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Should You Get Married in Your Twenties? An Investigation

This article first appeared in VICE Canada.

I'm 28-years-old, and three years ago I started the longest investigation of my journalism career: marriage. My wife, Jill, is great, and I'm happy. We have a dog named Abby and a home together. Still, I can't help but wonder what my life would be like if I didn't get married in my twenties. Would I be living the high life as a desirable bachelor or still be wearing cargo shorts?

So far, here's what I know about marriage: It's mostly eating food and complaining about stuff with someone you love. The bulk of your life with your partner is spent in separate spaces doing some boring thing to earn money or pass the time until one of you thinks of a reason to annoy the other. Perhaps one of you found some new food to eat or something else to complain about. It's nice.

In order to find out if getting married in your twenties is a good idea, I interviewed several experts around my home city Regina, Saskatchewan in the areas of sex, politics, spirituality, finances, and children. You see, marriage is like a Hot Pocket: it can look good, but these issues are the filling that can ravage your insides, leaving you empty and miserable. Also like marriage, Hot Pockets aren't that special after the first one. Along my journey, I also surveyed a bunch of strangers around town to ask them whether getting married in your twenties is wise.

Sex

Traditional wisdom says to have a lot of sex before getting married young. Practical experience taught me this was never an option. Still, you have to realize your tastes, preferences and comfort levels will evolve beyond your twenties. When you get married, you will discover what ignites you and your partner's passions—and then only ever do those things after very specific criteria have been met, and one of you doesn't have gas. Unless you're into that.

To find out how young couples can maintain healthy sex lives, I went to Industrial Luv, a Regina sex shop. Surrounded by lingerie and advanced butt technologies, I spoke to operations manager Lisa Phillipson. She said getting married in your twenties isn't a bad idea if you find the right person, but she suggests young couples spend some "alone time" discovering their "hot spots" before committing.

Success!

"Figure out what kind of ideas turn you on, whether they can be ideas that you can actually reach towards or ideas that should stay in fantasy land—having sex with unicorns might not be attainable, but bringing handcuffs into the bedroom could be." I asked Phillipson how a couple in their twenties might introduce props during intimate activities, and she said gradual change is best: "Bringing home nipple clamps right off the bat might not be a good first-time choice."

Later, she taught me about a wide range of options, such as a $300 "smart" vibrator, a Justin Bieber-themed sex doll ("Now with 2 love holes!"), and a 15-inch pink rubber penis called the Great American Challenge. You can't find a solution without facing a challenge.

Advice from strangers
Yes, get married in your twenties: 3
No, don't get married in your twenties: 2

"Live together for a couple years first. People get weird."

"Stay loyal."

"Late twenties is better than early twenties … People in their early twenties aren't fully conscious."

Politics

Your twenties are a volatile time. You've probably spent your whole life learning from your parents or guardians. After a few test runs in the wild with their views, you've probably confirmed your greatest influencers are, in fact, very dumb. It's on you and your partner to come up with your own beliefs. This is not to say you need to agree on all your partner's ideas. You just need to decide which political talking points to avoid around their weird relatives.

In order to get a handle on how young minds should shape their politics, I spoke to a political science professor, Dr. Jim Farney, at the University of Regina. He said "why not" get married in your twenties? He did, and he said it's been wonderful. I asked him about conflict resolution and how to resolve political differences between married people.

Dr. Jim Farney, wondering why he agreed to this interview.

"I would suggest [political differences] are not going to be resolved," he explained, "It would be like the French-English difference in Canada. You're never going to switch to just one language. So you might as well agree to disagree and find ways constructive ways to do that." As for political role models for one's marriage, he cited Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie, whose personal life is "very public" and "very awkward."

Since Dr. Farney is an educator and works around young minds, I decided to be blunt and ask if twenty year olds are too stupid to get married. "Twenty-year-old men, probably yes," he said. Needing more guidance, I asked how I could completely dominate my wife's world views, and the political scientist said I should probably give up.

Advice from strangers
Yes, get married in your twenties: 2
No, don't get married in your twenties: 1

"Try to learn every day."

"Find the funniness in everything that happens."

"Don't do it in this day and age."

Spirituality

Fundamental spiritual beliefs can be tricky to reconcile in a relationship. Spiritual beliefs are like soda: Some people are Coke and others are Pepsi, and that's just the way it is. You might find yourself getting to know someone special, and then you discover they are into one of those batshit crazy, off-brand sodas. Maybe you swore off sugary drinks, and it's weird when their family offers you some. If you love the person you are with, you might have to compromise and water down the "soda" they give you… because it tastes way too Catholic or whatever.

Hail, Satan!

I needed guidance on religion and marriage, so I turned to the greatest power I could, Peter H. Gilmore, high priest of the Church of Satan. Over an email exchange, he had a lot of advice for couples in their twenties. He talked about philosophy, moderating pleasure and the importance of commitment. He seemed pretty chill. Pete, the Satanist, summed up with this:


"... Building lasting partnerships takes effort from all involved, and it may not be easy at times. My wife and I married in our early twenties and now having been married for over 35 years we know that it can be done. As with anything worthwhile, it is not easy, but the rewards are well worth the efforts involved." Hail Pete.

Advice from strangers
Yes, get married in your twenties: 2
No, don't get married in your twenties: 2

"Make sure you really love them, and you're not getting pressured by your parents."

"Common law is easier."

"Once you hit thirty, it's too late."

Finances

Some of the most important questions a couple must consider before walking down the aisle are about money. Do you have enough of it to waste on an a suitably excessive wedding? Is your partner responsible with their finances? How can you trick them into believing that you are? Will you combine your funds? Or, to put this in millennial terms: Will you fuse your debts into a Frankenstein's monster of shattered dreams?

To answer these questions, many people consult banking experts or follow the example set by their parents, but this is a critical error. After all, these individuals probably got you into financial ruin in the first place. That's why I sought advice from the ultimate money expert: a pawn shop owner. Whereas financial institutions are likely the cause of your money woes, pawn shops are a quick solution.

So many used rings, so many divorces!

Bart Johnson owns Cathedral Pawn, and he thinks it's a good idea to get married in your twenties. He said couples should stop and think about what they're actually committing to before getting hitched. For financial advice, he suggested, "Keep your finances separate from each other." Johnson then told me he has thousands of second-hand engagement and wedding rings for sale. He held up a display case with row upon row of rings that sparkled like the teeth of a bear trap.

I asked if any of the rings he had might be cursed, and he said, "You have to wonder if you're cursed yourself."

Advice from strangers
Yes, get married in your twenties: 4
No, don't get married in your twenties: 3

"Do marriage counseling."

"You need open communication."

"Wait. Don't be stupid."

Children

Once you get married, family, friends and strangers will coerce you into reproducing. Their sense of wellbeing is directly linked to you exchanging fluids with your partner and creating life. Brunches, holiday gatherings, and grocery store run-ins will inevitably lead to the question: When are you having kids? This idea will be presented with such frequency, you will consider simply opting out and "getting snipped," and by that I mean cutting your car's brake line and driving into oncoming traffic.

The point is you need to discuss the possibility of children with your partner before getting married.

My friend Dane recently had a kid with his spouse, and he described parenthood to me as "high-stakes pet ownership." Furthermore, my mother often says managing kids is like "herding cats." With that in mind, I decided to test out fatherhood by hanging out in a room full of cats. I arranged to meet with four cats, three of which are siblings that were born under a porch only a few months ago. Their names are Belfour, Juniper, Osler and Jasper. Their human parents told me about the joys of caring for the fur babies.

Yes, this is what parenthood looks like.

"One night I found Jasper licking his crotch and he had his first boner," one happy father told me. I imagined what my life would be like with children as the kittens romped around the room, their eyes alight with curiosity. Feeling some paternal instinct come awake inside me, I asked to hold the entire feline family for a photo. As we settled down, I realized being a parent is about loving something more than you could ever love yourself.

Suddenly Jasper exploded into a storm of claws, gouging my throat and sending the other cats out into the night like meowing shrapnel. I'm allergic to cats, so the skin around my wounds immediately became inflamed. Children are dangerous; they left me looking like I got a hickey from a garburator.

Advice from strangers
Yes, get married in your twenties: 3
No, don't get married in your twenties: 3

"Work hard."

"Never go to bed during an argument."

"If you were like 14 when you got together, I guess it's not that bad to get married in your twenties."

Love

After talking to so many people about marriage, I wondered if I was losing track of the point of all this. Advice swirled in my mind like a wedding speech caught in a blender. I saw flashes of Justin and Sophie Trudeau, used engagement rings, Satan, giant rubber dicks, and furious cat eyes where certainty once was. Seeking comfort, I went to the only person I could: My wife, Jill.

My wife Jill, who is a very, very good sport.

She said it was a good idea for us to get married in our twenties. I asked what it would take to keep the "spark alive" while we plan an entire lifetime. "Try to do new things together, go on trips, experience new things that are different," she said. I asked if she knew about nipple clamps; she said she'd heard of them. In that moment, I saw beyond her look of confusion and concern and into her heart. I knew everything was going to be OK.

We got married because we fell in love, and we both decided to make that bond the most important thing in our life. And that, I think, is the Greatest American Challenge.

Advice from strangers
Yes, get married in your twenties: 3
No, don't get married in your twenties: 3

"Stay happy."

"There is no good advice."

"Don't fuck it up."

Conclusion: Sure, get married. Just don't have kids.

Follow Devin on Twitter.

How to Get Your Boyfriend to Wash His Dick

I have a long history of being a nosy person, and offering my opinion to people who sometimes aren't really asking for it. This extends to a lot of topics, but one of my favorites to butt into is other peoples' relationships. So I decided to reach out to my loving fan base on Twitter and Instagram to see if I could actually give some solicited advice for a change and answer some sex and relationship questions. 

I should preface this with saying that if your submission is one that I've answered below, please take my advice lightly. If you're reading this and you think that what I've said can apply to a situation that you're in, just know that I'm one of the most jaded, lonely, and cynical people you'll ever encounter. Now, with all my potential guilt assuaged, here we go:

OK, I feel like this is a super fucked up situation, but a while ago before my partner and I were sexually open, he cheated on me (water under the bridge), but now the guy who he cheated on me with keeps messaging me and wants to "hang out." Now I'm torn between feeling the satisfaction of rejecting this guy, or feeling the satisfaction of having the equal experience as my partner. 
Oh my god, what a predicament. That's more power than I'd like to have. There are a couple of scenarios I can suggest. Basically, it boils down to whether or not the open relationship you're in requires disclosing to your partner who you sleep with, and if he'd get weird about you sleeping with the person he cheated on you with. Because it feels like fucking this person would be for a half-vendetta (which is hot) but if it's going to cause a rift in your relationship that's too big to repair, it's not worth it.


If everyone is chill and mature and it's not just everyone having a kink for unnecessary drama, have some casual sex with the guy. It could help bring some closure to the cheating situation. But you said it was water under the bridge, right? ;)

Dearest Puppyteeth; I have two lovers. One we'll call Soft & Tender, the other is Rough & Rowdy. They both know about each other (I started to see S&T during some planned time away from R&R). Every time I leave R&R's I'm covered in bruises. I feel weird having S&T see me all marked up, but I also don't want to miss out on terrific spankings. Do you have any advice? 
Hey! I sound like both of these people, depending on how much Domino's I've eaten before the hookup. 

Do you feel weird about the bruising because S&T has brought up being put off by it, or just personally? If you definitely don't want to be bruised when you see S&T, it might just be an annoying game of staggering your dates with each partner. Also, I am a fan of full disclosure. Explain to S&T that you like getting spanked and your other partner likes to spank you, and that it doesn't impact or affect the quality of your sex with them, and if they can't wrap their head around that, maybe just find a second R&R and get spanked double.

How do I tell my boyfriend he needs to wash his dick without hurting his feelings?
There probably isn't really a way to tell him that won't hurt his feelings to some degree. Whenever I've had to mention it to a guy, I always aim to bring it up as casually as possible. Instead of having shower sex every time, just say something like, "Hey, do you mind washing up before we start, I like it fresh down there." If he can't understand your standards of hygiene without getting insulted, he's not worth keeping around. Honestly, the equation washing dick=getting dick sucked shouldn't be too tough to grasp.

My new partner is entirely sober while I'm not. They'd been sober a few years before they met me, and continue to maintain their sobriety through going to meetings, taking medication, having sponsors, etc, and most of their close friends are also sober. I don't struggle with addiction, but I'm not at all close to sobriety, and neither are my friends. I absolutely don't pressure them to do anything, and they say that me not being sober doesn't at all bother them, but in the back of my mind I still kind of worry it might be a deal breaker at some point. Can this relationship work in the long haul?
I chose this one because I am sober, so I feel like I might have some actual insight into this. Every person is different in their sobriety. I have sober friends who don't hang out with non-sober people. Most of my friends still party, and it's something I've adjusted to. From what I've read, you're just going to have to trust your partner when they tell you they're okay with you not being sober. They have a few years under their belt, and probably have a good bearing on their triggers. If they say you aren't one, you have no reason to not believe them.

Taking that into account, I would still try to be respectful from your side, and considerate of their sobriety. I say this because I have had partners who weren't sober and it wasn't an issue until I saw them too fucked up one too many times. I'm not saying hide who you are, but just stay cognizant of whether the inebriated you is someone they want to be around, or if you should censor yourself for the sake of the relationship. Trust that they'll raise concerns if they arise, and let them know you expect that from them.

Well, that concludes this installment of my advice column. As long as people keep getting into sticky situations and asking me about them, I'm down to keep responding on a really public forum. What could possibly go wrong?

Jaik Puppyteeth is an artist in Vancouver.  Follow Jake on Twitter and Instagram.

How to Treat Moms, According to Moms

Children are often terrors and babies are essentially selfish jerks, but those aren't the only reasons being a mom is the hardest job on the planet. So many well-meaning people misinterpret the expression "it takes a village." Maybe it's your mother-in-law or that guy walking his dog past you on the street—it's amazing how often people feel the need to offer unsolicited advice to mothers. Or backhanded compliments. Or just plain shameful looks at a mother nursing her hungry, clawing, wailing child in public. How about instead you offer some understanding and compassion?

We spoke to mothers who have been through it all—the first smiles, the stomach viruses, the unimaginably stinky diapers. They shared tips on how they would like to be treated, the things that helped and the things that absolutely didn't.

One Is Not the Loneliest Number

I think probably the common offensive thing to me is when people look at my belly and ask me when I'm going to have another. I'm a nurse and my patients saw me when I was pregnant. They ask me about my child all the time, but they also ask me about having another kid all the time—as though somehow I'm being a bad parent to my daughter because I'm not providing her with a sibling. Like, poor her. I know people that are singletons that are well and capable. Their parents didn't have to go into bankruptcy to put them through college. They're stable individuals. I tell them it's not that easy. If I don't tell them, they keep asking, so I end up saying I've had five miscarriages and explain how hard it was for me to get pregnant. Between health insurance and daycare, having a just one kid is very expensive. If I had another, I'd probably have to quit my job and stay home to take care of them. - Leah

You Are Not Alone

Let us know that it's OK when our kids act up, that you've been there too. My son was having a total meltdown in the checkout area, where the candy and trinkets are posted for impulse shoppers. He wanted to buy a magnifying glass for old people. It had all these LED lights all around it. I mean, it was kind of cool, but it was $8.99, and I told him, "No, you can't have it." He started screaming and throwing stuff out of the cart. I was so embarrassed, and I was whispering, "Stop it!" under my breath.

I was all sweating because there was this older couple behind us, and I thought they were thinking that I'm a bad mother who can't control her child. But then they said understandingly, "Oh, we've got four of our own. We've been there." And it was great and so helpful, because then I could really let it all out and tell him to cut it out. I could be stern. There's a fear of being a disciplinarian in public. I went apple-picking and saw a grandfather wail on a kid, and I have an internalized fear of being seen like I saw him. But this couple gave me a bit of relief in a moment of kid-related stress. - Nicolette 

Illustrations by Brandon Celi.

Save the Compliments for Someone Else

Stop giving awkward compliments about moms' bodies. It is a universally acknowledged truth that moms feel weird about the way they look after they have kids, because things get all stretched out and rearranged. It's this awful kind of adult puberty situation. I understand that well-meaning friends and family think offering compliments about moms' bodies might make them feel better. But for me, it always lands wrong. My body didn't tend to inspire tons of surprise and awe before I became a mom, so for it to come from people now feels fake and condescending.

"You look great for someone who's had two kids," to me, sounds like a backhanded compliment: "Maybe not by youthful 20-year-old standards, but for a mom, you're doing OK!" Besides, feeling awkward and gross about my body doesn't make me want to talk about it more! It makes me want to talk about literally anything else. So let's not do this performative thing of "My, how you've changed!" because duh, I've seen myself naked lately. - Ciara 

This Is How It Takes a Village 

New moms are all different. They all react differently to their babies. New moms are basically in shock. Good shock, but shock. Because it is impossible for anyone to imagine the reality of a baby. We all need to be treated with respect and offered support. And that can come from many different sources. The most important thing is that you need female support because other women have a better physiological understanding of what's happening. And social programs, when available, are so important in their impact.

My first child was born in White Plains, New York. As soon as she was born, the White Plains Public Library came to the hospital and gave me a free copy of the book Goodnight Moon. They directed me to show it to her everyday before bedtime to establish a nighttime routine. It was great and it worked in getting her to sleep and we both fell in love with the book. That was a program that was critical for me. It was positive and encouraging—two things new moms need.

Also, the City of White Plains sent out a visiting nurse to new mothers once a week for a month—that is such a critical time. I was inexperienced and basically had never changed a diaper. Not only did they teach me a few skills for comforting the baby and meeting her needs, but they also asked me how I felt physically. People often forget that moms went through a huge physical change and focus only on the baby. These were the two most comforting and positive things that kept me going during that lonely time. - Mary Ellen 

More Than Just a Mom

I am a different person than I was before my son came along, so please treat me with respect and don't judge me. Life gets very complicated once you have a child. I am exhausted, and my toddler's hugs and kisses are interspersed by kicking and hair-pulling. I can use a little compassion. After moving halfway across the country to be closer to family, I became a stay-at-home mom (SAH). It wasn't a difficult decision at the time, but I struggled with my new mom identity. I often feel shame when I have to write on forms that I am 'unemployed' or feel judged when I share that I can afford to stay home with my son. I wasn't always a mom. I was a friend, a colleague, a restaurant-goer. Oh, and a well-rested, engaging, sometimes flirty and high-functioning member of society. I may be different now, but I'm still a feeling individual, just more evolved and less employed. - Ryann

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