“You’ve always been a cat person, you’ve just never had a cat,” my sister said, upon hearing that I would soon have a feline companion.
I suppose she’s right. I generally prefer a night in to a night out, my take-out menu drawer is mightily robust, and my apartment is home to more books than dust particles. All that’s missing from this painfully stereotypical watercolor is a cat.
Getting a cat has been on my to-get list for quite a while. Right above get a tattoo and just below get a house. Because, priorities.
But how do you actually know you’re a cat person without, well, buying one? And if it doesn’t work out do you just return it? Does the pet store do an exit interview? Do you drop it off on the shelter’s doorstep in the middle of the night full stealth mode? Apart from the Spirit of Christmas Past visiting me as a result of doing such a heartless thing, I’d really like to know: what happens when a cat doesn’t work out? You can’t exactly ghost it. It’s not me, it’s you. I’m not afraid of commitment, but it sure seems like a death-do-us-part scenario.
This rabbit-hole of what-happens-if-it-doesn’t-work-out has, in the past, hijacked my desire to get a cat. There were fleeting moments where I stemmed the tide of what-if and went looking for a kitty at a pet store. No concrete action came of it, because, well, have I mentioned the rabbit hole? It’s Vulcan-death grip is fierce.
My new roommate came with a cat. It happened faster than I could think my way out of it. Alas, here we are, and by we, I mean me and Jimmy the Cat.
I was at first skeptical because of the name. Who names a cat Jimmy? Pets with human names is on the list of Things That Freak Me Out. Alongside, of course, Josh Groban, and bonsai trees (they are not to scale!). I decided to give Jimmy the Cat a chance, though.
Best laid plans. I made a terrible first impression.
I was at work the whole day my roommate moved in and had a date that night, so I had to run home and get ready at super sonic speeds. Jimmy the Cat, at first sight of me, rubbed up against my leg and then, quite vulnerably, laid on his back exposing his belly (presumably, for me to rub). ‘I cant right now I need to get changed!!’ I bellowed, as I bolted into my room. I started changing, dress half off, only to notice Jimmy had followed me into my room, and again, was attempting to initiate first contact. I (not so) politely shooed him out of the room and made sure to close the door this time. I finished getting dressed and reached into my closet to grab my leather jacket and…there’s Jimmy! Somehow, he gained access back into my room (via the door that was now open) and snuck into the closet. This was getting out of hand. I picked him up and deposited him outside my door. At this point I’m reenacting Roadrunner scenes in my attempt to leave the house on time. While retouching my makeup in the bathroom, I look down and notice, you guessed it, Jimmy. Perched on the toilet seat, watching me. Like most men I know, he apparently enjoys watching me put on lipstick.
Looking back on the encounter, I spurned every advance at connection with this cat. But lo and behold, there he was again the next morning, following me around, flipping on his back, communicating that he wanted some physical touch. LOVE ME, DAMMIT. His tenacity and confidence was endearing. He had decided that he liked me and didn’t care a crap what I thought about it. Can you say *low key* charming. This cat was pursuing me and it felt good.
I pet him a little bit those first two days, but I definitely wasn’t matching his level of interest. Something fascinating happened on day 3, though. When I came home, I was expecting the same over-the-top, loving greeting, but instead, Jimmy eyed me from afar and flipped on his back from across the apartment, as if to say it’s your turn to come to me. He gave a little cry too for extra effect. You know what? I walked across the room and we had our first quality time cuddle session.
He let me know he was interested — clearly, confidently, unabashedly — and then waited for me to meet him at that level. Brilliant.
Can we take a collective moment to observe that this is the exact opposite of what most people do in a similar situation? I won’t talk for ya’ll, but here’s what I usually do when I choose to be vulnerable and it gets rebuffed. I retreat. I sulk. I say, ‘wow i’m not doing that again.’ At my weakest, I get self-conscious and ask myself if what I did was too vulnerable (as if there is such a thing). In essence, I take the rebuff personally. In reality, I should be more like Jimmy the Cat. I should take a rejection of my vulnerability as a reflection on the other person, not on me. I was running late, which is why I didn’t connect with Jimmy. It had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me.
Here’s what I’m learning.
When I choose to be vulnerable and it isn’t received well, it says more about the other person than it does about me. Maybe they’re not there yet in their maturity. Maybe they’re still hurting from a past relationship and not ready to dive-in. Or maybe, they’re just having a bad day. It’s not on me to divine their reasons. It’s also not on me to question my actions and authenticity. I choose to be vulnerable because that is how I show up and that is how I want to live my life. And I choose to not let other people’s response change this one iota.
Vulnerability is about having the hutzpah to show up when you can’t control the outcome. It’s about communicating your needs when you have no clue if they will be met. It’s about staking a claim and taking up space instead of hiding. And most importantly, it’s about reserving the best of who you are for those who have earned the right to have it.
I’m learning how to do this. I’m learning from Jimmy the Cat.
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