Sometimes, my three cats take me right back to my high school days, when there were a) the popular kids, and b) everyone else. Only this time, the cats are the popular kids and I am the kid on the outside wanting in.
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I watch Sparkle, Binga and Boodie hanging out together, a clique I do not belong to. They nap together in sun puddles, usually not touching, but not far from each other either. They’ll give a little forehead lick as they pass by each other in the hallway. They’ll all congregate in the living room, silent but still communicating secrets in a language I am not privy to. I can’t say they are “talking” about me behind my back, mainly because they are right there in front of me. But I worry that if I am part of their odd conversations of eye contact, blinks and ear twitches, that their opinions of me are not flattering. After all, they see every gaffe I make, and my every clumsy attempt to be accepted by them. How can they not be judging me harshly?
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And out of the three of them, Sparkle is the princess. She is like the Homecoming Queen who lets you follow her around as long as you are useful to her, and as long as you don’t do something stupid and embarrassing. You are allowed to adore and admire her, but don’t try to get too close, or she’ll cut you down without a second thought, which in feline terms is ignoring you or giving the Back of Disrespect. One day she’ll agree to be my friend and stand next to me on the chair while I work on the laptop, her front paws stepping on the trackpad and messing up my writing. The next day, she pretends she doesn’t know me at all and if I try to sit next to her on the sofa, she leaves.
In high school, my response to this dynamic was to hang out with the wild rock ‘n’ rollers, where we had our own language and style of dress. I have no such recourse with the feline clique that resides in my house, but I do have one distinct advantage: mealtimes. Because once I bring out the cans of food, suddenly I become the girl with the most cake … or at least the most cat food. I may only have the upper hand for five minutes a couple of times a day, but unlike my teen years, I can relish being the popular girl, however briefly.