This past weekend a friend asked me, “You’re not thinking of getting another dog, are you?” “Well, actually,” I replied slowly. “The thought has crossed my mind to get another dog eventually, but only once I have more living space.” “When do you see that happening?” “Within the next three to five years,” I answered, adding that I’m currently focused on building the life that I want. If I end up meeting another partner, great. But I’m not seeking or waiting for that to happen before moving forward with my goals. “But that’s how you end up being a cat lady,” was the response.
For those unfamiliar, in America, the term “cat lady” has long been associated with the concept of spinsterhood, and in more recent decades, with “romance-challenged (often career-oriented) women who can’t find a man” (paraphrasing wikipedia). Perhaps in your country there is a different term, but you probably recognize the concept of the older, unmarried woman who finds love with her pets instead of a man, right? In my case, it would be “dog lady” as I’m allergic to cats.
Another friend recently told me she doesn’t like to see people using their pets as a “crutch.” When I asked her to explain what she meant by crutch exactly, she said “like when the pet is keeping them from doing things, like dating.” She also asked if I was thinking about getting another dog (apparently, a common concern), and told me it would be better if I dated a man who already owned a dog. “Then you could merge the two pets into one household.” I said, “That would be great, especially if he had a big yard too.”
The summation of these, and other, conversations has got me wondering. Should I be concerned that I’m spending all my free time with my dog instead of dating? Is she an emotional crutch? Am I becoming (the dog equivalent of) a cat lady??
While it’s true that my dog is somewhat of a child/companion/protector/project, I don’t necessarily see myself living alone with her forever. I also don’t see any rush in finding another mate. I feel like I’ve experienced the major romantic milestones in life: falling in love, living together, marriage, sickness, death. The only thing I haven’t done is give birth and raise a child. But isn’t having a dog good practice for parenting on some level? When I said that to my friend this weekend, he laughed, “I’ve seen the way you discipline your dog. Your child would probably rob me.”
I should add that my friends and I love sarcasm and ribbing each other. We might sound harsh, but it’s all in good, playful, loving fun. I really do appreciate that they want me to find love again, even their fears of me living in a house overrun with animals. I just wish they could understand that before I can entertain the idea of being in another human-human relationship, I need to get my shit together and re-define my life on my own. It’s not that I don’t want to share the joys and adventures of life with someone one day.
Or perhaps this all hogwash and I’m actually becoming a “dog lady.”