I am _______

At a recent office birthday party, my fork continued to dive itself into the seven layer mocha cake so perfectly selected from Sweet Lady Jane.  Against all of the little self-control I possess, forkful after forkful went into my mouth like a child just discovering sugar. I was unstoppable. At least until a co-worker of mine asked, “Aren’t you not eating dairy?”

Well, the truth of the fact was that I wasn’t. Or wasn’t supposed to be. Or decided I wasn’t supposed to be. It was yet another dietary stint of mine. Vegan. Gluten Free. No “white” carbs. Granted, I often publicize my latest venture as a way of keeping myself in check. If everyone is expecting something out of me, I have less room to cheat on my latest decision.  But in this public moment of weakness, I just looked back at her and managed to muffle through decadent layers of icing, “You know Kelly, new week, new diet.”

Over the past 18 years of my life that I’ve been a vegetarian, I’ve changed my diet more times than God could count. I’m vegetarian. I’m vegan. I’m gluten-free. I’m macrobiotic. I’m sugar-free. I’m carb-free. This is partly because of a stomach condition that causes a particular set of uncomfortable symptoms. As a result, I’ve tried to constantly “evolve” my diet, but it’s really just a guessing game that I’m playing with my food and my body. This is naturally annoying to both my friends and family. My mother, who has to call me for a grocery list every time I’m about to come in town, and it’s always different. Or my friends, who I force to accompany me to the latest fad vegetarian restaurant in the city.

I’ve always wondered why I can’t just BE something. Why can’t I decide something, stick to it, and follow through? I have this very modern, and very American need to have a title for my little obsessions and idiosyncrasies. Luckily, because of a paranoid society and thriving pharmaceutical industry, we’re frequently labeling ourselves with whatever seems to fit us, despite the fact that the title might apply to any one of us given the tight time.

But, next time, instead of looking back with shame as I generously lather a whole-wheat cracker with goat cheese and fig spread, can’t I just respond, “I’m my own thing”?