Part of my job responsibilities include traveling to different schools, or sites, and disseminating certain information.
One day, I was visiting a site, and a tutor decided to engage me in small talk. This guy had sized me up before and had asked enough pointed questions to discover that I was not romantically involved with anyone, but for whatever reason, I didn’t want to assume he was trying to hit on me. However, I’m not one for mindless chatter so I knew I’d try to keep my responses as uninteresting as possible in a passive-aggressive way of ending the conversation.
He started by asking me what I like to do for fun. Now, I like to do a lot of things, but because I knew that one of his side gigs was as a party promoter, I kept my response simple by saying I was a homebody. He asked me about my passions and hobbies. I revealed I’m a writer and budding photographer. Then he asked me if I had any children. I explained that the children I worked with were enough for me at the moment. And finally, he asked me how many cats did I have?
Aroo? Excuse me?
He tried to clean it up and say that because all of his artsy friends were homebodies with cats, it stood to reason that I was the same. I pushed him:
“You assumed that because I was single, past 30, with no children, and a professed homebody that I’m automatically a Cat Lady, surrounding myself with hordes of felines to make up for my hollow life?”
He turned slick in his defensiveness, claiming I protested too much. When I explained how and why I was offended, he tried even more slickly to “make it up” to me. I quickly shut that down and started the work I was there to do, but I can admit the whole thing bothered me beyond his offensive remark.
I used to have a cat- a lovely mutt named Pasha.
She was with me as I traveled from New Orleans to DC to Nashville then back to DC. I thought the travel to Los Angeles would be too much for her, plus I wouldn’t have my own place for a while so I gave her up for adoption to a lovely husband and wife couple. The wife would occasionally send me pictures of Pasha getting used to her new surroundings, but we eventually lost touch, and, three years later, I still miss my baby.
The proverbial Cat Lady is an unmarried woman with no children of her own, who utilizes her atrophying maternal instincts by taking in neighborhood strays and creeping out those around her. And depending on the lore, she might also be a witch. You know– the eeevil kind and the cats are her familiars.
The Cat Lady is a societal reject, and being called one, implicitly or not, is rarely a compliment. When the tutor assumed I was a Cat Lady, there was no doubt in my mind that he was coming from a sexist mindset, but his question raised my own fears of perpetuating that myth. Perhaps I overreacted. I’m not sure. His attempts at getting to know me by boxing me into a stereotype were clumsy and offensive. After that point, I avoided him as best I could. He was one stray who’d have to find a home on someone else’s back porch.