Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Furry Friends

 Furry Friends…No, the Other Kind

Did everyone get a little thrill from the double entendre (triple if you’ve heard about the animal costume fetish)? Sadly, I won’t be talking about bush confidence, thank you L-Word for taking that phrase mainstream, in this column. Not because bush confidence isn’t important and not because it can’t influence relationships, but because I already made a furry joke and now I should follow through with the animal advice. I'll just have to talk vagina-scaping later. This article is all about pets, and you’ll just have to look for a vagina-scaping article at some later point. A recent letter I received from a lovely woman having trouble finding a girlfriend because of her extreme asthma reaction to animal dander, wanted to know what she could do, and it got me thinking since that is really a pretty big problem if someone wants to date in the lesbian community. After answering the questionto the best of my ability I decided I needed to write a more comprehensive, “for everyone” pet guide to dating.

If you're not into reading the whole blog, just buy a lizard and skip to the end.
Most lesbians tend to be pet owners. There are probably statistics somewhere to back this up, and I’m sure you can find them on your own, but can we all anecdotally admit that when you get two women together in a couple, you’re more likely to end up with fuzzy critters in the relationship too (again with the double entendres, what is my deal?). The problem is:  most is not all. And even if it were, not all pets are equally liked by all women and not all concentrations of pets are equally appreciated. This is important stuff to figure out since well-loved pets will last you between 10-20 years, which is probably longer than the vast majority of your girlfriends lasted. For example, I’ve had my cat, Josephine, for nine years, and I’ve been with my girlfriend, Nikki, for almost four now. Thankfully, the two get along reasonably well, although that wasn’t always the case.

Again, if you're going with a bird (and probably a deaf girlfriend), go ahead and skip to the end.

When my girlfriend and I first moved in together, she had a cat already too, a giant Maine Coon named Dragon (yes, like in The Secret of Nihm—see why I love this woman?). Dragon is a giant love sponge who immediately adored me and my Siamese kitty. Josephine, however, did not care for Dragon or Nikki being in her house. She chased Dragon, which was a little surprising and kind of comical considering Josie weighs maybe 9 pounds and doesn’t have her front claws anymore, and Dragon weighs 15ish pounds and has claws like a small bear. Josephine also started biting Nikki, which is a big time no-no since cat bites have a nasty habit of becoming extremely infected. Dragon freaked out about being chased all the time and began marking and vomiting, which started pissing me off since they moved into my place, which to that point Josephine and I had kept immaculately free of pet accidents. Now this whole conflict within a relationship arose between two cat people with reasonable kitty expectations. Imagine if you’re a dog person with four Rottweilers trying to date a cat person who just adopted an all too edible Persian kitten?

Or two giant, long hair dogs and a whole flock of chickens.

Step 1 – disclosure:  your first date must include a conversation about what critters share your life. Ideally, this might take place even sooner. Pets can be deal breakers for some people, like the woman mentioned earlier who has extreme medical reactions to animals. Talk about type, talk about breed, talk about temperament, talk about the length you’ve had your pet friend and make sure you ask questions for all their corresponding information. Trust me, getting a lesbian to talk about her cats or dogs is really easy and also a fantastic way to build rapport with them, so it should be something you’re doing anyway to be charming. If you start seeing conflicts, like one person has seven bounding chocolate labs and the other person is deathly afraid of being licked to death by a pack of hounds, you might have identified a future problem.

Step 2 – be open minded:  as I’ve said a million times, we’re a minority within a minority within a minority…we can’t just throw away potential girlfriends with the expectations that perfection is plentiful out there. You might have to make some compromises on a few things, and pets are probably one of them. Listen, I get that people don’t always like cats or dogs, I really do, big dogs scare the holy hell out of me. I’m a petite lady, so many breeds actually weigh more than me. I’ve got a friend with a Rhodesian Ridgeback / White Lab mix that weighs half again as much as I do (150ish lbs), and routinely knocks me over purely by accident (one sudden turn and I’m knocked flat by a dog butt because he saw a squirrel to his right). But when I was single, I couldn’t rule out women who owned large dogs simply for owning large dogs. I dated a girl with a perfectly lovely German Shepherd and I loved that dog—far more than I liked her as it turns out, but the point remains, I had to get past my thing about big dogs and take each animal on a case by case basis. If you’re not a cat person, give that girl’s individual cat a chance; they might surprise you.

Step 3 – don’t be insane:  this is really just good advice for pet owners in general. If you have three poorly trained, poorly behaved, and messy dogs living with you in a studio apartment, you’re going to have a hard time attracting women willing to brave the oversized kennel to sleep over—she isn’t the strange one for saying no in this scenario. Any time you need more than one hand to list your cats, you’re probably going to start scaring off women. Volume of pets isn’t the only way to be crazy though—yes, that’s right ladies, we need to recognize our intensity issues with our pets. You can love your pets, it’s what they’re there for, but if all your pictures are of your pets and every conversation starts with, “Hey, guess what my dog did this morning!” you need to take a step back and realize you’re probably:  A. boring people to tears and B. scaring the crap out of them. Chill with this stuff, ladies; it’s like kids—they’re only that cute to you because they’re yours so your pet talk shouldn’t dominate the conversation on a date unless you’re planning on dating your pet (and please don’t do that).


Step 4 – be a good pet owner:  sadly so many people don’t have the faintest clue they’re bad pet owners. They have that whole Dog Whisperer show with an endless supply of bad dog owners who need Caesar Milan to tell them how to own a dog because this is a rampant problem. Cat owners are no better since cats are even harder to train and most of them are supposed to go to the bathroom inside. If you’re dating someone, you really need to take a far more critical eye at what your pet is doing and what state your pet has left your place in. You need to understand that we get used to things with our pets. I don’t even know how much tan fur I have eaten or breathed in over the years, but it’s probably enough to create a whole other cat. Josephine sheds year-round, it’s all super fine and short so the ceiling fans aerosolize it like weapon’s grade anthrax and suddenly surfaces she’s never even been on have cat fur on them. But I’m aware of this, and I’m also so used to plucking cat fur off my clothes, car keys, coffee mug, computer, showerhead, etc. that I don’t even think of it as irritating anymore. The problem is, if you bring a girl back to your place, who has no relationship with your pet yet and hasn’t lived in the vicinity of your specific animal’s fur, she will notice it, so clean with an eye to that, and for goodness sake, make sure your animal has the basics of polite behavior down before you introduce it to people. AND clean up after your dogs when you take them for a walk—that’s gross to just leave it in the park or on someone’s front lawn…that’s not dating advice, it’s just worthwhile person advice, although I wouldn’t date someone who didn’t scoop.

It seems like if he knew how to operate a scooper, he should know how to use a toilet.

It took a long time for me to train Josephine to not bite my girlfriend, it took an equally long time for our cats to start getting along well enough that Dragon isn’t marking, but we stuck with it. Of course, it involved me climbing a lemon tree to get Dragon when she got her collar caught on a branch and I ended up cut to ribbons since it turns out certain lemon trees have thorns; it also involved Nikki practically climbing up into chimney at my parent's house to get Josephine out when she decided to chase after a bird that flew down the top, which I couldn’t have done because I’m crazy claustrophobic. Bringing together your pets and the women you’re dating can be a complex and difficult process, but you can smooth the process by disclosing, being open minded, avoiding the craziness, and being a responsible pet owner.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Late in Life Lesbian

I'm going to run a question and answer bit of relationship advice I gave at my day job over at TangoWire.com's network of dating sites. I thought it was an interesting question about age and dating with some important side information about butch/femme dynamics. Enjoy!

Dear Cass:

I have been on the site for about four months and have been talking to three ladies that I feel may lead to a friendship or long term relationship, although I have not met any of them in person yet. I am just coming out at 49. I am a femme and always been attracted to butch women. I never thought that I was a lesbian because when I see women walking on the streets I do not have any attraction to them. Only butch women turn me on, and I did not know about butch/femme relationships.

So the first lady I am talking to I would say I have the closet connection because we have been talking the longest. She is a soft butch and has been one since she was a teenager. We have share very private things with each other and I do feel close to her. She is in a nursing home recovering from a stroke so this is why we have not met in person. I told her that I was just coming out because I want to be honest, but I don't know if I should have told her or just kept it to myself. I am a little attracted to her but she is a little smaller than me and again a soft butch. We have talked on the phone, but more of our talking has been though emails because her voice was affected by the stroke and sometimes I find it hard to understand what she is saying even though I do wish we could talk a little more on the phone. She was supposed to get out of the nursing home last week but couldn’t because the apartment she was to live in doesn’t have bars in the bathroom so the nursing home would not release her. Since last week she has not been talking to me as much and I feel distanced from her. I sent her an email and she said she was still interested. We have been talking for almost four months.

The second lady lives in Atlanta and is planning on moving back to NYC where she use to live and where I live now. She is a stud and very tall. I find that I am very attracted to her, but I don't feel that close to her yet as we have only been talking for 2 months. We only talk on the phone but I wish I could email her too because sometimes it is easier for me to express my feeling when I write. She said that she is going to move back in March 2012 and we can start dating.

The last lady I have been talking to for a month and she is a butch, wears only men’s clothes, and I am very attracted to her. She lives only 30 minutes from me and she asked me to go to dinner. I am very nervous because this will be my first date with a butch and I have no idea what to expect. I tried to find out if she was a stone butch but she did not answer because I think some stone butches do not like to be touched sexually, which is fine with me. With all of them I told them that I am just coming out. I told the second lady that I was very attracted to her. Should I have done that? I also asked her if she uses a strap-on because I have never been with a woman sexually yet and I want to know what to expect.


--3-Times the Love

Dear 3-Times,

I love that this letter actually sounds like the premise for one of my short stories or novels. Congratulations, by the way, on being a late in life lesbian! That’s a pretty special realization to come to and it speaks of almost a rebirth or awakening of a true part of you that has gone neglected most of your life to that point. So, well done!

Who doesn't love a woman in uniform?

Let’s talk butches and femmes for a sec. I love that you’re already making choices in what you like, what you’re interested in, and what is and isn’t out of bounds for you. This is a positive trait common to most late in life lesbians—you know what you want and you’re not ashamed to say so. Soft butch, butch, stone butch, stud, etc…these classifications can all mean some slightly different things based on personal opinion and as you’ve seen, regional differences. I’m a California girl so I know that what passes for a butch in Orange County would almost be called a femme up in San Francisco. So my advice on this, don’t get too caught up in what labels they choose to use; focus on whether or not she matches what you’re into. For those of you wondering what scale I’m using on this, I’ve generally always thought of a soft butch as someone who dressed in masculine ways, but clearly hadn’t removed all trappings of femaleness and stone butches are often difficult to discern from men in how they dress and behave and often don’t even use feminine terminology when describing themselves (thus the stud thing). It’s really a spectrum of behavior, appearance, and mindset with a lot of area in the middle for people who just think of themselves as an unspecified ‘butch.’
Classic gender dynamics in a classy way

You know, the more I think about this and re-read your letter, the more I don’t see a problem here. You’re new to the lesbian scene and you’re looking to date around to find what you like. Soooooo...date around. These three sound like a good start to get your feet wet in the lesbian dating pool. As you get to know them more, spend more time in person with them, and really explore your newly accepted sexuality with them, the answer to which one is the best fit for you will slowly emerge, or, and this is just as likely, you’ll find that, while you enjoyed their company and the time you spent with them, you’re looking for someone else entirely and you’ll get to go out and date that new person. You’re fresh on the scene—soak it up a little before you decide to leave with just one person. Since you are a late in life lesbian, you should also be open about the fact that you are recently out. This can only help your dating situation in letting people know you aren’t up to speed on everything in the lesbian community despite your age, but also because this pseudo-virginity and inexperience, especially when trying to attract a chivalrous butch, can be a pretty big turn on for someone who is interested in showing a new girl the ropes.

One final note on the strap-on and sex thing, and believe me when I say I am a super advocate of these devices, go ahead and do some research on your own beforehand. It sounds like you’re curious, and rightly so, but that doesn’t mean you need a dating partner to explain it all to you. There is a link to my blog on my website to find what I’ve written on the topic, which would be a place to start. If the intricacies of strap-ons, lesbian sex, and stone butches are something you’re interested in, there are tons of resources out there to explain it all in detail. Reading up beforehand will help a lot with what to expect and can be kind of hot fun too.

-- Cass

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vampire Valentines Day Giveaway!

What do you suppose the three sisters did while Dracula was out chasing British girls?

I'm not a big fan of Valentines Day. But this wasn't always the case. When I was a kid, I loved the little cards everyone gave each other, the heart-shaped chocolate, and all the lovey-dovey decorations of winged babies practicing archery. Then junior high happened and it started being about someone special paying attention to you. This didn't go particularly well for me. As an extremely shy, and as I would discover later, an extremely gay, junior high girl, I didn't get all that much attention from the boys. This isn't to say I didn't have a boyfriend in junior high. In fact, that was the only time I ever did. To protect the innocent, let's just call him Jimmie. He didn't understand Valentines Day either and as it turned out, he was just as gay as I was, so you can imagine how little we actually got done when it came to traditional boy/girl, awkward junior high relationship stuff.

In hindsight, this was an odd card to get from my junior high gym teacher (kidding! I got it from your mom)

High school was worse--much worse. My high school did this thing every Valentines Day where we had an archaic competition among the men. Everyone would be given little construction paper hearts, about the size of a real heart as my biology teacher pointed out, on a ribbon necklace. These little one-day pendants were to be given to the guy you thought was the hottest. I guess they gave them to the guys so none of them would have zero at the end of the day. I don't even know what the person won or who the hell made all those stupid little hearts on strings since I went to a school with more than 2,000 students. A large percentage of people just chucked the things, myself included. By that point, I was irritated with the world (as all good high school girls are) and I wasn't about to participate in the patriarchal competition of helping a man collect women's hearts...or maybe it was because I didn't want to contribute to a society that valued looks above substance...or maybe it was because by that point I was out of the closet and a lesbian giving a guy a heart for being "hot" was dumb beyond reason...or maybe the whole thing was an antiquated waste of pink construction paper and time. There were so many good reasons to throw the heart thing away, I can't precisely remember which one I went with for the first three years of high school.

I wish I'd had this design on a t-shirt at the time. I could have pointed to it when someone asked about my paper heart.
Then something happened between my junior and senior year. Nikki, who had been one of my more vicious tormentors since I came out, kinda come out to me during that summer. She started being nice to me, started calling me, started coming over to see me, and even though my traumatized little brain didn't think any of it was genuine, I still sucked up all the attention I could. I remember, at the time, being completely certain it was all an elaborate ruse to fuck with me. After a couple months of nothing bad happening, I came to the conclusion it was just an odd summer friendship that would end when school started up again and she remembered she was amazingly cool and I was a total outcast. But that didn't happen either. In fact, my senior year, everyone was actually pretty nice to me, or at the very least nobody picked on me anymore. Nikki and I would still occasionally talk, I'd go to her volleyball matches when I could, we even went to lunch together sometimes. She gave me an actual Christmas gift that year. I still have it--a weird pink trucker hat that said "World Champion" on it because she knew I liked 30 Rock.

Can't we just go back to innocent cards? Not like this one; this one is naughty...maybe, it depends if you know Kirby

Then, Valentines Day happened with its construction paper hearts on red ribbons. I didn't throw mine away. I thought I had someone to give it to. Now, I can't explain what I was thinking at the time, but I saved it in my locker until I knew I would see Nikki before lunch, and then I tried to give it to her. Girls were supposed to finish the day with one heart or none at all. If Nikki had two, that would mean something strange had happened. Strange like the outcast girl with an oddly masochistic lesbian crush had given her a heart. She wouldn't take it; she wasn't there yet. In my histrionic high school girl brain, I actually believed I might die of emotional trauma. We were cordial the rest of the year, but didn't really talk much after that.

I turned 18 a few weeks after and I started dating outside the school, usually older women and always by lying about my age. Once I started getting my college acceptance letters (by the way I went 10 for 10 and I applied to some really nice schools--SAT prep courses and not having a life paid off), I mentally checked out of high school. I still had to physically go through the motions to graduate and all, but mentally, I was already done and in college. That summer, the 4th of July to be exact, Nikki fully came out to me and explained that she'd been completely gone in love with me for years. I was in a slightly better emotional/mental state at that point than I was at any point during high school, but my brain still didn't think this was something real. It would be a little like Brad Pitt saying he was completely in love with Rachel Dratch and that he was leaving Angelina to go marry her--I think that's actually the analogy I used at the time to describe why what she was saying didn't make sense. She promised to spend however much time it would take to make me believe.

It went a little something like this...

It'll be four years ago tomorrow that she rejected the little paper heart and it'll be four years ago this 4th of July that we've been together. We've had Valentines Days since then and they've been really romantic and sweet and sexy and blah blah blah, but I still equate Valentines Day with something really awful and traumatic and the 4th of July with something romantic.

In that spirit, I'm giving away a vampire book this Valentines Day. And not just any vampire book, the one with the most fucked up relationship I've ever written, horrible, depressing, frightening things, suicide, abuse, murders, revenge, and even worse things. This isn't Twilight where misogynistic vampire boys prance around trying to seduce boring girls. The vampires in The Vampires of Vigil's Sorrow are actually scary and for the most part fucked up individuals. Like my own story with Valentines Day, there is something of a romantic happy ending, but it doesn't come in the way one might expect. For anyone who is single this Valentines Day and unhappy about it, or anyone who is like me and still doesn't like this holiday, or anyone who just likes real vampire stories, enjoy a free ecopy of The Vampires of Vigil's Sorrow.

In the town of Vigil’s Rest, vampires haunt the forest, luring young girls to their doom with promises of forbidden love. After Deborah Poole, a local beauty queen goes missing, the town’s long history of cover-ups begins to unravel. She returns from the dead, more angel than demon, and acting as a spirit of mercy in the haunted forest that has known only vengeance. Oppression and tightly held secrets keep Deborah from love for decades, finally shattering when the unlikely fulfillment of an ancient prophecy gives her a new chance at love and humanity in the form of a disillusioned teenage girl, Annabelle. But to sever Deborah’s chains to the past, the duo must unravel the 200 year old mystery of the forest’s haunting and the town’s dark past.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sampler Giveaway!

I was going to advertise in a newspaper, but apparently these three women are the only people who still read newspapers.
As many people know, I used to be a brand ambassador/promo model, which probably explains why I don't like working for people now. After three or so years of handing out cans of soda, fliers, directing people to enter their personal information into a computer to win a key chain, and cajoling people into taking product placement pictures (with or without me in some ridiculous costume) I picked up a few things. One of which was a revulsion for having my picture taken, especially with groups of people (bad experiences, trust me).

The glamorous world of promoting lite beer by dressing up as a slutty referee! (From how it generally went for me, I'm going to go ahead and assume the guy has placed his hands inappropriately on one or both of the women next to him)
The more useful thing I picked up from promotions was how to give stuff away. So, I'm going to give stuff away this month! Next week, during Valentine's Day, I will be holding a Vampiric Valentine's Day giveaway where you can get The Vampires of Vigil's Sorrow absolutely free (2/13-2/15). It'll be a nice read for anyone who can't find a date and wants to feel better about it since several of the relationships in it tend to be the kind that'd make you glad you were single.

This whole week, however, I'm giving away a sampler book I compiled that shows off all the fun stuff I've published over the last year. In addition, it has the first chapter of the much anticipated sequel to The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head. Yep, you'll get to read a not even released yet excerpt from the next book in the Raven Ladies series! The free sampler book promo ends this week, but even if you miss getting the book for free, you can still pick it up for 99 cents and read the first chapter of The Steam-powered Sniper in the City of Broken Bridges along with a lot of other goodies including a few complete stories and the steamiest excerpts from the Grift Girl series.

So head out and get your completely free copy of The Sapphic Pixie Sampler!

The cover of the not yet released sequel to The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head!