Ghlaghghee (and Me) in the New York Times
Because it was apparently a slow news week, with nothing else of note to write about, the New York Times asked itself the following question: “are we at a place in history where a straight single man is allowed to own a cat and not have his sexuality questioned?” Because if decades of Hollywood films have taught us anything, it’s that the only men allowed to have cats are the token gay male friends of spunky female protagonists. And Hollywood never lies or stereotypes — it’s a hotbed of liberal thought, after all — so for a straight single male to own a cat, well, see. That’s just weird.
So naturally I had to be contacted for the story, because I am famous on Teh Intarnets for owning a cat (and for taping bacon to it). And, while not actually famous for the following, I’m also known to have at least the outward trappings of heterosexuality, which is good enough for the Times (I was not asked to actively verify my straightness, which probably would have been difficult during a phone interview in any event). Since it was ostensibly a story on single men, I did feel obliged to note that I was in fact married, but since I confirmed to the reporter that I did own a cat before I got married (the late, lamented Rex), she let that one slide.
So here’s a rather silly article on straight, single men and cats, in which I am quoted and Ghlaghghee is mentioned. I’ll note to you that the New York Times actually sent a photographer out to the house, who took pictures of me and Ghlaghghee (and also of me and Zeus), but apparently we did not make the photographic cut, at least for the online version of the article. Maybe we’re in the print version. I can’t say.
Now, to be fair to Abby Ellin, the New York Times reporter who contacted me about the story, she was aware this story was, well, fluffy, which prompted the following exchange:
Abby Ellin: You know, this isn’t Watergate or anything.
Me: Nonsense. You’re about to blow this whole “straight single men with cats” thing wide open. I smell Pulitzer.
Abby Ellin: That’s not a Pulitzer you smell, it’s a cat box.
Ms. Ellin was a lot of fun to talk to. We talked for about twenty minutes about cats and men, which got boiled down to a couple of quotes because that’s the nature of a feature article with several sources. So the readers of the article miss me talking at length about the phenomenon of symbolism as it applies to repressed groups, and how these symbols lose their power the more members of a group are allowed to participate in the mainstream public social discourse, and so on and blah blah blah; I suppose the fact I just went “blah blah blah” may be why it’s not in the actual article.
But, look: these days, the way you know a man is gay is not that he owns a cat, it’s that he introduces the man standing next to him as his husband. When you have that option available, prognosticating sexuality via choice of pet seems a bit silly. Straight men have always owned cats because cat owning is not indicative of sexuality; it’s indicative of liking cats. Straight men have always owned small dogs, too, while we’re at it. My grandfather owned a pug. If you were to have questioned his sexuality, he probably would have popped you in the nose. Hey, he was an Italian man of a certain age at a certain time. What are you going to do.
As I went in knowing the subject of the article was silly, I can’t complain about the inherent fluffiness of the piece, and I think it’s a fun piece as these things go. The only thing I would note is I think the way my section of the article is put together could suggest that I inherently equate heterosexuality with “strong men” and homosexuality with shrieking ninnies. Since I know at least one gay man who is an ex-Navy SEAL, and several others who could kick my flabby ass up and down the street all the merry day long, allow me to suggest this is not a stereotype I go in for personally, merely one I know is out there and am commenting on therein. Thank you in advance for accepting this clarification, gay men of my acquaintance. Please don’t kick my ass.