Unfair assumption #28: Parents who threaten to disown their children based upon their marital choices are the lowest form of human life.

You know these people.

These are the parents who will refuse to attend their child's wedding and sometimes disown a son or daughter for failing to marry someone who shares their religious belief, racial composition, socioeconomic standing, national or cultural origin, or does not conform to their heteronormative expectations of marriage.

They are the despicable cretins who think that their assumptions about who their child should fall in love with and marry should have any bearing on their child's actual life or future. 

In many cases, these misguided parents lose their sons and daughter for years (or lifetimes) over this ridiculous nonsense.

Even worse, their child may miss out on the possible love of their life when they inexplicably conform to their parents' selfish tribal wishes.

Credit people like my in-laws, who didn't bat an eye when my wife - their Jewish daughter - agreed to marry me, a former Christian-turned reluctant atheist. Instead, they embraced me like a son and have stood by my side ever since.

Many parents would have made Elysha's life exceedingly difficult for marrying outside the religion. I know people in circumstances like these. I also have gay friends who have experienced similar exclusion from their parents, and I know people who were only permitted to marry a person from the same country of origin.

I will be forever grateful to my in-laws - Barbara and Gerry - for their rational, loving, open-minded, unquestioning acceptance of me and our relationship. 

I know that to most people, my in-laws acceptance and embrace of me this seems like a no-brainer. The only reasonable reaction to our engagement and marriage. But I know that in many cases, across many dividing lines, parents are oftentimes less than reasonable, incredibly selfish, and sometimes downright disgusting in situations like this. 

Three shows that every married couple should be watching - and why this is dumb advice

David WIllis - a pastor interested in "encouraging married couples and families" and who founded StrongerMarriages.org and the Marriage app as a way to encourage couples to build stronger marriage - writes in TIME of three types of television shows that every married couple should watch in order to improve their marriage:

  • A show to help you learn together
  • A show to help you dream together
  • A show to help you laugh together 

It's ridiculous advice, of course, because regardless of how troubled or unsatisfying a marriage may be, there is no couple on Earth who is going to read this article and end up changing the television shows that they watch in order to improve their marriage. 

"Honey, we need to find a show to help us dream together. Pastor Willis says that will make us a much stronger couple!"

"Pookie bear, I just read an article that says we should be watching a show that we both find funny. How do you feel about Benny Hill or Tom & Jerry?" 

The article is clickbait, probably promoted in social media by a phrase like "Three must-see television shows to save your marriage" or "Three TV shows that will make your marriage stronger and happier."

People click on these teaser link because it's a list (and people love lists) and because the article seems to promise an instant solution to a serious problem. Instead, you are offered suggestions like "a show to help you dream together" and think, "What the hell does that even mean?"

Then nothing changes. 

He also suggests that less television overall is good for a marriage, but even this suggestion is fairly ridiculous. Less television is good for everyone, regardless of their marital status.

Nothing new or insightful here.  

My wife and I watch very little television - mostly because we don't have the time to watch more but also because we have chosen to fill our lives with things that keep us from staring at the stupid box too much.

We enjoy TV. We just enjoy other things more. 

But the one thing we've done that has been positive in terms of TV watching and our relationship is that in our nearly ten years of marriage and three years of dating, we have almost never watched a television show independently of each other.

We always watch television together.

The only exception to this rule is sports (she doesn't watch every NFL and baseball game with me) and The Walking Dead, a show that Elysha watched for three seasons until the violence and gore became too much for her and she had to quit. I continue to watch but am often multiple episodes behind because there are so few opportunities to watch a television show when she is not around. 

That might be it. The only shows we don't watch together. And I think this is a great thing for our marriage, but it's not something I would recommend because I prefer to recommend strategies that can actually be applied to daily life. 

Telling a couple that they must abandon their own personal tastes and TV watching patterns so they can sit beside each other on the couch every night at the expense of what they really want to watch is unrealistic. 

Just as unrealistic as David Willis' recommendations in TIME.

Serious question: Why isn't religious hypocrisy used more often against the opponents to same sex marriage?

For the last couple months, I've been writing the occasional post - titled #Biblebuffet - indicating the hypocrisy of people who oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons.

If you use The Bible to oppose same sex marriage, don't forget to execute adulterers, people who work on Sundays, and any woman engaging in premarital sex. All of these edicts are stated in The Bible just as explicitly as opposition to same sex marriage, and oftentimes within the same book of the Bible.

I was going to write another post today, but instead, I just have a question:

Why is this argument not made more often?

When someone like Ted Cruz argues against same sex marriage on religious grounds, why don't his opponents ask him why he isn't also stoning those who work on Sunday?

Or at least attempting to reinstate the Blue laws, making it illegal to conduct business on Sunday?

This seems like a perfectly logical argument to make, but I never hear it. And as someone who has read The Bible from cover to cover three times, I assure you that I could continue to write #Biblebuffet posts for years without running out of bizarre edicts and inexplicable prohibitions contained within the text.

Why not highlight the hypocrisy of bigots who hide their bigotry behind a religious text filled with equally clear prohibitions that no sane person would ever follow?

Seriously, what am I missing?

I'm also stunned that no one brings up Jesus when it comes to same sex marriage, because a complete reading of the first four books of the New Testament - the section on Jesus's life on Earth - makes sit abundantly clear that he never treat homosexual men or women with the same hatred and prejudice as people like Ted Cruz do today.

The man who opposed so many things in the Old Testament by advising his followers to turn the other cheek and "love thy neighbor as yourself" (also stating that there is no commandment greater than this) would never support these bigots and their crusade against same sex marriage.

No one ever talks about this. They allow religious zealots to treat The Bible like a breakfast buffet, picking and choosing convenient sections while ignoring others in order to support their own bigotry without ever challenging this hypocrisy. 

I want to know why. Seriously. What am I missing?

A peek into a typical day of our marriage

Last night I told Elysha that I had a song stuck in my head. She asked me what the song was. I told her that she wouldn't know it. She assured me she would. 

"Fine," I said. "It's I've Never Been To Me."

"I know it," she said.

Of course she knows it. The woman can't find west if she's driving into a setting sun with a compass on her lap and a flock of geese visibly flying south overhead, but she knows just about every song ever written. 

She asked me how this song could possibly be stuck in my head. I explained that it was on a CD that I would throw in at weddings if the dinner was running long. Before my DJ partner and I could burn our own CDs. "I heard it today in the supermarket," I explained. "It's been trapped ever since." 

I also told her that a quick Wikipedia dive revealed that the song had tanked in 1977, barely scraping the bottom of the Billboard chart, but it was re-released in 1982 after some insane DJ in Tampa began playing it and his listeners - also clearly insane - liked it.   

"I can't believe you know the song," I said. "You even know the ridiculous spoken words in the middle?"

"Yeah..." she said. "What were they?"

"I'm not saying," I said. "I don't want the song any more stuck than it already is."

"If you don't tell me, I'm going to play it." 


"I will," she said, smiling. 


Then she did. She played it, And sang it as it played, To me. Smiling the whole time. Looking beautiful and joyous in a way that only she can. Speaking the words from that ridiculous spoken-word bridge (which is wisely absent from the Youtube version of the song) like she was speaking them to me. Cementing the song in my mind. 

"I've been undressed by kings and seen some things that a woman ain't supposed to see," she sang.

"Yeah?" I said. "What wasn't she supposed to see?"

"Ugly penises." 

I laughed. She's annoying and cruel, but she's funny, too. 

More than 24 hours later and the song is still jammed in my head. She tried to tell me that research indicates that the best way to rid yourself of a song it to play it all the way through. Beginning to end. 

Nonsense, of course. Or at least nonsense if the person you love is singing along. 

Now she's sitting across from me again right now. Same song still playing in my head. It's so awful, and it's going to be with me for days. 

I'm not saying a word to her. She can sit over there and think that my mind is empty of subtle whoring (yes, a line from the song) and Marlow in Monte Carlo and ugly penises.

She can't be trusted. 

Jim and Pam are still together. There is hope.

On the rare day that I'm feeling pessimistic about the world or sad about something in my life, I will often stop and think, "Jim and Pam are still married. As long as they're still together, there is hope."

Sometimes I go back and watch their wedding. It brings me such joy.

I miss those characters from The Office more than you could imagine. 

A goal for 2016: An agreement that these parents are awful, disgusting, rotten people

Can we all agree that parents who actively oppose their child's interracial, inter-religious, or same sex marriage are awful people? 

They are still mothers and father, perhaps still worthy of love and respect, and possibly possessing many admirable and endearing qualities, but they are also awful, disgusting, rotten people.

We can all agree to this. Right?

Because if enough of us agree and make our position loud and clear, perhaps these parents will at least be shamed into keeping their awfulness to themselves and stop making their children's lives so difficult.


It’s a shame when people pose as Christians and give Jesus a bad name.

A Walkerton, Indiana, pizza shop is the state’s first business to declare it will not service gay weddings after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into law last week.


“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” Memories Pizza’s Crystal O’Connor told a local news station. “We are a Christian establishment.”

It’s astounding that a person could claim to be following the teachings of Jesus and believe that discrimination based upon sexual orientation is something he would support.

Recently Washington Post book critic Ron Charles tweeted this:

Seriously, how do you study the Gospels and conclude that Jesus wanted his followers to turn away people they disapprove of? #Indiana

I replied to Charles, offering a possible (and probable) explanation:

In all likelihood, there has been no study of the Gospels. At best, this pizza shop owner has probably listened to out-of-context selections of the Bible, read to her on Sundays by a person who is employed by an organization that discriminates based upon sexual orientation and demands that its employees teach this doctrine to their congregants.

This does not qualify as study. At best, it amounts to biased, second-hand browsing. At worst, it’s a form of indoctrination.

Study requires a careful examination of source materials. It requires an open mind and skepticism. It requires a person to ask difficult questions and give serious consideration to opposing views.

Not exactly the way that services are typically run on a Sunday.

I am not a religious person. I call myself a reluctant atheist. I have spent a great deal of time in Catholic and Protestant Churches and attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School for years, but I simply could not find the faith required to believe. I desperately want to believe in a benevolent God and a glorious afterlife, but I have yet to be able to do so.

But I have read The Bible cover to cover three times – twice in college and once on my own – and based upon those careful readings, I can conclude that there is no way in hell that Jesus would supported the position taken by this pizza shop owner.

If the pizza shop owner actually sat down and read and studied The Bible from beginning to end, the message of Jesus becomes abundantly clear. I may not believe that Jesus was the son of God, but I think he was a brilliant philosopher and teacher whose belief in accepting all people regardless of their differences is clear and profound.

Jesus – without a doubt – would stand against any opposition to same-sex marriages.

Still, I suspect that Jesus would happily eat a pizza from Memories Pizza – especially if their pizza is good – because amongst the many things that Jesus espoused was his belief in both acceptance and forgiveness.

Crystal O’Connor may be wrong about her interpretation of The Bible, and her position on same-sex marriage may be bigoted, but that doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t be able to make a living. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t make good pizza. I suspect that she is probably a good person – better than me – but misled by a church that picks and chooses its Scripture in order to support its own discriminatory positions.

Let’s be honest:

Any institution that places the text of Leviticus over the teachings of Jesus can hardly be called Christian.

There is nothing wrong with a married couple sleeping in separate beds. There’s something very wrong with allowing society to stop you from doing so.

A friend of mine and his wife have separate bedrooms. After a six week business trip, he arrived home to a wife who had never slept better in her life. Since the guest room wasn’t being used, she proposed that he make it his bedroom and allow them to sleep apart each night.

He agreed. He reports that the arrangement has worked wonders, and more than six years later, their marriage has never been stronger.

Holly Allen writes in Slate about her desire for separate beds. After fleeing to the guest room to escape her husband’s illness, she, too, had the best night of sleep in her life.

Allen has no desire for a separate bedroom. Just separate beds, so she can spread out and sleep comfortably without the nightly pokes, prods, battles for covers, and other intrusions to her slumber.


Despite her desire, Allen has not yet forged ahead and traded in her king sized bed for two twin beds. Why?

Society! Mention separate beds today and most people assume marital troubles.

I suspect that Allen’s problem is not the need for a good night’s sleep but something far deeper.

The concern over what other people will think of her sleeping arrangements is fairly juvenile. While there are times when people are reasonably concerned about the opinions of others, the composition of your bedroom furniture should not be one of them, 

The thought that people will even concern themselves with your sleeping arrangements is also fairly juvenile. I was surprised when my friend told me about his separate bedrooms, but that surprise lasted about two minutes. Then I didn’t give his sleeping arrangements another thought.

I wasn’t worried about the strength of his marriage.

I didn’t question the intimacy that he shared with his wife.

I didn’t wonder if their marital bond was deteriorating because of their newfound arrangement. 

Even if I did, why would he care? Even if I assumed that he and his wife were experiencing marital troubles, why would my concern over his marriage force him to continue living life uncomfortably?

Think about it: Holly Allen is living her life uncomfortably in order to ensure that society thinks that she and her husband are happily married.

That is insane.

Allen goes on to explain that chronic bad sleep, has been shown to increase the likelihood of stroke, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. It also contributes to or exacerbates psychiatric problems like anxiety, depression, and attention deficient hyperactivity disorder.

Why must we risk these things just to prove to ourselves that we are happy couples?

We don’t, Holly Allen. All we have to do is stop worrying about what other people think about our bedroom furniture and make a change.

When Allen finally proposes the changes to her husband, she admits to feeling a little hurt when he agrees.

There are clearly issues here far beyond the need for a decent night’s sleep.

Marital advice courtesy of a Moth StorySLAM victory

A friend and I attended The Moth’s StorySLAM at the Bitter End last night. He’s about 15 years younger than me, and while we waited in line outside the club, we talked about his recent experiences with dating in New York. I advised him that above all else, he should avoid getting married before the age of 30.

“It’s the best advice I can give you when it comes to getting married,” I said. “If I look at the people who I know who got married before 30 and the people who got married after 30, the after-30 crowd tends to be much happier in their relationships.”


Later on in the night, I was fortunate enough to have my name was drawn from the tote bag. I took the stage and I told my story, and I was fortunate enough to win.

It’s my fifth StorySLAM victory in a row, which is an incredibly lucky streak. While my performances have all been solid, many other factors come into play when competing in a Moth StorySLAM, including the order that your name is chosen from the bag, the storytellers whose names are not drawn that night and the demographics of the judging teams.

I’m not attempting to be humble in any way by saying that winning five in a row requires an enormous amount of good fortune.

Still, my performances had to be good, too.

After leaving The Bitter End, I texted the good news to my wife, and she texted three words back to me:

You are unbeatable.

I turned to my friend. “Forget my over-30 advice. It still applies, but I have something better. Find a girl who you want to spend the rest of your life trying to impress.”

I turned the phone to him so he could see my wife’s text.

“Find a girl who can say something like this to you and make you forget everything that anyone else has ever said to you. Find someone whose words mean more to you than anyone else. When the happens, you’ll know you’ve found the right girl.”

Winning five StorySLAMs in a row has been a wild ride that will surely never be repeated, but those three words that my wife texted to me last night means more than all my victories.

Ten years after we started dating and seven years into our marriage, and I’m still trying like hell every day of my life to impress the girl who became my wife.

That is the key to a successful marriage.

Placing an engagement ring in food is stupid.

Last week comedian and podcast host Marc Maron proposed to his girlfriend by hiding the engagement ring in a stack of pancakes.

I do not understand the decision to conceal the engagement ring in food or drink. I cannot imagine a single instance in which this is the best or most preferred way to propose. It strikes me as a passive, ordinary, possibly  cowardly and an almost certainly sticky way to propose to a woman.

There is nothing romantic about someone reaching into a stack of pancakes or a glass of champagne to receive their engagement ring for the first time.

engagement-ring-fork ring

In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s just plain stupid. 

It’s not like an effective and memorable proposal is that difficult.

1. Choose the right place.

I chose Grand Central Station in New York City because Elysha once told me that it was her favorite building in the world, and I wanted to choose a place that would be around for a long, long time.

2. Say something great.

I didn’t exactly hit a homerun with my actual proposal, but it was serviceable. The police officer was unexpected, but it worked out fine. You can read the text of my proposal (and the description of the actual event) here. 

3. Put the ring on her finger.

Elysha actually took the ring from me and placed it on her finger herself, but this made sense given we were perched on the landing of a busy staircase in a room filled with hundreds of people. No sense risking one of us dropping the ring while I was trying to slide it on her finger.  

4. THEN eat. 

We had lunch at Ruby Foos with the 25 or so friends who came into New York to witness the proposal, followed by a stroll through Manhattan to Rockefeller Center to see the famed Christmas tree.

But this level of extravagance is certainly not required. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the kitchen with your fiancée following the proposal can be just as sweet.

Just keep the damn ring out of the peanut butter.

Marriage deconstruction tool

In 2011, Facebook was cited as a contributing factor in one-third of divorces. 

The most common reasons cited as evidence were inappropriate messages to members of the opposite sex, separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other, and Facebook friends reporting spouse’s inappropriate behavior.

I find these statistics tragic and unfathomable.


I have three close friends who do not have a Facebook account. All three are men.

I’m starting to think that they are smarter than the rest of us.