If you’ve heard the phrase “cat person” mentioned repeatedly this weekend — or noticed that it was a trending topic on Twitter — let me explain. “Cat Person,” the short fiction story in the New Yorker that everyone is talking about, has nothing to do with cats, first off. It might also make you want to lay down for a little while after reading it.
“Cat Person,” written by Kristen Roupenian, is an incredibly disarming, “extreme same” story about online dating and, more specifically, the awkward/bad/unwelcome sex women have in the era of Tinder. Bad sex has, of course, always existed, but Roupenian’s story captures a specific mood and anonymous, detached feeling that so often accompanies these encounters that weave, many times not so seamlessly, between texting banter and IRL interactions.
There’s been A LOT of discussion about the story from different angles: many, many tweets about relatable experiences and also talk about the general merit of the storyline. Bad sex on a Tinder date is unsurprising, yes, but I think this tweet briefly explains why this story is so good, so uncomfortable, and resonates so deeply.
this is such a good story and describes things I have only felt in non-verbal, half-formed thoughts https://t.co/cnUmrXmfuy?amp=1
— sebastian gawker (@libbycwatson) December 9, 2017
The protagonist’s thoughts indeed sum up so many experiences of ambivalence and also expectations of women and sexuality — these experiences and expectations are difficult to fully articulate to others and ourselves. The passage that haunted many of us was this:
Margot sat on the bed while Robert took off his shirt and unbuckled his pants, pulling them down to his ankles before realizing that he was still wearing his shoes and bending over to untie them. Looking at him like that, so awkwardly bent, his belly thick and soft and covered with hair, Margot recoiled. But the thought of what it would take to stop what she had set in motion was overwhelming; it would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon. It wasn’t that she was scared he would try to force her to do something against her will but that insisting that they stop now, after everything she’d done to push this forward, would make her seem spoiled and capricious, as if she’d ordered something at a restaurant and then, once the food arrived, had changed her mind and sent it back.
“It would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon.” If that sentence doesn’t describe the ambivalence toward half the dates we go on in 2017, I don’t know what does. Just FYI, I would recommend reading this piece while you have a few extra minutes to stare off forlornly into the distance afterward.