We all do it. I know you’re shaking your head, “Uh-uh, not me.” I, however, plead guilty. Oh, maybe not say-confession-and-do-penance-guilty, but I’m not lily white either. Preconceptions are a part of our mental development. It’s nature’s way of assessing situations based on similar experiences. Back in the day, it kept you from getting eaten by that lion, or killed by that rival tribe, or winning a posthumous Darwin award. It starts early in life. We draw from personal experience and observing other adults. We don’t just develop cookie cutter patterns for the bad stuff, but for good stuff as well. I pride myself on being open minded, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have preconceived notions. I believe the measure of an open mind is seeing when reality falls outside our preconceptions, accepting, and modifying our views.
For example, I grew up with pets. Dogs, cats, goldfish…but nothing exotic. The girl cats we had were both affectionate and sweet, and my mom always commented on how Shadow, our male cat, was so much nicer than any male cats she’d known. I didn’t know any other male cats, so I accepted her view that he was an anomaly. Male cats were meaner, more independent, and females were the preferred gender if you wanted a cuddly cat. I’ve owned or cared for eight cats since I became an independent adult. The first was a male, a tomcat (i.e. not neutered). He was fairly independent, and a bit rough when it came to play, but I observed that he had to be independent b/c his owner (my ex’s roommate at the time) didn’t even remember to feed him and enjoyed harassing him. With me he responded differently b/c I treated him differently. A female that neighbors left when they moved away was also sweet w/me, but ran for the metaphorical hills when my toddlers tried to play with her. I didn’t blame her. Cats do NOT like to go swimming in the baby pool. Eventually she decided, no matter how nice I was, the mean dude who chased her off and the loud kids that were obsessively fond of water made it worth her while to find another house to hang out at.
The other six cats were all felines I owned. One, poor baby, was killed by a stray dog I was trying to find a home for. He was the most laid back, loving cat one could imagine, and he was a male. He didn’t mind my four year old hauling him from room A to room B on a whim. He played with the dog five times his size. His sister, while sweet, is skittish and will likely bite or claw if she feels threatened. There are 2 more males and 2 females in the house. Each has their own personality, and so far, not a single male has fulfilled my mother’s declarations. Junior shows the same tendency towards wanting to “parent” the newest addition that Shadow demonstrated.
The cats serve as a microcosm of life. How often do you meet someone, paint a picture in your head of what you think they are like, but once you take the time to get to know them, find out they are totally different? Ever finally read that book/watch that movie/try that food your friend kept bugging you to [fill in the blank] and ended up loving it even though you swore you didn’t like it? Whether it’s work, a pet, a person, a hobby, don’t let experience and things others have said steal your choice. Give it a shot and THEN decide. As I tell my youngest child when she’s being a picky eater. “You can’t tell me you don’t like it until you give it a try; and a tiny nibble doesn’t count.”