Dear John: Is Neighbor a Cat Burglar?
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Here’s a weird one for you. My beloved cat disappeared recently and I’ve started to wonder if maybe my neighbor has “adopted” (i.e., stolen) it. I know she likes my cat and doesn’t like me very much. We’ve had a couple of minor run-ins, most recently because she was leaving food out for my cat (she’s an indoor/outdoor cat) and I asked her not to. She responded that if my cat wasn’t so hungry all the time, she wouldn’t come to her house to eat. She just seems to be a difficult, slightly eccentric elderly woman. She’s a little reclusive and lives alone. I know none of this adds up to anything, but then last week, I saw an empty cat litter bag in her garbage! And I know she doesn’t have a cat of her own! At the time, my cat had been missing (just never came home one day) for almost two weeks. I am so desperate for answers that I have convinced myself she has my cat. Obviously I can’t ring the doorbell and accuse her of stealing her. So what do I do?
Sad Cat Lover
Dear Sad Cat Lover,
No, you can’t ring the doorbell and accuse her of stealing her, but what’s wrong with ringing the doorbell and politely asking her if she’s seen her around? You know she’s fond of the cat so it’s perfectly reasonable to turn to her for information about her whereabouts. If she says no, you could mention that you saw the cat litter bag in her trash – if she has your cat, she would have to be pretty heartless to stand there and lie to your face about it. (By the way, how did you see this bag in her trash? I am assuming it was in a recycling bin or another place where it was readily visible…right?)
Of course, there could be an innocent explanation for what you saw. Sometimes cat litter is used to absorb spills, or maybe she’s gotten a cat of her own and you’re simply unaware of it. But for the sake of argument, let’s say she has your cat and is intent on concealing that fact. Does she have any regular visitors – other neighbors or friends – you could ask? Just giving her the impression that you’re getting to the bottom of this may be enough for her to simply let the cat out. She wouldn’t even have to admit to having taken it. If all else fails, keep an eye on her windowsills on sunny days. I’ve never known a cat that could resist them.
I am in my early twenties. I have a retail job that brings me into contact with a lot of different kinds of people – all ages, all types, and most of them are repeat customers I see a few times or more a week. It’s inevitable that I get to know them a bit, and I am a naturally friendly person. But you wouldn’t believe how often I get hit on by men who are older than my father. I get everything from nervous guys shyly asking if I want to have a drink when I get out of work to frank sexual propositions. They come from all kinds of men – businessmen, delivery men, guys who look like professors at a college nearby – but what they all have in common are that they are literally more than twice my age. I can handle them, but my question to you is, what the heck are they thinking?? I couldn’t imagine actually dating a guy who’s fifty. I know from reading your column that you are described as middle-aged, so I just want your perspective. What makes a man like this look at someone who could be his daughter’s friend and think, “Yeah, I’ll ask her out. That’s a good idea.” What’s going on here??? A little insight, please.
Not Just Youthful – Young
Dear Not Just Youthful,
Hm. I’m not sure I can speak for every middle-aged lech out there, but I’ll do my best. And let’s confine this to the question of men hitting on women who are much too young for them without complicating it by considering whether these men are married or not. I think what motivates the married and unmarried men is pretty much the same; the married ones simply have an additional element of untrustworthiness and selfishness.
First, the obvious explanation: you’re attractive, quite literally. I’m of the belief that youth is half of beauty, and its appeal is visceral. The flame has virtually nothing to offer the moth, but the moth can’t help himself. (Of course, men can help themselves, but some act as if they can’t.)
On top of that, you offer these men an opportunity to deny some unpleasant truths they’d rather not believe: that they’re well past the halfway point of their lives. That they’re no longer attractive themselves. That a lot of fantastic things that seemed possible so recently are never going to happen. That they can still feel excited about being with someone. In other words, it’s as much about how they feel on the inside as it is about how you look on the outside.
Another factor that helps explain this behavior is the simple fact that sometimes, young women like you say yes. Maybe not all the time, but often enough to make it worth taking a shot in their minds. (I have my own theory that young women who date much older men have unresolved Daddy issues, but that’s probably best left for another letter.)
I imagine most men feel these things at some point, but the emotionally mature ones realize that, yes, it sucks to get old (and don’t believe anyone who says it doesn’t), but there are also joys to be had that you can’t experience any other way, like seeing your kids grow up and start families of their own. And intertwining your life with someone else’s and growing old together. Maybe even attaining a bit of wisdom…like the wisdom to realize how foolish it is to hit on someone thirty years your junior.
What is the appropriate amount of time to wait before asking someone whose spouse passed away for a date? I am in this situation and I don’t want to seem insensitive and spoil my chances, but I don’t want to wait so long that I miss my chance altogether. If it matters to your reply, I am an acquaintance of the woman in question – we have a number of mutual friends. Thank you.
Patient But Eager
Dear Patient But Eager,
I have nothing more than my gut feeling to base this on, but I would say six months minimum, and a year if you want to err on the safe side. Obviously, people are different, and there may be situations in which a shorter amount of time would be okay, but as a general rule, six to twelve months.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at email@example.com.
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