The Kitten, The Clock

This is an actual kitten, not a puppet. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

 

So I have this kitten puppet.

It’s wonderful. It’s a small-sized hand puppet (as opposed to a large hand puppet or a finger puppet.)

The fur is soft. The paws are perfectly shaped so that when you put the puppet on your hand and make it clap, the gesture is so darling you’ll just die. The kitten’s eyes are shiny; the ears are in the perfect place. I’m a sucker for animal hand puppets in general, but I’m telling you: This is a good one.

How did I come to have this sensational kitten puppet? Well, I bought it. When I lived in the East Village in NYC with Yuri, I passed the toy store on 9th St. and Avenue B and it was in the window display. The moment that kitty caught my eye, I went in and I bought it, partly because I loved her and partly because I was in love and partly because the person I was in love with called me “Kitten.” So this kitten puppet, which cost 13.99 plus tax, represented a lot of things when I lived in New York with Yuri three-ish years back.

Do you remember that? When I lived in New York with Yuri? I do.

In fact, I remember living in New York with Yuri every time I come across this little puppet, which happens from time to time because I don’t know what to do with her. I don’t know where to put her because — and I know this might come as a surprise to many of you — I don’t have a large puppet collection display case where I display my large puppet collection because I don’t have a large puppet collection. I have one kitten puppet. (Okay, okay: I do have a couple other puppets, and of course there’s Pendennis, but I swear I am an adult with a broken dishwasher, not an adult with a large plush toy, puppets, stuffed animal collection … and perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.)

Anyway, I am not a person who holds onto many material things. I’m not a hoarder. I’m a non-hoarder. I’m so much a non-hoarder, I have made mistakes in the past in getting rid of things too soon or without enough thought. (Remind me someday to tell you about throwing letters from my father into the fireplace.) But I’ve held onto this kitten puppet because she’s so adorable and it’s a puppet! And I might not have a puppet collection but I do advise anyone to have a puppet or two on hand for emergencies. But of course I have another reason to hang onto it.

I was Kitten. And he was Yuri. And he is far away and I am far away and that chapter is over. But it was real. And it was real important. It mattered, it changed at least two lives; it was love. Letting go of this puppet is weirdly hard for me. I’ve gotten rid of so much stuff in the past three years: Why not this little cat?

So I need some advice. I’m doing spring/post-school cleaning and I found her again, in a drawer. Before she went into the drawer she had been in a basket. Before the basket, I had her on a shelf. There’s no puppet display case and there’s no way I’m going to stow her away in a shoebox only to find her 10 years from now and have a Proust moment that destroys me completely.

Give her to a child, right? To enjoy? But what about … What about love?

I Am A Cheetah

Lee Meriwether, everyone. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

Let’s out with it: Yuri is younger than I am. Notably younger.

Notably, but maybe not noticeably. I moisturize, I don’t smoke, I hardly drink. I do my best to keep trim. But there’s nothing like dating a younger man to make you moisturize more, continue to not smoke, and pass up the pork belly appetizer and the second glass of wine you would definitely have ordered if you were dating a man who was, say, fifty-six. As opposed to a man (ahem) thirty years that man’s junior.

Do you see what I’m saying? Yuri’s in his twenties. Yes he is.

In the grand tradition of comparing women to cats, I have learned that there is a feline name for me. As a woman in my 30’s dating a man in his 20’s, apparently I am a “cheetah.”

I can’t be a cougar, you see, because cougars are women in their 40’s who date men in their 20’s, and cheetahs are younger than cougars? Anyhow, I’m not a Courtney Cox-starring sitcom pitch yet, but I am dating down, age-wise, so I must be given a moniker. How else could I be effectively marketed to? I’m sorry, my cynicism’s showing. I should stop. Wouldn’t want any fine lines forming when I furrow my brow in that cynical way I do when I think about Proctor & Gamble/Lancome/Big Pharma.

In the years since my divorce, I have done some dating. I have met wonderful, kind, interesting, intelligent men. They are out there. I met a few I didn’t click with, sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re frogs*; we just lived our lives differently and it wasn’t practical to pursue a relationship. Every one of these gentlemen were older than me, sometimes by a notable (there’s that word again) margin. I thought that’s what worked for me and what a gal generally wants: a fellow older than herself. I’m not sure why, but I think for many of us it has to do with security. It’s deep-seated. It’s not easy to explain, but the converse proves the rule: I would never have considered dating a person younger than myself if you had asked. Are you crazy? Younger men are immature! They’re still figuring out everything! They drink non-micro-brewed domestic beer. Ew!

But then…

Enter Yuri, The Younger Man. Exit Hamlet’s Ghost.

There is so much that’s wonderful about dating someone in their twenties, someone who is currently climbing various ladders. Older men have climbed. They’re in the business now of maintaining their perch. But I’m a hustler, so I love the guy scaling the cliff wall. The ambition, the drive of Yuri, this excites me because I recognize it. Every day of my life — and this was true before my illness but has been much stronger since — I am aware that I have a woefully limited time on the planet. I must work hard, must play hard, must go hard as I possibly can because this is a war with death. I can’t wait, can’t stop. And Yuri’s right there. His energy to go matches my energy to go. So we go, then check back at the end of a bone-wearying day, knowing we did wring every last drop of marrow. And we sure do have fun doing it.

There are other benefits. I will spare you any crowing about his physique, though you must pardon me while I fan myself with this here fancy fan on this here fainting couch.

:: fans self, faints ::

Do I fear the semi-significant age gap? From time to time. There have already been a handful of moments when a twenty-something chick plopped down on a barstool near us and I thought, “Ah, she graduated when he did,” or something equally self-defeating. I’ll take a deep breath and have to consciously remember that I have earned every single day of my life and am rather proud of the sum, thank you. In a way, these moments are good. I’m reminded that, as cute as that girl may be, I do not want to trade places with her. At all. I’m stoked that I’m a) still alive and b) wearing cuter shoes. The second isn’t so petty: when you work really hard for many years and can buy the shoes that make your heart sing, this transcends catty Girl Zone stuff and becomes more about loving oneself and setting an example. When I was in my mid-twenties, I totally wanted to be able to afford better shoes. Now I can, and that came from working hard. No shame in this, no competition. Just achievement, and all girls can claim it if they like.

I miss you, Yuri. I hope it’s okay I told everyone you’re younger than me.

 

*Men get amphibians, women get cats. I don’t make the rules, but I am happy with the arrangement.