I’m a vegetarian with glue traps in her kitchen.
I’m sure Walt Whitman won’t mind me stealing his line to add “I contain multitudes”.
The best answer to this mouse problem is the decidedly inhumane sticky trap. I’m not thrilled about it, but it’s what I have to do and it doesn’t totally offend my morals. So when the exterminator put down the traps, I didn’t complain.
But as a vegetarian, isn’t that something that “people like me” don’t do? That supposition is one major reason I don’t talk about my food choice: I don’t need anyone making assumptions or judgments. Because I self-identify with a number of groups, I fall prey to those assumptions all the time. Certain things are expected from “that” group, whatever “that” may be.
When I was a teenager I spend a lot of time trying to be a variety of “that”s, using an image as my guide and basing my choices on whatever image I aspired to at the time: rebel, punk, social radical, even that most elusive of all images – normal.
Eventually I got sick of my rebellion always getting me in trouble, I discovered I don’t have the stomach for radical poverty, and I spend enough time with people to discover there is no normal. That’s when the hard work began: getting to know myself well enough that being me could be my ideal. The behaviors I ruled out weren’t avoided because they didn’t fit my image, but because they didn’t match my integrity. The statement changed from “I’m not that kind of person” to “that’s not me”.
To be sure, there’s a place for “that kind of person” in our choices. Kids don’t lie because we teach them not to look up to liars. Catholics avoid meat on Fridays in Lent because “that’s what Catholics do”. And sometimes I put down a leather item in the shoe store because “I’m not that kind of person” (and frankly the dirty looks aren’t worth it).
We can do better than that. A person is much more likely to follow their conviction if they truly believe that a lie is a betrayal of the credulousness of another person, and not just another thing on the list of actions “we don’t do”. Still I won’t begrudge someone not lying “just because” – or even only because they over heard one of my “there’s nothing I hate more than a filthy liar” speeches.
Occasionally one of more outrageous comments or actions will earn the shocked response “but you’re a religion teacher!” as if that vocation came alongside a basket of other qualities that society has deemed appropriate for good Christian ladies. My goal is never to scandalize, but I know from experience how painful it is to try to fit into a mold and I’m not going to do it, no matter how pious the mold.
Instead, I mold myself according to my conscience, prayer, and the guidance of my community. Chances are the person I become won’t fit one of the world’s molds. I trust that somewhere there is a me-shaped-mold, with just the right fit for a loud-laughing Catholic, a left-brained artist, a complacent rebel, a mouse-killing vegetarian.