TIME Humor

I’m So Bored With This ‘Color of the Year’ Thing

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Calling something a trend doesn't make it trendy


This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

At the risk of sounding like one of those people who shows up on the Internet to complain about something completely pointless, can I just vent real quick?

Last week, Pantone unveiled the 2015 Color of the Year, and immediately, everyone ran their typical headlines “You’ll Be Seeing This Color Everywhere in 2015” and “The Trendiest Hue for All Your Holiday Parties.”

This year’s Color of the Year is Marsala, for those playing along at home.

I think it’s time for us to all step back, take a breath, and collectively agree to just calm the eff down.

I’ve never really gotten the whole Color of the Year thing, for many reasons. For one, it’s just such a forced trend. I have a weird relationship with trends in general because I always want to rebel against them on principle, and yet embody each and every single one of them because I have a horrible fear of being left out and also want to be viewed as one of the cool kids. So there’s that.

What makes a trend ~trendy~ is that it happens organically. People see something, respond to it, and incorporate it into their own lives. Like, I don’t know, dark lipsticks, messy fishtail braids, or literally anything on Pinterest. All of that caught on because that stuff is cute. No one just decided on those certain things and handed them down to us.

The whole concept of the Color of the Year just seems very manufactured, like a bunch of execs were sitting around a board room in gray suits, analyzing pie charts and bar graphs, whatever those are, to figure out which color would sell the best throughout the coming year, then making that the color of the year.

It’s just BORING. And doesn’t officially declaring something a hot item automatically negate any cool factor it once had? What’s interesting about a certain color if we’re all going to be wearing it? And could you ever actually hear yourself saying, “Oh yeah, this? It’s the Color of the Year.” I’d rather go blind.

Maybe it’s the fact that the Color of the Year never feels very thought out. Pantone always partners with Sephora for a Color of the Year collection, which is an awesome idea in theory, but the execution always seems to fall a little short. The Color of the Year for 2014 was Radiant Orchid, and the year before that, Emerald. Good on Sephora and Pantone for not being afraid of vibrant colors, but neither of the aforementioned shades struck me as being very wearable nor flattering on any skin tone. I realize that this is just a matter of taste, but still, I would think it would be a factor that would inform the decision on what color you’re going to be marketing to the masses.

This year’s color, Marsala, is in my opinion, the most versatile color Pantone has chosen in a while. They describe it as “a naturally robust and earthy wine red, Marsala enriches our minds, body, and souls.” SIGH.

The images accompanying the announcement play up the luxuriousness of Marsala.

Everywhere you look, there are plush fabrics, mulled wine, berries, and of course, macarons. What would a photo shoot in 2014 be without a macaron? They’re serving up the color to be perfect for the holidays, very warm, able to be incorporated into your clothes, makeup, your couch, your kitchen, whatever.

As colors go, I actually kind of like this one, because it’s sort of an in-between of, like, five other colors. It’s vague. All of my favorite colors are lifeless and boring and this one fits right in. Marsala is like a darkened dusty rose, a muted brick red, with a tiny bit of taupe thrown in there for good measure. It’s a nice departure from the jewel tones of the last couple of years. It’s also a lot more in line with what is actually going on in fashion right now. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Marsala pairs very well with this 90s revival we’ve been seeing with the darker makeup and brown lipsticks.

But do we really need to pair one trend with another? That almost seems like it defeats the purpose of having a color of the year, if they’re just going to align it with what we were already doing anyway.

Is it just me? Are you down with having a color of the year every year? Trends, even at their silliest and most pointless, are supposed to be fun, and I am the last person to hate on something that’s simply supposed to bring us a little joy. After all, I’ve been known to lose my mind over a color-changing nail polish or whatever, so it’s not like I take any of this too seriously. It just seems a little forced. To me, the people who would respond to the Color of the Year are the same people who would wear a band T-shirt without actually knowing any of the band’s music, just because they think it makes them cool (he types, wearing an AC/DC T-shirt, unable to name a single AC/DC song).

Am I putting too much thought into this? Am I taking this too seriously? Have I become what I fear the most: A hater? What trends do you hate? How do you feel about marsala? Was that seriously the cutest name they could come up with?

Tynan Sinks is a Beauty/Style contributor for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Fitness Trends to Try in 2015

weight stack
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The next big thing? Body weight training

Curious about what’s going to be hot in the wellness sphere next year? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We put our sneakers to the ground to find out what fitness trends could be making their way into your gym in 2015. Happy sweating.

Body weight training

According to an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) survey of more than 3,000 fitness professionals worldwide, body weight training is predicted to be the next big thing. “Expect to see it continue to expand in all movement experiences including both group and personal training,” says Carol Espel, Senior Director, Group Fitness and Pilates at Equinox. “Look for the comprehensive incorporation of gymnastics, adult jungle gyms, workout spaces that are uncluttered with weight machines and open for training, greater suspension training options, primal movements, and more programming that is less focused on standard weight lifting protocols.” In other words, those tried and true exercises that don’t require equipment—like lunges, squats, push-ups, and burpees—are here to stay, so embrace them.

HEALTH.COM: 25 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

OK, HIIT (think P90X) did take a hit over the past year dropping from the number one spot on the 2013 ACSM survey to number two this year. But we assure you that this technique, which alternates intense bursts of exercise with short, sometimes active, recovery periods, isn’t going anywhere. The reason: It’s super effective. “People are exercising in shorter bursts and they are still seeing results,” notes Donna Cyrus, Senior Vice President of Programming at Crunch. This should be no surprise, though. After all, who wants to slave away at the gym for hours each day when you can blast fat in as little as 20 minutes? Exactly.

HEALTH.COM: 11 Fitness Foods to Help You Get in Shape Faster

Treadmill training

Boutique studios that specialize in one specific fitness genre—be it underwater cycling or trampoline workouts—will continue to rise in popularity. However, within this group fitness sector, indoor group running has been steadily gaining momentum. From big gym chains like Equinox and Crunch to smaller studios like Mile High Run Club, treadmill-based training is poised to become the new “it” workout. Yes, many view this piece of machinery as a torture device (I know I’ve called it a dreadmill on more than one occasion), but these classes are truly beneficial, helping to improve your running through speed, incline, and interval-based drills.

“There is a trend in fitness to return to simplicity, and running is the oldest form of exercise,” explains Andia Winslow, a fitness expert and coach at Mile High Running Club. “With indoor treadmill training, participants are in a controlled and yet challenging environment where they can, regardless of fitness level, keep up with class while running on industry elite commercial equipment. With less strain on bones, joints and tendons, runners can focus instead on form, specialized and programmed intensity and being wholly engaged with their runs.” Even better: You will never have to worry about it being too cold or raining too hard to log those miles.

HEALTH.COM: 18 Moves to Tone Your Butt, Thighs, and Legs

Recovery efforts

Don’t you just love a super intense workout? The way it pushes you to your limits, leaving behind a reminder (read: sore muscles) of all the hard work you put in. Here’s the deal, though, too much intense training can throw your body out of whack, leaving it open for potential injuries, which is why recovery is essential. “A balanced body is key, which means all of your muscles are working correctly, not just some of them,” says David Reavy, PT, owner of React Physical Therapy and creator of the Reavy Method. “Weak muscles will fatigue quickly, and you over train muscles that are already strong. The compensation and overuse of muscles and not the work brings the need for recovery.” This is why “we will continue to see the rapid expansion of group formats that include self-care protocols for self myofascial release (SMR), such as foam rolling and therapy balls, core strengthening and dynamic stretching, full recovery days and clear focus on sleep as an integral part of one’s fitness regimen,” says Espel. “And of course restorative yoga formats will continue to become a much more prevalent part of programming.”

HEALTH.COM: 10 Exercise Cheats That Blow Your Calorie Burn

Digital engagement

In our tech-obsessed world, this one seems like a no-brainer. Just take Nike, for example: I learned at their Women’s Summit last month that 9 million women have downloaded the Nike Running app and 16 million women have downloaded the Nike Training (NTC) app. And that’s just one company—think about all of the other fitness apps and cool trackers out there that put a wealth of health info at our fingertips. The reason we’re still obsessed with these modalities is because “they provide inspiration, guidance and coaching,” explained Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport for Nike at the summit. Not to mention the social factor. Adds Espel: “We will continue so see an even greater level of engagement of the use of multiple devices to track and log movement, nutrition, sleep and all aspects of activity,” she says. “The challenge for all will be determining what data is pertinent and then how providers and health care experts take the most relevant information and make it continually meaningful to users.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Management

3 Workplace Trends to Watch For in 2015 (and Beyond)

Artificial intelligence will rock the job market, your company will need a Chief of Work, and cubicle farms will disappear

Correction appended, Dec. 11

If you happen to work at Microsoft, Google, Credit Suisse, or Unilever, you may be slightly ahead of your time — but only slightly. Those four companies have been featured in a new research report on the future of work.

“Most of the changes we’ll see in the next few years have already started to happen, but they will accelerate,” says Peter Andrew, workplace strategy director for Asia at real estate company CBRE. “The future is already here.”

Why real estate? Simple: Many big commercial clients sign leases for a quarter century or more into the future, so the industry keeps an eye on how work, and the places where we do it, are most likely to evolve. CBRE teamed up with Genesis, a giant real estate developer in China, to conduct in-depth interviews and other research with about 220 expert observers, executives, and office workers around the world, many of them Millennials.

The study turned up some intriguing signs of things to come, like these three:

Artificial intelligence will transform the workplace

The era of automation, which has seen robots replace workers in routine jobs in warehouses and on manufacturing assembly lines, is shifting to “knowledge work.” Among the advantages of teaching computers to gather information, and base decisions on it, is that “humans have biases. For example, people tend to be overly optimistic about a risky course of action if they’ve already invested a lot in it,” Andrew says. “AI eliminates those biases.”

It could also eliminate a lot of jobs — up to 50% of what knowledge workers do now, according to some estimates. Economies worldwide “won’t create new jobs at the same rate as we lose old ones,” says Andrew. “So there will be a difficult period of adjustment.”

Andrew likens this to what’s already happened within the legal profession, where computerization of routine research has slashed the number of new associates law firms need to hire. The upside: AI will free up human talent for more interesting, creative work. Eventually, we’ll all get used to it, Andrew says — especially since many of the tasks AI will take over are the business equivalent of household drudgery: “You never hear anyone complain about the invention of the dishwasher.”

Companies will need a Chief of Work

Most C-suites haven’t added new roles since the Chief Information Officer title took hold about 20 years ago, but CBRE’s research suggests that’s about to change. For one thing, companies today have “human resources, we have IT, and we have a real estate division — all acting separately and, often, unwittingly working against each other,” Andrew says.

A Chief of Work would coordinate all that, with an eye toward building a culture that attracts top talent, or what Andrew calls “the complete experience of working for the company, and how that affects performance.” Finding the most efficient balance between full-time employees and growing armies of independent contractors will be in the Chief of Work’s wheelhouse, too.

Office cubicles will be a relic of the past

For huge swaths of the knowledge-working, laptop- or tablet-toting world, technology has already made a desk in an office obsolete, or at least optional. So, partly in the interest of face-to-face collaboration, companies in CBRE’s study are thinking up ways to make workspaces healthier, more comfortable, and more fun.

One example: Old-school fluorescent lighting could be replaced by LED lights that can easily change color throughout the day to reflect subtle changes in the sky outside, like those lights on many airliners now that simulate dawn, midday, and dusk for long-distance travelers.

Companies will also move toward creating campus-like office buildings, like Chiswick Park in England, with amenities and events that draw people in. Andrew says more big companies around the world are starting to hand empty space, including erstwhile cube farms, over to local artists and musicians for use as studios.

“HR people tell us they see a tremendous increase in employee engagement from art, in particular,” says Andrew. “Making a more interesting environment, where you bring more of the broader culture into the space, creates a buzz and an energy that you really can’t replicate in any other way.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the surname of Peter Andrew.

TIME Pop Culture

The Most Popular Game in History Almost Didn’t Pass ‘Go’

Soldiers playing Monopoly
US troops on a transport to Australia playing Monopoly, in 1942 Wallace Kirkland—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Nov. 5, 1935: Parker Brothers begins marketing the game Monopoly

When Parker Brothers rolled the dice on “the real estate game,” it did so reluctantly. The game seemed too long, too complicated, and too niche: who, after all, would get excited about buying imaginary realty in Atlantic City?

The brainchild of an out-of-work heating contractor named Charles Darrow, according to the New York Times, the game that became Monopoly wildly outperformed Parker Brothers’ modest expectations, becoming the most popular game in history. Although they initially rejected Darrow’s offer to sell it to them, the powers that be at Parker Brothers changed their minds after the independently manufactured game began flying off the shelves of a Philadelphia department store, though the company still believed the game was a fad that would soon fade. They began marketing it as Monopoly on this day, Nov. 5, in 1935.

Monopoly sales soon made Darrow so rich that he abandoned the heating trade for a hothouse hobby: growing orchids. According to Hasbro, which acquired Parker Brothers in 1991, more than 275 million Monopoly games — including more than 6 billion green houses and 2.25 billion red hotels — have been sold since 1935.

And while Monopoly remains a fixture in American homes, it has undergone periodic changes in an effort to stay relevant. Last year, following a vote on the Monopoly Facebook page, game lovers chose a new token — a cat, which triumphed over proposed tokens including a toy robot, a guitar, a helicopter, and a diamond ring — to replace the least popular of the existing tokens: the iron. It wasn’t the first upheaval among the tokens, which have at times included a purse, a lantern, an elephant, a horse and rider, and a rocking horse. The game board has gone through a number of updates, too, and met with mixed reviews.

In 1978, to celebrate the legalization of gambling in Atlantic City, Parker Brothers released a new version called “Advance to Boardwalk,” which allowed players to build casinos, according to the Times. It never became popular.

In 2006, Hasbro released the “Here and Now” edition, meant to bring the game into the 21st century — in all its branded glory — with corporatized tokens including McDonald’s fries, a Starbucks coffee cup, a New Balance sneaker and a Toyota Prius. According to TIME’s coverage of the new edition, the properties in that version:

… include real estate from around the country, selected by online vote. The railroads have become airports. Weimar-style hyperinflation has set in–for passing Go, you collect $2 million–but Times Square is a bargain at $4 mil, and while it’s a refreshing admission that, yes, you can buy the White House, it cost the present occupant far more than $3.2 million.

This spring, Hasbro adopted a grassroots approach to improving the game by polling players on their “house rules,” acknowledging their findings that half of all Monopoly players have made up their own rules and 68% have never read the official rules all the way through. The House Rules Edition includes the five most popular of those made-up rules, which include doubling the amount collected for passing “Go,” collecting an additional $500 for rolling “snake eyes,” and not collecting rent while in jail.

To appease purists, Hasbro points out that these rules are, of course, entirely optional.

Read more about the 2006 edition of Monopoly, here in TIME’s archives: Monopoly in Elysium

MONEY Charity

The Surprising Reason People Are Mobbing Church Pews

This Jan. 12, 2014 photo shows people gathered for mass inside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Buffalo, N.Y., during a “Mass Mob.”
A "Mass Mob" in January packed the pews of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Buffalo, N.Y. Carolyn Thompson—AP

So-called "Mass Mobs" are flooding beautiful old Catholic churches in Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, and other cities to raise money and boost enthusiasm among the faithful.

The term “flash mob” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004, defined as a group of people meeting in a public place to perform an “unusual or seemingly random act,” before heading off again on their merry way, in also random fashion. While the original inventor of the flash mob came up with the idea as a way to mock hipster conformity, the concept was nonetheless broadly adopted (of course!) by the trend-following masses. Within weeks of the first flash mob, there were copycat events all over the world.

Mobs have since popped up everywhere from Target stores to Manhattan’s Katz’s Deli (the latter for a group re-creation of the fake orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally”). The movement has also been coopted by Russian political operatives, who reportedly paid people to form a flash mob in support of Vladimir Putin; by corporate brands like Oscar Mayer, BMW, Arby’s, and IKEA, which are known to hire “random” flash mobs for marketing events; and even by hoodlums who conduct “flash robs,” in which a group of young people floods a store and grabs as much stuff as possible before running off without paying.

In the next evolution of the flash mob, the masses have turned their attention to, well, mass. Credit for the rise of the Mass Mob goes to a group in Buffalo, which organized its first event at Saint Adalbert Basilica last November and followed that up with a handful of flash mass (in both senses of the word) attendances at other churches in the city. At a Mass Mob in January, for instance, Buffalo’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church received a helping hand in the form of 300 parishioners, when a typical Sunday mass sees fewer than 100 churchgoers.

“Maybe it will inspire people to come a few times a year,” Christopher Byrd, one of Buffalo’s Mass Mob organizers, said of the group’s efforts. “And it gives the church a little one-day boost, attendance-wise and in the collection basket.”

The idea has proven inspirational in another way, with similar Mass Mob groups and events popping up in cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. A recent Mass Mob at Detroit’s St. Florian church, for instance, resulted in a crowd of 2,000 people for a mass that’s usually attended by about 200, and the collection basket topped $19,000, also roughly 10 times the norm.

TIME singles

Why 25% of Millennials Will Never Get Married

A new report from Pew Research predicts that more folks under 35 will be single forever. Here's why

The number of Americans who have always been single and will never marry is at a historic high, says a new Pew Research report, partly because they don’t have jobs and partly because marriage is becoming less highly-regarded. Most people think it’s important for couples who intend to stay together to be married, but the number of single Americans who want to get married has dropped significantly even in the last four years.

The report, based on census data and Pew’s surveys, is the latest in a series of indicators that marriage’s stock is on a sharp downward trajectory. Fewer young people are getting married and many are getting married later. About 20% of Americans older than 25 had always been single in 2012, up from 9% in 1960. In the black community, the numbers are even starker: 36% of black Americans older than 25 have never been married, a fourfold increase from 50 years ago.

The one number that hasn’t really budged is the percentage of 64 year olds who have never been married. In 1960, it was 8% and in 2012, it was 7%. But the report’s authors Wendy Wang and Kim Parker say this might be changing. Each decade, the percentage of people of marriageable age who are single has grown. “When today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, a record high share (roughly 25%) is likely to have never been married,” they write. “This is not to say that adults in their mid-40s to mid-50s who still haven’t married will never marry, but our analysis suggests that the chance of getting married for the first time after age 54 is relatively small,” adds Parker.

Why aren’t people getting married anymore? The three main reasons people give for their singleness are that they haven’t found the right person (30%), aren’t financially stable enough (27%) and are not ready to settle down (22%). Many more young people are eschewing tying the knot, at least for a while, for shacking up. The researchers don’t see that as the new normal yet. “Cohabitation is much less common than marriage and cohabiting relationships are much less stable than marriages,” says Parker.”It’s hard to imagine marriage being replaced any time soon.”

But the Pew researchers teased out a bunch of other reasons by asking what people wanted in a partner.

The quality most women want in a husband, somewhat unromantically, is a secure job, followed very closely by similar ideas on raising kids, which was the quality most men wanted in a spouse. The problem is, the report points out, that young men are increasingly less likely to be employed. “In 1960, 93% of men ages 25 to 34 were in the labor force; by 2012 that share had fallen to 82%.” Those young men who are employed are not bringing home as much bacon as they once did. In fact, if you adjust for inflation, the median hourly wages of men aged 25 to 34 are a fifth less than they were in 1980.

Compounding that issue is that women have entered the labor force in much higher numbers. So while there are more men than women who are single and available, there are far fewer employed men who are single than employed women. Fifty years ago there were 139 single young men with jobs for every 100 single young women; that ratio has now dropped to 91:100. “If all never-married young women in 2012 wanted to find a young employed man who had also never been married, 9% of them would fail,” says the report, “simply because there are not enough men in the target group.”

But lest that bum all the single ladies out too much, the report points out that single young women don’t have to marry single young men: they can marry guys who are divorced, widowed or much older. Should they bother? Now that comedian Sarah Silverman has declared marriage barbaric, is it done? The Pew researchers don’t think so.

“Marriage hasn’t fallen out of favor,” says Parker, “but financial constraints and imbalances in the marriage market may be holding people back from taking the plunge.”

TIME viral

Dear Teens: Please Stop Lighting Yourselves on Fire

Mark Weiss—Getty Images

The newest viral video trend is literally on fire

Trends change with the seasons, and for America’s Internet-addled teens, there is nothing more trendy than melting skin. Now that the season for tossing boiling water into sub-zero air is far behind us, listless teens have found new ways to critically burn themselves. Betraying a nostalgia for simpler times, some of today’s young adults have returned to the most reliable route to injury in the name of YouTube infamy: dousing your body in accelerant and just straight up lighting yourself on fire.

The Daily Dot reports that videos of teens purposefully engulfing themselves in flames are spreading like wildfire across social media platforms like Vine and YouTube. One Kentucky teen whose video went viral even had to be treated for second-degree burns to his torso.

It is scientifically proven that hormones are extremely flammable even without the help of lighter fluid. This is why it is absolutely crucial for teens to stay away from anything that poses a fire hazard, such as matchbooks or a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

So, kiddos, please step away from the lighter fluid or I will use it to burn this One Direction poster, and you wouldn’t want that now, would you?

TIME Music

See Coachella Through the Eyes of Google Glass

See the famed California music fest from a new angle

Jonathan D. Woods, TIME’s Senior Editor for Photo & Interactive, spent a weekend at Coachella. Here’s an intimate firsthand look at how he saw the music festival through a unique lens: Google Glass.

TIME trends

Here Are the Most Popular Plastic Surgery Procedures In Three Charts

plastic surgery
Getty Images

2013 was a good year for butt augmentation and neck lifts

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons released their annual results on plastic surgery procedures in the U.S., reporting 15.1 million cosmetic procedures in 2013, a 3% increase from 2012.
Some of the findings were expected. For instance, breast implants remain the top cosmetic surgical procedure and Botox remained the top minimally invasive procedure. Interestingly, the procedures that are gaining popularity are buttock augmentation and neck lifts. Below are some of the most popular procedures Americans are going under the knife for.
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American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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American Society of Plastic Surgeons
TIME Archives

Crazy Over Cats

Dec. 7, 1981, cover of TIME
The Dec. 7, 1981, cover of TIME Neil Leifer

Love 'em or hate 'em, they are a national mania

You are getting a free preview of a TIME Magazine article from our archive. Many of our articles are reserved for subscribers only. Want access to more subscriber-only content, click here to subscribe.

Cat: One Hell of a nice animal, frequently mistaken for a meatloaf.

—B. Kliban, cartoonist

Muhammad cut the sleeve from his robe rather than disturb his friend, asleep on the Prophet’s gown. Samuel Johnson daily pampered his spoiled companion Hodge with meals of fresh oysters. Victor Hugo cherished Gavroche. Cardinal Richelieu left a generous legacy for the 14 he owned. Napoleon is said to have broken into a cold sweat at the sight of one. In his childhood, Smerdyakov, in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, was fond of hanging them. Thomas Hardy and Thomas Gray wrote poems to them; Hemingway shared dinner with his. Physician and Scholar Albert Schweitzer favored two ways to take refuge from human misery: playing the organ and delighting in the play of his cats.

From deification to demonization, and every stage in between, attitudes toward cats have been confused, variable, peculiar, consuming, jittery and, ultimately, baffling. Those sinuous forms represented in Egyptian art, valued as rodent-chasers by farmers, or draped luxuriously over an apartment radiator have elicited the best and worst from mankind in the 5,000 years since their domestication. The dog may be man’s best friend, but the cat is his most perplexing one, if, indeed, he is one at all.

A prodigious number of Americans have become smitten with cats. Others continue to bad-mouth felines. Are cats stouthearted companions or unresponsive curmudgeons? Or are they, as Cartoonist Bernard Kliban suggested in his bestselling album Cat (1975), merely whimsical meat-loaves? While the fur flies in this battle, one cat gives folks a humorous peek at both armies in the controversy. The most famous feline to express this perplexing relationship between man and pet is Garfield, a comic-strip cat. His creator, Cartoonist Jim Davis, has three books on the New York Times trade paperback bestseller list, a first for any author. Garfield Bigger Than Life, Garfield Gains Weight and Garfield at Large, which has been on the list for an amazing 84 weeks, have sold more than 2 million volumes, and a fourth compilation of the daily newspaper comic will appear in the spring. Three other cat books also grace the list, including 101 Uses for a Dead Cat (on the list for 27 weeks); together they account for an additional 1.2 million kitty-cartoon albums (see box).

Garfield and his top-selling feline pals are but one example of the cat boom in the U.S., which now goes well beyond book and comic pages. There is, for example, Cats, an opulent, energetic rock musical adapted from T.S. Eliot’s volume of poems Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The production has been a smash hit in London for nine months and will stalk onto Broadway early next year. Signature lines of kitty sheets, towels, ceramic cat planters, calendars, mugs, watches, umbrellas, T shirts, sweatshirts, stationery and housewares move swiftly at gift stores and specialty shops like Purrfection in New York and the Cat House in Los Angeles. Mimi Vang Olsen, 43, a New York portraitist, will immortalize an owner’s beloved cat in vibrant, primitivist oils for $2,500. There is a pet motel in Prairie View, Ill., that offers apartments, roomettes and imperial suites to guest cats for up to $6.50 a day: letters sent by the vacationing owners are read to the animals. California, as always a seismographic chart of late-breaking obsessions, now has a cat resort, a cat department store, a cat rest home, a rent-a-cat agency, a cat dating service, cat psychics, cat acting coaches and a special annual contest to judge cats’ meows. And, of course, there is television, with its commercials featuring cats in caterwauling unison or solitary hunger. The ads offer a sufficient variety of pellets, powders, pablums, nibbles, munches, crunches and chomps to drive conscientious cat chefs into catatonia.

Cats, love ‘em or hate ‘em, are a hot number. Plain or fancy, pampered or ignored, barn mousers or apartment pets, they have captured the American imagination. They are becoming a national mania. In fact, cats are even gaining on dogs. Thirty-four million cats—often in multiples—inhabit 24% of America’s households, an increase of 55% in the past decade. The dog population, meanwhile, has stabilized in recent years at some 48 million. In Washington, D.C., and New York, feline adoptions from animal shelters have zoomed 30% in the past three or four years. Cats are also becoming a factor in the American economy. Owners will shell out $1.4 billion for 1 million tons of cat food that carry such whisker-licking names as Meow Mix and Tender Vittles. These processed delights consist largely of soybean, corn and wheat. One hundred eighty-nine million dollars’ worth of cat-box filler will inevitably follow. Revenues to veterinarians, animal psychologists, pet shops and grooming parlors will add even more millions. All of this must be added to the initial cost of buying the beast.

Eighty percent of U.S. cats are common shorthairs and mixed breeds—”alley cats” of little dollar value. But the price for grand-championship-quality Abyssinian kittens and some others of the 33 recognized breeds in America can be as much as $3,000. Nearly 400 cat shows were held in the country this year, and some breeders believe the number may reach 450 next year. Last season the tony Empire Cat Show in Madison Square Garden—the “Westminster” of catdom—had to turn away thousands of enthusiasts.

The shouting and spending, the shows and services are lavished on an extraordinary mammal. Weighing in at an average of 10 Ibs., the cat has a uniquely flexible backbone. When dropped from a height of less than one foot in an upside-down position, it will land on its paws in an incredible 1.8 sec. Its whiskers transmit complex information about its prey and surroundings to nerve bundles beneath the skin. According to one parapsychologist, the cat may even harbor a trace of E.S.P. A feline named Pooh, for example, who wandered off before the owners moved some 200 miles from Newnan, Ga., to a small town near Spartanburg, S.C., turned up at the family’s new back door a year later.

The cat’s sensitive ears are precisely tuned to discern the scrabble of paws beneath the ground. It even has its own self-cleaning service: cat saliva may contain a deodorizing detergent-like substance. Asleep, a cat may resemble a throw pillow or a Kliban-style meatloaf, but, awake and hungry, the average feline, one of the most highly evolved predators in the natural world, is capable of dispatching a dozen mice at a brief sitting. Alarmingly, it tends to dawdle before administering the coup de grâce. Behavioralists believe this happens because cats are programmed by a primitive, vestigial stalking mechanism. Cats toy with their prey because they may be teaching kittens to hunt or may be exhibiting their prowess; instinctively cats do not always relate killing with the need to eat. When they finally do away with a mouse, it is with Darwinian perfection. The cat’s teeth are so arranged as to sever a rodent’s spine with surgical precision.

The brain structure and nervous system of the cat are also special. The divided feline cerebrum offers tantalizing clues to right-brain, left-brain investigations. The highly developed feline “flight-fight” mechanism may provide insights to the response in humans. So useful are cats that tens of thousands of them disappear into the nation’s labs for experiments each year. Although researchers have studied cat brains with infinite care, none have discovered the secret of the cat’s singular sound. The apparatus and meaning of purring remain a mystery of feline behavior, one of many unexplained traits that remain as folklore.

It is an almost unbudgeable popular belief—and a false one—that cats and dogs have an instinctive rivalry. Animal owners, however, are often more partisan than their pets. “I’m not a cat person, I’m a dog person,” is a frequently expressed predilection. The cat is sly and fickle, say canine lovers. It is cruel, indifferent and, well, catty. Such deprecations may mask a deeper dislike.

Investigators have never reached a consensus on ailurophobia—extreme fear of cats. Some postulate a traumatic childhood experience with felines, while others blame the cat’s galvanizing stare, or disdain for affection, or even its slippery, furred coat and unfriendly, arching backbone. Traditional superstitions still exist: cats suck the breath from sleeping infants, sour fresh milk, forecast the phases of the moon and serve Satan. A black cat is bad luck. According to old belief, a cat, through necromancy or something even more unfathomable, has been given nine lives. Such Draculatic positions, however, are rare. Cats themselves often seem instinctively to regard fear or hatred in people as a signal to antagonize visitors. Many owners report that their pets will purposely force their unwanted attentions on squeamish guests.

Cat haters delight in announcing that a Siamese will not faithfully drool in your lap for a kind word like a Labrador retriever. Even the most fervid owners of felines can be surprised—almost to cardiac arrest—by their pets’ peculiarities. Your cat lurks in the dark attic just when you thought you were alone. As a form of endearment, he may jump on your shoulder from the top of the refrigerator. He may refuse all food until you cook the same kind of bacon-and-cheese sandwich he enjoyed a week ago. He will, in the meantime, deposit a variety of dead and near dead things at the back door and stalk away for a nap. He may shred the antique silk draperies or decide that the shower stall is a Bauhaus litter pan. Whether the cat is friend or foe, many would agree with the prominent 18th century naturalist, the Count de Buffon. The cat, he wrote, “appears to have feelings only for himself, loves only conditionally and only enters into relations [with people] in order to abuse them.”

Votaries of the cat take a different view. From Cleopatra to Colette they have praised Felis domestica in stories, songs and poems for grace, independence, intelligence, perseverance and fastidious ways. Unlike the dog or man, cats do not form Soviets or pyramid clubs to achieve dubious pack goals. While they may pick a top cat, felines do not seem to require rigid hierarchies when a number of them live together. If human, cats might play solitaire, but they would never sit around with the gang and a few six-packs watching Monday Night Football. Their aloof singularity lies at the heart of human fascination with the animal. The cat’s wild ways endure and charm. In Japan the cat is called “the tiger that eats from the hand.” In her authoritative compendium The Cat, Author Muriel Beadle postulates that the feline’s alliance with humans is a dramatic biological decision to swap solitary life in the wild for “the company of men.”

Many people believe that cats are so biologically programmed for survival in the wilderness that they cannot be trained. While unaltered cats are almost impossible to work with, say the experts, food and affection—heavy on the food, please—will help teach most house cats to forgo clawing the couch and spraying. With the patience usually given only to holy men—plus more food—felines can also be tutored in the arts of sitting on command, lying down and rolling over. Some proud owners have even instructed their cats to eat daintily with their paws directly from the food can.

Did man domesticate the cat or did Tabby decide to share life with us? It is, it must be admitted, an intriguing, unanswered dilemma. Ours is not the first age to wrestle with that issue. Some Egyptians, for instance, reluctant to regard their cats as mundane animals, buried them with great ceremony. In 1888 a bumbling farmer dug up an ancient Egyptian cat necropolis at Beni Hasan. The cemetery contained thousands of mummified cats that had been interred, sometimes with embalmed mice for afterworld meals. Enterprising workers unwrapped the cats and sent a consignment of 19 tons of bones to England for conversion into fertilizer.

By the 10th century, cats were established as mousers. The Welsh defined the legal worth of cats: a seasoned mouser, astonishingly enough, brought four pennies, about the worth of a lamb. By the 17th century, however, the devil, unwelcome and omnipresent, had been doing his worst through the feline. In 1699, for instance, at the Swedish town of Mora, 300 children were accused of employing demon cats to steal butter, cheese and bacon. Fifteen of the children were killed, and every Sunday for a year, 36 were whipped before the church doors. By the mid-18th century, the cat was back in favor. Frederick the Great thought so highly of cats he made them official guards of his army’s stores and ordered conquered towns to furnish supplies of cats. The Industrial Revolution greatly expanded the middle class and accelerated the re-entry of felines into social acceptance by employing them in rodent-infested cities and celebrating them in prose and popular song.

Nowadays Americans lavish little art but elaborate care on their cats. It may have been a technological breakthrough that made cat tending less onerous and fueled all this attention. Explains one close observer of the animal universe, Boston Veterinarian Jean Holzworth: “When you talk about convenience, the advent of cat litter is comparable to the invention of the electric light bulb.” Litter boxes are now big-selling staples in pet stores. They cost from $2.50 to $34.95. Some of them are kick-proof and odor-proof. The latest behavior-modification device is Kitty Whiz, a potty trainer that purportedly teaches Puss to use the bathroom toilet. Cost: $14.98.

The feeding of finicky felines, an age-old agony for owners, has its own sophisticated new hardware. A gravity feeder—available with cute cat graphics—supplies fresh vittles for a feline left alone for a weekend. There is a timed feeder that mechanically portions out the chow. An enclosed bowl called Step ‘n Dine encourages precocious felines to step on a pedal to get at the kibble. For cats who accompany their owners, there are carrying cases that cost as much as $420 for Louis Vuitton versions, and for $33.98, a caring cat owner may invest in a tiny, burglar-and rat-proof door that can be installed at the bottom of a regular house door; the cat opens it with a magnetic device worn around its neck. At Animal Kingdom in Chicago, there is the Cat-A-Lac rolling bed that sells for $34 and a kitty rocking horse to calm the freaked-out feline ($49). New York’s Felines of Distinction expects to sell more than 2,000 scratching posts this year; among them is a $179 carpeted feline Xanadu called the Kitty Playground. In Los Angeles, home of the stars and the stars’ excesses, one store offers the ultimate in laid-back purraphernalia: a kitty water bed at $35.99. A shop owner in Chicago estimates that it is not uncommon for customers to spend $400 to equip their new cat.

Not all cats bask in such luxury. Every city, village and farm county has its share of strays and their drifting human equivalent: the cat woman or cat man. On the streets of San Francisco or Chicago or New Orleans or Podunk, loners in torn raincoats carry shopping bags full of cat food to provide for an estimated 15 million “public” cats, on the possibly erroneous assumption that these adaptive animals cannot fend for themselves. Occasionally, however, some bummed-out cats find safe havens.

One helper is Conrad Milster, 45, chief engineer of Pratt Institute, a school of arts, engineering and science in Brooklyn. Milster and his wife Phyllis care for, they believe, 40 orphan cats. The number keeps changing, but always the house seethes with prowling felines. They have taken over couches, chairs, beds, sinks and tubs. They perch on the stairway, roost on the bookcase, snooze in the laundry basket. They also occupy the dining room table, and the childless Milsters no longer eat there. Litter pans crowd the walls, the halls and the corners. Food and water bowls are set out in odd places. Cats suffering from infectious diseases inhabit the kitchen. A dozen of the menagerie are cripples, three are one-eyed, one is a dwarf, and one has been classified as a homosexual. Many of the stragglers are brought in by neighborhood youngsters who have heard about the Milsters’ cat colony. The cats’ names are chosen eclectically: Nanki-Po, Twiggy, Dick Deadeye, Pigpen, Anastasia, Violetta, Wilfred Shadbolt, Don Alhambra del Bolero and Mad Ludwig.

“We’re not exactly the all-American couple,” says Conrad, but they may be the all-American cat lovers. Indeed, Phyllis’ entire salary as a Pratt purchasing agent—$350 a week—goes for vet bills and supplies. The weekly delivery of 24 cases of cat food and 140 Ibs. of litter alone costs $300. Says Phyllis: “We’ve had to give up a lot of privileges. It’s like a trust or a duty.”

No cats are better cared for than the 45,000 highly bred and often exotic pedigreed cats on the books of America’s nine registry groups (see box). The Cat Fanciers’ Association, the leading agency, lists 38,152 cats. While this hardly compares with the 26 million dogs registered with the American Kennel Club, raising new feline breeds is becoming more than a cottage pastime. After one of their three children had grown up and moved away, Edward and Carol Harrison in Palatine, Ill., a Chicago suburb, remortgaged their white frame house to add on a $35,000 cattery, complete with breeding pens and outdoor runs. They raise Somalis, a long-haired variation of the Abyssinian. Their kittens of show quality attract a two-year waiting list of prospective owners and sell for $500 to $1,000. Says Harrison, 52, a structural iron worker: “We enjoy traveling around the country and making friends at cat shows.”

Although the resulting relationships may be heartening, the income is not. Few catteries provide their owners with livable incomes. Richard Gebhardt, 50, the most famous and respected cat judge in the nation, must raise dogs (Japanese Chins) in addition to championship Persians to make ends meet. Says Gebhardt, at his Denville, N.J., kennel-cattery: “Raising dogs can be big business. You can depend on it for your livelihood. Cat people have to love the animal, because there’s nothing to get from it but personal ego satisfaction.” Gebhardt’s glow is provided by Voodoo, a great black Persian champion who sired 200 championship kittens. Recalls Gebhardt: “Voodoo was the feline answer to Man o’ War.”

Both phenomenal show cats and ordinary mousers can now receive thoroughly researched and specialized medical care. Today’s veterinarian handles that task with considerable sophistication and science. A decade ago most small-animal vets devoted only 20% of their practices to felines. So little research had been done in cat diseases that dog cures were often simply transferred to cats, sometimes to no effect. Currently, 50% of America’s small-animal practice is devoted to cats. The Cornell University Feline Research Center closely examines cat problems such as heart disease, unknown a decade ago, and drug-resistant respiratory viruses. Feline leukemia, a white-blood-cell viral disease, is communicable only between cats. It is usually fatal and can quickly devastate breeding operations. Now it is battled with expensive chemotherapy procedures. Care for cats has improved so markedly that over the past 30 years the life expectancy of a house-dwelling cat has jumped to the 16-to 20-year range, an increase of six to eight years.

The Cat Practice is a sunshiny New York institution that practices the latest feline medicine. The smell of incense masks cat aromas in a waiting room of wicker, blond wood, indestructible cushions and soft music. An office visit is $30, and a complete workup on a cat, with blood and other tests, can cost $100. Owner Dr. William H. Sullivan, 37, like many vets, credits the cat’s fabled healing power for its customary good health. The skin of the cat heals so fast that one common complaint is abscess: the skin is repaired before the infection beneath has cleared up. “Cats make animal surgeons look good,” says Sullivan. One other advantage in treating felines: cat owners, say some vets, pay their bills more readily than dog owners.

Feline psyches are a more complex and an even more crucial matter. For the disturbed cat, there are a variety of animal practitioners. Dr. Michael Fox, 44, a psychologist based in Washington, D.C., advocates massage—both Oriental and Swedish. “I know it sounds like snake oil at first,” says the mustachioed Ph.D., who has a California masseur’s license, “but it will give energy to old and sick animals and stimulate healthy cats.” In his home near by, Fox, who is director of the Humane Society of the U.S., demonstrates on his Burmese, Mocha. A chiropractic tail pull straightens the spine, Swedish kneading relaxes the muscles, and Oriental rubbing drains the cat’s sinus passages. Mocha stretches in ecstasy. Cats need such relaxation. Even subtle shifts in their owners’ life-styles can send kitties into tailspins. When Philadelphia Writer Marc Kaufman, 32, and his wife Lynn Litterine, 35, brought home their new baby, their cats, Yukon and Ted, became perverse—fighting, spraying and hissing. The couple sought out pert, brunet Ginger Hamilton, 45, a cat shrink, one of only a dozen or so such practitioners in the country. Her pet-psychology office in Silver Spring, Md., has quadrupled its business in the past decade. For a fee of $50 an hour, Hamilton began involving Yukon and Ted in play-and-affection sessions that gradually included the infant. The problem, however, was not solved. The couple had to give away one of the cats. Kaufman remains a bit embarrassed by the experience. “I had a feeling from my friends that perhaps I’d gone too far with the emotional involvement.”

Half of Hamilton’s practice is now devoted to cats. Many of their emotional problems stem from jealousy. Several of her clients are recently married women whose pets cannot share affection with the new spouse. One miffed feline regularly urinated on the new husband’s side of the bed, and another defecated each morning on the newlywed’s breakfast chair. Such formidable expressions of pique are called “aberrant litter behavior” in the animal-psych biz, and Hamilton, a Freud of felines, goes at a cure like the master himself. Says she: “I try to find out if the animal came from a household where the litter pans were clean, if the mama cat taught her kittens well and what the personalities of the mother and father cat were like.”

The world’s No. 1 celebrity cat, Morris, has no problems. He is the feline Burt Reynolds, and his large, complacent, orange tabby face graces the popular 9-Lives cat-food commercials on TV. Not only does Morris exhibit no discernible emotional disorders, he is unflappable. With dubbed TV lines like “Oh, really? Here, kitty, kitty, indeed! Dinner had better be very good,” Morris won the 1973 Patsy Award as the best animal actor in TV commercials. Adopted from a humane society, Morris became so famous that his “story” was told in Morris, an Intimate Biography. After he died in 1978, a 14-month search turned up a replacement in a Cape Cod animal shelter. This foundling, like his predecessor, lives on the six-acre kennel of Trainer Bob Martwick in Lombard, Ill. When Morris II flies—first class, of course—to Humane Society adopt-a-pet campaigns around the country, his popularity often leads enthusiasts to empty local shelters of felines. The cause is a good one. Although in New York City cat euthanasia is down 26% at the A.S.P.C.A., the society still had to destroy 25,000 unwanted cats last year. Morris’ laid-back presence is a reminder that spaying and neutering are the responsibilities of cat owners.

Morris II works about 20 days a year and grosses $5,000 to $10,000. He often will patiently go through 40 to 50 takes to synchronize the split-second timing required for the commercials. The residuals from these ads have made a modest fortune for Morris’ sophisticated voice—Actor John Irwin.

“Sometimes Morris is just too blasé,” complains Trainer Martwick of his charge. “When some big Huskies came to the kennel, Morris wouldn’t get out of the way—he’s oblivious to danger.”

Morris I is buried in Lombard. There is no stone to mark the spot, in sharp contrast to the fanciful choices of many other grieving pet owners around the U.S. Kitty’s resting place is becoming more and more elaborate. At Paw Print Gardens in Chicago, sealable cat caskets range from $39 to $139, and granite grave markers begin at $79, while top-of-the-line custom tablet markers go for more than $500.

Some experts find in this obsession with felines a shift in the American psyche. Says Robert Perper, 48, a New York veterinarian: “There’s a lot of macho in dog persons. Dogs are bigger, they’re a display. People like to give them hearty slaps and decorate them with collars. Three years ago, about 5% of my men patients were cat owners. Now it’s 25%. The stigma is gone. They’ve learned a man can own a cat and still be a man.” Peter Borchelt, a behavioralist at Manhattan’s Animal Medical Center, wryly points out that you can own a cat and even be an American. While the dog may be the unofficial national pet, he says, “Americans are known for their laissez-faire attitude. These characteristics define the cat.” Chicago Pet Shop Owner Donna Dunlop adds: “It’s not just children and the elderly who have cats, it’s young professionals in their 30s who are getting them.” The inconvenience of owning a dog in a city, where apartment sizes have shrunk and pooper-scooper laws make the litter pan look like a less burdensome alternative, may also explain the recent upsurge in catomania. Says New York’s A.S.P.C.A. executive director, John Kullberg, about the guard dog-cat controversy: “If you buy a cat, you can always get an extra lock for the door.”

Perhaps, too, the cat, regal and precise, aloof and alone, reflects the preferred—or enforced—situation of the record 23% of American households where single adults dwell. “Cats are a perfect way out of urban alienation,” says Dunlop. And behind bars, the cat softens hard-time sentences. Some prisoners at the Lorton Reformatory in Virginia keep up to five cats at once. Says Charles E. (“Itchy”) Richardson, 30, who is serving ten to 40 years for burglary: “Cats teach you what some dudes down here can’t understand. They give you love. They don’t talk back, and they don’t steal from you.”

Whether cats represent a psychic revolution or merely engage our interest because they’re decorative and instructive or just a jet-set recognition symbol like Gucci luggage, the cat and its ways never fail to fascinate.

The cat’s very singularity, moreover, is the most important bond between man and animal. The wildness of the cat, its instinctual businesslike yet skewed version of reality, is more than enchanting. Behavioral research now postulates that while humans may ascribe to the cat a number of sophisticated genetic motives, the cat is fascinated with man because he appeals to the cat’s suppressed childishness. Kittens raised by humans associate man with suckling, warmth, mother’s milk and childhood learning play. While the adult feline is obsessed with reproduction, territorial battles and mousing, we remain large toys and surrogate mothers who possess such miracles as wall can openers, crinkly cellophane and electric blankets. Nor do cats, like Kliban’s cartoon meat-loaves, respond with interest to human grownup preoccupations. They pay no mind to politics, opera, opinion polls, fuel-stingy autos or nuclear proliferation. They remain unimpressed by est, Kiwanis, cocaine and PBS. Felines yawn equally at the reputations of Mick Jagger and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Cats operate in an exclusive and maddening parabola of reality that can frustrate our lives or demand our attention and tune our sensibilities to more graceful things. While people argue about their courage, usefulness and affection, the cat has its own game to play. Can it entice people to open their homes, refrigerators and hearts to it? The cat seems to be winning the contest. At half-time the scorecard reads: People 1, Meat-loaves 2.

—By J.D. Reed. Reported by Maureen Dowd/ Washington and Georgia Harbison/New York, with other bureaus

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