My Daughter – The Cat Lady
My sixteen-year-old daughter was having a mope over dinner last Friday. She put on her depressed face and announced that she expected to become a spinster lady with 17 cats and neglected bowls of dusty, spent potpourri littering her hermit hut. She gazed forlornly into her dinner plate of German meatballs over rice with a side of green beans and waited for appropriate parental protestations and self-esteem boosting remarks.
There was just one little problem. We’d heard this particular lament a number of times before and had tried all the warm, fuzzy parenting, only to receive teen girl glares and occasional snarky retorts. We’re a little tired of hearing how pathetic her life is, how no one loves her, how she’s unlovable by her peers, and how she’s going to go out in the garden and eat worms and die.
I know why she does this, she wants sympathy and reassurance that she’s lovable and fine just as she is. She gets plenty of that. I know that she feels down and out sometimes because, like every other teenaged girl, she doesn’t fit the Hollywood couture mode of perfection which makes all teenaged girls feel like crap. She’s fluffy, she wears glasses, is smart, has long brown hair, doesn’t like makeup, and thinks other teens are in too much of a hurry to grow up, get pregnant, screw up their marriages, and get divorced and be pathetic all over again. Nevertheless, from time to time, she still gets hit with a cultural frying pan that tells her she’s not good enough the way she is.
Well, my husband rolled his eyeballs, shoveled more meatballs into his face and gave me the look that passes as an official parent handoff. I was kind of stuck. I wasn’t in the mood to join a pity party, we had had a great day together with lots of laughs and giggles and fun and getting stuff done, and there are just times when I prefer to do something unexpected to break a bleak mood.
So I suggested she collect dogs instead. Not dustmop dogs – you know, the little ones with long hair, that, if you stuck a pole on them, you could use them to clean out from under your couch. No, I suggested that if her intent was to age gracefully, that she take up collecting large dogs – Newfies, afghan hounds, Labrador retrievers, wolfhounds, St. Bernards, etc. I pointed out to her, as she gaped at me in astonishment, that this would eliminate the need for potpourri as well, as the dogs would gladly crap in her backyard instead of in catboxes in the house. Besides, big dogs are friendly, helpful, and there’d never be any crumbs on her floor, and no leftovers to deal with either.
Having found myself on the soapbox, I continued to hold forth, as my husband shoveled in meatballs at a frightening pace so as to avoid saying anything, and Doodle, the youngest, snorted into his beans. (Spawn was off doing a teen boy fake fighting thing with a friend.) I told Bunny that women with big dogs were no-nonsense achievers who were very rarely burgled, another advantage, and that if she really wanted to study Marine Biology, they were much less likely to eat her samples than a lot of mangy old cats.
She started to splutter. I kept talking, mentioning that I was sure her dad and I would pitch in and get her an industrial strength shop vac to keep ahead of the shedding as a housewarming gift, when she set up her dog-intensive abode, and that since we like dogs, we’d be visiting her a great deal, so she wouldn’t be alone as much as she thought. I recommended she watch Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, with us, since we’ve developed a sincere liking for his show and his stupid human clients.
By this time, she’d had enough. She gave me a partially bemused look, mixed with indignation, and said, “I can’t believe you think I’d REALLY become a dog-loving hermit! How come you didn’t tell me ‘that’s nonsense, you’re lovable and wonderful the way that you are’?”
I replied, “Do YOU think you are lovable and wonderful the way you are?”
She answered, “Well, yeah, mostly,” and frowned meaningfully at me.
I gave her a big, shit-eating grin and said, “Mission accomplished. And, by the way, anyone who can make perfect German meatballs in sour cream and dill sauce over perfectly cooked rice is NOT going to have any trouble finding people to spend time with her.”
She gave in, shook her head, and giggled at me. Sometimes I don't completely suck at mothering.