Ever notice that everyone thinks of himself as an iconoclast?
Show me someone who proudly says “I’m a mid-mainstream man!”, and I’ll show you a Waffle House serving artisanal vegan cheese.
Everyone likes to think he’s a little bit of a renegade or an oddball or a pioneer. If this weren’t the case, there wouldn’t be top-40 songs congratulating us on being rebels, sponsored by Pepsi.
And think about it; even the folks who are about as counter-culture as Mario Lopez flaunt their prosaic preferences with a twinkle in their eyes. There’s a sort of counter-revolution in liking the things we’re supposed to be too cool to like. “Why, yes, I do watch Dancing With The Stars while eating full-fat Fritos. No, I ain’t got time for your fancy Bai water and small-batch falafel.”
Iconoclasts all. We are so conscious of not wanting to be so common.
All except, of course, cats, and their heroes.
So all the preppy cats were letting us pet them and kiss them and sing them songs? Tesseract and her oversized tots would do the feline equivalent of wearing safety pins all over their jeans and T-shirts scrawled with WRONG IT ALL.
Rebels. Iconoclasts. Stuck on standing out.
Until they sampled the sweetness of angels standing by.
Contrary to human convention, the T-cats were not trying to be unconventional. They were not trying to prove their neverending specialness. Frankly, I don’t think they were trying to be anything other than alive. But, good heavens, would they fight us to the death staying alive.
Take Tensor. The toughest T-tot, this steely-eyed Southerner seemed immune to all our powers. He was no more meltable than a hardened hunk of quartz. Late at night, Tensor and terrified sister Torus would whisper back and forth:
“If love of money is the root of all evil, what’s the square root of all evil?”
“HUMAN BEANS IS.”
With his hisses and spits and miscellaneous fits, Tensor seemed to have chosen the road of coolness — nay, ice coldness. He felt no warmth from us, and God help him if he’d show any in return. Tensor was the top renegade.
Until quartz became Velveeta.
Until steel became syrup.
Uncalculating uncoolness from the world’s warmest humans.
The Tabby’s Place volunteers, ranging in age from approximately 12 to 90 (no exaggeration on either end), are not so concerned with being cool, least of all when it comes to cats.
It takes strength of spirit and immunity to iconoclasm to pretzel yourself around a cat tree that’s wobbling with worried black-and-white cats, blinking into terrified eyes and crooning promises of love at creatures that kinda sorta think they definitely hate you.
It takes irrational courage and irrepressible love to pet a beastie whose eyes say “I WISH YOU ULTIMATE HARM”, but whose heart says — and you know, ’cause you’ve leaned in to hear it — “I WISH YOU WOULD SEE ME AS I AM AND KEEP LOOKING ANYWAY.”
It takes a certain kind of foolishness — the kind shared by saints and children and Tabby’s Place volunteers — to make a jester of yourself proving your love to leery little white-and-black cats…over, and over, and over again, regardless of results, in saecula saeculorum.
And just when you think Tensor and his tribe have taken all that you have to give, your sweetness sinks in.
All your bumbling, mumbling love, all the days you spent laying on the floor with your shirt riding up so everyone in the lobby saw the top of your funny underwear, all the kooky things you crooned with no shame, have become a drill. The frozen sea inside Tensor cracks, then shatters.
You are petting the cat who’d given up on being petted.
Soon, people are calling Tensor — Tensor!! — all kinds of uncool things like “love bug” and “sweetie boy” and “mooshka smooshka.” The next thing you know, Tensor’s mama Tesseract, she who was known as The Worst Of The T’s, is fitting into your affections like a sorority girl in Red Vines. Torus is baring her belly and her soul for snuggling. Tagalog is tagging along wherever you wander in her suite. Tex has turned into one of the first cats we show potential adopters, because he’s Just That Friendly.
It’s all so uncool.
It’s all so warm.
It’s all the T-truth. And it’s happening to five cats who gave you no inkling of their sweetness, until you shattered your self-importance.
Maybe that’s the edgiest, most iconoclastic choice anyway.
Not that you care.
Not that cats care.
When the choice is warm vs. cool, go on and melt yourself down to love.
Cats choose syrup over steel any day.