SLIC­ING UP THE IN­VIS­I­BLE RULES OF LIFE

GQ (Australia) - - FRONT PAGE -

We live by lots of dif­fer­ent rules. Some, like ‘thou shalt not kill’, have been around as long as we have, and are so sig­nif­i­cant they’ve be­come law. Oth­ers are less im­por­tant, and our obe­di­ence is more con­tin­gent on con­ve­nience than moral­ity. These in­clude park­ing re­stric­tions, or not chew­ing with your mouth open. Then there are the rules we don’t know ex­ist, un­til we break them. Two spring to mind – both I’ve learnt the hard way, both at the hands of vege­tar­i­ans. The first was at univer­sity. I was in an all­night study group, work­ing late to cram for an exam. At about nine o’clock, the con­sen­sus was pizza would in­crease our con­cen­tra­tion. Be­ing stu­dents, we scraped to­gether just enough money for one fam­ily-size ef­fort, which worked out at one and a half slices each. I was in charge, so gauged ev­ery­one’s pref­er­ences. Some liked supreme, some mar­garita, but the two piz­zas of choice were meat lovers’ and veg­e­tar­ian. I made the or­der. When they ar­rived, all hell broke loose. I thought half-veg­e­tar­ian/half-meat lovers’ would be a crowd pleaser: ev­ery­one get­ting what they wanted within the bud­get. Ap­par­ently for meat to be present on a pizza with any no­tion of veg­e­tar­i­an­ism was not only un­pop­u­lar, it was also highly of­fen­sive. Burned. My best ef­forts to please mean noth­ing to a pas­sion­ate her­bi­vore. So in­vis­i­ble rule No.1: no meat on veg­e­tar­ian piz­zas. Writ­ing it out ac­tu­ally makes it pretty ob­vi­ous. Les­son learnt. Fif­teen years later, turns out les­son not learnt. Cue in­vis­i­ble rule No.2. Monday night, a group of writ­ers were stay­ing late, cram­ming to fin­ish the script for a TV show. The bud­get was higher than at uni, and ev­ery­one could def­i­nitely af­ford to have sub­stan­tially more than one and a half slices. For eight peo­ple, I or­dered eight large piz­zas. Two ve­gos, so I or­dered two veg­e­tar­ian piz­zas. All the rest had some kind of meat. Piz­zas ar­rived, the eating com­menced and ev­ery­one was get­ting along fine. But when I went for sec­onds, things hot­ted up. “You can’t have that pizza.” “I may have put on a lit­tle win­ter con­di­tion of late, but that doesn’t call for a full pizza ban,” I said, laugh­ing off the con­fronta­tion. “No. You’re about to have a slice of veg­e­tar­ian pizza. But you’re not a veg­e­tar­ian. You’re break­ing the rules.” I soon re­alised that this wasn’t as friv­o­lous a con­ver­sa­tion as I first thought. “What rules?” Clearly I had for­got­ten about the ju­ris­dic­tions of mixed-di­etary needs. “The veg­e­tar­ian piz­zas are only for vege­tar­i­ans rule.” While I now un­der­stood the virtue in in­vis­i­ble rule No.1, I had

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