The Lion And The Panda
While cuddling on the couch one evening, I nuzzled into my boyfriend’s side, squeezing him tight and rubbing his belly, and said, “you’re like a six-foot tall teddy bear.”
To which he replied, “a big, cuddly, panda teddy bear.”
I quickly shot up. He looked at me, puzzled, as I stared back, trying to figure out if he was a mind reader, or if this was just an eerie coincidence.
For the longest time, I had been preaching this theory I had about relationships. The theory involved pandas, and here my boyfriend was, proudly declaring he was one. This was a problem, as my theory revolved around the fact that I did not get along with pandas, because I was not a panda, but a lion, and if there were ever two animals in the animal kingdom that were not suited to get along, they were the lion and the panda.
It all started when I broke up with a guy I briefly dated. I likened our relationship to how a lion and panda might get along, given their polar-opposite personalities. Lions were headstrong, fierce, and energetic, and pandas were… well, pandas. They were soft and cuddly, but trying to get them to do anything other than eat bamboo or sit in a tree was an exercise in futility.
In my head, our conversations went a little something like this:
“I’m hungry, let’s go find some antelope or something.”
“But I want to stay on this branch.”
“Food. Let’s go, it’s already two o’clock.”
“But I want to stay on this branch.”
“RAWR FOOD NOW RAWR.”
“I… I don’t understand…. Branch?”
“RAAAAWWWRRR!!! I’M GONNA EAT YOU, PANDA!…. Hey, um, can you at least run a little or fall off the branch or something? The chase is half the fun.”
You see, I am a lion. And for some reason, I am particularly adept at attracting pandas. Not by choice, but because something about me just exudes a need for quiet, laid-back guys whose energy levels register just barely north of “comatose.”
In all my dating experience, pandas just couldn’t keep up. They were lethargic and completely unmotivated, while I was busy and anxious all the time. Pandas were happy hanging out at home on a Friday night, they didn’t appreciate art or culture, they took me to places like Sizzler and considered it an acceptable substitute for real food.
Any man who exhibited any of these traits was a panda, and pandas were to be avoided at all costs.
So when my teddy bear declared himself to be of the panda variety, I got a bit worried. Things had been going great, but he dropped the P-word, and I started thinking this was foreshadowing some horrible breakup. But I let it go. I kept it in the back of my head and continued on, getting to know him, hoping he was just going through an identity crisis.
He wasn’t. To my surprise, I found out this panda wasn’t content just sitting in a tree eating bamboo. He asked questions and took initiative. He didn’t just write off my compulsions as crazy. And most importantly, he showed an interest in compromise.
This panda had personality. He had style. He knew he was a panda and he was proud of it. And this lion got freaked out. “What? What is this? This guy is mellow and cool. And—oh my God, did he just say he likes Ethiopian food?!” A panda with motivation and taste? Uncanny.
This panda was low-energy and low-strung, but also caring and driven. Unlike all the previous pandas, who were simply lazy, slovenly, and indifferent. That’s when I realized that pandas aren’t all the same.
A guy who sleeps until noon while I’m fidgeting and can’t get back to sleep, makes no effort to get to know me, and would rather watch television than make out with me? Bad panda. A guy who normally sleeps until noon, but wakes up with me once in a while, makes me breakfast, and takes his time to make sure things get done right? Good panda.
Good pandas get along with lions. Bad pandas get thrown to the lions.
I always believed in opening myself up to new experiences, but I had never actually taken that first step. Think about it this way: we wouldn’t have spinach artichoke dip today if some guy ages ago didn’t look at that little spiky green thing sticking out of the ground and go, “You know what? I think it’ll hurt like a bitch, but damn it, that thing is going in my mouth.” Out of such mystery and danger came such ooey, gooey deliciousness, and the world is better for it.
I decided to take that first step with this panda, and I’ve only been pleasantly surprised. Despite any underlying personality differences, lions and pandas can still find common ground, enjoyment, even love. Pandas aren’t as devoid of energy and emotion as they seem, and lions aren’t as ferocious as they’d like everyone to believe. They just need each other to help them figure that out.
Why couldn’t a panda and a lion get along, anyway? My panda is willing to keep up with the pace of my life (or try, anyway). And for my part, I’ve learned to value the importance of sitting on a branch and doing nothing all day.