The stigma of the "Crazy Cat Lady" is a tired character. Much like that of the Spinster. The connector here is, of course the (knee-shaking, sweat breaking, :insert blood curdling scream here:) Single Woman.
I’m currently reading "Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the 20th Century" by Betsy Israel. This book takes an interesting look at the cultural phenom throughout the ages known as the Single Woman. And how horrid she is! Betsy Israel does a great job of painting the cultural stance on single women and all the evil they inflict on the world for not upholding to social norms. She covers how the view of the Spinster evolves into the Bowery Girl, the Gibson girl, the Shop girl, and so on and so forth. All these different characters the Single Girl has played. Throughout history the general idea is that a single woman is dangerous. She might be a prosititute. She might be a gold digger. She might even be *gasp!* gender bending. Of course my favorite is the one where if she’s single that means no one wants her, therefore she will live a sad, lonely existence and be the embarassment of her family.
The idea that a woman who is single is this tragic figure needs to be put down like a rabid dog. I know so many wonderful women who have accomplished many amazing things, yet they seem to feel like failures because they aren’t married or in a commited relationship. The stigma associated with singlehood I feel even drives some women to lower their expectations, setting themselves up for less than they deserve. "But it’s better than being alone!" some cry. Please. What a cop out. To me, the fact that any woman’s relationship status still "says" something about her in this day and age is insane.
What makes it even more ridiclous is the invention of the cat lady, and how often this term is used to describe a single gal. For example, a woman could be allergic to cats, therefore not owning one, yet if she’s single she probably has been referred to as a crazy cat lady at one point in time. Or, even better, a single girl could own two cats (such as myself) and be wildly busy playing roller derby, or sewing, or doing a number of things that she has an interest in and fulfils her, but because she’s single and owns more than one cat she’s a crazy cat lady (this is starting to get personal…). Yet, I dare to ask what really makes a woman a crazy cat lady? When I first heard the phrase, I pictured a woman who was in her 80′s, widowed with no children (or maybe her children were awful and never bothered to come around), and so to keep her company she began to feed the local strays who then became permanent residents. Yet now, the crazy cat lady no longer needs to be of a certain age, or really have any cats that come around. She only needs a vagina, and the label "SINGLE" stamped on her forehead.
I wonder what our culture will come up with next to describe single women, without considering what they’ve accomplished in their lifetimes or what their favorite hobbies are, or even what plans they have for their lives.
In the meantime, call me a cat lady (at the good ol age of 25). I’ll sleep well at night cuddling with my furry friend, satisfied with the events of the day, checking off accomplishments and dreaming of future ones that will make me all the more fulfilled with my life.