February 10th, 2009


You Don't Need a License for a Pet Fish

While I was sick, I basically stopped brushing my hair. When you have nearly waist-length extra-thick hair, this is not actually a good idea at all, but I couldn't help it. I was too drained and miserable to work through it, and every day that passed made it a more daunting task.

So eventually, justbeast went and got a brush and, without even having to be told, spray-conditioner, and brushed it till it shone, without even pulling or pinching a single tangle. Needless to say, I was impressed by his skills--I had not really let him brush my hair before, maybe once or twice, though I love to have my hair brushed. It was a special thing with an ex of mine, and it remains hard to let someone else do it. But the Hair-Brushing License has been granted, and he did it again last night.

It's funny how licenses work. I can be a hard person to get close to--getting behind the sparkly con-Cat or beyond the prickly self-protective Cat is no mean feat. I still have issues with being touched from having been without any human touch in Japan for so long, and while I can be bouncy and friendly and huggy, and it's easy to think that's my natural state, it's not so easy to get behind the many skins I wear to be with me. And I kind of think of it as a city with many walls, and when you pass through them, you get licenses. You can't really apply for them, they have to be granted freely, and have a cash value of 1/100 of a cent.

The biggest license, the one you pretty much have to be sleeping with me or intimate with me on an emotional level equivalent to sleeping with me to get, is the Kitty License.

You see, my name is Cat. Not Katie ([info]justbeast's family has taken to this one, and I hate it. Katya is fine. Katie, hell no) and not, I'm quite sure, Cathy. People who call me Catherynne know me only through business--because the minute I meet people I tell them to call me Cat. My name is emphatically not Kitty. Until [info]transfiguration and then [info]justbeast, no one had even tried to call me Kitty. They would have met with death. I would never have even let my ex-husband call me that. It would never have occurred to him to try, and those facts are probably linked. The first time the word Kitty was uttered, I had to take a long moment and figure out what it meant to let someone call me Kitty. Because I am a fierce feminist writer academic with scars and grump and Opinions and I am NOT a Kitty. That's for girls who wear pink and are sweet and cute. For me, cuteness was a liminal space that I didn't know how to live in. Kitty was a pet name. And I was no one's pet. But after the long moment, I let it stand. I decided I could be cute with this person. It was safe to be cute. To be small and fuzzy and cared for. And suddenly, the space of us and not us was established in a way it had not been before. It was a name I came to love, coming from the right person.

And no, you cannot call me Kitty. There is one Kitty license currently in circulation. It is not Xeroxable. Nor can you brush my hair. Most of you.

The second hardest license to get is the Mermaid License. You see, I have secretly curly hair. I blow it dry and it gets very straight, but it's naturally quite wavy. The shorter it gets, the less the sheer weight of it relaxes the curl, and it gets downright springy. vschanoes was the first person to spot this about me in the wild, since she has very curly hair and can apparently spot the imposter with bone-straight hair cold. Usually I pass for naturally straight-haired. But people who spend a lot of time with me, and most importantly, people who spend the night with me, might glimpse a day on which I can't be bothered to blow it dry, and they get to see my Mermaid Hair, as my Beast calls it. He gets to see it most, since we spend weeks on the boat when I don't have a dryer, so curls fly everywhere. 

The thing is, I never really learned how to take care of curly hair (my stepmother hated my hair, for which reason I am extremely overly attached to it) and I don't really want to have curls every day, no matter how tithenai asks. I like the idea that it's a secret that only those who are intimate with me see. (Or, if you happened to have lunch with me at Arisia when I couldn't find my dryer. But I'd brushed that out pretty good and it wasn't half as curly as it had been that morning. Gah! I hate squandering licenses.) I like that narratively, I like having a secret body I can choose to share or not share.

There is a Cuddle License that is easier to get, and a Seeing the House/Me Without Me Spending 5 Hours Cleaning It License, a Safe Nakedness Space License for people with whom nudity without expectations or weirdness is possible, a Hearing Me Sing License, a Gentle Human License, for people I am deeply comfortable around, whose simple presence doesn't cost me extrovert energy--harder to get, but possible. A Lazy License, for people I don't feel the need to entertain and can just loaf about with. A Magic Food License, for people I have gone all out in cooking for. A Goober License, for the very few people around whom I feel it's ok to make the silly animal noises which are a vital part of our private household. (Shut up. That was once a broader license, but justbeast said I was a promiscuous roo-er, so I scaled back.) A Totally Irrational Loyalty License, for people who for no apparent reason have since the day I met them sat firmly in my heart, for whom I would do anything. It seems to be a condition of that license that you not know you have it.

All of them can be revoked. Though it's devilishly hard to revoke. I wish I could just say: "Your Kitty License has been revoked!" and maybe snuff out a tiki torch. But that's the trouble with private terminology.

Maybe it sounds dry and weird, but I kind of like thinking of Cat-intimacy that way. It makes me feel safe, and delineated. Safe space is so hard to define when you spend half your life on tour, being as bright and shiny as possible, inviting people in, but not really in. Cons are notoriously bad places to have personal space issues. I don't, so much. Anymore. But I have psychic space issues, and I guard mine.

I wish I could make fancy certificates.