When I was in my teens and 20s, crazy cat ladies were capital “O” — Other. They were old, alone and pathetic but laughable. They were the things none of us were in any real danger of becoming, because youth had us fooled into believing that our butts would never start their eventual downward inching and that wrinkles happened to people like our mothers, who were clearly different animals than we were.
I got my first cat for my 12th birthday, and it wasn’t long after that that I started cracking jokes about my future self being rich with both the lunacy and the felines. This kicked off years of such humour as I worked my way through several cats over the course of high school and early adulthood.
“Ha ha, I’m turning into a crazy cat lady,” worked well whenever I found myself going on about my boopy schmoopy kitty witty and wanting to segue into something not related to my cat’s litterbox habits. It continued to work well for approximately 23 years, until I found myself in my mid-30s with a collection of THREE cats, the ass-end of 40 planted squarely on my nose, and my first crop of wrinkles creeping under my eyes.
Suddenly, crazy cat ladies don’t seem so funny. In fact, the ones I used to imagine seem a bit too much like I do right now, only without my better fashion sense, of course.
I do love my boopy schmoopy kitty witties, but when I couple my love of them with the increasing obviousness of my middling age, I find myself slowly becoming too insecure about being perceived as a crazy cat lady to discuss them at much length.
When asked about my pets, more often than not I change the subject and assure myself that I am not a crazy cat lady. “I have stopped at the relatively safe number of three cats,” I think to myself, “and I’m married. The only thing the cat ladies and I really have in common is middle age.”
Middle age. The older some of my friends and I get, the more I am told that that line separating youth and middle age is edging into the 40s. Forty is the new 30, they say, but I know the truth. I’m there already, greying hair and all, and mostly I’m okay with that. I say “mostly”, though, because the older I get, the more physically invisible I seem to become. Not being seen can be a lonely experience. If you are a woman of middle age or beyond, you probably know what I’m talking about.
There was a time when I was cat-called when I walked down the street. A man bagged himself on someone’s parked bike once while I distracted him with my calves. Drinks were sent to my table by men who flashed their teeth from the other end of the bar. Now? I’m lucky if I’m not mistaken for a younger friend’s cool aunt.
Because of this slow shift, I was pretty excited the other day when I was noticed by someone at the mall. I was walking along, wondering if I should spring for extra cheese on my tater tots in the food court, when I saw a man slowly turning his head to follow me as I walked past him.
At first, I wondered if I had toilet paper stuck to my boot again, because that has garnered some attention on more than one occasion in the past, but then I heard him murmur “Beautiful lady.” He didn’t just say “Beautiful lady” though. He drew it out all dreamy-like. “Byooooooo-tiful laaaaaady.”
Okay, in hindsight, that sounds kind of creepy, and he was wearing a pilled pair of sweatpants that didn’t quite reach all the way to his ankles, but that barely matters, because we haven’t reached the important part of the story yet.
The important part of the story is this: my first thought was “Huh? This crazy cat lady still gets noticed. Not bad.”
If you think my joy at getting noticed by a creepy guy in the mall is kind of depressing, even more depressing is that my first thought was to call myself a crazy cat lady. There were no cats around, I wasn’t talking to anyone about cats, and I wasn’t even thinking about cats, so there was no reason to toss that phrase around jokingly, especially in my own head. Terrible but true, I worry that I’ve internalized this crazy cat lady thing.
I’m not crazy about that.
I am okay with some wrinkles. I am fine with the shifting shape of my butt. Even my worsening arm wattle isn’t that alarming. I am more than okay with not being noticed as much as in my younger years, because the attention was generally unwanted anyway. But accepting crazy cat lady-ness? Uh-uh. No way.
Anybody want a cat? I’m downsizing.
“Cat Lady Mona Lisa” follefille @ Flickr. Creative Commons. All rights reserved.