Q: When is a pet just a pet?
A: When it lives in the home of a "traditional" family: husband, wife, 2+ adorable kids. It's part of Americana.
In a different scenario, though --one that doesn't include, at least a married couple-- Cute Pet is a substitute for something important. If you're a single woman, especially of-a-certain-age, and you have a dog or cat . . . well, suddenly everybody's a psychologist and they've determined that you're trying to fix something.
At the launch party for my new book, The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree (shameless plug), someone asked me why I hadn't brought my "husband"...referring to my dog, Danny. I smiled a weary smile and said "I left my dog at home." I love my dog dearly, but I'm not confused: he's not my husband, he's not my kid...and he's not a substitute for either of those things. It seems that I'll never get away from this tiresome stereotype.
One day I was on the phone with my married-with-children friend, B, and I realized that she's not listening to me; she's talking to someone else in the room. Actually, she's talking to her dog, Charlie, who is kind of adorable...and she's cooing at him and using baby talk. Hearing her do that was pretty cute, but I also realized that if I did that people would find it sad.
Science, literature, news reports, and popular magazines are rife with stories on the benefits of pet ownership. Read more…