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.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Cop-Out Post

I'm not going to make a habit of this...probably. It's just, two good friends from the twitterverse have two new postings of me on their websites at the exact same time, and I feel like I can use this opportunity to shirk my duties as a blogger (didn't think I was going to be that honest, didja?). Seriously though, people. Do want countless new and interesting blog posts or do you want more books, because I can probably do both, but that'll really kill the time I spend playing Xbox and tormenting my cats with a laser pointer. Do you have any idea how not tan I've become since moving to Florida and quitting promo work? I used to be able to stand outside for days on end, in heels, without getting sunburned or sore feet, and now I can't even remember the last time I wore shoes that weren't flip flops. Where was I going with all this...? Oh, right, trying to justify flaking on my blogging duties...again.

So the thing about that is, I did an interview with Amelia for her website Trashy Treasures and I thought it went really well. Amelia James is also an author in her own right in addition to being a delightfully naughty kindred spirit, so you should pop over to the sections on her website where her books are and check those out as well. Her interview with me about "The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head" can be found here:

If that was all I had for you this week, I'd say you would be justified in calling me completely lazy. As it stands, I have more, so you should probably downgrade that to mostly lazy. Another lovely kindred spirit of naughtiness and authoring, Blue Sleighty, launched her website My Secret Obsessions for books, and a bunch of my titles found their way onto the list along with a bunch of other really great stuff. It's nice to find myself in some seriously impressive company. Again, aside from just checking out my stuff, which you should, you should also peek at Blue's writing since we are such similar sapphic critters. She's a follower of this blog, so it should be a matter of a couple clicks to finding your way to her blog, and she's far more dedicated to posting than I am. Take a look at her beautifully compiled list here:

Last time I did this shirking thing, I posted a bunch of tumblr-esque photos of boobs I liked, and someone pointed out that I really like boobs. This is true. I do. But it was more a matter of just trying to give something back to my readers since I wasn't going to be giving a real blog post. Seriously though, the vaguely lesbian side storyline, Amber Heard, and boobs were about the only things that kept me watching the Playboy Club for the three episodes I made it through before it got canceled, but I'll skip the gratuitous posting of great boob pictures here since I don't want to seem single-minded.

Instead, I'm posting pictures of female abs, since I like those too...seriously, next week, I'll do a real post. Enjoy the interview, the website, and the abs!

I also really like these kinds of shorts. They're super comfy.
Gwen Stefani has really nice abs, and she's an OC girl too!
Jilian Michaels has really nice abs, and she likes girls, which is always a good combo.
I had this exact Gabby Reece poster on my wall growing up. Took my parents forever to figure out I didn't remotely care about beach volleyball.
And this is what I wished I looked like, but never actually will.
Did everyone notice one of the breasts pictures from last time got yanked by blogger? I wonder if they'll find any of these offensive too. "That is entirely too much navel!"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Modular Dating

So I have some relationship advice columns that ran on my more normalized job for a dating website that I thought I'd repost here from time to time if I thought they were particularly helpful and/or popular since the advice might be good for people in relationships too and a buying a subscription to a dating website just to read my column might seem strange to your partner.

I'm sure my advice works for men, but I doubt many read my blog.
 Modular Dating

Dinner and a movie is a tried and true dating trope because it actually plays on a concept that I’ve been apparently practicing for years (and I just now labeled it, which goes to show how procrastinatory I can be about labels). Modular dating is the simple concept of having individual, wholly functional units of entertainment strung together to allow for continuation or discontinuation of a date with the least amount of fuss or awkwardness. If this all sounds highly technical, don’t worry, I’m a relationship expert, I spent a lot of time in my lab mixing chemicals in a lab coat to make sure it all works before I brought this to you.

We’ve all been a situation where a date was going so well that we wanted it to continue, but, at the end of the listed things set out at the start of the date, we kind of ran out of ideas and the date ended early and awkwardly because we just didn’t have anything else on the schedule, and you’re usually having a hard time thinking straight around the people on those kinds of dates, so thinking of something new wasn’t going to happen. Or, and this is probably more common, you were on an obscenely bad date and you just wanted out, but you’d listed X, Y, and Z as the things you were going to do at the outset of the date, and you both end up trudging through all those activities, even though neither of you want to, simply because that was the schedule and nobody wants to be rude. There’s a fix:  modular dating.

Regardless of who is planning the date, and as lesbians we have a lot more leeway with this than straight girls who are still at least somewhat required to defer to the guy as not to threaten his masculinity (ugh), both people can have a secret treasure trove of fun activities that can easily be transitioned to if a date is going well. If you’re the primary planner of the date, I would recommend at least four, with the last few getting increasingly close to your home if things end up going very well with the final stop being your bed/hot tub/front porch. The key is to only let her know about the first two or three ideas at the outset. This way, if the date is going badly, you can bail after the proscribed schedule without hurting anyone’s feelings. If things are going well and you suddenly pull out these great ideas of further fun activities, she’ll think you’re a bundle of impetuousness and fun when in fact it was all careful planning.

Confused yet?
 Let’s look at an example of what I mean…

Angela and Lisa are on their third date, but haven’t had sex yet. The first few dates went well, and they’re getting increasingly close. Angela plans a date that involves an early dinner at a sushi place (good for conversation) and then mini-golf since Lisa was on her college golf team (fun physical activity with lots of opportunity for contact). Now, if these two activities go well, and Angela has ever reason to believe they will, she planned two secret activities to follow if Lisa is interested in continuing the date. The third one is checking out Angela’s favorite independent bookstore, which has a coffee bar and a fantastic poetry section, as a quiet, intimate activity and is a scant few miles from Angela’s apartment. After the bookstore, depending on how things have gone, there are three options:  continue to the fourth activity, end the date, or head back to Angela’s place. Let’s say it went well enough to not end the date yet, but not well enough to start comparing appendectomy scars just yet. At that point, Angela could suggest the fourth activity, which is getting gelato at a stand she knows about and then walking by the waterfront to watch the sunset (obviously the most romantic of the plans should go last). At the outset of the date, Lisa didn’t necessarily have to know there was a third or fourth plan involved. If she had other plans for that night, they could have skipped the bookstore and walk without anyone feeling like they were canceling. But, because they were having such a great time and as a Romance writer I like writing about happy couples falling in love and having lots of sex, we’ll pretend like they needed the third and fourth activity to deepen their connection, which ultimately put the conclusion of the date at Angela’s apartment.

This is obviously the fifth step if everything goes well!
The key to planning good modular dates is thoughtfulness. The activities should be varied, tailored to the specific lady you’re dating, and require very little in the way of commuting since nothing kills the mood like a two hour car ride to an amusement park that turns out to be completelynot worth it. In the example above, Angela tailored the date to Lisa’s interests (golf), showed off aspects of herself (the bookstore), had a wide variety of activities (sitting/eating/talking, walking, reading, competition, and romance) so the date wasn’t just one note, and each element was not predicated on the one before it, making them all easily removable. This last part is important for if you’ve misread something. Let’s say mini-golf was a hit, and Angela had every reason to think it would be, but Lisa expressed absolutely no interest in the bookstore, then it would be a simple matter of moving on to the waterfront walk and gelato rather than simply ending the date for want of something to do. And this is one of the really nice features of planning modular dating—flexibility.

See how important flexibility is in all forms?
Now, you might be thinking, “Cassandra, you’re so scientifically gifted and have such nice teeth, but what if I’m not that good at thinking of activities?” Firstly, thank you, I can’t possibly be complimented enough on my teeth, and secondly, make good use of the internet. A simple Google search of “stuff to do in…” and then insert your location will bring up page after page of things people have tried and will usually include a corresponding Yelp rating (a review site where independent users can describe their experiences) to let you know if it’s worth the time. The internet is a powerful tool and will not only tell you what there is to do, but will also tell you how fun it is and will draw you a map to get you from one part of the date to the next without so much as a hiccup. There is far more going on around you than you probably realize. The added benefit to doing this is that there’s more going on than she’s probably aware of either so you’ll end up looking hooked up and on scene when you take her somewhere she’s never heard of and you both have a great time.

Modular dating can help lengthen out the good dates, cut short the bad ones, and will never leave you wondering what to do next. Be considerate, be creative, and be internet savvy in your planning.