Being a Cat-Person in a Spirit Dog World

The fast approach of Valentine’s Day has me thinking about compatibility.

Two categories people seem to take as definitive indications of compatibility are Dog-People and Cat-People. It’s one of the quick, up-front questions in a lot of online dating profiles. Essentially, the thought is that Dog-People are loyal and outgoing and social and needy, and Cat-People are introverted, moody homebodies who need their space. As usual, Buzzfeed is here to break it down for us.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m a Cat-Person.

My questions is why is it acceptable to openly hate cats, but not dogs? People view cats as a nuisance. I’ve never heard stories of people drowning a bag of puppies in a river. The general opinion seems to be that it’s normal to hate cats, but there is something inherently wrong with a person who can’t love a dog. (I feel like this somehow relates Susan Cain’s book Quiet, which was really big when it came out, where she talks about how Americans now worship extroverts, aka Dog-People.) And why is there no such thing as the Crazy Dog Lady? Only the Crazy Cat Lady?

People love to say that their dog is a great judge of character, that they don’t trust a person their dog doesn’t like.Funny-memes-suspicious-of-people

You know why you’re suspicious of the people your dog doesn’t like? Because dogs are stupid and will love just about everyone or anything. I prefer a more discerning pet. (Pete Holmes knows what I’m talking about.)

One of my favorite bits from Parks and Recreation is when April spent the day assigning spirit dogs to everyone in the department.

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Why doesn’t Ben get a spirit dog?

Initially, April couldn’t figure Donna out and thought she might be a poodle. So wrong. Then she puts more thought into it and realizes Donna doesn’t have a spirit dog, she has a spirit cat because she’s loyal but her trust has to be earned. There was probably something in April’s reasoning about attitude and grooming too.

It’s untrue that Cat People and Dog People are incompatible, and yet we’re using that as a way to judge potential partners. Dating profiles, and dates, for that matter, should include better compatibility questions: Hemingway or Faulkner? Beer or milkshake? Salt-and-Vinegar Chips or Ranch Chips? (I think we all know the correct answer to that one.)

And it’s not that I dislike your dog, but, given the option, I’d rather not be around it for an extended period of time. I’ll say hello to it, pet it, and then I’m pretty much done.

Cats and Cat-People seem to get the short end of the stick. And, you know what? That’s fine. Because we don’t want your stick. We’ll just sniff at it and walk away. Because, what do you think I am, a dog?

How is it February Already?

But, seriously, it’s February.

I guess I mentally hibernated for most of January. (I’m not proud of how much I’ve binge-watched on Netflix.) SAD is a real thing when you spend the winter in New England. After the holidays, there isn’t a whole lot to look forward to in a New England winter. Unless you ski or snowboard or snowshoe (actually, I might enjoy snowshoeing) or snowmobile or can get snowed in and not leave your house for a month without repercussions. I love New England. I kind of like winter. I enjoy a bit of snow. But January and February in New England are. . .difficult. SAD seems like a byproduct of over-diagnosis and over-medication and maybe melodramatic and suck it up already, but, I think most people in this climate have felt some kind of ‘winter blues.’ It’s cold and grey and I just want to live in a blanket fort and not emerge until mid-March. But that’s not practical; I don’t work from home.

I do start work at the library this week, which is something. It’ll force me out of my blanket fort, for one thing. And the Super Bowl, of all things, has helped me out of my SAD funk a little, mostly because it involves food.

I don’t care about football, but I care about food and excuses to eat lots of cheese. So the roommate and I hosted an anti-Super Bowl gathering, consisting of British TV shows, and Super Bowl food: A variation of Jamie Deen’s Five Layer Taco Dip, substituting refried beans for the ground beef, This Buffalo Chicken Dip, substituting leftover rotisserie chicken instead of the canned stuff, and a classic Ranch dip (Can we dip it? Yes we can!). Plus amazingly addictive homemade caramel corn.

NFL Abby. That’s my kind of Super Bowl Sunday.

Unrelated to the anti-Super Bowl, but having everything to do with the snowstorm, winter, free time, and overripe bananas, I also made a gluten-free version of Molly Wizenberg’s Banana Bread with Chocolate and Cinnamon Sugar, using King Arthur gluten-free all-purpose flour, which came out better than expected, and I like that her recipe uses no butter or oil (especially considering I had a dream last night in which I had some kind of formal event to attend and every single dress I tried on was disturbingly too small/tight).

I feel better after I cook. I feel like I’ve accomplished something, and demonstrated skill, and exercised a kind of creativity. And – bonus! – it’s edible! There’s proof of effort and accomplishment. But then, of course, there are all the dishes to do. . .

Unhappy with ‘Your Year in Review?’

So was I. But not for the same reasons that have been getting the most attention, from Eric Meyer, which was reblogged by Slate, and Buzzfeed.

I looked at my Facebook ‘Year in Review.’ It didn’t look great. It looked like I had a sad year. But it wasn’t a sad year, at least not by my standards. By social media standards, yeah, I probably had a sad year. A friend of mine posted on Facebook about his ‘Year in Review,’ ‘not posting FB’s “Your Year in Review” because it makes my year look significantly less interesting than it actually was.’ I feel the same way about my ‘Year in Review.’

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But in response to the aforementioned articles, why are people expecting better from an app? It’s an app. You want it to differentiate sad posts from happy posts from sarcastic posts from satiric posts? I don’t. I don’t want technology that can do that. Or maybe this is another reason to have more options than just ‘like’ and ‘comment.’ But where would it end? And, by the way, you are responsible for what you post on social media. My year looks sad because I don’t post enough pictures or write ecstatic status updates about brunch.

Now, I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic, especially to Meyer’s situation. But we have choices when it comes to social media. We can choose to post and then keep those photos of our exes (I know, once something is on the internet it’s there forever, but it doesn’t have to be included in ‘Your Year in Review.’) I’m not saying Meyer could have or should have removed photos he posted of his daughter. But maybe it shouldn’t have been such a shock when they popped up. A painful reminder, yes, but not the fault of the app, or its designers.

Social media is a choice. You didn’t have to post that picture of your father’s ashes. You didn’t have to post that picture of you passed out at a party. You didn’t have to post pictures of your pets. If you did, then, yes, they might show up in ‘Your Year in Review.’ And, yes, unfortunately they may have shown up, unwarranted, at the top of your newsfeed when Facebook encouraged you to look at ‘Your Year in Review.’ But you have the choice not to look at the full video, not to post it. Or, at least, you did before Facebook removed the app.

We can’t expect our technology to have a conscience or to make better choices for us. I think it’s equally unfair to blame the app developers for any pain they may have unintentionally brought up for anyone. Maybe next year there will be an app that can sort through our posts. That way our years can look even better on social media than they already do in comparison to real life.

I don’t want to end this year on such a downer. So, here’s a thing I like from Buzzfeed: rememberlutions instead of resolutions.

And Happy New Year! May the next year be as filled with joy and sadness and silliness and regret and happiness and awkwardness as the last, regardless of what you choose to post or what your social media reflects!

Well, Who is ‘That Kind of Girl?’

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I dislike this title. (But I really like her author photo.) ‘That girl’ or ‘that kind of girl’ has always been a fiction, created by sitcoms and teen magazines and 1950s movies with women saying, ‘What kind of girl do you take me for!’ or ‘I’m not that kind of girl!’ usually in reference to sex, or going to second base too soon. But we all have our own versions of ‘that girl.’ For some, she’s the homecoming queen. For others she’s the Harvard graduate. Or the happily-married-with-a-baby-on-the-way-before-27 woman whose Facebook profile you regularly stalk (have you seen the size of her kitchen?!). Or maybe she’s the single, makin’-her-way-in-the-big-city, life-looks-perfect-on-instagram girl. What’s not a fiction is how we hate, how we are jealous of ‘that girl.’ What’s real is our struggle to be ‘that girl,’ or, more beneficially, our struggle to forget about ‘that girl’ and make ourselves our own version of ‘that girl.’

After finally finishing this book, I can’t seem to construct a coherent opinion about it. So in the vein of Dunham’s cut-and-paste, Buzzfeed-list style writing, I present the thoughts that passed through my head as I read and felt compelled to write down:

I don’t know if anything Dunham offers can be called ‘wisdom.’

The subtitle of this book should be: times I had sex, thought about sex, didn’t have sex, almost had sex, decided to not to have sex, and regretted the sex I did have.

Good for you that you were ‘so little’ as a child and grew up on organic hamburger patties and handfuls of goose liver pate. I grew up on pop tarts and bagel bites, to my mother’s dismay in hindsight. Mom, stop blaming my gluten intolerance on having let me eat white bread and hot pockets. It’s nobody’s fault.

10 pages of your ‘most secret and humiliating’ food journal? I’m not your therapist. I recognize that memoir and creative nonfiction are inherently self-involved and can be catharsis for the writer, but this type of writing shouldn’t be self-indulgent therapy. Save those bits for yourself. This is the perfect example of why so many writers believe memoir to be an old man’s genre.

This is a college creative writing portfolio: Describe what you see in the photoRecall an embarrassing encounter.

Why is this book sparsely illustrated? Why illustrate it at all? What is this book? And don’t give me that ‘don’t put a label on me’ crap. If you’re going to write a book of essays, write a book of essays. Yes, Allie Brosh and her creation (hyperbole and a half, for the six of you who don’t know) are awesome. And you are not her. It’s a reality we all have to live with. Except Allie Brosh. Because she is Allie Brosh.

‘Emails I would Send If I Were One Ounce Crazier/Angrier/Braver’ is super inappropriate and passive aggressive. What is the purpose of including these? Or the intent? Is she hoping ‘Blanky Blankham’ or ‘Dr. Blank’ will read her book and recognize themselves? That seems arrogant. An overestimation of herself and her reach. And, somewhat counter-intuitively, it seems cowardly to use your book as a public forum, rather than be an adult and send these emails or confront them, or don’t and chose a real way to write these alluded-to stories. This is gossipy and totally unnecessary.

I know I’m being harsh on Dunham. I know this. It’s partly because she has published a book of random experiences and reflections, and I have not.

I read skimmed a scathing Facebook post from a friend of a friend about this book. I think what it largely boils down to is that women of the 20-something persuasion find this book easy to hate because Dunham is too close to our age. We can’t admire her for being so successful at a young age, and we can’t look up to her as our Nora Ephron because she doesn’t have enough distance from us. If Dunham is the voice of our generation, she is a voice that our generation can’t appreciate because we’re still living like ‘Girls.’ Except, most of us didn’t grow up with feminist artist-parents with all kinds of wealthy and artistic connections in NYC, and we have a generally more difficult time trying to make it work and probably don’t have the luxury to make webseries with our friends. So we dislike her. But regardless of how I feel about Dunham and her writing, she’s started something.

I have no knowledge of ‘Girls’ aside from what I’ve overheard from others and read about in the book (very little). But it’s a thing people love, and they love it because it’s about real girls doing real things, trying to be real adults (or something like that). I may not like the way Dunham writes, but what Dunham’s writing is doing, is giving girls permission to be ok with, and better yet, comfortable with their weird flawed selves and their weird flawed experiences. Which I don’t know that girls get enough of. There are still so many expectations of female behavior and so much of our experiences aren’t spoken about because it’s somehow not proper. We glorify the man-child but can’t comprehend a woman who can’t get her shit together. Recently, however, I think this has been changing. Or maybe I’m only recently aware of the change. Either way, Dunham has certainly contributed to this change. She’s opened up a space for my roommate and I to blog about being not-quite-adults. And for me to write about being another 20-something statistic. And I’m content to ride the shockwave of the moment.

Don’t Apologize, Funny Ladies!

I gave Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please 4 stars on Goodreads. (Yes, Amazon is the devil, but, yes, I use Goodreads to keep track of what I’ve read and what I want to read.) It really deserves 5, but I have one problem with it.

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Poehler’s book is excellent for so many reasons. You’ve heard about it and you’ve read about it and your friends won’t stop talking about it, and I probably can’t tell you anything new about it, so just go out and read it.

There is so much to love about the book, like the two phrases women need to implement more often: ‘Good for her! Not for me,’ instead of ‘Why her? Why not me?’ which are two phrases I find myself thinking/saying all too often. I also love what Poehler has to say about not taking someone else’s faults onto yourself and feeling like you have to be the one to fix the problem. ‘Practice ambivalence.’ Poehler is giving and generous to her audience, and she delivers with hilarity and honesty. But my one qualm with the book is Poehler’s need to apologize without explicitly apologizing.

The book has an entire chapter dedicated to Poehler’s penchant for apologizing, which is not what I take issue with. I love this chapter. Poehler is a sorrysorrysorry-er (in fact, the chapter is titled ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry’), and so am I. We make mistakes, and our reaction is to say ‘Sorrysorrysorry.’ My theory is this: The first ‘sorry’ is to apologize for how our mistake affected others, the second is to acknowledge it was our fault, and the third is to say it won’t happen again. In this chapter, Poehler writes about when it is necessary and good to apologize and how difficult it can be. What I have a problem with is how, over the course of her book, she apologizes without explicitly saying ‘sorry.’

Poehler’s preface is titled, ‘Writing is Hard.’ It consists of her telling her audience just how difficult and terrible it is to write a book and how authors lie about how they feel about the process of writing. Essentially, by saying ‘writing is hard,’ she is saying ‘If this books is terrible, I’m sorry because it was too difficult an undertaking for me and I realize this, and the final product could be terrible because writing a book is not my thing, but, in a way, it’s not my fault if it’s terrible.’ NO! Unnecessary! Don’t apologize! For one thing, the book is great (aside from the preface – also, this book is printed entirely on glossy paper, which means it cost a lot to print, which means her editors and publishers had faith that it would sell incredibly well, which means her editors should have talked her out of this unnecessary apologizing.)! Don’t diminish yourself by apologizing before you’ve even begun! I found this really disappointing from a confident, risk-taking woman. This apologizing without apologizing is a trend among female comedians/comedy writers when they step out of their comfort zone, or accepted arena of work. It is perhaps unconscious or inadvertent, but it does them a disservice by diminishing their project and their talent.

Something I’ve learned about the audition process as a singer, and Poehler must have learned over the course of her many auditions and risk-taking endeavors, is that when you audition, you never step in front of whomever is there to judge you and say, ‘Sorry I’m a little sick today!’ or ‘Sorry, I’m just getting over a cold.’ You don’t apologize before you’ve even begun. For one thing, they can probably hear it in your voice anyway; no need to draw attention to it. Also, it doesn’t matter because you chose to audition and if you get the part, you’re expected to perform regardless of how you feel; that’s commitment. And Poehler knows this, she’s an improvisor! So yes commit, and please don’t apologize.