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Off the beat: The Cat Fancy conundrum

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AUGUST 23, 2012

I’m going to make this about myself for a hot minute if that’s alright. This is what columns are for anyhow — deluding oneself that you’re significant enough to publish many sentences that begin with the word “I.”

So, here I go. I’ve been watching a lot of those “Oscar Roundtables” on the YouTube. I do this when I have other work to do and/or if I’ve eaten all the bread in my apartment (which is often). During these discussions, a typically pot-bellied “entertainment reporter” a.k.a. “walking douchebag” will pose questions to high-profile actors in the hope of sparking a fruitful dialogue.

This is not what usually happens. I’ve been one of those “walking douchebags” — with a lower level of douchebaggery, though ­— for over two years now, and I know these reporters probably don’t care all that much about George Clooney’s housing situation. Point is, during one of these inane circle jerks, the topic of defining moments arose. Daniel Day-Lewis was poetic, Ellen Page was modest and James McAvoy was charming. They all had these brilliant breakthroughs.

But, where is my defining moment, dammit? Where is my cinematic epiphany? What was I wearing during it? Did my butt look fat? These are important questions and I think I’ve found the answer.

Last week, I looked up how much it would cost for an annual subscription to Cat Fancy. You know, the cat lover’s periodical that slowly eats away at your very few remaining shreds of dignity? Yeah, that one. I don’t know what compelled me to look this information up. Again, there was probably a bread deficiency. It’s an utterly ludicrous magazine staffed by somebody who actually calls themselves a “pet lifestyle expert.” Sweet Gandhi’s tits, this must be my defining moment because I don’t even like cats all that much.

I’m 22 and this is precisely my plight. It’s an in-between age like 13 or eight weeks in utero when you’re a zygote and hormones be playin’ tricks with ya. Will I be a boy? A girl? Success? Failure? Man, zygotes have it rough. I, however, don’t. There have been films, poems, novels, terrible, awful, really just stab-me-with-a-coke-can-turned-shiv bad songs about this transitional phase. Noah Baumbach’s wonderful film, “Kicking and Screaming” is about this, as is Lena Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture.”

In these movies, upper middle-class kids kick back in a post-college malaise, struggling with issues of “Oh gosh, I guess I should get a job.” or “Mom! Go to the store because we only have that shit pumpernickel bread Dad likes. Ew.” It’s not exactly empathy-evoking and my situation does not differ.

For, as of this week, I’ve been promoted to graduate student status, which is hardly unemployment. However, it is strange for exactly four reasons. One: Some of my graduate student instructors from my undergrad days will now be my “cohorts” (the history department really loves this word for some reason). Two: I think I’m legally obligated to buy a lifetime supply of corduroy slacks as per the grad student uniform regulations. Three: I will eventually have to lead a discussion section instead of interrupting them with distasteful penis jokes. And, four: Given that last part, I’m pretty sure I’m nowhere near the maturity level required for teaching.

I remember my GSIs from all those years ago (in actuality, only two). They were so calm, collected and what I believe the kids call “with it.” I bet they changed their Brita filters on time. I’m certain they never spent $10 to see “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” even though it’s a movie for eight-year-olds and not made for 21-year-old girls named Jessica. And, I’m hand-on-my-deformed-heart sure they do not subscribe to the Barbie Collector catalog. Cat Fancy, though, may be a contender. It is, after all, the Bible of the middle-aged, be-sweatpanted woman. Maybe I am an adult.

In a desperate fix for some free grilled cheese, I ventured into Caltopia. Boy, what a happenin’ place. The music was bumpin’. Everyone was cutting the “g” off their suffixes and not givin’ a fuck. These were youths and I was one of them.

But who was I kidding? No, I wasn’t. I’m not. Part of the maturation process is knowing yourself and your own shortcomings. And I’m pretty short (almost Hobbit height some would say), so I must know a lot. For one, the concept of “adulthood” as some kind of dull, pleated-pants-wearing prison is stupid. So, what’s the answer to this Cat Fancy quandary?

To quote Britney Spears, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.” Britney’s right — she’s a classy lady. “All I need is time.”

Contact Jessica Pena at 


AUGUST 23, 2012