New yorker article on dating
Short stories are read comparatively less often than book-length fiction, which suggests that many of the readers who commented publicly on “Cat Person” weren’t people who read lots of short stories.Yet they were discussing “Cat Person” as though it were the only story in the world capable of granting subjectivity to young women. just as some of the Rupi Kaur takes revealed that those were the only poems that person read all year (in years?
The trivializing of women’s stories also plays into one of the persistent oddities surrounding “Cat Person”; namely, the frequency with which readers have called it an “article” or an “essay” or generally treated it as a piece of nonfiction rather than as a short story.This past weekend, the biggest story on social media was not about a powerful man who had sexually assaulted someone, or something the president said on Twitter.Charmingly, as if we were all at a Paris salon in the 1920s, everyone had an opinion about a short story.“The point at which she receives unequivocal evidence about the kind of person he is is the point at which the story ends.” As the story began to go viral, a series of narratives began to emerge around it: It was a good story.No, it was a bad story, and people who thought it was good had not read enough short stories.Specifically, the story “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian, which appeared in the New Yorker.
The story centers on a 20-year-old college student named Margot who gradually falls into flirtation with a man named Robert.
A story like John Updike’s “A&P,” in which a man watches women and thinks about how hot they are, is a literary classic that is regularly taught in high schools.
The literary canon’s attempts to delve into women’s heads, meanwhile, tend to look like C. Lewis’s “Shoddy Lands,” in which a woman’s mental landscape is devoted entirely to her own grotesque body, and the absence of the male gaze in her head is a moral affront.
Where “Cat Person” is acclaimed, it’s mostly for the eerie accuracy in depicting what dating is like for a 20-year-old woman.
It captures the interiority of a certain kind of (middle-class, thin, white) woman perfectly: the guessing at what might possibly be going on in a man’s head, the slow piling-up of red flags that cannot quite be named and as such are dismissed, the desperate need to be considered polite and nice at all costs.
As Margot and Robert’s relationship develops, and the balance of power between them shifts back and forth, she cycles rapidly between imagining Robert as an adorable naif who is overwhelmed by her young beauty and sophistication, and imagining him as a vicious and murderous brute.