Carnival of the Animals

Carnival of the Animals

Being married can be a lot like hibernation.

You spend all this time when you’re younger dreaming up the right person that you could imagine spending your life with. They’ve got the humor of your favorite comedian, the body of your favorite movie star, the voice of your favorite musician. We grow up with these different archetypes surrounding us in media, and throw different qualities on our theoretical ideal like slapping clay onto a sculpture. Of course the people we end up meeting are never perfectly crafted, and we burn through a lot of mental energy realizing that there is no such thing as ideal.

Once you get over the mental hurdle, there’s the actual task of finding a spouse. For some this comes easier (thanks Tim) and others the journey can be longer. No matter when or how you get there, the destination to a life partner is not an easy one. After all the nights at the bar, awkward phone calls and interpersonal issues there hopefully comes a day when you can relax in the comfort of your marriage. The thank you cards have been written. The honeymoon is over. It’s a time for laying in bed together on Sunday afternoon and thinking, Man – that sure was stressful! 

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It took a while to get there, so y’all deserve a nap.

I’ve been thinking a lot about animals lately and how they relate to different stages in life. When I think of marriage, I think of a polar bear. Yeah, when you need to you can catch the seal and get things done… but isn’t napping glorious? Yes honey, we could go out to happy hour tonight or we could watch Game of Thrones on this ice cap and throw back some fish. A polar bear is slow and methodical, but powerful at the same time. They’re also endangered and live on this critical balance where their world is getting smaller by the minute. Time lounging with your spouse is precious, because whether we know it or not – the ice caps are melting.

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For years and years, I was a polar bear.

Being single and dating is land far away from the glacier north. Here in the jungle, the air is hot and muggy. If you breathe in deeply through your mouth, you can almost taste the swamp. It’s not the climate nor the culture for napping and casually strolling around. Dating to me is a tiger, both metaphorical and literal since you can ask any woman who’s been on Tinder for 5 minutes how many pictures she’s seen of a sleazy looking bozo posing with a drugged Bengal tiger laid out on a table. To be single and thrive, you have to be cat-like. It’s not a lumbering charge forward or brave plunge into the sea, but a lot of rapid swiping and to be frank – a lot of hiding in the trees.

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The transition for me is a little rough.

People expect the tiger, not the polar bear. They will dangle the string and wait for the cat to play but I kind of just stare at it and think, Is this really necessary? I’m going to go murder a seal and nap. The endless chase is tiring too – polar bears nor tigers make good long distance runners. If I could set the rules for myself, I would make everyone a Golden Retriever. Constantly seeking happiness, full of bountiful optimism, never able to turn down a potential companion and wholeheartedly open to the idea of love.

If I’m being honest though, I’m not wholeheartedly open to the idea of love. I have that in common with all the carnivores I guess.

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Of course people are solidly… people. They’re not polar bears or tigers, and we keep dogs like Golden Retrievers around to fill the holes that our species will inevitably leave in us.

19 thoughts on “Carnival of the Animals

  1. I like the analogies you’ve made. I know that after 27 years of marriage I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be a tiger again, & I hope that our ice cap lasts long enough that we fade away before it’s gone.

  2. While I’m not a widow, I did find myself divorced at the ripe old age of 27. Dating is SO scary. And consider ditching Tinder! In my experience, Bumble had substantially less sleazy looking bozos posing with tigers!

    1. I think the feelings of polar bear vs tiger are for lots of folks – not just widows. I could see similar sentiments for divorcees or at the end of a longterm relationship. There’s a comfort level that you abandon to plunge back into the unknown.

      Tinder is so entertaining though! I’ve actually tried Bumble and have to say it’s not my favorite, but can see why a lot of people like it.

      1. Totally agree. One of the things I learned in my divorce was the need to mourn the loss of a relationship and individual in your life. Relationships ending is hard – no matter what causes that ending.

        I still live vicariously through some of my single friends. Tinder is hilarious! I just found better quality dates elsewhere. For Bumble, I had a standard ice breaker question I used on every guy – I think that helped.

        1. Oooo, what was your question? I’m venturing out into dating for the first time at 31 and am so overwhelmed. 🙁

  3. I think when my 14 year relationship ended, I actually became more like the ostrich. I was already in my mid-30’s and just wanted to ignore the whole thing. I was not built mentally (or physically) to be a tiger. I didn’t date for 7 years. And long after I gave up entirely, my happy ending contacted me on facebook of all places. Now I’m looking forward to finding our icecap and killing some seals. And maybe some Game of Thrones 😉

  4. I don’t think I could ever really be the polar bear. I have about one day every two months where I slow down (Hello Saturday. You were glorious, but let’s not make it too regular.). So I guess I’m always the tiger. Or maybe the wolf, because I am totally into the long distance chase… which is good, since my husband is getting ready to move 6 hours away. 😉

  5. I remember our polar bear days; they ended when we had kids. Now I think we are meerkats or lemurs or some other constantly moving critter.

    Being a tiger is way too stressful. There has to be other single people who feel the same way.

  6. You are right- lounging is very over rated. I love the nights that my husband and I sit side by side on the couch and watch tv.

    My tiger days were very annoying.

  7. Dating is too much work and since I refuse to play the games, I tend to drive off men rather than attract them. Doesn’t really matter. I’ve pretty much accepted that I’ll probably be single for the rest of my life. I have horses and dogs to fill my emotional needs 🙂

  8. I was once so thoroughly a tiger that I could never imagine being a polar bear. Now, I am so thoroughly a polar bear, I can’t imagine ever being a tiger again.

    How’s that gorgeous chestnut of yours?

  9. you say this: “…we keep dogs like Golden Retrievers around to fill the holes that our species will inevitably leave in us.”

    I think this is very true, and could really be applied to all animals people choose to share their life with: cats, horses, dogs, goats, donkeys, etc. They all bring something humans can’t. Or won’t. Or choose not to, whatever.

    Really love following your very honest and open blog, Lauren. It is a valuable thing. Hope you remain inspired to continue.

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