When the Cat Woman Barfs

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

I’m at a writers conference, waiting to meet with a literary agent to hear her opinion of my gifts or lack thereof, and I’m actually feeling pretty good about my prospects: I have the dandy genes my parents gave me (although I’d love to be able to throw a couple back into the pool), I’m in full possession of the ability to stick a few words together effectively, and I have the skin of a middle-aged feminist — thickened right along with my ankles — and the determination to spend the latter half of my life writing about the entertaining outrages of the first.

So I’m clearing out my email inbox as I wait and gearing up to have a good time, tout my stuff, and attribute any rejection to the agent’s inadequacies, not my own — because I am ready to take to print and pound the persistent inequities of our society with the power of words. Yep, I am feeling good!

With the junk mail deleted, I smile at the young woman waiting next to me, thinking we'll pass the time with a little chat about writing. But she looks as though she might barf.

“I hope it’s good,” she quivers.

“What have you written?” I try to distract her from her inner turmoil.

“It’s about my cat, a book about my cat. Henry. I love him so much — he’s such a special cat — and my friends say it’s really, really good. Henry, he’s so sweet he’s easy to write about, you know? He’s just like a person in so many ways, really, the way he rubs against me and curls into my lap and then he looks up, like he’s making eye contact on purpose, and he licks me — right on the lips. Henry’s such a lover boy. … What will he think if it’s not good enough?”

I don’t want to be judgmental, but I’m kind of grossed out; still I struggle to find something supportive to say, except now the gal clearly is going to barf and she’s running off to the women’s room, which makes me think of Marilyn French’s book of the same name, published back when we were called “ladies” (unless we were deemed unworthy) and it was called the “Ladies Room” and women were fomenting for freedom from the discrimination ascribed to our other-than-male body parts. I worry that the cat lover has not been liberated from things even more onerous than sexism. Although it occurs to me none of us has been liberated, not really. Misogyny and sexism persist to this day in ways subtle and overt, yet both so damnably dismissed. Toss us the bone of birth control (and crummy options at that!) and a few token CEO slots, and we’re supposed to withdraw into hushed compliance at eighty percent of men’s pay. What we really need to do is nudge our daughters to take up the feminist mantle and return to the battle with them at the fore. Yep, I’m ready — I still have my old Equal Rights Amendment banners!

And suddenly it hits me with the shock of a construction worker’s whistle despite my spreading hips: I have nothing new to say.

I know this because I’ve just googled the sentence “I have nothing new to say.” In a dismayingly swift 0.24 second, the search engine produces a whopping 108 million hits.

Jeezy weezy.

But wait, I think, they’re not exact matches. My fingers dash to the advanced search option, and I am promptly tossed on my annoyingly sagging fanny. (Now, fanny, that’s a word one ought not say in Britain: There it means, well, crotch, and you can just imagine the stiff upper lips curling into horror upon hearing that some classless Yank fell on her crotch!) The advanced search isn’t much better. It delivers 30.5 million hits in 0.34 second, which makes me feel no less mundane — certainly not 77.5 million hits less.

Hells bells.

Hmmm, my father used to say that, hells bells. He lives on, well beyond the grave, through his many and often charming idiosyncrasies we, his offspring, have adopted to varying degrees, rarely as charmingly as the originator.

I wonder what Father, the Scientist-Artist, would have thought of the Internet. I recall his delighted chuckle when he first encountered a personal computer — back when Bell Labs was the telecommunications cat’s meow. With the vision of an engineer, he was predisposed to purr over the now wildly outmoded capabilities — a poor choice of words given my recent feline-ish encounter.

But the Internet? I don’t know. Perhaps, if he could, Father would rise from his grave in aesthetic indignation, righteously enraged by the lack of reason, the abandonment of art, the sludge of philistine claptrap he’d have to welter through to find the pearls of content. Or perhaps I’m projecting. Actually, if I’m going to be truly honest with myself, I’d have to say I'm compensating, because I’m a regular contributor of said sludge. But the workshop I just attended taught me that a writer must — must! — become evermore an online presence. Guess I have to re-establish my Twitter account. Shit.

The gong sounds, refocussing me. It’s my turn with the agent. I gird my loins and try not to think about the cat woman barfing.

©2010 Kit-Bacon Gressitt

(Photo by Đànẵng Monkey courtesy of a Creative Commons license.


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