Ask Richmond Proper: Engagement timing and a cat-fight

Richmond Proper is back, my well-mannered ladies and gentlemen! This week I answer questions about timing The Big Question, and delve into the age old question of “what’s with kitties!?”

Richmond Proper is back, my well-mannered ladies and gentlemen. And I wouldn’t bother resuming the column without making an announcement for my beloved readers. Richmond Proper is now on Tumblr, available for the advice-seeking masses. In addition to having the advice booth open for business, I’d also love to hear any stories you have of etiquette nightmares or delights you’ve come across in recent months. So, I would be honored if you would visit the blog and share your story or advice needs. These next two Q&As were mined straight from the new Tumblr:

I’m wondering if it’s weird to get engaged around the time your friends are getting married. Two of my closest friends are getting married this fall. I don’t want to be stealing their thunder or anything, but then again, I don’t want to wait much longer because I’d like to get married sometime next summer, and I know it takes a long time to plan stuff. What do you think? My boyfriend thinks we shouldn’t wait because there will always be someone getting married and some reason to postpone it.

Your boyfriend is correct. Somebody will always be getting married, or making some big announcement or other. The crazy thing about living in Civilization with other human beings is that you have to live your lives concurrently, meaning that you can sometimes end up doing things at the same time.

It is never “weird” to get engaged at any time — well, maybe it would be a little weird to get engaged while at a funeral, vigil, or other sad event — this is a decision that’s completely up to you. Your boyfriend should officially propose as soon as he pleases. Today, even! But when it comes to announcing your engagement, have a little tact.

Good times to announce your engagement:

  • Today
  • Tomorrow
  • Thursday night
  • Monday morning
  • Next month
  • Next year

Bad times to announce your engagement:

  • At your friend’s bridal shower
  • At your friend’s bachelorette party
  • The night before your friend’s wedding
  • At the reception, in the midst of your Maid of Honor toast

The timing and manner of your engagement announcement also depends on how you plan to let people know. A Facebook post in ALL CAPS two days before your best friend’s wedding is not the way to go. At my wedding reception, however, a friend who lives out of town came up, hugged me, and told me he was engaged. I was delighted. He wasn’t looking for a lot of fanfare, he just wanted to tell me in person, and I’m so glad he had the opportunity to. If your friends aren’t delighted at your news too, they’re not your friends.

— ∮∮∮ —

My roommate and I are maybe a little tense because of our cat situation. My kitten loves to play with my roommate’s seven-year-old cat. The older cat is not interested in the least. So she hisses and spits and it gets my roommate very upset. I see it as them playing and don’t mind, but she yells at my kitten and it’s just become a little weird.

I think the ‘yelling at a kitten part’ kind of says it all.

Kittens are bad. Bad, cute, evil, perfect, snuggly little demons that never listen to instructions and seem to be in all places at once and perennially seeking mischief. But kittens are not a new invention. Nay, I’d say they’ve probably always been that way. Since the dawn of time, kittens have been pestering older cats in their immediate vicinity. Usually what happens is that the older cat ignores the kitten until the kitten finally calms down a bit, and they can get along without too much conflict. They may even learn to love each other and be caught snuggling on the couch one day when you come home from work. Or sometimes the older cat will just have to swat at the kitten until he or she gets the idea that they shouldn’t bite other cats’ ears, and then they can settle into a livable hatred. Yes, I’m fairly certain this is the way that kitten / grown-up cat relations has been trending for the past millenium.

The older cat ought to be voicing his opinion — it’s normal and natural. But your roommate should just see it as part of the adjustment to having a new kitten in the house. Unless one of the cats is legitimately leaving bloody marks on the other, they shouldn’t need to be separated. They will get used to living together eventually.

So the question is, what do you do to relieve the tension? Let’s say you and your roommate are in the kitchen enjoying some tea and those little Swedish cookies that come fresh from Ikea, a cat scuffle occurs, and your roommate yells at your kitten. Laugh charmingly, as I’m sure you always do, and say “Ah, little MurderPaws is wilding-out again! But I think they’ll be best friends in no time. It usually seems to go that way. My friend Esmeralda’s cat was super bummed when she got a new kitten, but eventually they started to play and run around together, and now they’re inseparable. This stage is fun but I’m looking forward to MurderPaws calming down a little too as she gets older.”

Certainly your charming laugh, along with a calm presentation of the facts, will diffuse the situation.

If you try this a couple of times and she is still in hysterics over the kitten, say “What do you think we should do about it?”  This will likely make her realize there’s almost nothing you can do about it, aside from letting the cats settle down over time. If necessary though, compromising with your roommate about the cats will be better than listening to screaming all the time or living in a weirdly tense state. Squirting the kitten with a water bottle whenever she pesters the older cat can be a good non-yelling option you can offer up.

All of this advice is contingent on the fact that you asked your roommate before obtaining said kitten. Right? RIGHT?! Just checking. I know how easy it is to find oneself acquiring cats all the time.

Have a question, need some advice, or want to share some etiquette-related experiences with Richmond Proper?  Head to Tumblr and let us know.

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Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her husband, Dan, and their two cats.

2 comments on Ask Richmond Proper: Engagement timing and a cat-fight

  1. Melissa on said:

    May I suggest the Richmond SPCA behavior helpline for the cat-kitten situation? The roommates might feel better if they had an appointment (free) with a behavior specialist who could advise on the cats’ body language and make sure both cats’ behavioral needs are being met.

    I don’t know much about cats, but I have a similar reserved dog – boisterous puppy situation going on with non-roommate dogs who we’d like to be friends when they’re older. As the owner of the easily annoyed adult dog, I pay attention to his signals to see whether he wants to interact with the puppy. We also try to tire out the puppy before getting them together. In that context, an occasional correction by the older dog is appropriate, as Tess said. If the puppy is too wild, we help him calm down by taking an obedience break to practice sit and down, or have him chase a stick to burn off some energy.

    To help the older cat’s owner feel that she doesn’t need to yell at the kitten, the roommates could make a plan to distract the kitten with some kitty-to-human play instead, or train him to go play with a specific toy on cue (the SPCA can advise but I would imagine you can clicker train cats, the same way you can teach a mouthy dog to carry a toy in his mouth while visitors arrive).

  2. Melissa, thanks for that comment! Great suggestions from someone who’s probably way more of an expert on cats than me. I had no idea there was an SPCA behavior hotline. Holy smokes.

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