Status games

During our improv fun yesterday, we were covering the topic of status and I mentioned that it’s always worth observing cats, which generally project a high status. (Not my idea, but something that the great Keith Johnstone suggests in Impro.)

So when I saw a cat across the road this morning I decided I would play high status to it. I met its gaze unflinchingly and stood in the manner of one who is better than a cat.

The cat sniffed and turned its head away from me. Before I knew it, by implying that I was not even worthy of consideration the cat had out-statused me in a flash. Ye gods, thought I, cats are even better at this game than Andrew Ormerod.

As I gathered my thoughts, I realised that the cat had now emerged from behind a nearby car and was once again staring at me. Caught off my guard, my status was lowered even further. As I stared back, my rival did the looking away trick again, adding an imperious gaze into the sky to cement its evident opinion of my worthlessness.

But then it made a fatal error: it looked back at me. Seeing that I was still staring at it, it quickly looked away again, and the contest was mine.

The cat slunk away, desperately trying to cling to its dignity, but losing all status by occasionally glancing back to see if I was still watching it. Which indeed I was.

Is it petty to feel so pleased with myself for having proved my worth against a neighbouring tabby?

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