The Vine: December 10, 2008
O mighty Sars, wise in the ways of weirdo cats;
My boyfriend is fostering, and thinking about adopting, a 9-year-old female cat, Ava.Ava was at first grumpy and grouchy, but after about 6 weeks seems to have adjusted well — she follows my boyfriend around and says hello when he comes home.
But even when following him around, she pretends she isn't — it is obvious that she needs him and his attention, but doesn't want to admit it.She also seems completely unschooled in how to give physical affection.She will awkwardly jump onto my boyfriend's lap, realize that balancing on someone's legs is hard, and then, instead of lying down, she will jump/fall off.She does seem more comfortable with me, but still won't settle down in my lap.
We don't know Ava's history, but while she is quiet and well-behaved, and purrs enough that we are sure she is happy, she doesn't seem to have been loved very much.My intuition is that this is not a personality issue, but rather one of no experience — she doesn't know how to snuggle with people.
Now the questions, for you and your readers — can we train Ava to be more comfortable giving affection, especially physical affection?Is there some kind of hugging therapy for cats who don't know how to snuggle?Are there body language issues we need to be aware of?
My boyfriend would love a cat he can cuddle with, rather than one who pathetically needs him but doesn't engage in much physical contact.If there is any way to get Ava to happily sit in his lap while he reads, he'd be over the moon.
I've only had dogs; this is all new to me
Your boyfriend could ask his vet for a recommendation — "exercises" or things he could do at home, or a cat behaviorist he could call to work on these things.Ava will let you know if she's not into it, belieeeeeve me (lowered, switching tail; flattened ears; the usual), but you can work on acclimating even feral cats to human touch, and Ava isn't feral; she's just new to the whole lap-cat thing.
But your BF should keep in mind also that cats do have distinct personalities, and not all of them like lap time or cuddles.Hobey is a lot like Ava — likes to be close to me, does not care to be on me.Next to me on the couch is fine for him; he never gets onto my lap, and by now I know that moving him thereto is futile.He'll wait for me to lift my hands and then jump right down.
Which is fine, because there's never any extra room in my lap anyway: Joe would surgically attach himself to me if he had the means, because he's needy.Every cat is different, and you can't guarantee that any cat you get, even as a kitten, will become a postcardly ball of lap fuzz.
I'd call the vet to seeif she can offer any tips, and from there, just give Ava time.
I have a weird etiquette sort of question I'm not sure there's a solution to, but maybe you and the readers could help me out.
About six months ago, I was hit by a car while riding my bike to work. It wasn't a bad accident, just a broken collarbone and some cuts and bruises (like, really big bruises. Wow.) but I have no memory of the accident or the immediate aftermath. I do have hazy recollections of waking up on the ground, thinking I was dreaming, with a woman next to me telling me I had been hit by a car but was going to be okay. Then nothing until I was already in the ambulance on my way to the hospital.
A few days after I was discharged, I was digging through the bag of my stuff they'd sent home with me, cracked helmet, clothes, etc., and I found a woman's brown corduroy jacket. Clearly, she'd covered me with her coat while waiting for help to arrive, and it had gone with me to the hospital.
This woman was not the person who hit me, but the police report lists no witnesses to the accident, and I believe the officer who took the report arrived on the scene after the paramedics had already loaded me up. In other words, I have no idea who this woman is, or how to get her coat back to her.
In the meantime, it's hanging in my closet as a periodic reminder of this stranger's kindness but also that there doesn't seem to be a way to repay it. I can certainly get in touch with the police department to see if they still have her info, but I have a suspicion that if it's not in the report, the police will have no record of it.
My question in this case is, what do I do with the coat? I've considered donating it to charity, but that seems rude somehow. Wearing it (it's not my size, so that's not really a possibility anyway) feels tacky, selling it obviously unethical. I'm very, very grateful to this woman for stopping to help me out while I was lying unconscious in the street and wish I could thank her for it. However, in the event that I can't, keeping the coat as some sort of "souvenir" feels weird — the accident wasn't all that traumatic, so it's not like I hate being reminded of it, but neither do I see me taking out the coat and telling my grandchildren about this particular momentous occasion in my history (after all, if it's the worst thing that happens in our lives, my husband and I will be really lucky).
So, any thoughts? Should I give it a little more time, advertise that I'm looking for this woman on Craigslist or something and see what happens? Donate it to the Goodwill? Leave it hanging in my closet indefinitely? Or is there something I haven't thought of?
I Think I Told The Paramedics That The President Was "Fuckin' Bush"
Dear I Told Them The Same Thing — And They Didn't Even Ask Me,
Phone up the police precinct and ask if they got a name or any witness information about the woman; it sounds like they didn't, and it could take some time for them to address the request (i.e. you may have to sit on hold, or make the call a few times), but it's worth a try.
Failing that, post everything you just told me on Craigslist in the Missed Connections section and see what turns up.You never know, maybe she or a friend of hers reads TN and she'll surface that way — it happens on occasion.
Re-post the ad a few times to give it some time to penetrate; if you haven't gotten any nibbles after a month, and the cops can't tell you anything, donate the coat to Goodwill.You'll have done everything you can do, and if she cared that much about it, she'd have tracked you down herself.
Dear Sars —
I recently got a Facebook friend request from a guy I went to college with 30+ years ago.He's come through some rough times, apparently, and is reconnecting with several old friends (which I know because he's contacted mutual acquaintances on Facebook).I still feel close to some of those people, though our lives have diverged and we rarely see (or even e-mail) each other these days.His e-mail to me referenced a play we had both been involved in.What bothers me is that I can't decide whether to respond to the e-mail or not.
I've tried ignoring it, but seem to have some unfinished business with him, which is:after the cast party for the play, I helped him transport a passed-out friend to his house, and after the friend was safely ensconced on his couch, he proceeded to rape me — if "not taking no for an answer" is rape — which it is.He was much bigger and stronger, but at no time in the process did I fear for my safety.It just became clear to me that I wasn't going to get out of there until we had sex.I hate drama and will do just about anything to avoid a scene.So after a prolonged wrestling match I bowed to the inevitable…
…and as far as I can recall, we never spoke again.I walked home, and do remember the next day he brought me an earring I'd left at his house, but we never talked about what happened.
And, actually, I didn't experience it as a huge trauma.Never felt the need to seek therapy for it, confront him about it, etc.Also, I have never told anyone about the experience, so that's a bit of a red flag, neh?(And, perhaps this is related, in the sense that if I'd dealt with it then I wouldn't have been so vulnerable later, but I was date-raped five years later, which was traumatic, had long-term repercussions, and for which I did seek therapy — but at this point I don't recall ever discussing the first experience with my therapist.It's kinda like, compared to the second rape, the first was no big deal, and compared to the horrific experiences of some women, even my second rape was nothing to make a fuss about…)
So, yeah, this has brought up my unresolved feelings about, not the rape so much, but my tendency to minimize, to make nice, to shoulder all the responsibility for my own problems because I prefer that to whining that someone else let me down.Perhaps it's time to resume therapy, but I'd really rather spend the money on other things.I'm afraid this is just part of my personality that is not going to change, so what's the point…
But back to the question of my response to the e-mail.I'm not at ease with my decision to ignore it, but I don't know what I do want to do.I do think it's important to make peace, but in an unacknowledged conflict that was over 30+ years ago?This whole issue is reminding me of a Vine I can't seem to find — someone asked about contacting a guy who'd been interested in her and whom she'd blown off, in order to mend fences, feel less guilty about the way she'd acted, etc., but was concerned the ex would interpret the contact as an attempt to re-establish the relationship.Your advice was to let it lie — that the personal payoff of guilt relief wasn't worth the potential pain it could cause the other person.
So it's not quite the same thing; he's contacted me, I don't want to re-establish anything, but I can envision meeting him at some function now that he's socializing in the area, and that would be much more awkward than letting him know via e-mail that yes, I do remember him, but not fondly.By not responding, am I continuing to minimize what was possibly a more traumatic experience than I've previously acknowledged to myself, am I abdicating my responsibility to make sure he's aware that what he did was wrong, or is it a mature choice to leave behind an experience that has nothing to do with my current life?
I Remember What You Did That Summer
I don't see you having a "responsibility" to do anything but what makes you comfortable…but the idea of causing awkwardness with your decision makes you un-comfortable.So I have to ask: awkwardness for whom?If you run into the guy at some future time and you didn't friend him on Facebook, who's it awkward for?
If it's awkward for you, you can handle it; just excuse yourself from whatever small-talk situation it is as soon as you gracefully can, and go speak with someone else.If it's awkward for him, well, he can handle it to, and that's his committee, not yours.It's awkwardness; it never killed anybody and it's over in five minutes.And if he takes from that that you're not interested in being his friend, well, that's the truth of it and you don't owe him any different.
As far as your minimizing the trauma itself…I don't really know what to tell you.Maybe it brought up horrible, ugly feelings that you didn't share in this letter, and yeah, maybe you should have mentioned the assault to your previous therapist, but you seem more irritated than depressed or traumatized, at least to me, and while it's possible that you're in denial about its effect on you, the salient point is that you think "it's important to make peace."Why?You were perfectly happy without this guy in yourlife, knowing anything about him, etc. — why do you have to make peace?
Why would you feel obligated to put this guy at ease even if he hadn't raped you?You don't know him, really.You were perfectly happy not knowing him, or anything about his life.You aren't friends; you never were.It's not up to you to get him through this rough patch with the belief that he's got a friend in you — he doesn't.He's got himself to thank for that.Too bad, so sad.
Not everyone has to be friends, or feel comfortable; it would be nice, but that's not how life goes, and friendships and comfort should not consistently come before your own peace of mind.If what you want from the situation is to not friend him and to not deal with him, then do that; you don't owe him, or anyone else, an explanation.You don't have to make nice to everyone; you don't have to get closure on every event in your life just because popular culture tells you do; you don't have to confront the guy if you've already moved on.For that matter, you don't have to ignore the friend request on my say-so.
My point: chuck out "should."Look at "want."See if there's a middle way between the two things, and if there isn't, don't automatically pick "should."But I'd ignore the friend request, think about maybe taking a couple of counseling sessions or journaling just to check in with yourself, and in a few weeks this will most likely have receded back to the non-issue you considered it before –and if it hasn't, you can deal with it then.
Tags: cats etiquette