"Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans... are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit." Ha! That's Anthony Bourdain in the best-selling memoir Kitchen Confidential, and the writer/celebrity chef's famous phrase made an appearance in today's New York Times, which, on the eve of Valentine's Day, delves into the issue of dietary restrictions as potential dealbreakers among couples. A vegan quoted in the article, Lisa Romano, says that she recently dumped a boyfriend because he liked grilling his burgers alongside her soy patties, something she found "unenlightened and disturbing." Explains Romano: "I need someone who is ethically on the same page." That makes sense: If not killing animals for food is so high on someone's ethical scale that she refrains from eating meat, I imagine that her moral compass is set pretty differently from that of a rampant carnivore.
Maybe it's just me — and I'm already anticipating the hate comments I will get about this — but something about a man refusing to eat meat seems sort of...sissy-like. I realize it's probably cultural brainwashing, but when I hear the phrase "male vegetarian", I picture a dude with matted dreads and a patchouli stink who cries when a tree is felled. In short: I picture a hippie, and I cannot hold with hippies. Take the male vegetarian and Florida real estate agent quoted in the Times, Ben Abdalla, 42, who says he prefers to date fellow vegetarians because meat eaters smell bad and have low energy." Anyone using the word "energy"? Definitely a hippie.
To be fair, these are not entirely fair assumptions about men who shun meat. But they are real. An (admittedly old) study commissioned by the Vegetarian Times conducted way back in 1992 found that "of the 12.4 million people who call themselves vegetarian, 68 percent are female while only 32 percent are male." (We're looking for more recent statistics.) And the women at Feministing, in fact, have an fascinating post about a set of new Maxim-like PETA ads which assert that (in their words) "it's okay to buck the stereotype of Real Men Eat Red Meat, because here are some naked ladies to reassure you that you're still a superhetero manly man!" (Plus, there's an entire book called The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams, which apparently intertwines feminism and vegetarianism. Go figure!)
I also polled the other Jezebels, and honestly, most are a little prejudiced against the idea of a male vegetarian. Moe admits that she's "prejudiced against sissies but would date a vegetarian... only if he wasn't a sissy about it though. Like, no freaking out about chicken boullion or whatever." Tracie says she converted a vegan to a full blown flesh-eater: "My ex was a vegan for 10 years when we met and I used to use eggs and chicken stock in recipes after a while and not tell him. Then I got him to eat fish and now he eats steak like every day. I changed him for the better." And Jennifer? She says, she's only gone out with one vegetarian in her lifetime. "I met him at yoga class," she says. "He was a sissy. Hence the reason we only went on three dates. That and he was a really bad kisser."
Then you have someone like my brother, who only ate meat and potatoes growing up, and is now married to a vegetarian. She won't cook meat herself, but she is never judgmental about it when my brother orders a burger, proving that love can conquer carnivorous instincts. Question is, how much of a dealbreaker is a person's issues with food? And how often do people put aside major dietary differences for true romance?
I Love You, But You Love Meat [New York Times]
Related: The Sexual Politics Of No Meat [Feministing]
The Gender Gap: If You're A Vegetarian, Odds Are You're A Woman. Why? [Find Articles]