On Fight Club, Dogs, and Love
I was sitting on a bench next to my lover at a highly trafficked light-rail transfer point. We might have been kindly arguing about something, but I can’t be too sure. All I knew was that this bench was special in that the back and right side of it was pressed against walls, and that a large structural pillar was to the left of it, affording us some level of privacy while leaving us mostly with a view of people’s backsides as they were exiting the station into the adjacent mall. We’d often meet each other here, as it was considered the “middle ground” between our apartments. At some point, we even had a break-up here.
Maybe she was scolding me then because I said, “I just want to wake up next to you and have you tell me that I’m a good boy.” I was being serious.
She looked at me for a moment and replied, “That’s new… I’ve never heard that one before.” I wondered what other men had told her. But before my mind wandered off too far, she took my hand and said that I was sweet.
The strange thing about the city we shared at that time was that dogs were free to roam as they pleased. I had seen a dog get on a train, quietly sit by a door, and disembark a few stops later. I also would see dogs enter a convenience store and find a place to curl up for a quick nap. Many of these dogs didn’t have tags; most of them wandered the streets alone, surviving off of trash, or if they were lucky, off of the kindness of human strangers. Even stranger was the fact that none of the dogs that I had encountered on the streets gave me any sign of aggression. It was as if they were too tired to do much of anything.
Occasionally, however, I would hear dogs growling, howling, and yelping in the middle of the night, probably engaged in mortal combat. By morning, the streets are silent again. Some dogs would walk around with limps and exposed flesh-wounds, but act as if nothing has happened to them.
Now I’m sure that most of you have seen or read Fight Club, so I will spare you the plot and general analysis. The connection between stray dogs and the characters within, to me, are apparent. The inner monologue of the protagonist that drives the narrative reveals a man wrought with confusion and hopelessness. He is suffocating because he has done exactly what he should have done in life, up until that point, but feels no closer to anything. It’s quite the opposite feeling, in fact. He reminisces about his father’s life advice:
My father never went to college so it was really important I go to college. After college, I called him long distance and said, now what?
My dad didn’t know.
When I got a job and turned twenty-five, long distance, I said, now what?
My dad didn’t know, so he said, get married.
I’m a thirty-year-old-boy, and I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer I need.
There’s a scene in the middle of Fight Club where Edward Norton/nameless protagonist is taken on a car ride. It’s his birthday, and as a gift, he is taken towards an unknown destination for a surprise. The driver begins speeding, and it becomes obvious that he is playing chicken with the passengers’ lives. Our protagonist agonizes over the meaning of his life in his head as the car plummets out of control.
My wish right now is for me to die. I am nothing in the world compared to Tyler.
I am helpless.
I am stupid, and all I do is want and need things.
My tiny life. My little shit job. My Swedish furniture. I never, no, never told anyone this, but before I met Tyler, I was planning to buy a dog and name it “Entourage.”
This is how bad your life can get.
I guess that even for our protagonist, the thought of purchasing loyalty and companionship to chase away his loneliness goes a step below rock bottom. It’s completely unacceptable. Like what Marcellus Wallace says to Butch when he’s asking him to take a dive in a boxing match that he rigged in Pulp Fiction, “The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.” As we all know, Butch sided with pride. To cave in to weakness is another type of death in itself.
I find it funny that dogs can simultaneously embody the most noble and base traits of humans. At their best, dogs are loyal, lifelong companions, and they have this heart-wrenching capacity to love and forgive. Whether it is the byproduct of their social evolution (pack behavior), or the fact that they are able to adapt to any social situation, dogs are Man’s best friend for a reason (a dyslexic calls a dog God). At their worst, dogs shit and piss everywhere, fuck anything that moves, and fight over the filthiest scraps of food, generally living their lives with little regard to anything except achieving instant gratification. They are incorrigible and should be put to sleep.
I’ll make a quick note here that modern women (celebrities, or not) seem to accept canine companionship more readily than men do. Isolated and troubled men who depend on dogs for some semblance of mental health seem to be an anomaly (like Mickey Rourke).
Anyway, the men in Fight Club involve themselves in what appears to be mutually assured self-destruction, their reasoning being that beating the shit out of each other somehow taps into some primordial instinct that serves to engage their senses in a way that makes them feel insanely alive while providing them a sense of belonging and community. Because of the underlying emptiness that many of these men have felt in their lives prior to bare-knuckle combat, they accept the harsh beatings as a rite-of-passage rather than a twisted form of masochism existing in the form of self-administered punishment as atonement for their feelings of worthlessness and impotence.
Kick me in the ribs like that mangy mutt. Treat me like shit. I’ll keep coming back for more because it’s the only thing that makes me feel alive. This is kind of addicting; I think I love you.
Abusive relationships sound like this.
Another quick note: People like Michael Vick (known for the abuse of dogs and warping them to act out of desperation and fear) should be put into gladiator arenas, where combatants constantly have to wonder if their time or luck has run out.
Sometimes, a man can fall in love. It happens. It’s a wonderful thing, sometimes. But something about love in this day and age fills people with more anxiety than hope. We have to watch out for ourselves, earn enough money, be attractive enough, be socially adjusted, be interesting, and have the courage to date. And fail. And to try again. All this must be done in the face of statistics pointing to the fact that more and more marriages and families are falling apart than ever before.
Another Tyler Durdanism:
You know, the condom is the glass slipper of our generation. You slip it on when you meet a stranger. You dance all night, then you throw it away. The condom, I mean. Not the stranger.
So let’s say you do the dance and meet Ms. (or Mr.) Right. You fall in love with her. But beneath that, you realize that old habits die hard. Fears begin to surface. You believe that you’re hardwired to act a certain way, and that it’s expecting too much for someone who doesn’t owe you a goddamn thing to wait around for you to change. You’re going to hurt her and she doesn’t deserve it. You want to do the right thing, but you keep shooting yourself in the foot. You’re a fuck up and you don’t deserve the kindness that she’s showing you. You act ugly.
You fuck me, then snub me. You love me, you hate me. You show me your sensitive side, then you turn into a total asshole. Is that a pretty accurate description of our relationship, Tyler?
Marla Singer fails to realize that the protagonist has developed a severe case of multiple personality disorder. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, we can’t really use that as an excuse. The question that invariably arises seems to be, “Does she love me enough to see how much of a fuck-up I am and not leave me?” I feel that many couples never test the limits of their love. That, or this fear prevents many couples from actually getting to know each other.
Tyler Durden’s followers had this mantra instilled in them:
You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.
Back to dogs: the thing is, you can’t really leave a dog once you’ve decided to take on the responsibility of raising one. There’s something socially despicable about dropping a dog off at the pound, or removing their collar and identification tags and leaving them in a place far enough away from home that they can’t find their way home. But you can leave your lover. You can leave them in tears, in spite, or in a state of total indifference. You can leave them at the airport, with nothing but a few bags carrying whatever meager possessions they have and a gaping hole in their heart. You can abandon them when they need you most or because you’re too ashamed of yourself or because you’ve outgrown them. But the assumption is that they will live on.
How will they do it? It no longer concerns you.
Men are dogs, running around town, shitting in the street, eating garbage off the floor, giving into their impulses and fucking anything and everything. We drink whiskey, smoke Marlboro Reds, get into meaningless fights, piss in public, fuck women we don’t really care about, and drive really fast at 3 am.
But we just want an owner, we want a home, somewhere we can go to that’s warm and familiar and right. We want to wake up next to you and for you to say that we’re good. Cook us a warm meal in the middle of the night and we’ll stay by your side no matter what.
This is delicious. Your body feels so warm next to mine. I’ll keep coming back for more because you make me happy and I hope that I can do the same for you; I think I love you.
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I screw up with relationships and I mess up at work. I get angry and say things I don’t mean to my friends or people I love.
Understand that it’s not easy to hear how someone you love very much is dissatisfied with you.
You know we are in the thick of summer when you leave your apartment and on the 10 minute walk to the subway you are basically DRENCHED.
I’m not crazy, and this idea of us did exist outside of the dusty corners of my mind.