I’ll never forget the taxi driver who, after apparently enjoying a half hour conversation with me (and taking half the fee I had earned singing in the West End all evening in an extortionate fare back to Hackney), snidely enquired as to how many cats I had.
He hit me with it as I was standing by his window, shuffling money to give him. It was a deliberate and hurtful put-down, and it did what it was designed to do. It chagrined me. In that instant, I realised that the interesting conversation I’d thought I had been having with this chap had all been a farce. He’d been humouring me. Waiting to pick his moment to slap me down. I’d been enjoying chatting and winding down after a show. He’d been judging and marking me down.
In that instant, I realised that on the comedown from the gig, I had probably talked too much. For a woman anyway. Women aren’t supposed to talk too much about too many things. I had an opinion on a variety of topics from politics to plants. I had to be single. I must have cats. Possibly 7 or more of them. Despite my sleek performance attire, my flat probably stank of cat piss.
He was a dog man.
I am a cat woman.
I believe that half the human race are cat people, and half are dogs. I mean that literally. I’m not referring just to furry beast preference. What I mean is that half the world behave like cats, and the other half dog their way through life.
We all know that person who’s up with the lark, always busy, always up for fun times, park, picnics, games, going out. They like cuddling on the sofa with you too, and kissing and holding hands, and big bear hugs when they see you, and they get quite hurt if you wriggle within their clutches. They’ll make a moo-moo face if you don’t return their emails or their ‘phone calls straightaway too.
Then there are people who are happy to see you when they see you, but they get on with their lives just fine when you’re not there. They’ll give great advice if you’re worried about stuff. They’ll take you to the doctor if you need a ride, and they’re great company on the rare occasions they find the time to see you, but the rest of the time, you can be forgiven for wondering if they’ve died.
It’s nothing personal.
Any more than it is with cats.
Thing is, though, what sneering men like my cab driver don’t seem to realise is that a cat woman is very possibly a woman who isn’t going to be a clinging vine. She won’t expect him until she sees him coming, she won’t hang on to his coat tails when he wants to leave, and she’s unlikely to hack into his ‘phone records or snoop through his credit card receipts either. A cat woman isn’t likely to be needy. She may love, but she’ll give space, too.
Men who sneer at the concept of ‘cat women’ inevitably also seem to like to bang on about their damned independence. They fight marriage and babies and all the things they think women want from them, but they run a mile from women who choose companionship with a species of animal that one has to be pretty adjusted to live with.
When people extol the virtues of dogs (and usually juxtaposed with the 'negatives' of cats), one tends to hear the same list again and again:
“A dog is a pal.”
“A dog is a companion.”
“Dogs give unconditional love.”
That's a lot of responsibility for a human to place on the shoulders of an innocent creature.
A woman who doesn’t need all that, a woman who can go without docility, devotion, dependence, face-licking, jumping up, and someone running after her, probably won’t need it from you, either.
Maybe that’s the problem though. Maybe that’s actually what men who sneer at, jeer and fear 'cat' women are actually worried about. That they won’t be needed. That if a woman loves, but doesn’t need them, that she might stray, and move on to not needing someone else.
For my part, I have to admit that it’s a complete and utter deal breaker if a man says he “hates” cats. It worries me if someone cannot appreciate an independent creature that doesn’t do what they want it to do.
As far as I am concerned, it bodes ill for their expectations of me, and I worry that I am only going to let them down and disappoint them.
|"Unhand me, woman..." Me and Tigs, Regent's Park, c.1982|
(Pic: Gerald Blake)
“So ‘ow many cats you got, then?” (arf arf).
“Actually none right now. £32.50 wasn’t it? Here you go.”
“Wot, no tip...?”
Not unless you sit up and beg for it, Rover…
© Emmeline Wyndham - 2018