In the literal sense, I'm one of those people with a love for cats that borders on obsession. A middle school bully once gossiped about me for wearing clothes with cats on them. In my Facebook profile picture, there are whiskers painted on my face, and in the picture that I set as my profile before that, I'm posing with my family cat. I don't have my own cats, but the ones I grew up with greet me every time I visit home and—real talk?—I can't think of anything I'm more grateful for in life.
Figuratively, I pretty much fit the cat-lady bill. I feel awkward in social situations, I spend a lot of time alone, and I routinely wear socks that don't match and reindeer underwear my grandma got me for Christmas. While I happen to be in a relationship (more on that later), I'm still all about being single until someone truly worth it comes along. Plus, something about the spinster ideal is very appealing to me regardless.
Now, stereotype might have it that these qualities set me back in the dating market. An Internet troll once even sent me a Facebook message just to tell me, "No man will ever love you. It'll just be you and your cat forever." (To be honest, that actually sounds pretty great!) But while comments like these never made me disavow my love for felines while dating, let's just say that particular Facebook photo wasn't on my OkCupid profile. On first dates I rarely brought up anything that might get me pigeonholed as a so-called difficult woman, like my identification with feminism.
But any attempts I made to tone down my overall cat-lady vibe were short-lived and futile. So what was there left to do but totally own it? And once I did, I found that cat ladies attract people who (a) love cats themselves and (b) want someone a little off-beat—which happens to be the exact kind of person I'm attracted to.
Besides, the whole idea of the "crazy cat lady" is pretty sexist, no? As though we're saying, "How dare a woman choose her interests over a relationship when it's her duty to get married and reproduce!" It's rare to hear people talking about crazy dog guys, or taking jabs at men who are single and not presenting themselves as conventionally desirable dates. The moment I realized that I didn't have to change some part of myself to be attracted to people who clearly didn't like me for me anyway, I became a better partner because I'd figured out how to get my needs met.
So instead of wondering whether my dates approve of me, I ask myself whether I approve of them—and OK, I'll admit it, whether my cats approve of them too. I definitely should've taken it as a red flag when an ex-boyfriend picked up my unwilling pet and got scratched. They know!
My current boyfriend is not a crazy cat person, but you'd better believe he's crazy about my cats. Because he has to be. Part of being in a relationship is empathizing with the other person. If someone doesn't get my love for my cats, they don't get me. And if they don't embrace all my cat-lady traits, they don't embrace me, either.
When my partner sends me cat pictures or makes jokes about my family cats, he might as well be writing me love poems. And his appearance in my Facebook photo right beside me, with whiskers on his own face (there was an occasion for the costumes, I swear!), is the ultimate sign that he's making an effort to fit into my life and really see me. It's also a comforting reminder that, despite what the haters say, there's a lot to appreciate about being a cat lady.
So whatever your thing is—dogs, crocheting, kickboxing—remember that if it's something you truly love, you shouldn't settle for anyone but a partner who likes you for exactly who you are, whiskers and all.