“Be a leader, don’t follow. Do things so others follow you.
Never hold back. Be an individual,
something somebody will never forget.” – Betty Carter
I’ve been a vegetarian for more than two decades now. For the record I have no problem with people who eat meat. We all have our ways.
Being a vegetarian always seemed natural to me. It was sparked into action possibly when I was eight and my dad announced that we were eating the bunny he’d left on the porch for months. The rabbit was on my plate.
My child mind also wondered why the cows and pigs on the package of their parts were smiling. Meat tasted good so I ate it well into my 20s. It was normal in my world.
When I was twenty-four years old, I went on a fishing trip with my Berkeley boyfriend Michael Mechanic and my two brothers.
The boys were doing catch-and-release. Michael would extract the hook of a caught fish with needle-nosed pliers and the fish would swim away quickly.
My older brother yanked the hook out caveman-style. His “released” fish went belly up dead as soon as they hit the water.
I went on a walk, presumably to get minnows for bait. It was a beautiful sunny day.
Sitting on a small bridge I caught a tiny fish in my green net.
Its skin shimmered in rainbows of color. Its mouth working hard to stay alive. Who was I to take that away? I let him go.
Here’s jazz legend Betty Carter with “Open the Door.”
Food is social. Going to someone’s house for dinner can be rough when you eat differently.
To make things even more awkward, a year ago my doctor diagnosed a serious allergy to nuts and dairy. Ultimately most times it’s easier to eat before I go anywhere. That way I can just socialize.
The last building block in this freak machine is that my body doesn’t tolerate alcohol. I’m 5’2″ and it’s always hit me hard, so I no longer drink. Not for years now.
Mostly though, I don’t drink because I want to be proud of my actions. Drinking alcohol leads me to bad decision-making. My normal personality is bouyant (comedic) anyway. Why mess with it?
I still love hanging out with people who party, as long as they are enjoying themselves. It’s interesting that it’s only the hardcore party types who mind non-drinkers.
It’s a matter of pride that occasionally a friend that’s been hanging out with me for years will notice. “You don’t drink? But you’re always the life of the party.” Little do they know that’s it’s because I don’t drink that things feel so good.
The biggest shift from drinking to non-drinking was realizing that when you are sober only actually fun things are enjoyable.
Many situations that could be “made fun” with a drink are no longer exciting.
Talk with good friends, art, dancing, seeing bands; these all still have the magic, thankfully. You definitely find out who your real friends are. That’s also a positive thing.
This song “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers was inspired by a sober guy who felt set apart. There’s a beauty in it that you won’t find in a crowd.
All these differences make me crave deep connection in other ways. Music, live DJing, radio shows, activist events and good friends all keep me integrated in a way I couldn’t sustain before I found balance.
It’s the differences that make us memorable. Do what’s right for yourself.
From German band the Notwist, here’s “One With The Freaks.”
Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle, kexp.org. Music historian and producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s also written scripts, lesson plans and features forThe Smithsonian, Experience Music Project, the University of Washington and NPR.