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thank you, bacon!
it's about happiness
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)

I’ve just had an epiphany. This epiphany was reached through a series of silly discoveries and questions, and a few strips of turkey bacon.

I don’t normally introduce myself by saying “Hi, I’m Reem. My favorite color is green and I’m Muslim," but this is relevant here, because Muslims, like Jews, are prohibited from eating bacon or any kind of pork product.

Some Muslims do not follow the pork-free rule, but I belong to the group who already feel inadequate in their Muslimness enough that they choose the easy-to-implement tasks that God has put on our honey do list in order to get a brownie point or two when it comes time to face the music.

After years of discrediting bacon of any kind as being something I would ingest, I came across a catalyst that would make bacon invade my mind. The catalyst I speak of is nothing more than the findings of a survey of 1,000 people by Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The survey asked participants about their quality of life, and based on an amalgam of answers the New York Times Economix section pieced together The Most Miserable Person on Earth, among other titles.

The Most Miserable Person on Earth is a woman with a series of characteristics that when put together are truly cause for suicide. One characteristic that this miserable woman possesses is a Muslim faith. She also happens to be four feet, ten inches tall and is single and childless, among other tragedies.

Being a Muslim, single and childless woman myself, who’s only three inches taller than this miserable bologna of a person, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d just been snapped out of my apparent delusion that it was actually kind of cool to be me. I was suddenly nothing more than just a short, single, childless, Muslim woman who’s been told it officially sucks to be her.

I won't go into how crappy that made me feel, but it's right up there with being told that some people actually club baby seals to death.

I mean, up until then I’d seen myself as a generally happy person, though after that discovery, I couldn’t understand how I could think such an absurd thing.

Questions swirled in my brain, like: Do I sit up in bed and stretch theatrically every morning before I open the windows of my happy cottage in the woods, where birds chirp and help me make apple pies? (No, I don’t!) Do I have breakfast (with bacon) in bed every morning with the father of my children? (No, I most certainly do not!)

On top of all this, I’m short *and* I can’t have bacon, *because* I’m Muslim.

And here is where the bacon bit comes in.

Bacon. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve taken part in this conversation:

Curious Person: “So, is it like a religious thing that you can’t have pork?”
Me: “Yep.” (I fiddle with a straw)
CP: “But you can still have bacon, right?”
Me: “Uh, no. Bacon *is* pork.” (I unwrap straw)
CP: “Oh my God. So, you’ve never had bacon?”
Me: “Nope.” (I’ve constructed a sophisticated trebuchet out of straw at this point and aiming for CP’s face)
CP: “Oh my God! You’re missing out!”
Me: *Pumping fist after scoring a bull’s eye with straw wrapper in middle of CP’s face*

As you can imagine, the enthusiasm with which I participate in such a conversation is about as much as my blood alcohol content on a Friday night—non-existent. Over the years I’ve learned to just smile and nod at the questionable statement that I am actually “missing out” on an apparently important part of life, the American life.

Now, as much as I bend and stretch the rules of my faith to fit it into my everyday life, there are principles over which I am unwavering—keeping away from pork and alcohol are two such principles.

But bacon, as many will attest, is a force to be reckoned with.

I’d heard many a poetic laud for bacon over the years, but none stuck with me as much as the laud by a non-religious relative.

“Let me tell you, I heart bacon,” she said, making the shape of a heart with her hands. “Bacon makes everything taste good,” she continued, “you could wrap a baby in bacon and it would taste good.”

I winced at the imagery of eating a baby wrapped in bacon. I was disturbed, but my very distant cousin’s words stuck with me. Here was this thing that apparently has such a strong gravitational pull that it can make an otherwise sweet young woman want to eat babies. Surely, it had the power to redeem my life, make real my happiness.

Over the months following the wince-inducing words spoken in January, I heard nothing more of bacon. Then, one evening, bacon returned into the spotlight of my mind.

As I waited in line to place my order at an authentic American cuisine burger joint, I read a poster behind the counter that pictured three bacon-filled burgers. “Mark these words,” it said, “the next great war will be started over bacon.”

I went home and thought about bacon. I decided that I had to put an end to my elusive misery. I told myself that I had to try to bring happiness into my world that would be recognized by someone other than me, and bacon was the tool for this task. I was unwavering on the no-pork policy, but there was still turkey bacon—I wanted to know if this kosher option would fix all that had gone wrong with my happiness.

And so, the moment had come. I watched the limp strips warp and turn crispy in the pan. I tried one. I liked it. Then, suddenly, I had my epiphany.

They say it takes courage to live happily, and I believe that. I mean, despite the very real voices that tell me my life sucks, I know who I am and I stand for who I am, no matter how difficult it makes my life. And isn't that the greatest, most recognizable kind of happiness?


Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari


i'm a statistic
what lurks in a name?
by reem al-omari
topic: general
published: 12.22.06

clothes are like snowflakes
by reem al-omari
topic: general
published: 2.27.07


russ carr
5.1.11 @ 8:46p

I guess a bloody mary made with bacon-infused vodka is still TOTALLY on the no-fly list. ;)

reem al-omari
5.2.11 @ 1:09a

Ha! Yeah, no. None of that for me. :-D

katherine (aka clevertitania)
5.12.11 @ 9:27a

Loathe as I am to burst the happy bubble but... turkey bacon is actually a shadow of the taste of real bacon. Bacon really is just that good, and bizarrely almost-universally beloved.

But I think it's about finding your own happiness, even if it comes in the form of turkey bacon. After all, being childless has its own advantages; like never getting called because your 15 year old put a bobby pin in an outlet and should probably see his doctor. Seriously, that was my day yesterday. :)

adam kraemer
5.12.11 @ 10:35a

Turkey bacon also has the unique feature of being the only food I know of that actually gets crispy in a microwave.

reem al-omari
5.12.11 @ 12:55p

Yikes, Katherine! I hope your 15-year-old is okay! I figure that turkey bacon is not exactly bacon, but it contains the word that most people smile about, so, it'll just have to do. :-)

Adam- I tried the microwave, it wasn't pretty at all. In fact, I felt like I had murdered a strip of turkey bacon.

katherine (aka clevertitania)
5.12.11 @ 8:14p

He's fine; though obviously his ego has taken some hits from just about every person he knows. And I do think turkey-bacon is a reasonable substitute if necessary (particularly for Muslims/Jews). But I get irked with the claims turkey-meat substitutions 'taste exactly the same'. Sure, some people might like ground turkey in spaghetti, but it's a whopping lie to claim it tastes the same as using beef. Though turkey-bologna is pretty close.

Adam - I think the word is 'chewy' not crispy.

erik myers
5.13.11 @ 12:55a

For whatever reason, I find myself a little surprised that turkey bacon is kosher. Like, somehow, the term would render it ineligible.

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