At a wedding reception, when a single woman is there alone, it’s very obvious that she’s alone because there are couples everywhere at wedding receptions. When you’re young being at a wedding reception alone that means guaranteed good times ahead. When you get older and are single at a wedding reception, people start to notice. The muted spotlight turns on the single woman as the lonely life she must lead is imagined by the other women in attendance. At a certain point she can probably feel this spotlight growing brighter with each wedding reception she attends. Suddenly the spotlight gets brighter, and she’s being talked about as if she’s an object to be pitied. (I myself have dodged the marriage bullet at least three times. Once literally dodging a bullet. A story for another time!) But even as a happily single woman, I can attest to the fact that the light continues to get brighter. It’s never my friends who look at me like that, it’s usually their friends or families who don’t know me that whisper like I can’t hear them. I don’t mind. I know when I leave a wedding that I’m not going home to cry in my pillow. I actually enjoy weddings quite a bit because there’s always cake, and I really really really love cake. I started thinking that this pity and scrutiny from strangers is what produces the elusive ‘crazy cat lady.’
When I was growing up my father was one of the only Black Colonels in the Air Force and at that time meant I was raised primarily around white people. Living on military bases and being a child, the color barrier was not there. You hear adults say that they ‘don’t see color,’ and you automatically classify them as pompous jackasses, but it’s true for children until their parents get in their brains and start fucking them up. Just like any little girl I had crushes and daydreamed about boys. I realized at a certain point that even though there was a mutual attraction between me and my crushes, nothing ever came from them. Other little girls were invited to dances, and movies, and all kinds of fun things with their crushes. Not me. Even then I could tell I wasn’t reading these feelings wrong, so why wasn’t I getting invited on the 4th grade equivalent of a date? It felt like I had been cut by a knife when at 8 years old I was told by my crush that his parents said he couldn’t be my boyfriend and that it was the fact I was considered in their eyes as ‘bad’ since I was black. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I started to realize that I was different from the other kids, and I’ve never forgotten the way that made me feel.
As I got older I had become so afraid of rejection and humiliation that I never allowed any guy I liked to know what my true feelings were. I figured I would get rejected by them because I wasn’t good enough. Of course this led to some pretty bad behavior in an effort to prove my desirability to the opposite sex. I had to show myself and them that I was good enough, and the only way I could do that was to be as agreeable to whatever overtures were thrown my way. Numerous sexual assaults and an extremely salacious reputation were my prizes for surviving my early teenage years, so when I moved to Austin at the age of 19, I never trusted that it was any different. Although the atmosphere was completely opposite of anything I had ever dealt with, the damage had been done. My self esteem was basically nonexistent and didn’t allow me to believe I was worth anything. Even though I was being proved wrong on pretty much a daily basis I never trusted it, and basically only took what I thought I could get in regards to romantic relationships. This pattern has continued to follow me, but now I’ve become so jaded by the whole romance thing in general that every relationship I’m in is guaranteed to be a bust.
The difference is that now I’m complacent.
The reason I started thinking about cat ladies is because I realized that there are some women who don’t want to be seen as undesirable. It’s like being picked last for the kickball team when you’re in elementary school. Almost everyone gets picked because they have friends on the team, but there are always a few left standing alone because they’re not wanted. Then your teacher picks a team that is forced to take you, and even if you don’t want to be on that team you’re just happy to finally be picked so you’re not standing alone with everyone looking at you like you’re not good enough. And the team you were forced upon treats you as though you’ve been forced upon them, and you’re embarrassed because you aren’t good at kickball and have proved them all right not to have picked you.
So my thoughts on reclusive old ladies locking themselves up with cats, hiding out from the world makes more sense to me. At the beginning you come up with excuses as to why you can’t go out to places. You start to RSVP that you won’t be attending the weddings and bridal showers, and finally people just stop asking you to show up to their special events because it’s too sad to see their friend alone. Eventually you’re forgotten about all together.
When you’re at home locked in your house the spotlight isn’t bright, and there is love that won’t break your heart and humiliate you in public. (Some women receive that love from pets, and for some reason those pets are overwhelmingly cats, and that seems odd to me because cats are so rude.)
My particular situation is different. I’ll be damned if I let someone treat me like crap just so I have a date at a wedding, or to have company. When I’m lonely I go out and see my friends, or I text them things in capital letters like ‘PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!’ and they do. I won’t ever allow myself to hide away from the spotlight of being single because it’s not anything I’m ashamed of. What I would be ashamed of is being involved with someone just to prove that I’m desirable. I guess all of the heartbreak I’ve endured, and the humiliation I’ve suffered has made me stronger as a person. I enjoy my time alone, and whatever man that’s lucky to spend time with me is on my own terms handpicked by me. I don’t settle for someone just because they pay a small amount of attention to me. The funny thing is that I’ve gained more admirers the older I’ve become.
If I liked cats I would maybe have a few, and we could have conversations about how we didn’t need the outside world bothering us. But I’m way too arrogant to lose the spotlight. What came out of my troubled past is a huge ego because I came out the other side as a strong and confident person that knows I can handle anything without having someone by my side. I can’t think of one bad thing about myself except that I have bad eyesight and need to lose some weight. I’m awesome.
I’m definitely not sharing it with only a bunch of cats.
But I think that some women don’t heal from the rejection. I think that crazy cat ladies aren’t crazy. They’re hiding from the shame of not being good enough to have found a mate .