I have a dog named Edgar whose whole raison d’etre is to kick cat ass. Unfortunately, I also have two cats. Peanut Butter and Mozart. Peanut Butter is a cat-hater’s cat. He’s got all the swagger of a cowboy, and the cool detachment of a pouty model. Tail up, shoulders back, when he saunters into the kitchen, he owns the joint.
What I love about Peanut Butter is the way he manages the dog. From the get go, he refused to take his guff. All that lunging, gnawing, growling, humping, sniffing ridiculousness was met with a stifled yawn. Peanut Butter is so unconcerned, so self-possessed, he sleeps in Edgar’s crate and eats out of his bowl. For a long time this behavior confused the dog. Now the two nap on the couch side by side.
Mozart, on the other hand, skulks through the house as if expecting trouble. Quivering, cowering, mewling, Edgar could smell that cat’s fear with his nose glued shut. It should come as no surprise that Mozart gets his lights punched out whenever he tiptoes past the kitchen door. Simply put, everything about Mozart begs for a beating.
I’ve learned a lot from watching how these two cats comport themselves in the world. I see how one demeanor inspires respect, the other, invites abuse. The reaction they get from the very same dog is based solely on their expectations. I have no trouble spotting the Peanut Butter and Mozarts of the world . Right now, for instance, sitting on an airplane, heading home from a trip.
The fat guy in front of me. Definitely a Mozart. Telling the two young girls he’s just squeezed past, “Looks like you won the lottery. Big guy. Little chair. Sorry.” I know what he’s thinking. Better to put himself down first, rather than face their negative reaction.
I sometimes catch myself operating like Mozart. Entering a difficult conversation with my kids, for instance. Justifying my thought process, negotiating away my position, apologizing for my needs. Expecting confrontation, a heated argument, an emotional ass kicking of sorts. Not surprisingly, that’s generally what I get.
These days, when I enter a room full of strangers, I remind myself to be Peanut Butter. I make the conscious decision to own the space, to expect interactions to go the way I’d like. I throw my shoulders back, I put on a smile, and I reach out knowing that folks are going to dig my style.
Because to do otherwise is to turn reasonable people into frothing Edgars.
So. Who are you going to be today? Peanut Butter or Mozart? It is a choice.
Ann Sheybani, 48, is a high altitude mountaineer, ultra-distance runner, and blue water sailor. She is a speaker, coach and author of the popular blog, Things Mama Never Taught Me. Visit her at www.annsheybani.com. © 2011 Ann Sheybani