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Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian (and what it says about relationships)

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Double Down, Dec 11, 2017.

  1. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I think it's the best story I've read -- certainly from a woman's POV -- about the confusion and transactional nature of modern dating. There is so much projection from both characters going on. Instead of talking, they're texting, and it leaves their imaginations to run wild about one another. She wonders if he's going to murder her, he imagines she and her high school boyfriend are back home hooking up (when actually her high school boyfriend thinks he might be trans). His sense of what a woman might want in bed is clearly drawn from porn; she decides at some point she'd rather sleep with him than embarrass him. Instead of just owning up and telling him she's not interested, it's her friend who dashes off a text. I think the genius of the story is that you do feel some sympathy for him throughout the piece; he's probably not a monster, he's just clueless about how to talk to a 20-year-old and she is kind of a flakey narcissist, but hell, that's how a lot of people are at age 20. The best fiction realizes that people are complicated, not sharply drawn characters. You can read his final text as a window into who he really is, or you can (if you try) see it as a sad whimper of frustration. He clearly liked her and was totally confused by the fact that she slept with him, seemed turned on, then ghosted him and ignored him when she saw him in a bar, and the casual nature of texting allowed him to lash out at her in a way he likely would not have done in person.

    There is a lot of backlash in both directions on this piece, which is part of the reason I posted it. There is even a lot of people saying this story is bad because the woman "fat-shamed" the guy, as if that's an actual thing IN FICTION. Fictional characters can be assholes! And 20-year-old women can think that 34-year-old men are fat and hairy FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE.
     
  2. typefitter

    typefitter Well-Known Member

    It sounds as though I probably shouldn't read this story.
     
    Double Down likes this.
  3. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    The author does not want us to sympathize with Robert, which surprised me and makes me question my own reaction to his final text, which seemed to echo yours ("A whimper of frustration"). He had to be humiliated watching the Girl Rescue Squad spring into action to shield her from him at the bar. It was so over the top and, to that point, he had done nothing wrong (though that might be the patriarchy talking and show how clueless I am) and even reacted politely to her break-up text.

    Which of these characters do you feel the most sympathy for, at the end of the story?

    Well, at the end of the story, Robert calls Margot a “whore,” so I hope that most people lose sympathy for him then.
     
  4. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    What's your definition of modern here? We've been texting as a society since about 2000.
     
  5. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    The first time I remember texting was during the 2005 World Series. But back then you had to pay for texts and your phone could only hold a certain number of them.
     
  6. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Personally, I don't think fiction writers should offer up what they think their characters motivations are. I realize part of promoting fiction (a rough way to make a living) is doing interviews and promoting your work and people are going to be naturally curious, but one thing I enjoy about art is that the artist makes it and then the world gets to interpret it in ways perhaps even the artist didn't intend. What I liked about the story is I can sympathize with Robert throughout the piece, even if he is revealed to be an asshole. The writer is saying she hopes people will lose sympathy for him and certainly they should, but she's constructed such a interesting character I think it can be seen both ways. Both characters can be seen as shallow and sympathetic. That's why it speaks to the complexity of modern relationships. It would be a much worse story if Robert turned out to be a psycho. It's much richer because he's most likely a confused boy-man who probably didn't go to college and feels intimidated by Margot, while at the same time she feels physically intimidated by what he could do her (even though he likely won't) and nervous about the idea of embarrassing him by saying "Yeah, I'm really not into you; you didn't live up to whatever idealization I'd created in my head." The power dynamic keeps shifting back and forth, and that's what we're trying to sort out as a society in ways that were different from the past. And technology isn't doing us any favors as we try to navigate it.
     
    sgreenwell likes this.
  7. I tried to read this story last night. I really did.
    And I quickly discovered I did not care about either person or their situation.
     
    OscarMadison likes this.
  8. You are married, right?
    How long have you been married?

    I'm got almost 20 years in. I have less than Zero interest in the confusion and transactional nature of modern dating. If you have been married for even half as long as I have, why would this be so intriguing to you? Just a study in people?
     
  9. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I have never been to Africa, I'm as white as slush, and yet I found Dave Eggers "What is the What" to be a fascinating novel.

    I'm a 39-year-old dad of two daughters, yet I love "A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz, which is about Dominican teens and the history of tyranny on the island.

    I don't think dragons exist and I'm not into incest, but I've read all the A Song of Ice and Fire books by George RR Martin.

    I'm not sure I follow why I'd need my life to adhere closely to fiction to enjoy it, or what it explores.
     
    Donny in his element likes this.
  10. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    I've been married for 12 years and with the same woman for 16-plus years, and I really engaged with the story. I engaged with it because it is a "study in people," for sure. But also because I've been married for 12 years and with the same woman for 16-plus years. I'm interested in how the other half lives, I guess, and this brought it home far more than the 27th Slate essay that is a response to the 11th Salon essay that was, in turn, a response to the 8th Atlantic essay, to paraphrase Alma.
     
  11. Vombatus

    Vombatus Well-Known Member

    I think frisky whiskey is a better name.

    If the kids overhear you call it the other, you might have to explain it.
     
  12. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    You know, it's remarkable how many short stories are centered around a man and a woman in a relationship, or would-be relationship.
     
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