Confession from a (Former) Dog Person

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I’ve always thought the label “pet parent” was twee (more like obnoxious). I considered myself a semi-reluctant cat owner, taking in a foster tuxedo cat named Harrison. I’m usually more of a servant/masseuse/nanny, but still, an owner on a good day. When my apartment building was sold from under me, forcing me to move under a tight deadline, I brought my things–including Harry–to my mom’s temporarily.

I worried that my mom, heavily leaning toward the dog end of the pet spectrum, would hate Harry, pick on his every move and issue a quick, awful ultimatum. To my delighted relief, she took to him almost instantly, cooing and coaxing him into her space all the time, and giving me evening reports like an aide at daycare: “He cried after you left today, but only a bit, he loved the new wet food, and he napped really well!” My mother–whom I’ve always called Mommy–has called me this cat’s mama enough, e.g., “Mama, stop talking to your son like that!” that I recently found myself dramatically singing how much Mama loves him, and Look at how handsome Harry is! in a tone reserved for nom-nom-cheeked newborns and dachshunds.

In a moment confirming that I have surrendered to cat ownership (and that we may be entering the End of Days), we–the two humans–just had an earnest discussion about what *she* should be called now. By Harry. By the cat, who can’t speak. Grandma (my family’s usual preference) was shrugged off. Boring, I suppose. I went exotic with Meemaw, and was shot down outright. Big Mama brought only a weary sigh that suggested I never mention it again. Perhaps she’d prefer an auntie title: “Titi Alice”? She sucked her teeth. “That doesn’t work, we’re not sisters!” I was told matter of factly. Oh, right, I…forgot?

Mama Alice was received lukewarmly, but after a brief but passionate debate, we settled on Nana. Then we returned to our respective rooms and lapsed into comfortable weeknight silence. Harry, his butt parked firmly on both my feet–his usual spot when we watch TV–was oblivious to this critical familial discussion. I’d wrap this up with something clever, but Christmas is next week, and I’ve gotta work fast to make sure my kid’s got something under the tree. As any good mom would. #WhatIsThisLife #AndHeShallInheritAllMyRiches

Happy New Year from Almost No One at MTV

Hey! Here’s that story I promised. I’m a woman of her word.

So this asshole… Oh my God, you can’t start a story like that! What a terrible setup. What’s that saying about being told not to think about elephants…

Let’s try it again. Fresh start. In 2006, I was dating a guy who worked for MTV. I’ll call him Johnson. He gave me a day’s notice that he had a plus-one for the New Year’s Eve party, the gold party.

When I wasn’t panicking over what to wear, I was panicking over meeting Johnson’s entire staff and his boss at what I felt would surely be the world’s biggest holiday party. What does a person wear to MTV? I wasn’t watching the channel actively anymore, and TRL was a season away from wrapping for good, but outside the city, I knew the channel still had cachet. This was a cool invite, and I wanted to fit in.

“So what do I wear?!” I demanded immediately.

“Just look cute,” he said offhandedly. Look cute, I thought. OK, I can do cute, surely. The day of, however, the boots I wanted for my conservative, cute look were missing. I knew cops were putting the city on lock, avenue by avenue, street by street. My zone was tightening as I hopped on the train and rode past 42nd Street to my job, where said boots were tucked into a cabinet among assorted other slingbacks and flats. A temporary security guard I didn’t recognize followed me from the security desk to my cubicle. “I have to get downtown really fast,” I said. “I’m not here to for computer stuff or paperwork.” Nevertheless, he watched solemnly as I changed out of my sneakers, and wished me a joyless New Year on my way out. Awesome start.mixed couple

New Year’s Cuisine, Clinton-Hill Style

Before I get to MTV, a quickie on growing up on Myrtle and Clinton Avenues in the ’70s and ’80s.

My grandmother, a southern woman from Virginia, always made New Year’s dinner, including collard greens for money/prosperity, and black-eyed peas & pork for good luck and health. Unfortunately, my family enjoyed every part of pork I hated: pigs’ pigs_feetfeet, pigtails, hog maws, fatback, chitterlings/”chitlins” (the smell of which still makes me dry heave) et al. To make fun of me—the only child and the youngest in a small family—my aunts, cousin, and uncle would all exaggerate eating their meals, dramatically gnawing on gristle and fat, shoving a pungently vinegared pig’s foot under my nose for my horrified Pavlovian response, and generally making me nauseated.

Grandma, however, always had my back. She’d go out of her way to fry one lone pork chop just for me. “No one eats Nira’s chop!” she’d yell, wrapping it in foil and setting it on the pilot light to stay warm while she finished making cornbread and other sides. While everyone mixed their food together, I had my sides on a dinner plate and my chop on a separate little saucer. Nobody was feeling my pathetic little piece of meat (which never looked like the picture on WordPress)–unless I couldn’t finish it. (Then, everyone was putting dibs on the bone.) But the inclusion always made me very, quietly pleased.

My aunt grumbled once she took over the cooking later on: “She needs to try these pigtails. Does she know I can’t buy just ONE of these things?” I was around 20 when I gave this any real thought; I never remember grandma buying a pack of pork chops. There were still butcher shops in the area though, and I’m guessing she was able to politely request one chop, every year, for her granddaughter, who was a picky eater but needed to be a part of this annual family tradition. Because of her I always think of New Year’s meals with fond, giggly memories. I was the one-chop girl, and she helped me be proud of this.

I hope you had a wonderful New Year’s Day with friends, family, or quietly reflecting in solitude. Now, let’s dig into 2014, with its comfy, hearty classics and shiny, new customs yet to be discovered. Cheers.

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