our friendship.
Well, I lost. There’s no sense in pointing fingers, but too many of you saw “The Avengers” and not enough of you saw “The Dark Knight Rises.” Those are the choices you made, and I had to live with the consequences. The results were tallied in mid-August, but we agreed not to start my forced vegetarianism until Aug. 27, the day after my birthday, because birthdays are a celebration of life, and what point is there in living if you can’t eat meat?
Once my vow of meat celibacy had begun, I regularly encountered a few misconceptions. One was people thinking that “vegetarian” meant “vegan.” I was not a vegan. Vegetarians don’t eat the flesh of animals; vegans don’t eat ANY animal products, including eggs, milk, tusks, or feathers. You know how sometimes for a snack you’ll take a chicken head and just gnaw on it until the skull is gleaming white and all the marrow has been sucked out? Vegans don’t even do that. My bet with Jeff didn’t obligate me to be a vegan. I don’t think that’s actually even a “thing.” Live for two months without eating any animal products? Oh, sure! And then I’ll live as a wizard for two months, and fly around the world on my magical broomstick! COME ON.
On the other hand, some vegetarians eat fish, because for some reason a fish’s body isn’t made out of meat? It’s made out of fish, which I guess is different from meat? I don’t know how it works. Anyway, I was NOT allowed to eat fish. Our version of vegetarianism meant forsaking all chunks of all animals’ bodies, whether those bodies were previously covered in fur, feathers, or scales. Would I have been permitted to eat oysters? That’s a gray area. A gray, slimy, mucus-y area that I wouldn’t have wanted to eat anyway.
Another common misconception was that people thought being a vegetarian would cause me to lose weight and be healthier. “Do you notice any … changes?” people would ask, their voices filled with hope. But it turns out you can abstain from meat and still be REALLY unhealthy. “Vegetarian” doesn’t mean you only eat vegetables, any more than “veterinarian” means you only eat veterans. Ice cream, candy, pizza, French fries, fistfuls of granulated sugar, methamphetamine, entire bottles of maple syrup — these are just a few of the delicious meat-free dinner entrees that will keep you fat and unsavory during a period of enforced vegetarianism.
But I did see some changes. For example, it only took a few days of being a vegetarian before I felt an increased sense of smugness. “I’m a vegetarian!” I would say to myself. “Good for me!” Soon I was making plans to get rid of my TV so that I could tell everyone I didn’t own a TV. Why, I almost started composting! (I got as far as thinking, “I wonder what composting is?”)
Because of the public nature of the bet, my friends and associates knew that I was not allowed to eat meat as long as Lisa still had a baby inside of her. I was therefore surrounded by an army of witnesses and potential tattlers, which staved off any temptation I might have had to cheat. Then there were the enablers, the friends who would say, “Go ahead and have a burger. We won’t tell Jeff! It will just be our little secret!” Though I did not succumb to their devilish wiles this time, it is reassuring to know that I have friends who are willing to enter into conspiracies with me.
In truth, the experience wasn’t as great a hardship as I thought it would be, and certainly not as great as Jeff hoped it would be. The only thing I didn’t like about being a vegetarian was not being able to eat meat. Other than that, it was fine. But I did miss my chicken sandwiches and bacon cheeseburgers and buckets of raw sheep parts, and I was eager for Lisa to pop that baby out so I could once again know the taste of flesh. I didn’t want her to give birth TOO early, of course, because I guess that’s “bad” or whatever, but once she had passed the point where the baby was done cooking and could safely come out any time, I fervently hoped she would go into labor immediately. Jeff, the terror of imminent fatherhood having descended upon him, wanted the opposite.
It’s fun to joke about making a pregnant lady go into labor by having her lie on her back while you bounce on her belly like an exercise ball, but this is not something you should do. It is much more effective to simply push her down some stairs.
No! Do not push pregnant women down stairs, either. If anyone had a good reason to induce labor it was me, and I took the high road and let nature take its course. At last my meat deprivation ended on Oct. 27, when a healthy, beautiful baby boy came sliding out of Lisa’s baby hole, two full weeks before the due date. It was a Christmas miracle! I was very happy for my friends, and I would like to publicly apologize here and now for eating their baby.