Nothing has the potential to traumatize cats like being left alone, away from unfamiliar other cats, for a few hours in their own homes where they always live.
“My sister-in-law says she is very allergic to cats. She lives six hours away from my mom. My sister and I have cats and bring them with us when we visit our mom. My sister-in-law asked us if we could put the cats behind a gate or upstairswhen she and my brother visit. We believe that our cats are our family members. We refuse to put our cats away just because someone wants us to. Because of this, our sister-in-law stopped visiting.
Now she has a baby and this is the first grandchild in the family. She again asked if we would put the cats away while she visits so my mom can visit with her granddaughter. Again, we have refused to do this because our cats are just as important family members as her baby. We told her that she should drop off the baby with my mom, sister and me and that she can relax at the hotel while we visit.
She has refused to do this, and now just doesn’t visit. She tells my brother to visit whenever he wants, but that she and her baby will stay home. My mom cannot drive to their house, and now my mom has not seen her granddaughter at all. She is very upset. How do we fix this for our mom’s sake, without giving up our principles?
We need help soon because my sister-in-law is pregnant with her second child and we haven’t even met the first one! “
—From “Animal-loving Aunt” via “Ask Amy,” Washington Post, 31 December 2017:
Dear Animal-Loving Aunt,
At the core of your quandary is not only your duty to maintain your cats’ quality of life by constantly displacing them in order to prove their worth against an infant who has neither the emotional nor cognitive ability to give the barest fuck, it’s also to make sure that your cats are treated like family members, which means putting them in little boxes and taking them everywhere you go, just as you would with any sibling or cousin who shits in a tub and considers a mysterious roving red dot their greatest enemy.
Consider the sacrifice your “allergic” sister-in-law (does she make laughable claims about occasionally getting “stuck in traffic” or being “swamped at work”?) is asking you to make. Nothing has the potential to traumatize cats like being left alone, away from unfamiliar other cats, for a few hours in their own homes where they always live while, miles away, an old woman looks at a baby. If your little fluffer-butts found out they had missed out on even one opportunity to spend a few hours inside a car or airplane, they would likely never forgive you. They could turn aloof and self-absorbed — sleeping for 18, 20, even 22 hours of the day. Your relationship with them might never recover.
In suggesting that your sister-in-law travel six hours with a baby in tow and purchase a hotel room and provide a baby delivery-and-drop service to your mother’s house, you have already proposed a reasonable solution that doesn’t require you to go through the onerous process of closing a door to a room with a cat inside. If it’s really so important that your mother meet her grandchildren, surely she can wait until the grandbabies are just about old enough to drive to her house and introduce themselves. Your cats will likely have shuffled off this mortal coil by then, and you can all enjoy each other’s company until a new kitten arrives and takes its rightful place: wherever you want it to be, no matter how much literal or emotional pain it causes anyone else.
“It annoys me when friends say, ‘Let’s get together! Throw out some dates that work for you’ — particularly after they have recently canceled plans. My husband travels for work, and we have two busy, young children. Finding free dates is a bigger task than most people assume. Is there a polite way to say, ‘If you want to get together so bad, you do the scheduling’?”
—From C.Z. via “Social Q’s,” New York Times, 12 October 2017
People who deserve the pleasure of your company should know better than to ask you to simply know which days you are free to get together, as if you’re some kind of psychic timelord with access to uniquely personal information such as your own calendar and capacity for socializing. But having a husband who travels for work is a heavy enough burden to bear, and this in addition to having two busy young children puts you in a uniquely extreme social crunch that most people are not going to be able to comprehend, which is probably why they don’t understand just how annoying it is to be asked when one is available instead of spending hours and perhaps days simply guessing dates at random until a mutually suitable time can be found, as real friends do. If you’re looking for a polite way to tell someone that you wish for them to repeatedly guess which days your husband will be out of town and which days your kids have piano lessons and what time their school starts and stops and which evenings you tend to spend at the gym and which religious services you attend and on what day instead of wasting time asking you directly when you are free, say: “Spend an indefinite and possibly infinite number of exchanges naming random things to do and random times to do them until I agree,please.”
“I threw a birthday party for myself. It was a big birthday for me, and I paid for everyone’s dinner (including wine). This was an expensive affair, and I went all out. Two couples (the wealthier ones, LOL) came without a gift (only a card). Was it presumptuous of me to find this rude?”
— “Miss Manners,” Washington Post, 13 January 2018
Not at all! It is rude indeed to attend a child’s birthday party empty-handed.