Allison Nazarian // Boca Raton, FL
When I was a kid, I was not allowed to eat bacon.
No ifs, ands or buts.
Why? Because it was against my religion.
And, yet, I saw others whom I knew were of the same religion, eating bacon freely. It didn’t make sense, but I followed the rules. Was more expected of me? Were there different levels of religion? Did God look at me differently?
There were other foods — sausage, ham, shrimp, lobster, for instance — that were also forbidden to me through my religion. But I didn’t want any of them.
The bacon was different because I wanted to eat the bacon.
As I grew older, I began to eat bacon here and there. I couldn’t resist. It smelled so good. It seemed so crispy. Everyone talked about it so much. So here and there, I’d sneak it in.
I worried that “someone” would find out and think differently of me. Obviously, I was doing something wrong, I was letting my parents down, not representing my religion in the way that it deserved, not acting like the nice Jewish girl I was always assured I was.
So guess what I did? I married someone who also forbade me from eating bacon. Sure, I was an adult now. But I was nothing if not a rule follower. And I respected the person I’d married. If he thought bacon was bad, and my parents had thought bacon was bad, then surely it was bad? And maybe I, too, was bad because I still wanted to have it every once in a while?
Then we had kids who were also brought up to avoid bacon. Forbidden. Unacceptable for our family. Years later, the marriage ended. It didn’t occur to me for some time that I was actually free to eat bacon on an as-wanted basis.
I was scared to eat it freely, because that would mean I’d need to admit that what I’d been brought up to believe did not apply to me in every way, that the religion that had been so important to my parents, to the father of my children, to my teachers and community, was not a one-size-fits-all garment, and that, ultimately, what I’d believed to be law was, in fact, a preference, a choice, a way of life…but not a law.
You may have a “bacon” too. I’m not telling you to ingest it or rub it all over you or bathe in it. It may not even be food. It may be something you enjoy, something you crave, something that moves you. It is also something that you’d been taught was bad, shameful maybe, unacceptable for sure. You may be scared, hesitant, maybe even disappointed in yourself for wanting it.
Whatever it is, you are not bad for wanting or enjoying or seeking it out. You are human.
Be free and, if you so desire, eat bacon. Lots of it.
Allison Nazarian is a writer, speaker, journalist and mom. She is the author of three books, including Love Your Mess, and is also, in no particular order, a speed-reader, an introvert and in desperate need of a hobby. This essay was first published on her blog.