Image via IStockPhoto.comQuestion: My partner, Rudy, died about three months ago and I've been in the process of handling of his estate (which, since we couldn't legally marry, has been a nightmare, but that's another story). My question for you isn't about the injustice of antigay inheritance law, though, it's about Rudy's Facebook page. I was thinking of deleting the account soon, but I see that many of our friends continue to post on his wall - almost as though they're talking with him. This actually gives me a lot of comfort ,so now I'm on the fence. Have the rules of etiquette caught up with death and dying in the twenty-first century?
Answer: First of all, my condolences on the loss of your partner, and my sympathy for the inevitable difficulties you're having with estate law. Losing a loved one is so difficult for anyone, and it's doubly cruel for a surviving partner in a relationship that's not legally sanctioned.
You make an astute point about the evolving rules of etiquette around death and dying.
Blog Posts by Steven Petrow
- Steven Petrow | Healthy Living – Tue, Jan 17, 2012 6:09 PM EST
Image via IStockPhoto.comQuestion: My partner, Rudy, died about three months ago and I've been in the process of handling of his estate (which, since we couldn't legally marry, has been a nightmare, but that's another story). My question for you isn't about the injustice of antigay inheritance law, though, it's about Rudy's Facebook page. I was thinking of deleting the account soon, but I see that many of our friends continue to post on his wall - almost as though they're talking with him. This actually gives me a lot of comfort ,so now I'm on the fence. Have the rules of etiquette caught up with death and dying in the twenty-first century?Read More »from Straight Talk: What to Do About Facebook After a Death
- Steven Petrow | Healthy Living – Tue, Dec 20, 2011 4:53 PM EST
Image via IStockPhoto.com Question: Since you write so often about the fact that "language matters," I'm curious whether it's OK to wish friends and colleagues a "Merry Christmas." When some people say it, I sometimes feel that there's a subliminal message of evangelical Christianity with all its trappings, including homophobia. So, is it "Merry Christmas," "Happy Hanukkah," or "Happy Holidays"?
Answer: Actually, I think you have it a bit turned around, my friend. You may not have heard, but there is a hushed (and sometimes not so hushed) "War on Christmas." Conservatives (whether Christian or not, I can't say for sure) complain that the milquetoast greeting "Happy Holidays!" is an effort by a "Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert-Nancy Pelosi-Barney Frank" conspiracy to kill off Christmas as we know it. Apparently, their nefarious goal is to have no more "Santa Baby," no more White House Christmas tree, and no more jolly greetings of "Merry Christmas!"
If anything, Gov. Rick Perry has only added to thisRead More »from Straight Talk: When "Merry Christmas" Means "Bless Your Heart"
- Steven Petrow | Love + Sex – Fri, Dec 16, 2011 2:48 PM EST
Image via Workman Publishing.With the legalization of same-sex marriage and civil unions making a steady march from shore to shore (and in between), chances are there's a gay wedding in your future. If that wedding (or commitment ceremony) is your own, congratulations! If it's the wedding of a friend, coworker or family member, congratulations again! Either way, you'll need help getting ready to celebrate the day with grace and style. That's why I wrote The New Gay Wedding: A Practical Primer for Brides and Grooms, Their Families and Guests (Workman Shorts), which will help you navigate this still-unmapped territory, providing answers you won't find in traditional wedding-planning books. (This original e-book is adapted from my great big book on etiquette, eponymously titled Steven Petrow's Complete Gay and Lesbian Manners: The Definitive Guide to LGBT Life.)
The first thoughts about any wedding or commitment ceremony (after the romantic bits are taken care of!) usually center on logistics: the invitations,Read More »from The New Gay Wedding: Everything We All Need to Know
- Steven Petrow | Parenting – Mon, Dec 5, 2011 4:36 PM EST
Image from OutVite.comQuestion: I've been in a relationship and living with my girlfriend for 18 months now. This is the second year my parents haven't addressed their holiday card to the two of us - even though they include my brother's wife and my sister's husband on each of theirs. I don't want to make for any more Yuletide drama than necessary, but what is the best way to tell them I feel slighted and to get them to include her?
Answer: Let's start on the high road, which is always the best place to be. I trust that when you've sent them birthday or holiday cards, you've signed them from both of you ("Love, Margaret & Pam") and that your return address (whether hand-written or one of those pre-printed labels) says something like, "Spaulding-Rich," "Margaret & Pam" or some other variation that is both easy to copy and makes clear that you are a couple. If you haven't, please start there. I've found that folks of a different generation sometimes get all twitchy when they don't know how to addressRead More »from Straight Talk: “When Mom and Dad Don’t Include Your Partner on Their Holiday Card”
- Steven Petrow | Love + Sex – Mon, Nov 28, 2011 4:40 PM EST
(Image via IStockPhoto.com)Q: I'm so excited that the holidays are almost here. My friends call me a "Christmas junkie" - that is, when they don't refer to me as "the gay Martha Stewart." Maybe it's because I'm still trying to recreate that perfect Courier & Ives experience. Anyway, here's my question for you (actually two questions): My boyfriend, Houston, and I are going to my parents' home for the holidays, and I haven't come out to them yet. I was thinking that I'd tell them about Houston and me once we're already there, but he isn't so sure that's a great idea. And then there's the question of where we sleep when we're home. I think if my parents knew we were a couple they'd split us up, but if they thought we were just friends they'd likely let us bunk together in my old bedroom (twin beds). As you see, so many questions!
A: Yes, so many questions, so little time! If I understand your predicament correctly, your parents think you're straight and are visiting for the holidays with a buddy - not aRead More »from Straight Talk: Home for the Holidays with My New Boyfriend
- Steven Petrow | Parenting – Mon, Nov 21, 2011 10:14 AM EST
(Image via iStockphoto.com)Q: I was having dinner with some friends last weekend, and of course the subject of the Penn State scandal came up. One of the straight guests was on a rant about it, and said, "This is a perfect example of why gays shouldn't be parents." I was so angry I was afraid to say more than just "that's crap!" The group changed the subject immediately - but I feel as though I missed a chance to teach this ignoramus a thing or two. Is there an appropriate way to talk about issues like these without losing my temper?
A: Given the explosive nature of this topic, congratulations for limiting your outburst to "that's crap!" I, too, would have been hard-pressed to restrain myself. But as you can imagine, I'm a proponent of civility, not only as a value, but also as an effective tool to persuade others to your point of view. (That being said, if a rant or a chokehold is due, it's against Jerry Sandusky, the alleged child molester, and the Penn State officials who abrogated both their legal andRead More »from Straight Talk: What to Do If the Sandusky Scandal Comes Up at Thanksgiving
- Steven Petrow | Work + Money – Wed, Sep 28, 2011 10:50 PM EDT
Q: I've been with my partner for two years now. When Diane first met my folks, she, being from the South, called them "Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So." After we had made several visits they suggested Diane call them by their first names, which she has done now for quite some time. As for me, Diane's Southern parents have never said, "Please call us Margaret and John," and I find it odd to still be referring to them as "Mr. and Mrs. Mason-Dixon" after all these years. Now that we're planning to get married, I'd really like to suggest a name change to something less formal so that it actually feels like we're a family. Is it OK to just ask them? By the way, did I mention we're adults - in our late 30s!?Read More »from Straight Talk: “What the Heck Do I Call My In-laws?”
A: Here's the bad news: Southerners are funny about their names (and I say that with some authority, living in North Carolina and having a born-again Southerner as a mother-in-law). For those of a certain generation down south, it's been a long tradition to refer to one's elders as "Mr. and
- Steven Petrow | Parenting – Wed, Sep 14, 2011 11:20 PM EDT
Q: I'm a grandma who with two adult children, one of whom is trans. She was my son and isnow my daughter. My other daughter has two young 'uns - 11 and 13 - and she doesn't want them knowing anything about their new aunt. I think they need to know, if only because we'll all be getting together for the holidays, and something needs to be said. I'm very proud of my "new" daughter and want to help her with her niece and nephew, but my other daughter insists I keep out of it until the kids are older. I can't keep out of it - so what's the best way to help? Oh, and is she now their aunt instead of their uncle?
A: Two snaps to you - first for sticking up for your trans daughter and second for standing up to your other one. You're absolutely right when you say, "something needs to be said." It's not as though your new daughter can join the family without some sort of introduction that makes note of her new gender identity and the name she's chosen to go by.
For help with yourRead More »from Straight Talk: How Do I Help My Trans Daughter Be Accepted By Our Family?
User Post: Straight Talk -- “What’s the deal on the ‘gay-to-straight’ therapy that Michele Bachmann’s husband practices?”By Steven Petrow | Healthy Living – Tue, Jul 19, 2011 12:08 AM EDT
Q: I've been trying to follow the media coverage about the mental health clinic that Michele Bachmann's husband runs, but I'm not sure what "reparative therapy" is. Can you explain?Read More »from User Post: Straight Talk -- “What’s the deal on the ‘gay-to-straight’ therapy that Michele Bachmann’s husband practices?”
A: First, let's be clear on one point: there's a big difference between so-called "reparative" or "gay-to-straight" therapy and legitimate psychotherapy. Many gays and lesbians, especially when they're first coming out, find that fully qualified, gay-affirmative therapists can help them build self-esteem, overcome any shame or pain over being gay, and develop new social skills that can lead to stronger relationships. For instance, after I came out to my parents (eons ago), they "suggested" I go see a psychologist, which I did. Ironically, I wound up in the hands of a very capable gay shrink who helped me tremendously and set me on a firm path for the remainder of my twenties and beyond. Of course, not everyone who is coming out or gay needs to go visit a therapist; far from it. After all, being gay is
- Steven Petrow | Work + Money – Fri, Jul 8, 2011 8:39 PM EDT
Q: My husband and I are retired, with two grown children. Our daughter got married 10 years ago, and we paid for most of that wedding - we'd been saving for it since she was born! Now our 36-year-old son is planning a wedding to his partner of many years. We're delighted for them, but we don't know what's expected of us. We didn't plan on paying for a second wedding, and we're in no position to do so, but we do love him and his partner very much. And, while I'm at my computer, let me ask this: what's the role of mother and father of the grooms in a gay wedding? Does Dad actually have to give our son away? My husband might find that a little embarrassing!
A: How wonderful for your son to be planning a wedding, and how considerate of you to be thinking about your involvement. The good news is that there are few set rules about gay weddings, so the grooms-to-be will likely be thinking outside the metaphoric box as they make their plans. Your only required role is to provide themRead More »from Straight Talk: “Do we pay for our grown son’s wedding?”