Thousands of women are bonding over a piece of short fiction that they say perfectly captures the uncomfortable encounters so many of them have faced.
In its December 11 issue, the New Yorker published a short story called Cat Person by writer Kristen Roupenian, which documents the meeting and short-lived relationship of a 20-year-old woman with an older man.
Since the piece debuted, women have been sharing it with friends and analyzing it on social media, sharing amazement with how relatable they find the main character’s story.
Ladies love a good read: Women are going wild for a short story published in the latest issue of the New Yorker
Common thread: Thousands of women are amazed at how relatable the piece is and how well it captures their own feelings and experiences
Fiction frenzy: The story is called Cat Person and was written by Kristen Roupenia
Been there: The story is about an uncomfortable dating experience from the point of view of a young woman
The over-7,000-word piece isn’t exactly a speedy read, but it’s attracted thousands of fans who can’t stop talking about it on Twitter.
It tells the story of Margot, a 20-year-old college student who is working at a movie theater concession stand when a somewhat older man named Robert takes a liking to her and asks for her phone number.
They spend weeks texting, during which time Robert alternatively acts like he likes her very much — like by insisting on getting her snacks when her campus dining hall is closed — and becomes more stingy with his friendliness, making Margot feel like she needs to work to keep him interested.
‘Soon she noticed that when she texted him he usually texted her back right away, but if she took more than a few hours to respond his next message would always be short and wouldn’t include a question, so it was up to her to re-initiate the conversation, which she always did,’ the piece reads.
They go on a strange first date which is described in excruciating detail, from the Holocaust movie he picks to the dig he makes about her casual outfit. Despite these moments that might make a reader think, ‘Run, girl, run!’ Margot ends up going home with Robert.
Expectations: The author has since granted several interviews in which she talked about the piece and why she thinks so many women relate to it
Though some said it’s a great representation for dating in the digital age, some think the feelings go deeper than that
Tapping in: One woman pointed out that it’s unfortunate that there aren’t more stories that speak to women’s experiences on the same level
Just before they have bad sex, she decides she doesn’t want to do it. But because she fears his reaction if she pulls the breaks, she goes through with it.
‘The thought of what it would take to stop what she had set in motion was overwhelming; it would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon,’ the piece reads.
The overall feeling of the story and several details in particular have touched a nerve with many female readers, who’ve lauded the piece on social media.
‘The most gut-wrenching, relatable content I’ve ever read,’ wrote one. ‘Just read the New Yorker’s “Cat Person” and want to crawl up under a duvet and die it’s so embarrassing and relatable,’ wrote another.
‘The “cat person” essay in the New Yorker is so bizarre, awkward, relatable and horrifying,’ added a third.
‘Basically anyone who’s ever used a dating app could write Cat Person, just maybe not as well,’ said writer Nancy Jo Sales, tapping into the feeling of familiarity shared by many readers.
Yikes: Many saw their own uncomfortable dating encounters in the story, both in interactions with men and bad sex
Insight: Some expressed a wish that more men would read the piece to better understand what so many women feel
Playing the part: Much of the story portrays the main character adjusting her actions and words to placate the man she is interested in
‘I want an investigation on how she wiretapped my inner monologue,’ said another in a much-liked tweet.
Others tweeted to talk more about the common experiences brought up in the piece. In particular, many wrote about how women are conditioned and socialized from a young age to be agreeable, to not come off as ‘prude’ or ‘uptight’ and to make men feel comfortable.
‘As brilliantly/depressingly relatable as everyone has said. Now imagining a world where women aren’t socialized to placate men’s feelings above her own safety, happiness and pleasure,’ an Australian woman wrote.
While some said they could especially relate in times of online dating, a few pointed out that the problems aren’t new now, they are just magnified.
Mesured: Many of the woman’s actions seem calculated to prevent her date from getting angry or reacting badly, which he does on occasion
Cool dude: Robert, the male character, gets angry when he feels he isn’t being paid proper attention or respect
Dig deeper: Some women are frustrated to find that men reading the piece aren’t ‘getting it’
Complex: While a man’s bad behavior is betrayed, the piece is more about the steps women take to work around bad male behavior, prevent it, and save themselves from it
‘Robert isn’t a new character or a product of the digital age. He’s had that same reaction earlier, too — it’s just easier to spot & compare notes nowadays,’ read one tweet.
A few Twitter users were quick to point out that the story isn’t necessarily about a man behaving badly, but more about how women are socialized to deal with men who behave badly, or who might behave badly.
‘Hey, men: we don’t claim this story is about a guy being abusive/nasty to a girl. That’s another level. This is about the romantic hoops women are trained to jump thru, continually, from a [very] young age & the kid gloves we wear around guys for protection from [your] rage/entitlement,’ wrote one woman.
‘The number of guys rallying to Robert’s defense in threads related to this (see: this tweet alone) is maybe my favorite thing about the article? Men refuse to see masculinity for how fragile it is,’ said another.