Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Lifestyle, health and social circles

I was very close to a girl, she was the elder sister that I never had. I genuinely loved and cared for her.

When she was pregnant I cooked every other day for her, one day she had tears in her eyes saying she doesn't miss her mother because I was around. Months went by and then it so happened that she stopped inviting me to any of the parties she held. So if her brother was in town she invited the whole town to meet with him except me and next day she told me 'I invited everyone in our group but I didn't invite you because you are a vegetarian and I hate to cook vegetarian food', this happened many other times like her daughter's very first birthday, thanksgiving and whatnot parties. Every now and then she started to vent her hatred for vegetarian food which I wish she had expressed when she was pregnant because that would have saved me loads of time and energy.

'I will invite you for Ganapati festival because that is when I cook vegetarian food' she said. I am a vegetarian does not mean I am religious :-). I don't know why people who hate vegetarian food insist on eating it for these festivals, why associate purity, faith, god with what we eat or drink is beyond me and if you do then that means you are doomed for the rest of the year when you eat non-veg? But anyway, as much as these festivals suit your cooking conveniences they do not suit my basic belief system- I am a non-closeted atheist so Ganapati festivals do not work for me.

See, I completely get it that one doesn't invite everyone to every party - I have loads of friends who do not necessarily invite me to every single party that they host and same goes for me, but not inviting someone to meet with your brother because they are vegetarian sounds bizarre. One needs to know that I earn and cook for myself - that means I have food at home and am not forming relationship with you in search of food or parties, I am friends with you because I like you, as simple as that. So yes, I am cool with not being invited but not cool with being told that I wasn't invited because of my food preferences.

Here is another example - A week before 31st December I was having a discussion about new year plans with the same girl in the above example. I told her I have no plans for 31st so let me know if you want to hang out that day. She said she had no plans and wasn't too keen on doing anything. But on the afternoon of 31st she called to invite me to a new year party that she had decided to host last minute (that is what she said).

When I arrived I saw everyone was dressed in some theme, when I asked about it to one of the girls at the party she said 'you must have missed the details in the party invite that was sent, it is one of this themed party'. I asked her when was this invite sent (because I had received none). And the girl said it was sent over a week ago.

Next week the friend said the focus of her party was alcohol and since I am a teetotaler I might not have enjoyed it. So yes, I was being avoided because I don't drink alcohol, because the perception is one can not match the madness without being inebriated.

In this case I had a choice -
1. to change my food preference, to lax my religious opinions and faith, to start drinking alcohol only because I loved the friend, the one who obviously was keen on hanging out with those who shared similar habits (she held on to me until she found the new set of friends)

2. or then let go, let go of the relationship, let go of the strong emotional bond, let go of being a burden on someone, let go of making them feel guilty of omitting me because I once cared for them as their mother would have, let go of the stress that it was causing me - yes it causes stress when you see that everyone is invited and you are omitted (specially by someone you love) because you are not so-called cool, it causes stress when someone is constantly telling you that you were not invited because of your food and drink preferences.

On a sidetrack - For some people love for animals is only reserved for pets - who are treated just like a family member, people who love all animals as their pets are being idiots and unreal, people need to be intoxicated to be high, people like me who are being high on stupid thing called life are party poopers.

So anyway, guess what I chose? to chain them or to free them of something that had remained a mere formality for them? I chose to let go. I denied to be treated this way, I would rather hang out with people who respect my lifestyle choices. May be one day they will realize that none of their party lover - non-vegetarian, alcoholic friends helped them at the crucial phases of their life (or may be they will never realize it and that is fine).

Initially it was hard for me to grasp this whole experience, I found it very difficult to deal with because all my life I have had non-vegetarian and alcohol loving friends who did not associate or avoid me based on my lifestyle choices, they lived in their delirium and let me live in my own.

I have this closest friend from my college days (we were set apart by distance after college), I asked her recently if she was a vegetarian. She laughed and said she is a non-vegetarian and asked me the same question. So all these years we did not know what we chose to put in our own guts, reason is simple because we connected on understanding, empathy, compassion, care and love. I had like to believe that is what normal people do. So the point being I do not know the food and drink preferences of many of my close friends.

I have heard it from many people that best of their friends started omitting them from a social scene because the ones being omitted did not drink or smoke.

One girl told me that she was avoided by girls living in her society because she didn't speak the same language as they did - of clothes, shopping and jewelry. I can tell you for sure that this girl is highly educated, independent and more successful than the rest of her neighbors. I insisted (but to no avail) that she tell her 'society girls' that she had the biggest jewel of all times - fitness.

Another friend recently told me that he prefers to eat home cooked fresh food everyday (Kudos!) and rest of his friend circle loves to eat at restaurants every other day, he chose to let go of that group who also had started to avoid him, and he formed friendship with people who did potluck, poker, hiking and biking, as simple as that.

Anyway, I think you get the gist of what I am trying to say - do not fall prey to bad habits (like smoking and drinking) or eat unhealthy food at the restaurants frequently or change your food preferences or change your religious beliefs or become a clothes horse - just because you want to adhere to a group of people.

This is a big problem within people living away from their own country - they try to form superficial friendships just to be able to socialize with their own kind and culture. They do not think if my wavelength matches with this group, are their lifestyle choices bothering me, am I just hanging out with them to kill time or just to get a feeling of belongingness.

Believe me the world is full of nice people that you will stumble upon every inch, every corner and you will end up finding more wonderful and interesting people who match your psyche and respect you for who you are.

If you have had one such bad experiences before then don't let it dampen your mood to have that kind of emotional involvement again, just make sure that you are accepted irrespective of the choices you make. Also don't make lifestyle choices based on what your so-called friends are doing - don't succumb to social pressures.

Your social circle (and every relationship for that matter) has a big role to play in the lifestyle that you want live or the mental equilibrium that you need. All I can advice is stay away from relationships that are affecting your lifestyle or physical and mental health.

(I have written about this experience in bits and pieces previously in 'the meaty story-  ').

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