I abide the natural laws of children and animals, always have. Playtime is more important than work, treats are worth whining for, and affection should be given without abandon. This all makes perfect sense. So when a toddler or pet has an adverse reaction to a person, I don't wait to figure out why. I follow their lead and shun the individual immediately.
That is, until the person who should be shunned is me. More specifically, the naked me. I'm not exactly sure how to describe the very specific kind of humiliation one feels when their own pet goes into full-blown attack mode once they see their owner denuded for the first time. The phrase "scarred for life" comes to mind--in this case, literally and figuratively.
I was in the bathroom, preparing to take a shower, when I heard a deep growling sound coming from the corner. It was my cat. At first I thought I had merely startled her. Being the 14-year-old she is, Squeege the calico finds alarm in many forms: a crumpled paper, a late-night cough, my husband's dancing (that one alarms me as well). But as I continued to disrobe, and her growls got louder, I began to mentally connect the two actions. I put one sock back on, which officially confirmed my suspicion that the sight of my body was upsetting my cat. She stopped growling, and the hair on her neck went back down. So here I was, naked except for my left sock, and my cat was positioned the way she would be if I were a mouse-shaped squeak toy. I stood frozen, knowing that once I moved, she would pounce.
"Hi, kitty, kitty," I sang quietly, hoping to calm her nerves. Her tail continued to wave violently, left to right. "Sweet kitty?" I asked tentatively, breathing a little faster. She didn't blink. "You're hurting Mommy's feelings," I scolded. And that was the last straw for Miss Judgmental. In one move, she sank her back claws into my leg and began doing her best impression of the back stroke. Now I was naked, hurt, and bleeding. I've never felt less attractive in my life. And that's including School Picture Day, 1988, when I had the tri-fecta presentation of braces, glasses and naturally curly hair with only White Rain mousse available as a styling aid.
I somehow ripped her off my leg and managed to put a safe distance between us by tossing her across the bathroom. Next, in what must have appeared to be a choreographed move from the "Beat It" music video, we circled each other, and she swiped at the air as I dodged her advances. If there's a position more vulnerable than naked in front of a growling cat, it is crouching and naked across from a hissing one. I threw the remaining sock at her for distraction and literally jumped into the shower. I had to turn the water on straight away in order to fend off a second attack, so of course it was the temperature of a snowbank. When the neighbors inquired as to what all the screaming was about, I told them the story of The World's Biggest Spider. They seemed to buy it.
Now, whenever Squeege sees me heading towards the bathroom, she covers her face with her paws. Oh, sure, it looks cute to anyone else--she pretends she's asleep, or cleaning her face. But I know what's really happening. I am being judged. By my cat. An animal who shows her private parts with the same frequency that you might look at your cell phone in a day.
How wrong is that?