Last summer, while jogging the trail around an urban lake near my home, I found a bunny, obviously someone's pet that had gotten loose: white, fuzzy, with spots. It looked naive and hungry, gnawing ditch weeds while fully exposed to whatever carnivore might pass by. And so I caught the rabbit, which took little in the way of effort since it was quite friendly. For the next two months, I tried in vain to find its owner. Apparently, whoever lost it didn't want it back.
Next, I looked to the local humane society to take the thing. No dice there -- they were flooded with bunnies. Bunnies both found and relinquished. In the end, it boiled down to two choices: Take it back to the lake, or keep it. I chose the latter.
And why not? The rabbit was a quiet little guy who lived on salad, used a litter box, and slept under the bed. The bunny's room and board was covered from the proceeds of a magazine article I published about just exactly how hard it is to get rid of a rabbit, the third most populous animal at the nation's shelters. An alt-weekly put me and the rabbit on their cover, and they posted an interview with me and the bunny on YouTube (645 views to date). Women across the country commented. It turned them on, they wrote, to see a (single) man with a bunny.
Really? The bunny as a chick magnet? No. In fact, my dating life went down a rabbit hole soon after the bunny moved in. The bunny was a game changer, and it took me the rest of a year loaded with hard rejection to figure out why.
Every woman I knew or met had something to say about the rabbit roommate, even a woman I’ll call Samantha. Samantha is perpetually single and every man's back-up plan: You can ring her out of the blue after months of no contact whatsoever, and still get action. But even Sam finally had enough. At the conclusion of what was to be our last outing together she said, "The rabbit is …" and then she let that one unfinished sentence swing in the air like a carcass on meat hooks. She stopped returning my calls and emails.
Next came a long-haired beauty with a puppy, a dog, three tortoises, turtles, numerous tats and a Harley. I’ll call her Lisa. She told me over the phone that I was perfect for her because I liked animals. But after she visited the House of Rabbit, she never returned another phone call.
There's more. Another woman messaged me that, while we could be great friends, it would never work out if I had something else in mind. Of course I had something else in mind. Shit. Had I told her about the rabbit over dinner? Same with the next woman. After she met the rabbit at a pool party at my house the return calls dropped to zero. Last week, a blind date I'd never even met canceled a barbecue get-together. Had she seen the bunny video on YouTube?
Even my own mother was put off. One evening, after dinner, she looked up at me with grief in her eyes. Her son, the bunny sympathizer. "Is there anything left of your house?" she yelled, unaware she was yelling due to the fact that she’s hard of hearing. "Take it back to the lake. Let it go."
The truth I learned is this: Men cannot like rabbits.
You never see grown men horsing around and playing fetch with their pet rabbit at the park or the beach because of this one huge fact of rabbit life: They don't fetch. And frankly, how would it look if they did? There are no bunny park equivalents of the dog park (the best pick-up spot ever invented), because bunnies don't actually like each other. Rabbits bark at neither the postman nor intruders. No pet rabbit has your back, ever, because they occupy the bottom of the food chain. As such, they pretty much stay hidden all the time except for when they sneak out at night and chew holes in your carpets. Try explaining that to a visitor.
Next, consider the rabbit's role as a cultural icon. The rabbit, essentially the most fertile living thing in nature, is a joke to most baby boomers thanks to Bugs Bunny, Roger Rabbit, the Playboy Bunny and Bun E. Carlos, the drummer in Cheap Trick. But long before that, fairy tales set a very different stage by positioning the rabbit as a fuzzy moral compass. "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," published in 1901, became one of the best-selling books of all time after that most famous of mismatches, Aesop's "The Tortoise and the Hare," a classic that dates back to pre-Biblical Greece. The wearing of a mummified rabbit's foot as a good-luck token dates back to Shakespeare's day. The Easter Bunny is another thing entirely: a man-sized rabbit-figure with magical properties that leaves chocolate. These days, a rabbit is best known as a woman’s vibrator.
On the one night that I finally did manage to load a willing prospect into my bed, things were going great. She was a swinger who'd retired from active swinging, she said, which made her experienced and mildly kinky. Bonus! But somewhere in mid-stream, the bunny snuck under the bed and began madly pounding the floor with its feet -- rabbitspeak for danger -- which scared my date. She left, and I never saw her again.
Why can't I rid myself of the bunny? Because I am like Paden, the desolate outlaw in the Lawrence Kasdan film “Silverado.” Played by Kevin Kline, Paden trips up his entire gang in order to save a mongrel. They eventually shoot it, but they never let him forget the dog. A shrink would probably have a field day getting at the roots of why I have a mid-life need to house a small animal at the exclusion of a sex life, I think to myself, while I watch reruns of “Silverado” on my laptop, alone with the bunny, who is somewhere in the house gnawing holes in my carpet.
These days I'm at the cusp again, the very beginning stages of seeing someone new. Hope springs eternal, right? She's in the correct age group, intelligence quotient, energy levels and so on down the line. She lives alone and has a cat, which I would have red flagged in the years pre-bunny, but so be it. The woman has not been to my house yet and therefore knows nothing of my small roommate. But as I have nothing to lose, I decided to go full immersion from the start. I invited her to go with me to Bunnyfest 2013, which is the annual fundraiser for the San Diego Chapter of the House Rabbit Society.
"Are you ready for this madness?" I emailed. Her answer came back: "Yes."