"She Dumped Me For My Pet" And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves About Relationship Failure

The writer of a post on Salon claims that he can't keep a woman interested because of his bunny. OK, buddy.
Publish date:
October 17, 2013
relationships, Dating, euphemisms, bunnies

Last week, Salon ran an article by a dude who proclaimed that after he adopted a rabbit he found hopping along the running path where he lived, his sex life coincidentally went down the tubes. Despite reassurances by a number of strangers on the Internet that there is little hotter than a man with a rabbit, he writes, women would arrive at his house, presumably panting and heaving-bosomed, only to turn tail and flee when confronted with the knowledge that he'd rescued a helpless animal from Death Via Red-Tailed Hawk.

Here's just a sample of the piece, which goes on to state that because rabbits are so inherently unmasculine, women's bathing suit parts plumb move to another state at the very idea of dating a man who owns one:

"Every woman I knew or met had something to say about the rabbit roommate, even a woman I’ll call Samantha. Samantha is perpetually single and every man’s back-up plan: You can ring her out of the blue after months of no contact whatsoever, and still get action. But even Sam finally had enough. At the conclusion of what was to be our last outing together she said, “The rabbit is …” and then she let that one unfinished sentence swing in the air like a carcass on meat hooks. She stopped returning my calls and emails."

Ye-eah. I'll just hold my conjectures of why this guy may not be getting laid to be self-evident, shall I?

This piece is pretty ridiculous (and possibly satirical -- I still haven't quite decided). For one thing, while I'm sure there are people out there who view rabbit ownership as a dating sin akin to confessing that you live with your suspiciously absent mother in an eponymous motel, the idea that a whole string of them happen to have dated this one dude is laughably unlikely. I mean, come on. I'm not a huge fan of rabbits in general, but if I really liked someone, I could learn to determinedly stroke their bunny's ears (not a euphemism) until we could move on to doin' it like a pair of 'em (a euphemism).

Even if, as the author describes, the bunny snuck under his bed and thumped wildly, "alarming" his paramour into cutting their date short, most reasonable people would accept that one's animals, like roommates, neighbors, and natural disasters, occasionally interfere with lovemaking in surprising and humorous ways.

One time, for example, a young man's Labrador Retriever puppy jumped on my face while we were naked on his living room floor. And on four separate partnered occasions, I have felt the telltale push of an attention-seeking cat against me in places no cat should ever go. Despite the fact that one of these incidents involved someone who was actually quite allergic to animals, at none of these moments did anyone exit the premises in a fit of shock and horror. Because we are human adults, with human emotions. (Although the allergic person probably should have left. Sorry, dude.)

Anyway, apart from all that, the Salon post reminded me of how when people are rejected, especially after they thought they'd been getting along with their would-be dates, the stories they tell themselves as to why it happened often seem wildly off the mark. It seems highly likely, reading this author's piece, that he could be getting dumped for any number of reasons. The rabbit is just an easy place to lay the blame.

And to be fair, I can't judge. Most people, I find, have a tendency to edit out the story of their relationship failures to put the blame on anything other than the truth: that sometimes things just don't work out. The chemistry is off, or you don't mesh with each other, or you just don't get along.

The thing about "just not clicking," though, is that it's neither easy to work on solving it nor easy to brush it off. If you attribute getting suddenly dumped to, say, the fact that she only ate kale salads and therefore must be an evil overlord in the making, it's a hell of a lot easier to brush her off as a wash than to face the fact that maybe you're not as likable as you thought you were.

It's even easier (at least in the short term) to digest a problem of the "bunny under the bed" variety: in other words, to create an obstacle to all relationships that looks easily solvable but is, in reality, too hard to deal with. Instead of concentrating on how to get back into the dating scene, the prospect of which has now likely become more intimidating, you can focus on your artificially constructed, completely impassable stumbling block. It's not like you're actually going to get rid of the rabbit, after all -- what kind of monster are you?

Even if you recognize the narrative you're spinning for yourself, it can be really hard to shake yourself out of it. A few months ago, I had a girl give me the "just friends" talk after a few dates. It was disappointing, because I liked her and I thought she was hot, but I appreciated her giving me the heads up and I was excited that she still wanted to be bros.

Afterward, though, I kept thinking about it. Even though I knew she had no reason to lie about the fact that she just wasn't that into me, I kept replaying our dates in my head, trying to figure out where I'd gone wrong.

"Is it weird to take a date to a sushi restaurant even though you don't eat sushi?" I texted my friends. "Is that a weird faux pas?"

"Depends," one of them responded. "Did you make the dolphin noise at her?"

"…No," I said. Yes. I had. I make the dolphin noise at most people.

But maybe that wasn't it. Maybe I'd recommended the wrong burrito place or said a weird thing about Macklemore on a hike that instantly doomed us. Or maybe it was me, I thought, more panicked. Maybe she just decided that I was physically repugnant and just hadn't noticed until Date Number Four. On it went, until I finally just had to lie on my floor and listen to The Mountain Goats for however long it took to convince myself that I wasn't doomed to die alone.

And that was after a perfectly calm, affable conversation between two people who are fond of each other! You can only imagine the kind of pyrotechnics that happen in my skull when someone just suddenly stops texting.

I know that's a stereotypical "neurotic overthinking girl" thing to do, but the guys I know do it, too (though they seem more inclined to attribute the three-date crash-and-burn to an outside source rather than to a mistake they themselves made).

It's an understandable impulse: The comfortable constructed illusion of a problem to avoid next time or someone else's bad decision is a lot less scary than the intangible, unpredictable truth that sometimes, things don't work out. It hurts. It's unpleasant. And, no matter how much we try to construct a story in order to dodge it, it's an unavoidable part of getting to know people (and/or trying to get in their pants). No matter how many bunnies we happen to have hanging out in our living room.

Kate will never leap on your head while you are naked in the living room: @katchatters