Being Hit in the Face with Meat

I also have a story about being bullied with flying meat like this poor kid in the UK.

When I was in primary school, my mother was at uni as a mature-age student. It was just Mum and me at home, so she would come home and tell me about all the things she had learned at uni that day.

One of the classes she studied was Animal Ethics. She would come home and tell me about how horribly veal cattle are treated in their short lives, show me pictures of battery hens that had been in cages so long their feet had grown around the wire, and how some sheep are horribly injured in the crush of live transport. She decided to become vegetarian.

At the time I was a really fussy eater, so I also decided to become vegetarian. The stories about the treatment of animals was part of the motivation, but mostly it was about being fussy and an opportunity to plausibly eliminate a lot of food from my diet. I was vegetarian, but a vegetarian that only ate two-minute noodles, peanut butter sandwiches, fish fingers and peas (therefore technically pescatarian).

When I was about 10 I went to a live-in maths camp for kids who were good at maths. I was a pretty anxious and shy kid, so that was a pretty tough experience, though the math activities were a lot of fun. The hardest part though was that as soon as the other kids found out I was vegetarian, they teased me relentlessly.

At lunch one day we were sitting in long tables eating, and I was talking to the kid on my left. The kids who had teased me the most were sitting on the opposite side of the table on my right. One of those kids called out, “Hey Stewart!” and as I turned to my right to respond I was hit square in the face with a large piece of deli meat. It was a big piece – it covered my eyes and my mouth and stuck there.

It was a bit of a shock all round: being hit in the face without warning, the unfamiliar sticky smells of the deli meat, my disgust reflex when I realised it was meat, and suddenly not being able to see. My reaction was as you’d expect: I screamed, ripped the meat from my face, and ran crying and in shock from the room. I spent the rest of the afternoon hiding from everyone and wishing I didn’t exist.

For the record, Mum only lasted as a vegetarian for a couple of years, and then she gave in because she loves bacon sandwiches. I was vegetarian until my early 20s – I wasn’t a fussy eater any more, and I got sick of having limited options on the menu when eating out. And I eat deli meat now.