Cleo isn’t my cat – I don’t have a cat. My roommates have a cat. However, the cat has adopted me, loves the heck outta me, and spends a lot of time curled up on me, or hanging out in my office space. Here’s the thing: after a conversation with a friend, I got to thinking about the nature of why the cat hangs out with me. and realized there’s some aspects of that which represent what I’d want out of a relationship. And, no, I’m not saying I want a relationship with a cat – I’ve already had a Kat in my life, and that didn’t turn out so well. 😉
I don’t feed the cat. Not part of my gig, and since she’s got problems with seizures if she eats certain foods (and I have no idea what they are), she doesn’t even get to lick my plate when I’m done. That completely takes the motivation of food off the list. Same goes for changing the litter box, providing toys to play with, and all that good stuff. Basically, I have no real connection to the cat, beyond affection.
I’ve spent a lot of my life worrying about being useful when in a relationship. Somehow, I feel that proves my value. By nature, I’m a fairly competent person. I can cook, clean, do laundry, fix a car, cut down trees, write professionally, develop software, sew (somewhat – I need practice), do plumbing and construction, and… well, you get the idea. I’ve got a hell of a talent set, and because I like to learn new things, I’m always expanding it. Yet, I used to worry if I’m I’m going to be useful enough, and contribute enough. Simply put: I feel that unless I’ve got skills, I can’t possibly be good in a relationship. I can identify where that came from, but that’s a totally different story.
It wasn’t always that way, of course. Going back and looking at things I like and didn’t like about relationships, I realized something: going back to two of them I felt were fairly good, I never worried about it. We spent time together because we enjoyed spending time together. There was no expectation that I was providing some sort of service.
Now, that’s not to say I’m not a competent and useful person, and that I won’t continue to be – even in a relationship. I am, by nature, a helpful person (and, if I have a significant other, you can be sure they’d be first on my list of people to help.) I get called upon to help people, and if I see something where I can be useful, I will.
But, back to that cat thing. I currently have a cat curled up to me because she likes me. Not because I feed her – I don’t – or that I provide stuff for her. The cat just (insanely) likes me. Sometimes she’s basically on top of me (actually, she’s sitting on my shoulder as I write this, having moved from curled up in my arms while I type – which is a tricky thing), sometimes she just hangs out in the room for hours, quietly napping. Sometimes I pet her for a couple minutes, and she goes about her day. Sometimes, she wants to stick around to cuddle.
Cats are usually considered to be a bit aloof and distant, uncaring about the person in the room. Dogs, on the other hand, are all about the person in the room, all the time. If you get up and walk out of the room, the cat may address your existence, or may not. A dog, on the other hand, has to stand up and go with you. The dog must always be with you. I’ve had a number of relationships like that: they were jealous of the time I spent with anything but them, even if it’s work. They had to be there, beside me, for as much time as possible. I didn’t have a problem with this until, well, a specific relationship. But, I’ve slowly discovered something: I like the cat’s approach better. It doesn’t have to be there all the time. Yes, sometimes this cat acts more like a dog (or does weird things like she’s doing now: she’s no longer on my shoulder, she’s back to laying on my arms, and is trying very hard to hold my hand), but generally speaking, I think it represents a different sort of approach to things. No longer “in your face, all the time”, not worried about being useful, not there because I’m the provider of food: she’s there some of the time, and she’s there because she wants to be.
I’ve got my own life. I like the idea of sharing it, and sharing is an important word here. I don’t want to be with someone because they provide something beyond a feeling inside of me, and affection. And, I want them to want to spend time with me because, well, they want to spend time with me. I don’t want to run the race to marriage that I mentioned in the previous post: heck with it, just wander a bit, and see where things go. I don’t want to move in with someone, really, unless we both feel we can fully retreat from each other in the same household. I’ve got a life, and my next stop is probably a place on my own for a year, then finally buy a house again. I have projects I work on, teaching, and all this other stuff: they shouldn’t have to give up what they do in exchange for what I’m doing, and visa versa. We find time to spend with each other, because we enjoy it, and worry less about everything. Because, let’s face it, if we’re talking about a cat as a model for a relationship, cats don’t give much of a fuck about anything.
Morgan recently mentioned that I now talk cat, but no longer talk dog. There may be something more to that. I was never a cat person: I was always a dog person. But, these days, it seems more and more like I’m now a cat person, in more ways than one. They are their own creatures, somewhat independent.
And, nope, this isn’t the last diatribe on relationships.