I turned 30 last year, but lately I’ve felt 18 again. I want to play hooky at work, get a giant tattoo of a starfish on my bicep, and learn to ride a motorcycle. I have daily fantasies of running away to Big Sur and living in a tent behind the Henry Miller Memorial Library. I’ve basically stopped brushing my hair.
The good news: My smug, married-with-children friends might frown upon my extended adolescence, but my calico cat, Phoenix, totally gets me. The other day I watched her tiptoe along the edge of my clawfoot bathtub like a proud daredevil explorer before slipping and falling in. There was only a small amount of water left in the tub, just enough to dampen her pretty spotted feet — and completely freak her out.
She is four years old, and she’s done this before, and she knows better — but she’s throwing caution to the wind. If she wants to dance atop a wall of porcelain, she will not be deterred by something that sounds as boring as “consequences.”
In human years, Phoenix is roughly 29 years old — meaning we are approximately the same age. While Bubba Lee Kinsey, my 11-year-old gray tabby, is all about Wheel of Fortune and those damn kids staying off his lawn, Phoenix and I are experiencing a renaissance of recklessness — our own respective quarter-life crises. Here are four parallels I’ve noticed between our experiences.
Lately I’ve felt compelled to push the mundane boundaries of adult life. I wore striped pajama shorts and a black polo shirt to work one day, just to see if I could get away with it; thanks to the new trend of “dress shorts,” I totally did. Sometimes, when no one is coming, I run red lights. I do cartwheels in public places. At Whole Foods, I help myself to two carrot cake samples.
Phoenix, too, has been trying to get away with things she probably shouldn’t. Last week I watched her attempt a long jump from the table to the windowsill, wiggling and stomping her feet before she finally leapt. She was airborne for a split second before she realized she wasn’t going to make it, and she hit the floor with a graceless thud. Then she skulked out of the room, away from my laughter.
After nearly five years of whittling my diet down to include very little sugar or candy, lately I have been eating lots of crap. I discovered these tangy sugar noodles called Sour S’ghetti, which are infinitely preferable to real s’ghetti, and I’ve been shoving them in my facehole like I’m trying to break a world record. I know this isn’t good for me, especially when I eat this candy for lunch in lieu of vegetables and kombucha, but, um, I don’t care.
Phoenix also seems prone to the occasional binge. Last week she downed an entire bowl of wet food in less than 20 seconds — and then she pushed Bubba out of the way and ate his. Afterward, she stalked into the living room and projectile-vomited off the side of the coffee table. (For the record, yes, she is on a diet, and yes, I have discussed her vomiting issue with my vet.)
Through years of conditioning that have mostly involved me stomping my feet and hollering like a crazy person, my cats both know not to chew on my houseplants. In fact, if either of them gets too close to one of my plants, all I have to do is clap my hands, and they’ll stop dead in their tracks, hoping to avoid the loud, full-body freakouts for which I am infamous. (Running at a cat while waving your arms and yelling “NONONO!” is a surprisingly effective behavior-modification strategy.)
But lately Phoenix has been blatantly disregarding the rules. She’ll walk up to my begonia and start gnawing on the leaves while I’m sitting right there watching her, because she has apparently acquired a new life coach: the honey badger. She knows she’s in the wrong, too, because the moment I say her name, she takes several steps away from the plant and looks up at me with an expression that is more “BFF” than “shady consumer of houseplants.”
These days, when things don’t go my way, I want to hide. I want to sit on the couch and watch The Sopranos (RIP, James Gandolfini) and ignore my problems until they go away. Clearly this is a more effective strategy than, oh, I don’t know, dealing with stuff like an adult.
Phoenix does the same. She’s on a diet because the vet says she is kind of a chunk, and when I refuse to give her more food, she hides behind the bookshelf for at least an hour. Perhaps the two of us can listen to some Elliott Smith albums together, eat some caramels, and talk about how much we love the rain. It’s gonna be a fun afternoon.
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.