I blame girls.
Just three weeks back, my son was a mop-headed, Bob Marley T-shirted, worn-out tennis shoed slacker who didn’t bother wearing his glasses because who could see through that hair? Rooted to his chair, bathed in perpetual flat-screen glow, he exhibited all the motivation of a three-toed sloth on vacation.
Then something happened.
He got a haircut. He worked out. He got new glasses, shoes, pants, and collared shirts. He used … (sniff) … I don’t mean to cry … (sniff) … he used deodorant.
Recently, en route to my butcher, I saw the kid loping along the sidewalk on his way home from “chess club” surrounded by chattering, giggling, preening, long-haired, fabulously attractive cheerleaders and I drove into a car. The grin on his face could’ve severed his spine.
As I backed my car out of a minivan, I realized my son was afflicted. He was stricken by a vile and pernicious syndrome that snuck up on us and threatened the very foundation of my role as a caregiver, a father and a practicing barbecueist. Watching him saunter by, enthronged by pretty girls, clearly well groomed, I realized with a father’s sad bemusement: my son is a vegetarian.
Look, I’m a vegetarian. Once removed. I’m very careful that the animals I consume were raised on a strict diet of whatever they were standing in. When Roon told me he was a vegetarian, I was standing in the kitchen in an apron with “Kill it/Grill it” written in blood spattered capitals, cradling a pork shoulder I had slow-roasted for 12 hours in a sauce only a mad chemist could understand. I told him he was in the wrong house.
I asked my doctor what I could do.
“Has he been exposed to girls?”
“I saw him walking with some yesterday.”
There’s no cure for vegetarianism in 14-year-old boys who are tall, good-looking and surrounded by gorgeous cheerleaders. As his condition’s worsened, my poor son has lost weight, beefed up and seems suspiciously active. His grades have improved. It’s terrifying.
Up to my ears in a plate of emergency pork, I tried not to cry. This year I was going to teach him how to grill a rack of lamb. We were going to have cedar plank fois gras.
I know it’s unfair. I know I should respect his decision. I know 23 bajillion people across the globe don’t eat meat. And I do respect him. I do.
I’m just disappointed. Which, again, is unfair. But you’ve never had my ribs. You have no idea of the magnificent joy I get seeing my boy destroy a rack of baby-backs, mouth full of pork, looking up at me like I’m some kind of meat magician. My grill skills are legendary. I breathe fire. I sweat sauce.
On whom will I bestow my cherished recipe for candied bacon?