The Truth About Cats and Dogs
The Truth About Cats and Dogs is an adorable little romcom from 1996, a retelling of the Cyrano de Bergerac story with a gender swap. It’s about a woman (Janeane Garofalo) who gives pet advice on the radio and is hopelessly shy in real life, but she gets another woman (Uman Thurman) to date a guy for her and that’s crazy and hijinks ensue, but really, it’s about men and women how cute they both are when they try to make with the romance.
I suspect Garofalo regrets doing this movie, but we’ve all got to eat.
For centuries and millennia our entertainments have fallen back on tropes and stereotypes as shorthand. You know this guy. Such a guy. Am-i-rite? You know this lady? She’s so lady in all her lady ways. These caricatures are foundational, the stuff stories get built on top of, and maybe there is just enough truth in them for this to work.
I’ve been thinking about men and women on bikes, evaluating the stereotypes against what I experience and what I see. The picture that emerges is much lower contrast than everyday entertainment would have us believe, not surprisingly. How people are on the bike, regardless of where they fall on the gender spectrum, looks to me like an amalgam of experience, fitness, motivation and temperament.
I’ve had all sorts of people ride my legs off. I’ve had all sorts of people teach me better ways to ride.
What seems truest to me is that every ride that includes more than one person (and some that are solo) undergoes a shaking out process in which each rider finds their place in the ride, and where each person ends up doesn’t have a lot to do with their gender, or sexuality, or other arbitrary encoding we might project on it. It’s a function, as I said, of personalities, of fitness, of (sometimes false) confidence, of agendas and attitudes.
It’s not clever or new to suggest that our thinking about these things is warped by the stories we’re fed and the short-hand way we have of communicating with each other. Admittedly, I find myself falling into those ways of thinking fairly often still, and I think back now on ways that lazy thinking has infected my writing about bikes through the years.
Another sub-genre humanity really likes is the revenge tale. In one of these, someone virtuous and good is wronged, and dramatic tension is amped up as the wrong doer appears to be getting away with it, but then, in the end, either violently or legally or by sheer cleverness revenge is won. This is pretty clearly a mirror of our fantasies about justice. We have so many black-and-white ideas that fade to gray in the bright light of reality.
In the real world, I’m not really sure who is a dog and who is a cat, why that’s a metaphor that makes any sense, or how any of them get along with each other or with me. If we’re all riding bikes together, things are probably going better. If you find yourself interested in what it’s like to ride with a person of another gender, I highly recommend skipping the part where you send Uma Thurman to do it in your place. As far as I know, she’s not much of a rider.