Happy Forced Affection Day! My Reasons for Loathing Valentine’s Day.

For some, February 14th is Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate your love for that very special someone…. ::ICK!::

Okay. I couldn’t even type that first sentence without feeling sick. Seriously. Let’s call Valentine’s Day what it really is…Forced Affection Day! And myself and fellow GeekMom Karen Walsh have plenty of reasons why our distaste runs deep.

1.) The endless supply of pink and red on everything from flowers to clothes to jewelry to food.

2.) Cards with, let’s face it, meaningless verses of love and devotion that will be thrown away by the next day, along with the hours you spent trying to find the “perfect” card.

3.) It’s a Hallmark holiday with the sole purpose of making money off of people who feel guilty if they don’t get a loved one something.

4.) Disturbing stuffed animals in all species and sizes with “I love you” or “I’m wild about you” or other cheesy pickup lines written on silk hearts. Talk about a creepy way of wasting $10. Continue reading Happy Forced Affection Day! My Reasons for Loathing Valentine’s Day.

Geeky Women Do Talk About Sex (NSFW)

Erika Moen and Dr. Lindsey Doe have unique and geeky approaches to talking about sex.
Erika Moen and Dr. Lindsey Doe have unique and geeky approaches to talking about sex. Collage: Cathe Post, images from ohjoysextoy.com and YouTube.

Several years ago, I received a video collection for Christmas. I learned two things from writing a review for that video series:

First, it seems women aren’t supposed to talk about sex, enjoy sex, or learn how to improve enjoyable sexual experiences.

Second, there was a serious lack of women openly talking about sex.

Recently, I started finding women who aren’t afraid to talk about sex and educate the public—adults and children—however they can. It was so exciting to see women not only talking about basic sex education topics, but reviewing items as well, that I had to share.

Erika Moen grabbed my husband’s and my attention when she was a contestant on Penny Arcade’s Strip Search. We looked her up when we connected that she is local, and was the artist for a book our kids have: Pip! The Baby Monster and How He Was Made At the Museum of Glass (after finding her other comics, we kind of think Pip is phallic shaped for a reason). Erika now has a web comic devoted to reviewing adult toys called Oh Joy, Sex Toy. The first year of comic reviews can soon be found in book form thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, or you can read up on her website.

Erika’s way of sharing her thoughts on different toys (though very much for adults) is wonderfully geeky, and her reviews are so thorough they are educational as well as entertaining. If you don’t see a toy she has reviewed that shows your geeky personality, they can be found. Toys come in any theme including: Hello Kitty, Dr. Who, cute, or just plain techy.

Another geeky woman not afraid to talk about sex is Lindsey Doe. If you are looking for a video instead of a book, she has a YouTube series called Sexplanations.

If you are looking to teach your kids about the birds-and-the-bees, It’s Not the Stork! is a wonderfully illustrated book that talks about a little bit of everything. If you are looking for a different book, GeekMom has a list of recommendations for you. We hope you will check out some books on the list so as our kids grow up, more women are willing to talk about sex.

Fangasm: The Curious Case of The Supernatural Fangirl

Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls © University of Iowa Press
Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls © University of Iowa Press

On November 18th 2013 I made a life changing decision: I pressed play on episode one of Supernatural. I didn’t recognize that it was a life changing moment at the time, it’s rare that you do, but it’s clear that I saw it for what it was fairly quickly. A look at my Twitter feed 45 minutes later shows me posting: “I think I’m in love already. #Supernatural.”

Six months down the line and it’s fair to say I’m already a dedicated, bordering on die-hard, fan. I’ve watched all nine seasons of the show so far, begun reading the spin-off books, have bookmarked folders filled with links to interesting articles and fanfiction, plus my Tumblr now resembles a shrine to Misha Collins, Jensen Ackles, and Jared Padalecki. I’ve even learned how to spell Padalecki. I’m subscribed to the Twitter, Instagram, and other social media feeds of every cast member. I am also finishing up cosplays of both Dean and Castiel for this summer’s convention season, and as I write this, models of Dean and Sam are sitting to my left watching curiously from their hallowed position atop an X-Files box set. It’s been a rapid descent but I’m now fully immersed in the Supernatural fandom and I don’t see a way out. Honestly, I don’t want to find one.

Nine Year Old Me Was *That* Kid © Sophie Brown
Nine Year Old Me Was *That* Kid © Sophie Brown

I found the whole process curious. I’ve been a “fan” my whole life. I remember collecting the official magazine series (complete with binders) for The Animals of Farthing Wood. Later I moved on to cult Sci-Fi shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Sapphire and Steel, devouring annuals and re-watching episodes until I wore out the VHS tapes. However it’s rare that a fandom consumes me entirely; in fact it has only happened twice. When The X-Files appeared in my life in the mid 90s it changed my world to the point where I never looked back. Since then that all consuming feeling has only happened once again, on the arrival of Supernatural. Why? What was it about these two shows that caused me to ditch my sanity so completely? Why has that not happened with other shows I love? I don’t know, but I do know that I’m not alone.

Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls is the story of two university professors, Lynn S. Zubernis (associate professor of counselor education at West Chester University of Pennsylvania) and Katherine Larsen (literary scholar and teacher at George Washington University in Washington D.C.) who also happen to be devoted Supernatural fans. The book follows them as they attend multiple conventions across the US and Canada, indulging in their passion whilst researching the subject of fandom with the intention of writing a book. That book eventually became split in two. This title covers the personal story of their fandom and the other, Fandom at The Crossroads: Celebration, Shame, & Fan/Producer Relationships, the more academic side of their research.*

Far from being 245 pages of fangirl flailing and nonsensical squealing, Fangasm raises many serious issues surrounding fans; specifically those faced by females. There is often an unspoken (sometimes loudly spoken) judgement aimed at female fans, especially older female fans who are told they “should know better” at their age. Who out there hasn’t seen pictures of Twimoms (female fans of Twilight who are mothers and over the age of 25—usually much older) with offensive, or at least unpleasant, captions photo-shopped on top? In fact the entry for Twimom at Urban Dictionary sums up the issues very well.

“A group of ‘adults’ who have children and/or are married, who are overly obsessed fans of the overrated ‘Twilight’ book series. They usually spend their time, neglecting their children, ie. – forgetting to feed them…”

Compared to the entry for Trekkie-–a group generally stereotyped as male—and you’ll instantly see the difference in the presentation of the two terms:

“A devoted fan of the television series Star Trek or one of its spin-off series or films. Variant: Trekker”

The Trekkie entry reads like a regular dictionary entry with no emotive language used. The Twimom entry however is almost violently emotional, calling this group of fans “overly obsessed”, accusing them of neglecting their children and even placing the word adult within inverted commas, as if somehow by choosing to display their fandom, these women are not worthy of the status.

Jensen and Jared Take a Look at Fangasm © Chris Schmelke
Jensen and Jared Take a Look at Fangasm © Chris Schmelke

Fangasm begins by raising the point that all of us are most likely fans of something—“the local football team, model railroading, Elvis Presley, Anthony Bourdain”—and that the feeling of cheering together with other fans is a bonding experience we all gain satisfaction from. It also points out that certain fans are respected to a greater extent than others, something clearly illustrated by the Urban Dictionary entries above. Being a sports fan is seen as normal, “in fact, to be male and not a fan of some team somewhere is the more questionable position,” the authors point out. Dog enthusiasts have formed the Westminster Kennel Club, while opera, ballet, and theater fans “have the weight of cultural approval on their side”. Tell someone you’re a fan of Beethoven or Placido Domingo and you’ll no doubt receive a very different reaction than if you told them you love Doctor Who or My Chemical Romance despite the fact that the fandoms are equally passionate, albeit, in different ways. I once spent over an hour standing at the stage door of Covent Garden Opera House while my mother waited to get Domingo’s autograph, so I can speak with some authority on this matter.

The authors speak at length about the ways fans are ridiculed and humiliated online simply for showing their passions. The reaction to the death of a Twilight fan at SDCC 2012 is noted for the way online commenters joked about the event. It is noted how female fans are referred to as “creepy”, “ridiculous”, “unattractive” and “horrible parents” simply for daring to show their enthusiasm. This is not a new phenomenon. Back in the 1800s, fans of Lord Byron were described as being driven to a state of “hysterical excitement” and he was accused of producing in them a taste “for extreme sensation”. However despite the negativity fans may face by admitting their passions, for many the online communities fostered around television shows like Supernatural are hugely important: especially to women.

The book talks about studies that have shown the benefits gained by emotional investment in television shows and in relationships with other fans online. This is important to recall in discussions on fandom where shame is often a factor. Fans, women especially, often feel shame for “indulging in ‘frivolous’ pursuits’ like fandom”, feeling that they should instead be doing something of “value” with their time such as working to earn money or taking care of the family. It is considered entirely normal for a man to take an afternoon away from his family to attend a sports game, yet if a woman were to spend that same time visiting a filming location or attending a convention then this is often seen very differently. Guilt is a huge issue for many women. Mothers often find that they are neglecting themselves because of how guilty taking time out away from the family makes them feel. However, fandoms offer so much to those who participate: bonding experiences, relaxation, and (in the case of Supernatural but also many other TV shows) “an emotional framework upon which you can hang anything”.

Whilst this is primarily a book about Supernatural fans, it is of interest to anyone who considers themselves a “fan”— whether they admit to it in public or not. It is also a book that will interest those concerned with feminist issues. The frank discussions of sex, why for example male fans of Star Trek feel at ease discussing their appreciation of Seven of Nine’s costume while female fans are looked on as “disgusting” and “oversexed” for an equal appreciation of Jensen Ackles’ six pack, are valid and important conversations that need to be out in public. How is it that a TV network is clearly at ease casting with the intention of attracting the female gaze (Supernatural has used “Scary just got sexy” as an official tag line) yet equally uncomfortable with those same women discussing the subject?

Of course Supernatural fans will find more than others to enjoy here. The interviews with cast and crew, especially the long insights from actor Jim Beaver who plays Bobby Singer, are interesting and offer more than simple anecdotes while the stories about the conventions are of more relevance to fans of the show. However even if you have never watched an episode, (go and watch it now, it will change your life) then you will find a lot to think about and enjoy in here.

*Katherine and Lynn are also the editors of Fan Culture: Theory/Practice and the Supernatural edition of Intellect’s Fan Phenomena series.

A copy of Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls was provided for this review by the publisher.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Location

Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.
Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

If you are not getting married in a church, picking a location for the ceremony and reception can be difficult. However, the location was the only thing about our wedding that was not a difficult decision. Andrew and I had the wedding and reception at a beautiful, Tutor-style mansion, bed and breakfast called The Quamichan Inn.

I’m not sure I can say enough about the awesome that is The Quamichan Inn. Getting married at The Quamichan Inn was the only thing that was not negotiable. People often asked, “Why did you choose this location?” The only answer I could give was, “Because it is my favorite location in the Cowichan Valley.”

Everything from price, to service, to location, to atmosphere and ambiance, to food, to comfort was, in a word, perfection.

The back of The Quamichan Inn. Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.
The back of The Quamichan Inn. Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.

We had the ceremony in their beautiful gardens and had the reception indoors in the room dedicated to conferences, meetings, and receptions.

Andrew and I decided to rent all of the rooms from the Friday before the wedding to the Sunday after. Plus, we rented our suite—the Quamichan suite—and one more room until the Monday following the wedding. We didn’t have to worry about settling our bill for the weekend, which included the rooms, all the food and alcohol, minus the $500.00 deposit, until it was time to check out. A lot of places require that you pay for the food and alcohol before hand, based on the number of guests who RSVP’d. However, because of a combination of the small party and the number of services used, The Quamichan Inn didn’t create a bill until afterwards, and only charged us for those who actually attended, instead of the anticipated numbers. We still had to give them anticipated numbers so they could shop and prepare accordingly, but it was one less bill to worry about leading up to the event.

Even though we live in the same town as The Quamichan Inn, staying at the location of the wedding and ceremony meant that all we had to do on the big day was get up, eat the breakfast that was prepared for us, get dressed, and show up by walking down stairs. We also didn’t have to worry about how much we drank the night of, because all we had to do was walk upstairs to eventually go to sleep. Everything else was done for us by the amazing staff at the bed and breakfast.

Considering I only managed one hour of sleep the night before the wedding, and two hours the night of the wedding, staying on location without any added worries was an even bigger benefit than anticipated.

The three rooms that were not occupied by Andrew and I, and my boys, were used by out-of-town guests. The Quamichan Inn wasn’t big enough to accommodate all of our out-of-town guests, as they made up the majority of our guest list. But, renting the entire bed and breakfast for the weekend meant that the guests who were staying at hotels just down the road were free to come and go at any time during the weekend. The Quamichan Inn became our home, but without the worry of having to clean up after entertaining our guests.

We didn’t have to do any set-up or take-down. We didn’t have to worry about hiring a catering and wait staff, or a bartender. Guests didn’t have to pre-select their meal choices. Andrew and I pre-selected the soup, salad, and dessert. Guests chose one of three mains when it was time to sit down for dinner.

Getting married under a "Make it so" pennant banner. Banner made by Jules Sherred. Photo by Jules Sherred.
Getting married under a “Make it so” pennant banner. Banner made by Jules Sherred. Photo by Jules Sherred.

All people had to do was show up and have a good time.

And what a good time it was. Even the staff got into the fun. They couldn’t stop talking about it, even after it was all over. The head waiter, Daniel, was absolutely superb. We had one waitress who was excited beyond words when she learned she would be on service the day and night of our wedding. She even squee’d when we told her, after she asked if it was okay, that she was welcome to wear a costume, too. After that conversation took place on the Friday night, my youngest, in bewilderment, asked, “Did that just really happen?”

At first, we were concerned that there would be an issue with a bunch of people running around in costume the day of the wedding. But, as soon as we told The Quamichan Inn’s coordinator, Colleen, what we had planned for our day, the entire staff at the inn started to bustle with enthusiasm. The chef, Steven, who is also a geek, asked if it was okay to create a sci-fi themed menu. We obviously said, “yes,” and forgave the typo on the menu because everyone was so excited about our day.

The menu. Photo by Jules Sherred.
The menu. Photo by Jules Sherred.

Even people who came in for dinner on the Friday night, after learning about our wedding because the staff couldn’t stop talking about it, asked if it was okay to drive by the day of and take a look at all of our costumes.

Another thing the staff did was come in early on Saturday to open the bar early. We served the hors d’oeuvres at 2 p.m.—an hour before the ceremony—which amounted to a late launch. Some guests started to consume their alcohol then. We had a mix of a cash bar and provided a half of a liter of wine for each guest who was drinking. Then, at last call, we ordered another four liters of wine for guests. When we woke up the next morning, we still had two liters remaining.

The food was to die for. I was worried that I didn’t order enough hors d’oeuvres, but I was wrong. There was plenty left over. When it was time for the ceremony, the staff put the leftovers in the fridge. Then brought them back out to help people sober up (with plenty of free coffee) once the evening’s entertainment was over, and the guests were mingling.

The dinner, again, perfection. Huge portions. Delicious. Served with precision timing.

Talking about money and costs in public is not good manners. All I can say is that between the amount of food we received for the price charged, and the beyond amazing service, which started when I booked The Quamichan Inn last year, I feel like I ripped off the location, even after paying the tip.

The staff at The Quamichan Inn made everyone feel like they were in their own homes, and helped to make our wedding weekend celebrations better than we could have possibly imagined. There are no words to express just how amazing they were.

The set table. Photo by Jules Sherred.
The set table. Photo by Jules Sherred.

I cannot recommend enough going the bed and breakfast route, if it is available to you. Weddings and receptions are stressful enough as it is. If you can find a location that does it all for one price, it is one less thing to stress out about. If you live anywhere near The Quamichan Inn, meaning anywhere on Vancouver Island or the lower mainland, definitely consider getting married and having your reception there. You will not regret it.

Still to come in this series over the next few months:

  • Gifts
  • Things we’ve learned, and other miscellaneous things we did.

You can read Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Last Names and Culture here. You can download the first six previous posts in this series, in either PDF, ePUB, or MOBI, here. These parts include: Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony; and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

If you would like to see a post about something not already mentioned, I want to know. Tell me, what has you curious? About what would you like to see me write? If you let me know, I will try my best to include it in a post.

Finally, if you got married outside of a church, what about your location made it special?

Why Doctor Who Would Never be a Woman

All Images courtesy of the artist http://gwladus.tumblr.com/
All Images courtesy of the artist http://gwladus.tumblr.com/

Last year I posted a heartfelt, purely besotted fan post about why Doctor Who could never be a woman.

The debate still rages on in the comment section of that post. There are reactionary comments and accusatory comments, but there are also a few gems that completely blew my mind. Possibly the best argument I have ever heard against my rigid fan mind was from commenter TXVoodoo, “The physiological changes would be no more taxing to a regeneration than changing from advanced age, disparate heights, completely different skull structures, and so on. Heck, the Doctor’s regrown a hand. You’re trying to say the Doctor couldn’t grow a uterus? (If, in fact, Gallifreyans have them. For all we know, they could be marsupials.)”

Tennant“You’re trying to say the Doctor couldn’t grow a uterus?” Touché. Why couldn’t a being who regenerates when dying, grows new body parts if injured during said regeneration, and has eleven different faces grow a uterus? Mind. Blown.

So, while this fan can’t imagine a world in which the Doctor of her childhood could be a woman, I have to admit that canon more realistically supports the statement, “Why the Doctor would never be a woman.” (Now, given, I’m using *in canon* evidence, rather than outside reasons this may be the case. For instance, the Doctor is usually an erstwhile  resident of the British Isles because the series is a UK series.)

SmithIf we try and largely leave behind evidence presented in particular episodes of the pre-Eccleston years, whilst keeping in mind the aesthetics of the eleven Doctors, we are given several key pieces of information to ponder regarding the Doctor’s gender. Much of my own speculation on the subject comes from three key scenes during the Matt Smith years.

Clue #1:

The first comes within “The Eleventh Hour,” Smith’s debut episode. Whilst in the process of regenerating he touches his hair and wonders if he is a woman this time. At the time, my gut informed me that this was just the Doctor’s state of utter confusion, caused by the regeneration process. Now, however, I am prone to think of this statement as the words of a devil-may-care Time Lord. One more interested in the exciting situation at hand than his own appearance. One who makes no effort to control his regeneration because, well, where’s the fun in that? One who would much rather see what gets thrown at him.

Clue #2:

The second is in the episode “The Doctor’s Wife” in which the Doctor receives a distress signal from a fellow Time Lord. This prompts the Doctor to wax poetic about the life of fellow Galifreyan, the Corsair. He refers to a tattoo that the Corsair added to his body upon each regeneration. At this point he refers to the Corsair having been a woman on occasion, “herself a couple of times, oh she was a bad girl.” Oh, how I hated that line in such a wonderful episode.

Clue #3

But both of these things can only be considered in light of the third, consecutively speaking, scenario in “Let’s Kill Hitler.” Two things actually happen during this episode to give pause. The first occurs during Melody Pond’s transformation into the River Song we know and love, when she comments, “I’m focusing on a dress size.”

The second occurs at the end of the episode where she transfers all her remaining regenerations to the Doctor in order to save his life. In that moment, she exhibits a great deal of control over the regenerative process.

Taking these things into account, there are several other moments in the post-Eccleston canon that we can look at when considering the sex of the Doctor, especially where the control of regeneration is concerned.

Last five Long
Series 1: Christopher Eccleston

  • Eccleston’s Doctor flirts with Captain Jack Harkness and is clearly as unlimited by sexual preference as the captain himself. For this to be such a non-issue, it would seem to indicate that for a Time Lord it is the mindset and not the physiology that is key. Thus, the Doctor continually regenerates as a man though his sexual preferences could go either way.
  • “Am I ginger?” One of the first thing Eccleston’s Doctor asks Rose is if he is ginger. He would like to have a different hair color, but obviously lacks the ability or desire to control that aspect of his regeneration. If he cannot be ginger, I find it hard to believe that he personally would have enough regenerative control to remove anatomy, though I bow to the comments and say that maybe not all Time Lords show such lack of control.

Series 2-4: David Tennant

  • David Tennant’s Doctor falls in love with Rose Tyler, or so they like to tell me. (Can you tell I’m not big on the love scenes?) If this is the case, then being the bringer of hope that he is, I doubt that he would regenerate into a form that Rose would have a hard time relating to because he hopes that he will see her again. Considering her initial reaction to the first regeneration she witnesses, this worry would seem to have credibility, whether or not it should.
  • In “Journey’s End” the Doctor forces himself into a partial regeneration showing that he does have some control over the regenerative process. This would seem to greatly substantiate the idea that he just doesn’t ordinarily care to control his regeneration.

So what can we learn for the next regeneration based on the past ten? The Doctor shows preferences for several characteristics over his 900 year life span, and so it would seem unlikely that he would choose an eleventh regeneration that was vastly different.

  • The Doctor has been in humanoid form for ten regenerations.
  • The Doctor has been British over ten regenerations, even when regenerating in another country or on another planet.
  • The Doctor has been a man over ten regenerations.
  • The Doctor has been white over ten regenerations.

FirstI have seen the argument postulated that he displays himself as a white male so that no matter which point in history the TARDIS takes him, he is able to blend in with authority. Given that he has been to the end of the universe I find it hard to believe that the white male would be dominant for the entirety of human history. For this, we might consider a real-world reason, the history of prejudice against non-whites in Western culture.

The arguments put forth here take us in two different directions. Either a Time Lord can control the regenerative process to a certain degree and the Doctor does not have the skill set to do so, or a Time Lord can control the regenerative process and the Doctor does not care to do so.

So, while I concur that a Time Lord might possibly be able to switch both sex and species, will this particular Time Lord choose to do so at this point in his regenerative cycle?

This GeekMom thinks it unlikely.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Last Names and Culture

Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

There are many differences between marriages in the United States and Canada. I explored some of these differences in an earlier post about the ceremony. The change of last name after marriage is another one of those differences.

In Canada, the rules around this are relatively simple. At least, in my mind. One of the reasons this post is so far overdue is that the United States has 50 states, each with their own rules about such things. In some states, the bride simply has to check a box when signing the marriage registry and her last name is changed. In other states, the bride has to notify difference agencies in order to change her last name. In only a handful of states, it is legal for the groom to take the bride’s name. I’m not even sure what the rules are in the states that allow same-sex marriage. Trying to research the rules in the United States surrounding this left me a little bit weary in the brain.

But, what I do know, or at least what I have been lead to believe, is that in the United States it is considered a legal name. In Canada, that is not the situation. Because of Canada’s views on multiculturalism, and there are many Canadians who come from countries where it is not the norm for the bride to assume the groom’s last name, the act of changing your last name is one of culture and not law.

When two people get married in Canada, either spouse is allowed to assume the last name of their partner. It doesn’t matter if it is a same-sex marriage or an opposite-sex marriage. But, that is all it is. It is a legal alias, one that can only be used if not intended for the purposes of fraud. In fact, up until recently, you had to have your spouse’s permission to use their last name on your passport. Of course, with the exception of Quebec, where you are not allowed to use your spouse’s last name for any reason whatsoever. Also, Quebec does not recognize common-law partnerships.

Some people decide to assume their spouse’s last name in the workplace and add the legal alias on their bank account, which requires proof of marriage, but keep their identification under their birth name because it is both expensive and time consuming to change these things. There are only a couple of provinces that do not charge to change identification after marriage.

Also, because Canada has common-law marriage laws, in some situations you don’t have to be legally married to assume your partner’s last name. Recently, passport laws have been changed to make it easier for both legally married partners and common-law partners to use each other’s last name on their passports. Spouses are no longer required to get permission for use of last name and common-law partners are now allowed to have a passport issued using their partner’s last name with a letter attesting to the fact they’ve been living in a marriage-like relationship for at least 12 months.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, they have a common-law marriage registry. If your common-law relationship is registered with the province, you are allowed to assume your partner’s last name for the purposes of a driver’s license, healthcare card, and other provincially issued identifications.

In all provinces except for Quebec and British Columbia, you are allowed to create a double-barrelled last name comprised of two parts, either hyphenated or not. Unlike some South American countries, it does not matter in which order the last names are places. In Quebec, there is no way around this law. In British Columbia, you have to undergo a legal change of name in order to use a double-barrelled last name.

The process in British Columbia is very simple. When I changed my first and middle names, it took less than two weeks for Vital Statistics to process the change, even though the website says four to six weeks. However, undergoing a legal change of name in Canada is not something you do lightly. If you do decide to legally change your name, for all intents and purposes, you are going through a rebirth. Your original birth records are destroyed and new ones are created in your new name. Then you are issued a new birth certificate, not an amended one, reflecting the new name.

I changed names because I’m a trans man, and for my marriage to be legal the officiant has to use the names on my birth certificate, and I couldn’t get married with a feminine first name. In this case, there aren’t too many ramifications involved in making this decision.

Because of how our name laws work, if you want to legally change your last name after marriage, one really needs to think about that. Why? Because in Canada, upon getting married, you can either use your last name at birth, assume your current spouse’s last name, or assume the last name from any other marriage. You are allowed to go back and forth between your legal name and any other alias at any time, as long as you are not intending to do fraud. This means that once I am married, there are three last names both Andrew and I are allowed to use, as we have both been previously married. But, if you go through the process of legally changing your last name, you cannot just simply go back to the last name with which you were born. If you got divorced and wanted to go back to your last name at birth, then you would have to once again go through the legal name change process, paying all of the fees involved, and spending a lot of time updating your identification, bank records, employment records, etc.

Even though it took less than two weeks for my legal name change to be processed way back in April, two months and hundreds of dollars later, I have only now received the last of my new identifications.

Many times when talking with my American pals about my name change and a handful of my Canadian pals who were unaware of our laws, they assumed that I was referring to changing my last name. I was actually changing my first and middle names, a process with laws no less conflicting between provinces. In British Columbia, it doesn’t require going to court, or placing adverts in the paper declaring intent because doing so places people in jeopardy. It really is as simple as filling out a form and having the Royal Canadian Mounted Police do a criminal record check so that any record that may exist will follow to the new name. Other provinces have different procedures, so confusion around all of these things is very understandable, especially from a cultural point of view.

In case you are curious, I will not be assuming Andrew’s last name after we are married. I’m very attached to my last name. Andrew has somewhat suggested that he would be willing to adopt my last name, but I think that would sound funny. Also, for those curious about what middle name I ended up choosing, I went with Coniah.

Still to come in this series over the next few months—I will finish the series after the wedding:

  • The location
  • Gifts
  • Things we’ve learned, and other miscellaneous things we did.

You can download all six previous posts in this series, in either PDF, ePUB, or MOBI, here. These parts include: Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony; and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

If you would like to see a post about something not already mentioned, I want to know. Tell me, what has you curious? About what would you like to see me write? If you let me know, I will try my best to include it in a post.

Finally, if you are an American, what is the procedure for changing the last name in your state? Please let me know in what state you live. That would be very helpful. If you live outside of Canada and the United States, what are the laws where you live?

Saga: The Book Club

By Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
By Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

This week I attended a book club where my friend Karen and I recommended a comic series for our “book.” We are both fans of Saga by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples. For the seven women there, Karen and I were the only ones who read comics or graphic novels on a regular basis. Our previous book was The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love. This month’s selection of a science fiction comic book rated Game of Thrones level NC-17, was a bit of a departure from the norm.

I was surprised that everyone enjoyed it. Continue reading Saga: The Book Club

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding Reintroduction

Jules and Andrew Save the Date-01
Imaged commissioned from Matt Schubbe

With just over three months until the big day, and with GeekMom moving to a new home, I thought now would be an excellent time to reintroduce my geeky-queer wedding planning series to existing GeekMom readers, while giving new readers an opportunity to easily catch-up with the series.

What happens when two previously married people — one a trans man from Canada with two teenage children, the other a pansexual from the United States with no children, both geeks — decide to get married?

For your convenience, I’ve turned each of the previous six posts in this series into downloadable files — PDF, ePUB, and MOBI, all DRM-free.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction is the first post in this series. In the introduction, you’ll get a little taste of the many things my partner and I have been learning as we began this next chapter in our lives.

Download the PDF, ePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings is the second post in this series. Because of the nature of our relationship, people often wonder, “So, who did the proposing and how?” The answer is no-one. In fact, had he proposed, automatically my answer would have been, “No.” You now may be wondering, “Wait, so how are you engaged?” You may also be curious as to why I would have said no, had he asked. The answer to these questions, and more, is very long and complicated, and is found in this post.

Download the PDF, ePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire is the third post in this series. The most difficult decision Andrew and I faced when planning our wedding was answering the question, “What are we going to wear?” In the end, we decided to have a United Federation of Planets wedding. What that means and entails is found in this post.

Download the PDF, ePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests is the fourth post in this series. When you are planning a wedding, tradition and etiquette will tell you there are many things you must do. You must select a wedding party. Traditionally, there are also rules about whom you should choose. Traditionally, the parents of the individuals getting married must assume certain responsibilities. The guests are also seen to have specific roles within the whole affair. But, what if both parties have already been once married and divorced? What if one of those individuals is a trans man? What if the people getting married have different cultural backgrounds? What if a geeky element is being added? These questions are only a small fraction of things Andrew and I had to sort out as we began to plan our geeky-queer wedding. Our solutions — including the possibility of the kal-if-fee — are found in this post.

Download the PDFePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony is the fifth post in this series.In this latest geeky-queer wedding post, I explore the ceremony, including vows and legalities; the type of ceremony we will be having; and the process of going through a legal name change, and the reasons behind that need.

Download the PDFePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception is the sixth post in this series. When planning our geeky-queer wedding, Andrew and I had to make up a lot of things along the way, while balancing some of the traditional aspects that we find appealing. Sometimes, creating a new guide for our circumstances has been a little difficult. Other times, it was as easy as figuring out what aspects we really do not like in traditional weddings, and simply eliminating them; sometimes replacing them with our own special touches. The reception is another one of those situations where the end result is due to a process of elimination and supplementation, balanced with a couple traditional elements.

Download the PDFePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

If you’d prefer to download these posts as one file, you can download Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Parts One – Six as a PDF, ePUB, or MOBI.

Still to come in this series over the next three months:

  • Last names and culture
  • The location
  • Gifts
  • Things we’ve learned, and other miscellaneous things we did or are doing.

If you would like to see a post about something not already mentioned, I want to know. Tell me, what has you curious? About what would you like to see me write? If you let me know, I will try my best to include it in a post.

Finally, did you do anything unique or out of the ordinary for your wedding and/or reception?

How To Get Laid in Every RPG Session

I refer to role-playing, not actually having sex with your fellow gamers (unless it’s a whole different kind of role-playing group.) I played a character for about a year that had had sex every single gaming session (not alone), and you can do it too!

I did not set out to make such a stud, but it became a highlight in my role-playing career. He was a good guy, but a total jerk. I had the fun of acting like a villain in my personal life, but plot-wise I always did was the hero (so the party wouldn’t kick me out.) I’ll tell you my experience and I encourage you to steal any part of my character for your own sordid enjoyment.

First of all I played a guy. I had always played girl characters because I am a girl, and feel we need to be represented in the traditional male-dominated fantasy setting. But I had just played a couple of girls, and one pre-gendered teen (long story for another post) and was in the mood to try something different.

Into my imagination waltzed Prince Percy (Percival, but don’t call him that) Victors, complete with 18th century pink satin and ruffles; looking at me with a bored expression. He was a royal, pampered, wealthy “dandy”, a squeamish vampire (hated the sight of blood- yes, it made for interesting moments), was lecherous and very, very charming. He was also bisexual, but preferred women. Percy was an impeccable dresser and carried a black-lace Hello Kitty parasol to keep off the sun. Oh, and he was a complete asshole.

I announced quite early on that I planned to seduce the entire party one way or another. Some of that was because I needed blood to survive, and it was convenient to feed during sex; I was distracted from the icky blood thing. But I also enjoyed the conquest and told them that letting me screw them would be the best night of their lowly peasant lives.

We had three women and three men in the role-playing group. In the first game, I rolled a critical success for charming one of the ladies, along with her critically failing any resistance. This meant that she was desperately in love with me. I used her on a regular basis, and the rest of the party was immediately disgusted. Yet, I still managed to make one of the other women drunk enough to come to my bed, another was tricked into sexual favors from some plot episode where I helped her, and I did manage to kiss one of the guys (though he tried to punch me afterwards.) Along with having sex with every NPC (girl or guy) that came along, Percy was perfectly promiscuous.

I had a great time, and the other players couldn’t help but laugh (out of character of course.) I also had a ridiculously lucky set of dice. In the entire year of playing Percy, I only failed a seduction role once (and the barmaid poured water over my head) and had regular crits for how good the sex was. So although I was just being my egotistical self when I said the sex would be fantastic, it turned out to be true. Even the party members I tricked had to admit I made them very, very happy.

The best part was constantly flirting with the girls in the group. In every role-playing game I’ve played, flirting is awkward or silly because no one wants to make anyone think they’re “really” trying anything. Flirting and sex were always with NPCs or glossed over like a movie where the actors fall into bed kissing and the camera moves to the flowing curtains and CUT! But my real life sexual orientation is heterosexual, and the other players know that. So when I was flirting with the girls, it wasn’t awkward, it was hilarious. When I flirted with the guys, they got annoyed. I think this was because my character was having more sex than they were in real life, but that’s just a guess (heh.)

The only part of it that annoyed me, was how much the girls liked my character. He was a jerk. He used them and was proud of it. And yet, they still giggled (in and out of character) and flirted back. And even though the two girls I tricked into sex were mad for a few sessions, they quickly wanted a real relationship with the guy, and tried to “get” him. I (Rebecca) was incredulous.

Girl Player: My character secretly wants to marry Percy.
Me: Marry Percy?! You know he’s a jerk, right?
Girl Player: Yes, but there’s something good in him.
Me: Of course, but don’t think he’s going to change for you.
Girl Player: We’ll see.

So there you have it role-players. Be a rich, sexy, blood-sucking, egotistical slut (with good taste in clothes) and other characters will not only succumb to sex, but also secretly wish to marry you. Who knew it could be so fun to be a guy?

Time for the Big Sex Talk

Picture this: A beautiful, 16-year-old girl, a bright A-student, a good kid, my daughter. Her main extra-curricular activities are the marching and jazz bands, and now she’s been dating her first love, another band geek, for almost one year. He’s adorable, funny, and a true gentleman. What a relief that my girl is sweet on a boy I truly like, and I’m happy for her that she has someone who lets her know how special she is.

Here’s the problem: I’m afraid that it’s time for the big sex talk. Statistically, it may be past time.

My first tactic is to find a good book. (I’m aware of the irony—approaching a talk about passion via the intellect. Stay with me here.) I’d had Masters and Johnson, whose clinical tome was full of the mechanics of orgasm, but shy on any of the social or emotional aspects of sexuality. And I had Our Bodies, Ourselves, a classic for sure. But I want to provide a more current resource for my girl.

Scarleteen: Sex Ed for the Real World is a great internet resource that is not blocked by porn blocker software. Scarleteen includes articles in teen-friendly language, like “With Pleasure: A Whole View of Sexual Anatomy for Every Body” and “Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent.” I’ve also ordered the Scarleteen book for my daughter, S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College , by Heather Corinna. As the title indicates, this book is geared for older, high-school age kids. For younger kids, consider the books reviewed in the GeekMom article “Sex-Ed Books for Kids: Our Picks.”

Now, I’ve found the resources, but about that mother-daughter talk . . .  So far she hasn’t brought up the topic. Unless you count her claiming that she still has her V-card and that she’s clear about not becoming a teen pregnancy statistic. But those remarks were delivered to secure permission to stay out late with her friends. They hardly count as a conversation about sexual desire. It’s up to me to initiate the big talk.

What’s the hold up? I could just get her in the car for a cross-town drive and open with a line like, “If you’re thinking about going beyond kissing and cuddling with your sweetheart… If you’re thinking about having sex …”

My sex professor friend, Dr. Debby Herbenick, sexual health educator at Indiana University and the Kinsey Institute, says that trapping a kid in the car is one of the most often-reported bad sex talk venues.

The other sex talk No-Nos Herbenick named:

  • Do NOT freak out about your kid’s first time, or any other sexual information they may share with you. (This is especially hurtful, if you’ve assured your kid that he or she can ask you about or tell you anything.)
  • Do NOT share personal information about your own sex life. Remember appropriate boundaries.

The No-Nos seem obvious to me. Less obvious is how can I initiate the conversation so that my daughter feels safe to ask me questions, or ask for comfort and security. Why is this so hard for me? After all, this isn’t the first sex-talk I’ve had with her.

Here are some of the sex talks I remember:

  • When she was three, she asked about how girls could grow babies, and I reassured her that she already had all the eggs she would ever need in her belly. She was and is fully equipped and good to go. She felt empowered, and I’d given her accurate information without overloading her with more than she needed at the time.
  • At the age of six she learned the basic mechanics of intercourse in school. When I picked her up that afternoon, her questions were brief and to the point. “Dad put his penis inside of you?” I nodded. That was easy. “And it felt good?” It took all the self-control I could muster to nod without laughing at her aghast expression. I still consider the whole conversation a successful one. This was years before her own body started changing, so the doing it image—gross as it may have seemed to her at the time—was still easy for her to detach from.
  • The talk about menses and what to expect was a snap, because there is so much literature . . . from the pediatrician to the tampon box. Unlike the taboo topic of my generation, a girl’s period has truly come out of the closet.
  • Not long after, she and her friends initiated a brief conversation about their bodies, which by the age of 12 were clearly changing. I was chauffeuring three pals to the movies, so I was trapped in the car when they asked about vaginal moisture. They thought it felt strange, and asked me if this new sensation was normal. I didn’t say much or get very clinical. After all, I was driving. I simply nodded, and reassured them that moistness was very healthy and that they would get used to it.
  • There was the sexting sex talk her dad and I had with her and her younger brother. This was another easy one, because we, the parents, were on the same page. The concepts of privacy—in particular, keeping private parts private—and the need to guard one’s electronic trail are so obvious to us. In a particularly graceful moment their dad reassured them that they would have sex, and it would be a positive part of their lives. I added my perspective that sexual intimacy is called “intimacy” for a reason, and that the best, most loving relationships thrive on shared, private connections.

Which leads me to the present, difficult crossroads. How am I going to talk to my girl about love and lust and sexual desire? How can I explain the importance of protecting herself, physically and emotionally, without putting a voodoo hex on her sexual life. How can I tell her what I’ve learned? That shared bodily fluids are only a piece of it. There’s sacred energy involved, too. How can I even bring up the subject without putting pressure on her to cash in her V-card before she’s ready?

I really do honor my children’s privacy. My daughter is her own person, and I’m not her closest confidant, nor do I see that as my role. But I am responsible for her health and safety.

In addition to providing access to information, Dr. Herbenick suggested I take my daughter to a movie that features a sexual relationship, and use talking about the fictional story as a way to open the conversation.

A movie, of course! After all, we’d seen Juno together. (And I highly recommend this film about a smart teen who navigates her unexpected pregnancy.) But, when I checked the listings I found that late winter is the season of thrillers and super-hero movies.

Then, I found something better. Saturday I took my girl out to a matinee performance of The Vagina Monologues. It has everything. In the interactive portion of the show, we named body parts until the word vagina is no longer embarrassing to say. We heard a story about a woman, so ashamed of her sexual desire and physical response, that she’s spent a lifetime shut off from “down there.” We celebrated pleasure with a comic rendition of orgasmic moans. We cried for rape victims. We laughed at a woman railing about the indignity of a cold speculum. My daughter and I shared every emotion, along with a loving community of women and men.

And afterward, when I thought the time was ripe for our big talk, I simply told her if she was ever scared or confused or hurt that she could talk to me. (Note to self: Do NOT freak out, when and if she tells me something uncomfortable.)

Really? That’s it? The Big Sex Talk? It turns out, there really wasn’t much else to say. It turns out, the biggest part of my Big Sex Talk was how much I needed to lower my fear and open my heart.

I realized my daughter already understands everything I could tell her now. We’ve been having the conversation for years. Every time we’ve seen a television program, a movie, or a play together. Every book we’ve read and discussed. Every side comment and giggle. Every roll of the eye. Sex for procreation and sex for pleasure have always been part of the discourse between us. How could it not be?

And I also realize that I trust my daughter to know when she’s ready to “cash in her V-card.” Of course I don’t want her to grow up too fast. There will always be a part of me that remembers when she was born. She’s my baby girl. But she’s also growing into a gorgeous young woman. And her sexual life is her own. The most important thing, the big thing I want her know is that I trust her to make her own choices.

Sex & The Ditty

 

Steamy songs work.

Researchers tell us that romantic songs nearly double the likelihood that single women will agree to give men their phone numbers.

And music works for those of us in relationships too. Music does a pretty good job of expressing affection, amorous intention, and other feelings that can be screwed up by mere words.

Why?

Obviously we react to music we like and to lyrics that make us feel. Music engages our bodies, often helping us move out of our heads to a more sensory level. It gets to us in ways we aren’t consciously aware of as well. In This Is Your Brain on Music Daniel Levitin describes what happens as we listen. Imaging studies show that excited nerves signal from the auditory system to activate expectation and reward centers in the brain.  In fact the pleasure we take in music causes our dopamine levels to rise and we all want more of that feel-good neurochemical.

We here at GeekMom talked over our favorite erotic tunes. We noted that it isn’t easy to separate them from love songs, because adoration is definitely a turn on. Okay, we also had to weed through our favorite sexy tunes to eliminate the exceedingly creepy, depressing, and misogynistic ones.

The more basic question remains. What music sounds sexy to you? Is it the beat, the lyrics, the overall tone? Or does it have more to do with memories you attach to the piece?

Offer your suggestions.

Here are a few of ours. Not in order and not by any means comprehensive.

1. What Kind Of Woman Is This? by Buddy Guy

I heard a blind man screaming, say

There goes a sight for my sore eyes.

2. Glorybox by Portishead

Just give me a reason to love you

Give me a reason to be a woman

3. Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover by Sophie B. Hawkins

I’ll rock you till the daylight comes

Make sure you are smilin’ and warm

4. I Just Want To Make Love To You by Muddy Waters

I don’t want you to be true

I just want to make love to you

5. Lay Lady Lay by Bob Dylan

Lay lady lay, lay across my big brass bed.

Stay lady stay, stay with your man awhile.

6. Wicked Game by Chris Isaak

What a wicked thing to do

To let me dream of you

7. Love Me Like A Man by Bonnie Raitt

I want a man to rock me

Like my… backbone was his own

8. I’m Wild About That Thing by Bessie Smith

If you want so satisfy my soul,

Come on and rock me with a steady roll

9. Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

I want to hold the hand inside you

I want to take a breath that’s true

10. In The Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett

I’m gonna take you girl and hold you

And do all the things I told you

11. Bang A Gong (Get It On) by T. Rex

You dance when you walk so let’s dance, take a chance, understand me

You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl.

12. Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding

But while she’s there waiting

Try just a little bit of tenderness

13. Need You Tonight by INXS

So slide over here, and give me a moment

Your moves are so raw

14. Angel Dance by Robert Plant

Little angel dance

Come on come on and dance

15. Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye

You know what I’m talking bout,

Come on baby, let your love come out

16. Can I Stay by Ray LaMontagne

Lay with me in your thinnest dress

Fill my heart with each caress

17. Arms Of A Woman by Amos Lee

Ya, when she wakes me

She takes me back home

18. My One and Only Love by Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane

You fill my eager heart with such desire

Every kiss you give sets my soul on fire

19. You Shook Me by Led Zeppelin

You know you shook me

You shook me all night long

20. Love Me Unique by Michael Franti

Mmmm, exhale

Touch me like the blind read Braille

21. Delicate by Damien Rice

When nobody’s watching

We might take it home

22. Little Red Corvette by Prince

I say the ride is so smooth

You must be a limousine

23. Powerful Stuff by Sean Hayes

Alright now let’s turn it up

Every day do like a flower does

24. Samba da Benção by Bebel Gilberto

Put a little love

In the cadence

25. Ready For Love by Bad Company

I want you to stay

Ooh, I want you today

26. Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson

When the whole world fits inside of your arms

Don’t really need to pay attention to the alarm

27. Crash Into Me by Dave Matthews Band

Hike up your skirt a little more

And show the world to me

28. Get On Your Boots by U2

You don’t know

How beautiful you are

29. Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers

Oh my love, my darling

I’ve hungered for your touch

30. I Melt With You by Nouvelle Vague

I’ll stop the world

And melt with you

31. Boléro by Orchestre de Paris

32. Stripped by Depeche Mode

We’ll lay on the grass

And let the hours pass

33. Crazy by Aerosmith

Makes me wanna pull

Down the shade, yeah

34. Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake

Get your sexy on

Go ahead, be gone with it

35. Thirteen by Big Star

Come inside where it’s okay

And I’ll shake you

36. Father Figure by George Michael

Just for one moment

To be warm and naked at my side

37.  Inertia Creeps by Massive Attack

Recollect me darling raise me to your lips

Two undernourished egos four rotating hips

38. Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits by The Magnetic Fields

Let’s pretend we’re bunny rabbits

Let’s do it all day long

Review: Project: Happily Ever After

I consider myself to be happily married. Even so, there’s been a time or two I would have liked to throttle my husband (and in fairness, he’s probably felt the same about me). Author Alisa Bowman took her marriage difficulties a step further: She actually planned her husband’s funeral. Hoped for it, even. Things were Not Good in the Bowman household.

relationships, marriage, sex, divorce, Alisa BowmanI’ve been hearing rave reviews about Alisa’s newly released book, Project: Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters, so when the publisher sent me a copy I picked it up out of intrigue more than need. It’s one of those books that allows you to peek into the inner workings of another household, fulfilling a certain sense of morbid curiosity. Alisa writes in a friendly, accessible tone and I found that even though much of the content made me furious (more about that in a minute), I was staying up later than usual to read just one more page.

The early chapters are an introduction to Alisa herself, including some details about past relationships. Right from the start, the author makes it clear that she’s willing to share candidly. She doesn’t gloss over the ugly parts here or in later chapters where we learn about her (here’s the infuriating part) horribly unaware and selfish husband, Mark. Is that judgmental of me? You decide: What do you call it when an unemployed  husband takes a substantial amount of money that his wife had earned and saved toward a second honeymoon to resurrect their marriage and instead blows the whole wad on a ski trip with his buddies? I don’t think “horribly unaware and selfish” is too harsh, do you?

At the urging of a divorced friend who insists that Alisa try everything before settling for divorce, the author embarks on a self-designed project to save her marriage. I have to admit that after reading the first several chapters I thought this sounded like a hopeless cause. This was a marriage in which both parties had communication problems. There were few, if any, shared interests. They couldn’t agree on anything. And their sex life was virtually non-existent.

And yet, when Alisa convinced Mark to participate in what she dubbed Project: Happily Ever After they stumbled their way through difficult times, continually improving their marriage skills, each learning how to be a better spouse. It didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen without tears. But today, Alisa considers herself happily married. Together, Alisa and Mark turned their marriage around.

Project: Happily Ever After is peppered with tidbits of advice, but isn’t a step-by-step self-help manual. Instead, you’ll see how one couple managed to salvage a dead-end marriage and perhaps be inspired to improve your own. For those of you who find yourselves in the unenviable position of being in a marriage as bad as Alisa’s once was, there is a bonus section at the back of the book offering “10 Steps to Happily Ever After.”

While I’ve never been much for the idea of a “fairy tale” romance, this book was a good reminder for me to appreciate my husband – no matter how much I want to throttle him sometimes.

View the book trailer for Project: Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters below or read more at ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com where Alisa blogs – very candidly – about relationships, marriage, sex, bikini waxes, and, uh, appliances.

Sex Ed Books for Kids: Our Picks

image-3
Book covers L to R: Candlewick, Newmarket, Chronicle, Crown, Candlewick. Mashup: Kate Miller

You may remember GeekMom’s rollicking sex ed day a couple of weeks ago. Andrea and I posted our respective views on talking to kids about sex, which is way more openly than the average mom, judging from the comments. (Here is Andrea’s post, and mine.)

Several commenters on those posts asked for or suggested good sex ed books for kids, so we decided to follow up with some book reviews.

Here are our recommendations. Please buy one or two and leave them lying around the house, preferably in the bathroom. If all goes according to plan, they will disappear.

a

It’s So Amazing! by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley

Reviewed by Jenny Williams

It’s So Amazing is an excellent book for young kids to teach them about things such as where babies come from, eggs and sperm, boy parts and girl parts, what sex and love are all about, and what happens during pregnancy and birth. In the section on love, it talks about all kinds of love, including the love you feel for a pet, a friend, a parent, or a partner. It puts the same value on heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It also covers topics such as multiple births, genetics, adoption, what kinds of touches are okay and not okay, and a little bit about sexually transmitted diseases. It is aimed at kids age 7 and up, but it can also be used for younger curious kids. The book is very heavy on tasteful drawings, which show what is going on without revealing too much. While this book does include some information on what happens to girls and boys during puberty, that isn’t its main subject matter, so once your kids get to be 9 or 10, another book would be a good idea, perhaps the book that follows this one by the same authors, It’s Perfectly Normal.

a

It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley

Reviewed by Kate Miller

This book is perfect for kids age 10+. I know it’s perfect because when I handed it to my 10-year-old son, he flipped through it and said with disgust, “Jeez, Mom, is this just a book of cartoon pictures of naked people?” He then proceeded to never put it down. As a follow-on to It’s So Amazing, above, this book takes the same subject matter and advances it in complexity and frankness for its older audience. It still uses the same open, colorful, fun illustrations and authoritative yet friendly tone. A cartoon bird and bee go through the book with the reader, getting just as engrossed — or grossed out — as a young reader might. This gives the reader a couple of fun friends throughout. This book will present to your kids all the topics that might make you squeamish:  sex, contraception, diseases, homosexuality, abortion, pubertal changes, masturbation, you name it. This  edition also has new information on HPV, infertility treatments and using the internet safely. As a reproductive health professional myself, and as a mom on the northern-European model of talking openly with kids about sex, I endorse this book with all my heart and mind. Get it!

 

a

On Your Mark, Get Set, Grow! by Lynda Madaras

Reviewed by Allison Clark

I’m of the “be frank” school of sex-ed, meaning whenever my 10-year-old son asks a question, I don’t mince words, I just tell him the truth before I have a chance to get embarrassed about it. (This often has the effect of grossing him out, but I’m OK with that.) Lynda Madaras’ book for boys 8 and up takes a similarly frank approach. It’s not about sex, but rather boys’ changing bodies and what they can expect from puberty. It covers the things moms might blanch at, from morning wood to concerns about boys’ adequacy “down there.” It also tackles b.o., acne, hair growth and other puberty concerns, all in the same no-nonsense tone you’d expect from a health educator with 25 years of experience. As this book would mortify my son, possibly fatally, if I read it with him, I just put it in a prominent place in his room so he could refer to it any time. Upon first read, I was totally shocked at the, um, “street language” some of the Q&A sections use, but I’m glad this book exists. He’s going to hear all of this stuff from other boys, so he might as well have accurate information.

 

a

Mommy Laid an Egg by Babette Cole

Reviewed by Judy Berna

If you’re a bit bored by the run of mill, ordinary facts of life, it might do you some good to check out a book called Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole. Be forewarned, you definitely need to preview this book before you share it with young children (it was banned in some libraries, just so ya know). The story starts with a mom and dad doing their best to explain where babies come from. They come up with some pretty wild stories, including delivery by dinosaur and finding them under stones.

Their children laugh at their attempts and then, in turn, describe the real facts of life to their parents. And things get pretty graphic. Even for stick figures. As far as the mechanics go, let’s just say stick figures are capable of being pretty x-rated. On one page the boy is pointing out a simplistic drawing of male parts, with an arrow leading to the page where the girl is pointing out the female versions. Along the line between them are the words “this fits in here.” Just the facts, ma’am. The next page is the one that might catch you by surprise. In the same simple stick drawings we see “creative ways mommies and daddies can fit together,” including a few that I’d never thought of.

If you’re really open with your kids about how it all works, this book might just be for you. Because it’s all explained “by kids,” I’m sure kids will relate to it in a meaningful way. Just be sure you’re ready for the volume of information they might take away from this book and the suspicious way they may glance at you when you try to get them to go to bed early.

 

a

Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex by Justin Richardson and Mark Schuster

Reviewed by Andrea Schwalm

Andrea put up her review on GeekMom a while back; you can read it here.

Geek Candor: The Vlogbrothers Do It With Animals

Let’s talk about sex. Yes, again! That’s the thing about ‘the talk’ – you can’t have just one. Because this is a geeky blog, I did a little research into how other geeks have been talking about sex lately, and I discovered something very interesting. The Vlogbrothers do it with animals. Talk about sex, that is.

For the record, the Vlogbrothers are talented, geeky brothers whose shared video blog is chock full of science, music, and frequent examples of nerds being awesome.

Their recent posts about animal sex are embedded below, but before you watch (or run away, cringing), you should know that there’s a lot more to learn from this particular series of videos than the mating habits of giraffes and tortoises. For attentive ears, there’s a vocabulary lesson in there, somewhere. There’s also an unspoken opportunity to discuss the many purposes sex has in nature (reproductive organs aren’t just for reproduction, friends). But watch closely for the two most important take-away messages:

  • As interesting and useful as it can be, sex is probably not the most important thing we ever do.
  • And it’s okay to be awkward and juvenile when talking about it!

That said, due to images of animal sex and some crude humor, these videos may or may not be appropriate for younger children. Parents should, as always, screen before sharing. And parents, I strongly encourage you to watch them all to the end (if you’re able suppress your giggle reflex).

Geek Lifts Off On Lemon Education

Backlit Lemon Slice by Neil Lloyd (Creative Commons)

Education systems are a mess the world over. We know this, but we are dauntless geek parents. When we’re given a lemon situation, we don’t just make lemonade; we make rocket fuel!

I don’t actually know if it’s possible or wise to launch a rocket using citrus, but if that’s what it takes to keep my kid hooked on science, I won’t shy away from the experiment. (Out of geek courtesy, I will warn the neighbors, though.)

Putting the oranges in orbit aside for a moment, we really do need to make the most of the lemon education systems we have. Given all the demands on our time and attention, it’s best if we first identify the simplest, most direct help we can give our little geeks, every day:

TALK!

MOVE!

EAT!

SLEEP!

CHILL OUT!

Beyond that, there are tons of things we can do to help educate our kids, at all ages. Children are never too young to learn. Even babies can grasp number, space, and time; parents just need to puzzle out how to engage their littlest ones’ mental rulers through play. Clapping along to music comes naturally, and as luck would have it, it’s a real brain-builder! As they grow, teaching them healthy self-regulation will pay off academically, too. And not every middle-schooler wants to be a scientist when they grow up, but for those who do, why wait? Continue reading Geek Lifts Off On Lemon Education