Why Dating is Like Owning a Pet Gerbil

For travelers who are constantly on the go, it’s hard to find someone to keep up with us. It’s also hard to find someone who won’t take offense or thinks it’s normal when that inevitable conversation arises:

“Hey, I’m headed to Africa next week. See you when I get back?” Insert far flung place here.

I actually love to date, but it always gets to a point where I’m just not sure what to do with the other person. It’s kind of like having a pet gerbil. You see it at the pet shop and it’s really cute, and you take it home with you. You feed it, and watch it run around for awhile, but then after a few weeks you wonder— is this it? Then you question if you should do more, like taking it out after dinner and letting it run around on the rug. You see other gerbils sometimes and think, that’s a really nice looking gerbil. I bet that gerbil can do something really cool like tight-rope walk or escape from a brick-laden cage like Houdini. Sometimes your gerbil bites you for no reason and you just don’t understand what it’s trying to tell you. But then it looks up at you with its big black eyes, its twitchy whiskers, and the cycle goes on. And finally you either have to care for it for years until it finally dies or, crying, you try to give it away.

And then it begins again.

Now I’m faced with even more dating puzzle pieces, like meeting someone interested in settling down (what does that mean?) and nonchalant comments about salary on the first date. I usually tell people I’m homeless and that throws off all the gold diggers. Sometimes, at this point, the gerbil ceases being something you saw at one point and decided it was cute and you wanted it, but becomes something you just fell into and aren’t quite sure why. A friend wants to unload their gerbil on you and it comes with a wheel and a whole bag of toys, and will only eat premium gerbil food. And anytime you have to go away it scrabbles at the glass and makes you feel guilty.

I think part of my problem is the lack of understanding about the whole dating process in general. I’m horribly socially awkward, and have a weird sense of humor most people don’t understand. Half the guys I would like to date I don’t even notice, because I live in a world of my own thoughts and ideas. I’m a hyperactive daydreamer, and have no less than 20 text-edit files open on my computer at any given point, filled with quotes and random ideas. I carry a sketchbook with me always, and a book, and when I’m in a coffee shop working I’m almost always giggling to myself. My idea of a date is inviting someone on some kind of adventure like a night hike or deep sea fishing, or setting up a tent and camping indoors.

Sometimes, I do silly things I don’t intend and feel terrible about it afterwards. I’m averse to crowds— they’re loud and busy and usually affiliated with some kind of mass consumerism like malls or feeding time, both things I like to avoid. (Malls and consumerism. Not feeding time. I never miss that.) Last winter, on an ice climbing trip, I caravaned back to Maryland with three attractive guys I had befriended, following their Toyota. We stopped at one of those giant rest stops where people swarm like locusts and devour everything in their path. I had the misfortune to lose sight of my three companions, and not able to endure the crowd (it completely freaked me out) went out to the parking lot to sit in my car. In the middle of this panic attack induced by the crowd, I thought it would make sense to just leave. And I did. It wasn’t until 10 minutes down the road I realized it was probably a terrible idea— but it was too late. Particularly because we didn’t have each other’s cell phone numbers, so when they came out I was just gone.

My better qualities include my t-rex impressions, my godzilla/giant monster walk (which involves crushing imaginary cities with my feet to awesome self-made sound effects), my goblin crouch, the way I like to hide in boxes and jump out at people. I also have a collection of utility tools, not to mention a variety of sculpted rodents and my prized slug finger puppet.


I like capture the flag and if given a store to shop in it will be the dollar store and I’ll emerge with seemingly useless things (that are actually very practical) like itching powder and squirt guns. If there are trees and big boulders I will climb them and if someone starts a game of tag I will chase them no matter where or who is present. I play Super Nintendo every night and most of my clothes have holes in them. I will not apologize for my lack of what some call maturity but I call my unwillingness to conform to a society that is boring and broken.

Eddie Vedder put it best:

“Leave it to me as I find a way to be,
Consider me a satellite forever orbiting.
I know all the rules but the rules did not know me,

Realistically, any gerbil I cared for would be dead. It couldn’t live for months on end without food and water, and I doubt the various countries I travel to would let me walk it across borders. Perhaps that’s the problem. In the meantime, my gerbil cage sits empty.