Required Reading. Sloane Crosley is hilarious. She is also whip smart. I mean, I’m going to be a huge fan of anyone who titles her first essay collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake. Similarly, anyone who opens said collection with an essay beginning with “As most New Yorkers have done, I’ve given serious thought to the state of my apartment should I get killed during the day.” Her observations of her world are nuanced and hilarious and feel oh-so-familiar to this twenty-something dealing with the weird world of adulthood. In case I was wondering if it really made any sense for me to identify with her life, this New York Times essay titled “Cat People Are People, Too” assuaged any doubts.
I only have the one and she’s a rescue so it’s O.K.
So goes the party line regarding my cat. Five years ago, her pregnant mother was abandoned and locked in a warehouse in North Carolina where she gave birth to a small litter of kittens. For days, the kittens survived without food or water before being discovered by a friend who knew exactly where the pictures should be sent. By the next week, I had a gray tabby with snowcapped paws peering at me from the laundry basket in the closet.
I named her Mabel after a store that once existed on Madison Avenue. The store — itself named for the owner’s cat — dealt exclusively in overpriced feline-themed merchandise. And it did so with no sense of irony whatsoever. There were cat-head mugs and wide-brimmed hats with knit Persians curled on their brims and museum-sized oil paintings of cats lounging in the branches of an oak tree. I know, I can’t believe it went out of business either. It was a retail Mecca for crazy cat people. I’m fighting the urge to call it a “Meowca” although, frankly, the store’s owner probably would have wanted me to.
There is no such thing as a crazy dog person in New York. Are there people who are completely insane about their dogs? Hordes. But cat people may as well have whiskers and tails themselves. That’s because their pets’ lack of social need taps straight into our worst fears as the human inhabitants of New York. Cats, after all, don’t have other cat friends. You can’t take them to the cat run. Cats and their owners are on a private, exclusive loop of affection. Thus cats have become symbolic of a community eschewed and a hyper-engagement with oneself. They represent the profound danger of growing so independent in New York that it’s not merely that you don’t need anyone — it’s that you don’t know how to need anyone.