It’s no surprise that some friends sarcastically refer to me as a "cat lady." If you follow me on any or all of my social media accounts, you’ve probably seen as many pictures of my cat — Arthur Wimbledon Davis III, Esq., ("Wimbledon", for short) — as you’ve seen of your relative’s kids. When acquaintances visit my house for the first time, they often greet Wimbledon by name, which can be a briefly unnerving experience.
"Cat lady" is an old stereotype, saddled with sexist baggage and the image of an old spinster knitting in a home overrun with cats, dander covering every surface. Since this is a cat publication and not a sex and gender publication, I’ll refrain from unpacking it all that deeply, though it’s worth some attention. Regardless, the innate bond between women and cats is one of those stereotypes that we largely accept at face value, perpetuated by The Simpsons, documentaries, and dubious science.
For better or worse, there’s no analog for men who are devoted to their cats. In a way, that’s fortunate: The idea of masculinity-challenged guys referring to themselves as "cat bros" gives me the chills. But if you’re the sort of guy who fears that his manhood will somehow retract inside himself if given a feminine-gendered title, take solace in the fact that no less a paragon of masculinity than Ernest Hemingway was a cat lover. (Of course, Hemingway also wore dresses, but that’s a whole different matter.)
The ribbing doesn’t faze me. Wimbledon is my companion, despite his enigmatic mood swings, wake-up calls for breakfast at odd hours, and habit of expressing his dissatisfaction through every available piece of furniture in the house. Two years ago I became a full-time freelance writer, and a year ago my wife and I separated. My days are spent in my home office at the computer, and Wimbledon is my buddy, my sounding board, and an occasional necessary reminder that not all interactions take place through the glare of the LCD screen.
Cat haters will tell you that kitties don’t develop close bonds with humans; they just use us for food, water, shelter, and warmth. But cat lovers know that isn’t true. I occasionally have to leave town on business for a week or even two. Though I always have a friend catsit, when I return home Wimbledon follows me around the house dutifully for days (after, of course, expressing his displeasure about my extended absence to his preferred clawing chair). Last night, as I elevated my leg in bed from a contusion I recently suffered, he bounded into the bed and curled up beside me. Having once been a stray, Wimbledon can be parsimonious in his affections at times, but hey, I can appreciate that he’s his own man and sometimes requires time to himself.
Writing, working from home, and living alone ÔÇö it’s a pretty solitary life. Which isn’t to say I’m a total shut-in, staring at the Internet while I madly rant to my cat, though your mileage may vary. I have a good group of friends who live within a few blocks, engage in social activities that are not Internet- or cat-related, and often use the neighborhood coffee shop as an office for a change of scenery. But it might come as little surprise that freelancing from home is not the best strategy for having an active dating life.
I’ll admit that there are lonely nights and occasions when friends need to remind me that I should spend more time socializing with humans in the physical world. But Wimbledon is a companion for those long hours spent slinging hypertext into the ether. When I’m having a stressful workday, it’s a much-needed break to laugh at him bounding around the house for seemingly no apparent reason. And when I get into bed to have some spinster 2.0 downtime ÔÇö often distracted viewing of a BBC mystery on Netflix while tapping at my iPhone ÔÇö it’s a comfort to see Wimbledon curled up at the end of the bed.
Will being a "cat guy" ever become a thing? Thanks to the efforts of cat-obsessed comedian and podcaster Marc Maron, and men doing their part to clog the backbone of the Internet with a constant stream of cat photos, the notion of cat-devoted men doesn’t seem quite as unusual as it might have before. So let’s embrace our love for these inscrutable beasts we live with, stereotypes be damned. Whatever we want to call ourselves (please, I beg of you, hive mind, anything other than "cat bros") let’s own it and say "To hell with the haters."