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.

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