On this blog, we regularly discuss ways in which we aspire to be more like the cats. They are our swamis, our sherpas, our saints and our scholars.
Except when they most decidedly are not.
Case in point: refusing to take the bait.
Whether you are a cat, a bluefin tuna, or a beautiful human being, I would advise against taking the bait.
Actually, my wish for you is that you should never even glimpse the seductive glitter of the bait. Unfortunately, if you are old enough to read these words, you know the bait all too well.
But no one knows, nibbles, and noshes upon the bait better than a Tabby’s Place cat.
When Nyla stares hate-lasers through Oscar, through the wall, and westward through Pennsylvania all the way to Ohio, Oscar takes the bait (which is to say, makes a magnificent poop; pounces with atomic force; and then shouts “I LOVE OHIO WHAT DID OHIO EVER TO DO YOU?”).
When Shaggy crows his own personal lyrics to “Boombastic” and “It Wasn’t Me” whilst frolicking like a sugar-powdered toddler, Merriweather takes the bait (which is to say, growls and scowls and gathers all the foul words she’s ever heard in one long howl of “IT WAS, IN FACT, YOU, MR. BUFFOONTASTIC, AND NOW I SHALL SING THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE ME-PUBLIC.”).
When Olive starts skulldugging around Anka’s pen, singing “I’m out here and you’re in there” to the tune of “Oops! I Did It Again,” Anka takes the bait (which is to say, “I SHALL HEREBY BRITNEY SPEAR YOU ON THE SHARP END OF MY WRATH!”).
When Pearl perches her prettiness atop the tower, perhaps (I can neither confirm nor deny), whispering “oyster…oyster…oyster” to each non-Pearl feline that passes below, Jeannie takes the bait (which is to say, swings the full mallet of herself Pearlward whilst shouting, “FAUX PEARL, REAL RAGE!”).
When any cat, name a cat, whether that cat should live in Ringoes or Rancho Cucamonga, should partake of oxygen, Frankie takes the bait (which is to say, presses down all of his personal murder-buttons until they are permanently stuck, which also freezes the TV on reruns of Who’s The Boss).
When Elliot rolls in precisely that angle, they take the bait.
When Nemo‘s eyes fill with precisely that shade of savagery, they take the bait.
And we, poor feckless fishies, are precisely the same. We know the bait. The bait is a regular part of our diet. And I can taste it as I type these words.
Like Aunt Liboria’s mayonnaise pie, like a friend request from the guy who called you “Beanpole” 22 years ago, like a free estimate for gutter helmets, you will be offered the bait.
But, like a cold, molded mustard sandwich, like free backstage passes to a Billy Ray Cyrus concert, like a warranty for your purchase of new scrunchies, you do not need to take it.
You just need to recognize it…and choose to be vigorously un-catlike. I repeat: do not emulate cats in this rare but important case.
When your friend across the aisle responds to your comment about yogurt with, “well, you know how I feel about Communism,” you are being offered the bait.
When your step-uncle-in-law says, “you’re really into anchovies/tattoos/Weird Al, huh?”, you are being offered the bait.
When your sophisticated classmate guffaws, “you can’t really prefer Con Air to Casablanca, can you?”, you are being offered the bait.
When your neighbor asks, “what is it with you people and stray cats/the environment/Ritz crackers/sweater vests?”, you are being offered the bait.
Any time any human uses the phrases “you people,” “those people,” or “some people,” you are being offered the bait.
When your cat rolls onto her back and offers you both her puff-pastry belly and her favorite 21 switchblades, you are being offered the bait.
But cats rush in where angels — and maybe you and me, maybe at least a sliver of the time — choose not to tread.
Behold the bait. Sniff it, even. (It usually smells like second-day egg salad.)
Then plunge back into the peace-pool, do a flip turn, and be on your way.
Preferably, on your way to an island beyond bait. Maybe even a landlocked state like Ohio.
Nah, this is New Jersey, and we’re…well, we’re us.
You and I and Frankie and Anka and the whole lot of them know: we’re still in process, peckish little fishers that we are. We’re bound to bait and bite and bat at each other like so many wand toys.
But our hearts are in the right place, even when our heads and egos are speedboating across the sea.
So let’s play nice, sailors. Let’s do our best not to make the saints and angels stick their heads in the sand too many times a day. There’s room for plenty of pearls in this ocean.
And when in doubt, don’t bring up politics or pizza toppings.