|The author, Kristen Roupenian
And if you enjoyed the story as much as I did, I recommend also checking out Deborah Treisman's Q&A with Roupenian:
Your story in this week’s issue, “Cat Person,” is both an excruciating bad-date story and, I think, a kind of commentary on how people get to know each other, or don’t, through electronic communication. Where did the idea for the story come from?
Especially in the early stages of dating, there’s so much interpretation and inference happening that each interaction serves as a kind of Rorschach test for us. We decide that it means something that a person likes cats instead of dogs, or has a certain kind of artsy tattoo, or can land a good joke in a text, but, really, these are reassuring self-deceptions. Our initial impression of a person is pretty much entirely a mirage of guesswork and projection. When I started writing the story, I had the idea of a person who had adopted all these familiar signifiers as a kind of camouflage, but was something else—or nothing at all—underneath.
Do you think that the connection that these two form through texting is a genuine one?
I think it’s genuine enough as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. That Robert is smart and witty is true, but does the fact that someone’s smart and witty mean that he won’t murder you (as Margot wonders more than once), or assault you, or say something nasty to you if you reject him? Of course it doesn’t, and the vertigo that Margot feels at several points in the story is the recognition of that uncertainty: it’s not that she knows that Robert is bad—because if she knew that she would be on solid ground—but that she doesn’t know anything at all.