An Ideal Society for Aro and Ace Spectrum Folk

This is for the August 2015 Carnival of Aces.

Here’s my attempt to imagine what features would make a society/culture friendly for aromantic and asexual spectrum folk.

No Prude-Shaming (or Slut-Shaming)

I think the absence of prude-shaming is an obvious given for any society to be fully welcoming of asexual folk, given that the majority of aces prefer not to have sex. The absence of slut-shaming is less essential, but in groups which don’t prude-shame but do slut-shame, resentment can build up to the aces who ‘have it easy’ (I suspect that a significant amount of negative reactions to asexuality come from this type of resentment). The best thing for aces (and everyone else) is to not judge/shame merely on the basis of sexual activity or lack thereof.

Mutually-Agreed Chosen Family Relationships Are Legally and Socially Sanctioned

If two or more people want to become each other’s family members, they can get legal recognition of this relationship with minimal fuss. Each person in this chosen-family relationship has the option to unilaterally terminate it. It is not the same as ‘marriage’, since it will lack many of the assumptions/connotations that marriage has in many societies (most notably the assumption that there will be sex and possibly procreation). Furthermore, marriage will not offer any legal/societal benefits beyond what is available to other chosen-family relationships.

In other words, rather than privileging marriage above all other chosen-family relationships, all mutually-agreed chosen family relationships would be on the same legal and social footing.

There Will Be No Stigma to Lacking ‘Partners’

Some people – including a significant number of aromantics and aces – have little interest in forming any kind of relationship which would justify the type of legal/social recognition described above. Their choice (or inability) to get chosen family members would not be stigmatized.

Diverse Sexualities/Relationship Styles Will Be Accepted

In this culture, people would understand that sexuality and relationships can happen in diverse ways, and will accept them unless they cause unjust harm (I add the word ‘unjust’ because some kinky people want consensual harm to happen in their personal relations).

Emphasis on Mutual Satisfaction in Personal Relationships

Rather than trying to make personal relationships fit specific shapes, the emphasis would be to create mutual satisfaction within relationships. It will also be obvious to everyone that pushing/pressuring someone to do something they don’t want to do is contrary to establishing mutual satisfaction. Sometimes there will be overriding considerations – for example, if a pyromaniac is constantly starting potentially dangerous fires, stopping them for starting dangerous fires is more important than mutual satisfaction. However, one person wanting to have sex will NEVER override another person’s lack of interest / opposition to having sex.

This Society Is Possible

First of all, there are many potential societies/cultures which can meet all of the above criteria (in fact, I suspect there are / have been societies/cultures which have met all of the above criteria, but I’m no anthropologist). I’m not trying to design a specific society / culture – rather, I’m trying to think which features would make a culture/society ideal for ace-spectrum and aro-spectrum people.

Second, all of these things would benefit a lot of people who aren’t on the ace and aro spectrums. That means there are many potential allies who can help establish such a society/culture.

Third, though I don’t expect to ever live in a society / culture which has all of these features, I think any culture / society can at least move in the direction towards being like the society / culture I described above, and even incremental steps in this direction will do a lot of good.


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What Will Be the Actual Impact of Flibanserin?

For those of you who haven’t been following the asexual blogosphere’s commentary on the recently approved flibanserin, you can read this, this, this, and this.

My opinion, to be brief, is similar to that of most ace bloggers: pathologizing low libido and/or lack of sexual activity is bad.

But how are general audiences reacting to the approval of flibanserin?

I read a few hundred comments on a news article about flibanserin (an article which does not mention asexuality) … and the only positive comment I could find was this one from ‘kevin’

And, all married men around the world rejoice at once!!! A main side effect is low blood pressure?… that is great, so my wife doesn’t have to take high blood pressure meds now either.
I’d like to know where they got the absurdly low numbers of 8 to 14 percent of women 20 to 49 that need this pill… I can speak to all married couples I know, that it’s less than 8 to 14 percent of women that don’t need this pill.

I find it interesting that the only positive comment, out of hundreds, comes from a man who isn’t going to take this pill himself, and who seems to be much more concerned about women providing sex (and is of the opinion that the majority of women don’t provide enough sex) than about women’s well-being. Incidently, a commenter called Scott speculates on this drug’s effects on men…

I bet it would work for men too since it effects the brain with dopamine in some similar way stimulants can rather than just effecting blood vessels like Viagra. Sounds like a new recreational drug…

So, if the overwhelming majority of comments are negative, what are people saying?

There are a few people who claim to have been involved in the trials, either as a patient or as a professional, and all of them say that the side effects are much more severe than the article or the official warnings indicate, and that they would never use this pill again. Here is one such comment from A-Starr:

I worked with this medication during the late R & D stages in Kalamazoo. The drowsiness it caused was nearly debilitating to the study group. Sprout pharmaceuticals bought the patent rights to this compound after a pharmaceutical giant…I think it was Glaxo…declined to continue developing it. My advice as a pharmacist, stay the hell away from this medication. HRT and other options exist, not without their own side effects, but certainly not as bad as this medicine. Also, nothing replaces true romance as a libido boost.

There are a lot of jokes about how an expensive pill with side-effects is less effective than alcohol/romantic dates/Brad Pitt/etc. Some people respond to these jokes by saying that they’ve tried all that (except Brad Pitt), and it didn’t work, but they don’t say that they support this pill.

Some people mention that a lot of people can’t take these drugs because they conflict with so many other drugs, or because they are post-menopausal women. ‘Eric’ makes one such comment

that drug will never be ordered at my pharmacy, 90% that female 32+ of my patients are on premarin, Fluconazole , Estrodial + Flagyl and zoloft if they are having menopause.

If this pill just interacts severely with just anti-fingles who knows how bad it can interacts with others medication used for not only fungle infection/control but hormones and SSRI’s. this medication would prob work best for ages 60+ when the amount of women health hygiene control is minimal and menopause has done it course.

An overwhelming theme is a greedy and dishonest Big Pharma and the corruption of the FDA, like this sarcastic remark from ‘Junior’:

American pharma is wonderful. Here, this will fix your arthritis, but you may die of a brain bleed while dealing with explosive bouts of diarrhea.

A lot of comments focus on the expense and side effects of getting one more sexually satisfying event per month. A lot of comments say that this is probably the placebo effect, or point out that this pill had failed in previous attempts to get FDA approval. Quite a few comments reference the fact that the drug company funded the ‘Even the Score’ initiative in order to push the approval of a dangerous and ineffective drug (this is mentioned in the original article). Furthermore, there is a lot of discussion of how corrupt the FDA must be to approve this drug, with claims that the FDA people were bribed, and that it would be better if the FDA weren’t around. One comment in this vein comes from ‘Tom’:

“They point out that the FDA rejected the drug twice, in 2010 and 2013, due to these risks.”

It’s another demonstration, if one were necessary, that the FDA is exactly like every other regulatory agency. Regulators always wind up in the pockets of those being regulated. The same thing happened with aspartame and uncounted other substances. It was first rejected until the manufacturer (through Donald Rumsfeld in the case of aspartame) brought pressure to bear on and FDA to approve it and keep it on the market despite its bad side-effects.

The side effects of this drug make it not worth the risk/price of using it.

In summary, both corporate America and the national government are being delegitimized.

The consensus – with the exception of kevin’s comment, as well a few very silly comments – is that people are not going to take or prescribe this drug.

Granted, the commenters on this article are probably more informed than the general public because they did read at least one article about flibanserin … but if the comments are any indicator, this drug is not going to sell well. And if the side-effects are as severe as claimed, many of the people who do try this drug will probably stop taking it sooner rather than later.

A lot of asexual commentators are concerned that the marketing campaign will increase hostility/pressure on women who don’t feel like having sex. I think this concern is valid. However, I think that this drug will also get a big backlash, and I think (or at least hope) that the backlash will counter a lot of the patholization of not feeling like having sex. After all, as the medical establishment loses its legitimacy by pushing dangerous and ineffective treatments, people will care less about what the medical establishment says.

No, I think the biggest impact the flibanserin will have will not be its impact on asexuals specifically, but its role in continuing the delegitimization of the medical establishment and the USA’s national government (represented by the FDA). As people trust the medical establishment less and less, they will support it less and less – for example, people can stop taking pharmaceuticals – and eventually it will collapse. And the government … well, governments which lose its legitimacy don’t last long, and if the national government of the USA fails … there’s going to be a lot of pain.

An Aromantic American Saw the Movie “The Husband Factor” (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

Here it must be said that I know little of Turkish culture or media. However, if stories of 30+ year old unmarried women who discover that they can have a fulfilling life with a husband/boyfriend are really common in Turkish culture/media, and that this movie is the exception in that a woman starts out claiming to be happy as an unmarried woman, only to find that she is not … well, if that’s the case, then I will learn Turkish.

In the movie, Efsun has to choose between being a ‘marriage freak’ like her female relatives (and Turkish women in general), which will lead to marrying a man, and being her genuine self … which will also lead to marrying a man.

Okay, that’s a bit unfair. In some cultures, the difference between getting married for social/economic benefits and doing it by making oneself fit into a certain mold, and getting married for romance by being one’s quirky self, would be mindblowing. Maybe this is a significant difference in Turkish culture. However, I am pretty sure it’s not a mind-blowing difference in Turkey, simply because even the characters in the movie who are getting married for social/economic reasons at least pretend to also be interested in romantic love.

If you take the marriage thing for granted (for example, if Efsun’s goal all along was to get married), then there is a sensible message that being one’s genuine self is a more effective way to persuade someone to marry you than being manipulative and copying everyone else.

The movie itself admits that the ending is pretty awkward – in the last scene, Sinan says that he dumped Efsun because she’s obsessed with marriage, and then Efsun pours out her heart, and then they kiss, and the last line of the movie is Efsun saying to Sinan “So, we’re getting married, right?” (I don’t remember the exact words, which were translated from Turkish anyway). I suspect that the movie does not stop with a wedding is that it would have been strange for Sinan to go straight into marriage when the whole reason that he dumped Efsun was that she was acting like a ‘marriage freak’. (Okay, I get it, Sinan wants to get romantic with the girl he fell in love with in high school, not the woman that Efsun’s family wants her to be, and that once he’s reassured that Efsun really is the same person he fell in love with, he’s cool with marrying her. It’s still an awkward ending).

I think it would have been really cool if the ending had been that Sinan and Efsun agree to have a romantic relationship without getting married. And technically, that’s not incompatible with the movie’s actual ending … but I think audiences are supposed to assume that Sinan and Efsun do get married, not that they don’t.

But Why Was Happy Single Womanhood Brought into This Movie at All?

Okay, so if Efsun had been in love with Sinan for all of these years, and she had been looking for him in every boy she dated (she says so in her confession) … then why did the movie start with depicting her as a confident and happily unmarried woman? The movie starts out as happy single woman vs. family who is uncomfortable with her lack of a husband … and then morphs into getting man by being stereotypical Turkish woman vs. getting man by being yourself.

I think the movie would have been better if we had been clued in right at the beginning that Efsun was still in love with Sinan, and that her attachment to him was why she was unmarried at the age of 30. It would have made the scene where she vomits on him much funnier. It would be even better if we actually learn something about Sinan beyond the fact that he is handsome and apparently nice. When I watch/read romances, I like the characters involved in the romance to have personalities (to be fair, the fact that Sinan broke into their old high school does show a bit of personality – but in my opinion, not enough to make him more than a cipher).

Of course, I would love this movie even more if it were the movie about the happily unmarried 30-some-year old woman who has to confront her marriage-obsessed family. I’m getting closer and closer to becoming a 30-year-old unmarried woman myself, and I expect that I will be happy to be unmarried and without any romantic relationships at that time, so I would definitely enjoy more stories about such women. I would totally root for Efsun devastating her family with the awesomeness of being a happy unmarried 30-something-year-old woman. I would also root for her if she were (temporarily) pushed by her family into becoming a marriage freak, and her family set her up with the gay banker, only for it to be revealed that the banker is gay, and that Efsun doesn’t need to marry at all (even though the gay banker only appears in two scenes in the entire movie, he has more personality than Sinan).

I think, however, that the reason the movie pulls this bait and switch with the woman is is 30, unmarried, and fine with that, into the movie who is desparate to get married/get romance, is because the movie wants to ridicule the notion of being a 30-year-old woman who is fine with being unmarried. Maybe the people who make the movie thinks the audience will enjoy watching the 30-year-old woman who is fine with being unmarried turn out to be desperate for marriage after all, or maybe they are themselves uncomfortable with the concept of a 30-year-old woman who is not interested in marriage, so they want to tear down the concept. Whatever the reason, it makes the story less effective than it would have been otherwise, and it’s also not okay.

If this movie was the exception in a sea of movies about 30-year-old women who find that they are happy without marriage/without romance, I wouldn’t complain. But it’s not. It supports all of the people who hassle unmarried 30-year-old women simply because they are unmarried. On top of that, it pushes a woman who at first makes snappy comments about not wanting romance into romance. In other words, it support amantonormativity and the norm of women getting married.

***

You might think, because of all of this criticism, that I do not like this movie. On the contrary, I found it very entertaining. Some parts of the movie are truly hilarious. The acting is what really makes this movie work – the quality of the acting certainly helps compensate for many of the problems with the script. Ironically, it’s also the quality of this movie which inspired me to critique it. If it were a crappy movie, I would ignore it. However, it’s vivid enough that I wanted to go deeper into the messages that it sends. And then rip them to shreds.

An Aromantic American Saw the Movie ‘Husband Factor’ (Part 1)

The poster shows a woman with glasses holding a coffee cup with the steam rising from it forming a heartshape, as said woman is bound together at the hips to a tall, handsome man behind her by a giant diamond engagement ring.  In the background there are eight people standing in various poses, mostly women.

The poster for the movie Husband Factor

This post is going to be full of spoilers for Husband Factor, though to be honest, if you are familiar with romantic comedies, there isn’t much I can spoil for you.

In this part, I’m going to focus on describing the movie without directly evaluating it. I express what I think of this movie in Part 2 of this post.

The Beginning: A Confident, Bookwormish, Happy 30-year-old Female Protagonist

The movie starts with a cheerful 30-year old woman, Efsun, who lives in Istanbul. She doesn’t care about making her appearance appealing (she doesn’t wear makeup or ‘sexy’ clothing), she has a bedroom with some very full bookcases, she loves reading, in particular reading a specific book over and over again, and she has managed to channel her love for books into a career in the publishing business.

But She’s Unmarried!

Her older female relatives are not so cheerful about her unmarried status. In fact, they think that this state of affairs is a disaster, and that she should get married before it’s too late. Efsun tells the camera that obsession with marriage is in the ‘DNA’ of Turkish women.

Some of Efsun's female relatives

Some of Efsun’s female relatives

We then get an abrupt switch to a … date? It is coded like a date … Efsun eating in a restaurant with a man her age … but I am still not entirely sure since Efsun had earlier said something about being happily single. In any case, the man is more interested in sports than her.

It then turns out that her 20-year-old cousin is going to marry a young, handsome, rich guy, and that they are truly “in love”. This increases the pressure on Efsun to get married, and the preparations for her cousin’s wedding is the perfect opportunity to give Efsun a makeover which will finally get her a husband.

The only relative who isn’t pushing Efsun onto the marriage track is her father, a ‘househusband’ who cooks and watches TV all day. Efsun also is close friends with the ghost of the man who wrote her favorite book.

The Transformation of Efsun

Efsun’s female relatives start dolling her up – changing her hair, getting her new clothes, etc. It’s pretty clear that most of the initiative is coming from Efsun’s family, not Efsun herself. I don’t understand why Efsun went from ignoring all of her relatives exhortations to dress up, meet guys, etc … to submitting to their demands. Did she cave in, or does she actually want this? I’m still not sure. It would have helped if the movie had either a) shown Efsun put up a stronger resistance only to be defeated, or b) shown Efsun changing her mind about letting her family doll her up.

Meanwhile, even at work, Efsun’s [female] colleagues are pushing her to do what it takes to get a husband.

The Nightclub

After Efsun has had her makeover, her younger relatives take her to a nightclub. She asks for mineral water, and then gets told that she should drink. She doesn’t understand, isn’t mineral water a drink? A mere thirty seconds later, Efsun suddenly decides she needs more courage, and since certain bold man at the nightclub had drunk some alcoholic drink, Efsun decides to drink the alcoholic drink as well … a lot of it.

Efsun at the nightclub

Efsun at the nightclub

[Note: it’s obvious by now that Efsun lives in a very secularist segment of Turkish society – I cannot imagine a devoutly religious Muslim women pressuring an unmarried female relative to make her appearance more sexually revealing, or drink alcohol]

Upon getting drunk, Efsun goes wild, flashing her panties by accident a few times, draping over a man she never met before, etc. She also runs into the one boy she had a crush on in high school, Sinan, now a grown man, and vomits all over him.

Efsun & Sinan

From this point on, much of the movie is preoccupied with Efsun and Sinan’s interactions with each other. They start dating, and Efsun’s female relatives micromanage her interactions with him. They control her appearance, tell her not to kiss on the first date because she shouldn’t be too ‘easy’, tell her to tell him she likes sports and not books (even though she loves books and finds sports a bore) etc. In short, they tell her ‘Don’t be yourself, be the ideal woman to catch a husband’.

Efsun and Sinan

Efsun and Sinan

In fact, Efsun and Sinan nearly do kiss during their first date, but this happens to be just in front of Efsun’s house, and one of her relatives throws a slipper to interrupt the imminent contact between their lips.

It becomes clear that Sinan was also in love with Efsun back in high school, and he’s looking for the girl he had fallen in love with all those years ago. However, Efsun is acting like a ‘marriage freak’, just like all other Turkish women. Eventually, Sinan gives up.

Pre-nup Crisis

As Efsun’s cousin is about to marry rich young handsome dude, the wedding is suddenly halted because … she might have to sign a pre-nup. The groom then explains that it’s a misunderstanding, and then Efsun’s family says that they don’t care about the groom’s money at all, that they aren’t greedy. Since there apparently isn’t a prenup, Efsun’s family lets the wedding continue.

Efsun Pours Out Her Heart

After Efsun gets dumped, her female relatives immediately try to set her up with a banker. “But didn’t you say that Sinan was my last hope?” Efsun asks – indeed, her family pressured her into going into Marriage!Freak mode by saying that Sinan was her last hope of getting married – but it turns out that even with Sinan out of the picture her family isn’t going to stop pressuring her. Moving goalposts indeed.

Efsun’s father continues to be the emotional rock in Efsun’s life – in fact, I think he is the only character in the film who accepts Efsun as she is and doesn’t push her to take a particular course of action, whether it’s to because a ‘marriage freak’ like Efsun’s female relatives, or even to pursue Sinan at all.

Her father also says that, as a child, when all of the young girls were given chicks, the other girls’ chicks grew into chickens, and only Efsun’s chick grew into a rooster.

Efsun's father reads aloud from her favorite book as she is upset about being dumped by Sinan.

Efsun’s father reads aloud from her favorite book as she is upset about being dumped by Sinan.

Meanwhile, the ghost of the man who wrote Efsun’s favorite book says that maybe it’s time that she stop being best friends with a ghost (himself), and go after Sinan. Wait, how is this different from what Efsun’s female relatives want her to do? Oh, that’s right, he wants her to go after Sinan because she’s been in love with him for 14 years, and he wants her to get him by being herself.

So Efsun goes after Sinan, confesses her feelings, and gets rewarded by kissing him multiple times in an elevator.

The End.

What is this movie trying to say?

Finally, before I go full steam ahead into my own aromantic perspective of this movie, I want to try and clarify what the movie’s message is.

The movie says that Turkish women, with the exception of Efsun, are obsessed with marriage, particularly marriage which improves their economic prospects, and they will use manipulation and deception to get it. Part of that manipulation/deception is insisting that they are totally into romantic love, but as the ‘prenup-crisis’ reveals, they are ultimately more interested in economic/social standing than romantic love.

Meanwhile, the men – particularly Sinan and the ghost – are for genuine romantic love, and for being one’s true self, which naturally leads to romantic love. Efsun’s father is also for being one’s true self, though he doesn’t combine this with ideas about romantic love like Sinan and the ghost do.

It turns out that Efsun herself has a ‘masculine’, not a ‘feminine’, approach to marriage/romance, as symbolized by the fact that as a child she was the only girl with a rooster. Eventually, she realizes that she should take the ‘masculine’ approach, go for being herself, accepting romantic love. Instead of marrying Sinan, she kisses him.

Okay, now that I’ve got the description of this movie out of the way, in the next part, I’ll really chew into it with my aromantic teeth.

The Kitchen Where I Turned Vegan, Part 3

You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I picked up a vegan cookbook so I wouldn’t have to deal with the aversion I felt towards cooking with milk and eggs. I remember reading one review of a vegan cookbook who complained that vegan cookbooks shouldn’t have lengthy introductions about why people should become vegan because anyone would buy a vegan cookbook is already convinced the veganism is good. Well, that reviewer is wrong – I was persuaded to transition to veganism by a lengthy introduction in a vegan cookbook.

The thing which struck me in the lengthy introduction was not the animal rights arguments, but the environmental arguments. I had been so busy being proud of myself for being a semi-vegetarian and being So Nice to the Environment that I felt that I was excused from examining my diet further to see if there was anything more I could do to lower my ecological footprint. The lengthy introduction pointed out that it takes a lot less resources to support a vegan diet than even a semi-vegetarian diet.

That didn’t persuade me to go vegan right away, but hey, since I had already decided I was going to learn how to cook good vegan food, it wasn’t much of a stretch to commit to at least increasing the amount of vegan food I ate.

I also did a lot more reading about veganism. Even though I had been aware of veganism for a long time, I realized, I had never actually listened to what vegans have to say about veganism. This is why, when people have the knee jerk of reaction “I’ll never become a vegan no matter what” I have to wonder … how can you know if you’re not even bothering to listen to the arguments? During this reading, I encountered an excellent bit of a advice – try one new vegan food every single day. This is great advice for several reasons, not the least because it gives people transitioning to veganism something to do which is not centered on guilt.

I went ahead and tried a bunch of new vegan foods – both what I prepared in this shiny kitchen in my new residence with the assistance of the preachy vegan cookbook, and what I could find in local eateries.

I found that, when I decided to abstain from eating fish, cheese, etc. … I didn’t miss those foods as much as I thought I would. On the contrary, as I learned more about the harm which is done in order to get those foods to my plate, the less appetizing I found them.

On top of that, compared to trying to ask people whether the salmon came from California/Oregon (Yellow), Alaska (Green), or the Atlantic Salmon Farms of Environmental Destruction (Red), or agonizing over figuring out whether it was okay to eat this specific animal which was on the Seafood Watch ‘Yellow’ list … just not eating fish was a heck of a lot easier.

Over the course of weeks, I gave up eating animal-based foods for environmental reasons, and once I did that, I found myself much more receptive to the animal rights arguments in favor of veganism. At first I simply called myself a strict vegetarian (someone who eats a vegan diet, but does not abstain from consuming animals through non-food products), but I eventually concluded that it was better to go as far into being vegan as practically possible.

So that is how and where I became a vegan.

The Kitchen Where I Turned Vegan: Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

When I was 18, I moved out of my parents’ home for the first time … and I moved into my mother’s friends’ home. First of all, the very act of moving out of San Francisco broke a lot of my habits, so I got to develop some new habits. Second, since I was no longer living with my parents, I had more freedom … and more responsibility for taking care of myself.

Let’s back up a couple years.

During my later high school years, I became very conscious of the things I purchased and perceived environmental impacts. I was excessively proud of the fact that vegetarian diets have a lower environmental impact than the diet of the average American. When I did purchase sea animal flesh, I paid attention to the ‘Seafood Watch’ guide and felt very virtuous about being aware and avoiding the foods on the ‘red’ list (I still consumed some foods on the ‘yellow’ list). However, checking the list, weighing whether I really wanted a food so badly even though it was on the ‘yellow’ list … it’s a mental effort, and I found myself choosing to consume seafood less often simply to avoid the little dilemmas I set up for myself.

I did very little cooking as a high school student because I was busy with studies (I broke a record at my high school for the highest number of AP exams taken, I passed all of them, and I doubt that record has been broken since) and I had some time-intensive hobbies which weren’t cooking. On top of that, our kitchen was full of clutter and old cooking tools/equipment which barely worked. It’s not an inviting place for cooking.

Okay, let’s go forward again to when I was 18.

At first, I mostly just ate at restaurants near my new residence. But I couldn’t help but notice that I now lived in a house with a nice, shiny, clean kitchen, with equipment which worked well, and since it was hardly used, I could spend a lot of time there without inconveniencing anybody. So I got it into my head that this was a really good time to improve my cooking skills.

What I needed was a cookbook, and as a semi-vegetarian, I was obviously going to choose a vegetarian cookbook. So I looked through some vegetarian cookbooks … and was shocked by how many recipes called for milk and eggs.

I can’t say for sure why that bothered me at that time. I never fully examined why that put me off. I can make retroactive theories of why I reacted that way, but I can’t guarantee that they’re right. However, there was a simple way to avoid examining why I was put off by the thought of cooking with milk and eggs – just get a vegetarian cookbook which didn’t call for milk and eggs. In other words, I decided to avoid the situation by getting a vegan cookbook.

To be continued…

The Kitchen Where I Turned Vegan: Part 1

A lot of people ask me how long I’ve been vegan and why I went vegan, but few ask how I became vegan, and nobody has ever asked where I went vegan.

Even before I became a semi-vegetarian, I was never a big eater of land flesh. Okay, there was a small set of foods made from animal flesh which I really liked, but they were occasional treats, not a dietary staple.

I think my mother had a lot of influence here – in her youth, she ate little meat, not because of principles, but because her family could not afford to buy too much meat (she grew up in a part of the world which, at the time, did not subsidize the exploitation of non-human animals as heavily as the United States does today, and thus the cost of animal-based vs. plant-based foods more accurately reflected their true costs). Thus, my mother did not grow up with the notion that meat was an essential part of a meal.

And neither did I. To this day, I still do fully understand why some people are baffled by the notion a single filling, wholesome, satisfying meal without meat. I am baffled when I see a menu for a restaurant which isn’t a steakhouse/seafood specialist/etc., has 15+ dishes … and yet still does not have a single dish which is vegetarian, let alone vegan. Can’t people have more imagination, especially since most people in the past 5,000 years have had mostly plant-based diets?

Because of all of the above, it wasn’t a big deal for me to become a semi-vegetarian during my first year of high school – I stopped eating land animal flesh, but continued to eat sea animals, dairy, and eggs.

But even my consumption of sea animals became more limited. While I was in middle school, my family went to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and I learned about their seafood watch program. The exhibit described how the sea animals we choose to consume affects the ocean ecology, and made a case for choosing to avoid supporting the worst practices. It made a deep impression on me, though I think the lesson I derived from it over the years is not exactly the one they intended – after all, they advocate consuming the ‘good’ seafood, not abstaining from consuming sea animals altogether.

Even during my middle school years, just about the only time I can remember eating land animal flesh was when we visited my mother’s friends for dinner, and they served beef. I think there is an irony that the very same kitchen where that beef was cooked – the only beef I still remember ever eating – is the very same kitchen where I transitioned to veganism.

To be continued…