My thoughts on relationships have been rather bitter recently. I think it's sort of fitting that the first column I posted was written at this time last year, and dealt with the same feelings. Of course that column was the flip side of the emotion:
"But, to be honest, Spring Fever is one of the few things we wish was contagious. It's cousin, happiness, is contagious. And we can catch a mild case of happiness from someone who has Spring Fever without getting bowled over by the full works. But the only way to guarantee catching it is through close proximity with someone you care about."
And reading this is when I realized I'd never written out a column on my theory of puppies. And since the theory of puppies is one of my central theories regarding human nature, I suppose it would do well to write it down. Preemptively I should distinguish that the theory is not originally mine, but my friend Dana's. When she described it to me the first time something clicked, and so I have carried it on as my own.
So there are two patterns to weave together here: The first is about this time of year and why it is either great or sucks. The other is the puppy-connection to human nature. I'll take them in that order.
Every November I begin, like many, to feel amorous. And why not? The weather outside is cold. Those months are stuffed with emotion and sentiment and a particular emphasis on not being alone. An empty bed in December can be a sorry sight indeed. And, anthropologically, I have observed on my college's campus an empirically verifiable trend, (significant at that - p<.06) that relationships start in abundance during those two months before winter break. Now you could be a nay-sayer and attribute this to the cycle of the school: In September you're still getting your bearings, in October you are scouting prospects out, and not until November or December are you ready to enter a relationship. That's a fine explanation too. I do not criticize alternative explanations. But I may choose to embrace my own.
Enter Spring. Except it's not Spring. Yesterday was the Vernal Equinox. The first day of Spring. What did it do here? It snowed. That's the problem with this time of year. Not only do you have the cold weather thing affecting you, you also have Spring playing on you. This is the time of year after all. Rabbits, eggs, procreation, birth, May revelry, etc. Only not quite yet. We are in Winter-Spring limbo. If you're with someone then all is cozy and fab. If you are alone I have a rope, lead pipe, and a wrench you can borrow.
So let's talk about puppies. I have a mental image of two adorable puppies curled up in a basket together. I think it was from a greeting card. What is so adorable about these puppies? I mean, they're cute and all, no doubts. But there's something about them being asleep in that basket together that evokes a particular feeling. If the image was two puppies frolicking in a field the emotion wouldn't be the same. They may still be cute, but they wouldn't have the same 'awww' quality.
My wise friend Dana let me in on the secret. The 'awww' doesn't come from a knowledge that those puppies are sexually or romantically into each other. They aren't in the basket together because they are 'into' one another. It is, in fact, exactly the opposite of this understanding which provokes our sentiment. What makes the puppies adorable is that they are fond of each other, but not in 'that way'. Puppies are, after all, supposed to be innocent. It would be unsettling to think of the puppies sleeping together in a sexual, or even a romantic context. They are simply curled up together because they find each other warm and comfortable, and if you find someone warm and comfortable then why wouldn't you curl up and sleep with them?
See where I'm going with this? People can do this too. People should do this too. We are social primates. Pack animals. There is an inherent human craving for closeness. It would be striking, and is striking, to encounter people who don't have this drive.
But, (and I recognize I'm taking a Rousseau-ean line with this) society is totally not cool with that. If you are seen cuddling with someone in public they assume that there is something 'more' to be read into it. Often times Society is right, and will enjoy nothing more than to brag about it a week later when it comes out that you're sleeping together euphemistically. Then you take a stick and chase society down and give it a piece of your mind.
But, folks, it doesn't have to be this way. We can embrace our inner puppy nature, especially at this time of year, and get close to one another. We can start a curling-up-together revolution. We can change our state of mind, for that's all it is friends: a state of mind. Let us embrace our animal natures and do as the animals do. Let us lie in the grass, and cuddle on the couch and embrace on the bed. You can make it happen if you want it.
There is a better way, I have seen it, and it involves sleeping together. Can I get an Amen?