Last week my son announced he was going to stop drinking soda and eating red meat. Given that he has subsisted almost entirely on bacon and root beer for 14 years, this came as something of a shock. Still, I was intrigued. Clearly it was driven by a desire to be more healthful, which I took as a good sign. Might it mean that he would eschew Budweiser and bong hits as well? I could always hope.
Besides, meatlessness doesn’t scare me. I stopped eating “anything with eyeballs” my senior year of high school, living mainly as a cheeseatarian for ten years until I met my husband, a Midwesterner who believes meat should comprise at least 70 percent of each meal. Even then, I conceded only chicken and fish, continuing to avoid red meat altogether–until, ironically, I became pregnant with our son. Then one day at a party, I saw a platter of flank steak go by and, without even thinking, reached out, grabbed a slice and popped it in my mouth. I blame my boy, who displayed meataholic tendencies as soon as he could chew, devouring primarily roast beef, steak, hot dogs, bacon, hamburgers and chicken. He didn’t even like pasta; he may be the only teen in America to have survived childhood without eating a single bite of macaroni and cheese.
His new diet will further complicate my dinnertime repertoire, which became seriously compromised three years ago when my oldest daughter embraced vegetarianism. Now I’m catering to a meat-and-potatoes guy who would choose starvation over tofu, an ovo-lacto carb lover, a non-red meat eater and a Chinese takeout fiend. It’s enough to make a mother want to invent a new dietary category: convenientarianism, as in whatever is most convenient for the cook.
Still, part of me genuinely admires my children for their independence and willpower, and part of me loves watching them figure out who they want to be. But that still doesn’t explain why, when my son told me about his new plan, I felt compelled to join him. “I’ll give up soda with you,” I said spontaneously. I have sustained a three-a-day Diet Coke habit for at least 20 years now, and though I’ve never seen hardcore scientific evidence that it’s harmful, I know it can’t possibly be good. “But,” I added, “I’ll have to wean myself off.” I’m down to one a day now, and getting ready to take that final plunge.
It’s not the first time my boy has pushed me beyond my comfort zone. Because of him, I have ridden zip lines, rappelled down trees, and arisen before dawn to climb Mt. Washington. I have spent several consecutive nights in a tent, baited hooks and discarded the bloody heads of gutted fish. Because of him, I live with a snake. I have shopped in an Army Barracks store in New Hampshire, and fired an AirSoft gun. I have learned to play barred chords on the guitar and sat through movies like Session 9, Shutter Island and Paranormal Activity.
And because of him, the next time we watch a horror movie, I’ll be drinking bottled water with my popcorn.