How to Love Cats and Be Friends with People: A Not-So-Crazy Cat Lady Manifesto

catlady

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge: Manifesto.

Most people think that crazy cat ladies are easy to spot. They’re quirky sorts, with fluffy, feathery hair, fanny packs, and stretch pants—after all, they can’t be bothered to put on real pants when there are so many cats to care for.  They have walls lined with dusty feline figurines. They’re profusely sweating under the thick layer of fur lining all their clothes. They love cat massage and lil bub. Perhaps most tellingly, they can’t stop talking about their cat—as if the cat were human. 

Not so, my friends.

Here’s the thing about crazy cat ladies: the craziest ones are out there, lurking among us. These stylish, accomplished women strut around in heels, kicking ass and taking names. They have a social life. They even, on occasion, have a romantic partner.  They seem normal. Yet, just under the surface, they’re brimming with cat-related trivia and anecdotes. They’re just dying to tell you about how little Mr. Miyagi went nuts over those packing peanuts.  On the outside, they’re cool and collected—but the truth is, they can’t wait to get home and wrap their arms around half a dozen cats. I know because I am one. Here’s my manifesto about how to be a crazy cat lady—on the sly.

  • YOU SHALL not wear animal print of any kind. Even ironically. Sorry. If you’re dying to be trendy, try stiletto nails. Then you can sport cat claws without giving yourself away, plus—automatic self-defense! Watch out bad guys, rude strangers, or a random piece of dental floss. You’ve got the goods.
  • YOU SHALL not send cat-related emails or post feline Facebook messages. No matter how funny the meme or ridiculous the video.
  • YOU SHALL never, EVER compare having a cat to raising a human child. Despite the many similarities between cats and babies (such as uncontrollable whining, penchant for soft, stinky foods, inability to use a toilet, and random nocturnal wailings, to name a few), for some reason, parents do not like it when you compare your idiosyncratic furball to their tiny, drooling human.

              “You’re right,” you say, trying to empathize, “Sleep-training is the worst! Mrs. Puddingworth has been getting up before dawn for months, screaming for her chicken biscuits. I’m exhausted!”  Whatever you do, do not say this to a new parent! Unless, of course, you have a death wish.

  • YOU SHALL invest heavily in air freshener and a heavy duty lint brush. BONUS: save all the fur you scrape off your clothes and use it to make DIY pillows for Christmas! Or make little tiny hipster mustaches to give out as party favors. Your friends and relatives will love them. You’re welcome.
  • YOU SHALL not talk about your cat in public. At all. Even if someone brings it up, pretending that they too love cats. This is a trick! Don’t fall for it. Inevitably, you will have much more to say on the topic than the poor fool who posed the question, and reveal yourself for who you truly are. If anything, use a decoy! Say you love dogs. Say you love birds. Say you share your bed with a one-eyed rabbit with IBS. You can say anything at all–just don’t say anything about cats.
  • YOU SHALL never let the cat-to-human ratio in your household exceed a one-to-one ratio, or at worst two-to-one. This has less to do with appearing like a crazy cat lady and more to do with retaining some control over your sanity, life, and limbs. Let’s face it—once those things outnumber you, they’ll form an army, and life as you know it will be over.

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  • YOU SHALL not publish a blog post about how not to be a crazy cat lady.

Oh shit. I’m busted. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join em. romantic stroll

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on rejection: in writing, science, and life

failure

Let’s face it, rejection stinks.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but an “experiment” I was working all summer failed on Wednesday. For my research, I write statistical software programs that sometimes take a long time to run. And sometimes, they take a loooong time to fail. You wait for weeks, only to find that you violated some statistical assumption–or more infuriatingly, that a misplaced comma or errant semi-colon blew up your entire program.

Now, I know: it’s science. (Or social science, as the case may be). Trial and error is inevitable. And I think hope that some of my work is salvageable, but still: disappointing.

Then, last night, while I was gleefully sipping Shiraz with my best childhood friend, I got an email  (damn smartphone!) that my first dissertation paper had gotten rejected by not the first but the second journal I’d submitted it to. Ouch.

Now, I’ve been around long enough to know that articles are often rejected, and that most good journals only accept a small fraction of the articles they receive. But not long enough not to be stung by the rejection. When this happens to my friends, I counsel them: don’t take it personally! But, let’s be real, it’s hard not to take it personally: this work you’ve slaved over, spent hours rewriting and revising, only to have the methods, the writing, or even worse, the idea, has been bounced back to square one? It stinks.

On my more optimistic days, I don’t mind, because I know that in the process of revising, in pushing through the mental and verbal barriers, the work will transform into something better.

But other days, I can’t help but wonder: am I cut out for this? I don’t mean this in a whiny, wah-wah-wah poor me mindset. I mean, objectively speaking: how do you know when failure (or a string of them) are simply barriers to push through? Obstacles that one day, perched upon a mountaintop of success, you will look back and scoff at? Or, when do you read the failures as signs that you should change course, redirect and refocus in a different direction?

How do you know when the data you’ve collected are conclusive, or just blips on the radar?  Continue reading