Stop Insulting My Pets

Last night, Matt and I made our way back to our apartment from my parents’ place in Northern Virginia.  Upon stopping for gas, Matt noticed an injured cat in the parking lot; we spent the next half hour trying to contact a local animal hospital, humane society, or animal control to come pick him up.  Even though he was injured, it was clear he had figured out how to maneuver himself away from potential predators, and Matt and I were unable to catch the poor creature.

Matt has never had a pet before our cat, Radar, but he still has an animal lover’s heart.  Neither of us was willing to ignore the stray cat despite the fact that we had no prior emotional connection to him.  We’re both very empathetic people in general; given this feature mixed with our social awkwardness and observational nature, we’re unlikely to accidentally cut you off while walking on the sidewalk or block your car into a parallel parking spot by getting too close.  If we did, it would keep us up at night.

I’m not an animal lover to the extent that some people are; I place human life in higher regard.  But I’ve noticed some unsettling behavior from friends and acquaintances since adopting my cat: people feel free to insult your pets in ways they would never insult other things in your life.

Let me elaborate.  How many times have you said the following to a good friend?

“Oh…I didn’t know you had kids.  Yeah I guess it’s cute.  It’s nothing personal, I’m just not a baby person.”

“Wow, you have popcorn ceilings and wood paneling? Guess I’m never staying over at your house!”

“Man your haircut is super ugly, I can’t believe you would choose that style.”

For some reason, all these things are socially unacceptable, but replace any of the complaints with a cat/dog/ferret/snake/whatever and we’re supposed to accept that.  People with allergies or phobias aside, I don’t understand the number of people I’ve met who feel free to come into my home and tell me “Oh, you have a cat? I hate cats” as Radar rubs affectionately on them.  Or friends who have met my dog, Duke, and said “Oh, I don’t like dogs.”  Or complete strangers that will ignore my greeting of “Hello!” and give my dogs a look of disgust when I’m walking them around the neighborhood (this happened twice just this past week).

What gives? How is this ok?

As I’ve gotten older and my tolerance for intolerance decreases, I’m much less likely to laugh it off out of politeness when an acquaintance I’ve invited over for game night spends the entire evening talking about how much he dislikes cats (this actually happened).  If you comment offhandedly that my house must be dirty because I have an animal, I’ll be happy to point out that you have done a sufficient job maintaining a dirty home without an animal present.

Politeness shouldn’t be ignored when an animal is involved, especially since most people consider their pets to be part of their family.


I’m not an athlete.

I lettered on my varsity volleyball team my junior and senior years, and I completed a half marathon in 2011, but I’m not an athlete.  Certainly not these days.  This last year of graduate school really ran me down physically as well as mentally, so if you saw me at the gym this week, you’d assume I was just another Resolutionary.

Resolutionary (n.) – A person that resolves to improve their physical fitness at the beginning of the year then quits by February.

This year is the closest I’ve come to being a Resolutionary.  In the past I’ve always maintained a fairly consistent level of health and fitness, so even if I “felt fat” after the holidays and increased my exercise during the first week of January, you probably wouldn’t have identified me as out of shape quite as easily.  Let me say that I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to judge a person’s health based on their outward appearance alone; society doesn’t care about my rules, however, so I have to acknowledge that bigger people are, in general, going to be judged more harshly by gym regulars this month.

As someone that has been on the flip side of the health coin (as most of us probably were as teenagers), I can understand the frustration that regular gym-goers experience when a bunch of n00bs crowd around the equipment in January, doing curls in the squat rack and not wiping down the equipment.  It gets you out of your own routine.

My fiance runs marathons (yeah, he gets to be the athlete in the family).  He is a committed runner; while living in Wisconsin the past two years, he often ran in the middle of blizzard warnings and frostbite advisories.  In January 2012, a warm snap occurred, and tons of previously hibernating runners came out of the woodwork to bask in the winter sunshine.

“I was out there all winter! In the snow! These people just run when it’s nice out!” Matt complained, half-jokingly.

As someone that is finally understanding what it feels like to be treated differently when you’re significantly overweight, I encourage all ye fit people to bear with the new kids this month.  At least some of us will be sticking around, while others you’ll see again this time next year with renewed determination.  It’s intimidating to go to a new gym for the first time, especially if you’ve never been to a gym before.  I at least know the protocol and fall easily into my routine, wipe down machines, and make sure to let people “work in” sets when it’s crowded.  I also have no problem acting confident, even when I don’t feel confident, which is not a skill that everyone has.

So be kind to the Resolutionaries.  Encourage everyone on their journey to improved health.  And maybe (if you don’t come off as a douche) the guy curling in the squat rack will listen when you ask him to move.