Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holidays and Traditions

With Christmas coming up and family visits almost inevitable, I thought I’d write a little about the often stressful world of family holidays that most LGBT individuals live in. There’s this whole “out-ness” and “acceptance” factor that can really make things awkward and unpleasant depending on what your family situation is.

I spent my first Thanksgiving away from my family this year. Being Buddhists, Thanksgiving was never really that big of a deal for my family anyway, but there were a few traditions I missed out on that made me a little homesick for California and my family. Being mostly pacific rim/Asian mutts, my family doesn’t have the same concept of Pilgrims and Indians, and my mom doesn't like turkey. Our Thanksgivings usually involved an atulai fish stew and “watching” football—my dad is a Rams fan and he mostly just complains about the Rams never getting to play on Thanksgiving, so we mostly sit around him and prompt him to go on Adam Carolla style rants about football.

When I moved to Florida with Nikki, because there was no way I was giving up my girlfriend, it didn’t even occur to me at the time that we would have to think of something else to do for Thanksgiving. Part of why we moved to Florida was she had extended family in the state (about an hour from where we are). And these were the people we were going to be spending Thanksgiving with, which pretty much terrified me.

Fair or not, this is what I expected
Let me break down exactly how I saw this going and why. Florida has some incredibly homophobic opinions, especially in the northern parts, which was the direction we’d be going. My girlfriend’s immediate family doesn’t like me and they’re only begrudgingly supportive of her being a lesbian in what I’m assuming is the hope that it’s all just a phase. They’re very traditional Orange County Christians and success mongers, so their fantastic overachieving daughter dating some strange little bohemian scene girl who turned their daughter into a Buddhist lesbian…yeah, they really don’t like me. Then let’s talk about my own extended family—there are the ultra conservative Koreans, the ultra conservative Chamorro, or the ultra conservative Iowans (Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann Iowans to be specific). So hearing that we would be spending our time with her family, but more specifically her extended family in northern Florida…well I started to wonder if we’d actually live through it.

I also have a little Social Anxiety Disorder and some PTSD from some pretty damaging bullying in High School (it's why I'm such an internet nerd and Emily Dickinson style shut in), so when we pulled up to the most beautiful…palatial estate I guess is the word for what this place was and saw that there were about fifty or sixty people (I later found out the exact number was 56 including us) I had a little panic attack. Nikki and I had discussed beforehand that her immediate family had outed us to her extended family in a not too polite sort of way, so I kind of expected us to end up back in the car pretty quickly.

Given a chance, people can surprise you.

Nikki’s favorite uncle, who had made the trip to Florida from New York just for us, showed us around, introduced us to everyone, and acted as something of our tour guide/liaison to the Florida sect of the family. We played croquet, which I actually turned out to be pretty good at, and horseshoes, which I sucked horribly at, and it was all really pleasant. There was no football on, because watching TV would take away from the family time. This was obviously a departure from my usual duties of being my dad’s football watching partner (he had to make do with my sister’s husband this year and he kept texting me that my brother-in-law didn’t understand the game). But there was a puppet show for the kids, during which I was apparently clinging to Nikki pretty tenaciously (I get like that when I’m nervous…or drunk…or within a few feet of her), and one of Nikki’s, I want to say aunt but I’m not really sure, leaned over and asked if we were a couple. We said we were, and she said, “You’re so adorable together.”

Seriously, people can surprise you.

Then there was a campfire and a sing along. All the kids produced instruments, and not just traditional instruments either, weird things like ukuleles, a box drum thing, and other stuff I’d never seen before. I’m hopelessly untalented when it comes to music, so they let me play the tambourine and kind of just mumble-sing. Still, it was nothing like I expected.

As we were saying our goodbyes about to leave, the same woman who asked if we were a couple came up to us and gave us a huge hug (not really an aunt—Nikki’s father’s cousin’s wife…what is that?), and said maybe we’d be married and/or expecting when we came next year.

Thanksgiving was strange, but strangely wonderful.

This makes just as much, if not more, sense than the story about a virgin birth.
We’re back in Southern California now for Christmas where Nikki is staying with my family most of the time and I don’t really spend much time at her place since I’m made to feel very unwelcome there (and her brothers scare/creep the hell out of me). So we’re definitely back into familiar familial waters for this holiday.

Since you’ve probably been waiting for the relationship moral in all this beyond sometimes people will surprise you with their kindness, it’s this:  you’re not dating the person’s family or friends—you’re only dating them. So what if Nikki’s dad refers to me as 'the head-case from Nikki’s old school'…seriously, he does pretty much every time, in one breath, “Are you driving over with that head-case from your old school or do you need a ride?” or “Go ahead and turn on Fox News even though it bugs that head-case from Nikki’s old school.” I feel like he should shorten it to an acronym like THCFNOS…never mind, that’s pretty long too. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because I’m not dating her family; I’m dating her. The person you’re dating doesn’t have to love your family and you don’t have to love their family. You might even like their family more than your own family sometimes and that’s fine too. The fact remains:  you are NOT dating their family. The antiquated notion of families merging when couples get married, and you’re not losing a daughter, you’re gaining another daughter, and yadda yadda yadda it’s all old-timey bullshit that people only have to participate in now if they damn well feel like it. As members of the LGBT community, you are not required to go out of your way to make your family feel comfortable even as they’re making you and your partner feel uncomfortable—this goes for straight couples as well. If your family or your partner's family aren't being pleasant and going out of their way to make you feel welcome, they aren't worth being around and no sense of familial duty should force you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Questions of Bisexuality

Anyone who has followed me for any serious amount of time on Twitter or knows me personally on about any levels knows I'm not psyched about the behavior of many bi-curious people. You've probably also heard me say I never have and never will date a bisexual person--I have my reasons, both emotional and physical health based. It's a preference and one I'm not going to be bullied out of by bisexuals or pansexuals who think the ultimate in liberal mindedness about sexuality is to include everyone. There are plenty of lesbians I won't date because of preference as well, and that doesn't make me homophobic, so not dating bisexuals can't really make me biphobic, now can it? That isn't leveled at all bisexuals or pansexuals. I've met plenty of perfectly nice ones who are every bit as respectful of other people's preferences as they hope people will be of theirs, but there is this very loud, very irritating group within that community who seems to think anyone who won't sleep with them or doesn't share their hyper-specific view of sexuality is somehow a prude or a bigot and they don't mind yelling about the injustice of it all.

So after a recent gripefest with several of exactly that type of bisexual/pansexual group who didn't like the fact that I promoted emotional health over sexual experimentation--yes, I'm one of those crazy people who thinks you shouldn't emotionally abuse your sexual partners in the name of your own sexual experimentation and then say "hey, that's life, people get hurt" by way of excuse. And it is an excuse. A feeble, pathetic, hollow excuse. People aren't toys and one person's sexual exploration never trumps the feelings of someone else, EVER. As Dan Savage always advocates, practice the campsite rule in your sexual experimentation:  leave things better than you found them. Anything else is self-serving, shallow, and selfish.

Which brings me to a question I received via email the other day...
Warning: I usually proof the letters to make them all pretty and easily read, but this one was apparently written from an iPhone (and yeah, I know those can be hard to type on, but I have a Blackberry so I wouldn't know about that) and I didn't feel like going through and fixing everything her phone did, so I kind of just left it. Please don't judge either of us too harshly for that.

"I am 21 and have jus come to terms that i am Bi sexual. I have only had sex with one man my ex and i waited til i was 19 before i wud let him. There is this girl in college who iv had a crush on 4 ages and we went 2 watch a film as friends me thinkin she was totally straight, it turned out she liked me and after a load of drinks she convinces me 2 go 2 her place and we end up havin sex, cheatin on my bf at the same tym, she told me it wasnt a one night thing and this girl is 11 years older than me. I broke up wid my bf but the girl wants to pretend it never happened and has told me not 2 tell anyone about it, now i dont know how to act around her as shes in alot of my classes and is in my social group. Im really gutted because she was my first and i actually really like her shes nice to me stil and seems unfazed i feel a little used and i am stil quite shy and not confident talkin to pretty women and she is absolutly stunning! How can i be as confident as her and do you think theres a chance itll happen agen?? Sorry its a long story but please help! I dont kno wot 2 do and you giv gud advice :) thankyou for reading nevertheless xx"

First and foremost, we have to deal with what you did wrong here. Cheating is cheating and you cheated. Before you do anything to address this girl, you've got to go back to your boyfriend at the time and apologize for what you did. Like I said, campsite rules:  you left him worse than you found him and now you owe him an apology and explanation for it. Take a step back from lusting after this older woman, and realize you trampled someone during your experimentation and their feelings matter too.

As for this woman, take a look at exactly what she's doing and map it out. This is precisely the person you DON'T want to be as a bisexual, and you certainly shouldn't want to be with her. She lied to you, misled you with false intentions, and is now ignoring you after she got what she wanted...sounds a little like she learned those tricks from...I'm not going to say it, but you know who I mean. She did exactly what you're not supposed to do as a bisexual, so learn from her MASSIVE mistakes and don't do to anyone else any of the things she did to you.

How do you be as confident as her? Sweetie, she's not confident; she's abusive. There's a big difference between knowing what you want, how to get it, and being a user of people. Being like her is the last thing you should want. Do I think there's a chance it'll happen again? That's the wrong question that I'll answer with one of my own:  why on earth would you want it to? You cheated on your boyfriend, ended the relationship because of a lie she told you, and now she's treating you like shit in public...what exactly is the attraction here? Let me make this perfectly clear for you:  do not sleep with this girl EVER again.

Like it or not (and sometimes I really don't), you're now in the LGBT community as one of the Bs. So in the sense of community, let me straighten you the fuck out. This girl you slept with is not a role model. What you need to do is go find yourself a real role model within the community to show you how to behave when it comes to bisexual relationships. Don't look at me on this one--I'm a lesbian who doesn't know the first thing about managing relationships with guys, forget about the complexity that bisexuality adds to that--you need a bisexual mentor in this. You've got a good start though; this first female/female sexual experience you had was with a woman who reads like a "shit you should never do" list. First and foremost rule though--campsite:  leave people better than you found them. You can explore your sexuality without emotionally harming others, but you're off to a bad start with this since you did cheat on and dump your boyfriend at the drop of this girl's panties. Resolve to NEVER do that again. People are not toys, people's emotions are not disposable, and the things you do can cause harm to others if you are careless, selfish, and shallow in your dealings with them. Think about how crappy you feel right now and resolve to not do this to anyone else. Am I being abso-fucking-lutely clear about this?

There's a part of this letter that irritates the hell out of me, and I even know why it bugs me so much. Because I'm guilty of it to. You go on and on and on about how attractive this girl is as though that is somehow one of those Mr. Clean Magic Eraser pads (seriously, have you tried these things?) that wipes away her abusive relationship tendencies, bad personality, and probably a myriad of other negative things about her that you didn't bring up since you were typing on a phone. This bugs me, because I used to be (still am to some degree) the same way. My girlfriend is ridiculously attractive and I excused so much of her bad behavior early on in knowing her because I just felt so honored that she even noticed my existence, even if it was in a negative way (and it often was). The thing that helped me break the cycle was realizing she didn't really do anything to earn her looks--it's mostly genetic. Giving her credit for being attractive is like giving most basketball players credit for being tall. Worshiping someone because they're good looking is so silly. There are other attractive people out there who aren't shitheads, so why are you wasting your time pining over this one? Attractive people won't respect you if you willingly take their abuse simply because they're attractive. So knock it off.

If you feel like you got a little reamed by all this, take as me wanting to stop something negative before it can really start. You do yourself, the people you encounter, and the credibility of bisexuals harm if you behave the way this girl behaved toward you. The first two steps on your journey to not be a shallow, selfish abuser of other people:  1. Apologize to your exboyfriend and 2. Tell this bitch to fuck off.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Strap-ons: Tricks and Techniques

This is my kind of strap-on!
 Strap-ons:  Tricks and Technique

I keep forgetting this is supposed to be a sex advice column, and while I have a lot of fun talking politics, feminist issues, and more vanilla relationship advice, I can’t ignore that the blog is called “Erotic Answers.” My guide to buying strap-ons was one of the most popular blog posts I’ve ever done and so I thought I’d do a follow up post explaining what you should do with one of these things once you’ve found it, or, if you’ve already figured out a few tricks you like, some new things to try. After all, what’s the point of going strapped if you don’t really know how to use it?

I’m also fond of reminding everyone that my qualifications for being a sexpert and relationship advice columnist is actually the fact that I’m a romance/erotica author who has successfully maintained a healthy relationship for many years. I’m not a doctor of the MD, Ph. D, or even DDS variety (can you imagine a dentist’s sex advice column? “Butt Floss More!”), although I do have my degree now, which I didn’t have when I started this shin dig. Of course, it has nothing to do with mental health or medicine:  English with a writing emphasis and minors in political science and women’s studies, which isn’t super important since I don’t need a degree in English to be a writer—I mean, Vonnegut’s degree was in chemistry and Hemmingway didn’t even go to college, so if the boys can do it, why can’t I? Anyway, where was I going with this…oh, right, I’m an author and not a counselor so I’ll be using my fiction to illustrate the points about strap-ons. Technique and accuracy are both important to me, so trust me when I say I have tried every strap-on scene in my works (in one way or the other if you catch my meaning) and I know they’re all not only possible but potentially fun!

Disclaimer: I’m not going over the lesbian purist issues with strap-ons in this post. I covered that in the first one. My stance continues to be:  strap-ons aren’t cocks and don’t make someone less of a lesbian simply for wearing or being fucked by one.

Lucy’s concerns about much of anything completely melted away when Sasha aggressively bent her over the end of the pool table, holding her chest flat against the green felt with her pencil skirt bunched around her waist and panties around her ankles. Sasha’s favored strap-on, which fit beautifully over her slender hips in the tight jeans, had a little arched knob at the top, designed to tickle Lucy’s clit if they were facing each other, but in the bent over, from behind position, actually vibrated and knocked at her backdoor with every powerful thrust her vampire girl made into her. Lucy screamed in delight as Sasha ravaged her, each scream brought either a tug on the back of her ponytail or a sharp swat on her increasingly red behind. It felt like a proper send-off for the pool table nobody had ever used.

Lucy climaxed again for what she thought might have been the fifth time. An aggressive sweat rose on her skin, adding an additional sting to the harshly spanked red of her behind, and she felt her legs weaken to the point of giving out. Sasha, intuiting that Lucy wouldn’t hold herself up much longer, grasped Lucy’s legs, swept them off the floor into her hands and moved her into a modified wheel-barrow position that Lucy knew would leave rug burns from the pool table felt across her forearms, but couldn’t imagine a reason why she would care.

This excerpt is from “The Last Best Tip” and illustrates several really important points about going strapped while standing.

Clothes can not only look good with your "accessory" but also help hold it in place!
First and foremost, you’ll notice Sasha is wearing her strap-on over her jeans. This is actually kind of a neat trick considering denim holds straps better than bare skin and provides padding to prevent chaffing in the wearer during, vigorous thrusting. If you haven’t tried your strap-on with clothes, you might give this a try, especially if you’re having trouble keeping it in place comfortably.

Secondly, you’ll notice this particular strap-on has a clitstimulator—it’s like the rabbit part on rabbit dildos, but fits a strap-on harness. These are spendy and difficult to use, and, as you see in the scene, point at other things if you switch positions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. I’m personally a fan of light playing in that area, and it’s an avenue of pleasure a lot of people don’t give full credit to. Obviously good hygiene and diligent toy washing becomes even more important if you’re going back there and never never never never go from back door to front door—you’re likely to get a really bad infection that way. Still, the little vibrating rabbits meant for clits can feel nice if you switch to from behind positions and of course there are strap-ons that have special attachments specifically for simultaneous anal play.

Thirdly, there’s the modified wheel-barrow position. This requires an appropriately heighted sturdy surface and an athletic partner capable of holding up your legs. Turns out, a pool table does work for my girlfriend and she is strong enough to…you get the picture. Anyway, focus on the right height, sturdy enough to hold more than half your weight, and a girlfriend who is physically capable for this one.

Technically, this has stuff for the wearer and would probably stay in place, but...
The next piece comes from Demons of Paradise:  …she next found herself lying flat on her back, panting and moaning, with Vendela straddling her, riding almost in slow motion, the front of her kimono falling open on occasion to show her perfect white breasts, which might have been carved of marble for the smooth sheen they boasted. When Brooke reached up to touch them as Vendela rode smoothly up and down on her strap-on, she found the breasts ice-cold, but absolutely perfect in every other way.

There are theories out there about breasts being grown to promote face to face coupling, and even though that’s evolutionary preposterous, it’s kind of believable considering how awesome breasts are. Regardless, face to face really is the best for a lot of things. Specifically, in this case, if you have a strap-on with interior items for clit stimulationon the wearer, and believe me they are worth a try. On top, or cowgirl, position can really be good for both partners with the right toy making it a one star on difficulty and five star on pleasure. The trick is to find the right position and place for both people to get something out of it, but not necessarily at the same time, although at the same time is amazing. Did you know vaginas are angled differently depending on the individual women? Strange to think of, but it’s true. A position that works for one woman on top won’t work for all women on top because we all have different angles inside, so focus on finding which one works best for you. And, if you’re the cowgirl in this position (and you definitely should at least try it once) don’t be afraid of getting grindy—that’s what will help your partner have fun if you have one of those special strap-ons with clit stimulation on the inside.

Obviously this is varsity level strapping
 “Even as Fiona was getting used to the sensation of wearing such a thing, something she’d never done before, Veronica was busy mentally checking off things on her list. She pushed Fiona against the pillar, fell to her knees, and began giving the most lurid blow job Fiona could have imagined, taking the enormous, red phallus in her mouth with inexperienced verve. The strap along the back, just above Fiona’s ass, scraped and rubbed against the wall with every plunge and sloppy sucking motion Veronica made. There was little in the way of physical sensation to the blow job for Fiona, but the visual, auditory, and energy components shifted her thinking from survival to sexual ends. When Veronica had satisfied her curiosity, she’d climbed Fiona’s body, her lips made rosy from the work, an ineffable smile on her face, having checked off something she’d never done and didn’t want to die without knowing. “Some of the girls talk about how great that is,” she’d said. “I had to know.”
            “Oh,” Fiona had replied breathlessly.

This excerpt comes from The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head in which Fiona and Veronica are sure they’re about to die, and start doing some naughty things so they at least don’t die wondering. And, this probably sounds strange to the uninitiated, right? Two women, one toy, nobody getting anything physical out of the act of a blow job, so what’s the point? Sure, there aren’t pleasure nerve endings in the strap-on or the mouth really, and even if you have one of the aforementioned strap-ons with the internal clit stimulation, this isn’t really the best way to make use of it to be honest, so why would you try this?

I’m a firm believer that the largest erogenous zone on a woman is the mind. Sure, sure, the clit is a wonder with twice as many nerve endings as the penis, and don't get me wrong, that should be taken care of too, but mental stimulation makes all the other erogenous zones run when it comes to women, and that is what the point of this is. It can be sexy to watch as the receiver and naughty to try as the giver. There are the functional benefits of spit being a good lubricant as well, and unlike straight girls, you can quit whenever you want since there isn’t a possibility of completion (for reals, I get all I need to from this on either end within 30 seconds so don’t feel like this needs to be a big part of anything). Try it for fun, not because it’s a technically sound way to stimulate anyone, but because it might hit a mental note with one or both of you, and as I’ve already pointed out, this won’t hurt your lesbian credibility because strap-ons aren’t cocks.

See how feminine these things really are?
 The last example comes from Lesbians in Space:  Astral Liaisons in which Captain Val and her girlfriends (yep, plural) are in a position called exponential decline by the mathematically inclined one:  The angle Jesse took with the toy, timed to perfection on every thrust, pressed down against the soft little bundle of nerves inside Val with expert precision. The pleasant sensation of being filled quickly built to something else. The swell of desire building inside Val grew exponentially with every subsequent thrust across her g-spot until a rolling wave of gratification washed through her, raising the hairs on the back of her neck. She barely recognized her own muffled groan of pleasure with her mouth still firmly suctioned to Jane’s clit.

Judging from some of my stories, the assumption out there is that I probably have lots and lots of group sex, but the truth is, I’ve never had so much as a single threesome. You know that triple kiss thing mentioned in Fabled Fang Girls? Yep, never done that either. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good fantasy or fun fodder for reading material. And if you are one of those people having lots and lots of group sex, that’s cool too.

The information to take away from this scene, which is basically just modified doggy-style with a little oral sex added to the other side, is the g-spot stimulation. Not everyone has a highly sensitive g-spot or can climax from g-spot stimulation alone, which is fine, but it’s pretty darn hard to stimulate the big G without help from a toy, and strap-ons with the right positioning can do a fine job of it. This is going to require communication to get right though. Being on the receiving end of this, you have to let your partner know when she’s found the right spot since, as I pointed out before, we’re all angled a little differently. This doesn’t have to necessarily be an, “Oh, right there!” declaration, although it certainly can be. If you want to work out nonverbal cues like the ladies in the scene did, that’s fine and will help your partner learn to read your sexual arousal far more quickly than trial and error will. This isn’t really an effective position for clit stimulation for the person going strapped, even with the specialized kind. But that can be a good thing too since the person wearing can focus entirely on finding the right angle, which I’m guessing is something straight girls don’t get as much of. So if you’re the one going strapped, focus on finding the exact right way to do this by taking cues for when you’ve hit the right angle to find the g-spot.

Those aren’t the only instances of strap-on use in my fiction, but I thought those were the most useful teaching examples. Hopefully you’ll have a few new tricks to try with your strap-on, or good motivation to go out and buy one if you haven’t already. I’m encouraging my readers to post in the comments how these things worked for them, or if you want to post your own techniques and tricks as well, feel free to do that!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How Soon is Too Soon?

Another quick retread of an article from the dating website I work for addressing the complex lesbian issue of U-Hauling! Original post here on 8-17-2011

From a really charming greeting card company with LGBT options
A recent letter I answered on the Q and A section of my web column addressed in very limited detail how soon is too soon to move in together. This actually matched up with a conversation I had with a friend recently about her and her girlfriend’s desire to start having babies. Something she said kind of stuck out to me: they’d been together for six years and it was about time they started having kids. Wait, what? Six years is the alarm clock for children? Do we start sperm donor shopping at about five years and six months? What happens if a couple makes it to seven years without procreating? Are one or both ladies labeled an old maid? It all seemed a little arbitrary to me.

In the aforementioned letter, the submitter said she’d moved in with her girlfriend because it was more convenient to see each other that way. I may have been a little outraged in my response, but I think my outrage was warranted. Of all the reasons to move in together, I think convenience is even sillier than your relationship meeting some arbitrary time stamp set up by the particular Sapphistocracy in your area (I made that word up—please use it until it catches on). I’ve started to wonder how many of these relationship norms and benchmarks my own relationship violates. We’ve been together going on three years, have been living together for about two of those, and we’re light-years from even deciding which one of us would get pregnant, let alone looking for genetically favorable strong swimmers from a willing donor. This all begs the question: how soon is too soon?

There is of course the silly joke about U-Hauling (there’s even a word for it) where any relationship that doesn’t result in moving in together within the first few dates is viewed as a failure. Let’s move past that though and take a realistic look at some real reasons for and against moving in and how soon is really too soon.

First and foremost, let me reiterate the advice given in the Q and A section a few weeks ago for those of you who may have missed it. Moving in for convenience, to save on gas or commute time, for the insurance benefits, a shared wardrobe that doubles your options (I am so freaking jealous of you ladies with girlfriends the same size as you who get to do this), or any other reason that really boils down to ‘it makes things easier’ is all a bad idea. We have enough trouble with bed death and girlfriends becoming roommates without actually using reasons tailored to having a roommate thrown in the mix. You move in with your girlfriend when you want to move your relationship to the next level and you’re both ready for the lifestyle change. You do not move in together to save on rent and split the cost of milk.

Addressing the concept of time stamps is a little more difficult, because these are the demands brought on by peer pressure, both external and internal. You look around at your circle of friends and you see Katie and her new girlfriend Beth are moving in together and they’ve only been together six months, but you and your girlfriend have been together for eight months and you’re not sure you’re ready yet, but they’re both going on and on and on about how great it is, so you…? Let’s just stop right there, and let’s not even touch how much pressure you’d feel if you and your girlfriend had been together for a year or more and still hadn’t moved in together. Seeing the pace others are running around us can encourage us to try to run at a pace we’re not built for, not ready for, and will exhaust us long before it does them; I don’t actually run, but my girlfriend does and she said this metaphor works. The point being, your relationship is different than your friends’ relationships, but, more than that (and this is where most people get tripped up) your relationship with your current girlfriend is different than any other relationship you’ve likely had. You can’t move in with Sara at six months just because you moved in with Jennifer at five…remember how that turned out? (I totally hope I freaked someone out by using the name of their current and ex-girlfriends in that hypothetical example. If I did, send me an email telling me to get out of your head).

“How soon is too soon?” is a question only you and your current girlfriend can answer. It can’t be based off the people around you or their opinions on how long is long enough. Lesbians are entirely too reliant on the advice of their friends when it comes to making life choices and that advice usually comes from a place just as confused and lost as the one you’re currently in. If someone is saying X number of months or years is the right time to do something in a relationship, take a step back and realize your relationship isn’t on a timeline. To use a sports analogy, since I’m dating a stem and I’m a total daddy’s girl I know all of these cool parallels between dating and sports: your relationship is like softball or baseball—there’s no time limit on things, just benchmarks to be met; your relationship is not like a soccer match where the time can run out on something and there’s very little scoring going on (hopefully that’s true on the second part).

Move in together when you’re ready to take that next step. Understand that your relationship is unique even within all the relationships you’ve already had. And never move in for simple convenience. Together we can make that U-Haul joke go away by making good relationship choices and increasing our chances for longer-lasting unions.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fabled Fang Girls

She's only evil on the outside...and probably on the inside too.

I coined a phrase for my most recent collection of short stories. I had to. There just wasn't a word befitting the rabid (bloodthirsty even?) female fans of vampires in existence right now. So I made one up. Fang-girl! It's a play on words for "fanboy" which is a description of an obsessive male fan of nerd culture. With all the "Team Edward" nonsense around Twilight, I felt we needed a similar name to reflect our fanaticism. I can just hear my readers now, "But Cassandra, you're a lesbian goddess who has repeatedly pointed out that Robert Pattinson looks like he probably smells really bad" and you're right, I am a lesbian goddess who has said that on many occasions, but just because I'm not into Stephanie Meyer's version of a "vampire" doesn't mean I'm not into vampires. The vampires I'm into don't walk around in the daytime seducing boring high school girls (or play baseball in thunderstorms like doofuses) and they all have breasts--the last part is probably the most important bit.

See what I mean about the breasts part being important?
So in celebration of my newest collection released under the Sapphic Pixie Tales label, I'm going to give you a sneak peak at one of the stories along with the usual rundown from the book jacket. Enjoy!

Fang Girl - noun – a female fan of vampire media who might be a little obsessive in her fandom.
[Derived from modern slang fanboy but always in reference to females. First used by Cassandra Duffy in Fabled Fang Girls]

Cassandra Duffy, an emerging voice in lesbian literature, releases her third short story collection, Fabled Fang Girls in a transparent attempt to satisfy the vampire addiction of her readership. Eight short stories of vampire lust and love revisit characters from Demons of Paradise and introduce new stories of lesbian sex and relationships.

“The Princess of Castle Eclipse” – a beautiful fairytale of doomed love in the tragic tradition of European fables.

“The Witch of Vigil’s Grove” and “Return to Vigil’s Grove” – two pieces of an upcoming novel that offer a chilling introduction to the town of Vigil’s Rest where a vampire haunts the forest, luring young girls to their doom with promises of forbidden love.

“The Last Best Tip” – the critically acclaimed novella finds a new home in this collection. Grifts, swingers, a sassy but irresponsible vampire and her underachieving girlfriend occupy a clever urban fantasy landscape where even eternal children of the night have money problems.

“From Nightshift to Swing Shift” – Vendela and Brooke are back! The vampire fashionista and her Australian girlfriend have hit a lull in their peculiar relationship and turn to a beautiful Persian executive to inject some much-need passion back into the couple’s sex life to keep out the Alaskan cold.

“Lovely Predators” – a brief look at the upcoming Noire style mystery novel of the same name that follows a talented Los Angeles homicide detective as she investigates a series of grisly murders that keep leading her back to the doorstep of her new girlfriend who is keeping a dark secret.

“Undead Housewives of the Other Orange County” – a farcical take on the Real Housewives television shows that interjects vampires and humanity to create a humorous story about what might really take place between bored housewives.

“Chains of Command” – a mixture of Duffy’s remarkable science fiction, paranormal romance, and hardcore erotica. Chains follows a vampire captain of a cutting-edge space warship who must break the will of her new executive officer during a long, deep space raid, but quickly finds the tables turned on her by the fiery and reckless, Commander Crash Langford.

Cassandra Duffy floods this collection with vampires, sex, horror, romance, action, and humor in ways that truly display the depth and range of her remarkable talent. Sapphic Pixie Tales is proud to offer this outstanding collection of vampire fiction from the 21-year-old lesbian author.

What surprised Brooke most about her relationship with Vendela wasn’t the length of it as she had a pretty high threshold for relationship bullshit; she was most astonished by how much she actually cared for Vendela. Her former boss and live-in girlfriend of more than a year was obtuse beyond reason and completely inept at expressing even simple things in a clear way, which pretty much precluded her feelings ever being communicated. The amount of guesswork required of Brooke to simply have a concept of the status of their relationship was profound. Still, for reasons she couldn’t articulate or fathom, she adored the peculiar little vampire fashion designer.

“Brooke,” Vendela said, snapping Brooke out of her dazed state. “Do you see anything that might fit Denise for the…what is she going to?”

“Possibly,” Brooke said, answering the first question first, “and she’s going to the Daytime Emmys.”

Brooke had lost all interest in fashion design after their second trip to Barrow Alaska. It wasn’t the mind-bending sex on the colossal bearskin rug that prevented her from wishing to one day be competition for her girlfriend, it was the fact that at her very best, which Vendela managed to draw from her, she was still miles behind what the petite vampire designer could manage with ease. So she shifted from design to fashion stylist; actresses, models, and singers flocked to her clientele, rightly assuming she would have exclusive access to Vendela’s fashion lines.

“Babe,” Vendela said, “you know how I feel about…television award shows.”

The short, clipped, peculiar way of pronouncing things was something that had once irritated Brooke to no end. Once Vendela started calling her ‘babe’, Brooke found she rather liked the way Vendela spoke.

“I know,” Brooke said. “I normally wouldn’t even ask, but I feel so bad for her. She’s on something like her third divorce.” Brooke selected a possible gown, holding it up to herself out of habit. The slinky, off-white cocktail wasn’t dressy enough for even a Daytime Emmy award show and was probably two sizes too small for Brooke’s personal use. “I swear my ass has doubled in size over the past few months,” she grumbled. Her statement, while an exaggeration at double, wasn’t entirely untrue. She’d lost a lot of her surfer physique by spending too much time working and too little time wave riding.

“I think your ass looks…like an apple,” Vendela said, crossing the cavernous clothing vault in a flash to stand behind Brooke. Her hand caressed down the small of Brooke’s back, onto the curvaceous ass in question, and gave it a playful squeeze.

The vampire trick of moving faster than the human eye could follow used to give Brooke the willies. After a year of Vendela doing that exact thing to her, she wondered if she would ever be able to date a human who couldn’t instantly cross a room to give her a compliment and grope combination.

Brooke replaced the dress on the rack and sighed. She was supposed to be shopping for Denise, but the more she looked at the beautiful clothes in Vendela’s line, the more she wished she could shop for herself or dress up the designer. Her overly elfin girlfriend adored the chunky jewelry, oversized sunglasses, and baggy clothes that made her appear even tinier, while Brooke loved seeing her in more fitted, daring attire. Their little tête-à-têtes usually ended up with Vendela wearing whatever she wanted and somehow Brooke ended up in the tight clothes.

“Award season is coming up,” Brooke said. “Care to be seen on the red carpet with me wearing something like this.” Brooke searched the immediate area as quickly as possible, finally deciding on a taupe straight cut gown that could easily be taken in to find Vendela’s lithe frame.

Vendela smirked, knowing the game well, and came back with a black, bow bodice pencil dress. “And you can wear this…or nothing…babe.”

Brooke stared down an entirely unreadable Vendela. She wasn’t smiling, wasn’t frowning, wasn’t breathing, wasn’t doing anything really aside from holding out the black dress that Brooke knew would flaunt every flaw in the figure she wasn’t particularly happy with anymore. The more she stared at Vendela, the more the latent vampiric power of mind control pushed a fine mist over her mind. She knew Vendela wasn’t doing it on purpose—it was just something that happened when she really wanted something. It had actually been what originally brought Brooke to Barrow, what made her pack her strap-on, and what started their whole tryst. Vendela hadn’t consciously exerted her mental control on Brooke those first few months. In fact, as she would explain later, she thought she was the seduced until Brooke had told her about the mental haze surrounding the majority of their feverish lovemaking. If Vendela’s mind was pushing out to cloud Brooke’s thinking, seeing her in that pencil dress was something the little fashionista desperately wanted, but wasn’t socially equipped enough to ask for.

“Deal,” Brooke said, much to Vendela’s surprise. Brooke took the dress from her to give it a closer look. “It’ll have to be let out quite a bit though.”

“No, it won’t…babe,” Vendela said. “It’ll be major, I promise. Trust me, I am an excellent judge of…your figure. I think you might have been Kim Novak in a former life.”

“Kim Novak is still alive,” Brooke said.

“Really? That’s…ba-na-nas.”

“Vendela?” Justin called from the doorway. “There’s a problem with the fit models not quite fitting.”

Vendela rolled her eyes and handed the dress to Brooke. Justin, the assistant that replaced Brooke, was a masterful organizer, a driven personality, an A-list gay in the fashion world, and a stunningly beautiful vampire. Brooke liked everything about him except his personality. There wouldn’t be any chance he would steal Vendela, but he also kept her running at a driven pace leaving little personal time.

Vendela vacated the room to check why what she was calling a size six didn’t fit an industry standard size six model. Justin, perfectly frocked in a vested pinstripe suit, made his way to Brooke to inspect the dress she was holding.

“60’s retro is in ever since all those TV shows decided we should glorify the days of segregation, lung cancer, and alcoholism,” Justin said. “The only positive side is the fashion.” He took the dress from Brooke and gently held it up to her with a far more objective eye than Vendela. “You’ll need to have the top padded. Or you could just get a boob job like everyone else in LA.”

“I’ll consider all the options,” Brooke said. The thing she disliked about Justin was how much of what he said turned out to be double-speak. The comment about a boob job could have been idle conversation, or it could have been something Vendela had said to him and he’d strategically decided to let it slip. Brooke could never tell.

“If you did, you might reignite the old sex life.” Justin hung up the dress. His comments weren’t usually that blunt, and it took Brooke aback a little to hear such candor from the fabulously catty vampire assistant.

“What do you even know?”

“I know she’s not having sex,” Justin said, “and now I know you aren’t either.”

It was true. Combined, their hectic work schedules left little time for intimacy and the time they did spend together had felt a little flat over the past few months. As much as Brooke hated to admit it, she probably needed Justin’s help.

“What do you know about fixing it?” Brooke asked.

“Besides the boob job?” Justin made a dramatic show of looking up while he thought. “You could always swing.”

For some reason Brooke’s mind immediately jumped to a swing-set and only then transitioned to imagining one of those hanging-from-the-ceiling sex swings. Clearly reading her thoughts, Justin intervened before her flawed train of though could evolve further along an incorrect line.

“No, silly, not literally,” Justin said. “I meant going out to another partner and then coming home to be reclaimed by her. You clearly need more sex than she does and it’s a fairly common vampire practice to send our little playthings out to other vampires so we might recapture them. Call it a latent hunter instinct.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Brooke said. Even still, the notion had set a fire in her that she was a little ashamed of, a little intrigued by, yet completely unwilling to verbally admit to.

“Is it?” Justin said, raising a perfectly manscaped eyebrow.

She knew he could read her mind. He knew that she knew that he could read her mind. The fact that they both pretended this wasn’t the case was out of simple human politeness, which made the socially acceptable white lie seem so hollow.

“Would Vendela even be interested in something like that?” Brooke asked.

“Maybe you missed the execu-bitch vice president of operations she hired,” Justin said. “I think she’s been planning it for months but hasn’t worked up the nerve to mention it to you.”

Brooke had indeed noticed the gorgeous Persian vampire Vendela had hired. Shabnam was elegant, officious, and a little like Vendela in that she was difficult to read. Brooke also wondered if she wasn’t a slightly more stereotypical vampire considering she dressed only in black and wore her eyeliner on the heavy side. Still, she was attractive, and some of her comments directed at Brooke could have been mistaken for flirting when fitted to the bizarre Vendela standards. Brooke began to wonder if peculiar, petite, and vampiric was becoming her type.

“How do I go about setting something like this up?” Brooke said.

“Tell Vendela,” Justin said. “She’ll fill you in on the rest.”

...and that's all you get. Of course, if you've read Demons of Paradise, you'll recognize Brooke and Vendela, but you'll have to buy Fang Girls to find out what happens next!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pet Problems

Get ready for cute pictures of women and cats.
 Hi, Cassandra,

I enjoyed reading your post on Internet Etiquette. Lots of good advice. I wonder if you could comment on a problem I've experienced over many years of trying to find Ms. Right. I happen to have asthma, which means I can't spend a lot of time around pets. I'm good for about an hour and then have to leave. It seems like just about all lesbians have pets, often cats, which I love but are particularly bad for my asthma. This makes it particularly hard to meet anyone. I've tried dating women who have pets, but it forces the other woman to always come to my place. We can never be in her home for more than a few minutes. It really creates a problem, plus I would feel guilty asking someone to give up a pet that they love. Do you have any suggestions on how to get around this problem? I state clearly in my lesbian personals profile that I have asthma and can't be around pets, but I get very few contacts and the ones I do get are either living in another state or have several pets. Any suggestions?

Amorous Asthmatic

Most of the time I can fix or drastically improve a situation for a letter writer when they ask for advice with some easily followed advice, but this one really had me scratching my head. Yep, us gay girls love our pets. Maybe it’s the feminine urge to nurture and when you have two women in a relationship you end up with twice the pets to divvy up when the relationship ends so we all have two cats and two dogs collected from three ex-girlfriends. Or maybe it’s a surrogate child thing because most of us didn’t get knocked up in high school. I don’t know. But you’re right; most of us do have at least one cat or one dog.

Sadly, this is not going to be an easy fix. My first piece of advice is medical, for which I am grossly unqualified, so verify everything I say on this part with a real medical professional as I am just a romance author and that comes with very little medical training. According to WebMD, asthma attacks caused by pets are usually an allergic reaction. So, I think you need a patchwork test to see exactly what you’re allergic to because cats might only be part of a larger problem that could include dust and other environmental stuff aggravating your asthma. Patchwork tests are where they draw a grid somewhere on your body (when I had mine it was on my back) and then they jab you with a little poker thing and dowse the wound with allergens to see what your body freaks out about. Once you know what all you’re allergic to, adding a daily antihistamine to your asthma medications might really help.

This looks more painful than it really is.

There’s also the possibility of getting your body accustomed to a particular cat owned by a particular girlfriend, which involves slow acclimation. People can train their body to get used to a particular cat over time. Don’t just dive in and go right to her place. Have her bring a cat item to you, spend some time with it, and slowly work your way up to spending time around her cat. Increased exposure over time might desensitize your body to the specific animal even if you remain asthmatic around cats in general.

Cute girls and cute cats just go together.
There are also hypoallergenic breeds of cats out there that don’t seem to cause as much respiratory problems as other cats. There’s a list here that’ll help you figure out what breeds might be less problematic for you. I know it’s a strange concept to try to narrow your dating pool based on what breed of cat a woman owns, but it might be a helpful new parameter to work in there.

If none of this works, and it might not since as I previously stated I’m not a doctor although I kick ass at Operation, you may need to expand your search area. This is something I always encourage within the gay and lesbian community. As lesbians, we are a tiny tiny tiny fraction of society—3% according to a 2006 census (gay men are 7% according to the same census, which is where the whole 10% of the population figure you hear people throwing around comes from—I personally think both of those numbers are probably low and will go up as more and more people feel comfortable with coming out to census takers). The point is, your odds of finding an available, attractive, non-pet owning lesbian within driving distance of your house are pretty remote. I always make the joke that so many lesbian relationship aren’t about Miss Right they’re about Miss Close Enough in the area, and you can participate in that if you want, but with your asthma, that might not be the best way to go. I have a friend who has found a lovely relationship with a woman in Boston even though she’s in Los Angeles. They Skype, Facebook, talk endlessly on the phone and visit each other once a month with plans for the Boston girl to relocate to Los Angeles eventually (probably for the weather). The internet has made this possible in ways it never was before. So, yeah, you mentioned there are girls that seemed interesting in other states; maybe it’s time to give them a shot.
This could make for some amazing van art.
Moving for the right girl isn’t exactly a strange new concept. For fuck’s sake, I moved from California to Florida to stay with my girlfriend when she relocated for grad school. If you find the right woman, geography shouldn’t be an insurmountable hurdle. Even if you didn’t have the pet/asthma problem, I would still encourage you to expand your search radius. 3% of the population—we don’t have the same dating pool as straight girls. Odds are, Miss Right doesn’t live near you.

There are probably other options like air purifiers and such, but I’ve heard those aren’t tremendously effective when it comes to cat dander. Judging from the two cats my girlfriend and I own, you’d probably have to have an air filter the size of a refrigerator to clean the air of their fuzz in just one room. I swear I vacuum twice a week just to keep our carpets the right color. So don’t listen to the people who claim it’s just a matter of cleaning up better after the cats during the times they’re shedding. Two facts:  cats are always shedding and you can’t clean microscopic things with any sort of efficacy unless you live in the CDC or a computer chip manufacturing factory.
It's probably homier than it looks.
This isn’t going to be an easy solve. Try the medical stuff to see if antihistamines might help, aim for girls with those hypoallergenic breeds of cats and dogs, and try to acclimate slowly to let your body get used to the particular animal of the girl you’re after. If all of that fails to yield a relationship, consider expanding your search to the entire country with the understanding that we’re too small of a population to date locally very effectively.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fitness Goddess

Jackie Warner and my girlfriend share similar dimensions.
If you’ve been paying attention to my Twitter feed and Facebook statuses, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been trying to go to the gym more, and have been whining about it pretty constantly. I’ve learned a little something about relationships in the process and want to share it with my lovely readers.

My girlfriend is fond of saying, “you’re skinny, not healthy” which is probably the most accurate assessment of what’s going on with me. Having a Buddhist’s mind for only eating out of necessity and petite Asian genes galore, I have always been skinny. But Nikki is right. Just because I look like I’m healthy doesn’t mean I actually am. I have my weekly trip to Wendy’s. Up until a few months ago I was smoking 3-4 cigarettes a day, which I know isn’t a massively unhealthy amount, but I can’t imagine smoking any amount is a good thing. All of this probably wouldn’t have even been noticeable if I wasn’t dating a fitness goddess. When you’re living with someone who runs 5 miles a day and lives at the gym, you tend to start wondering why she’s never out of breath and a couple flights of stairs kicks your ass.

Another source of epiphany on my lack of fitness is football. I’m in week three now of a coed-flag football league and I’m doing just terrible. It’s a no contact league and somehow I’m always sore after the games (mostly from falling down a lot). This is probably where my Asian genes work against me. Ever hear of an Asian football player? Me neither.

I share similar dimensions with Mulan...or maybe the dragon.
I’ll admit my privilege in this though. I don’t have to work at all to look like I do. I sleep 10 hours a day. I play a lot of video games. My quads (learned what they were called from Nikki, it's the top of your legs) are used almost entirely to support my laptop for writing. I subsist on a diet of Wendy’s, ramen, and breakfast cereal because I don’t really know how to cook. Yet, even with all that, I’ve hovered around 100 lbs since 8th grade (don’t worry, I’m short enough for that to be well within normal - BMI 20.5). If you think that all sounds fantastic, let me ask you this:  could you put a baseball uniform on and easily infiltrate a Little League team? If your answer was anything along the lines of, “Of course not, I have boobs and hips” you’ve got me beat, because I’m positive I could pull of an Amanda Bynes type switcheroo for the LittleLeague World Series except I’m hopelessly unathletic. The point being, I’m not trying to build the body I have into the body I want. All the exercise I’m doing is only going to change the composition of the same shape I’ve always had; I’m literally exercising to lose my nerd’s lack of stamina. This is probably a strange concept for a lot of women, exercising for functionality rather than appearance, which is kind of a shame, isn’t it? More on that later.

So now I’m trying to go to the gym, which is kind of not what you think. We have a tiny fitness center in our apartment complex that nobody really uses, except for me now apparently. My girlfriend uses the massive athletic complex gym at UCF for real athletes and, while she’s offered to come with me to the free fitness center in our complex, I always tell her I’d rather she didn’t. It’s impossible to go to the gym the 1 hour a day I can tolerate (I get so freaking bored), when the person who is supposed to be your gym buddy could stay there for three hours quite happily. More than that, I’m fairly certain I use most exercise machines wrong the first time, realize there’s no way I’m supposed to bonk my head that many times, and then have to look at the vague silhouette diagrams on the sides to see what I should have been doing. I definitely still have this "please oh please oh please don’t embarrass yourself in front of Nikki" thing that has persisted since I met her. Despite the fact that she could probably really help me in this, being the multi-sport athlete and personal trainer she is, I still really want her to think I’m cool even though I’m really obviously not. This is when I realized my fitness idol and hero was actually my girlfriend. She exercises to be a better athlete and ends up with the amazing body she has because it is functional for what she does. When I realized I was doing very badly in my own sport, I figured out fitness wasn’t something that functioned only for looks, which I already have and exercise wouldn’t change, but should help me do the things I want to do physically. Ladies, look at your own fitness routine and ask yourself, is it helping you do what you want to do? Does it make you more functional or are you doing it in hopes of changing your appearance?

Oh! Yep, I was on it backward.
So the question becomes, how does a couch potato date a fitness goddess? Actually, strike that, I don’t like couch potato. Revised:  how does a bedroom bunny date a fitness goddess? All my exercise usually comes in the bedroom, so this is far more accurate anyway. To this point, she has tried to help me be a better person and I’ve convinced her an occasional trip to In-n-Out won’t kill her girl abs. This is one of those surprisingly complex relationship questions most people probably don’t even consider. A differential in fitness and health goals can really strain a relationship. I mean, she is up at 6 AM every day for jogging, and I’m rolling into bed most nights around 2 AM not to be awoken until noon, which means there are whole chunks of the day where one of us is awake while the other is asleep. My sister says this is completely normal, especially since she’s had her son, but I have the lesbian urge to merge here. I’d pretty much wrap myself around Nikki 24/7 if I could figure out how to manage that without it being socially awkward. I think the answer is incremental change and unconditional acceptance of benign traits. Let me explain that since it sounds all jargony.

In any long term relationship, you’re going to find there are things that don’t match up that can be changed and things that don’t match up that don’t matter. The skill set to develop here is to figure out the difference. When you’re with someone special, you’re going to have this urge to want to be a better person for them, and they’ll have this whole other set of interests and ideas than you, which can end up enriching you as a person if you’re open to trying. You’re not changing to suit them, you’re trying what they like and seeing if it might also be something you like but have never considered. Positive changes in your life can come from other people’s desires for your best interests. Take the smoking thing, if Nikki hadn’t pressured me, I’d probably still be doing it—incremental change. There are other traits though that are basic to happiness and aren’t really harming the other person, but just might not be what the other person would like for themselves. My sleeping in doesn’t hurt anyone. I’m a freelance writer. I can have the sleep schedule I want so long as I’m productive with my waking hours. It doesn’t really hurt me for Nikki to get up at 6 AM since I’m a dead to the world type sleeper, and it doesn’t really hurt her for me to wake up at 11:30 or noon. So we just accept those idiosyncrasies as part of the lovely tapestry that is the other person even though it doesn’t match our own personal preferences. If it doesn’t hurt you or make you unhappy, let it go.

I don’t expect the complaining about going to the gym will leave my Twitter feed anytime soon even as I’m getting into better shape, but hopefully I’ll stop falling down so much during games.