I did get some “cat lady” jokes, even from close friends, especially in conversations about romantic relationships. “Your ideal guy would probably just be a cat,” is a comment I’ve heard one too many times, and it bothered me. During the pandemic, I often responded to questions about whether I was dating at the moment by saying some version of, “My hands and heart are full with my work, my friends, and my cats.” But people reacted by chiding or teasing me; sometimes, I even felt pitied. It made me wonder if there was something wrong with me. At one point, I felt so unsure of myself that I downloaded a couple of dating apps, swiped, and had half-hearted conversations with some matches. I also — self-consciously — reduced the amount of cat content I was posting on social media, because the “cat lady”-adjacent compliments I received had started feeling like backhanded insults about my singledom.