Mel and the Sea of Cat Ladies

As a dog person, I wondered why I was face to face with a cat which, according to the ribbons pinned on its ten foot long, state-of-the-art, clear plastic living environment, was an “International Winner” and “Supreme Grand Alter”.

The prestige of its titles and glamour of its home came off as rather comical, since the award-winning competitor was attempting to escape right in front of me. It stared at me hopelessly, begging to be freed, while incessantly swiping and clawing at its plastic enclosure. I could feel its pain, and I wanted to help it in its conquest — but I couldn’t (due to the padlocks on the zipper).

Proud letters identified this breed as a Selkirk Rex (fun fact courtesy of The Ultimate Cat Book: “not taken seriously until 1950”), and below read what first appeared to be the title of a documentary concerning the dramatic tales of Mel Gibson’s career: “Dramatails Lethal Weapon”. It was, in fact, the unfortunate name of the little guy.

Thankfully, Dramatails Lethal Weapon had the wherewithal to fashion a sign below his name relieving the observer of any potentially awkward exchanges and confirming his Mel Gibson fan status: “…but you can just call me ‘Mel’!”

Dramatails — or Mel…I guess — was one of close to a hundred cats on display at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds for the Commencement Cat Club’s 2011 cat show. This year’s theme: the Roaring Twenties, even if the only clear example of this was one cat wearing a red flapper dress, though the intent was questionable.

Even amidst all the razzle-dazzle, my interest waned, causing me to instead peruse the free book exchange which hosted an odd, yet fitting mixture of cat books and erotic fiction (e.g. How to Tame Your Pussy).

Admittedly, the constant competitions, occurring at a rate of dozens per hour, engaged me slightly more than the literature. I sat in a seven person crowd awaiting the judge’s decision on Best of Breed for the Maine Coon, or Coon Man to the purists (Fun Fact courtesy of The Ultimate Cat Book: “Winner of the Madison Square Garden Show of 1895”). Behind the judge, Coon Men were placed in cages to await their turn to be inspected.

The little creatures were a sad sight, trapped and unaware why they were imprisoned. All five “contestants” handled the unfamiliar cages much like shroomers would: either by frantically ripping at the bars or just chilling in the corner, staring into space with wide eyes.

One by one, the judge would remove them and examine them on the table. The cats could not have appeared more unwilling to participate, impatiently waiting for the rub down to end while half-heartedly attempting to launch themselves into salvation off the table’s edge.

This was all too much for me, because in the end, cats aren’t my scene — they just don’t give a fuck. I mean, I probably wouldn’t either if I was relegated to the rather demoralizing role of filling the void in a spinster’s heart by stepping in as a self-cleaning alternative to a husband.

I wanted to love it, but the clear frustration and lack of enthusiasm coming from the subjects made for an awkward show. As one of the few lonely souls not presenting a cat, I was seen as an outsider — a situation not helped by my poorly-timed outbursts of laughter, and being the only person in the 15-45 age group.

But my experience did end with a proper farewell. It was from a woman in a denim jacket featuring a spray-painted tag on the back immortalizing Xanade, the Black Persian in her arms. She stopped her brisk pace for one second to acknowledge me with eye contact (simultaneously with Xanade, naturally), high off a Best of Colour placing, and boasted, “That’s my chunky monkey, winning it all!”

And then off she went, becoming one with a sea of cat-ladies.


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