Portrait of the Artist as a Crazy Cat Lady

Living as a solitary, aging female writer

Andrea Lambert
Nov 3 · 8 min read

I told the hand­some UCLA stu­dent in the bar that I was almost forty. He looked at my slim fig­ure in leg­gings and scarf.

“How is that pos­si­ble?” the boy asked.

“I do a lot of yoga and take care of my skin,” I replied. I also don’t date any­one under thir­ty-five.

The dis­clo­sure of my age killed that oppor­tu­ni­ty as it must and was intend­ed to do. After my last twen­ty-some­thing sug­ar baby I am no longer inter­est­ed in that sort of rela­tion­ship. It’s not worth the dick.

I am an excel­lent mid-life cri­sis girl­friend with my cul­tur­al cap­i­tal, beau­ty, and fam­i­ly-fund­ed unem­ploy­ment. That is the only role I am audi­tion­ing for in Hol­ly­wood. I don’t want to ever get mar­ried or live togeth­er. I will nev­er be the wicked step­moth­er to your chil­dren. Kids are a deal break­er up there with being unsta­bly housed. All I would ever want is monog­a­mous dat­ing.

I am not even sure I ever want to date again. I take a vow of celiba­cy until the white skunk streak that I am grow­ing out reach­es my shoul­ders. I am con­tent alone for the moment. A dra­ma-free life is a bless­ing.

“Watch out for the sober les­bian wid­ow, she’ll tell you a lot of weird shit,” is prob­a­bly what was said about me in the bar I used to fre­quent. Along with what I was told was said: that I was bone thin and prob­a­bly anorex­ic. Now that I don’t drink, there is noth­ing for me in bars. I can talk to my friends at home or in cof­fee shops.

The doc­tor I saw about los­ing forty pounds said that with my nor­mal eat­ing habits, sobri­ety, and dai­ly yoga prac­tice, it wasn’t an eat­ing dis­or­der or much to wor­ry about. Might be my thy­roid. I decid­ed untreat­ed hyper­thy­roidism was a lux­u­ry prob­lem I didn’t mind hav­ing. Stocked up on ice cream. Decid­ed to love my body rather then fear it. Ditched the boyfriend that took issue with it because if he dis­liked my body this much, he didn’t deserve to have sex with me any­more.

The box of con­doms I bought the last time my boyfriend and I broke up sits unopened in a draw­er next to my vibra­tor. I doubt I will open it for a while. Con­doms for the sin­gle woman are a good sta­ple to keep around like cof­fee or bat­ter­ies. Despite my IUD I believe in safest sex with all new part­ners. Yet con­doms expire. These might. Sex with women doesn’t require them.

My her­pes and HPV are anoth­er rea­son that box of con­doms will prob­a­bly stay unopened. I sim­ply can’t eth­i­cal­ly do casu­al sex any­more. I know that. My STDs are a tick­ing time bomb if I don’t dis­close and a rea­son for a poten­tial fling to flee my bed in the mid­dle of the night if I do.

“Bought the tick­et, took the ride,” is how I feel about my her­pes. With the amount of sex I’ve had in my life I’m just grate­ful I’m not HIV+. I take Val­trex every morn­ing so I can’t trans­mit it and don’t have out­breaks. Any snoop­ing hook-up could find the Val­trex along with the Xanax, Klonopin, Trilep­tal, Prozac, and Saphris in my med­i­cine cab­i­net. Bet­ter to just not take any­one home to avoid that awk­ward con­ver­sa­tion or ben­zo­di­azepine theft.

I know my lim­i­ta­tions. I live with­in them.

At this point with the pub­lic way my trans­gres­sive writ­ing dic­tates my life I would far pre­fer a poten­tial lover to read about my STDs and come to terms with them before they approach me. Rad­i­cal hon­esty both lib­er­ates and stig­ma­tizes me but beats liv­ing with secrets and fear.

If this essay ensures I nev­er get laid again, YOLO. I’m kind of too busy any­way.

I set dat­ing on a shelf as I turn forty. A time cap­sule to open lat­er. In a few years, per­haps, once I’ve pub­lished the four books I fin­ished this year. When I have more time.

My entire life is free time, yet I am extra­or­di­nar­i­ly busy for some­one with­out a job. I keep busy with writ­ing and art so I don’t get sucked into my old waste­ful self-destruc­tive pur­suits.

Roman­tic rela­tion­ships with men and women are not some­thing I have giv­en up for­ev­er, but they are not a pri­or­i­ty right now. Unlike the HBO show I watch I am not Look­ing. I have giv­en up liv­ing like Sex and the City. Hav­ing read Tales of the City, I am try­ing to write a series of books like that.

I am con­tent to wait until the trail of Inter­net bread­crumbs I cre­ate lead­ing back to my witch-cave brings me anoth­er lover. I’m in no hur­ry. All I have is time.

I tell myself of this resolve as I reread what I have writ­ten here. I rinse my cat’s dish clean of her sev­enth birth­day wet food. Cock­roach­es scat­ter in the sink.

The hard­wood floored Hol­ly­wood one-bed­room where I’ve lived alone since the death of my wife becomes my par­adise. My ivory tow­er of priv­i­lege with the cable tele­vi­sion and clean­ing lady. My trag­ic Miss Hav­isham jail where I lock myself up day after end­less night ham­mer­ing away on nov­els, poet­ry, and essays that may nev­er be pub­lished.

Two books pub­lished in Europe sev­en years ago and a string of queer, Los Ange­leno, and CalArts antholo­gies line the web­site I update reli­gious­ly. With each pub­li­ca­tion and press link that accretes like coral over the years I hope with a fer­vent flam­ing hope that what I am devot­ing my life to is worth it.

What else is there for me? I have made my choic­es.

I know that it’s too late for me. To take back any­thing that I have pub­lished, tweet­ed, or done. To get back the forty years of hal­cy­on delight and pain behind me. To change the course of this path I plot across a treach­er­ous sea.

All I hope for in the fifty more years of iso­lat­ed work and a series of cats that I see before me is to die in this same apart­ment in the four-poster bed my wife and Schiz­o­phrenic grand­fa­ther died in. I ded­i­cate this face I lov­ing­ly coat with make­up to be eat­en by a lat­er cat. My fond­est dream is to keep things as they are so that I can write and paint more, then die alone.

Is my desired future going to hap­pen? I don’t know. Life inter­venes. There are many things I have no con­trol over, includ­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and Ellis Act evic­tions. Yet inten­tion is part of the bat­tle, I would like to hope. All I can do is hope.

I pick up the cat shit from the bath­tub with a piece of toi­let paper. Drop it in the toi­let. Flush. Come back into the liv­ing room. Look at the pile of paint­ings lean­ing against an antique chair. Put a few edits into this essay. Drink a sip of iced cof­fee. Smile.

It is what it is. Could be a lot worse. I real­ly didn’t expect to live this long, what with the life I’ve led. Turn­ing forty seems a bless­ing not a curse.

I choose to see bless­ings rather than tragedy as I must accept what is. Allow me my hap­pi­ness and I won’t both­er you fur­ther.

I read James Joyce’s Por­trait of the Artist as a Young Man in junior high and fell in love. Let this “Por­trait of the Artist as a Crazy Cat Lady” act as lit­mus test. If I am to love again, it will find me in time.

From the writer

Embark­ing upon my for­ties sin­gle, liv­ing alone with cat, could bring about a shiv­er of pathet­ic despair. I just broke up with my emo­tion­al­ly abu­sive on-again-off-again boyfriend of three years. My beloved wife com­mit­ted sui­cide four years ago. I am alone except for a few female friends and a net­work of Inter­net com­mu­ni­ty. Yet I am strange­ly con­tent.

I decide nev­er to mar­ry or cohab­i­tate again. I take a year-long vow of celiba­cy in order to avoid my ten­den­cy toward abu­sive rela­tion­ships and finan­cial entan­gle­ments. I go to ther­a­py week­ly. Jour­nal for end­less pages about my many deal break­ers.

Yet instead of cry­ing I sit alone in my apart­ment in tri­umph. This time I actu­al­ly want to be alone. I get so much more done this way. I am a writer and artist. I am on SSDI for my Schizoaf­fec­tive Dis­or­der, thus I don’t and can’t have a job. My cre­ative work becomes my sole focus and plea­sure.

Every­one must make their choic­es, and for some peo­ple some of the choic­es are made for them. I didn’t choose my genet­ic men­tal ill­ness. The litany and expense of med­ica­tion, psy­chi­a­trist, and ther­a­pist are my cross­es to bear. But the con­cur­rent free time is a bless­ing I am try­ing to max­i­mize.

I could throw myself into going to bars sober with my mil­len­ni­al best friend as I did the last time my boyfriend and I were bro­ken up. But the last thing I want to do is spend mon­ey to hook up with alco­holic shit­shows who may steal my things. I’m already so sick of answer­ing ques­tions about my tat­toos and why I’m drink­ing Red Bull. I am inca­pable of small talk because I always get too deep too soon. I scare my prospects away like fright­ened bun­ny rab­bits.

Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, hon­esty, and poten­tial­ly risky dis­clo­sure are hall­marks of my per­son­al essays. I am Google poi­son. I know that yet accept it to do the writ­ing I am meant to do.

Every time I sub­mit some­thing new, I assess all of the ter­ri­ble things that could hap­pen. Some­times I take a pre­scribed Xanax. Not every time, though; I sub­mit a lot of work, and it’s not like I have an end­less sup­ply of ben­zo­di­azepines. Only enough to get me through the espe­cial­ly rough days. The psy­chi­atric crises. Those moments in the gro­cery store or after fin­ish­ing an espe­cial­ly prob­lem­at­ic nov­el draft that my Anx­i­ety Dis­or­der cries out for relief.

No Xanax was con­sumed in the writ­ing of this essay as I am com­fort­able with what I am say­ing here­in. Only cof­fee and my reg­u­lar five pm pre­scribed Klonopin and Trilep­tal.

At CalArts I read Don­na Haraway’s “A Man­i­festo for Cyborg’s Sci­ence, Tech­nol­o­gy, and Social­ist Fem­i­nism in the 1980s.” Crit­i­cal the­o­ry dis­cussing how the fem­i­nist who takes psy­chi­atric med­ica­tion is a cyborg. I pre­fer neu­ro­di­verse cyborg to bro­ken fail­ure, so I will roll with that.

Haraway’s essay states, “The cyborg is res­olute­ly com­mit­ted to par­tial­i­ty, irony, inti­ma­cy, and per­ver­si­ty. It is oppo­si­tion­al, utopi­an, and com­plete­ly with­out inno­cence.”

So am I. So is this essay.


Originally published at http://theaccountmagazine.com.

Andrea Lambert

Written by

Author of Jet Set Desolate, Lorazepam & the Valley of Skin and the chapbooks G(u)ilt and Lexapro Diary. Column, “Dining with a Cursed Bloodline in Entropy Mag.

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