Why do so many women spend more time with pets than people? Where do I start? | Emma Beddington


‘The average woman with a pet now spends more time ‘actively engaged’ with her pet than she spends hanging out face-to-face with fellow humans on any given day,” I read in the Atlantic. It was a dissection of the “crisis in social fitness”, alternatively known as “why we’re all destined to die alone, our faces eaten by the very pet whose company we have chosen above our own kind”. Am I, a pet owner, or my pet-owning friends (of all genders) surprised? Of course not.

Humans are great for certain things. Opening jars. Forensic textual analysis of single-word WhatsApps from potential romantic entanglements. Separating dark and light washing. Remembering why you hate your boss. But despite all that, pets make better low-key hangout companions.

Pet hangouts are blissfully free from social awkwardness, aggravation and anxiety. Your pet will not text “nearly there” when it is actually still faffing around looking for its keys while you have been fending off your waiter’s increasingly insistent suggestions you should order or leave for the past half hour. You will never engage in an agonisingly polite dance with your pet over who should eat the last morsel on a sharing plate. Your pet doesn’t have a partner you can’t stand (and if they did, you wouldn’t have to be polite to, or about, them).

If you hang out at home, your pet doesn’t care if you watch Project Runway repeats instead of subtitled drama, or reveal you don’t understand inflation. There are very few humans with whom it’s OK to just sit, perhaps trouserless, and scroll in feral silence; this is fine with all pets. (Well, most pets. When my whippet Oscar was alive, it was like living with an immaculate Parisian grandmother. I would socialise just to escape his coldly judgmental gaze.)

Yes, your companion might eat your face one day. But why would you care? You’ll be dead and it’s a small price to pay for all that blissfully accepting hang time. Being understood is overrated; being treated as a snack dispenser (in life and potentially also death) is the way forward.

Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist

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