WTF Wednesday: My kid is named after a cat.

another Kierkegaard mosaic

When I was in college, my boyfriend and I got a cat. The cat was large and orange or brown (memory is fuzzy) and around 7 years old. He had been the subject of a “free to good home” ad in the local paper. He was the wife’s cat and the husband didn’t want him any more.1 The wife sadly gave him up. We took him home, named him Siddhartha, and hung around while he hid under the bed for days. He was miserable and, by association, we were miserable with this poor cat who didn’t want to be away from the only person he’d ever loved. We called the wife and she took him back. I hope she and the cat at least lived happily ever after.

Then we got kittens instead. Like all good Iowa kittens, they were free and came from a farm. We went out there and saw a litter of kittens running around in the sunshine with their mom who had been a stray and apparently thought this particular farm in Iowa was a good place to have her kittens. I liked one of the kittens and I remember my boyfriend saying, “What about that one?” about another, so we took them both.

We took them home, named them Nietzsche and Kierkegaard2 (Kierkegaard, for the record, was “What about that one?”), and lived happily ever after. Well, for a while.

That boyfriend and I broke up, as college boyfriends and I were wont to do. I had other boyfriends and moved to different cities, eventually settling into an apartment with a friend in Bucktown where it was still slightly edgy.

At that apartment, things went terribly wrong. Nietzsche, shortly after declaring “God is dead,” declared her intense loathing of Kierkegaard. All of a sudden, her litter mate and best friend was her mortal enemy. She terrorized Kierkegaard who holed up in my (allergic) roommate’s bedroom. I called veterinarians. I called animal behavior hotlines. Everybody said shit like “cats will be cats” and nothing helped and no, they never got over it.

So it came to be that I chose Kierkegaard, either because she was the innocent victim or because she was my favorite, and Nietzsche went to live with my parents, who lived nearby and had been without an animal since their dog died. From then on, Kierkegaard was my constant, as they say. She was, and I shit you not, my soul mate. She was with me through moves, law school, a judicial clerkship, marriage, a stint at trying to save the world through public defending, divorce, ill-advisedly shacking up with a younger man, moving across the country, being unemployed, being underemployed, buying a little house in the ‘hood, finding a good job, and eventually just when you thought I’d never do it, being pregnant.

As it turned out, we were going to have a boy. Our elaborate (not really) name calculus gave me naming rights for a boy. (We came to an agreement with the main proposition being that a boy would get Ben’s last name and I could pick the first name and a girl would get my last name and he could pick the first name — I love the idea of hyphenating but my name is way too difficult.) The thing is, dudes, boy names are hard. At least I think they are, especially when you want something different but not so different your kid is going to get his ass kicked over it.

We didn’t have any family names we wanted to pass on (you don’t really see kids named Vytautas today and the rest are too popular). Or did we? What about my soul mate, the cat? It’s not like we were going to name our kid Kierkegaard, but if Kierkegaard was named after Soren Kierkegaard, we could name our kid Soren because that’s kind of naming our kid after the cat. And even better, Soren is like my favorite name, ever, and it doesn’t remind me of anybody but an existential philosopher and my cat. That’s it. Done!3

I don’t recall it being very hard to convince Ben to agree to the name and, although I didn’t announce it to the internet until Soren was born, we told everybody in real life and nobody had a bad word to say about it. This must mean the name is awesome or I’m a huge bitch and nobody wanted to argue about it — either/or.

I didn’t know this at the time, but on the day Soren was born, Kierkegaard, who was 18, had just one month and three days left. I’ll always miss her. But it’s kind of cool that she’s part of my son’s story even though he won’t remember her.

1. For real, if you ever have a significant other who “makes you” (that’s in quotes because it would be stupid for me to put a note in a note, which I’m tempted to do, to point out that your significant other cannot and should not ever “make you” do anything, which, duh, but sometimes people are somehow unaware of this) get rid of your animal friend, you might want to DTMF, and by DTMF I mean dump the mother fucker.
2. I believe I ranked high on the animal-naming-assholery scale for a while. Animals I’ve acquired since Nietzsche and Kierkegaard have been named, in chronological order, Valkyrie, Lilly (came with the name), Xochitl, Jupiter, Peep, Coltrane, Sadie, and Peaches. FYI, every dog is named Sadie.
3. I did have a tiny existential crisis regarding whether it’s okay to give a kid a Danish name when you’re not Danish and whether it’s okay to say Soren instead of Søren because that ø is totally bad ass but you’re kind of setting your kid up for a life of misery when his name requires a special letter even I have to copy and paste from the internet because I don’t know how to keyboard it.

Feed the Animals

tabby's first meal

tabby's first meal

I consider my life a success because I’ve managed to transfer the responsibility of feeding the animals to another person. That’s pretty lame, right? Feeding animals isn’t a really big deal, unless you work at a zoo or something, in which case yay giraffes!

The thing is, in our house, feeding the animals kind of is a big deal — or, if not exactly a big deal, a pain in the ass. This fact always comes home to roost, as they say, on days Ben doesn’t have to go to work and I have to feed the animals.

The cats are first because they will eat you and/or random household items if you don’t feed them soon enough after getting out of bed. Jupiter (the only boy cat) will launch himself from the dresser in the bedroom onto your head and try to eat your legs the second you put your feet on the floor. Xochitl will eat the part of the plastic garbage bag that sticks out of the bathroom garbage container or the plastic toilet paper wrapper under the sink. We made up part of a song for her, sung to Erykah Badu’s Bag Lady:

Bag lady you’re gonna hurt your digestive system
eatin’ all them bags like that
I guess nobody ever told you
bags have no nutritional value

Peep (the nice, fat one) and Valkyrie (the old one who is shunned by the other cats) are pretty normal and will leave you alone.

The cats get dry food, except Jupiter, who has special dietary needs that require canned prescription food. He is the only cat in the universe who prefers dry food to canned food. You have to prepare four bowls of cat food (three dry and one canned), put Jupiter and his food in the bathroom (which is off the kitchen), close the door, and then feed the other three cats in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, there are dogs. At all times during the feeding process, the dogs must be segregated at the back of the house. This sounds racist but it’s the only way.

When you got out of bed, if you’re smart, you brought Sadie with you (as a small dog, she is entitled to special privileges, including but not limited to sleeping in bed with the humans) and put her and Coltrane outside (otherwise, she’ll be peeing or pooping in the house, which, chances are, she did while you were sleeping, which is extra annoying because she can’t get into bed by herself because it’s too tall so she gets up, poops in the kitchen, and then comes back to the bedroom where she whines and jumps until she wakes you up and you realize she just pooped in the kitchen and probably peed somewhere you won’t find, quite possibly on the new living room rug, and you pick her up and put her back in bed and she goes back to sleep and you’re awake for like an hour because you haven’t been sleeping well and now you’re thinking about dog poop).

While Sadie and Coltrane are outside, you let Peaches out of her crate (as the one dog who has a slight inclination toward eating cats, she stays in her crate at night) and feed her the 67 cups of dog food a Rottweiler needs. Then comes the changing of the guard. Peaches goes outside and Coltrane and Sadie come inside. Coltrane and Sadie can eat together, but you have to keep an eye on them to make sure Coltrane doesn’t eat Sadie’s food. Next, you dip a spoon in peanut butter, insert a half pill, and give it to Sadie, who is currently on steroids for her autoimmune-related arthritis.

Finally, you let Jupiter out of the bathroom so he can eat dry food scraps and the other cats can fight over whatever canned food he didn’t finish. Meanwhile, Sadie, who is on steroids, whines from the dog-segregation area because she really wants to eat the cat food.

Compared to this, getting a baby dressed and ready for school is, as they say, a piece of cake. Mmmmm, cake. The animals would probably eat that.

Note: Maybe don’t blast today’s music at work.