I am a Ph.D. wildlife conservation biologist and zoo professional who has worked with hundreds of species of animals over the last three decades. I have come to appreciate that whatever humans might think about their own uniqueness in love, life, and the pursuit of happiness, the animal kingdom has seen it all and more. A few years ago, some friends of mine decided to ask me how some of their personal issues would be viewed by a biologist with a literal bird’s-eye view of an endless variety of animal behavioral and social biology. They liked what they heard. This was followed by a few lectures on the subject and so now, I am opening up the floor to you.
Image courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society
Dear Dr. Dan:
My frat brother and I have been totally compatible as “brothers” until we started sharing a room. He is always creating messes. I have tried to tell him to “clean up his act,” but he just accuses me of being neurotic and throws his belongings around even more. We are not even on speaking terms now. What is going on?
Dear Mr. Clean:
It is not unusual for young animal males to respond to any sort of a challenge with counter-aggression (especially if the male is an idiot as your “brother” probably seems to you now). Keep in mind that bachelor male lions manage to squelch male-male aggression when teaming up pays off in enhanced survival or mating success. In your case, the pay-off is shared rent and more disposable income with which to be cool. If you want to salvage the situation, simply turn off the challenge (e.g. “yo, sorry I was such a neat freak”) and then relax. Do not lift a finger to pick up anything. Your brother’s tolerance for clutter and dirt is obviously greater than yours but eventually he will solicit YOUR assistance in keeping the place clean and perhaps well in advance of scaring away desirable guests.
[image from http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3582367488/tt0077975]