Friday, September 21, 2007

Creeping, Creeping...

Over the years there have been a number of times when decisions of mine I deemed personal and of no interest to others would garner very passionate responses. I first noticed it when I was vegetarian (I'm not really, anymore, though I still avoid eating mammals). Okay this one didn't surprise me too much, I know it's a controversial issue bringing out strong feelings from lots of folks, but I wasn't interested in other people's decisions, I was just examining my own. I rarely volunteered this information, it never came up because I was preaching or judging the choices of others... but people often reacted like I was. They'd launch into diatribes about how it wasn't healthy or safe, or how it seemed like a good idea but they could never do it because they loved meat too much, or it sounded way too extreme, and why is killing a plant less cruel than killing an animal anyway (this despite the fact that I never claimed animal cruelty was the reason for my vegetarianism) and besides, who the hell was I to judge their lives? Often they'd turn into Prosecuting Attorneys, exerting a huge amount of effort trying to show how my choices were inconsistent ("well, do you wear leather? Do you eat eggs? Cheese?"), I guess so they could prove that I was a hypocrite. I was never sure what that was supposed to accomplish. You've established a personal (and highly rigid) definition of what true vegetarianism is, then shown how I fail to live up to it, so that means I have to go back to eating meat? Why do you even give a shit? I quickly learned that engaging in the discussion at all was rarely a good idea, because that would only increase the sense that I was looking down on them.

The best example of this was when I was in my local grocery store in Seattle. I was buying butter, something else, and tofu pups. I didn't really know the cashier all that well, but we had kind of a chatty relationship. He looked at the tofu pups, had never seen them before, then launched into the defensive dance, making sure that I knew that butter came from cows, so how could I be buying tofu anything if I was simultaneously buying butter. Dude, I don't care if you eat beef by the truckload, just don't invite me to dinner.

Like I said, this reaction wasn't all that surprising to me. What did surprise me (at first) is how strongly people reacted when I said I don't really like ice cream. I can't tell you how many people got insulted by this. I was deemed downright un-American more than once. I know the show Friends used this to comedic effect at one point, but the thing is, those reactions of shock and horror were exactly like the ones I regularly get. Again, I don't care if other people eat ice cream until their eyes bug out, I'm just not likely to pull out a spoon.

So why am I bringing all this up now? Because I am now typing this entry via my brand new cable modem. Yes, I've been using dial-up all this time, and occasionally, when I've mentioned that, people have looked at me like I've just pissed on their shoes. Okay, pity I could understand, derision even more so, but barely contained disgust? At times I thought I was going to be asked to leave the premises. So... yes, I am now cable-ized. Whoopty-do. Sure, things have downloaded faster, I see that, I just didn't have too many objections to how quickly they downloaded before. Generally "because it's faster" isn't a good enough reason for me to do anything, and it's precisely this attitude that causes people to look at me with absolute incomprehension. Or disgust, like I said. You know who you are. So, my technologically more advanced (*cough -addicted*) friends, you no longer need to shun me. One more step, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century for me.

I am NOT going to spend all day watching YouTube.


Cooper said...

I love this post! I can relate to so much of this ... I have friends who are completely insulted and beyond baffled that I don't own a cell phone. They take it personally, I tell you.

I have a friend who almost daily e-mails me something from You Tube. You HAVE to start watching this, he says.

Don't even get me started on video games. "What do you mean you don't own (or want) a games system!"

What I don't get is why people take things like this so personally, and even try to make it their mission to "convert" you.

Doing something faster is definitely not better for most things. Why are we in such a hurry that we miss the nuance of our moments?

Patrick said...

Bless you, Cooper. Yeah, I don't play video games either (and when I was growing up, I never got hooked on the arcade games) and fear I will now spend even MORE time surfing the web (albeit much faster). Frequently I want to run away to live in the woods, but the problem is, very few woods have theatres in them. I have to admit I did succumb to the cell phone craze two years ago, and I've enjoyed it. (Forgive me.) It is supposed to be for work (actors pretty much need them now), but I love the caller ID feature, and the fact that almost no one but people I love have the number in the first place.

jsleuth said...

You are brilliant Patrick! :-) Great post.

I have seen a bit of what you are describing when I recently began asking vegetarians their reasons for their choices and their rules for what they eat. I did my best not to bring up any of my own opinions on the matter unless they asked. Most were much like you; somewhat reluctant to launch into the conversation, probably for fear that I would turn into a meat evangelist. But in the end I was able to learn a lot about something I knew practically nothing about.

The result of my whole experiment is that I am now 'experimenting' with different diets for myself to see how I react physically and morally. Phase one is no mammals and at the moment I'm feeling much better about myself and my food.

Now, out to the streets to tell everyone else they're wrong! ;-)

Unknown said...

I had a conversation this weekend with a friend who had an ex that has been eating "raw" for about a year now. They go through the same thing, people telling them its not healthy, its a fad, whatever.

As for not enjoying ice cream, that is not un-American. Not eating cookies however is. Even those "allergic to wheat" Nancies. Force people to eat as many cookies as we as Americans eat, and I promise you total global domination in a generation. Particularly double stuff Oreos. Introduce those into some foreign countries, then cut them off, we'll see how fast they come crawling for more!

Joe Jubinville said...

It's remarkable how zealous people are to take a "stand" over things that hardly matter. Coke or Pepsi. Dogs or cats. Cars. Music. Dial up or high-speed...

People's identities seem to become deeply invested in these things.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the high-speed access! Next, please purchase an iPod. Also, learn to like ice cream.

Wait, what?

Eric said...

Wonderfully written, as usual. Good show, old bean!!

Now you need an iPod. You really do.

And as for theater space in the woods... Why not do guerrilla theater there? 'Course then it would be more like gorilla theater! (I got a million of 'em!! If you ever wanna use any of my jokes, go ahead. I won't even charge you for 'em. Just, at the end of the show, say something like, "Some of my jokes are from my good friend Eric".) Actually, that last bit isn't even mine. I stole it from Don Novello. If you can ever get your hands on a copy of "The Lazlo Letters" by Novello, purchase it immediately!

Patrick said...

Somewhere Joe, your dog v. cat example was a good one, and reminded me of another conversation I had with a friend once. She made a yecch sound about a dog I like, then said "spoken like a true cat person." I launched into this homily about how I loved dogs AND cats, and I didn't see how liking cats by definition meant you hated dogs, and vice versa, one could love both of them, hate both of them, or love one and not the other, they weren't mutually exclusive animals. She looked at me like I was nutso. Or maybe like she couldn't believe I was devoting this much brain-space to such a random issue.

I get that look a lot.

Patrick said...

Oh, and Davey, I'm afraid double-stuff oreos don't inspire the same level of missionary zeal in me as they obviously do you. Meh. Change it to chocolate chip cookies though, then we'll talk.

Also cake.

Ipods are starting to look attractive since my roommate's dog decided to chew through the cord on my CD player. He was chasing mice. It's a long story.

Jeff said...


The ice cream thing is not un-American, it's just in human. How dare you, sir? How dare you?

Welcome to the cable modem, Patrick. Now, however, I have backslid, and have no internet connection WHATSOEVER in my apartment. So scorn me, deride me, force-feed me ice cream.

Greg said...

People can't believe I still don't have a cell phone...not an ice cream fan? Ah, well. You do like cake and chocolate, so we could still have dessert together!