Tag Archives: Debate

The Case for Getting Married If You Want to and When You’re Ready

694px-PolyloveThis post was inspired by a tweet from Grace: “‘The Case for getting married if you want to and when you are ready.’ Someone get on this.” Originally posted on March 28, 2013.

Marriage isn’t only for opposite sex, monogamous couples who want to have kids. It should be an option for any constellation of consenting adults for the following reasons:

Symbols matter. Of course you can have love and commitment without marriage (or marriage without love or commitment) but the act of reciting vows or slipping a ring onto your finger is a powerful reminder of your emotional bond.

Longterm relationships are difficult. Sometimes you’ll be so frustrated with your significant other(s) that you wonder why you ever fell for them. Marriage is a public proclamation of your love and commitment that invites your community to share your joy and pain. A promise spoken out loud in front of everyone carries more weight than one you think but never say because it transforms an intention into a tangible demonstration of your emotions.


Photo by Penyulap.

Sympathetic friends and family members can also pull you through these tough times by reminding you why you married your spouse(s). Don’t underestimate the value of listening to outside opinions when you find yourselfhashing over the same issues with your significant other(s). Not all of this advice will be useful, of course, but sometimes a fresh point of view can help you understand the parts of your marriage that aren’t working well at the moment.

It protects you legally. To give just a few examples, if your spouse becomes extremely ill you automatically have next-of-kin status at the hospital. Upon their death you automatically inherit their assets if there isn’t a will. You can foster or adopt children jointly. Sponsoring a spouse for residency or immigration is faster and easier than sponsoring other relatives.

Should these benefits be constricted to married people? The answer to that question would fill its own blog post but right now marriage comes with a long list of benefits that aren’t available to the legally single.

 Married people have more satisfying sex lives. Ignore all of the TV shows and movies that portray marriage as an instant libido killer. Statistically speaking married couples have more and better sex than the single folks we assume are having much more fun than us. Trust and communication are incredibly sexy once you’ve been together long enough to know exactly how to turn your partner(s) on emotionally and physically.

The institution is evolving. Almost everyone living in the west chooses their own spouses and marries for love. The system is far from perfect but we are slowly creating a society that accepts a wide variety of ways to live. I believe there is great value in  changing our cultural expectations of marriage to a more inclusive and egalitarian form of it.

In no way does this mean that everyone must get married. What makes me happy might make you miserable but it can be a beautiful experience if it’s something you’re interested in pursuing.


Do you agree with me? What have been your experiences with marriage?


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People Aren’t Projects

Originally posted on March 11, 2013. 

“Let’s go talk to the street preachers!” Drew teased this past weekend. I raised my eyebrow and glanced over at him, trying not to roll my eyes.

Muslim, Jewish or Christian, street evangelists in Toronto share the same goal: to convert you. Certain groups loudly berate (female) strangers they think are too scantily clad. A handful are mentally ill, arguing with people who aren’t really there or exhibiting disorganized thought patterns if you listen to what they have to say. Others are quite friendly and knowledgable, especially if you can get them to discuss something other than religion.

After a year or two of living here I began avoiding all of them because people aren’t projects. It’s just as inappropriate to yell at strangers that they’re all going to hell as it is to take advantage of an existing friendship to push the issue.

Evangelism isn’t just a religious phenomenon, though. I’ve seen people use forms of friendship evangelism to convince others to:

  • Eat certain foods
  • Avoid other foods
  • Lose weight
  • Gain weight
  • Own a car
  • Use public transit
  • Get pregnant 
  • Raise your kid my way
  • Switch to reusable shopping bags*
  • Vote only for candidates from party X 

Regardless of whether those around them actually needed advice or had any intention of considering unsolicited input.

Do some of these urges come from a good place? Yes. Wanting other people to experience the same joy you do from a certain experience or decision is completely understandable but adults are responsible for their own lives.

Attempting to transform a friendship into a situation in which one person knows best for another taints every interaction. Am I asking about your latest doctor’s visit because I’m genuinely concerned or because I want you to buy megadoses of a particular vitamin that is sure to fix your incurable disease? Are you wondering for whom I voted in the last provincial election because you are thinking about voting for someone new or so you can make sure I’m not a Pauper?

It comes down to this: debating differences of opinion is healthy. By all means question the why and what of other people’s ideas and identity’s but condensing another human being to where they stand on one issue and then trying to “fix” that part of them doesn’t build trust. It erodes it.

*Yes, I have actually seen so-called grown ups get snippy about this one.


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Free Speech Isn’t Only for Ideas You Like

Someone (thanks, Mel!) sent me a link to this story about Daryl Banther and his 8-year-old son. The poor guy. He just wanted to hand out pamphlets and religion “surveys” to unsuspecting festival-goers in Georgia. But the cops chased him away….

He thinks he should be allowed to pedal God. In a way, I agree with him. But there’s an appropriate time and place for that.

– From Evangelizing.

It was difficult to condense this topic into a short quote. I highly recommend reading the original article and Deborah Mitchell’s response to it in order to understand the nuances of the story.

Raising Kids Without Religion is a fantastic blog, but I disagree with Deborah’s assertion that it is inappropriate to pass out tracts at a public event. If anything, public events are an incredibly appropriate place to discuss your beliefs so long they don’t fit into the short list of exemptions to free speech.

After all, free speech isn’t only for ideas we like. In order to work properly it must apply to people we vehemently disagree with as much as it does to our beliefs. No one is guaranteed the right to never hear ideas they find offensive, heretical, or just plain objectionable. Daryl has just as much right to pass out pamphlets and discuss his beliefs in public as the rest of us have to ignore him.

After living in Toronto for eight years I’ve become quite adept at quickly walking past the too-friendly smiles of preachers, performers, and salespeople while in the busier parts of town. 🙂

Assuming the accusations are true, should Daryl have been asking children he’d never met before for their home address and telephone numbers? It might be legal, but I have serious ethical issues with anyone attempting to extract such private information from minors. Any adult who tried that in my city would be perceived as incredibly creepy. No one approaches strange children here without getting permission from their parents or caretakers first, although I acknowledge that this sort of thing may be more socially acceptable in Daryl’s community.

If he broke the law he should be ticketed or arrested, of course, but I cannot support the officer’s decision to pressure him into going home that evening if he wasn’t doing anything illegal.

Ideas aren’t inherently dangerous. What matters is what we do with them and how we treat people who see the world through other lenses.

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Is It Ok to Not Like Kids?

A response to I Don’t Like Kids. There, I Said It

I actually agree with much of what Nissa has to say on this subject. Many years ago I decided to never become a mother for the same reasons she mentions: a complete lack of interest in parenting, a strong preference for a quiet, orderly adulthood and a desire to not add to the seven billion+ humans already in existence. To be honest I don’t think life on earth is going to be pleasant for anyone in 50-100 years and I’d rather not be responsible for creating one or more people who would still be alive if and when ecosystems collapse.

It makes me cringe when other Childfree adults say they don’t like children, though. Let’s substitute a few other groups in that sentence. Is it ok to say you just don’t like black people? Bisexuals? Women? Mormons? New Democrats?

Any group will include members who do things others find irritating but it’s counterproductive and unethical to punish everyone for something one person said or did. Not all children are noisy or distracting. My favourite activity as soon as I learned how to read was picking a good book and curling up to read behind the couch or underneath my grandmother’s piano while the adults talked.

Occasionally new grown-ups treated me like a nuisance because they assumed I couldn’t sit still and be quiet. Nothing could be further from the truth and being treated differently based on their pre-conceived expectations hurt. Now that I’m an adult I see no reason to say, “I don’t like kids!” (Or the equally inane, “I love kids!”)

Specific behaviours may be annoying or endearing but there will always be children in this world who are nothing like your ideas of them.

A few years ago a romantic dinner with my husband was marred by a table full of demanding, shrieking…businessmen. Every man at that table was so drunk he didn’t realize how loud their table was or that not everyone found them amusing.

Kids are individuals. I adore some of them, like others, and have met a small handful that I never want to meet again but the same can be said for Christians, lesbians, bloggers, cyclists, and librarians . 😉


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Grammar Matters

Scrabble_tiles_enGrammar matters.

Fourteen years ago when I first joined in on Internet conversations I was surprised by how often the people I met online ignored basic punctuation, capitalization and spelling rules. Over time this lax approach to the English language has only grown worse.

When I read a blog post or article riddled with errors I assume the author doesn’t take his or her work seriously. If the author won’t take five minutes to proofread his or her words I’m probably not going to finish reading them. The written word is one of the most powerful tools humans have developed over the past five thousand years and we should strive to preserve its rich history, not ignoring the rules in order to save a few seconds.

It’s more difficult for me to read articles, blog posts and emails that don’t follow the basic rules of grammar than the ones that at least try to obey the rules of standard English. Sometimes commas save lives, and I’d much rather keep reading than pause to figure out if a certain word is purposefully misspelled or if it’s a new slang term.

Of course we all make occasional mistakes. I don’t expect perfection from myself or anyone else but it’s troubling to see such a rich, beautiful language morph into endless abbreviations and ambiguous meanings.

I’ve known people who learned English later in life and take the memorization of irregular verbs and plural nouns quite seriously. Someone else I know has a mild learning disorder that makes reading and writing difficult. They still try to communicate effectively.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask everyone else to do the same thing.



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It’s Not a Debate if Everyone Agrees

Photo by Flicka Catherine.

Photo by Flicka Catherine.

This series of essays about whether women should wear makeup caught my eye.

Of the seven entries three say we should wear it. The other four think it’s a personal choice but all but one of them either regularly wear makeup or are married to women who do.

No one seriously questions why women feel they need to wear makeup or argues that our culture would be better off without it. No one even asks why we’re still having this debate in 2013, as if what a woman puts on her face is at all relevant for the 99.99% of us who aren’t professional models.

I know people who’ve worn it daily, occasionally or not at all for as many years as I’ve known them. Sometimes we gather in the same room and proceed to not care at all about what other people do with their skin.

If we were bored I suppose we could broach the topic but it would be an actual debate. One in which some think makeup is an expensive waste of time (or worse!), others who never leave the house without wearing it, and still others who find it useful for, say, formal pictures.

Framing these essays as a debate is like me asking if Star Trek: Voyager was the best drama of the 1990s or of the entire 20th century while one person argues that the last few seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation were better.

Trekkies may care but everyone else is wondering why the frame for the original question is so lopsided.


Do you find yourself equally irritated with loaded questions? What is the point of hosting a debate so heavily weighted from one perspective that everyone more or less agrees with it?

Most importantly, which series was better: Voyager or TNG? 😉

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Why We Need More Books About Forbidden Fruit

CDC_cherimoyaA proposition for 2013: we need more stories about forbidden fruit.

In Love and Other Perishable Items Amelia, 15, and Chris, 21, fall in love while working together at a grocery store. They’re both trapped in unfulfilling lives for different reasons and find kindred spirits in one another. Of course, acting on their feelings is illegal until Amelia reaches the age of consent.

What surprised me the most about this book was how quickly it was labelled controversial. It’s difficult for me to argue against that label without giving away spoilers but this story is pretty tame even under the standards of mainstream teen fiction.

Teenagers falling in love with older people is nothing new. It happened regularly in the small, midwestern town where I lived as an adolescent and young adult. A childhood friend started dating a guy who was in high school when we were in the 7th grade. I lost touch with her after graduation but during our senior year of school they were planning their wedding.

Not everything in life is black and white.

Another story: one of my closest friends in junior high and early high school was a a gifted writer and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He also smoked weed. A lot of it. On paper the quiet, obedient, honors student that I was had nothing in commons with this boy and yet he’s the only classmate I miss. Our connection was never romantic but I’d love to see how his life turned out.

No, I’m not encouraging anyone to break the law. But we do teens – everyone, in fact –  a disservice when we assume that their feelings aren’t real or that if we mention “controversial” subjects without sermonizing they’ll take that conversation as a license to do whatever they want.

It’s entirely possible to read a book, listen to a song or watch a movie without emulating the characters.

It’s also possible that nuanced discussions on topic X make people less likely to try it in unsafe ways. I almost always saw through the myths adults told me about sex, alcohol and other hot topics. What they really taught me was that their opinions couldn’t be trusted but factually accurate information is empowering.


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A Response to Should Schools Teach About Relationships

If I had the time and resources to take up a cause, I can think of none better for me than to lobby the school boards to include relationship courses in their curriculums.  And I would want such courses to not only teach kids a variety of relationship skills — such as how to negotiate with others and reach a fair compromise — but perhaps most importantly, how to recognize, avoid, or escape from an abusive partner.

From Should Schools Teach About Relationships?

Click on the link to read the rest of Paul’s post. I actually agree with almost everything he said but I  have some concerns about this idea that I’d like to discuss today.

First, who would create this curriculum? The public high school I attended taught abstinence-based sex education. Because our community was so religiously fundamentalist and politically conservative the curriculum rigidly reinforced 1950s gender roles and assumed every student was heterosexual. Academically it was a fantastic school but I shudder to think what they would have taught us about relationships in general had health class been expanded to include this.

Second, how would you avoid controversy? Some families believe in strict hierarchies, others are egalitarian. Others say that their god intended men and women, adults and children to assume certain roles in the family depending on their age and gender, others don’t believe in god or don’t think god wants these things. One culture’s expectations of privacy, what love looks like or how to tell if your relationship is a good one may be quite different from another culture’s opinion. This is not to say that we can’t find common ground, only that I think creating one definition of healthy relationships that every culture and religion agrees upon can be tricky.

Third, can this help teens who have already been abused? Statistically speaking about 25% of  the students will have been sexually abused, 11% physically abused, and 9% neglected by age 18 and none of these statistics include verbal or emotional abuse. [source]. For a significant percentage of the class this is something they’ve personally experienced. It’s not an abstract discussion. I do wonder if learning what a healthy relationship looks like will help them not to continue the cycleas a victim or a perpetrator. Many abused children grow up to be great parents…but some recreate what happened to them with their own kids. But I also wonder if bringing up painful memories in a non-clinical setting is a good idea…


What do you think? Does Paul have a good idea? How would you structure a class about healthy relationships?

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3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Agree with Everything You Read

CloudCoverRecently I had a conversation with someone who doesn’t understand my tendency to read blogs and books written by people with whom I disagree. Why not focus on everyone who sees the world exactly the way that you do?

Well, many of the writers I follow do agree with me. There’s comfort in spending time with people who share your beliefs and don’t need lengthy explanations about X, Y or Z.

With that being said here are 3 reasons why it’s beneficial to read stuff that ruffles your feathers, too:

1. You might be wrong. I might be wrong, too! There’s value in holding opinions in the palm of your hands instead of in a clenched fist. Occasionally I’ve  changed my opinion midstream when the person I’m speaking with introduces me to a new way of looking at the topic. Even if everyone walk away with no changes to our ideas we will at least know how others think.

2. They’re good writers. Knowing how to clearly communicate through the written word is a gift.  I’ve winced through far too many poorly-constructed books, blog posts and essays in my 29 years to continue giving them my attention. At this point I’d much rather focus on story-tellers (fiction and non-fiction alike) who know this craft well enough to creatively break the rules.

3.  Friendly disagreement sharpens your mind. Disagreement doesn’t always mean conflict and  conflict isn’t always bad. Once one begins to temper the urge to always be right there is so much we can learn from examining what it is we believe and why it is we believe it. It takes a long time for me to grow comfortable enough to do this with other people as it can lead you to quite vulnerable places. The list of folks who have made it so far is fairly small (and even they know not to push certain topics) but the rewards are long-lasting.



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Haircuts vs. Human Rights


Faith McGregor walked into the Terminal Barber Shop on Bay St. in June to get a haircut…Shop co-owner Omar Mahrouk told her his Muslim faith prohibits him from touching a woman who is not a member of his family. All the other barbers said the same thing.

Local readers have no doubt already heard about this case. Faith is taking her complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and it will be interesting to see what happens with it in the near future.

Photo by Corpse Reviver.

Some Torontonians worry that if the tribunal decides the Terminal Barber Shop can refuse service to a woman because of her gender it will begin to roll back the effects of the Human Rights Code of Ontario. (U.S. readers should note that Canadian laws and culture in this area are a little different from what one finds in the States. Please click on the link for more information.)

Others think it’s wrong for the barbers to be forced to do something against their religious beliefs. There are plenty of other barbershops in Toronto that don’t have a problem cutting a woman’s hair. Why not just take your business elsewhere?

What I find incredible about this case is how much attention it’s received so far. In a city as sprawling and multicultural as Toronto surely this issue has come up before. Need a prescription to be filled or a medical procedure to be completed? I’m all for insisting that pharmacists and doctors either do it themselves or ensure you’re quickly referred to someone who is able to look after you. Outside of the medical field I think there’s a little more leeway, though.

If general-your religious beliefs prohibit you from touching women outside of your family why not hire one person to work in your shop who is comfortable with it? Or find a nearby competitor who is happy to take some of your business?

I’d gladly walk a few extra blocks for a 10-20% discount on a haircut. In fact, I’d give good word-of-mouth advertising to both shops if they were friendly, helpful and apologetic about the hassle. This way everyone wins – the customer gets a good deal, the competitor gets extra money in his or her till and the original barber doesn’t have to disobey his god.

With that being said I also understand Faith’s point of view. Being a woman is difficult enough without having to walk down the street and guess which businesses are willing to serve you. Open to the public shouldn’t be restricted to 50% of the population any more than it should be reinterpreted to mean only for a certain religious or ethnic group.

What I don’t see is why this has to be a legal battle.


Am I missing something here? What do you think? What local news stories have puzzled you lately?



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