By DENENE MILLNER
See, here’s the thing about my new boy toy—we weren’t supposed to fall in love. He wasn’t even my type, this shaggy blonde. Too big. Too needy. (Not a particularly good combo.) Plus, he’s got a taste for toilet water, and I don’t mean perfume. He can’t even hold his ham.
Still, I gaze longingly into his eyes and caress him and have long, deep conversations with him, too, especially when my husband Nick isn’t around. We do try to keep our contact to a minimum, my boy toy and I, when Nick is in the room; he just can’t stand our chemistry. Jealous, really. But no matter, because my boy toy treats me right—anticipates my moods before anyone else in the house, and extends to me unbridled, unconditional love.
He is my Teddy Bear.
My road dog.
And none of my people understand us.
This makes sense to me. I mean, dogs just aren’t usually a black man’s best friend. Been to a Falcon’s game lately? Black folks are still showing up in their Mike Vick jerseys, shaking their heads between downs, wondering why the disgraced pro baller went to prison, lost his millions, and got kicked out of the NFL for breeding and fighting pits. The young former millionaire now has no prospects for a job doing what he does best, and he’s got a grand total of $96.63 in his retirement fund. Black folks are like, The Hell?
I’m not saying this attitude is right. But I understand.
Dogs are, after all, animals, doggonit—meant to put teeth, literally, behind the “Beware of Dog” signs on the gate. You feed them gunpowder and raw eggs and hot sauce to make them mean, toss them table scraps (so as not to waste food and keep down the expense of dog food), and tie them up out back somewhere so they don’t get under foot or, Heaven forbid, get dog hair all over your good couch.
This is what I was raised to believe.
Under no condition are you or the children to get overly attached to the dog, or show any great affinity for them, or actually snuggle and cuddle and kiss all over them—or, ugh, let them kiss you. If their tongue comes anywhere near a 2 ft radius of your mouth, any black folks who catch sight of it will look on, aghast. Throw up a little in their mouths. Dogs, after all, lick their asses with their tongues, for goodness sakes. And sniff other dogs' poop.
This is also what I was raised to believe.
Which brings me back to how wholly unnatural it is to certain family members of mine (who shall remain nameless) that I have such an unbridled affection for my darling goldendoodle, Teddy. He was purchased in a moment of weakness, when my daughters kept begging for a pet and my friends kept strutting their cute little purse doggies into the school lobby during morning drop-off, and the sleigh bells were ringing and stuff. The lady who sold him to me over the internet promised me he was a cavapoo—a mixture of a cavalier king spaniel and a poodle, which means he would be small enough to sit in the girls’ laps and shed-less and super smart and calm enough not to jack up my wood floors.
She lied. At least about the size part. And the breed. Turns out he’s a mixture of a golden retriever and a poodle, which means that he’s shed-less and super smart and calm but far too big for laps and purses. This almost got him kicked off the Millner/Chiles team. Seriously. I was going to drop his big butt off at the nearest pound and go get me a for real cavapoo.
Except by the time I got Teddy home from the airport, he’d hypnotized me with his big brown eyes—just laid right there in my lap and let me brush his shaggy blonde ‘do without so much as a whimper before falling asleep at my feet. How could I resist? He’s a giant Teddy Bear (thus the name). The girls, I decided, would love him.
And Nick was just happy he wasn’t one of those little “yappy” dogs that jump all over the furniture and stuff. Turns out the bigger dog makes him feel more manly.
And my Teddy Bear makes me feel more girly—all warm and fuzzy inside.
I know that uttering this out loud breaks all kinds of black people rules. My uncle and dad made this clear over the Thanksgiving holiday as they practically lifted their feet and cowered in the cushions of the couch like little girls whenever Teddy came their way.
But you know what? I can’t help it.
And I don’t really care what they or anyone else thinks.
Because my boy toy and I? We’re in love.