Air Guitar is a Thing of the Past, and the Loss of Pepper

Air Guitar is a Thing of the Past, and the Loss of Pepper

When I was fourteen years old, I saw this really cool-looking guitar in a music store in Edmonton. I was living with my mother and step-father, which was sort of odd for me since I’d lived most of my life with my (very abusive) grandparents. (Don’t let the semi-positive change fool you–they weren’t the greatest people to be raised by either.) We spent a fair bit of time in this mall for the couple of years I actually spent living with them, and every trip found us visiting the music store. My step-father played guitar, though not particularly well, and we always ended up getting new instruments like a banjo, a harmonica, I’m pretty sure there was a tambourine in there somewhere, and then we got a really nice electronic piano. It was one of the first that were touch-sensitive like a real piano, and it played really nicely. Full set of keys, you name it. I had spent much of my younger years, from the age of four and up, taking piano lessons, and I had competed and performed in a wide variety of places, so pianos were nothing new to me. A guitar, though…that was what all the cool kids played.

Somehow I knew, when I saw that guitar hanging from the hooks, that my mother and step-father would be getting that for me for my fifteenth birthday. I saw my step-father ask to see it, and then he played around on it a little bit. Maybe it was the fact that it was a copy of a B.C. Rich Warlock, which has a very distinctive shape, that assured me he couldn’t possibly be looking at it for his own collection. Case in point:

B.C. Rich Warlock

As you can see, it’s not exactly the kind of guitar that would appeal to conservative step-fathers. Mind you, the one he was looking at was a copy, with a very odd brand name, called Series A. It looked almost identical to the above image, except mine had a whammy bar…or tremolo bridge, if you want to use the technical name.

And so, along comes my fifteenth birthday, and surprise surprise, I got the guitar as a gift. Now, it had been $200 in the store, so part of me was surprised they would spend that much money, and yet I still somehow knew that guitar was coming my way. I was ecstatic. I could finally feel like one of the cool kids. (I had been very unpopular in the small town I grew up in, but when I moved to Edmonton I was actually very popular, except the scars from being bullied could never allow me to believe I really was cool.)

Now, as wonderful as the moment of receiving the guitar was, it could not overcome the disappointment I felt when I couldn’t play the damn thing well. I had played my step-father’s electric guitar and done fairly well with it, but with this guitar I could do nothing about the horrendous rattle I got from pretty much every chord. I mean, I already have short fingers and small hands, so playing guitar is more challenging for me at the best of times. On the plus side, I’ve got pretty strong hands from playing piano and typing my whole life (I started writing on an electric typewriter when I was twelve, rather than four like when I started playing piano, but that’s still a lot of my life). Having a guitar that rattled the way it did completely ruined any enjoyment I had when I learned all the notes for the melody guitar of Breaking the Law by Judas Priest (I had the official book, but that was really the only song I wanted to play, despite them being my favourite band).

I thought things would get better when I bought myself a small Peavey amp, since less of the rattle would come through the amp. It helped a little, except that I always played at night, when I was awake, which meant keeping the volume down. No matter how much quieter an electric is when it’s not plugged in, when you’re parents are across the hall from you it’s still too loud, so even listening on headphones wouldn’t have worked for me.

Eventually I just gave up on the whole thing and sold the guitar, not picking up another one for a few years. A friend of mine had a limited edition Gibson of some sort, however. After some time spent searching online, I think it might have been an M III, because that’s the only body shape I’ve found that makes sense. More than twenty years ago that guitar was worth at least two grand, which tells you what it might cost today. The point is, I picked up her guitar and found out I actually had a little bit of skill. It was a huge shock to me. I sounded like I was playing real music. Damn!

Not being able to afford several thousand dollars for a guitar, however, meant I just let the whole thing go for a couple of decades. Every once in a while someone would have a guitar and I would play on it a little bit, but I never quite got the enthusiasm back. Until a few weeks ago.

My fiancé has at least five guitars, and ever since he moved in they’ve just been sitting there when he wasn’t playing them. He handed me one of the acoustics one time, and I fiddled for an hour or so, but my nails were too long, and my fingertips got sore right away. Again I put it down and didn’t touch another guitar for months. Finally I tried his Fender Strat, which wasn’t bad at all, and then he had me try his Japanese-made SG (one of the ones with the thicker neck join so they don’t break, among other improvements to the original SG). That’s when I knew I could really pick it up again. Despite the fact that I preferred the body style and aesthetic of the Fender, I liked the action on the SG much more, and that’s what really counts when you’re trying really, really hard to play barre chords.

As a side note, barre is spelled three different ways, and they’re all correct when referring to guitar chords. Go figure. Bar, barr, and barre. Yet we wonder why people can’t freakin’ spell! Same word, same meaning, same pronunciation, but three different spellings. English is stupid.

Anyhoo. Suddenly I was practicing for hours every single day for weeks. My fingers were damn near bleeding, and hitting something with my fingertips was pretty painful for a while. They’re actually still sensitive, despite the rather impressive calluses I have now. The funny thing is, I still have a lot of surface numbness from my accident last summer on half of my left hand, so I’m not sure what made me decide to make my fingertips numb, too, but suddenly I could not stop playing the damn guitar.

One of the first things I did was print off the sheet music for a David Bowie song that makes my guy emotional, because he thinks of me when he hears it. It’s Wild is the Wind, and believe me, even after weeks of practicing it I still suck at it. The weird chords in that song are a serious pain in the ass for someone with small hands. From a C to a Cmaj9, and from an Am to an Am/G, are the two most vivid difficulties I’ve had with it. Every time my fiancé was out of the house, I was practicing that song. I have printed dozens of other songs, but I hid that one, hoping one day to surprise him.

You see, I had decided I was going to record that song for him for our anniversary present, which is exactly what I did. I laid down a track for the so-called drums by using a program called Stagelight. Now, I can actually play the drums, but I don’t happen to have any so I was stuck using fake ones. I just used a closed hat for a nice ticking sound in the background, so that I could keep time properly. Then I laid down a rhythm guitar track with just chord strums. I finally laid down a melody track with a fairly intense bit of picking throughout the song, but based strictly on the chord shapes. The last track was the vocals, and let me tell you, that was a serious pain in the ass. How the hell is someone supposed to sound good while singing off-key? Never mind the weird off-timing of the singing, and then the long stretches without any vocals at all, right in the middle of the verses and the chorus.

Long story short, I finished the recording the afternoon of our anniversary, after finally having to kick my fiancé out of the house to get it done (such nice behaviour for our anniversary, I know). I wasn’t even with him when he heard it the first time, because I sent it to him through Facebook as a PM. He did, however, react rather emotionally to it, so it was a gift that came off well. I played it for him later on my headphones so he could get the full gist of it, and again he was quite emotional about it. I guess you could say he liked it.

Just in case, however, I had already made plans to take him out for dinner. I’m hopeful, not stupid. We had a really good time for our anniversary. What did he do for me, aside from simply being the most wonderful man I’ve ever known throughout our entire relationship? Well, he got us tickets for a fundraiser dinner that we thought was going to be on our anniversary, but turned out to be on another date. It’s for a cafe we go to where you can buy buttons that people can use to pay for food if they can’t afford a meal, or even just for coffee to keep warm in the winter. We used to go there together a lot when it was warmer and I wasn’t in hibernation mode, and he goes there quite a bit on his own. As soon as I saw the event, I thought it would be a great thing for our anniversary. He bought the tickets on the spot. So, basically we’ll have taken each other out for dinner two consecutive weekends. For me, especially in winter, leaving the house two weekends in a row is pretty much unheard of, but my guy is worth it.

I haven’t stopped playing guitar, even though one of my biggest incentives was learning to play well enough to record that song. I do take a day or two off now and then, but I keep printing off new songs to learn, which keeps my interest level high. There’s no shortage of music I like, so I look forward to learning a lot of songs.

My ADD really shows itself when I practice, though. I’ll play a few licks of Metallica’s One, veer off to Blink 182’s Adam’s Song (which, if you know both songs, you’ll realize they are enough alike to be confusing when you’re learning both at the same time, even though I don’t drop the tuning for Adam’s Song), play Dan Seals’ Everything that Glitters for a bit, add Iron Maiden’s Wasted Years, and then bounce back to my old stand-by, Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law. There’s some Dwight Yoakam in there, with his version of Suspicious Minds, a whole bunch of Martina McBride, etc. I have a collection of 59 songs that I like so far. Most of which I can play at least some of the fingering parts, if not all, and I can generally play all of the chords now. Barre chords still give me trouble, especially getting my fingers in the position to start, but I’m improving.

I still need a lot of improvement, but I’ve become damn stubborn about it. Okay, I’m always stubborn, but I wasn’t specifically stubborn about learning to play guitar, as evidence by my quitting all those years ago. Now I put in an unbelievably amount of time practicing.

How’s the book coming along, you ask? Uh, okay, that’s kind of another story. Book three is on its third iteration, but it’s not too bad. At least it’s way better than it was, plot-wise, and for the third draft I stopped repeating myself and pontificating…I think. Part of the reason I’m writing this blog post, actually, is to get myself back in the habit of typing something out. Believe me, you really can regain momentum if you just start writing something…anything.

I did have one major issue that was making it hard for me to write, understandably. One of my ferrets died very unexpectedly, and honestly it’s still killing me. Not only am I grieving for him, despite it being nearly five months after his death, but I modeled one of the ferrets in my books after him. It was Pepper that we lost, on December 8th, and Pickle is his counterpart in the book. Having to write a scene with Pickle/Pepper in it was killing me. And there’s the stuff I wrote while he was dying. I knew he was sick, and was waiting for the vet to be able to see him. I was trying to keep busy. That part will probably not make it into the book, because I started writing a new version entirely, but I can’t bear to delete it. Normally I have no problem ridding myself of writing that I’ve rejected as being crap, but in this case I’m keeping it. Just like I’m keeping the small Pepsi bottle Pepper last chewed on as a fantastically noisy chew toy. I don’t care if that makes me weird. I’m okay with being weird.

It’s been tough getting back into it, despite the book itself being pretty damned exciting. I’m enthusiastic about it, but I’m a horrible procrastinator. Especially when something is painful for me to do. This book is now inextricably tied with the death of my much-loved ferret, and every moment of writing is something I kind of have to grit my teeth through, so I’ve been avoiding it. I’m about a quarter of the way done the final book in the trilogy. There will most likely be other books that will tie in to this series, but they will be separate trilogies on their own if I choose to go ahead with them. After all, a trilogy is meant to tell the full story arc. Tacking more books onto the end wouldn’t work very well, since there shouldn’t be any more loose ends to tie up after this one is done.

Shortly after Pepper died, I also got very sick. I was down for about a month if I remember correctly. I spent days in a blurry state of mind, with almost no voice, a horribly sore throat, dizziness, etc. Not a lot of fun. I stayed away from my future step-son because I didn’t want him getting sick. I would try to carry on a conversation with my fiancé or daughter, and it wouldn’t last long before my voice gave out again. Sometimes uttering a single sentence was too much for me. I’m pretty sure it was strep throat, though I didn’t bother going to the doctor for it. A lot of people I knew got really sick, too, and they sure as hell didn’t catch it from me. Hard to catch something from someone in another country, and nearly all my friends are people I know on Facebook. I’m not the most social of people when it comes to the in-person thing. It’s actually kind of a miracle I met my fiancé, but then we did meet on Facebook.

I’m not sure if I mentioned my accident in any of my blog posts either, though I know there haven’t been many of them. When I mentioned not having much feeling in my left hand, there’s a good reason. The reason? I’m a freaking klutz. I made a couple of over-easy eggs for my fiancé because he was hungry and he doesn’t react well to the lowered blood sugar (he gets really absent-minded and confused, plus frustrated and irritated). I didn’t want to send him off to the kitchen to cook something for himself in that state of mind, so I decided to make breakfast. The problem is, I was hungry, too, which means my hypoglycemia can decide to kick in rather fiercely and I start to freak out a bit. I was carrying the eggs back to our bedroom when my toe caught on a box. I am completely incapable of regaining my balance these days, and so I fell right into his plate of eggs. Scared the shit out of my daughter, who was also in the living room at the time, and my fiancé came tearing out of the bedroom to see what happened.

I didn’t think it was that bad, though the plate had broken. Of course, I hadn’t seen the blood yet, and the numbness in my hand seemed a normal reaction to a falling injury. It wouldn’t be the first time a body part had gone temporarily numb on me like that. So, my fiancé helped me to the bedroom and got his first aid kit. After seeing the wound on my wrist, I felt more than a little sick. I knew then that there was nerve damage. We went to a clinic, I got some stitches, and then I was sent home after being told I’d be contacted by the plastic surgeon, who may or may not do surgery on me. About a month later I was getting surgery. Apparently the nerve was trying to regrow through a neuroma (a tumour caused by trauma in my case), which explained why I was getting an electrical zapping/zinging sensation whenever the injured area was touched. I had a partial cast on it for a couple of weeks. I was supposed to be able to type, though I really couldn’t because it was covering the palm of my hand.

I know, I know…all these excuses! It does seem like this book has been jinxed right from the beginning. Admittedly, I took quite a bit of time off when my fiancé and I started dating, and then moved in together. I figured, after putting out three books in less than a year (one being the anthology I edited and wrote short stories for), that I deserved a bit of a break. Apparently life thought I needed a much longer one. Life is really starting to piss me off. Now I’m obsessive about playing the guitar, and have gone back to playing a lot of computer games, and my sleep schedule is way out of whack.

I also have to adjust for the fact that I’m sharing my bedroom/work space with someone (yes, that someone is my fiancé). I’m just not used to that. I was single for eight years. Happily single. I was not expecting to find someone so amazingly perfect for me. Yet, he basically works freelance as a paralegal, and he was driving for Uber (which wasn’t really worth it financially), so he’s around almost all the time. Wonderful for us as a couple, but not so great for my self-discipline when it comes to my writing. He would happily give me all the time in the world to write, but I miss him too damn much when he’s gone. I mean, yesterday he was only gone while I was sleeping, and I still missed him! We’re truly sickeningly sweet and affectionate with one another.

However, the other day I finally started cracking a bit. As much as I love my time with him, I’m very much an isolationist. Even when I don’t notice it, that need to be alone starts to build up. When I need my space, I really need my space. I turn into a bitch, where I have to protect him from me. What I need is actual, inviolable work space, where I absolutely cannot be bothered while I’m in that space. The moment someone walks in the bedroom, I’m distracted from what I’m doing. Or if I’m lying on the bed, just plotting out things for the book, he may not realize I’m actually working, and so he starts saying something to me. Believe me, he isn’t the kind of guy who would knowingly do that, so he feels horrible about it, but without a sign attached to me that says, “I’m working,” there’s no way for him to know that’s what I’m doing.

We’ll figure it out. After all, writers are pretty creative, so if there’s a solution out there, I’m sure I’ll find it. I just need to think of it like I do in my books. A problem to be solved. Of course, holding up a sign while I’m doing that might be a good idea.

A House Full of Love and Laughter Again

Scooter (left) and Pepper (right)

There was a big hole in my life. It didn’t appear because I was without a romantic partner. It appeared when I lost one of my ferrets over a year ago. It was a devastating loss to me, and I still get really choked up when I think about Stimpy. There was a serious void in my life, though, and part of me was maybe conscious of it, but not fully. I didn’t realize how badly that void needed to be filled. Not until last Tuesday, when we were lucky enough to be given care of a ferret in need of a new home. I don’t usually like it when people give up their pets, but there are rare exceptions when it’s necessary, and this was one time when the family really had no choice. She also made sure he went to a home where he would be loved, and she’s been texting me regularly to ask how he’s doing.

The new fur baby is named Scooter. We had actually changed the names of both of our other ferrets, but this time we have no intention of doing so. The name is appropriate to a ferret, and quite adorable, so he will remain Scooter, Scootie, Scooter-Bug, et al. (That last bit is [et alia abbreviated] Latin for ‘and others’ in the neuter plural – deal with it spell-check! Man, I hate those red squiggles when I know I’m right!!) Stimpy was originally Stewart, or Stewie, and Pepper was originally Miss Licks – his name definitely had to be changed, since his former ‘owners’ didn’t realize that was not a belly button. Ferrets are incredibly smart – supposedly more so than cats or dogs – so a name change is no big deal for them, but it’s nice to be able to keep the name they’re accustomed to.

It amazes me to see the difference between a single-ferret household, and one with two of the little trouble-makers. For one thing, it really is at least double the fun, if not more. They get far more excited and play more, and there are two to watch. They don’t always sleep at the same time, so I can get my fix more regularly. For another, it really is double the love. I fall in love with ferrets at an alarmingly fast rate, and Scooter had my heart in his amazingly dexterous paws before they’d even touched me. To put the capper on it, he loves giving kisses. There’s nothing more adorable than a ferret who licks the tip of your nose with that tiny little tongue. Well, he’s not really picky. He licks the rest of my face, too, and fingers and toes. Thankfully bad breath isn’t common with ferrets.

The great thing about ferrets is that they can go pretty much anywhere, so even if we go on vacation we can easily bring them with us. There are places where they have been banned, such as California and Hawaii, and I’m not sure about New York City now. They were talking about lifting the ban, but I’m not sure if that’s been approved, and if it has, whether or not it’s actually been passed into law. I’m sure there are counties throughout the US where they’re not permitted, but I doubt it will be an issue. I do plan to take a road trip as soon as I get around to buying another car, but when you’re just passing through it’s not usually an issue. Especially when an animal is in a proper carrier. (I never travel with animals in a vehicle that aren’t in carriers or don’t have their own seat belts like they have for dogs.)

If an animal has been vaccinated for rabies and distemper, and has passed border scrutiny, most cops aren’t going to give you a hard time, even assuming they bother to stop you. Granted, me having Canadian plates might concern them. After all, we Canadians are known for our potent hydroponic bud. Ironically, despite how much of it is grown in other provinces, it’s British Columbia that’s know for propagation, so the Ontario plates may not be concerning to them.

As for ferrets going across the border from Canada to the US, however, the CDC states that there aren’t any specific requirements. Not even for dogs or cats. It’s apparently only airlines that bother with that sort of thing. Since I plan to have my boys fully up-to-date on their shots, though, it’s not a worry for me either way. Funnily enough, it will cost me $30 to bring one of my boys back home and $5 for the other – Canada’s far stricter immigration laws in effect, I guess. The great thing is, ferrets are classified as domestic pets all across Canada, so there’s nowhere in the country where I have to worry about them being banned. They’re actually listed very specifically with dogs and cats, which tells me that the Canadian government at least is recognizing that they’re the third most popular pet in North America. Yes, they really are. Of course, that’s likely because the average ferret owner has seven of the adorable little buggers. Most people don’t have seven cats or dogs.

I started out writing this, lying on my bed as I am now, but suddenly I have a Scooter-Bug sleeping on my chest. He’s been there for a while, and doesn’t seem to mind how loudly I type (I got some teasing complaints earlier on Skype from my friend and business partner – I started out as a competitive pianist and using an electric typewriter, so I really bang on my keyboard – if I don’t I make too many mistakes). The point being that Stimpy used to sleep like that. It was very comforting, and I’ve really missed it. Pepper doesn’t like to be touched by humans when he sleeps, except when I comfort him during a bad dream. Then he wakes up to run right back to his bed – the only animal I’ve ever known (ferret or otherwise) to be so tired he has to literally run to bed.

For the first few days Scooter was pretty quiet, though he did like to wrestle with our hands and was playfully nippy (just mouthing, not actually hurting). Now he’s starting to romp and do a little weasel war dancing (if you’ve never seen that, I suggest typing that into the search box on YouTube, because it’s hilarious and how they express their joy and playfulness), plus he’s dooking, which is the sound ferrets make that is very different for each ferret. Scooter and Pepper haven’t quite found their balance yet, so they circle one another, dooking, wrestling without biting, and chasing each other, but once they start sleeping in the same bed they’ll be bosom buddies for the rest of their lives.

We were already planning to get another ferret, but it suddenly became more urgent when Pepper started showing signs of boredom and depression. After all, people just aren’t as much fun as another ferret. He got plenty of love and attention – more than he really wanted from people – but it wasn’t the same as having a fur buddy. He tried to befriend our last remaining cat, but she kept rejecting him (she doesn’t even like other cats really). He would flop on the floor and sigh dejectedly – yes, ferrets really do sigh like that.

Within a few days we were trying to make arrangements with the nearest ferret shelter, which would have cost us a lot of money. Not only did we need to get a special blood test done to ensure our current ferret didn’t have a deadly disease called Aleutian Disease Virus, usually referred to as ADV, but we would have been paying for anesthetic to knock him out to get the blood sample, renting a vehicle to get to the other city, and then paying adoption and membership fees on top of all that. Still, even with a total of around $420, we were willing to do it. I just can’t bring myself to contribute to the breeding mill and pet store cycle. For Pepper’s sake, if there were no ferrets available at the shelter and none in the classifieds, I would have relented.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that getting another ferret would fill up my life and heart this much. I’m crazy about the little critters to begin with, and the loss of one is more painful than I can even begin to describe, but I’m willing to deal with that loss. They’re worth it.

Cohabitation Conundrums and Pet Peeves

Okay, so you’ve been seeing someone for a while, presumably happily. Then one of you gets a bright idea. Possibly you both think it’s one of those lightbulb moments, and that it’s brilliant in its simplicity. Perhaps it doesn’t even pop up as an idea per se, but rather a talking point in a conversation, and somehow you wander off the beaten path into “Destination: Insanity,” where no one in the relationship has ventured before. Maybe one of you thinks the other needs a frontal lobotomy, and vows to run away at the first opportunity.

For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume both parties in a relationship are happy enough together that they actually want to share living space, and that when the idea floats into the nearby airspace no one is swatting at it like a pesky mosquito. That being established, now what? Do you scout the apartment listings and hire a moving company?

Well, first things first. Determining whether or not it actually is a good idea is probably an idea destined for induction into the Brainiac Hall of Fame. There are a few question that need to be asked here:

  • How well do you know each other? It isn’t necessarily about how long you’ve known one another, but how well. Some people can be dating for a year and barely know one another – for three reasons. One, they hardly spend any time talking, or in each other’s company. Two, they don’t talk about anything in-depth that will allow any mutual knowledge. Three, they’ve never had to face any difficulties as a couple and have no idea how their partner processes those situations. Screaming fits might not be desired.

In other words, do you have any idea what it’s going to be like to be around this person all the time, and are you absolutely certain you’re not going to end up in jail for killing them at some point down the road?

  • Are your goals for the future compatible? Let’s face it. Many people romanticize relationships and picture a moment of church bells and stale cake to be smooshed into one another’s respective faces. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you both want. If only one of you is cherishing those dreams, you’re more likely to be smooshing dog crap into the upholstery of their cherished La-Z-Boy.

You need to talk about every single deal-breaking dream you’ve got, whether those dreams involve an infestation of rugrats, ball-and-chain ceremonies, or trips around the world to look at that exact spot where Ghandi went on a hunger strike. When I say deal-breaking, I really mean that. We all have them. We each have many dreams, but not all of them are things that we absolutely must have in our lives before we die. Sometimes there are compromises, but quite often there aren’t.

  • Are you spiritually compatible? Spirituality is often only an issue if you’re planning on having the aforementioned ankle-biter invasion. If one of you is a Catholic and the other is Hindu, or even if one of you is an atheist, you could experience a few “Holy crap!” moments once the short humans with the overly large heads arrive on the scene.

Discussing how you intend to raise your children, and what portions of your faith you wish those children to adhere to, could save you major arguments in the future – not to mention a divorce and court hearings. If you’re not willing to compromise on the faith of your children, you absolutely must choose someone who is either of the same faith, or who honestly does not care what faith is chosen for their offspring. Do not assume because someone is an atheist that they don’t care if your kids practice Judaism. They may be dead-set against it.

  • Are your daily habits compatible? If you’re even considering cohabitation, you’re probably not against pre-marital sex, so let’s assume for now that you’ve managed to get some nooky during the whirlwind that is known as courtship. Leaving aside sexual compatibility for the moment, which is a book in and of itself (but I’m willing to tackle it in a paragraph a little further down anyway), we need to figure out if Person A puts the cap on Exhibit T, and Person B puts the seat down on Exhibit L. If you’re doing the hunka-chunka, and are considering sharing a residence so that you can presumably do the hunka-chunka on a more regular basis, you’ve probably spent a night or two together. If one of you is running off ten minutes after knocking boots, it does not bode well for the success of your future cohabitation.

Toothpaste tubes and lavatory lids aside, maybe your schedules conflict in such a way that would make regular bed-sharing difficult, or one of you is a neat-freak who gags at the site of slovenly socks. Is your partner a sports nut that screams so loudly at the television that the neighbour’s rugrats have gone deaf? Maybe you bring your work home with you all the time, and your partner acts more like a frat boy who has to smoke a bowl with his bros.

  • If you already have your own children, do they get along with your partner and any children they have? Do you get along with your partner’s kids? This one is a biggie. You can’t take your potential future step-child to the pound if there are incompatibilities here, much as you might think it would do them a world of good. Plus, they may go so far as to bite you if you try.

Kids really make things complicated when they aren’t shared offspring. You have to deal with every one of the above-mentioned issues with your partner’s kids, on top of dealing with whether or not you actually like the spoilt little buggers. You can ooh and aah all you want over your partner’s kid, and put up a good fake front, but you need to be completely honest with yourself about how likely it is that you’ll be able to stand being around them for longer than ten minutes.

  • Do you have compatible pets? Pets usually aren’t as bad as kids. Having said that, they do come with their own set of issues. Some animals are grumpy. Some are predatory and/or jealous. If one of you has a pet snake, and the other a pet mouse, well…you get the idea. Cats and birds are known adversaries, and it’s not always the cat that comes out the winner there – just ask any parrot owner.

Introducing pets is a very delicate process, assuming your pets can’t be kept separate or in cages at all times. If it’s done right you can still have problems if you don’t continue to keep an eye on the situation. However, if it’s done wrong the damage can be permanent. The introduction has to be done cautiously, and only two pets at a time. Both animals need to be fully controlled by their owners, and the experience needs to be a relatively pleasant memory for both creatures. In other words, don’t allow one animal to chomp down on the other and try to shake the life out of it. Have treats handy to distract the animals. Both animals need to feel secure, and know that there’s no threat. Sometimes it’s best if you just allow animals to get used to one another’s scents first, without physically introducing them, if there’s a real danger of one animal attacking the other. Swap their blankets back and forth for a few days.

  • Are you financially compatible? Money is a major bell-ringer for some. If one of you is frugal and the other spends more money than they earn, it’s a big bone of contention when you’re pooling your resources. That, of course, is something else that needs to be determined before shacking up with your new love slave. Are you sharing funds, keeping things separate, or a combination of the two? This is not the time to be making ass-you-me type decisions. If you do you can find that ass handed to you in court if you neglect to pay your portion of the rent because you thought it was ‘our’ money and not ‘yours’ and ‘mine’. Yet another issue with money has to do with large purchases, no matter how you choose to handle your funds. A sofa or bed is a joint purchase, generally, but they’re nothing compared to a house. For that matter, are you willing to even consider the purchase of a house? In this day and age, that’s more of a commitment than most marriages.

In the vast majority of polls conducted, sex and money are two of the biggest reasons people fight. I can’t help you with your sex life – mostly because I don’t want to know what weird things you might be getting up to. I have my own weird things to contend with. Money is one area where advance communication can make a world of difference, though. If a compromise is reached before a decision ever has to be made, and both parties follow through on their agreements, all’s well that ends well. If not, expect your own bell to be rung a few time – or even your ears from all the shouting that’s going to go down.

  • And finally, are you sexually compatible? No, you’re not supposed to actually answer me. You’re supposed to carry on that conversation with yourself and your partner, and leave us innocent folk out of your bedroom Battle Royale. Have you been truly honest with your partner about what you like and don’t like? Have you shared the secrets that you intended one day to foist upon them? Are you happy with the ways things are going there – and if you’re not happy, are you and your partner working toward a solution?

Now this is just my opinion, but then it’s my blog and I’ll have a potty mouth if I want to, but I do not think it’s a good idea to move in with someone (or especially to engage in the matrimonial legal tangle) when you have never had sex with them. Sex being one of those really big issues that people fight about, it makes perfect sense to me to figure out whether or not it’s something you’re likely to fight about. We all have those times when we’ll argue about almost anything in a relationship, but a complete lack of sexual compatibility will result in mind-blowing fights rather than other mind-blowing activities, and quite possibly some nasty insults that your ego might never recover from. Getting your freak on is necessary if you intend to be anything more than friends. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. If there’s no sexual chemistry or activity, you’re nothing but friends. That’s fine if you’ve spent forty or fifty glorious years together and things have petered out (no pun intended – okay maybe it was), but if you’re just getting started and there’s nothing there you’ve got serious problems and you’re not actually involved in a romantic relationship.

 If, after all this insanely boring self-reflection, you still think it’s a good idea to share living space, there remains the possibility a frontal lobotomy is in order. Maybe not, though. Maybe it’ll be the best thing to happen to you. Nobody can answer these questions for you, but if you’re not asking them of yourself you’re probably going to end up wishing for that frontal.