The Story of Our Gravatar Icon

We believe that inside jokes can be great fun, and our readers who have been with us since our first month are well aware of this. Once early on in our blogging adventure, we shared about why we think it essential for us to bring a camel to church. Since it’s Friday and we’re sure some of you are just as in need of a smile as we are, we thought it would be fun to let you all in on another of our inside jokes.

If you follow us on Facebook or happen to glance at our Gravatar icon here or our profile photo on Twitter, then you may have seen a curious image. For quite some time, we’ve had a few observant readers contacting us to inquire about this seemingly random pair of rodents.

A Cambodian striped squirrel and a Dzhungarian hamster

A Cambodian striped squirrel and a Dzhungarian hamster at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC

Why in the world would we have a squirrel and a hamster standing together on a platform as our chosen Gravatar, Twitter, and Facebook images? As you might expect, the story of this photo is a bit of a wandering tale.

We are two quirky nerds who love doing life together. Very early on in our friendship, we started talking about introverts. The ever-extroverted Sarah was having trouble understanding why anyone would want to hide in a room after a day at work interacting with a lot of people. Lindsey responded to Sarah’s confusion by sharing Dr. Carmella’s Guide to Understanding the Introverted. This extremely helpful cartoon guide opens with, “Introverted people live in a human-sized hamster ball.”  We talked about how it’s always important to respect an introvert’s hamster ball by not invading personal space too quickly. Since Lindsey is an introvert, it became a routine for Sarah to ask, “May I come into the hamster ball?” when wanting to occupy a seat on the same sofa, or enter into a Skype conversation (as we weren’t living in the same city at the time). It wasn’t too long before Lindsey became known as “Hamster.”

Lindsey’s honestly rubbish about making up nicknames of any kind. We spent many hours talking during our early days of friendship. One of the first things Lindsey learned about Sarah was that Sarah loves wildlife. Lindsey wanted to think of an animal that described Sarah, but was struggling until Lindsey noticed Sarah’s big, thick, bushy hair. When it’s tied up in a ponytail high on Sarah’s head, it looks like a squirrel’s tail. And because we already knew about our mutual love of kids’ movies, Lindsey decided to pay homage to Up and start calling Sarah, “Squirrel.”

Ever since, we’ve been constantly referring to ourselves as Hamster and Squirrel. Over time, this odd little inside joke has expanded to include some of our closest mutual friends. Sarah, the wildlife nerd, memorized the information on hundreds of animal profile cards as a child and can still recall all of it, so it didn’t take long before we started seeing admirable animal (specifically rodent) qualities in people who play significant roles in our lives. One of our friends is tall and lanky and conducts himself much like a ferret. Another friend is soft, cuddly, and warm like a chinchilla. Sometimes we let our friends pick their own creatures. We have friends who have chosen capybara, agouti, kangaroo rat, and the like. With so many fun creatures, we decided to start looking for the array of our friends’ animals whenever we would visit zoos, pet stores, or museums. Photos of said animals make great accompaniments for “We miss you and you should come visit us soon!” text messages.

The National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC has a Hall of Mammals. This exhibit has hundreds of specimens on display. Naturally, on one of our visits there, we started looking for our friends’ respective rodents. We were rather impressed that we found a ferret, a capybara, and a chinchilla. Not surprisingly, Lindsey wondered whether the museum had a hamster. We continued our search and discovered that, yes, the Museum of Natural History does, in fact, have a hamster on display…and the hamster even stands next to a squirrel. We knew immediately that we had to snap a photo.

This story might sound silly, immature, and perhaps trivial. But having fun together is an essential part of an authentic relationship. One of the reasons why we love our adventures in spotting members of the order rodentia is that this inside joke has extended far beyond the two of us and marks out our family of choice. Sharing life together involves celebrating our mutual quirkiness. Finding people who appreciate your unique qualities can be challenging. We’re interested in hearing from you in the comments about seemingly trivial or unusual aspects of life that, odd as they may be, are important components in the bonds you share with your own family of choice. Have you seen any signature quirks extend far beyond the small group where they originated?

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