Phil’s Guide to Dating and/or Pet Grooming

Note: Do not try these activities at home; certain death may occur.

Let me begin this week’s column by stating that I am currently single and in no way bitter—I look forward to owning a dog in the future. But I do consider myself somewhat of an expert in these topics, as I have personally broken-up with many women and managed not to kill any of the pets I’ve had (unless you count fish; as far as they are concerned, I’m the kiss-of-death). Yet I have stared certain doom in the eye numerous times in both arenas, and I am here to tell you they are not all that different. Chances are you will have permanent scarring due to your counterparts excessive use of claws (just keep them away from your eyes). And ladies, this advice is for you as well, as men’s claws can be just as sharp if not trimmed properly.

At this point, you are probably thinking I am a total loon for suggesting that the pre-marriage ritual in humans is the same as grooming your domesticated animal. You’re right; I am a loon. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are similar activities. Here are some examples: 1) the end product is never the same as the plan you set out to create, and 2) you’ll always smell different at the end of the night. Before you brand me a lunatic, let me explain. It all starts a long time ago, around the same the Christian conservatives popped on the scene.

Back in the days of Emperor Constantine, the thought of having an animal in the house was a crazy notion. So was dating. But one day, one of the Emperor’s wives decided she was lonely and wanted to have a companion. Yet since there was such a strong economy for eunuchs, unemployment was low and there were none available. He decided instead to have his servants tame a fox that had been caught while hunting for rabbits. At the same time, Emperor Constantine thought it would be a good idea to become a Christian (“Controlling Your Government for You”) and change the face of politics for the rest of eternity. This conversion angered one of his other wives, who was upset because that would mean she’d have to start cooking beans so they could go to the church pot-luck dinner. That made the Emperor wish he had actually gotten to know his wives before marriage through casual, social experiences instead of arranging the marriages with other foreign heads-of-state. Thus, the concepts of dating and pet grooming appeared almost simultaneously.

The next big wave of changes came in the middle ages when a leader of an Amazonian tribe decided to get married. Soon after the honeymoon, she became annoyed because her home always smelled of elderberries after her husband returned from a hunt. She figured it was because of the dog that never left her husband’s side. As an idea to help fix this problem, she implored her new man to bathe his hunting dog and clip its hair to a shorter length, hoping that would alleviate the odor. This allowed her to be in the same room as the dog, but her husband’s smell grew to resemble an old bowling shoe left in overly humid conditions. She quickly began to wish she had found a mate via the help of her friends—or at least an online dating service—instead of making a political deal with the neighboring tribe to marry their leader’s youngest and sloppiest son. Dating and pet grooming have come a long way since then, both becoming very popular rituals (except in Canada, where both Amazon women and soap are illegal). There would not be another major trend shift until the late 1990s, when a man named Joshua Harris revolutionized the world of dating. His work had absolutely nothing to do with grooming your pet, but groomers didn’t have to wait long for changes of their own.

Mr. Harris did this by writing a book. I won’t reveal the name of that book, but let’s just say he’s kissed dating good-bye forever; though I am sure not by choice. He wrote it to be a guide to dating for Christian teenagers, but its impact has permeated through the fabric of society’s relationship habits. His book proposed a new idea to dating, which is to not date anyone at all until you get married; and only then under close supervision. A person first decides exactly what they want in a partner, then waits for that one person to hit him or her over the head and drag them home. His belief is that you can determine your life partner, not by getting to know them, but by observing them from a distance (preferably with binoculars). There should be absolutely no physical, visual, audible, or emotional contact until the veil is raised. The only thing he left out was how many cows you were to receive in the dowry.

That same trend has appeared in pet grooming as well. It used to be that a woman would get to know her pet before choosing a trendy seasonal outfit to put on it (before you label me a sexist for saying that only women buy clothes for their pets, I ask you to show me one receipt of a man buying a Halloween costume for his dog—in an all male world, he would be placed in front of a firing squad). Now, instead of basing the outfit on the personality of the pet, today it’s popular to pick out pet clothes before you get the pet. That’s like buying a computer game before starting a new job (you should at least know what kind of computer you will have at work). I would like to thank Mr. Harris for this. Seriously. Personally, I think this is pointless, and have thus decided that I don’t want to date anymore; I have too many doggie sweaters in my closet already. One of these days, I’m just going to find a woman, make her my best friend, and marry her. Maybe her father will offer me his old doggie sweaters as a dowry. I’ll just add them to my own collection.
Or perhaps I’m better off just getting a dog. A boston terrier would look really cool in a leather jacket, don’t you think?

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