More Than One Way to Skin a Cat
I was ten years old the day I first heard that phrase. It was a hot summer afternoon, and my mom was in the hospital for some minor surgery, leaving my dad and me to fend for ourselves for a few days. I walked into the laundry room to find my dad putting blue jeans and t-shirts together in the washer. This didn’t look right to me, so I spoke up and said, “Dad, that’s not how mom does it…I think you’re doing it wrong.” My dad looked over at me and smiled and said, “This way’s fine baby…you know there’s more than one way to skin a cat!”
Well, I was mortified by this response, and I let him know it. “DAD! That is AWFUL! Why would you say such a thing???” But he simply replied, chuckling, “Because it’s true.” He didn’t bother to explain to me what that meant, so for years to come, I thought it meant removing the hide off a feline – skin a cat! And I wasn’t the only one who thought this – my group of friends thought the same thing.
Years later, I was dating a boy in high school and I heard him use that same phrase. Still appalled, I quizzed him…”Why do people SAY that? It is the most cruel and inhumane thing I have ever heard! And how would you KNOW what it’s like to skin a cat???”
With a half puzzled look, he responded, “I do it all the time…you have to before you cook ‘em.”
“WHAT??? Is this some kind of joke to you??”
“Sheila, Sheila…calm down. Do you even know what “skinning a cat” means?”
“YES I know what it means, and I think it is sick and twisted. And I know you are just saying that to get to me…nobody COOKS cats! It’s a stupid joke!”
“It means to take the skin off a catfish…you don’t eat the skin, so you have to skin it before you cook it. And “more than one way to skin a cat” means just that…there are different ways to do it, and everybody has their own way. It doesn’t mean CATS!”
I remember feeling embarassed upon learning this news, but I was totally relieved that nobody was ripping the hide off of cats. After I had a minute to process it all, after eight years of embracing a different interpretation, I was finally able to exhale and laugh at the whole thing. And my boyfriend was kind enough not to tell everybody in school what I had been thinking all that time.
I told my girlfriends who were also glad to hear it, and a couple of them already knew but had not told the rest of us. In the end, I didn’t particularly like the idea of skinning a catfish either, but it sure beat the image of all those hundreds of felines being skinned that had been ruminating in my head all this time.
One more childhood misconception righted…thousands to go before I'm done.
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