#1087: “Girlfriend and I are getting a dog, and people are being weird about it.”

Dear Captain,

My girlfriend and I are getting a dog (jeey!). We are both women and some people have commented this is like getting a baby for us. It hurts to think about us not being able to reproduce “just like” a man and woman would be. Do you have any tips about reacting to these statements?

With love,
Jeey we are getting a dog

Dear Yay for Dogs!

If you and your girlfriend decide to have kids someday, there are many routes you could try, and these people are neither the boss of you nor (clearly!) authorities on the subject.

Depending on the audience and your sense of humor, what if you replied with one of these?

  • “What a very strange thing to say.”
  • “Weird, why would you say that?” 
  • “How is it the same?”…”But it’s a dog, not a baby!” (Be super sincere, ask them to explain until they get embarrassed and stop.)
  • “Your understanding of human reproduction is missing a few pieces, I think.” 
  • “I do not think that means what you think it means.” 
  • “It is…not the same at all.”  
  • “Nope, but it’s exactly like when straight people get a dog!”

Congratulations on the dog, sympathies on the people who are using it as an opportunity to be homophobic and weird.

P.S. Please feel free to send cute dog photos ❤

Update (3/14): Idk what’s going on, but the overall vibe of comments is very contentious this week. Let’s take a break from discussions, eat some pie for Pi Day, and try again soon. Jeeeeeeeyyyyy on the new dog, Letter Writer!




204 thoughts on “#1087: “Girlfriend and I are getting a dog, and people are being weird about it.”

  1. Ughhhhh…people are so weird. I’d be tempted to respond, “Yeah, we can’t decide who’s going to breast feed it. Or maybe formula’s OK…what do you think?”

    1. We’ve already started looking at preschools. We have to get in early if we want to put him on the right path to Harvard.

      1. There’s no rule that says a dog CAN’T go to Harvard. Pretty sure this was the plot to an Air Bud sequel 8)

  2. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this! Captain’s advice is spot on as usual. I freakin love dogs so I’m stoked for you. Congrats!

  3. +1 for “Nope, but it’s exactly like when straight people get a dog!” Awesome response.

    1. Agree. (If it’s any consolation, people are also weird about it when hetero couples get dogs. They’d always tell us “it’s good practice” and we’d ask “for what?”)

      1. Yeah, when we (hetero couple) got a dog our friends immediately started calling him “test baby.” Lacked a homophobic undertone for us and thankfully we weren’t dealing with fertility issues or something at the time, but still weird.

        1. Yeah, on the one hand I don’t want to be mean to people who genuinely like the “furbaby”/”dog mom” identities! I think it’s harmless! Plus what on earth is wrong with counting pets as beloved family members, nothing is wrong with that. But in my personal case, I always want to answer people calling me a pet mom to a pet baby “oh, wow, um, I can’t say I’d crate-train a baby”. And that’s the least dark possible version of that joke…

          1. Haha, I’ve actually said, “Well, they don’t let you leave three-year-old humans at home alone while you’re at work – even if you have someone take them outside for you once a day! – so it’s probably not the same.”

          2. Yes! Thank you. Like when people make casual references to their pet “babies,” I usually roll with it – I get it. But if someone goes so far as to basically equate the level of commitment/fatigue/pressure/worry of having a child with having a pet, my brain definitely goes to “You may love them like family, but you can crate them and it’s legal to euthanize them. Not quite the same!”

            That said, I do actually think it’s good practice in a way – a puppy will teach you about sleep deprivation and being tied down in a way much short of having a human baby, but well above the footloose and fancy-free life of no dependent creatures in your household.

        2. It’s a therapy trope from what I have heard. To see if you have a healthy relationship and that the two of you are ready for the responsibility. First you get a houseplant, navigate caring for it, and if you don’t kill it, then you can get a dog. If that survives and is happy and healthy, supposedly you are ready for kids.

          1. Lmao! I can see the logic in this, but my wife and I killed our entire garden by failing to water it yet we’ve managed to keep two kittens alive pretty well, so I’m not sure it translates in practice.

      2. hahaha yeah that’s exactly what I thought when I read this letter. Mr. Marvin and I heard this ALL THE TIME when we got our first dog. And even later dogs!

        We have been married 20 years now and are on our fourth dog; no kids. Turns out our dogs have been “practice” for… other dogs.

      3. There’s a whole different, but related, brand of weirdness if you are an obdurately single and obdurately childless woman who gets a cat. Some make assumptions about this meaning you’re going to accumulate a hoard of cats (nope, just wanted the one — I worked with the rescue people to find one who would be thrilled to be an only pet).

        Some make remarks about how a dog would be better practice (“For what?” I invariably reply. Seriously, if I wanted a baby, I’ve had everything I would need, including resources, for 15 years now. If I wanted a squalling balongna loaf, I’d have had one).

        Some try to hint that a cat might make me less appealing to some men. That one is a rhetorical trap that a certain class of creepy people go for — they’re waiting for some kind of, “So what?” response so they can run around whispering that you’ve “turned lesbian”.

        Extra points if any of the above manage to work in hints about how you’re not getting any younger or how those looks of yours (just listen to the dripping envy/hate) won’t last forever.

        I’ve starting asking, “What does that have to do with neck injuries?” I got the cat because just about every medical professional I was dealing with said get a cat; they’ve been shown to have beneficial effects on many neck pain patients. The cat is here to do a job. She does it. I take extremely good care of her because I’m hoping to get 20 years out of one cat. When people say I spoil her, I look at what they’re pointing out and see lowered vet bills (yeah, there’s a lot of catering to her — she’s hyper-intelligent and has PTSD. She’s a prime candidate for depression and anxiety so bad it has to be medicated. I’ve made a home environment where none of that is even an issue. In return I get a smarty-pants animal devoted to my welfare — how is that not a good deal?).

        1. I have cats, and I’ve heard the “har har crazy cat lady amirite” like I’m going to turn into Eleanor Abernathy overnight. Or that “it will turn men off!” LET them be turned off. Sheesh. Sometimes I wonder if some people have wandered in from the 18th century and think that Charlotte Lucas is still A Thing.

          Enjoy your kitty! I have a cat who gets daily meds (diabetic, needs insulin shots) and it’s really pretty easy as long as I have chicken treats waiting afterwards.

          1. I’m not sure where this idea is coming from that we’re supposed to want to look “fuckable” (as in the Last Fuckable Day sketch) to men in perpetuity. When did that happen?

            I woke up one day and realized I’d been a “pretty girl” / “beautiful young woman” for more than 30 years. 30 FUCKING YEARS. And all I could think was, “Enough already.” Been there, done that, bored now, doing other things.

          2. Any man who resents a cat for getting his girlfriend’s attention or existing or whatever needs a heaping helping of grow the hell up.

            Back on topic: You could make big eyes and exclaim in shock: “You mean straights give birth to dogs?!”

          3. I’m a nonbinary lady with a dog and I live with my dad, who has a cat. People I’ve told about our pet situation repeatedly ask, “Wait, do you have the cat and he has the dog? It’s…it’s *his* cat?”

            The gendering of liking/owning cats is so baffling to me.

          4. @slythwolf, re: gendering of pet keeping, a boyfriend of mine (a couple of decades ago) told me once that he had thought as a little kid (like, six or seven years old) that all dogs were boys and all cats were girls. That’s cute for an elementary-school-aged child to think, but damn annoying out of grown-ass adults.

        2. MASSIVE cat prejudice out there. Said someone with four rescue cats.

          If you are a woman with a cat or two, you are about to become a miserable “spinster” with likely reality issues. If you are a man who lives in the middle of nowhere with a dog, you are about to star in your own action movie.

          1. I’ve never understood this. Pound for pound, cats are WAY more bad ass & terrifying than dogs!
            There is a REASON that we do not keep 80-120lb cats as housepets! 😆

  4. As a queer couple struggling with multiple lost pregnancies we had similar comments when we got a cat calling it “a substitute baby” and saying things like “oh you’ve finally given up? Good for you for settling on a furbaby” and “ah a trial run for a /real/ adoption” like adopting a child was as simple as going into an animal shelter. I wish we’d had Captains scripts at the time. If they have a pet put the weird back on them “wait if the dog is a baby what is your parrot/guinea pig a substitute for?!” Then just start guessing random things

    1. Awesome suggestion! I’m in a queer living together relationship and we are contemplating a dog. We are child free by choice, but it would *still* feel totally shitty for people to suggest we had a surrogate for a baby because we are queer. I can’t imagine how awful it would feel after lost pregnancies. Much love to you both.

    2. I thought I had heard all the possible variations, but *congratulating* someone on infertility because they got a cat instead?! I’m not sure I could remain civil on that one.

      People do have some seriously weird ideas about adoption, though, and a lot seem to think it’s like going to Ikea and buying a baby, some assembly required.

      1. I’m a foster parent. I know you don’t need the confirmation, but in case you want to waive my experience in front of other people (and I’m not currently trying to adopt), it’s really not easy to adopt children.

        1. +1000

          I swear if people knew what went into adopting, no-one would EVER say, “Why don’t you just adopt?”

        2. A friend of mine adopted her children from foster care and just…yeah. It was not easy, emotionally or logistically.

      2. Oh yes! Some people seem to think that adopting a baby/child is just like going to the Kiddie Shelter and picking one out. Nope. It’s complicated, expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes heartbreaking. I have several friends who have adopted, and it was a lot of time and money and heartache along the way – worth it, as those kids are all fine young people now, but NOT NOT NOT simple or easy.

      3. The only people I’ve ever encountered who say “why don’t you just adopt” to queer people or people with fertility struggles are non-adoptive parents.

        All the people I know who have fostered or adopted open conversations about adoption with “It’s really hard and certainly not for everyone.” And they’re the last people to suggest it… usually it’s brought up in their presence.

    3. My face upon reading those quotes:

      D: D: D: D:

      Sometimes I get this close to snapping and screaming “WHO RAISED YOU TO ASK RUDE, INAPPROPRIATE QUESTIONS???!!”

    4. Wow that’s… I’m always stunned by how completely inappropriate people can be on the subject of people (but especially women / femmes) and babies / future babies / “substitute” babies. I’m childfree with three pampered kitties, but when I say they’re my cute little fluffle babies… I do know that they’re cats. I don’t want human children so why would I need a substitute? Pets don’t need to be children to be awesome.

      1. When I got my rabbit, my mom asked me a couple of times why I didn’t just go spend time with my baby nephew more (I did spend time with him and love him and babysit him, she just meant do it more). I was like… because he isn’t a rabbit or a dog?

        He isn’t a piece of the wild, in my home, speaking to me in its animal body language about its strange animal thoughts? He doesn’t even have fur…

        A child makes a pretty poor animal substitute. I mean OK, when they’re super tiny they’re a little bit animal like, but… mostly they’re not like animals. They’re like (shock, horror, who would have guessed…) people, given that they are, you know, people.

        1. I always used to say, “If I could have a litter of kittens, I’d get knocked up tomorrow.”
          I haven’t said that recently, because I was sterilized a few years ago. But hey, as long as we’re imagining a cross-species pregnancy, who’s to say the sterilization would be an impediment?
          Tl;dr: I don’t want a baby but I would TOTALLY have kittens.

          1. When I was 3, I learned that “mother cat” was not a viable career or biology path for me, and immediately abandoned all interest in having kids.

    5. Oh, sweet Flying Spaghetti Monster, I am so very sorry you appear to be surrounded by the background characters from Spaceballs.

    6. Holy crap. I’m so sorry. Pregnancy loss is so devastating and so real and people just do. not. get. it. I’ve had some pretty stunning comments in reaction to my losses. But those are real bad.

    7. I am so grossed out by the things people said to you. 😦 Awful!

      I can only go by own own experiences and observations, but I have never seen ANY heteronormative/traditional couple get badgered about pets being “practice” or replacements for human babies. It’s like as soon as it’s outside the ~normal people~ realm pets and kids are viewed as either mutually exclusive or transitive.

      I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum as you; queer but in a het relationship but I don’t want kids, so I got my tubes tied. So people assume my cat is our “furbaby”. No. She’s a cat. She’s the best and I love her so much, but she is a CAAAAAT. She is not fulfilling the role of a child in my life. She is fulfilling the role of a cat. For me, that attitude is annoying but not that detrimental… but for people who want and struggle to have children, it’s so cruel and dismissive.

      1. These things do get said to hetero/traditional couples too, but I think not so much, and not with the extra side dish of rude intrusive biological inquiries (but HOOOOW will you have a baby????? and WHOOOOOSE baby will it be?). But any recently-married couple who adopt a dog will get the “practice for baby” comments from some people. Maybe it’s easier to ignore for a relationship that has the full weight of societal expectation behind it.
        My sister and her wife have two kids. People are forever asking them whose kids they “really” are. It is so infuriating for them both and everyone who cares about them.

    8. Hi Ren, I’m so sorry to hear about your losses. I am a queer woman who lost a very wanted pregnancy last year and… ugh. It’s just the worst. Sending my best thoughts to you and your partner.

      Also I love my cats so much ❤

  5. These options the Captain mentions are all WAY more polite than the ones that immediately sprung to my mind.

    OTOH, the Captain is probably still allowed in all the bars she has visited. So you should say those things instead of my things.

    Congratulations on the dog!

  6. I wish I had the Captain’s suggestions when I got weird not-the-same comments when my dog died. I was in a group of women. I said that our elderly dog died. Most of the women made polite comments about how sad, how attached we get to dogs, and good noises about their own dogs. One woman joined in with “It’s just like losing a human child!”

    I’d been accepting the other sympathy and stopped short of agreeing with that. I said “well, um, I wouldn’t go that far.”

    She doubled down with a repetition. “It really is the same!”

    I have never felt so awkward, and I wish even now that I had a way to return the awkwardness. Asking her to explain how it’s the same would have served. I have no idea if any of the adults in that room had actually lost a child, but you can bet I wanted to change the subject fast. I went from accepting loving sympathy for what was a sad loss to me to being on the defensive trying to laugh it off that putting down our beloved 14 year old german shepherd really wasn’t that bad, er, I mean, not compared to a baby …”

    1. [Content warning: Discussion of a parent losing a young adult child.]

      Yeah, the oldest son of a childhood friend of mine (we’re now in our early 40’s) was killed in a vehicle accident a few years ago (he was about 20). She and her husband also have pets, but I gravely doubt that if I asked her, she’d say that the death of a pet (however beloved, and they
      *do* love their pooches) is ‘just like’ the death of her son.

      [End content warning.]

      To the OP, congrats to you and your girlfriend on getting a dog! Dogs are awesome! I wish all of you many happy years together!

    2. My problem with “it’s really the same”, is that even though a person could love a dog very much and losing the dog would hurt, the dog owner expects their dog to die before them. A parent does not expect their child to die before them, it’s “unnatural”, and a loss no parent expects to deal with when they become parents.

      Of course any loss can be traumatizing and it does hurt, and I would never want to minimize the pain of losing a beloved pet, but a loss one has prepared for (like knowing a dog will probably live for 10-15 years) is different, and that’s why comparing it to the death of a child is pretty shitty.

      1. This is it in a nutshell; obviously there may be exceptions in both cases – a child who is ill for a long time, a pet which is taken suddenly, etc. – but this is the generally expected pattern and IME is the way most people seem to approach the issue.

      2. Exactly this! I have never wanted children, and because there is no objective way to measure love, I’ve never really cared or wondered whether I love my cats as much as parents love their children. I really do love those little foofgoblins a heck of a lot. But in the natural order of things they will predecease me, and I knew that going in. Having children is a totally different set of duties, expectation and yes, probably feelings.

      3. When my dad was about to leave home for the first time, apparently someone remarked to my grandmother, “Isn’t it sad when they [children] leave?” Grandma’s response was something like, “He’s not a dog; he’s *supposed* to leave eventually. It’d be sadder if he couldn’t.” (Her response may have had something to do with the fact that her sister had died as a young teenager and thus, in a way, never left home.)

    3. Oh, lawd. My husband and I just had our giant, elderly Golden put down. Coincidentally, I lost both parents in 2017. It was very sad to lose one of our dogs, and he lived in the house with us, as opposed to in a different state (my father), or another part of our state (my mother), but, no, it’s not the same.

    4. ‘Loss leveling’ is so weird. The impulse to fix it, or somehow make sense of it, is so strong. Grief just doesn’t work that way. There’s an old story I heard when I was a child (paraphrased): It’s getting dark and little Billy’s mom is starting to worry. Billy is a responsible kid and he knows to be home before the streetlamps are on – and that was half an hour ago. She heads out to look for him. At the end of the driveway she sees him walking up the road. She rushes to meet him, to find out if he’s ok. “Yeah, I was on my way home, and I saw Joe from down the way; his bike got run over and now it’s in pieces,” he replied. “Oh! Well, did you help him get it fixed?” mom asks. “No. No one can fix it. But I sat down and helped him cry about it.”

      Sometimes, that’s all we can do.

      Without a doubt, the one thing that is never true concerning loss of a loved one is the statement, “I completely understand what you’re going through.” No. No you don’t. You can’t. Because even though grief is universal, every loss is individual and incomparable. Even losing two different pets will not be the same each time. Losing your mom isn’t like losing your daughter. Losing your daughter is not like losing your son. Even grieving the loss of identical twins is individual to each child – and it will be different for each parent, and for every person who loved them. We can acknowledge that loss hurts, that it feels and often is unfair, that loss and pain are common to us all – though never interchangeable – and we can manage to be supportive in many ways without ever broaching the subject of comparative grief or attempting to categorize other people’s experiences for them. We don’t have to quantify, and qualify, and properly rank suffering to determine the true value of a loss in order for it to matter. It isn’t “just like” anything else we will ever go through. And that’s ok. It isn’t a contest – ever. I doesn’t have to be any of those things in order for a person’s pain to be valid and worth care, and we don’t need those things in order to express to another that they are not alone.

    1. Exactly! And I think straight couples also get the “just like having a kid” or “practicing parenting a human someday” comments too. However misguided they may be.

      1. They do and it’s weird then, too.

        The good news is anyone can say “I don’t know what you mean – this is a dog!” if they find the comment strange or intrusive.

  7. More sarcastic comments for if you feel like it:
    “Um, yeah I guess. So how’s little (human) Joey? Have you taught him to fetch yet? Is he housebroken? I noticed he wasn’t wearing his rabies tag last time he was at the city park, I have to say I’m concerned.”

  8. Are they saying it’s like *practice* for getting a baby? Because that’s what people say to pretty much all childless couples who get a pet together.
    Otherwise, I am curious how it’s just like getting a baby, since my CIS hetero adoptive parents couldn’t biologically reproduce either, but they got a baby just fine.

    1. Yeah I was thinking this too. My husband and I are not planning on having kids for a long while, our focus is when we can afford to care for a kitty! I’m probably part of the problem because I encourage people to talk about our future kitty than when we’re going to have children. This is usually jokes about how a cat is like training wheels for a child (which it’s probably not).

      But I’m hetero… so if the comments are talking about a dog as a “substitute” for a child then that is messed up.

  9. Also, they do realize that a lot of straight people adopt pets too? Sometimes even before they have children? I am genuinely confused as to why your friends think this is some special gay nesting thing.

    1. My guess is that some of the people saying this DO say similar stuff to straight couples, but it may not have as many layers of awful to it. I have heard straight couples get nesting-related comments, too, like saying the dog is a trial run for having kids, or that if they can’t handle a puppy then they shouldn’t have a kid. :/ Ugh.

      1. It’s not even true. I have three kids and could never handle a puppy. Kids eventually learn to use the toilet.

        1. This was my thought too! I have two kids and know that I am not going to ever be ready to handle a puppy / dog. The work involved exhausts me just thinking about it. Kids learn to use the toilet and can eventually talk and be left alone.

        2. And you can eventually explain to a kid why they shouldn’t chew on that thing, usually. I mean, you can explain it to a dog, too, it just doesn’t do any good. With kids I imagine you can eventually stop keeping all your knitting projects at least 5 feet off the floor.

      2. I wondered the same thing, as my husband and I got similar comments when we adopted our dog last year (both in the vein of it being a “trial run”, or instead of a baby as we’re in our mid-thirties). There are a lot of weird assumptions around childless couples in general, and I can only imagine that’s amplified when the couple present as the same gender and you add in assumptions around their ability to procreate that people generally wouldn’t make about a straight couple. I tended to stick with “nope, just wanted a dog!” and then getting really effusive about the breed-specific rescue we got our dog from when I did get those comments to try to derail the awkwardness train.

        (Weirdly enough, getting a dog kind of was prep for a baby for us, because I was able to convince my husband we should get a dog based on studies showing it can help build up baby’s immune system if there is a dog in the house while the mother is pregnant, and we knew we were going to try for a baby soon, but still… those were awkward comments from people I did not want to share my reproductive plans with.)

        1. Yeah, it may well be the case that someone is using a pet as a trial run/preparation/substitute for a kid, but that’s not really anyone’s business any more than the family planning of people who don’t get pets is other people’s business. It’s unfortunate so many people feel entitled to make comments and ask inappropriate questions on this topic and will use any excuse to do so. :/

          1. It also implies that a pet is somehow not a good experience in itself, or that the pet is “disposable.” It’s not like a trial subscription to Netflix to see if you like streaming services.

          2. @wayofcats – yes! Thank you for putting into words another thing that was bothering me about this way of looking at it.

    2. It might not be only that they think it’s a special gay thing, in some cases. Single childless people also get suggestions that their pets are child substitutes (although in that case it’s often paired with the assumption that what they really desperately want a baby and that they will have one as soon as they find a partner, unless they’re ‘too old’).

      Some people are weird about childlessness. And about pets. (And about same sex couples too, obviously).

    3. Yeah I’ve heard people make comments along the lines of how getting a pet is “practice” for when the (straight) couple has a baby. That’s presumptuous and frustrating as well and then to add in homophobia and assumptions about queer families…ulgh.

    4. My straight husband and I have two cats: I often refer to them as “mama’s little babies” but in no way to I think of them as MY ACTUAL CHILDREN. Because that there would have had me on Oprah, at least.

      1. I often refer to my dogs as “oopsum lolly dollin quitcheroos.” That and I tell them they’re composed entirely of fur. No one is expected to take that literally either. (Meaning you’re safe in calling them “mama’s little babies.”)

        A certain amount of silliness is fine as long as everyone understands that it’s silliness. We do feel affection and tenderness towards pets and babies. It is hard not to notice the similarities when you’re changing a diaper or picking up dog poo in a plastic bag or even noting how both dogs and toddlers are easier to get along with when they’ve had plenty of exercise. It’s the doubling down that gets to me, the idea that they do take these ideas seriously.

      2. I do have one coworker who refuses to call his dog a dog. He only calls her “my baby” or “my daughter” and will glare at you if you ask about his dog. For literally a month, I thought he had a human child because he hadn’t shown me any pictures yet.

        Honestly, I think people have given him less crap about it than people have given the OP.

      3. I’ve never had a dog but they seem a lot more work than cats. Still less work than children; one expects to be able to leave a puppy alone for a few hours and say, go to a movie, go grocery shopping, etc. Can’t do that with children for many years!
        I guess I’ve heard people call themselves “pet parents” and vaguely compare their dogs to children; there certainly are similarities. But it’s a pretty weird thing to say to anyone getting a dog; I mean do people really get dogs to train for having babies? I think not.

        1. The thing about work is that it’s not so bad if you enjoy it. If you hate walking dogs, then hurrying home to walk them mid-day is a pain in the neck. If you love walking dogs, then that mid-day hurry-home is a pleasure, a glad excuse to get a bit of exercise and relaxation in an otherwise not so fun work day. Naturally there will be the occasional time when the weather is terrible or you or the dog is sick. That’s not so fun, but dog owners will say the good outweighs the bad. The same is true for cats and babies. Ideally, parents love spending time with their kids. Ideally, cat owners are okay with cleaning cat boxes since it also means the cat purrs on their chest in the mornings. For me, dogs are almost no work at all. That makes sense because I’m an avowed dog person. Which is all to say that the similarity is in how people feel about the dog/cat/baby, not in the chores or time associated with them.

    5. Right? I feel like this must stem from latent (or not) homophobia. My BIL outed my nephew to me by remarking that my young sons–his nephews–might be the closest thing to grandchildren he and my SIL would get. This guy is smart and informed. We got off on a tangent about the existence of IVF before I realized that this was his way of expressing his discomfort with (and maybe disapproval of) his son’s sexuality. I think that he didn’t want to seem like a bigot or suggest that he doesn’t love his son, so all of that anger and sadness got funnelled into the idea that they would never have grandbabies. Ime, when something makes that little logical sense, it’s usually because there are strong negative emotions in play.

  10. LW, it sounds like you know some very weird and suckful people. There is a lesbian couple at my dog park and not once, has anyone ever commented to them that their dogs are baby substitutes, or see their dog ownership as any different to any other couple owning dogs. Anyway, another thing you could say is, ‘ um no, if and when we want a baby, then we will have a baby. Right now, we want a dog’. Congrats on getting a dog btw. They are so awesome (along with cats).

    1. Well, not once that you know of, but I hope you are right! (Sorry if it sounds like I’m being picky, I’m not trying to be, I’m just having flashbacks to a straight guy friend of mine telling me he didn’t believe homophobia happened any more because he’d never seen it. Thanks buddy, I’m so glad Macklemore died for us so you could tell me I don’t have to worry about discrimination now).

  11. Captain, your answers made me laugh! Good for you! I can’t imagine how people think they can simply say whatever they want and be so obtuse in their thinking! I agree! Send puppy photos and forget about what people say!

  12. Meh, my mother and I make dog/kid jokes with my sis all the time (who has doggies) and she has a boy partner. Its not automatically homophobic, it may be a rough and cute comparison for some, and it may not work for others- no matter your choice in partnership.

    It’s really not a big deal, and having kids is a tech problem. You just have to earn the $, the bright side is you have 2 wombs, who knows what could happen.

    And note- people aren’t trying to be dicks about it, (unless you have chosen friends poorly) they are just making conversation.

    Just wait till you have kids, then you’ll have something to talk about!

    1. Hey Hans,

      It’s really not a big deal for you. It obviously is bothering the Letter Writer, hence, the letter. When a letter doesn’t apply to anything in your life, it’s okay to just scroll by!
      It’s not coming across as homophobic for you & your family because your sister is in a heterosexual relationship. You’re not actually the decider of this.

      It’s definitely not weird for you to talk about the Letter Writer’s womb. 😐

      1. So, as…inartfully stated as that original comment was, I think the sentiment PLUS the Captain’s remarks help clarify something the LW might find useful when responding to comments: most people aren’t TRYING to be jerks, they are just accidentally succeeding at it. And if you can privately view the obnoxious comment as coming from a place of thoughtlessness, instead of outright homophobia, you might find it ruining your day less. I think it’s easier to be gracious and forgiving to people who are doing a bad job of being friendly than it is to people who are being purposefully hostile.

        And the Captain nails it when she points out that the INTENT of the words that come out of everyone’s face don’t matter as much as the EFFECT. Together those two comments are a good case study.

        1. It doesn’t have to be on purpose to be homophobia. Thoughtlessness around these kinds of things is also bigotry.

          1. Kinda? There is an appreciable difference between implicit bias and homophobia, which matters because they need to be fought against differently. But to avoid a derail into etymology, I’ll just repeat that YES it sucks when it happens to you. But if you have the bandwidth to extend the CHARITY to someone of taking them by what they mean instead of what they say, it sucks less? You certainly don’t have to, though, and it doesn’t prevent you from pointing out bias directed at you. You can do both if you want! Or neither!

            The point is: changing the lens through which you choose to view the world and the people in it can be really good for you! Give it a shot.

          2. @Dopameanie–I don’t know if you mean to, but your comments are coming off as extremely condescending and rude, FYI.

          3. @cat
            Well, Hans certainly deserves a little. Below that I’m trying to avoid telling the LW they are Doing It Wrong on the internet. I hate it when people do that.

      2. I think maybe he’s positing that the folks may not intend homophobia. I make fur baby jokes with couples and friends and they make them to me and most of us are hetero. It would not occur to me to assume that the identical comment I make to a hetero couple is homophobic. I will certainly be mindful in future having read this. I would have viewed it that I’m treating a lesbian couple in the normal way I treat hetero couples. Bc they aren’t ‘others’ they’re normal to me. But if the comments are made in a ‘you can’t have kids so this is all you get’ vein, then yeah it’s crappy. And while not necessarily homophobic it would be insensitive. You’d never say it to a couple biologically unable to conceive. But LW pls consider they may not mean it the way you’re hearing. I have friends and we call getting a puppy the ‘test’ baby or ‘starter’ baby. But thank you for sharing bc it’s increased my awareness of how my comments may be perceived by a homo couple and I will adjust accordingly!!!

        1. Even if people don’t mean to be unkind, it’s still ok to not like the comments and to gently push back on the comments.

        2. Hey, so I think this comment is embodying a line of thought that seems to be popping up all over the place in these comments, and I’d like to respond to it as a gay person who will likely never be able to have biological children with my future spouse, and who finds this agonizing.

          First of all, I think there’s a huge amount of upset defensiveness surrounding the idea that anyone saying these ‘furbaby’ or ‘test baby’ comments could possibly be homophobic. People are immediately jumping to ‘well I would never mean it in a homophobic way!!’ and ‘well, people say it to straight people too’ as a way to minimize the idea and/or deflect it. But, being blunt here, there are many people who do not say this sort of thing to straight couples and never would, who absolutely do mean it in a very explicitly homophobic manner. Not being one of them is great, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and unlike the LW we don’t know whether the people in the LW’s life are like this or not.

          Second of all, just because some people would say it to straight people too doesn’t mean that it’s not homophobic. I have a disability (chronic migraines) that means that, for example, I cannot eat foods or drinks that have red wine in it, and sometimes I have to cancel going to something because I have a migraine. Someone offering me food with red wine in it that I have told about this may not be singling me out to be ableist or rude, particularly if they are offering it to everyone else, but the effect is the same–just as if they responded to me messaging them with ‘I’m so sorry I can’t come, I have a migraine’ the same way as if I had just decided not to come because I didn’t feel like it. Treating many disabled people ‘just the same way’ one treats an abled person in the same situation is ableism.

          Straight couples, while they absolutely can suffer from infertility problems and have the agony of not being able to have a child with their specific loved one (or with anyone), do not have the baggage and problems and such that pervade our society that gay couples do. Gay couples are, in many places right now having the tenuous right to adopt children taken away. Gay couples are frequently cast as perverts and degenerates (I use that term deliberately) because they do not have children. Gay couples are considered to be childish and not real adult marriages because they cannot have biological children together. Many arguments about the ‘unnaturalness’ and ‘disgusting’ and ‘just a phase’ quality of gay relationships rest on the fact that gay couples cannot easily reproduce like straight couples can. Many methods of solving infertility problems offered to straight couples (IVF, sperm donors, adopting children–though the last one is not always a good idea to solve infertility) are forbidden from gay couples, or are used to make children produced from these methods feel and seem illegitimate. Gay people with infertility problems are expected to not find this upsetting or harmful, and are often derided if anyone notices this hurts them–not that the vast majority of people do.

          And for gay couples that include one or more trans person, in the rare case that they can biologically have children with each other (which is mostly not true–in many countries to transition legally and/or medically you need to submit to forcible sterilization), that is a whoooole nother kettle of problems. Trans people are even moreso considered disgusting, perverted, childish, and/or pedophiles than cis gay people, and trans people who choose to have biological children (regardless of whether this experience is agony that they sacrifice or it is not, you know, unending pain) are guaranteed to be hyper-scrutinized and seen as illegitimate fakers by just about everyone around them unless they lie about it for, well, ever.

          The people in these comments who are saying ‘well, I’d never mean it that way, and besides, we all make these jokes, so it can’t be homophobic, I can’t be homophobic, please reassure me homophobic has nothing to do with it’–please stop. Your intent may be entirely benign; you may have never, ever thought about how or why this might upset someone and specifically a gay person–but please just stop.

          1. This is such a good comment. Treating all people “the same” as a way to avoid being bigoted is sort of like saying “I don’t see color” when talking about racism. The intentions are good, sure, but also ignorant and dismissive. Because it ignores the context, it actually IS a racist sentiment. “I don’t see color” = “I do not acknowledge the struggles and systemic oppression POC experience their entire lives.” In the same way, treating a queer couple the same as a hetero couple when it comes to reproduction is being tone-deaf to their experience and reality.

            It’s assuming your own reality is the reality for everyone, and if you’re part of any dominant group (white, cis, male, heteronormative) this is something you do automatically because you’ve grown up in a world that caters to you. It’s a hard thing to break away from but being aware of it is the first step.

          2. @ bats are cute (because nesting has run out): Hey, just an FYI, I noticed you are using the word ‘queer’ as if it is interchangeable with the words I used–‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’. Please do not do that again; many LGBT people, including myself, find the word offensive, bigoted, and hurtful, and in any case it’s often inaccurate to interchangeably use ‘queer’ and a number of other words in these situations.

          3. + eleven million to yr original comment

            re: yr response to bats are cute, what language would you prefer? “queer couples” seems more inclusive to me, because it would generally be understood to include couples where people are nonbinary or pansexual or just generally under the lgbtq+ umbrella but not specifically gay or lesbian–also many people (raises hand) specifically identify as queer & feel like the word has been fully reclaimed. is there some comparably broad term that’s equally inclusive but less potentially upsetting?

          4. @ tequilamockingbird: In my original comment, I used the words ‘gay couples’ pretty deliberately–a straight relationship where one or more participants is bisexual or pansexual could have some of the problems mentioned, but also is very unlikely to face them to the same degree and certainly with not the same level of inescapable homophobia. And while many couples that have these couples are eg composed of a bisexual woman and a nonbinary person who passes for a woman, our society hardly treats them any different than a lesbian couple, except possibly as even more of a perverted, non-real relationship between filthy degenerates and/or as even more a not-real phase between immature adults, possibly at the same time. And while many people do identify with that word (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing), many other people don’t, ever, and would sharply disagree that it’s been reclaimed/made neutral. I don’t think there’s any truly umbrella term to describe everyone either of us mean, and so I’d say using more specific language is probably best if only for accuracy purposes–if eg I read something about ‘queer individuals’ then I immediately know it is not about me, and if I read anything about ‘queer couples’ it would definitely not at all include any future relationships I’d have.

    2. if you have no idea how deeply painful it can be for same sex couples to know that they can never have a biological child together, please shut the hell up. “having kids is a tech problem, just save up 1000s to 10000s of dollars, unlike the majority of straight people who can just get pregnant for free whenever”.
      please never talk to a gay person again.
      – signed, a lesbian who doesn’t ever want kids and is planning a large family of puppies with her wife.

      1. Also, just because you happen to be two women that have ‘wombs’ doesn’t mean both of you are equally chill with getting pregnant, carrying, and delivering a baby by default because you happen to have the mechanical parts.

        1. Good heavens, how true.

          One of the things I’ve never been able to figure out about America’s support-the-troops fetish is why it doesn’t also apply to women who bear children. Don’t mistake me — I’m not saying we need less support for service people, because everything I’ve seen says we need more. But I don’t get why it doesn’t apply equally to women who bear children — they also put their lives on the line for the continuation of our society. They also go through a lot of pain and often have permanent health impacts. Why is that of less value than when soldiers do it?

          A couple of years ago I found out that this was actually a common argument made during and after the American Civil War. They were dealing with things like pensions for Union soldiers (the origin of red tape, apparently), and many people argued that women who had born children should have the same pensions and other services, because they had equally hazarded life and limb and done great service critical to the continuation of society and the nation.

          Instead we treat such woman as targets for constant criticism about how they’re not doing it right. Sheesh.

          1. Um……I agree that America’s natal care system is really terrible, and I think it’s shameful that our maternal and infant mortality rate is so high compared to other countries, but I think your comparison is really a stretch. My father is a 33-year Army veteran and spent most of his career in combat zones (Desert Storm, Gulf War, Balkans, Sinai, Gaza Strip, and Iraq, and that’s not even all of them) and I completely fail to see how that is comparable to choosing to have a child.

            I don’t disagree that we need a stronger support system for parents, but it’s absolutely not the same. Deciding to get pregnant and have a child is not “equally hazarding life and limb,” unless you plan to spend the next 18 years deploying to combat zones, being separated from your family, and being in very real danger.

            You can make the argument that we need to improve maternal care without denigrating servicemembers.

          2. Well, okay, you talked about one of the more extreme cases, and there are mothers who are extreme cases who also face long years of high risk to do what they do. I know a few, and it’s terrifying what they go through. The majority of servicepeople don’t face anything like what you’re describing, so comparing your extreme case to the majority of cases of women who bear children is a false equivalence.

            If you want to see talking about what women really do face to continue the species as somehow “denigrating” other brave people who also take great risks that benefit us all, that’s your choice. It doesn’t change the fact that women who bear children are putting themselves at greater risk than most of the former servicepeople I’ve met have ever faced.

            I’m not arguing for lessening how we value the risks servicepeople take — I’m arguing for being honest about the fact that they aren’t the only ones doing that.

          3. I’m not interested in continuing this conversation further, but I 100% disagree with your assertion that “most” women who have children are facing greater risk than “most” of the servicepeople you’ve me. A lot of that depends on where/when you’ve had children and where/when/how long you’ve served. Referring to supporting servicemembers as a “fetish” is, IMHO, denigrating them.

            I don’t see this as an either/or, and I still think the comparison is bizarre, but whatever your personal antipathy towards servicemembers is is your thing to deal with. I think it makes more sense to look at other countries’ policies that make supporting families, children, and parents a priority and questions why we pay so much lip service to it here but don’t back that up with action.

            Also, my father is not an ‘extreme’ case (and referring to him as such I find really unnecessary and offensive). His deployment record is pretty typical of anyone who served in the Army during the years he served. Most of his colleagues served in the same theaters.

            I think this has become a derail to the OP’s question, which has nothing to do with the risks of choosing to have a child, so this is the last time I’ll respond to this thread.

            By the way, I worked for many years for firms that handled medical negligence cases, the majority of which were birth injury/birth fatality cases, so I have a way more intimate knowledge of what can go wrong in childbirth and the aftermath than I ever wanted.

          4. Okay, so you know which servicepersons I have known better than I do? And you think I have some antipathy towards all servicepeople? That’s just weird. And has no connection to reality. Especially given that the servicepeople with service records of extreme risks who I know personally are the ones who have been telling me and others I know why we should be angry about the cultural trend to reflexively honor all “service” that lets those who’ve never risked much of anything walk around puffed out demanding special honors all the time.

            “Eh, I don’t think your comparison works based on my experience,” is perfectly valid, however. If you don’t agree with the perspective of the combat veterans I personally know, of course you get to decide your own perspective.

          5. This subthread has gone to a very strange place. Let’s wrench it back in the direction of things that are directly relevant to the OP, thanks.

          1. @commanderbanana
            That’s exactly true today, but I get the logic for civil war era childbirth and military service. At the time it was VERY common to die in childbirth. Nowadays the comparison doesn’t make much sense.

    3. Clearly, it’s a big enough deal to write in. How about a nice big cup of shut the fuck up forever?

    4. Key word: “with.” As in, you’re making jokes *with* your sister, and she’s participating in them, and you know how she is with this stuff.

      If you’re doing this with other people you don’t know as well as a way of making conversation, it really doesn’t matter if you’re intending to be a dick. You are being one. Because it’s not really friendly to take someone else’s good news (Yay! Doggie!), ignore all the obvious positive and neutral avenues of conversation (what kind, where from, how old, other dog stories, etc.) and focus on the negative (“Decided to fill the gaping hole in your life as best you could, huh?”).

      1. Your first line is so important! From the outside, you have no idea what someone’s reproductive plans are, and if they haven’t already shared them with you, it’s unlikely you’re on the list of people they want to talk to about reproducing. New dog is an easy opportunity to ask a million questions *about the dog* instead of delving into the murky waters of if/when/how people are going to reproduce and making assumptions (often gendered and/or homophobic) about their ability to do so.

        1. There are so many kind, polite things one can say to people who are planning to get a dog (or cat or whatever sort of pet). “Oh, what fun!” “Do you have a specific dog in mind?” “Have you decided on a name?” “Here’s some cool places to go for pet supplies!”

          Why do people opt to be rude and/or intrusive when they could just share in the happiness?

    5. It is, however, automatically rude.

      People talking about if anyone should have kids instead of a dog is a dick move. If your sister has reproductive problems, guess who she’s never going to tell? The sibling with the rude dog/kid jokes who doesn’t get why they’re terrible conversationalists.

    6. Also, “And note- people aren’t trying to be dicks about it, (unless you have chosen friends poorly) they are just making conversation”…. is really victim blame-y. Just a really crappy thing to say.

  13. Dear LW – I hate that these comments hurt you. You and your GF deserve to be treated like everyone else through all of life’s milestones!
    But I am also curious – are you and your and GF open about your intentions regarding children? What I mean is do these people know that you can and will (if you want) have human babies (through what ever process works for you) at some point? I only ask because me (female) and my husband are childless by choice, and openly so. So for some reason other people have taken it upon themselves to call us “mommy” and “daddy” to the dog. Never mind that’s not our style, but we go along with it because it seems easier than pushing back. In my experience, this actually seems to be pretty common for all couple types – it’s like no children + pet(s) = always childless couple replacing human babies with 4-legged babies. Is it right? No. Is it purposely hurtful? Not always.
    Long story short (too late!) is there a chance these people think they are actually accommodating a lifestyle choice? If not, then by all means have at it. But your letter doesn’t give me enough context to know for sure whether or not these people are just ignorant to your feelings (but not intentionally so) or actually rude morons. You know better than I do if they are rude morons, and if so that CA’s advice is the way to go. If you are unsure or want to give someone a chance maybe say something like this:
    Friend: Oh you got a dog! What a great sub for a baby!
    You: Well, the dog is not a sub for a baby, but if and when we are ready to have kid(s) it will be so nice to have Lucky so our kid(s) can grow up with a wonderful pet.”
    PS – enjoy your pup!! And second pics!

    1. This – I really wonder if a lot of this is miscommunication, partly or entirely due to people coming from different perspectives. It still hurts! People are clearly pressing on a sore spot, but until people know that, for example, you cracked a bone in your right hand, they’re going to keep offering you handshakes.

      I’m a childless late-twenty-something with a circle of similar peers. Few of us are married, none are considering having children any time soon bio or otherwise, quite a few of us are queer including one lesbian couple. We all have cats. We all talk/joke about our cats being our children or substitutes-for-children (I sometimes include my houseplants in the joke as well – my default answer to “Do you have kids?” is “I have a cat and a lot of houseplants.”). If we didn’t know you actually wanted to have bio kids, I can very easily see one of us making an offhand comment about “Oh, you’ve decided it’s time to get your own baby [dog]/furbaby, they’re so much more affordable/less work than the real thing!” It’s not – and has never been – a particularly emotional subject for any of us, just another thing we grump about re: being poor millenials who can’t afford shit.

      Now, if you quietly put it about that you’d really _like_ to have bio children, and it’s a sore subject, the jokes would stop pretty quick. But as it is, we all talk about our pets as our children, so we would by default include you in the circle of ‘my pet is my child’ half-joking commentary, just because that’s how we all talk about our own pets and are trying to be friendly. We’d be pretty horrified to know we’d been poking a sore spot the whole time, please give us some specific cues that you’re not okay with pet = child comparisons!

      1. Reproductive troubles are a common sore spot, though, and often a spot so sore that people quite rightly do not want to talk about it with near-strangers. Instead of expecting people to share that particular sore spot far and wide, why don’t we just not make jokes about the subject with people we don’t know well?

      2. Yes to this. I did not automatically assume the friends meant offense. It depends on context and it’s definitely a great discussion bc I’m horrified to think I may have been being offensive to anyone bc my friends and I all call our pups babies. Now that my kids are grown I actually call them my baby substitutes. But I would never want to hurt someone by bring an insensitive arse. Thanks LW for bringing this to our attention!

      3. But the problem is that explicitly saying ‘hey, I actually want to have kids and I can’t with my beloved, so quit it’ is that it opens you up to a gajillion different terrible responses, all of which would hurt deeply. Examples include ‘well we didn’t MEAN IT THAT WAY’, ‘haha our dog is our baby so your future baby will be just the same’, ‘well I’m so sorry YOU CAN’T TAKE A JOKE’, interrogations about why you want to have a kid and about why not being able to have a biological kid with your beloved hurts, ‘well you can just adopt a kid’, interrogations about why you are selfish/bad/evil/contributing to overpopulation/close-minded for wanting biological kids, ‘we didn’t MEAN ANYTHING BY IT’, interrogations about how can you REALLY be a lesbian/gay if you want kids, why not just cheat on your partner/get a sperm donor/do X Y Z other thing to have kids, ‘I’M NOT HOMOPHOBIC HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME OF BEING HOMOPHOBIC’, more jokes that are more pointed and harsher, jokes about human trafficking kids instead, jokes about cloning and lab babies, tantrums about how gay people are SO SENSITIVE, GOD, quietly but firmly pushing the person who protested out of the group, feelings of alienation, bursting into tears in public, etc.

        The Captain’s scripts offer a way to shut down these jokes without saying explicitly why they’re hurtful or engaging in the kind of intense vulnerability that you’d have to. And especially with a group of people who all make the same ‘furbaby’ jokes, who may all be straight, most of the time you just don’t want to have to go there any time you want people to stop hurting you. Certainly it’s one way. But it is no guarantee that people will be kind and immediately drop the jokes at all, much less without going through the whole exhausting rigamarole.

    2. I really, really do not think “be more open about your intentions regarding children” is a solution here. The number of people whose business it is whether I can, or intend to, have human children is pretty small. A LOT smaller than the number of people who know that I have a cat. I still expect all of those people who do know I have a cat, but don’t know my future reproductive plans or fertility status, to refrain from making weird remarks about how my cat must be a substitute for the children I don’t have (or obviously can’t have, or obviously don’t want).

      1. This!

        Also, if someone accidentally pokes a sore spot, being told “Nope, it’s a dog!” isn’t an *attack.* Being corrected when you get something wrong (even unintentionally) isn’t mean or rude. I really, really wish people would absorb this instead of looking for ways to be even more accommodating .

        1. Yeah it’s always ok to let folks know something is a sore spot!!! It would never be a sore spot for me but I’d be horrified to know I was poking at someone’s and they certainly don’t owe me a story about their reproductive plans in exchange for my politeness. Not my business.

      2. Jokes about reproduction are *always* a bad idea, except in the very rare edge case in which you’re close enough to know the other person’s actual reproductive plans and/or struggles AND you’re absolutely sure they’re in on the joke with you.

      3. Maybe people who have cats just like having a cat? Sometimes a cat is just a cat. It seems weird to me that other people are determined to make it into a Thing.

        Speaking of my sibling just adopted a very pudgy, fluffy, and imperious cat, and she is delightful, like a small, arrogant cloud floomfing about.

    3. Reminder: the LW isn’t sad over not having children; she’s pained that it will never be an option for her to have a biological child with her girlfriend/wife. The way something feels is greatly affected by whether or not it is a choice. It’s also a different form of intimacy to tell someone “I don’t want children” as opposed to “I am sad about my biology and how it won’t let me have the family I always imagined one day having.” Particularly since there’s always some asshole like Hans up there, just waiting to dismiss your feelings as invalid.

    4. Why on earth would anyone be commenting uninvited on something as personal as someone else’s reproductive plans in the first place? There is absolutely no reason for them to be doing that. It’s crass at best, and as we’re seeing, abusive all too often.

      One of the things that has crystallized out of #MeToo in my mind is just how rife our society is with trying to excuse / pander to privileged crassness that no one should be committing in the first place.

      There is no reason to comment uninvited on someone else’s reproductive plans/issues.

      There is no reason to proselytize uninvited. People can find your message and look up where to go to hear your message preached on the internet. They’ll find you.

      There is no reason you need to have the option to date or flirt with your less privileged coworkers.

      There is no reason your coworkers / professional colleagues need to know what you think of their appearance unless you are their line manager tasked with instructing them on the dress code or an officer of a professional society tasked with instructing them on the dress code. By the way, that dress code had better be posted accessibly and the same for everybody.

  14. My daughter and her wife got a Great Dane a year ago — for them, actually, it was an alternative to getting a horse (which they plan to get someday if they are ever living on a farm).
    So Opal is now close to 100 lbs, I think, sweetest dog ever but just a little on the large side!
    I can’t imagine any of their friends thinking their Dane is a substitute for a baby, but I will have to ask them whether anyone ever said anything.

    1. “for them, actually, it was an alternative to getting a horse”
      This just made me chuckle. Great Dane’s are so big! 🙂 It’s definitely a reasonable alternative for a horse.

      1. The #1 thing I hear from Great Dane owners is that people constantly compare them to horses (ie, “So are you going to get a saddle for that dog?”), so it’s pretty funny that this one is an actual horse surrogate.

    2. We’re saving up for a Rottweiler puppy, which meant the adorable mini horse I stalked on craigslist is out of the question for now. My partner & I do have a little farm, and having space for critters is so tough when time & money aren’t as freely available. I hope your daughter & wife get their horse someday. It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.
      I can also attest to other ppl’s weirdness about lesbian couples/cats & childfree status. I am so happy to be obvs past childbearing age so I don’t get the obnoxious questions/jokes anymore.

  15. That is a really bizarre reaction and I’m sorry you have to deal with it! I tell my parents all the time that my dog is the only grandchild they’re going to have (child-free by choice) but that’s my decision to joke about it.

    I love the Captain’s scripts but I’d also suggest asking them in a tone of great concern, “So what do you think it means when straight couples have a dog *and* children?”

        1. This is certainly true for my step-grandparents’ corgi. No one is allowed to get up from the dinner table because she likes to have everyone where she can keep an eye on us.

          1. Hah, when I was in first grade our teacher brought her little collie to school, and it came to recess with us. It ended with us being huddled in a little bunch as the collie ran in ever-tightening rings around us to keep us together.

    1. You, dear commenter, have won the internet today! Please enjoy my admiration and the laughter you can hear from across whatever distance separates us.

    2. Dang, I don’t think this is going to work as well for cats. Henchman, perhaps? Glare menacingly at the hero when he stumbles into our traps, that kind of thing.

      1. Definitely. My sister refers to my office chair as a “supervillain chair” and my cat completes the look in a way that no other creature could. mwhahahahaha

      2. I’ve been trying to pay attention to how my cat self-identifies, including how that changes. She has been adamantly clear from the start that despite her amazing hunting skills, her natural habitat is a house. At first I assumed she was a housecat, literally. I wasn’t prepared for her being more interested in me than the house at first, before she settled in — the rescue people didn’t see that coming either.

        Then she needed to live out the kittenhood she never got to finish. I got that, and I could see all the, “I’m not the mommy…I’M NOT THE MOMMY. WHEEEEEEEE I’M A KITTEN,” going on, but it took me a while to get that meant that for the time being, *I* was Mommy. Well, okay then.

        But she grew up. She remained adamantly clear that her vocation was some class of Companion To Human. As such, her natural habitat was a house with specific rights of access to the bed of the human in question.

        I have health issues, and she has been taking on some measure of being an assist animal. It took a while, but I finally got that she considered herself to be some kind of furry combat butler — see http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BattleButler

        1. Dad’s cat seems to see herself as our aggrieved supervisor. We’re terrible employees; most of the time we can’t even understand the simplest requests.

    3. LOL you could add, “We’re considering naming the dog Lassie but we’re concerned that might be too much?

  16. Definitely an occasion to employ *incredulous face*, wait a beat, followed by “Excuse me?”

  17. One of my personal faves when encountering slightly homophobic, racist or otherwise ignorant comments:

    “OMG you’re hilarious” said totally deadpan without cracking a smile.

    Like, let’s just kindly let that dumb comment pass as a joke that fell flat.
    Almost always the person apologizes immediately and I let them save face by agreeing that they meant nothing by it. I have always appreciated being the beneficiary of doubt when I’ve said something offensive without thinking.

    It doesn’t work with people who are committed to hatefulness and don’t care to do better. But most people I come across actually do want to do better.

    1. “OMG you’re hilarious” said totally deadpan without cracking a smile.

      This does not always work. I know several people who don’t understand tone, facial cues, or sarcasm at all and take everything literally. If I were to say that, they’d legitimately walk away thinking they were hilarious. I find that “Wow, that was really racist / homophobic / etc” works. Most people are shocked that I’ve called them on it and the few people who insist that it wasn’t are now forced to explain to me why it wasn’t and it never works out for them. But yes, I agree that most people do want to do better.

      1. This. People who suspect they’ve said a shitty thing but have “surely I’M not a bigot” blinders on will take the easy out and tell themselves you found it funny.

        1. There was an old Molly Ivins quote about meeting the Queen of England, saying that said Queen used, “How veddy interesting,” to mean something similar, and getting three “veddy’s” (How veddy, veddy, veddy interesting) was akin to hitting “tilt” on a pinball machine.

      2. Nothing *always* works. Certainly, sometimes you need to name bigotry in so many words. But lots of times, well-meaning cluelessness or just, you know, a verbal fart, doesn’t need such a heavy hand. Sometimes when people get that they’ve messed up and if it’s just an insensitive blunder, you can choose a way to both notice it and let it go quickly. If it later turns out that you’re dealing with a habitual bigot, you can choose a different strategy next time.

        If you, a generally well-meaning and non-hateful person let slip a dumb thing that was mildly bigoted, (and who among us never has?) and someone gently brought it to your attention and gave you an easy out to say “OMG I’m sorry, that was a really bad and clumsy thing to say, please forgive me!” …wouldn’t you appreciate it more than being called out harshly?

  18. As a straight person in a straight relationship I can honestly say that several generations of cats *have* been child-substitutes for us, but this was pretty much the intention from the start. We were both somewhat above the usual age for marriage when we met, and four years of trying for a baby produced nothing but pain and misery. We were a lot happier when we gave up the attempt and settled for cats instead – on the basis that you get to fit more of them into your life than you ever would children, anyway. It also helps that I had a child from a previous relationship, so now ‘we’ have grandchildren – although biologically they’re only actually related to me. Quite frankly, in our case, this was the best of all possible worlds – but I reckon people everywhere are entitled to make whatever decision suits them best over the combination of pets and children (if any) they choose to share their lives with, and nobody else has any right to comment about it whatsoever.

  19. Seems like a bit of an odd comment, considering that, apart from adoption, either of you probably *could* make a baby if you wanted to. Personally, I’d be like “well, no, we weren’t planning on gestating the puppy – science sorta isn’t there yet, so… yeah, not quite like a baby.” But if it just bugs you and you don’t want to go there, just be like, “no, it’s a dog, not a child,” and leave it at that. If someone really won’t shut up about it, you can be like “yeah, please stop talking about how dogs are like babies, we don’t appreciate it.”

    1. I could sort of see (depending on the people LW is talking with) going “OMG HOW TF did you get your dog/cat/komodo dragon??? I’m going to the shelter! I didn’t think humans could gestate dogs??? What science fiction world do you live in!” As if making the assumption that the homophobe literally gestated their pet. But I’m both weird and sarcastic like that. Aaaand it doesn’t really send the awkward back to sender (although, again depending on the person, it might make them think about how they were coming across).

      My cousin has been desperate to be a mother all her life and she and her hubby have been spending thousands on ivf, only to lose each and every one. If someone made the same comments to her, without the extra awful layer of homophobia, I am fairly certain that she would cold clock them. And she comes from a family who loves animals.

      People who come out with those comments may or may not intend to be awful, and may be intending to have banter, but as far as I am concerned, those comments are not even remotely funny, or kind, or even remotely appropriate. I am so sorry that people are being like this to you, LW.

      1. I don’t know if I’d ever actually make that joke, but I find the idea of doing so hilarious. The more serious you can play it the better; my goal would be to make the other person only /mostly/ sure you don’t think they really gave birth to their pet iguana.

    2. Now, if Science! ever gets far enough where one could have a puppy instead of a baby, I’d be first in the line clutching all my money to make it happen.

      One of my friends is adopting a little girl puppy, and I learned that people get really confused when you talk about the little girl your friend is adopting and then show them a picture of the puppy (she is, for serious, So Cute).

  20. Well, I read “My girlfriend and I are getting a dog (jeey!)” as “We’re getting a dog, and it’s name will be ‘Jeey’!” which is entirely appropriate. All new doggos should just be named [Squeal of Joy!].

  21. I think straight couples (or even singles) can get these kind of comments too, though not having the full context LW has I don’t know how much subtext there is. Not sure if it helps or not that the comments may be coming from a place of overenthusiasm (ie, dog owners who refer to their dogs as pseudo-children) but agree it would be weirdly presumptuous of anyone to say that. It’s one of those things where it might be appropriate for people to self-joke but not say about others unless they’ve already said it (even then, careful).
    Agree the main thing to do is be prepared with a quick comeback that indicates you really don’t appreciate that line. Flavor can vary from “eh, not really into the ‘pet parent’ thing” to “wow, no.” etc as suggested above, depending on your energy and context.

    1. Self- vs. other-joke: Agreed. Because others may not know the context, or basically Just Don’t Go There Is That So Hard OMG.

      My spouse refers to our cats as our daughter and son, like, all the time at home. (We’re het-married-no-kids.) But this is after *years* of talking about our relationship, family structure, fears about parenting, identity, blahblah. And all of that just makes it barely, barely tolerable. I would not tolerate it from anyone else, esp. if they are not also pets-and-no-kids people.

      I don’t even like talking about our pets with our pro-baby/(proper term) friends, to avoid those sorts of comparisons. And I love our critters! They’re freaking adorable! But it is hurtful and unfunny to draw that parallel. Nor is it original. Just don’t.

      1. Sorry, too – I don’t mean to overlook the *whalloping* heterocentrism in the comments described by the OP. That’s a whole additional, much larger layer of awful.

    2. This exactly. I mean, it’s one thing to self-joke about your pets being your children, but even then it would be weird and borderline inappropriate to have someone repeat it back at you and refer to your own cat or dog as your child. It’s even weirder and flat-out inappropriate to assign that type of label to people who haven’t made the self-joke in the first place.

    3. I think there are different layers of inappropriateness and yuck in the comments you get, depending on the gender you present as, your current relationship status, and the gender of your partner (if you have one). Like, women are generally assumed to want to make babies, and are alternately treated as if they must be *desperate* for a child if they don’t have one (“your biological clock is ticking!”), mistaken if they say they don’t want children (“just you wait!”), or broken in some way if they don’t want or can’t have children.

      So, women who are single tend to get cat lady comments with an undercurrent of “that’ll drive the men away and you’ll never get to have a baby!”. Women in hetero-presenting relationships tend to get comments suggesting the pet is a “practice baby” designed to test the waters or “encourage” the male partner to think about fatherhood (unless the woman is “of a certain age”, at which point, it’s assumed the pet is a child-substitute). And women in relationships with other women get a mix of bad-weird assumptions about their desire and ability to reproduce (or not reproduce) compounded by homophobia (i.e. people who believe same sex couples shouldn’t reproduce or be able to adopt) and bad cultural stereotypes (i.e. lesbian cat ladies) that, in my experience, lead to a wide cross section of unpleasant comments from a variety of people with a broad spectrum of intentions.

      1. This all makes me wonder – do men get “pet is a substitute kid” comments? Single men? Hetero partnered men (in a way that is directed at THEM and not at the woman partner)? Gay men?

        There are studies to be made and/or analysed here.

        Hypothesis: the frequency with which this stuff is flung at straight men is very low, and the incidence to non-straight men correlates strongly with “which one of you is the girl?” type bullshit.
        Possibly linked to how women are perceived as owing reproductive labour to society/having no destiny or purpose beyond making some man’s babies?

        1. In my experience as not-a-man, no, they don’t. Men who are single and own dogs are usually fine, unless it’s a small or “foofy” dog in which case they’re assumed to be gay. Single men who own cats get some kind of bafflement.

        2. I think it’s possible single men get something like “you surely only have that dog to pick up girls, right?”. Maybe as in “men can’t be nurturing or want companionship or responsibility for other living beings”.

    4. People in these comments really are DESPERATE to brush away any possible homophobia, aren’t they?

  22. Ok, I thought I was gonna be able to let this go, but I CAN’T:

    How is ‘jeey’ pronounced?!

    It’s driving me crazy.

    1. It is pronounced like “yay”! I would imagine the LW is fluent in a language such as Swedish, Icelandic, Norwegian, something like that.

      1. THANK YOU.

        It was like having an itch in the center of your back that you just can’t reach.

  23. A few people are pointing out that people say similar things to straight people/couples, and I just need to point out that *this doesn’t make it non-homophobic* so please stop trying to splain away the homophobia. It’s still shitty. Let it be shitty.

    1. Exactly. Context matters. This is a comment being made to a LGBTQ couple, alluding to a common stereotype and highlighting their “otherness.” It might not be deliberate or consciously homophobic, but that’s just because we’re so thoroughly trained by society to be heterocentric that we don’t even think twice about stuff like this.

      I tell you what: this letter did a great job of helping me check some privilege. Now I know to never, ever refer to someone’s pet as their “child” unless they did it first! (I’m still going to joke about how everyone’s babies are just like cats, because they totally are. I have a baby; this is my opinion as a professional baby-haver.)

  24. I just don’t understand people. I feel like if someone said to me, “we’re getting a dog,” my response would be, “that’s awesome!” and then ask more questions about the dog. I would not attempt to equate getting a dog with having a human child because both are great things, but they are not the same great things.

    I am a lady married to a gentleman. We have a cat. People have referred to our cat as our “baby.” We have both found this weird because although he is awesome, he is a cat. Our response has basically been, “he’s a cat.”


    I just want to add that even if this is a common thing, that doesn’t make it not a weird or gross thing. Or even a harmless thing. It makes every bit of sense for you to be uncomfortable with it, and it shouldn’t be that hard for other people to get why it’s weird.

    Also, if you feel like taking it on directly, a matter-of-fact “I really don’t like jokes about my reproductive options” might take the air out of the conversation.

    “It’s really not like that at all, but we are excited about it,” would probably get you through the moment more quickly, though.

  26. LW, congrats on your new pup! I’m sorry knuckleheaded people are saying knuckleheaded things to you. I hope the Captain’s scripts are helpful.

    “just like a baby” comments: Ugh. No. I call my furkids my babies and my children, and I am their mommy and am devoted to them, and NO they are not substitute children and having a pet is NOT like having a child.
    Dogs and cats are dogs and cats, and children are children. Anyone who thinks they are interchangeable in terms of care or emotional attachment shouldn’t be trusted with either.

  27. This is such a weird thing to say to people, anyway. Many cisman + ciswoman couples can’t naturally reproduce, either. And a dog isn’t a baby, it’s a dog. Certainly some people jokingly refer to their pets as their children, which is fine to say about yourself, but it’s such a bizarre thing to push off on someone else.

  28. “Nope, but it’s exactly like when straight people get a dog!”

    Lovelovelove this one!

  29. LW, you have my sympathies. I hate basically everything to do with the whole ‘furbaby’ ‘dog mom’ ‘my cat/dog/pet is my baby’ stuff (it’s not a child and it’s insulting to mothers), and it’s incredibly nasty to say that to a lesbian couple in particular. I would also recommend if you’re feeling confrontational to just respond flatly with ‘that’s homophobic’ and walk away–sometimes people respond to getting it pointed out to them how rude and bigoted they’re being, and walking away can cut off the chance to be sucked into an argument.

    The number of commenters though who are saying, essentially, ‘well, it’s not homophobic because they do it to straight people too’ are also being homophobic and it’s really making me uncomfortable. Yes, there are definitely people who also do this to straight people–but straight people do not have the social and personal complicated baggage of being in a gay couple.

    (Also, sidenote: many gay couples can reproduce in the ‘default’ way. Gay couples involving trans people do exist.)

  30. “yes, the dog does show a tangible level of commitment, doesn’t it?” – said in an agreeable, upbeat tone.

  31. Single dog-owner here, also uncomfortable with. Confusing babies and animals. I do NOT want kids and made Damon sure I didn’t have kids, I DId want dogs and made damn sure I had dogs. But I digress; what I wanted to say is that I usually respond “Never birthed anything that hairy in my life!” I feel like it returns the awkward to sender. And it seems to work….

  32. Tangentially-related story time: when I was in kindergarten I really wanted a sibling, so I would tell my friends my cat was my sister. One friend was skeptical (“So your mom just…had a cat instead of a baby?”) and I told her, “NO, she’s ADOPTED.” I guess I’d gotten some wires crossed when I heard my parents talking about adopting her from the animal shelter.

    But aside from that (and a stray cat who lives in my neighborhood whom I jokingly refer to as my son), I’m not super fond of referring to my pets as my babies. I don’t care if other people do it about their own pets, but it’s not something I do. I’d definitely think it was weird if someone referred to my cat as my baby. And the added assumption that you’re getting a dog because you can’t have children makes it way, way worse. I loved all of the Captain’s scripts.

  33. Also, LW, I’m super excited for you and your GF and your future dog, who will be just as excited to join your household as you are to get a dog! (Possibly eventually. Sometimes they take a while to settle in.) I selfishly hope you do actually send the Captain pictures and that you give her permission to post them because, like, I personally want to see every dog. All of the dogs. Good, good dogs.

  34. I’m a woman with three cats. They are what I call my babies but really, I know that they’re cats, not humans. The important thing is that they’re my beloved companions, and the reason why I seek help instead of letting depression win.

    And yay new dog!!!

  35. Ugh. It is beyond me why so many people think the reproductive choices of others are up for discussion, particularly coworkers or other very marginal acquaintances. What exactly makes them feel that they’re entitled to weigh in on that question?? The homophobia here is the icing on the cake.

    Congratulations on the new dog!!

  36. Pets are “nurturing subjects.” I love nurturing! When I had a garden, I had 80 rosebushes. Some rescues.

    The great thing about nurturing subjects is we can choose what we are best able to nurture and enjoy. For some, that’s children, of whatever source. For some, it’s activist causes and the groups that form around them. And so forth.

    For me, it’s cats, which suits my “curled up on the couch with a device” lifestyle. A lot of people love hiking and get a dog to hike with, which also lets the dog have the fun and exercise they need.

    No one needs to comment on anyone’s choice besides “I’m so happy for you!” when there is happy news. Some people have this “one template to rule them all” and just cannot handle the slightest lifestyle deviance.

    For them, I try to make my overriding emotion that of sorrow for a life so narrowly led 🙂

    1. “The great thing about nurturing subjects is we can choose what we are best able to nurture and enjoy. For some, that’s children, of whatever source. For some, it’s activist causes and the groups that form around them. And so forth.”

      This really doesn’t ring true to me. Most people I know with dogs also have children and care about the world, and vice versa. They have a dog not because they want ‘a nurturing subject’ but because they like dogs. They’re fun and beautiful and good companions.

      The experiences you describe are all completely different and to me, pretty unrelated experiences. I mean they’re all about engaging with the world outside yourself, but that’s so broad as to be pretty meaningless.

  37. I have a stepson and three godkids and we just adopted a dog … it turns out kids are surprisingly good practice for dogs in some ways. I mean, phrased as “there’s a lot of overlap”, it’s not WRONG.

    But that’s not the point. The point is the assumptions: that you have a particular life-path and they know what it is, that the dog isn’t a creature of their own with their own place in your family, that you NEED practice, that you even want to talk about any of this.

    And, since and only since you mentioned it hurts to think about not being able to reproduce the way (many) opposite-sex couples can: dear LW, I promise, if you do want kids, kids can happen. You’ll find a way, you’ll make it work, and it’ll be great.

    Meanwhile, YAY DOGGO!!!!!

  38. I am sorry you are having to deal with such rude comments. I remember being in week 5 of exhausted puppy training mode when my puppy went to nibble on a berry on the pavement. I shouted in a panic in case said berry was poisonous – just as two little old ladies passed by. My puppy looked confused and skittish, I looked like a wreck. One lady remarked how ‘it’s just like having a baby, dear, you must be so tired!’ I felt so embarassed. Even in that moment, I felt that I was being judged in that weird parenthood narrative. I am childless by choice, my partner is adopted and has a genetic illness he does not wish to pass on. So those chit chats people have with us about what makes real families and what parenthood is for them are painful and odd.

  39. “who are you calling a bitch?” also works as a response for the right people (or just need extra snark to fantasise about but not say)

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