Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
I recently started seeing this dude who I really like and get along with well. The only problem is the other night while I was asleep, he created a “side bed” out of couch cushions and rolled me onto it while I slept so that he could make room for his cat in the real bed. I awoke to them cuddling (and wondering how he pulled it off as I’m a pretty light sleeper). My friends say that's a dealbreaker but he says he has had the cat since cat since he was 12 and I should get over it. I'm thinking of giving an ultimatum: me or the cat. Am I overreacting? Is that okay?
P.S. I am allergic to cats but I don't mind him keeping it or even it sleeping in bed with us. I just would prefer not sleeping on the floor.
Thatz not okay.
First, the obvious question: HOW BIG IS THIS CAT? Is it a Maine Coon? Or perhaps the better question is, how big are you? Are you a teeny, tiny cat-sized person? Something here must not be standard-sized if you and the cat occupy exactly the same amount of space in the bed.
In other news: Hey-ooo, your new boyfriend is crazy!
The problem here is not that this guy loves his cat. The problem is that he is a psychopath and, in this specific instance, his psychopathy has manifested itself in the form of cat love. Maybe tomorrow you will wake up (on the floor) and discover the cat is wearing your birthstone necklace. Maybe next week you will sit down to a candlelit fancy feast, only to discover that the cat is in the corner eating steak off Lenox, while your food has been replaced with a plastic bowl of Fancy Feast™.
“I don’t know how he pulled it off, because I’m a pretty observant eater,” you will tell your friends later. “Gotta love an animal lover!”
You don’t have to bother giving this guy a “me or the cat” ultimatum, because he’s already responded to it. He's chosen the cat. That’s why you’re on the floor.
Normal people love their pets. Normal people sometimes like to curl up with their pets at bedtime. Normal people do not lie nervous and alert in bed next to you waiting for you to fall asleep, creep out of the blankets when they determine you've entered the R.E.M. stage, build a “side bed” (“SIDE BED” ≠ A THING) out of couch cushions on the floor, roll your sleeping body onto it, and then curl up with their pet in your vacated warm spot.
Your friends are correct in saying that this behavior constitutes a dealbreaker. It’s unfortunate that your Prince Charming turned out to be the King of Cats, but you must understand that he has a rich nighttime life (furniture arrangement; sleight of hand mastery; Jellicle Balls, etc.) you will never be a part of.
“Let me into your moonlit world,” you will plead.
“Get over it,” he will hiss, in the language of the cats.
If, for some reason, you are willing to overlook the fact that this guy moved you onto a pile of couch cushions on the floor while you were sleeping (!) so that he could have more free space to cuddle with his cat (!!!):
1) Listen to this song, girlfriend, and VALUE YOURSELF
2) Take comfort in the knowledge that the lifespan of your average domestic cat is 10-14 years, so, if he got his when he was 12, it will probably die soon. (I assume you’re dating an adult rather than a young teen.) However, please understand that you do not want to be around when the cat-obsessed man’s cat dies. In fact, he will probably kill himself (Sorry, babe. I had a suicide pact with my cat. Get over it.), which means you will have spent all that time sleeping on the floor for nothing.
“When we first started dating, Alex would make me sleep on the floor so that he and Mme. Pouce could have the bed to themselves!” is not a cute story that will make everyone laugh at your wedding rehearsal dinner. It’s a story that will make everyone uncomfortable and prompt your bridesmaids to stage an intervention in your hotel room that night.
And you’re allergic to cats! Get out of there.
My job recently hired a new employee who is really great. She genuinely seems sweet, well-meaning and hard working. During her first week at the job, I stopped by her office to say hi. Somehow, we ended up talking about race. I’m African-American and she is Mexican/Irish. Ever since that day, every time I walk into her office, she starts talking about the current state of racial relations in America. I’m a Sociology major and I welcome an open dialogue, but I feel like I can’t have a conversation with her, without it hearkening back to race. I think that just because we had this one conversation, about race relations, she feels extremely comfortable coming to me to gain insight into the “black perspective”. I know that she means well, but it’s getting a little tiresome. I would like to tell her gently that I welcome a dialogue, but that there’s a time and a place for these discussions. I even thought of inviting her to happy hour and discussing it then. Is that okay?
Lots of times when people make new friends under forced conditions (because they work in the same office, or take the same German class, or are waiting to use the same bathroom, haha, awkward), they get trapped on a peculiar carousel where the only place to rest is that topic they struck up on that first day.
At first, having a pre-approved conversation topic is a source of comfort.
This is the person I talk about Nicki Minaj with.
Then it becomes a burden.
I wish I could talk about something other than Nicki Minaj with this person.
Then it becomes a nightmare.
OK, I HAVE NOW EXHAUSTED MY NICKI MINKNOWLEDGE. I DON'T EVEN KNOW HER MUSIC THAT WELL.
You are an angel for planning a happy hour symposium on the subject of Racial Discourse in Post-Racial America. If someone started “talking about the current state of racial relations in America” every time I walked into their office, the first thing I would do is stop walking into their office. Given the heavy conversation topic, I expect the hour will be more sober than happy, even if you both get wasted. But hopefully, after you have exhausted the topic of What We Talk About When We Talk About Race, your friend will discover that she enjoys talking about other things with you too, like cultural signifiers, the Zimmerman verdict, how your hair feels, and if selling things on Etsy is easy or complicated or what.
A little PSA for the well-meaning racial dialogue-ists:
An important thing to remember is that, in addition to being black, many black people also lead rich, full lives. The same is true for other races. (Many Latinos are also virgos. Many white people are vegetarians.)
Just because something is important, doesn’t mean it has to be the only thing you discuss. Not every conversation has to be a speech. Fixating on race is a bad thing, even if you’re doing it because you’re super chill and cool with other races and what does your hair feel like and I think brown skin is beautiful. Sometimes people just want to talk about television. Sometimes they just want to hear the Thirsty Thursday specials at this Applebee's.
I hope you and your work buddy bond fiercely during this time (the happiest hour!), ultimately becoming close enough that you feel you have permission to explore other topics (or say “Haha, I feel like all we talk about is race!” the next time it starts to grate on one of you). I suspect you might already be at that stage, since you are both tripping over yourselves to be thoughtful and nice, but maybe you need to knock back a couple Alabama Slammas before you get there.