2) When someone doesn’t like a certain food or animal, it doesn’t always mean that they just haven’t tried the right KIND of food or met YOUR animal.
Some people don’t like cheese. Some people hate dogs. My initial response to both of these revelations is always acting as though some sort of gauntlet has been thrown and I must immediately rise to the challenge of changing that person’s mind. But it’s time I laid those feelings to rest.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and it is not my responsibility—nor have I just been personally invited—to rock that person’s world by introducing them to the one cheese or dog that will turn their unacceptable-to-me sentiments upside-down. Yes, there are many, many kinds of cheese in the world, and maybe that person hasn’t tried St. Andres triple-crème brie (which my roommates and I used to refer to as ‘crack cheese’), and maybe that, to me, suggests that they have given up on cheese with a prematurity that verges on tragic. But I do not need to prosthelytize so heartily. I can enjoy cheese just as much even knowing that there are people out there who do not like it. After all, that does ultimately mean that there is more cheese for me. So why complain!
Not only that, but the few foods I actively dislike, such as crab and okra, I will vehemently refuse to try in any new and exciting flavor combinations or old family recipes. I just don’t like them, ok? While I understand objectively that it is in fact delicious, the very taste of crab makes me sick because of this one time when I ate crab stuffed shrimp and was then violently ill for several hours. And okra, even deliciously fried, has a squishy, slippery texture I despise. So quit asking, ok? Trust me to know what I like and don’t.
This revelation may or may not have been prompted by the time I insisted that my coworker try black olives, which he had not had in years, but recalled disliking. As he raced to the bathroom, I wondered what had been the point in forcing him to eat a food he was pretty sure he hated. When you get right down to it, the only real motivation in such situations is the desire to be right; to have someone turn to you and say, “Wow, actually these ARE good! What was I thinking all those years?” But when you run the risk of having a subject turn to you and say woundedly, “Why? Oh God, why?” as he chokes on his own bile—well, was it really worth it? There are better things to be right about. And ultimately, is someone else’s unexpected enjoyment of a food that you enjoy all that personally fulfilling?
So it goes with animals. If someone is terrified of dogs, most likely because of some early childhood experience which left them heavily scarred, there is no need for you to make statements along the lines of, ‘But my dog is so sweet and gentle—you’ll love him!’ He’s still a dog, yes? Then he’s terrifying to this person. It doesn’t matter if he’s going to mix your friend a martini or present her with $25 gift card to Target. She won’t think he’s cute. She won’t want to pet him. He won’t change her mind, and she doesn’t want to meet him.
Finally, just because you are not personally responsible for changing people’s minds about things they doesn’t like, doesn’t mean that they are doomed to wander through the rest of their days constantly missing out on the opportunity to eat pickles. I myself used to hate shrimp, and eventually I tried eating them and gradually learned to love them. And it wasn’t because one day someone skewered a shrimp on a toothpick and put it in my face at a cocktail party and made me gag it down until I realized how great it was. It was because I made the decision myself to learn to like shrimp. You can lead a person to foods they hate, but only they can decide whether or not that is going to change. Trust them to know when the time is right to expand their tastes.
One of the reasons dogs are great is that they are made ebulliently happy by walking around.
It’s something we have in common! No wonder I love dogs.
Dogs are the best.
The dog always knows when I’m feeling low. I was in my dark place the other night, feeling lousy about life and missing New York City. I spent the entire drive home in a cloud of gloom, and Brian instinctively knew to give me a wide berth when I arrived.
Charlie, on the other hand, padded over to me where I sat on the couch, put his front paws in my lap, and looked into my eyes. I hesitated, then put my arms around his neck and felt slightly comforted. Charlie always knows when I need a hug, I thought. It’s nice just sitting here in his warm, doggy glow–
“Charlie!” I said, pushing him away gently as he began to lick my face. “Easy, boy.” We sat in silence for a moment. My thoughts drifted back to the miserable day I’d had, and how I sometimes felt like I didn’t belong in North Carolina. What was I doing here any–
“Charlie!” Now his cold nose was sliming my face. He began licking my chin. His breath was unappealing. But, you know, he was trying. I grabbed his muzzle and pushed it away again. I wished he would sit still for a few minutes! I just wanted to sit in peace, hugging him close, while reveling in my misery–
“CHARLIE!” Once again he had wormed his head out of my grasp and was now licking me across the mouth. I shoved his face to the side and the enthusiastic tongue-bath was instantly transferred to my palm.
“Charlie, I just want to sit here and relax,” I said in frustration, then gave up and started to laugh as he went back to licking my face in earnest. His breath smelled like a rotten corn dog. The fog began to lift, my melancholy dissipated. Things didn’t seem so bad anymore, and I couldn’t remember why I’d been upset. Thank goodness for dogs, sometimes.
I’ve come to realize that in the search for a decent relationship, a pet owner is an especially good bet, particularly when the pet is a dog. Ownership of any animal means that on a basic level, an individual can handle a serious commitment; it means they can remember to feed something besides themselves, and that they’re used to dealing with shit on a regular basis. But I think a dog is still a special case. A dog makes you schedule your life around its need to urinate. A dog will come at you with love in its eyes and breath that smells like a zombie’s ass. A boy who owns a dog is a boy who is not afraid to come home every day to a creature that jumps for joy and gives him a look that says, quite obviously, “I love you I need you I depend on you for my every requirement take care of me forever.” This is no small thing to face. A dog may not be a child, but it is still needy and dependent and has a knack for embarrassing you in front of people.
There is also something nice about being in a relationship with a pet owner, at least when you like the pet and the pet likes you back. It makes your duo into a nice little trio. It gives you some shared responsibilities that make you feel like a team, and that teach you how to rely on each other and work together to make sure the dog is fed and walked and bathed. These are fairly minor tasks, no doubt; you don’t have to send the dog to school or teach it table manners, and you can walk around naked in front of it. But they are responsibilities no less.
I don’t know as much about the trials and tribulations of cat ownership. I have never actually dated anyone who owned a cat. I guess this is good, because I am allergic to them. This puts a slight damper on my enthusiasm, which is further dampened by much of my interactions with cats. I tend to get along best with cats who act like pointy little dogs. In fact, I have noticed that people tend to brag about their cats by saying that they are like dogs. This to me is telling. If cats are so great, why are they even better when they act like dogs? Why not just get a dog and save yourself the disdain?
I think that’s really my main issue with cats, is that they don’t seem to care for you particularly. You call to a cat, and he just stares at you from across the room, and then turns and continues walking away. You call to a dog, and his ears perk up, and his eyes get this look like, ‘Who, ME?’ and he can’t get over to you fast enough. Granted, it’s probably because he thinks you’re going to take him outside so he can finally pee, but still. I crave that validation. I want him to want me. I need him to need me. I need therapy.
I face enough coldhearted rejection in my daily life. When I get home, I want total, complete acceptance and love. Even if it comes with breath that could flip a tank over.