I dipped my toe into the vegetarian pond the summer before my sophomore year of college. I had just seen Food Inc . for the first time (an emotional cinematic experience for my 19-year-old self) and was ready to make a Life Change. That summer, I was still pretty unsure about this whole college thing. I had yet to experience that “ah ha” moment the brochures all promised, and I was searching for friends, an academic focus and, you know, a casual life purpose. Vegetarianism promised me a sense of self I was desperately craving, and a set of principles I could believe in and share with others. Also, I really love my dog, so I was pretty on board with the idea of not killing and eating cute animals.
Since then, I have been by turns a full-blown vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, and bloodthirsty carnivore, only to wind up somewhere in the middle. My years of confused and ever-changing eating habits have made me something of an expert on the varying degrees of vegetarianism. You may be thinking, “How can there be more than one type of vegetarian? Don’t you guys all just eat a lot of kale?” My answer is yes, but also, read on.
1. The [When I'm Sober] Vegetarian
The [When I'm Sober] Veg has convinced herself somewhere down the line that she “should” be a vegetarian. Maybe it’s for health reasons, or maybe she’s just gotten comfortable with her veggie identity. She maintains a very reasonable façade in the light of day: she roasts tons of sweet potatoes, seems to genuinely enjoy kale salads, and swears to you that she “doesn’t even miss meat” as she watches you chomp on your cheeseburger.
But like a werewolf in the face of a full moon, once she guzzles back a few cocktails you can usually find her scarfing down hot dogs in the corner, her face smeared with ketchup and shame. She’ll swear she doesn’t remember it the next day, but the haunting smell of buffalo chicken pizza on her clothes will linger long after she’s sobered up.
2. The Pescatarian
This type of veg loves to talk about her healthy lifestyle, but she consumes more fish than a starving seal. She’ll devour sushi and tuna burgers, but she’ll raise a silent eyebrow when your new boyfriend orders a steak at dinner. Relax, Pescetarian Sally.
Scientists who study pain have found that the pain response in fish is pretty much identical to the pain system found in mammals or birds. Also, aqua farms are just as gross and crowded as the pens that pigs and chickens are kept in before they’re killed. So eat all the sashimi you want, but leave the judgment at home.
3. The Lifelong Vegetarian
The Lifer has been a vegetarian since elementary or middle school, perhaps after an earth-shattering experience with a gentle lamb on a field trip to a farm. She's likely frustratingly thin, yet she eats her weight in macaroni and cheese. She’ll tell you she doesn’t even remember what meat tastes like, which is probably a good thing, since her body likely couldn’t even digest chicken if it wanted to.
4. The Health Nut Vegetarian/Vegan
This person is not only meat-free but also wants to be super healthy, all the time. You won’t find French fries or pizza on her plate; this woman is veg mostly so she can have an excuse to eat nothing but greens. She may also run a health blog and/or Instagram account where she posts pictures of acai bowls on the daily. Chances are she has a copy of Skinny Bitch or Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet on her bookshelf, and if you get her going, she’ll probably talk to you for hours about how AMAZING her skin has gotten since she cut out animal products.
5. The Gluten-Free Vegetarian
The gluten-free vegetarian is difficult — though not impossible — to go to restaurants with. If she’s actually gluten-intolerant, she’ll probably be very accommodating and will happily munch on vegetable sushi as you consume your body weight in salmon. On the other hand, if she’s eliminated gluten and meat as part of some weight loss plan/New Year’s resolution, she’s probably delusional. Reschedule your dinner plans; she’ll be back on wheat in a month.
6. The Raw Vegetarian
This person is hungry. All the time. She doesn’t eat anything that’s been cooked or killed and spends most of her time dehydrating, pickling, and juicing her vegetables. She is pretty much impossible to be around, and if you get in between her and her green juice, you are in serious danger.
7. The Cheese-Obsessed Vegetarian
The cheesy veg is a woman after my own heart. She’ll replace any recipe that calls for meat with some kind of cheese, but will still swear her lifestyle is healthier than any carnivore’s. She buys string cheese in bulk and feels superior when she orders nachos instead of a beef burrito. She's an inspiration.
Images: Sinéad McKeown/Flickr; Giphy (7)