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Lulu the cat

Lulu the Cat Says…

I know, I know, I wrote about Lulu once already, but some folks who couldn’t make it to Saturday’s Queer Memoir: PETS asked if I would repost what I shared. So here it is.

Lulu the Cats Say Screw You

I suppose anyone telling a lesbian couple + cat story would be expected to have at least one predominantly lesbian theme as well. For example, I might be expected to include a long story about how it turned out we found out three weeks into our couples therapy that one or both of us had had sex with the therapist or at very least shared an ex.

We never did couples therapy.

You might expect to hear a story about how being a mixed status (vegetarian/meat-eater) couple caused us conflict. It did not cause us conflict. In fact, when I would walk out of the kitchen, for example, eating just a bowl of meat Cheryl would observe “wow, it’s like living with a dinosaur” and then happily add “thank god you still have your incisors”

You might expect at least to hear a story about how we had sex and then immediately moved in together.

No. We live in New York and we’re middle aged. Rent control and putting your socks where you want is more important at this point than lesbian codependence.

In fact, it wasn’t until Cheryl got sick with Hodgkin’s lymphoma that we moved in together. It was an easy enough transition I suppose, except for one problem.

Cheryl had a cat named Lulu, a sweet well, sweetish Russian Blue (well…Russian-blue-ish)  who had her own mind about how things should go. I would decide I was going to sit on one side of the couch and she would wedge herself between me and my computer until I petted her or got up and left the couch entirely.

“Hey cat,” I’d say, “You aren’t the boss of me.”

And Lulu the Cat said screw you.

During the time Cheryl was on chemo, her white cells hit a devastating low. Her oncologist agreed to keep her out of the hospital but Cheryl couldn’t go anywhere near the cat box. This meant I had to clean the cat box.

“The alternative no one is discussing,” I muttered under my breath one day, “is the cat could go live somewhere else.”

And Lulu the Cat said screw you.

Lulu would cuddle with me in bed with Cheryl, or when Cheryl was home. But on Saturday mornings when Cheryl made the trek into Manhattan to teach her writing class, Lulu would ignore me like it was her job.

“Hey cat,” I’d say, trying to coax her out from under the bed, “just because I;m here and Cheryl isn’t doesn’t mean anything special. You see, she’ll be here later.”

But still, Lulu the Cat said screw you.

When Cheryl was hospitalized with a toxic pulmonary reaction to the chemo she had been given, I moved into the hospital with her. I would come home on Friday afternoons and pet Lulu and tell her everything would be okay.

“Just because I’m here and Cheryl isn’t doesn’t mean anything special, you’ll see, she’ll be here later.” I would say, almost certainly believing this myself.

And Lulu the Cat said screw you.

Cheryl got worse, then got better, and then got much worse again. In June of this past year, I came home to the apartment and put Lulu on my lap, “Hey little cat dude, I seriously did the best I could. I’m sorry.”

And Lulu the Cat said fuck you.

I didn’t want to sleep in our bedroom, but I didn’t want Lulu to be alone, so after Cheryl died I would try and sleep on the living room couch. Lulu would stand on my chest and make an extremely annoying cat sound until I came and slept in the bed.

“Hey little cat dude” I would say “I do not want to sleep in this bed without Cheryl here.”

To which Lulu the Cat said screw you.

Because Cheryl did not make any legal arrangements, everything went to her mom: her apartment, her money, her bills, her body all went to her mom. I don’t have even a tablespoon of Cheryl’s ashes.

And I suppose Lulu should have by all rights gone to live with Cheryl’s mom, but I told Cheryl’s mom that wasn’t happening. Lulu may not have liked me exactly, but I had found a description that Cheryl has written about the time her mom owned a cat. Her mom’s cat, Cheryl wrote, was exposed to so much  second smoke it had a little kitty smoker’s cough.

“See what I;m saving you from Lulu” I whispered in her ear when we moved back to the Brooklyn queer group apartment I had called home before I moved in with Cheryl.

And Lulu the Cat said screw you.

Up until this point, Lulu had only lived with the very orderly Cheryl in a very quiet house. Now she lived with me, two room-mates two other cats and a huge dog. The first night at the new place, Lulu climbed onto my chest as I was falling asleep. “I’m sorry little cat dude” I said, “I did the very best I could. I’m sorry our little family is so small.”

And Lulu the Cat, as she laid her head on my chest and fell asleep said “screw you.”

Lulu is remarkably adjustable for a cat and she has learned to deal with the fact that sometimes I pile my hoodies on my bedroom chair, and sometimes I don’t make my bed. In the beginning, both these things bothered her very much. I still get a dirty look now, but she doesn’t attempt to paw down the hoodies, or refuse to sleep on an unmade bed.

She sits on my lap pretty much every moment I am working and I will let her, and follows me around the apartment, even sometimes to the bathroom.

“I can’t believe your inheritance from a lesbian relationship is a cat” my eighteen year old nephew observed the last time I was visiting. “That’s the most lesbian thing in the world.”

Every few weeks Phyllis will email me and\ inquire about Lulu. I always ask Lulu “Hey little cat dude do you want to go live with Cheryl’s mother?”

To which Lulu the Cat yawns, stretches herself further out on my lap and says screw you.

About Kelli Dunham

Everyone's favorite ex-nun genderqueer nerd comic.


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Kelli Dunham: registered nurse, author, stand-up comic

I am also--despite being under 45 years old- a two time widow, having lost two partners in a row to cancer. GRIEF SUCKS is a reaction to the kitsch that passes as death /dying/ bereavement discussion in the popular/ dominant culture and makes me want to poke out my eye with a spoon. I'm also including nuts and bolts info about caregiving and building support systems that I've picked up on these journeys.


If you stumbled here looking to book me comedy shows or presentations, you'll find all the information you need at

my main comedy site


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