Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How to Make People Like You: Scratch Them Under the Collar

Early in my relationship with Amy, who is now the love of my life and the soon to be mother of my child, we were in the courting phase. Getting to know each other, learning what the other had to offer, and figuring out if this person is someone we wanted to get serious with.

As anyone who has dated a pet owner knows, getting a woman's animals to approve of you is half the battle. If the cat or dog approves, you are well on your way. This is a concept that has been much fodder for the romantic comedy genre, but it is quite true.

One of her cats is super friendly and loves everyone, but the other was skittish and standoffish. He was leery of this new, hairy creature who was hanging around. Both of her cats wore collars with name tags on them. Now, I know that cats like to be scratched on the back of the neck anyway, but I figured that a cat wearing a collar all the time might get particularly itchy there. I slowly approached the cat, rubbed his head a little and proceeded to scratch under the collar. He was purring contentedly in seconds.

I could have taken many approaches to this situation. I could have ignored the cantankerous cat and hope he comes around eventually. I could have tried to have a serious sit down talk with the cat, explaining that I'm really a good guy and that he should give me his paw of approval.

Does that second one sound absurd? Ask the cat nicely? That doesn't make sense. Even if he did understand me, which he doesn't, he doesn't care what I want. Absurd or not, think back in your life to times you have wanted something from someone. Did you try to tell them what you wanted, or did you consider that their collar might be itchy*?

*Most Americans have personal space issues and would not respond well to you scratching them under their collar. I recommend that for most situations you take this as an object lesson rather than specific advice.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Life Begins at 34

For much of my 20s, I had an overwhelming sense of running out of time. I needed to do something spectacular and make something of myself before time ran out.

During my 20s, I started a game store, a Rocky Horror cast, a sci-fi convention: all excellent things but nothing that I could really point at and say "that was my great accomplishment". Around the time I turned 30, I was at Wicked Faire and had the pleasure of meeting Terrance Zdunich, the creator of Repo: the Genetic Opera. I was talking to him about the fact that I was turning 30 and felt like I had not been able to accomplish much. Terrance pointed out to me that when he turned 30, he had not started working on creating the movie version of Repo, likely the accomplishment he will be most remembered for.

I was made to think of this again yesterday when I attended my step grandmother's memorial service. She had lived in Newton, Massachusetts for over 60 years. She was much beloved by many people, having done a great deal for them. She moved to Newton in 1948, and since then had touched a great many people, either through her work as a teacher of reading or simply by being an amazing and caring person.

I was amazed by things I heard about her that I had never known, and I worried that so much time had passed me by as I was still forced to move from here to there by the forces of my life. Suddenly, it hit me that she had been born in 1914, which meant that she arrived in Newton at age 34.

I turned 34 this week. Perhaps there is still plenty of time to make my mark. And maybe, just maybe, I have already begun.