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The Temptation of Bacon
adventures of Bad Hijabi in the grocery store
So, I have a few problems with the grocery store. First of all, who is the muppet who decided that food has a race? We really are so flipping pleased with ourselves about this ridiculous horsesh1t concept called race we hoomans have concocted, aren’t we? We just can’t put that stupid sh1t down, can we? Dude, it’s boring. Anyway, the International Food aisle doesn’t have Mexican food in it. Oh right because Eurocentric food isn’t international, only West | East | South Asian food is international, I keep forgetting. Sarcasm alert.
The next thing is having to go to the family planning section of the store to get Monostat or Canesten. Okay, wut? Also equally irritating, feminine hygiene. Right, because human reproduction is a mess female people need to clean up. Damn, I keep forgetting that one too! Sarcasm alert.
Then there’s bacon. Sigh, bacon. Bacon, bacon, shhh I secretly love you bacon. Bacon: one of the 6 foods I would eat as a highly high strung young aspie child with a chronic + reoccurring gastric outlet obstruction. I would eat bacon crispy crisp, nearly burnt. We didn’t have pork in the house growing up except bacon and ham and it was for fussy kids. My parents never had an appetite for it, nonetheless they never vilified it. I never had pork chops or pork tenderloin or pork roast growing up. Pork wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t our jam. Except for bacon and ham. Mum and dad even modified pork out of the traditional tourtiére recipe. I grew up in a world drowning in guilt, not one drowning in food superstition and a fixation on dietary rules.
I had a Sanskrit name no one could pronounce growing up. My dad gave me that very ethnic Sanskrit name even though he was, at best, an irreverent Hindu. Yes, my dad was an irreverent Hindu who, even as a young man living at home, would think nothing of eating beef when dining away from home. Dad always liked his burgers and steaks. I understood the reason for the rule, my parents took the time to explain the reason for rules. Also, Mum was happy to have the shackles of oppressive rule-bound religion removed from her with Vatican 2, and so, we didn’t practise the Friday Fish thing devoutly until I was quite a bit older and abundance and modernity brought a desire to return to the comfort of tradition dietary rituals.
Even then, Mum always was irreverent about catechetic rules around food and fasting—she thought it was silly superstition and a way to control people. Mum said the rosary and meditated on God daily, so she was no spiritual slouch. My dad led a weekly prayer meeting for years, and cradle catholics drank in his preaching and exegeses, so he was no spiritual slouch either. He simply didn’t equate silly control-freak rules with being God Conscious.
So, I guess what I’m saying is I don’t connect my spirituality with abstention from pork. I understand the rule, it served a purpose in particular regions of the world. Pig husbandry places a great strain on the ecology of the landscape—the region of the holy lands would not sustain such ecological strain. Practically speaking that’s the reason for such a rule. The evil narrative some people made up long ago to scare people into obedience. Look, we do know pork has a role to play in the zoonotic transfer of diseases. It isn’t the greatest source of protein. That said, nothing is inherently evil—a creature that God made cannot be inherently evil—you have been brainwashed if you think this.
So, back to the grocery store. Since becoming a Muslim, I have this weird relationship with bacon in the grocery store. Apparently you can take the girl out of the Catholic and you cannot take the Catholic out of the girl. Oh hello, Catholic guilt, there you are! Ahahahahaha.
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned, it has been a whole hour since my last confession … I’m in the Safeway and I’m having thoughts about pork, Father. Does it mean I’m evil? Should I dig out my hair shirt? How many hail mary’s do I need to say as penance—Oh wait …
So, I walk up to the bacon, I stare at it. I pace back and forth in front of the bacon counter. I stop and stare at the bacon. I reach out, then hesitate. I want to touch the bacon. Look around, is anyone watching me, this weird hijabi standing in front of the bacon meat counter having some weird spiritual experience?
Isn’t it weird that a Canadian woman living in Vancouver, Canada would spend anytime at all worried about anyone seeing her take an interest in bacon in the grocery store? This reminds me of The Tell Tale Heart, how the killer could hear the heart beating beneath the floor boards so loudly inside his ears because guilt had deluged his rational senses. Guilt, that self indulgent response we have to a situation which threatens our self-perception of our own goodness. Guilt, in which I make this situation about myself and self doubts about my goodness, rather than about expansion and growth and understanding how to best serve the human need in this situation. Guilt, the primary means of Catholic control. Guilt—manipulative, contracted, fear based thinking.
Do others who become Muslims in adulthood have these weird experiences? Cuz this weird thing we seem to do where we all pretend all Muslims NEVER eat pork, or drink alcohol, or smoke, that we are some homogenous Puritanical group of outsiders—that sh1t is silly and boring and I’m not playing along. Still, I find myself hooked into the fear and guilt-based thinking whenever I see bacon in the store. The weird thing that irritates me is that I spend any time at all caring what complete strangers think about how I live my life! Dude, the point of hijab is not to care about societal pressures to act a certain way. Yet, there I am, like some kid who’s afraid daddy will catch her breaking the rules and get really mad and scold or punish her. I don’t really think this kind of mindset promotes a cohesive and compassionate faith community, or God Consciousness, for that matter—I think it belies a of compassion. Compassion cannot exist where the cultish need to control others does.
The compulsion to control others comes from an inability to control oneself.
So, did I buy the bacon? Ahahahahahahaha, that’s not the point. Wouldn’t you like to know, though, huh??? I won’t tell you for that reason—because it’s important for you to know whether I did or did not buy the damn bacon! The point is, the fear of reprisal or judgement from the haram squad, the human desire to belong that never really dies no matter how much we grow up and into ourselves. Remember Zahra Noorbakhsh from Good Muslim, Bad Muslim? She describes herself as a loudmouth and says unabashed conversations are key to busting stereotypes. So, I guess that’s what I want to do in this space—bust stereotypes by mocking the conventions that don’t make sense and exist to constrain our thinking.
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