Puppy Training

Winters in New England are like boring guests, they just don’t know when to leave. So, last weekend Paul and I packed our bags and headed to Miami. This annual spring break is what gets me through the winter. While walking to the bus stop through piles of dirty snow encrusted with frozen dog poop I imagine palm trees, sandy beaches and sizzling night life. I hit the gym months ahead of time with my sole motivation being to look good in a swim suit. Shallow, I know, but as Paul always says to me. “It’s not what’s on the inside that counts, but how you look on the outside”.

This year we took a clue from the “Biggest Loser” recording our weight and keeping a log each week of the progress. We decided that a weekly weigh in was best, but because I like to obsess about myself, I weighed in twice a day and it always had to be after my run, fully unclothed and preferably after a bowel movement, to get my true weight, measured in pounds and ounces. My daily run on the treadmill increased from three miles to six miles a day. Two months later and twenty pounds lighter, I was thrilled when one of my co-workers said:

“If you don’t mind my saying, I think you look too thin. You look like a runner from Kenya”.

“Really?” I said with utter glee. I knew that I had hit my goal.

During those same two months Paul was able to shed exactly half a pound. He pulled up his shirt and extended his belly as far as possible; looking twelve months pregnant and rubbing his belly he said:

“Look honey, I think its twins!”

He had given up early and instead of hitting the treadmill, hit the tanning booth, saying only

“Fat looks better tanned”

And this is the difference between us. While I obsess about myself, Paul obsesses about everything else. A short while after we first met, I invited Paul to my apartment. He remarked at how well stocked my refrigerator was. Because I was a newly out gay man, he expected my refrigerator to contain a can of beer, ketchup and a stack of cheese, as any straight man’s refrigerator would be stocked. One month later he was still surprised at how well stocked the fridge was, until upon further inspection, he realized that it was all of the same ingredients. Holding up a clear container of two month old soup, he said in a slightly disgusted tone “Everything has separated into what it used to be”.

From that time forward, Paul would start each visit to my apartment with a garbage bag at the refrigerator removing expired items and making a shopping list for replacements. All of my different colored hangars were replaced with the same white hangars. When I moved into Paul’s house, the closet was re-organized to accommodate my clothes. Once, I “kissed” the back of the garage wall while pulling in my car. The next day marine bumpers where installed and a little stoplight sensor was mounted on the wall to indicate when I was getting too close to the wall.

Paul never complains about these things. As a matter of fact, he seems to revel in them. It is just a part of his nature to engineer his life around me and he is only too happy to do that. We have our roles and I was completely happy with the arrangement until my mother dropped one line:

“Paul treats you like a puppy”.

Parents are good at slipping in those one-liners that have to be extracted by trained therapists. Of course what she meant was that I was a grown man, fully capable of taking care of myself. This bothered me.

I was thinking about this when Paul and I were walking down Ocean Drive in Miami. I saw a man walking a puppy and people were smiling and admiring the pair. The puppy stopped, squatted and pooped on the pavement. The owner, prepared, stooped over and scooped up the pile with a plastic grocery bag, while the puppy licked the owner’s delighted face.

I smiled, turned to Paul and kissed his cheek. Paul smiled and looked at me

“What was that for?”

“That was for taking care of me” I said. And then I told Paul what my mother had told me.

He grinned and said, “You must be the puppy, because you’re the cute one.” He kissed me back, grabbed my hand and said “Pookie, If I am the one cleaning up shit after you, who really is the master?”

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