You do not have to like the same things that “everyone” likes: avocado (tastes like phlegm), Method cleaning products (45 subtle variations of Motel Bathroom Scent), games in which balls are hurled, hooped, or walloped (professional backgammon, anyone?).
You do not have to hate the same things that “everyone” hates: candy corn (tiny sunrise triangles of pure brilliance), January (did you never see a month so cozy-conducive?), getting old.
Let the record clearly state, without needing to clear its throat, that LYNETTE. DOES. NOT. HATE. GETTING. OLD.
More precisely, Lynette does not hate anything.
If most of us are born with a touchy “disgust” button, Lynette arrived from the factory incomplete. We went through the box three times; we looked under the instruction manual; there is simply no sign of the thing.
That’s not all that was missing. Lynette came devoid of Dissatisfaction, that big blocky bit that blinks and boops and makes boisterous noises in most creatures’ central processing units.
And if that’s not bad enough, there was a gaping hole where Crankpottery should be — not even a sliver or a shard to be seen.
As you can imagine, all of this leaves Lynette ill-equipped for normal animal behavior. She is unable to pout. She is an abject failure at blowing shiny bubbles of self-pity. She is incapable of looking her life in the eyes and saying, “you lied.”
This is the most exquisite Special Need in all of Tabby’s Place.
I’ve signed you and me and all our best and worst friends up for her masterclass.
But before you assume her life has been blue skies over bright blossoms all the way, note well: Lynette came through the usual clouds. You do not reach 17 years of age without aching, and you do not reach Tabby’s Place without having been hopelessed.
To be hopelessed is to be hogtied, hurled out of the sky, tracked like a scrawny red fox by the scariest hunter on earth: Unwanted.
Unwanted lurches about on spiked skis, stabbing at the snow.
Unwanted insists you are too different, too difficult, too devoted to the wrong things to be welcomed in from the cold.
Unwanted shoves you in the icebox, or the crowded shelter, or the empty apartment, or the euthanasia list.
Unwanted freezes you out.
Unwanted could leave you colorless and shivering, lonely or worse.
And if you survive Unwanted, you’re wont to wrap yourself in a cloak of Careful for the rest of your days. You’ll scare easily; you’ll share cautiously; you’ll resent widely and present yourself only partially. You’ll like less and disdain more.
Everyone will hear you coming, as you clank your sack of crankpottery with every tortured step.
Unless, of course, you are a cat with an incomplete set of resentments, and a complete commitment to life.
Like every Tabby’s Place cat, Lynette was Unwanted’s prey. Despite being the equivalent age of Jane Fonda, and twice as glamour-grandmotherly, Lynette was granted no elegant script.
In a scrambled-egg story unfit for even The Roku Channel, she was passed from person to person to gas station (I am not making this up) to nobody. Diabetes drummed on her door, and Animal Control drummed on ours, and we’ve been trying to summon a sequel worthy of Lynette ever since.
A surlier senior would have all kinds of questions at this point. What might have been? Perhaps if Lynette had been a sleek Siamese, or the picture of health, or just a little bit younger, or just a little bit different, she would have been safer.
Perhaps Lynette’s ship had come and gone and she’d missed the boarding call, too busy doing her own foxy thing. Perhaps it was too late, and Lynette was too old, and besides, there’s an expiration date on being enchanting, and we all need to surrender to the clanking crank of time and take our place on the shelf between the stale candy corn and the used copy of How To Be Your Own Best Friend, right?
Not if we’re a red fox disguised as a tortoiseshell cat.
Resignation was another piece missing from her box. But in its place was a whole line of self-published books with titles like My Little Golden Ode To Old and Want Yourself First and — this one went viral on Audible, as read by Jeff Goldblum — How To Love Everything, You Sweet Foxy Thing.
I want a signed copy of each volume.
While you and I are whining about the loss of volume in our hair, making lists of all the people who are wrong, and shaking our shards at everything that rubs us the wrong way, Lynette is rubbing life with her full, fire-bright force.
Lynette is rubbing her essence over everything, eager to shed the perfume of a flower that’s been stomped but survived. Lynette is making rubbings of everything from my aging face to Shifty’s unsuspecting tuckus, eager to make memories of this era in her sensational, unrepeatable life.
Lynette is rubbing spices and secrets into old age itself, determined to make it so delicious, that cautious creatures will come to the table against their “better” judgment.
Lynette is rubbing the ice and the grit and the broken crankpottery off every surface she surveys, starting with the flatlines and flatlands of anyone who’s ever been Unwanted, which should cover all of us.
Lynette is wanting everything, hating nothing, freeing captives of “everyone” until they can almost hear the voice that lives under their ribs, under the rules, under the radar of Unwanted.
Lynette wants to make this world cozy-conducive to every living creature.
Lynette wants to disassemble our disgust-buttons.
Lynette wants to make the most of her limited time (we are all limited editions) by not wasting time on wrinkling her nose.
In the final session of Lynette’s masterclass, if we’re brave enough, we will all don our safety goggles, step into our snowshoes, and shatter all the crankpottery, until the pieces are small enough to make a mosaic.
Or a disco ball. Or a giant portrait of Weird Al. Lynette likes either option.
Lynette likes everything.
Even “We Built This City.” Even high-waisted jeans. Even Republicans. Even Democrats. Even Necco wafers. Even Jar-Jar Binks.
Even you and me at our feariest and weariest and wrinkliest and worst.
It’s almost enough to make you love the next decade or five in advance.
And once we learn to love age, maybe we can work on avocado.