Allow me to begin by saying that I love dogs. Truly, I do. I also somewhat like (other people’s) babies. But, generally, I don’t like these two mammals with my dinner. Don’t worry, this is not another “Stop taking your noisy children to restaurants!” rant. Well, not really. This is more a condemnation of hipster culture in the Northern Liberties area of Philadelphia, where you can’t eat without sitting outside and where you can’t live, apparently, without owning a dog.
Spend five minutes in Northern Liberties and you will realize that the goal is not to have a dog for the sake of being a pet owner or a rescuer, but really just to accessorize the overall hipster image. To me, this is much like giving a child a unique (read: unnecessarily bizarre) name in an effort to increase your persona as the cool parent (see: What’s In A Name?). In the same way that we see the battle for the weirdest names taking place in kindergarten classes across the country, Northern Liberties is the Appomattox of Philadelphians’ fight over whose dog is the biggest, smallest, cutest, most threatening without actually being threatening, shaggiest, or most likely to attract attention of scantily clad women. In the suburbs, people compete with each other via their children and baby Bjorns. In the city, it’s dogs and collars.
Not only can’t you move smoothly and efficiently through Northern Liberties without getting tangled in a web of couture dog leashes, but you also can’t peacefully eat outside either. Last night, while trying to enjoy my jalapeño margarita at El Camino Real, a couple at the table next to us sipped beers and ate chips and guac with their black lab Stella in tow. Truth be told, Stella was cute. But, Stella also got very excited every time another dog walked by, which, as you’ve guessed by now, happens every thirty seconds in Northern Liberties. Not only did Stella get physically excited and wrap herself all up in her leash and knock loudly on the table with her tail, but she would bark relentlessly and jump all over the dogs that walked by. Of course, it was all in doggy jest, but the owners of both dogs (Stella and the passers-by) would think it was fun and cute to let their dogs jump all over each other, try to bite each other’s faces off, and bark wildly for minutes on end while the dog-parents sat there and traded facts about their pets. Every time I started a conversation with my husband, Stella and some other dog would start going ape-shit on each other, completely disrupting our conversation and our dining experience. The noise of the dogs was only surpassed by the owners, who in the midst of swapping pet stories, mildly yanked on leashes and sternly spoke the dogs’ names in an attempt to show everyone around that they’re at least trying to discipline the dog, when, in reality, the best thing to do would have been to walk away and separate the barking dogs from one another. It was just like watching parents of children at restaurants who do not remove a wailing or whining child from a crowded dining room or those parents who are too caught up in sharing their kid stories with other parents to notice that the rest of us are in the crossfire of mammals behaving badly.
Ok, so the lesson here might be: don’t eat outside. But, that’s not my take-away. Instead, I hold to the “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” philosophy. Look, I get that people with kids want a night out at a nice restaurant once in awhile, and sometimes they just can’t find a babysitter. I also understand that kids will eventually become adults who will need to know how to behave in restaurants; therefore, some early training is necessary. So, on the kids at restaurants front, I try to be as understanding as possible. But, bringing your dog out to dinner? Come on now. It’s summer, and pets deserve their time in the breeze and sun as much as the rest of us, but that’s what dog parks and backyards are for, not the table next to me at a moderately priced Mexican restaurant in the middle of a major metropolis.
So, for all the Philly hipsters out there, you know what’s really cool? Being considerate of others around you. You can do this in an ironic or un-ironic way, with your pants cuffed or tapered, with your tattoos sparse or full-sleeve; the choice is yours. Obviously, those of us without kids or dogs are already missing out on the things in life that make us look cool, so throw us square, childless, non-dog owner, just-looking-to-get-a-quick-bite-and-some-booze-without-something-biting-my-feet-or-screaming-for-more-ice-cream citizens a bone, and leave your dogs (and/or kids) at home. Thanks!