The morning of December 4, 2017 “felt like Christmas” to Kristen Roupenian. Her story, ‘Cat Person‘, had been published in The New Yorker – a pinnacle for any short fiction author. She searched for copies in print, she shared the link to Facebook, inviting her circle to join in her excitement. But then that night, as she celebrated with friends in a Michigan bar, it all settled.
“There was a moment when I was like, ‘Oh, OK. That’s it. That’s what it feels like when all your dreams come true,'” the US author told Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast. “It happened, and then the next day you go back and you keep living your life.”
But over the next week, ‘Cat Person’ became something else entirely, something more than an author’s realised dream. It anchored into the cultural zeitgeist, and within a matter of days was dragged, largely via Twitter, into full-blown viral status.
Kristen chats to Mia Freedman about what it was like to watch Cat Person go viral.
‘Cat Person’ was, after all, a thoroughly modern dating story: Margot, 20, meets Robert, 34, while working her part-time job at a movie theatre. They text for a few weeks, flirt and banter, but when they eventually go out, the chemistry fizzles. Still, Margot sleeps with him; a decision she regrets, even as they undress.
“Insisting that they stop now, after everything she’d done to push this forward, would make her seem spoiled and capricious,” the story read, “as if she’d ordered something at a restaurant and then, once the food arrived, had changed her mind and sent it back.”
It wasn’t exactly #MeToo – there was no assault, no harassment or abuse. But Margot’s reluctant consent spoke to something about how women (young women, in particular) tend to take responsibility for other people’s emotions, to placate them at the expense of their own comfort and pleasure.
“Basically anyone who’s ever used a dating app could write Cat Person, just maybe not as well,” one person wrote on Twitter.
“Tons of women in my feed are sharing The New Yorker ‘Cat Person’ story but not many men,” added another, “which is unfortunate because it’s like a secret window into a private experience our majority has suffered through, and if anyone needs to read that shit it’s men.”
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) December 9, 2017