What it's like to date in this modern era?
In the past days, Twitter users got obsessed over a short story published in The New Yorker. Everybody was talking about it and how good or relatable they found it. With that organic publicity, I just had to see it for myself. So before jumping into the text itself, let me tell you some of the common comments people would make about the story. Some would be fascinated by the uncanny resemblance between the short story and real life. Others felt such a deep connection with the protagonist that they wondered whether they were the author's main inspiration. Yet, as it often happens on social media, there were some detractors, claiming that the story was lame and pestering others about how stupid they were if they really experienced something like that. Oh, bless the Internet! So what’s the story about and why all the fuzz?
“Cat Person,” written by Kristen Roupenian, tells the story of Margot, a college student who meets Robert, a man fourteen years older than her, while she’s working at a movie theater. They exchange phone numbers and, for some months they text every day and everything seems to be fine. One day they finally go on a date that ends up being the most awkward thing ever, and she agrees to spend the night with him. Long story short (actually, it isn’t that long and you can read it easily on a short break you have), at some point after the date, things get creepier, to the point that this guy ends up showing his real fuckboy nature, or at least Margot finally sees it, since it’s been hinted from the beginning.
As you can see the story got so popular because of how relatable it is. Most likely because most of us have dealt at least once in our life with fuckboys. Margot represents a wide fraction of the population, and yes, the story is extremely relatable, but almost all the comments center on that particular feature of the story. Even when it’s short and quite straightforward, it has many other things we should be discussing.
To start with, I saw many comments on how after the terrible date and sex experience, Margot toyed with the idea of ghosting Robert, and as you can imagine, some of the comments both by female and male users weren’t that appropriate. The thing is that the narrative is so well-constructed that even when we have a third person narrator, we’re always seeing everything from Margot’s perspective. Just like her, we’re getting to know Robert, and we have the same amount of information about him as she does. Basically we’re experiencing everything with her. At some point she starts questioning this guy’s emotions or thoughts, so when she feels bad about not answering to him and even assuring herself that he didn’t do anything wrong, we may feel the same as her, which has given some readers the idea that she’s acting like an asshole and that the guy didn’t deserve that treatment.
However, from the beginning the guy isn’t the most considerate person, and he’s constantly giving her mixed signals. Yes, at some point he opens up to confess how scared he was about falling for her and all that crap we all know by heart. But if you pay close attention to the way he speaks to her or how he treats her, he’s just a big douche. Let’s go to the beginning. They meet while she’s attending the concession stand at the movies and makes a joke, just as she would with any other customer. He just looks at her in an annoying way and leaves. The second time he goes to the counter, he asks for the same snack and makes a comment on her and goes to watch the movie. When he goes out, he goes back to the counter and with the most demanding and lame tone he says, “Concession-stand girl, give me your phone number,” which she does, and their creepy flirtatious story begins. Do you see the problem with that?
So, if this was the first approach, you can imagine what type of character he is, and even though in the following months their relationship is purely based on joking through texts, there are other red flags about what type of person this guy is. Margot gets into his messages and even misses them when, after a holiday break, she tells him that she’s been talking to her parents about him, so he suddenly starts distancing himself. Remember that we’re following her perspective all the time, so we feel that maybe she was too blunt and he just got scared. Later on, he justifies himself by saying he was afraid she would see her former boyfriend and rekindle the love, which is all crap if you ask me. The thing is that even after that weird situation, she agrees on going on a date with the guy.
As I’ve already mentioned, the date is the worst thing ever. Seriously you’ll be cringing while you read it. He barely speaks and shows no interest at all. As the date progresses, she starts wondering what might be wrong. His distant attitude makes her feel bad about herself, since she wonders whether he’s lost interest. After having some beers at a bar, and when things seem to be getting better, she starts insinuating into him that she wants to go to his place and have sex. First, he says that she’s drunk and that he’s taking her home, but after more insistence, he ends up agreeing, and they go to his place.
Just when things are heating up, she starts regretting her decision. Her desire vanishes, and she even feels revolted when she sees him lusting over her. She starts thinking on how to get away from this, since she no longer wants to do it, but then she remembers she was the one who started everything and decides that she has to end things, hoping it all happens as fast and the least uncomfortable as possible. Now, as Eleanor Blaser mentions in her article for Bust, this is one of the most relatable things in the story, which is unbelievably sad and worrying. This draws some serious and important questions about consent, and that’s what we should really get from the story, not how relatable it is to date fuckboys. In no way it should be embarrassing, and neither should we agree to do something we don’t want, even if we asked for it. Most importantly, we shouldn’t feel ashamed or bad for changing our minds.
Here’s the story so you can make your own opinion on it: “Cat Person”
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Images by @marcellalaine
Cover photo by @cactusandcoastphotography