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What is it about “Cat Person”?

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Very very nice piece from Prospero. Timely and topical. Congrats!
I read all the embedded links.
I have no idea whether E.B. is a man or a woman. But the last sentence is totally right, IMHO: "...the conversation about sex and power needs to broaden to include the voices of men, too."
If for no other reason, much of what goes on in the material the article and embedded links address is not about which gender is ALL right, and which ALL wrong. There is no such thing as one side is ALL right and the other side is ALL wrong in gender politics. Something goes awry in the communication or fudging of communication on the way to bed. BOTH sides are responsible in this two-way dyad. That is the nature of a dyad.
Personally, I think a girl should NEVER get drunk (even a little bit drunk - there is no such thing as "a little bit pregnant") in a one-on-one with a guy. That act alone is indefensible.
AND, a gentleman will not encourage a girl to get drunk, no matter how horny he is. Why would a gentleman want to have sex with a half-conscious thing? Something is per se wrong with him right there.
When you have both gal and guy breaching that basic rule on a date, no amount of "victim playing", on whichever side, will salvage, or remedy, the mess.


So, she decides to flirt with him; ok, end of story....oh, wait a minute, she then decides to exchange phone nos. and texts; ok, end of story...oh, wait a minute, she then decides to go on a date; ok, end of story...oh, wait a minute, she then decides to get "tipsy", ok, end of story..oh, wait a minute, she then decides to go back to his place; ok, end of story...oh, wait a minute, she then decides to have sex with him...but it's boring, unfulfilling and doesn't live up to her fantasized expectations; so, she regrets the whole experience...conclusion - he was " a much older man who should have known better "...time to file a sexual harassment (assault) claim!...

pkeynufu in reply to KimMason

I find your comment interesting, because of I have been thinking a lot about Victorian values lately.
Courting rituals were baroque and excessive, but on light of recent events, perhaps not entirely pointless.
If you think abou it, this mess we are currently living with might be the results of:
1) a change in values, in which young people revolted against their parents, and old institutions like the church, by demistifying sex and dating, and;
2) the incorporation of women in the workforce.
If in older times, men were taught to reveal their intentions to women, and follow strict courtship rules, but that changed in the sixties, when sex an dating evolved to become spontaneous and uncomplicated. That in itself might have been enough to complicate things.
Now imagine that “let’s see what happens” attitude, with men and women working next to each other in massive numbers for the first time in history, and we have what we have now: men and women interacting each other, and with fuzzy rules in which you often can’t tell if you are at the beginnings of your own “meet cute” moment, or of nasty sexual harassment litigation.
To be honest, dialing the clock a little bit, to give a little more structure to dating might not be a bad idea, and the only way yo get our of this mess.


My reaction to this sad story was along the following lines. My wife has sometimes asked me, if she were to die before me, would I wish to re-marry. This story has confirmed my view that, rather than trying to negotiate the kinds of horrors in this field that the modern world now offers, I would just stay at home with my cat.


As the author of the article points out this is largely the women's moment to address the wrongs they have suffered for a very long time. When things finally settle out, and this may take some time, my question is where do we go from here? How do we reach a new understanding where both women and men are respected and valued? Looking at our media is no help, the stories they tell are at best poor characterizations of the relationship between men and women. In fact they are probably part of the problem in that they set up false expectations.

I think part of the problem is that we lack a way to talk about what we want, we are afraid that truly expressing our desires will 'kill the moment.' The entire dating situation is made up of partially expressed feelings, missed signals, a wariness of letting one's guard down and in too many cases, outright lies. The abuse of women by powerful men points up a problem that the existing system is not working very well. It is time for a reboot, perhaps the current crisis will be the impetus for that.


What is 'unique' now is that Robert could lose his job, his standing and pretty much everything if his female protagonist decided that she misremembered what had occurred or - indeed - if she 'regretted' what had occurred. Such is the sorry state of lobbing nuclear weapons over bad and poor decision-making.


We're not on the earth to be happy we're here to procreate, each of us a little experiment in environment and genetics.

It's women that nurture life, men that evade death.

Stop whining the adventure is over all to soon.


ink it's a great story.

Both characters are stereotypes of what people hate about the opposite sex. Margot strings Robert along with lie after lie; she's attracted to his need and vulnerability; during sex she's shallowly judging him for his hairiness and his paunch and the firmness of his erection, and fantasizing about how fun it'll be to tell her friends how bad he is in bed; afterward she breaks his heart in perhaps the most hurtful way possible, and then engages in false and malicious gossip about him with all her friends. (She's such a perfectly terrible person that I wouldn't have found her believable if the author hadn't told the story from her point of view.)

Robert, meanwhile, is following the pickup-artist's playbook to a tee, targeting a woman much younger than him, negging her, constantly making her feel like she has something to prove; when she goes on a date with him, he repeatedly finds ways to throw her off-balance, as well as deliberately getting her drunk; after she breaks up with him he stalks her, harasses her, and engages in hateful name-calling. (Sadly, I find his own terribleness all-too-believable.)

And yet, both are also victims. It's most obvious during the sex itself. Margot is disgusted, hating herself, regretting it, loathing every minute of it, just waiting for it to end--but doesn't know how to say "no" or "stop". As for Robert, he switched from the pickup-artist script to the porn-movie script, putting on music and trying desperately to "perform", even though presumably he'd get more out of the kind of clumsy, sloppy, funny sex that normal non-porn-star people have--and anyhow, what he actually wants is a serious relationship, which is something the scripts he's following just aren't capable of producing. By the end of the story, she's scared and he's hurt; each blames the other for what went wrong, and neither has learned the lessons they need to keep it from happening again.


To broaden mans voice on such subjects, lets stick to nonfiction. But, ..

Though I find the encounter more seedy than interesting; Breakfast at Tiffany's, Stand by Me, several others started as novellas ...
I wonder if she would have found herself in that situation per-texting? Therein, is a social commentary that one would believe the New Yorker would be exploring; from a rugged US Midwestern middle-aged males voice.


Gonna be that insufferable killjoy who suggests that maybe this is what you get when you treat sex, with all it enormous significance -- biological, chemical, emotional, interpersonal, social -- like some sort of anything-goes community sports league, where the rules are vague, the referees non-existent, the prizes are mediocre at best, and yet somehow the states are enormously high.

ashbird in reply to Tom Meadowcroft

May I comment on one point you made, Ohio?
Assuming I may - :) -
"Independent women above a certain age have lost their optimism with regards to changing men for the better (this is realistic of them, but bad for men)."
Something in the statement is not exactly right, I think.
Ideally, two mature adults understand a relationship is not about one wanting to change the other (doesn't matter which direction - the guy changing the gal or the gal change the guy). Were it not so, a relationship would be a constant battle of who can change who or whom better and faster! That is exhausting if nothing else!! For both!! Not a relationship; more like a game of chess or a game of boxing. Either way, unless both agree it is fun, it ain't no fun. Imagine walking in shoes that don't fit, for miles on end.
If you encounter a woman whose goal in the relationship is to change you, it could perhaps be said she ain't right for you, unless you are into chess and boxing full time.
There is a splendid book about solitude. Anthony Storr is the writer. He stated a convincing case on why solitude is by choice for many (perfectly fitting shoes), and that there is no obligation to society to be paired up in the manner Hollywood prescribes (not a good prescription anyway as those who paired often split) . But of course, in history, there are many wonderful marriages - like Winston and Clementine, John and Abigail. If you study their personality, they'll give a glimpse on why and how their marriages worked. In any case, you are too young to be widowed. Do not give up. But do not give in either. Good luck to your looking.


I haven't read 'Cat Person', but from the synopsis, it seems the protagonist went through a rather normal young-person process of finding out what she likes in life. It's a process that always involves some trial and error.

Mariano Garcia

If I remember well, the point on the story at which Margot decides that she does not want to have sex with Robert is 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." ---
I might be wrong, but from the description I get that she basically does not find him physically attractive. Big, hairy belly awkwardly hanging down. I wonder what she would have thought if he would have had an athlete's torso...

Tom Meadowcroft in reply to Wamboin

I became a widower at 43. I have oscillated between thinking that dating and relationships are worth the effort at my age, and abandoning that hope after disappointments. Staying at home with your cat is certainly the easiest path. I wish I could tell you that making a greater effort is worth it, but sadly I lack evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, to make that point.
Independent women above a certain age have lost their optimism with regards to changing men for the better (this is realistic of them, but bad for men). They have specific requirements -- if you don't meet those, they won't consider you. There's another, larger group, which I would label the dependent women, who need a man for financial, emotional, or psychological stability in their lives. Most of those you want to stay far away from. There are more men available than there are independent women in the market for a man, but fewer men than the dependent women want. This leads to contrasting evaluations of the older dating market: there is either a glut or a shortage of men, depending on which market you are looking at, and your criteria for eligible bachelors.
This is all my perspective. I'm sure there's an A list of eligible bachelors who do just fine with the independent women, and another group of men who are happy to fill the gap that a dependent woman needs filling, or at least pretend to in the search for companionship. But if you can put up with the solitude, and if you don't meet the standards of attractiveness, income, and personal traits that the independent women are after, you're best off spending time with your cat.


A single date where both people acted, imo, normally. It is refreshing to see characters represented as humans and not disney 2d cutouts. The worst part is the 140 character discussion.


As much as I admire The Economist and Prospero's notebook, I think this review is wrong headed. Robert is not faulty for not being clairvoyant; I don't believe Ms. Roupenian expects anyone to be so intuitive (indeed, that level of familiarity between two adults is so uncommon, that's why Margot knows her dream boyfriend will never really exist).

Robert's big problem is that he's thirty-five and still very much a man-child, although most children have more empathy than Robert displays. Neither clairvoyance nor intuition is necessary to know that the condescending the he does to Margot is just rude (consider the way he dismisses her choice of bar, belittles her education, and teases her for snobbishness which we as readers never actually see. The last part is like a Freudian slip: this is a man who is so insecure that he has to put down others around him as preemptive coping mechanism for rejection). Even without considering the way he treats Margot, think about the way he lives. He has a house, with minimal furnishings, and a barren bedroom save a mattress and a laptop. This is the kind of house a thirteen-year old might keep, but eventually grow out of (I won't go into detail, but I think that also explains the sex scene). Let me dwell on the insecure immaturity that I think is much closer to the heart of Robert than anything as quaint as ineptitude. Doesn't the way he clings to this, the way he winds up at the college bar he once scoffed and the torrent of text messages which follow - doesn't it all seem a bit, disproportionate? Excessive, maybe? Methinks the man-child doth protest too much...

Is Margot guilty of letting romantic dreams of what could be get the best of her? Could the whole awkward, then ugly, episode have been avoided if she were more direct? Sure. But one character clearly behaves worse than the other, and I think that's the takeaway.


A hypothesis - the recent elevation of this kind of miserable view of sexuality is a symptom of a deepening neurosis in Western societies, manifesting as a kind of neo-Victorian anti-sex panic.

At this point, I expect the already declining fertility rate (well below replacement) of secular Westerners to fall even further. We have become a society that is so neurotic it can't even be bothered reproducing itself anymore.

guest-aaassnie in reply to ashbird

I am genuinely shocked that the second most recommended comment on this article suggests that it is 'indefensible' for a woman to consume alcohol when alone with a man.

If this argument suggests that it is so unsafe for a woman to be alone with a man after just a glass of wine then surely the immediate action required should be to take urgent measures to combat male aggression and offer greater protections to women rather than just denying women basic liberties.


Acknowledging that we have no view into what "Robert" was thinking, while getting a first person view of everything "Margot" thought and even judged herself by, I was struck by the classic sterotype that men do not have the introspection about conversation and intent that women do. And many of them don't - I didn't start thinking through coversational interactions until I was out of my 20's and married. How obvious our society - fails to teach men these vastly important interpersonal skills, is it such that the outcome of so many unintellegent and disrespectful conversations with men teaches women these required skills? Is it self preservation? A natural inverse consequence?