Jackson Galaxy refers to cat owners as "cat guardians." I believe he does so out of respect for the cats. I alternate the terms I use, not out of respect for my cat but rather to acknowledge that it’s really my cat who owns me. My wife and I serve two cats: a kitten called Siegfried (Ziggy, for short) and Mina, whom most of you have already met.
My wife and I love both of our cats: Ziggy is an adorable, lovable little spastic; Mina is a low-energy, self-absorbed, contemptuous megalomaniac. We love them as much for their bad qualities as their good ones. I still remember fondly the first time I told Mina to come to Daddy, and she looked at me as if to say, "You’re not my real Daddy." Truth be told, Mina’s my favorite precisely because of her contempt and narcissism. I understand those feelings well: I am in law school.
But one of the things I love most about Mina is the amount that she has taught me. I don’t mean how Mina taught me about cat-pwnership.* I don’t mean something small I learned about myself. I mean, I have literally learned important life lessons from taking care of Mina.
Specifically, I’ve learned how to conceal my overwhelming contempt for certain individuals whom I disrespect but who have something I want. When you’re in law school, you often find yourself powerless and at the whim of others. I’ve been fired by a drug addict and received emails from an employer months behind schedule, apologizing for the fact that he never read my resume but that I shouldn’t get discouraged. In fact, law school, especially with the state of the current legal market, is a long string of discouraging situations occasionally broken up by a minor pyrrhic victory.
Fortunately, when I come home from a world that seems to view me with unqualified contempt, I have a cat who views me with unqualified contempt — but who wants something out of me, anyway. Specifically, she wants me to feed her, and then to sit on the recliner and scratch her neck and ears with my knuckles. And for that 30 or 45 minutes, she treats me very well.
It is from Mina that I learned an important lesson. It doesn’t matter how you feel about people, as long as you treat them nicely. It’s OK to hold someone in utter and complete contempt, provided you treat them like you don’t. If you treat people like you care, they will like you for it, even if they know that you look down on them. I know this because I’m the "people" in question. I know that the only difference between the insulting employer and the insulting cat is that my cat pretends to care for a moment to get what she wants.
And I’ve started doing just that. I just pretend that it’s great to talk to everyone, no matter how difficult or tiresome I find them, no matter how little I want to deal with them or how tired and angry I am at the time. I’d like to say that doing so makes me like them, but it doesn’t. It does, however, often get me what I want out of the situation, and really, in most interactions with people you can’t stand, that’s as good as it gets.
* Cat-pwnership: kat-poh-nur-ship. The state of being regularly “pwned” by a cat. (To “pwn” means to own or dominate, especially on the Internet.)
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