A grown adult woman with a string of failed romantic relationships and shallow, unfulfilling friendships apparently takes a perverse sense of pride in her preference for animals to people, as if it were an accomplishment rather than a tragic, self-imposed limitation.
Alone in her apartment, the woman who was raised by an entire family of human beings who did their best chooses to surround herself with mute, helpless beasts that are certain to die long before she does, who depend upon her to meet their every basic need.
“Humans are overrated,” the actual human being said. “They disappoint you, they’re inconsistent, and they’re always critical,” she added, describing not only the fundamental human condition but also herself, yet said it in a way that made her seem exempt from it.
“You always know if an animal likes you or not,” she said. “They keep it simple. Not like people. You don’t always know with them.” Her inability to master the “social perception” phase of human cognitive development, which usually occurs between the ages of three and five, suggests a host of possible social disorders, or a fundamental lack of interest in considering the inner lives of people who are not herself.
“I love my pets,” the woman said, as if someone had questioned it, or as if this was somehow an unusual or praiseworthy way to feel about pets. “They never bother me with stupid questions. I can always trust them,” she said of the animals that were literally incapable of harming her, because her power and control over them was absolute. “They love me unconditionally,” she continued, seemingly unable to realize the irony of her statement in light of the fact that her last romantic relationship ended over three years ago in part due to her inability to treat her partner like someone who mattered to her emotionally and physically.
Most of the woman’s acquaintances and coworkers, when asked, described her as “hard to get to know” and “not always there if you need her, but a lot of fun under the right circumstances. If she gets to choose the circumstance.” She “doesn’t suffer fools gladly, or actually even smart people sometimes. If you cross her, that’s it. And if something’s not going the way she wants it to, she’ll let you know. She’ll definitely let you know.”
“My pets will never criticize or talk back to me,” the woman who was so lonely she believed herself happy continued, ruffling one of their ears. “They’re just easier to deal with than people.” While true, she seemed to take this as a legitimate excuse to give up on forming lasting, meaningful bonds with her mental and emotional equals. “I love them like other people love their children,” she said blandly, “if most children died at the age of nine and were happy to eat out of a bowl on the floor and never spoke.”
She has never picked anyone up from the airport. Even when directly asked, she has made up an excuse and stayed home to watch Netflix.
“It seems normal to me, to just give up on the possibility of making valuable, difficult connections with other members of my own species and sort of focus on dogs and cats for the next 40 years,” she continued. “I don’t think there’s anything hauntingly tragic in that.”
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.