December 5, 2012

Monogamy in the lab

A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience has uncovered a surprising new property of (the hormone) oxytocin, finding that when men in monogamous relationships got a sniff of the stuff, they subsequently put a little extra space between themselves and an attractive woman they’d just met … A mounting body of recent research suggests that boosting oxytocin in the human brain will indiscriminately promote trusting, friendly behavior. Research on female prairie voles has suggested the chemical might play some role in pair-bonding, and in humans playing games of risk and power, it increased empathy and trust in males and females alike. Injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of male rats, oxytocin causes spontaneous erections. —Los Angeles Times

Meanwhile, in the laboratory, Matt the rat jots some notes in his diary …

Feeling very strange today. The spontaneous erections are back. I’ve had to carry a slice of dried strawberry in front of me whenever I go out in public. It’s like I’m in seventh grade again! Sooo embarrassing!

The weird thing is, despite the ever-present wood, I’ve never felt closer to my beloved Patty. Her deep black eyes are like the onyx amulets from the tomb of Queen Nefertari, and her luxurious tail is the satin cord that holds my heart in glorious bondage.

You’d think with these pesky … uh, physical manifestations I would be sniffing around every female in the lab, but it’s been quite the opposite. Earlier today, the humans dropped a zaftig chocolate hairless rat into my cage and … nothing. Normally, I would be crawling all over that sweet, exotic gift to rodentkind. Heck, give me a couple of margaritas and I wouldn’t even turn down a prairie vole.

But today I found myself backing off and longing to snuggle with Patty on the couch and maybe stream “Ratatouille” on Netflix or catch some “Rat Busters” on Animal Planet. You know, maybe share a dropper of wine and some cheese cubes and find out how her day went.

Ah, my Patty. How my heart flutters when I’m in the same cage with her. Sometimes when she’s not looking I sneak glances while she nibbles on her sunflowers and Chex mix. The way her whiskers wiggle and her little button nose flares when she finds her favorite piece of bibb or a particularly delectable flax seed makes me swoon!

Unlike that harlot chocolate hairless, who’s always showing her tail and practically begging me to burrow into the straw and get freaky. She’s a regular Madame Ovary, that one. Well, I shall retreat to the opposite end of the cage posthaste whenever she’s in here with me. Oh, why can’t she see that I’ve devoted my life to Patty, who holds the only key that can unlock the gate to my smoldering adoration?

Anyway, I’ve started forming a plan for when the time is right and I can finally pledge myself to Patty forever. Yes, I said “forever,” for this is more than a fling. I have started socking away some Cheerios and a few cranberries and, when the time is right, I’m going to ask Patty to marry me. It might seem impulsive, but I can’t live in peace another minute until she promises to be mine. And so I hereby dedicate my life to her and pledge to make a family together.

I’ve given it some thought and I’d like to start off small, maybe having 1,500 or so babies together the first year. And I’m not naïve. I know it’s going to take a lot of Chex and pumpkin seeds to feed that many mouths. And, of course, they will need plenty of clogged drainpipes and rotting apples and old tires and rancid, decomposing garbage. And there will be trips to out-of-town sewers for summer vacations.

But my beautiful Patty and I will see it through. And when the kids are grown up, we will grow old together, rocking the afternoons away on the front porch and reflecting on our long lives together and then later, when it gets dark, trotting down to the Dumpster behind Denny’s and feasting on moldy chicken-fried steak and maggot-infested Swiss-tuna melts.

Call me a hopeless romantic but … hey, you know what? That stuff they injected into my cerebrospinal fluid seems to be wearing off. What was I just saying? Something about hot, freaky rat action? Now, where did that gorgeous chocolate hairless go? Ah-ooo-ga!