Mouse, Chair, Scream

It’s such a stereotype: a woman seeing a mouse on the floor, screaming, and leaping upon a chair. But women don’t really act like that, do they?

Banksy Art

Not unless they’re sooks, anyway. Not me, anyway. I was always the one to leap into action with the well-placed jandal when friends leapt shrieking from the path of large crunchy cockroaches. Catch me screaming at a mouse! Hah! (And that one eep! when I was lying by the fire and opened my eyes to find mouse in cat mouth one foot from my face doesn’t count, so there.)

However… It would appear that my pose of superiority is not so well founded as I had liked to believe. Some time around midnight last night, our younger cat, aka the Kitten, brought in a mouse. This is not unusual: he’s a keen mouse-hunter and usually times his mouse-announcements for some time after we’ve gone to bed. (How he manages to be so loud with his mouth full beats me.)

I hauled my sleepy self out of bed, shut him in the bathroom – his favoured field of battle – and went back to bed. After some time, when the crashing noises had died down, my darling husband suggested I go check if the Kitten had finished his mouse and wanted to be let out.

Daisybelle - The Funnies, No 4 01
(Why me? Because, due to the arrangement of our rooms, his side of the bed is more than twice as far away from the bathroom door as mine.) Not even pausing to put on a pair of slippers – an oversight I was soon to bitterly regret – I trundled to the bathroom door, opened it, and turned on the light.

Unusually, the Kitten did not come streaming through the door hotfoot on his way to a) another mouse or b) a good bath. I should have been warned. I was not. I cautiously poked my head around the door. No mouse on floor, no mouse remains (regurgitated or otherwise) on floor. No sign of mouse at all, in fact, only one cat. Sitting on bathroom stool. Staring at shower curtain.

“Why are you staring at the shower curtain?” I asked. “The mouse isn’t on the shower curtain.” I took up said shower curtain to fan its folds and demonstrate the proof of my statement to the unbelieving cat, and as I got about a third of the way through the curtain, the mouse dropped from remarkably high within and thumped to the floor. And then it dashed at my feet – which, as previously indicated, were bare to the night, the cold floor, and any passing rodents.

I screamed. Twice. Involuntarily. I did not jump on a chair, however, as the nearest chair-like object was a) mousewards, and b) already occupied by the cat. The unaccustomed sounds ringing through the house alerted the Caped Gooseberry to the fact that All Was Not Well in the hitherto routine bathroom-mouse scenario. He called out to me. I fled back to the bedroom. The cat, apparently oblivious to mouse-thumps and unmoved by my screams, continued to stare at the now mouseless shower curtain.

After some time – once the adrenaline tsunami had begun to subside, and armed with my trusty husband, not to mention a pair of slippers – I went searching for the mouse. It was not to be found. Anywhere. Eventually even the devotedly curtain-staring cat awoke to the realization that the mouse was no longer among those present.

I doubted that it would have negotiated the stairs by itself (skitter skitter thump, skitter skitter thump…) and the door to the spare room was shut. The door to the bathroom was catted. There remained only the landing (small, swiftly confirmed mouse-free) and…. our bedroom.

Print, La Souris (The Mouse), 1913 (CH 18614887)

I will leave you to consider how long it took me to settle to sleep, with the knowledge that I was likely sharing my room with a frenzied rodent – what was that touching my head? Was that a lump in the bedding? and even the addition of a second cat to the bed – once he’d backtracked through the house to check he hadn’t dropped it somewhere – was not enormously comforting. (This is the same cat that once used my sleeping abdomen as a launch-pad to fire himself across a bedroom onto an unsuspecting mouse.)

At around two, however, there was a sudden sound of scuffling, and lo! the lost rodent was found and the bathroom protocol was once more carried out (this time with the Caped Gooseberry playing doorman). And once the Kitten had performed some extra checks, to be certain that no more mice had magically appeared in the bookshelf corner, I went at last to rest.

I would like to think that my reaction would have been less stereotypically vocal had I not had bare unguarded feet, but who can say? I for one will no longer be sneering at women (fictional or otherwise) who scream when they see a free-range mouse.

Reclaiming “Old-Fashioned”

It says it right there in the header: Deborah Makarios, Old-Fashioned Fruitcake. But what do I mean when I call myself old-fashioned? (Sorry to disappoint you: am not actually a cake.)

Mummy cake (8122502298)
The Old-Fashioned Fruitcake faced with getting out of bed on a winter’s morning.
There are so many negative connotations that people apply to the term ‘old-fashioned’, such as prudish, backward, ignorant, intolerant, narrow-minded, prejudiced, uneducated, judgemental, afraid of technology… The list goes on.Continue & Comment

Breaking Out of the Box

We tend to judge people the moment we meet them. Not condemn them, necessarily, but judge them. We find a suitably labelled box, and we pop them into it. Let us be honest: we all do it; and it isn’t always a bad thing. When you only have a few minutes’ experience of someone, you only get a sense of one or two dimensions of their character, and you need to proceed according to what you do know.

The problem comes when we try to keep people in that box when it doesn’t fit. When we refuse to admit that they have more than one or two dimensions to their character. (Pride & Prejudice, anyone?) When we make sweeping assumptions about what else is true of them, based on what else we keep in that box.

People often file me in the “Christian” box. This wouldn’t be so bad (since I do consider myself a Christian) but one of the fastest ways to wind me up is to make assumptions about me based on what else you’ve filed in there.
Believe me, people keep some weird stuff in that box.

I also get filed in the “young person” box a lot. This, despite the fact that people who started primary school the year I finished high school will now have finished high school themselves. OK, I’m not exactly old, but I don’t fit the “young person” stereotype. Neither do a lot of young(er) people. We aren’t all into drugs and loud music. Some of us prefer to stay home and knit. Or hang out and knit. Or crochet. Or debate theology late into the night…

Believed to be Italian nationals in a U. S. Detention camp - NARA - 196551
And then there’s the whole gender box complex. Even if your culture accepts that there are different ways of being male, or female, people still expect you to pick one and stick to it.

Example: a man may take an interest in sports. He may also take an interest in flower arranging (and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what else people keep in that box). People don’t expect a man to play rugby on Saturday morning and then go home and start messing about with roses, oasis, and variegated foliage. It makes them uneasy, as people tend to be when they find someone in two boxes at once. (Like Schrödinger’s cat, but with more boxes and less cruelty to animals.)

Or, to consider an example closer to home (my home, anyway), people have a box for the kind of woman who does hands-on stuff like reproofing an oilskin with homemade waterproofer; and they have a box for the kind of woman who wears floral dresses and aprons about the house. But I am here to tell you that it is perfectly possible to reproof an oilskin while wearing a floral dress (and you definitely want to be wearing an apron).

break the stereotype
I did it a couple of weeks ago, using this bloke’s recipe, or something like it. I didn’t have raw linseed oil, so I used wood oil instead. And I didn’t exactly measure anything. It worked, though the surface still feels a little tacky to the touch. After letting it cure in the sun for a week, I tested its waterproofness – with a small watering can, since it hadn’t rained so much as half a millimetre for a fortnight – and yup. Job done.

At the end of the day, you are who you are. Don’t bother trying to be someone else to please someone else (or avoid upsetting their prejudices). Like Cinderella’s evil step-sisters who each cut off a bit of their foot to fit in the shoe – no, that wasn’t in the Disney version – you won’t be able to sustain the deception, and you’ll end up with no prince and a munted foot.

And don’t feel guilty if you sort people into boxes yourself. Just be sure to leave the lid off.