Tuesday, September 27, 2011


-Is a 23-year-old a child bride? That's kinda-sorta the premise of this Slate story. Katie Arnold-Ratliff tells a not-uncharming tale of her own youthful nuptials, but conflates two separate issues: the failure rate of really young (like, under-18) marriages, and the fact that among Our Kind of People (the writer wound up at graduate school in NY), yes, a 23-year-old is a baby. 23 is even considered young to start a relationship that may years down the line culminate in marriage. I've posted before (see the tag) on the "window of opportunity" - precise ages vary by region/subculture - during which women are presumed neither too young for a relationship nor too old to snag a man. This is still something we-as-a-society need to fix, but the article in Slate ended up... not really helping? Obviously it all worked out OK for the author in the end, if 29 is "the end," insofar as she's written a novel, got her musings about her relationship history published in "Slate," and is still married to dude. But the bit about how she opted to go to a mediocre college to be near her now-husband rang every "no, don't do it!" alarm I've got. Marriage, under the best of circumstances, even, involves putting another person first. And the brand of feminism that says no woman should ever put a man first, or maybe at 45, with a long-established career, and fertility what?, basically replaces problems with other problems. Putting another person first (whether you're a man or a woman yourself, and regardless of your partner's gender) is not so unreasonable at 23. At 17 or 18, however, it seems like asking for resenting your spouse later on, which... the author did, even though she and dude patched things up.

-Elizabeth Nolan Brown and I are kinda-sorta in agreement re: Mark Bittman's latest anti-fast-food op-ed (it seems rice and beans were cheaper in 2009 as well). Where she and I agree specifically is on the dangers of food-movement writers overshooting the mark when trying to prove their "I'm not an elitist, real food is not just for rich people" cred. Accustomed to counterarguments along the lines of, "But what of the single mom who works ten jobs and is also homeless and can't afford a saucepan and her only pleasure in life is McDonalds?," they go out of their way to make it clear that even such an individual can eat a wholesome diet... and we're in that well-trodden lentil territory. When in reality, many people who absolutely could afford - in time, money, and cultural capital - to buy some pasta, arugula, tomatoes, and cheese, and throw that together, opt to eat massive portions and/or junk. Even in places like Park Slope.

-I somehow found this Dear Prudence again, and was reminded of why I'd come to think that however you raise a dog, you will be told by self-righteous strangers that what you're doing is basically dog abuse. A woman who walks her dog before and after work, has a dog walker take her dog out in the afternoons, who takes said dog out, including to a dog run, more on weekends, is clearly an unfit owner who, if she cares at all for the dog, will give it up, because of course shelters are known for finding better homes than disasters like that. One commenter spells out that a dog should never be left alone at all, and that you need a sitter if you go out, ever. But many more suggest the same. One has the good sense to ask how you're supposed to be able to earn money to afford said 24/7 professional dog-sitting if you're also not allowed to leave your home, ever.

The shreds of non-ridiculous are that a) it's clear only from the comments by the letter-writer, and not the letter itself, that the dog is not, in fact, crated for 12 consecutive hours, although some commenters respond to the full explanation as if it had never been provided, and b) it's not necessarily normal for an adult dog to be confined so much to a crate, although it seems, from what I understand/would imagine, that sometimes it is, that some dogs require this, even after training. With our definitely-still-a-puppy Bisou, leaving her alone in the gated kitchen (where she mostly hangs out) rather than the crate if I go away even just, say, to shower, is a dangerous proposition, for her more than for our stuff, which is, needless to say, not lying on the floor of the kitchen. We take her out before and after each of her three daily meals, and a few times beyond that, but sometimes, when I really need to get work done, or to (horrors!) leave the apartment, into the crate she goes. She's not averse to cuddling on the couch, sometimes averse to being brushed. We've opted to wait (because it's a matter of days) till she gets the rest of her shots before taking her to obedience classes, etc., but she seems to be adjusting well, after all. A full accident-free day, finally, and she now sits on command most of the time, has learned "down," and responds to "paw" if she thinks there's cheese in it for her. But obviously she'd be so much happier with a nice family that could actually care for her properly. (Yes, sarcasm.)

Oh, and it's also apparently dog abuse, if your dog is small, not to have it sleep in your bed. Meanwhile, isn't a small dog precisely the sort you might accidentally roll over onto in the night? Never mind that - one must remember that dogs are pack animals, and if you can't afford to own an entire pack of them, and spend your days "working from home" yet somehow magically managing to supervise said pack, you'd be better-suited to owning a goldfish. But you'd probably neglect the poor goldfish, too.


kei said...

I admit that the core of my days revolve around how long I'll be leaving Mitsu in the crate. She's a year old now, and it doesn't look like she'll be roaming free quite yet. When the three of us (mostly the two humans) get our acts together, then maybe something can happen. I can't bring myself to read comments past "Back in the good old days, dogs in the backyard were the solution to everything; modern life has corrupted canines and owners," so I can't tell if this commentary is of the crating=cruel kind, or crating for X hours is cruel. But good crating habits can make a dog and its owners quite happy, and maybe that could have prevented the carpet destruction that incited this mess (the stressed out woman and the Prudie letter being published and commented on) in the first place.

For a while, I thought that sleeping with your dog was an invitation for it to think that it was at equal levels with you in terms of hierarchy, so it seemed like spoiling your dog to let it sleep on the bed to me. (I know someone whose greyhound attacked her [face!] because she nudged it to move over.) But then I also read in some puppy book that you just have to see what your dog is like, and when it's a little older and there aren't any serious hierarchy-like issues, you can try it out. At about 8 months, Mitsu was sick one night so to keep an eye on her, I had her sleep in the bed. Since then, she's been sleeping on the bed with us, sans issues. She carves out a little corner for her at the bottom of the bed because she's very much over the cuddling stage, so there are no rolling-over-her problems either.

Have fun in obedience class!

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


It's so helpful to get a glimpse of where we'll be at, give or take, in 8 months! The crate has really been a mixed bag for us. At first, it was a disaster, not a homey "den," and it was if anything the preferred locale for barking/"accidents." Anything we put in or around the crate to make it cozy was to be peed on or torn at. Now it looks sad and cage-like, but is the only place where she's consistently quiet, as in no barking even at night, and where we know for sure she'll hold it. We'd started out with the assumption that she could run around the gated kitchen whether or not we were in the kitchen or adjacent dining room, as in, whenever we were still somewhere in the apartment, but... no. Accidents, yes, but also some minor wall-chewing that, though insignificant in terms of the wall itself, could mean swallowing of paint or splinters. We'll see how it goes if we spray "bitter apple" on this - the method of showing her toys she should chew on, praising that, and scolding the wall-chewing is only slightly effective, but not enough so that we could go out for an hour with her just in the kitchen. And, since we have yet to give her run of any other rooms, we don't even know what she'd find preferable to her toys, even once everything was off the floor. But I have yet to see her march directly into the crate, of her own volition, to take a nap.

The bed... I think now that Bisou is quiet in her crate at night, which was not something that happened anything like instantaneously, we may have to stick with that.

And, the Slate commenters ran the gamut from thinking it's always cruel to put a dog in a crate, to thinking past housebreaking stage crating is wrong, to thinking 12 consecutive hours is cruel (which seems fair, but which the letter-writer doesn't, in fact, do). The bizarre thing was that the commenters didn't seem to get that the alternative to the life this particular dog has, if its owner did the "noble" thing and gave it up, would no doubt be worse than what the owner could provide and indeed already was providing.

It's unclear where anyone's even supposed to have a dog, given that they need to be around lots of people and other dogs (city!) as well as free to roam around through the wilderness (country!) as well as contained in a normal-sized fenced yard (suburbs!), only that whatever you're doing, you're doing it wrong. I tend to think there's a certain kind of person who very much likes the idea of dogs-being-rescued, of becoming indignant over mistreatment of dogs, to the point that they apply this rage even at cases in which dogs are in fact not in need of rescue, or even close. I guess the canine equivalent of, the kid had a can of Coke at lunch, call Child Protective Services.

Miss Self-Important said...

When my cat used to yowl outside my bedroom door every morning at 4 am, I also made the mistake of asking teh internets what to do about it, and all the advice I found was much like this: "OMG UR KITTEH JUST WANTS TO BE LOVED SO JUST LET IT IN UR BED OK!!! Y DO U NOT LOVE UR KITTEH??? CUZ ITS A HAIRY BEAST WHO WANTS TO SIT ON UR FACE ALL NIGHT?? NOT GOOD REASON!!!" One message board even accused someone who had the same problem of being a "bad meowmy" and told him to "re-home" his cats if he wasn't prepared to attend to their whims 24/7. I think the lesson here is simply that pet owners who see this as their primary human identities are deranged.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


"I think the lesson here is simply that pet owners who see this as their primary human identities are deranged."

Yes. Deranged and obsessed with everyone doing as they do.