It’s a jungle out there in the dating world, but who would have thought that Jane would kick up such a fuss about Tarzan’s menagerie?
In spite of some 17 million single pet owners in the United States, when it comes to romance, owning a pet can be a giant 10-ton, unmovable boulder sitting in the middle of the road to happiness. Graphic artist Char Newman, 42 says, “When I decided to get back into the dating scene, a lot of questions came to mind. Would I meet guys I like? Where would I find them? But I never thought that Romeo would stand in my way.”
Romeo, in a sense, is the most important “person” in Char’s life. For her, it’s inconsequential that Romeo just happens to be her little Lhasa apso dog — not a person. But it seems guys take a wide detour around Char when she mentions Romeo.
I too have experienced this bewildering negativity. One guy I dated briefly, a tall, athletic sort, would yelp and jump out of his skin if one of my petite Oriental Shorthair cats dared to perch on the couch behind us. What did he think the cat would do? Tear out an eye? Head south for the family jewels? The cats were fascinated by his irrational and confounding fear, and darned if I could keep them away from him. (Twisted sense of humor those little furry creatures have.)
If that friendship had more potential, I would have recommended counseling, which, by the way, has an excellent success rate of curing pet-phobic people. These days, based on that and other experiences, I generally don’t even mention my pets until I get a feel for the person and know for sure they’ll be OK with it.
I once saw a survey where more than 200,000 single people were polled jointly by England’s YouGov.com and dating website PARSHIP. Rather shockingly, 40 percent of those queried said that dating someone with pets was a turnoff. Even more remarkably, many of those who voiced such opposition owned pets themselves.
Most problems occurred for people with pets that strain the limits of cuddle-ability, such as spiders or snakes. Even a die-hard pet lover might draw the line at a pet tarantula, but at least creepy crawler pets are usually kept in a terrarium. Most likely, they won’t be crawling onto the couch to greet your date. Yet, the survey showed that hooking up with the opposite sex wasn’t all that easy, even for those with “normal” pets like cats and dogs.
My friend Natalie Taylor lives in Venice with a Moluccan cockatoo. She got this disdainful comment from a date as he stepped into her home and saw her foot-tall feathered companion: “Oh my God …What’s up with the big bird?”
Did he last? Did he even get to sit on her couch? In a case like this, the best advice is to end things quickly, if not sooner, and chalk one up to getting dolled up or freshly shaved for nothing. At least your furry and feathered friends offer unconditional love whether you’re dressed in your best or slumming in your bathrobe and fuzzy slippers.
Brian Michael of Westwood voiced his opinion on Match.com. “Pet ownership is voluntary, unlike having children,” he wrote. “I don’t want to get involved with someone and inherit their pet obligations.”
To Brian, a profile that includes a photo of a woman’s dog is a red flag. “It means their dog will rule their spontaneity and their schedules,” he says. “It means that if we’re out somewhere having a good time and I want to continue, we can’t because my date needs to go home and let the dog out.” Brian says cats aren’t quite as bad. “Cats don’t seem so out of place in our urban society,” he says. “They don’t rule their owners’ lives as much as a dog does.”
I wonder what Brian would think of Natalie’s cockatoo — a pet that can live as long as 80 years and can vocalize in the same decibel range as a commercial jet.
One reason dates aren’t fond of pets might be because they feel they’re in competition for your attention, especially if you keep reminding them how your pet comes first in your life. Though you might be tempted to talk about your dog and how he sleeps with his head on the pillow next to yours, or gush with “itty bitty kitty” stories about Snowball, make sure your human companion’s eyes aren’t glazing over. Ease up until you know them a bit better and can gauge how they feel about the pet situation.
Sadly, I have become more circumspect and cautious about spilling the beans about my pets. The crazy-cat-lady persona is too much of an archetype. I know I don’t fit that picture, and I’d like any potential partner to give me a chance before coloring me with any preconceived notions. It’s unfortunate that opening your heart and life to loving any creature can be held against you.
There is hope, however. There are at least a dozen dating websites geared specifically toward pet lovers — niche sites that link singles and their furry, feathered and scaled kids.
So take heart, Natalie — you may still find a boyfriend who likes big beaks as much as you do.
Copyright © Marva Marrow / 2011 Singular Communications, LLC.