A pair of students – cat lovers – posed a question the other day I somehow hadn’t heard in a long time, which is shocking to me in a culture where binary preference makes or breaks the groups with which you get to identify. You know the way we frame our questions: Is it good? Did you like it? And then our incredulous responses should someone not suit our expectations: Don’t you dare be ambivalent! We need conviction about such matters! What do you mean you don’t know? You’re not sure? What’s wrong with you? No! Something – and dammit, something very simple – must be wrong with you…
Anyway, they put it out there. Hyper-aggressively. Their gaze was heavy, bringing my most essential self to the stand for a verdict. The wrong answer was punishable by death. Cats OR dogs?
I panicked. Clearly they wanted me to say cats, and sure, they were being flippant about the whole thing, but gravity generates the conflict I need for some measure of interest here…and so they were vicious, ready to claw at my throat if I were so stupid to say dogs, joining the long list of the uninspired masses who understand nothing about domestication and find the little obedient creatures cute. Oh really? You want a dog? The American Dream too? Totally within your reach! What a unique wish! Golden retriever, no less?
I had to confess…I had always been a dog lover. In the way that you love anything as a child: because you love it. There’s no deconstructing desire and finding out it’s heteronomous, finding out that I didn’t really want a dog, I was just conditioned to believe that I wanted one…and should want one. Because that’s what normal Americans want. Or they want cats. But let’s not go any further down this cynical road…
All I really wanted to say today – despite a lingering but vastly diminished cat allergy (I think I have one…it could be psychosomatic) – is that I’m cool with cats. And dogs. And not choosing between the two. Or pinning myself down to any such dumb categorization.
There are not two types of people in this world.
Unless we’re talking about the idiots who think there are and the geniuses who know there aren’t.