The Numbers Game …a few doggy thoughts on dating
Have you ever played Hide-and-Seek? You know, where one person covers their eyes for a certain amount of time, and the other one or more people hide somewhere, and the first person has to try to find them? We dogs live our whole lives like that.
Since we aren’t as good thinkers and predictors as you humans, we spend huge amounts of time just looking and sniffing around, hoping to find something interesting or wonderful.
It’s not a terrible way to live. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we dogs tend not to be nearly as big worriers as you guys. While you’re wondering how you’ll do on an exam you’ll take in May, we’re just looking around, focused on right now, hoping someone has dropped a donut somewhere.
I think about this when I see humans get absolutely freaked out about romance. Note that I’m not saying “love.” We all depend on love; it’s the most important thing in our lives. If you don’t believe me – if you think something like food or water or air is most important – then you’ve never seen someone risk their life to dive into freezing water to save a loved one, or go without eating so someone they love won’t go hungry. True love is the one thing that people – and dogs – will do truly anything for.
But romance? Lots of people and dogs live decades without it. Most humans go through a number of their childhood years where they see romance as Yucky! And then we see teens who are so obsessed with their studies or sports or other activities that they simply don’t have the time to think about dating. And then we see TONS of adults who, either because they’re afraid or angry or just super-shy, go through years and years without any sort of lovey-dovey stuff.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t want it.
I’ve met hardly any teens or adults who say they really don’t want any sort of a romantic relationship in their life. They might say they want someone unlike anyone they know, or someone who will tolerate their quirky life, or someone who’d put up with something really awful about them… and that, because that’s so hard to find, they’ve given up hope. But really, you guys are overall a pretty romantic lot!
And that’s why it hurts you so much when certain occasions come up. School dances, weddings, birthdays, holidays – all of them feel kind of bad when you want to be with someone and you’re not. Humans can feel unlovable, or like failures, just because they don’t have a date on that particular night.
Now I don’t have the perfect solution on how to find that ideal mate. But I do have one thing to say to all of you who are fretting about this: Relax. It truly is what many say, a Numbers Game.
What do I mean by that? Well, it’s like I was saying above, about Hide and Seek. Now if you go outdoors and look for a rock, that probably won’t be much trouble or take you too long. If you go looking for a Siamese Cat, that might be more difficult, and take longer. But what if you’re looking for a particular cat, the one you saw running by your window a week ago, who might not even live near you? Why, that could be incredibly difficult, right?! You might have to look a hundred places or more before you find it.
So let’s compare that to dating. You could almost certainly go out and find someone who’d go out with you this weekend. Perhaps someone totally wrong for you, who you don’t even like. Maybe they’d go out with you just because you offered to buy them dinner and a movie ticket. Okay. So you got yourself a date. But that’s not what you’re really after. They’re like looking for a rock.
So you say “Okay, I want to go out with someone and have a good time with them.” Well that’s more like looking for a Siamese Cat. If you’re a nice person and have some interests, it shouldn’t be that hard to find someone to go have fun with. Look around you – is it really that hard to find someone else who also wants to see “Identity Thief” or eat at your favorite restaurant? Probably not. And as long as you like that movie or that food, you’re going to have fun, right?
Ah, but even that’s not what you really want. No, you want something more like that particular cat! You want someone you really like, who really likes you back. You want someone who shares some of your interests, who laughs at some of the same jokes you do, who has some of the same songs running through their head, who shares your deepest values…
Now THAT is really hard to find! Not impossible, but REALLY hard!
And the only way to survive that search is to think like us doggies. To say “I’m playing Hide-and-Seek, and that person is out there somewhere!”
That person might not be exactly what you’re thinking they’ll be. They might look different, or be from a different place. But over and over, I’ve seen those people meet, and know instantly that they’d found what they were after.
And you are almost certain to make some mistakes along the way. You’ll meet someone and think they’re just what you want, but eventually realize they’re totally wrong for you. That’s great – you learn from each of those experiences, and get closer to knowing what you want. Or you meet someone just right for you, and don’t even realize it. That’s okay too; just make sure you run back quickly once you find it out!
When I was in the dog pound, and Handsome first met me, we “clicked” at once. We adored each other right away. But he left me there, thinking I wasn’t the sort of dog he wanted. A few hours later, he realized he wanted to get me, and the rest, as they say, is history. But if he hadn’t been able to acknowledge his mistake, we might never have met (and I don’t even like to think about what might have become of me!).
But I’m not saying to sit in a cage waiting for someone to come around and pick you out. Get out there, look your best, meet everyone you can, and have fun while you’re doing it. THAT’S how you play the “numbers game.” The more people you meet, the better chance you have of finding the right one.
But, for some of you, that journey’s going to be harder than for others. I have a human friend, a guy, who had this funny night a couple of weeks ago. He was at a table with three women, all very attractive. Two of them were married to men who weren’t there, and the third was single. As the night went on, he tried to engage the single woman in conversation a number of times, but while she didn’t exactly ignore him, every time they began to talk, she’d turn and start talking with one of the women instead. And when that would happen, he’d get chatting with one of the married women, and having a great time with their humor, their interests, and their interest in who he was. And at one point, one of the women asked him, “You know, I’m completely confused. How is it that you’re still single?!”
It wasn’t till later, well after that meal, that he thought about it and burst out laughing. “The reason I’m single,” he told Handsome and me later on, “is right at that table!” He’s single because each lovely woman at that table was almost what he was looking for, but no one was quite it.
When I’m just sniffing around, I’m happy and excited to find a leftover bit of pizza, the tracks of a squirrel, or the smell of a dog who’d been there the day before. But when I’m looking for something particular – like when I’m at a park with lots of people and dogs and want to make sure Handsome is still there – there’s only one thing I’m after, and anything else just won’t do.
So if you’re like our friend, if you’re meeting all sorts of people who are “almost” right, but not exactly what you’re looking for, don’t give up hope! You’ll find lots of marvelous people and adventures along the way. And eventually, I’m certain that you’ll find the magic you’ve been looking for. Just keep seeking for what’s hiding out there, and trust that eventually you’ll have played the game enough for the right number to come up.
You see, my friends, Love is just around the corner. I just can’t tell you which corner that’ll be. But truly, it is waiting for you, right there!
You know, Shirelle, I’ve watched my mom go through all kinds of relationships, people who would let me sit on their lap, play with catnip toys with me until I’m bored, and some who didn’t like me at all and would make her put me in another room when they came over. But the one things I’ve noticed in her through all of these things, is that each one of them brought something to her life (and mine, but that’s totally different) that she had never had before. One made her get in better shape. Another rekindled her love for music and theater. And another got her involved in helping other cats (and dogs, like you) find their special human. And there were others, but I’ve kind of forgotten much about them since they weren’t around all that long. So, I guess it’s a good thing that she keeps trying to find the right human companion, since I’m her best pal, and love her no matter what. Because they all somehow make her change a little, but in a good way. And that’s a good thing. I hope all of your readers and friends keep doing the same thing- there are many special human companions out there for each human, it seems to me! — Theo