I don’t like titles. On me, they feel accusatory and restrictive; they never seem to fit or they’re itchy; they’re always a little uncomfortable.
I eat a plant-based diet. I’m vegan. This will be a revelation for some of you especially after the Mike and Ikes episode the other day. It is an unwieldy title to bear which is one of the reasons I rarely announce or bother to bear it for that matter.
I am not an animal lover–dogs are cute from afar but make me very anxious and uncomfortable. Blood memory maybe. Same goes for cats. I kill spiders in my home. I wear leather and drive a very eco-unfriendly SUV. I interrogate these decisions constantly.
When I first went vegan, I hadn’t been eating meat regularly for years. In the two (yes two) weeks leading up to my conversion (pscht), my hormones were acting up (self-diagnosis) and I considered dairy the culprit. I eliminated dairy products; the hormones chilled out; I stuck with the diet.
The journey to veganism was not much more fancy than that. Sure, there was some Food, Inc., a juicer, and Soul Food Junkies in the mix. But, basically finishing the remaining eggs (and not buying any more yogurt or ice cream on the next shopping trip) was all the catechism I passed.
So I wasn’t sure I could be called “vegan,” and didn’t tell anyone other than my mother for almost 3 months what I was (not) eating.
This morning while watching a documentary on soy–judge if you must–I learned that I had not “researched” my decision to go vegan “properly” and had made many mistakes along the way, confirming my suspicion that I am not “vegan.” Because vegans don’t make the mistakes, slip-ups, and contra-indicators like the ones I make.
As veganism integrates into my lifestyle, I am more attentive to what I consume outside of what’s on my plate. But indicting me for not coming into this game–or any–with an arbitrarily assigned level of “awareness,” is why titles are so hard to wear. It’s pretty much a surefire way of ensuring they’ll never fit.
I liken this to when I first began wearing my hair without chemicals. For about 3 years, I had been texturizing my hair into a curly faux fro believing–I think I believed–I was “natural” because my hair wasn’t straight.
**A “texturizer” is the same chemical as a relaxer–it’s just not left on the hair long enough to straighten the natural curl; it only loosens it into a wave.**
One week before my college graduation, I went to a new hairdresser who did not know this fun fact about a texturizer. I ended up with a ecosystem of waves, curls, and naps in a lopsided afro. I went to a barber less than a week later and came out with a caesar.
That was May 1997. Though I never chemically straightened my hair again, there were contra-indicators even then: for a year, I blow dried my hair every morning to make my TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) as close to BAA (Big Ass Afro) as possible. I would not be caught with the car windows down in the summer lest my perfectly rounded ‘fro blow and I avoided sweat like an ex. I dyed my afro red and orange with chemicals that would secure you a two week high if you ingested them in a closed space.
My lifestyle evolved; my hair habits evolved.
But when I read articles that determined that I was not “natural” because I had not entered the lifestyle with the level of awareness that would’ve made me less likely to practice such “contra-indicators,” I recognized why I never talked at any length about my “hair journey” as many women were calling it. I didn’t have one. I had a journey alright–it was called a life. Life has a tendency of changing, challenging, shaping, and reshaping you that way.
So the “natural” title, like the “vegan” one fit awkwardly; not really at all. Titles are that way–all arbitrary yet unyielding in their attempts to define. And they’re, to me, as condescending to the the bearer (because they’re so restrictive) as they are to whomever has not reached the titles’ heights of status.
So the moral of the story is: I don’t like titles. They want too many reasons, and I don’t have (m)any. Yeah I do stuff. Like drink my vegetables and wash my hair with baking soda. Because and for reasons.
Maybe that stuff puts me in various categories. But only for a time. Because God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I expect I’ll evolve from even those.
Because, you know, and for reasons.