“My husband just walked in, told the dog how cute he is, and how much he loves him. Held his face in his hands, stared into his eyes, and gave him forehead kisses. Then left the room.
I’m sitting right next to the dog.”
This showed up as a random retweet on my Twitter feed today. It was written by a woman who goes by the handle of LaLa_Lyds, whose profile description reads: Mama, Wife, Artist, Caregiver. I would tend to dismiss LaLa as a Twitter throwaway, her feed consisting mostly of silly GIFs and birthday wishes. But this heartfelt tweet garnered 64,000 retweets, 7,000 comments, and over half a million likes.
I understand why this tiny vignette went viral, because I know that burn in the belly. I have felt it when my partner caressed and smooched the dog and the cat, then walked out the door. I’ve felt it when, after a purse-lipped goodnight peck on the cheek for me, he turned his back to snuggle in for the night, with the cat, held close in his arms. I would be left looking at the ceiling, feeling the smart of the arrow of rejection followed by the lingering burn of the second arrow of self-recrimination (oh you’re not really jealous of the cat are you?!), followed by the fester of the third arrow (he feels hurt that I don’t love his pets, and by extension, that I don’t love him either). But I did adore the dog, and I liked the cat (well enough, for a cat). I loved my partner, and I admired and respected how he cared for his pets. My discomfort seemed so petty, and yet so real. This confused the hell out of me.
Love is a big word, meaning everything and nothing. I recognize that the love we hold for pets is of a very different ilk from the love we feel for humans — they never argue and they always come back, loyal to the end. Our love for blood family has a different twist from the love we extend to lovers, or toward our dearest friends. The love we feel for kind strangers, or for our heroes or for our teachers — are all, yet again, subtly different flavors of love. The fallacy of jealousy is that love does not deplete love. Love is an infinite resource. There’s always enough to go around. In fact as the song says, love is sumthin if you give it away, you keep on getting more. I know full well that my partner’s love for his cat did not diminish his love for me, and his love for his dog did not supersede our relationship. I know, I know, I know, and yet. Arrow 1, arrow 2, arrow 3.
Seeing others get fed does not make you hungry, unless you are starving. It wasn’t jealousy that hurt. It was just a simple unfulfilled human need. They don’t call it petting for nothing.
What I can glean from the popular resonance of LaLa’s story is this: we should treat everyone like dogs. Everyone should be forgiven their minor transgressions — the shredded sofa, the pile of wet shit on the rug, the forgotten birthday — because even when we act badly, we almost always mean well. Everyone needs to be appreciated, adored, and granted unconditional love. Everyone needs love, without condition. Everyone should be kissed and cuddled and given a special treat now and then. Kisses and treats offer healing. And they might just save your relationship.
Thank you LaLa, for your brave and vulnerable tweet. Thank you for saying what I was ashamed to feel. I wish you a good scratch behind the ears and some chocolate. May you be well, may you be happy, may you be loved.