Outside Societal Norms

Oct 1, 2019

Pythagoras advocating vegetarianism, a practice sometimes outside societal norms
Credit Peter Paul Rubens / Wikimedia Commons

Hi, I’m Valerie Mendoza talking to you from my public library in Topeka. I’m in the middle of reading Educated by Tara Westover and the book has me hooked.

Right now, I’m reading about Westover’s childhood in 1990s Idaho. The youngest of seven, Westover is the child of a survivalist who has a major distrust of the government. This is during the era of the Ruby Ridge incident in Idaho where the government surrounded the home of a family that escalated into a gun standoff and resulted in the deaths of two family members and one government official. As a result, Westover and her siblings do not attend schools, she and another brother don’t have birth certificates and the family stockpiles food as a form of self-reliance.

I just finished the chapter “Honest Dirt” where her middle brother Tyler rebelled and decided to go to college. Westover writes that she didn’t know what college was and that the idea of going against her father’s wishes was unthinkable.

The book thus far has me thinking about being unconventional and going against the grain in my own life. Westover’s family stayed away from anything having to do with the government—schools, driver’s licenses, hospitals, etc. Her mother was an herbalist and midwife and her father owned his own business salvaging metal. They clearly bucked the norm. At the other extreme her brother Tyler rebelled against the family when he chose to seek an education and go away to college.

I, too, partake in many lifestyle choices that fall outside of societal norms or go against the way my family does things. For example, I’m a vegetarian. I’m the only person in my extended family who doesn’t eat meat. Sometimes this can be tricky—family get-togethers at my aunt’s house come to mind. What does one eat with a family of meat-eaters who don’t like fruit or vegetables? I, of course, bring a vegetarian dish to share, and lucky for me, my mom spoils me and adapts her cooking to suit my needs.

When my meat-eating friends find out that I’m a vegetarian they can’t fathom what I eat. What should they cook for me? Where do we go out to eat? One memorable experience occurred on a trip to California. I was looking forward to the visit as the San Francisco area has a reputation for all sorts of cuisine, and I was certain that I would find stellar vegetarian fare. My mouth watered just thinking of all the yummy foods I would be consuming. Instead, my friend panicked. Let’s just say I came away from that trip very hungry!

I could go on, but you get the idea. At some point in our lives I suspect each of us does something that goes against the grain.

What have you done that’s unconventional? Go to the HPPR Radio Readers Facebook page and let me know.

I’m Valerie Mendoza for the HPPR Radio Readers Book Club.