It’s not unusual, if I’m not busy scanning obituaries on funeral home websites from my home town, for me to spend copious amounts of time on the MSPCA website perusing the animals available for adoption. I’m not going to adopt any of them, and I never spend any time looking at birds or reptiles or rabbits, but there’s just something about all those hopeless faces coupled with the worst writing of all time that I can’t resist. I love it.
It’s also fun to judge the townspeople based solely on the names of the animals. Sometimes you’ll get six or seven black and white “tuxedo” cats named Oreo or a handful of Mittens or Socks because, you guessed it, their paws are white! (I did see a cat named “Oreos”– plural– the other day I the judgement came on so fast and so strong I scared myself a little.) There are animals named by Captain Obvious and his litter of observant children, those are the Fluffys, and also those named by folks who eventually had to give up their dogs “due to the economy” and their children who are doubtless named Amber and Dwayne Jr. Dogs named Spike and Killer. Kitties name Tiffani… or Skittles. (Shiver.)
Seeing all those animals left to the “system,” I can’t help but ponder the irony between the fate that likely awaits them and the cheerful manner in which some volunteer copywriter describes their unique personalities. “Such a lovebug!” “The king of our hearts!” “Cuddles for miles!” It’s especially tough to reconcile when you’re looking at photo of a pit bull with crazy eyes and dried foam in the creases of his muzzle. Cuddles for miles? Really?
So the other evening I got to thinking about it; thinking about the humor (after you get over the fuckedupedness) of writing a caption that could determine whether or not society deems you suitable for continued existence, but also how much more awesome the whole site would be if the descriptions were honest.
It started with Stuart.
Stuart is our cat. Stuart George Edward Wayne Beaulieu was brought into our family in September of 2008 after we spent $10,000 trying to save our other kitty Milo. Milo died. Stuart arrived. As a small kitty, Stuart’s ears were too big for his head and I couldn’t love him. I enjoyed the kittenness and his soft kitty fur, but the thought of having an ugly cat gave me such anxiety that I would lay awake at night acknowledging how hard it must have been for my parents to love my little brother. He had a HUGE head.
As Stuart grew into a man kitty, he grew into his ears. (And slightly pointy face. I didn’t mention that before, but it was a source of stress as well.) He exhibited just enough random talent that we were proud of him and other cat parents knew he was no lay kitty. Most importantly, though, he maintained his softness. It’s like a magic power. He’s soft enough that I’ll probably make a scarf or muff out of him In The End.
Of course, like all cat parents, we think Stuart is an excellent cat. He’s well behaved, doesn’t jump on eating surfaces, meows little, and all his annoying habits are quirky enough that they can be packaged as genius so to avoid any family humiliation. He sleeps on the bed, eats an organic, fish-based diet, doesn’t shit outside the box, and shows a disdain for cheap toys that makes his mama very proud.
As I was reading the Ridiculous Captions accompanying my evening entertainment, I realized Stuart’s caption would get him killed. As a matter of fact, I realized that most animals captions would get them killed. Because the truth is that most children’s captions, if truthful, would not inspire you to pick up the phone. “Just at that adorable age when they constantly smell like Mexican migrant workers back from a long day. Shows average intelligence and mediocre aptitude for sports. Doesn’t eat anything that isn’t white and refuses to drink water. Completely adorable and loving. But not in an obvious way.”
Stuart’s caption would read something like this:
I’m Stuart and I’m super soft, which is a really good thing because I’m also an intellectual elitist and emotional hoarder. I’m curious about people and life, but would prefer not to be touched without my explicit consent. I’d love to cuddle up to the far corner of the couch so that you may admire me before giving me a holistic, organic cat treat that smells exactly like a dumpster at the aquarium. I’m completely potty trained. I can’t wait to join a home with no children or other animals, furniture reflecting a mid-century Danish aesthetic, and two parents who work full time. Do you want to make me a part of your family?
Stuart would be given a sleepytime cocktail. An eternal sleepytime cocktail.
So instead, someone would write about how precious he is, how playful (lie), and personable (half truth), and desirous of joining your home (if you’re wealthy). Some Average American Family or Single Girl would come and meet him, mistake his disgust for shyness and take him home to some hovel with an over stuffed couch. Truthfully, Stuart would rather be dead.
But then I realized that what really bothers me about the Kitty Kaptions (and puppy ones too) is not the out and out lies or even the terrible writing in the first person, but that Kitty Kaptions aren’t relegated to kitties. Kitty Kaptions are just like People Captions: well crafted stories that we think will appeal to others, make others like us– even those who are all wrong for us to begin with. We believe that cuddly and agreeable is better than a little persnickety.
And that’s just not true. At least not in the household.