I am of a time and culture that bothered more to count the number of children in a family than the care they received. My parents only had sex when necessary, and were guided by people like priests and family doctors who knew practically nothing of child psychology. We were born at hospitals run by nuns who were very suspicious of a mother delivering a baby while the husband was away. I recently determined there was not much love in our family, parents and grandparents were acting more out of duty than desire.
When my brother and his wife visited me with their very young baby boy, I was shocked that they still applied the “do not respond to a crying child” policy of our parents, probably learned from their own parents, which meant that we had to toughen up right from the crib. At the time, I took the baby to my shoulder, and the baby fell asleep in a matter of seconds.
Then of course when I took a Psychology class, I read about the experiment on baby monkeys and something like comparing a food dispensing machine which was soft flannel vs. one that was metallic, and figuring out that (of course, would you really need an experiment to figure this out) babies needed to cuddle.
In my process of figuring myself out, thinking about my early childhood, I knew that I had missed one of my first plush toys, a dog I had called Fido. Fido disappeared one day, and when I asked, I was told it had been thrown away because it was torn and dirty. There was no replacement. I think that is when I took the habit of hugging the pillow I sleep on, something that is very difficult when you’re camping, for example, or when the pillow isn’t soft.
So the other day, on my way back from the grocery store, I stopped at the toy store and bought myself a cat. I was initially looking for a similar kind of dog as Fido, a collie, I think, but there were practically no dogs… There were two kinds of cats, and I let myself be charmed by one. The cat made the trip among raw vegetables, but once in my apartment I let it out to reach my face, and suddenly I was taken by this emotion I could only describe as feeling like a child, but feeling loved.
I know this is odd, especially when you have family members who rejected your feelings when you tried to talk about it. Especially from the masculine group, who already sees you as suspect because you are different. Nowadays I see trolls on the internet just the same way: grown men who were told to hold their feelings lash out at random on the internet, most likely because they never got cuddled and were probably given G.I. Joe and toy guns rather than teddy bears.
My cat is genderless and has a gender-neutral name, Bobbin. So far it is wonderful to go to sleep and wake up with Bobbin’s softness. Who knows, if one day I would accept the more complex live cat, and then later maybe, a person whose motives I do not doubt?