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.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade