Saturday, August 7, 2010

How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?

I want a dog. I say this and people ask, "What kind of dog do you want?" I tell them I want a medium-sized black one with pointy ears and a bandanna, and they grin and back up a couple steps before saying, "You know a dog is a lot of work, right?," like the work I currently do best at is fingerpainting in the locked ward.

I'll admit that most of my previous dog experience comes from repeated viewings of the Guestian masterpiece Best In Show, and rolling around on the sidewalk with a fat Leslieville malamute that is just too adorable for words. Since my dad doesn't like dogs - he's afraid, which is natural, seeing as how they're cousins with wolves - we didn't really have them when I was a kid. Before my family moved to Japan, we had a mellow German Shepherd; Brea was given away because owning a large dog in Tokyo makes about as much sense as a bachelor owning a minivan.

My family has owned a series of mentally ill cats since we returned from Tokyo. Kasha ran away; Maggie used to hang out under the refrigerator when she was a kitten, and remains, eighteen years later, as skittish and spooky as ever. Molly has a fetish for sparkly pompoms, and will bite you when you feed her. My sister has done her best to damage them further, notably by taking them to inappropriate activities against their will. She once stuffed Maggie and Molly inside her parka (as she was wearing it) and took the dynamic duo sledding for half an hour.

As a result, I have a wary respect for my cats that borders on fearing them outright. I like other people's cats; I pet kittens on the sidewalk and cuddle with friend's cats on their couches. But cats don't really do it for me. I admire their independence and like petting the soft ones, but cats always seem to be rushing off to appointments or doing nefarious things in my closet.

I'll admit that I'm not really invested in pet culture as a general rule. The "fur kids" phenomenon that single people and couples without kids indulge themselves in is a little loopy for me: I don't want my pets to be my children, or my boyfriends. I want my pets to be my pets. Companions? Sure. Well-behaved roommates? Okay. A constant source of poop and shed fur? That just sort of comes with the territory. But I don't want my pets to wear outfits or sleep in my bed with me. I'm not looking for a surrogate baby. That creeps me out.

But the desire for a dog remains. Why? Who knows? I've had housemates with various forms of pets - I've lived with lizards and cats, gerbils and hamsters. Other houses in my sprawling co-op have lived with rats, snakes, and small, yappy dogs...sort of a bizarro food chain in some locales. People like pets. They like taking care of something, they like being outside themselves. Plus, the cuteness is a pretty big selling point. There are pets that are not totally cute, of course: the rodent family is kind of smelly, ferrets are pointy and icky, and don't get my started on the snakes-and-tarantula people. Those people are nutjobs. Dogs are standard issue kids of pets. I want one of those.

It might just be that I'm romancing the idea of a pet because my lifestyle right now can't really incorporate a dog. I live with, like, a jillion other people, and have zero cash monies because I am underemployed. A dog represents stability, keeping it together, having a plan and a schedule. Cats, while more flexible an option, always seem like they're running a business from your basement; like you're just their landlord. The only time I get any lovin' from cats is when I feed them. That's not nice. Dogs seem interested in the world around them. I like that interest. Plus, the cuteness.

We'll see what I can get. Maybe I'll sign up to be a dog walker at the Toronto SPCA; maybe I'll befriend a cabron with a pooch so I can spend some time rasslin' the thing. Maybe I'll get my life sorted out and get a freaking dog, like I've wanted to for years.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I've been reading/listening to a lot of Dan Savage, and it is mind boggling what people freak out about. Straight boys hitting on their gay friends by accident! Girls who want semen in their nose because they live for the rush of the unperformed sex act! College students who have fallen in weepy, snotty love with men a generation older than them! It's all so fascinating. I love human sexuality, and the cross-section that Savage Love features is hairy and juicy. Insert your own joke and grimace at the attendant mental image here.

My favourites revolve around porn and cheating - people are nuts about that! Wives and girlfriends worrying that, if their main men partners like to look at naked ladies (or naked gentlemen, if their men have some complicated sexual preferences), it means that they're cheating degenerate bastards with some sort of mental disorders and they need to be Clockwork Oranged into not watching it anymore. Porn is dangerous, say these ladies. Futhermore, porn is cheating.

Okay, I might be more lenient about the definition of "cheating" than most people, but I would argue that most of the sex-having population isn't getting their panties in a bunch over the idea of pornography. It's a slippery slope, the anti-porn people might say. Porn leads to strip clubs, and strip clubs lead to hooker, and hookers lead to...I don't know...the clap? Getting knifed by a pimp in a dumpster? Or porn leads to thinking about other women, and that leads to kissing other women, and that leads to bending them over the chesterfield and having sweaty midafternoon cheater sex with other women.

Bullshit. Porn leads to masturbation, the most innocuous of all flagrante delictes. I'll hold a warning finger up to silence the people who would argue that masturbation isn't good in a relationship; my body, my choice, right? I can't catch anything from my own sex toys, my partner can't impregnate his hand, and people's rocks need to be gotten off. Sometimes partners get out of sexual sync with each other, for whatever reason: busy work schedules, the flu, a bad few months, an infant, whatever. I've been blessed with friends who can concur that a high sex drive is a blessing and a curse; sometimes, when the sex isn't quite as forthcoming as we'd like, we tap into our bodies, ourselves. As we all should, regardless of relationship status or sex drive, when we need to.

My pal and I, years ago, joked about making hipster porn: heavily accessorized topless girls making out on some disgusting house-party couch. I think it works, actually. There's also soft-core fixed-gear bike porn, for your cycling pervs. Everyone needs a niche. There's also the whole gamut of pornography that is people having sex, getting tied up, being pregnant, sucking on each others toes, getting splashed in the face with veritable bucketloads of semen, and whatever other disgusting and totally normal things like to think about when they pleasure themselves. Some things are porn in disguise: I remember being, like, eight years old and seeing a drawing in a magazine that wasn't sexual in the slightest...except it make me feel strangely excited.

Looking at naked people doing naked stuff on a screen, or in a magazine, isn't stepping out and having sexual relations with those people. It is a form of sex, sure, but it's sex that everyone is entitled to, no matter who else is bringing them pleasure. In the same way that not all porn looks like naked bodies and penetrations, not all sex is PIVMO sex. Every couple needs to define cheating for themselves, but too narrow a definition and you'll end up with a frustrated partner. Putting the kibosh on porn, or worse, making it some pathological flaw, does a disservice to your partner. They are no longer the master (or mistress) of their own sexual destiny.

Is there a time and place for porn? Sure. Your kids don't need to know your sexual tastes, nor do your roommates or your parents. If you're electing to look at porn and masturbate in lieu of an interested and willing partner(s), you might want to think long and hard about why. If you and your beloved are in a rocky romantic patch, it might be insensitive to load up the DVD player and let 'er fly in plain sight. But let 'er fly at some other time; when you have the house to yourself, when he's in the tub, when the kids are at grandma's and it's just you and your pleasure device of choice. It's your right. If you don't need porn, scrunch your face up and think your filthy thoughts. That's your right, too.

And if your favourite person happens to walk in while you're mid-scrunch, invite them to join you, if you want, or finish up and get back to the vacuuming. No sighs, no deprogramming, no accusations of cheating or gnashing of teeth. Just a realization that your partner is the owner-operator of his or her body, and that sometimes porn is the fuel that gets the engine to turn over.