Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sex, Lies, and You - part III of III

This series of posts is in direct response to this blog post and the related discussion below.  As much fun as comment whack-a-mole is, it does get time-consuming and exhausting.  So I decided to organize my thoughts and put them all in one place. 

Other thoughts –

We tend to focus so myopically on sex, whether you’re abstinence-only or pro-sex education.  We (as a whole) have completely lost sight of relationships.  Not enough people know how to build and maintain good relationships, and not nearly enough people know how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship.  Among the relationship guidance I’ve encountered, I see two types:

1) Marriage is sacred and lifelong.  Do not ever consider divorce under any circumstances, for thou shall be singlehandedly responsible for the decline and fall of Western civilization.  Yea, though you have just returned from the ER after being treated for a head wound, and though you have long forgotten what it feels like to have sex out of love instead of out of physical coercion, thou shall continue to serve thy husband and meditate upon your failings as a wife. 

2) Leave at the drop of a hat.  He had a bad day and said something snappy?  Gone.  She had a bad day and said something snappy?  Gone.  Who care if you have built a 10-year marriage and have 2 children, a house, and a dog?  GTFO.  Now.

I’m exaggerating, obviously, but not by much.  I would like to think most people have more sense than that, but if you reach a point where you seriously need some guidance, there really isn’t anything useful out there.  Although I recently found reason to hope, because this is exactly the type of advice we need more of; notice how he states practically verbatim the concerns I have in his first paragraph.

And don’t even get me started about those “how to pick your spouse” guidelines.  (Here and here are just the first two that caught my eye).  One Christmas my mom even gave me “The ABC’s of Choosing a GoodHusband.”  After I was already married.  Thanks, Mom.

My litmus test for “how to choose your spouse” guidance is in two parts:

1) Would it have helped me avoid my hellish first marriage?
2) Would it have steered me toward my husband?

In every single case, the answer is “no,” and “no.”  Frankly, this is disturbing to me.  I would LOVE to find something that would have helped me avoid my first marriage, because I would LOVE to shout it from the mountaintops, email it to everyone, tape it on everyone’s desk …. you name it.  No one should have to go through what I went through.

If I could re-design our sex-ed classes, I would incorporate a mental health focus as well as a physical focus.  I would like to see some broader, more comprehensive discussion about relationships, and sex in that context.  Let’s talk about:

1) the types of things you find in good relationships, and what sex means in a good, committed, long-term relationships.  (Here’s a clue – it’s not like the movies)

2) the types of things you can do to be a good partner  (Here’s a clue – also not like the movies)

3) the types of things you find in abusive relationships, including some early warning signs and how sex can be used as a weapon in these types of relationships (Just for fun – Edward Cullen is example A)

4) how to figure out whether you can fix your relationship or need to leave

5) how to fix your relationship / how to leave safely

6) resources for fixing / leaving

7) lots and lots of examples and case studies

8) Sex -  What it means in a committed relationship (a lot), and what it means in a casual relationship (virtually nothing).  Emphasize that relationship symmetry cannot be assumed and cannot be easy to determine; this holds true for time and emotional investment, not just sex.  Interestingly, your best chances of relationship symmetry are really two extremes: one-night stands and marriage.  Let’s cover nuts and bolts, birth control, the fact that there is ALWAYS a risk of STD transmittal, and the fact that there is ALWAYS a chance that you will create new life.  New life is an awesome responsibility, and every sexually active person should have a plan for any new life that may be created.  Here’s a clue: abortion is not a plan.

“But Athena,” I hear.  “That’s WAY too much ground to cover!”  Oh yeah?  Too bad.  Without any discussion of context, discussion about sex means nothing.  We have such a void and a lack of wisdom regarding relationships, and we need to fix it. 

“But Athena,” I hear the conservatives say, “that’s what parents are for.  They model a healthy marriage so that their children know what to look for in a spouse.”  Awesome.  First of all, they’re not doing it.  They’re just doing the same “Sex is bad, mmkay?” that everyone else is doing.  Second, having one healthy relationship as a model isn’t particularly useful.  What if you know that model isn’t for you? 

I’ll give you an example - my parents have a healthy marriage.  They must – they’ve been together for 40 years and they both seem happy.  In their marriage, my mom calls all the shots and my dad is basically along for the ride.  Also, my mom disdains physical affection.  How many guys do you know that would put up with that dynamic? What if I actually enjoy affection?  Am I wrong?  How do I know what elements of their marriage are “healthy” and to be emulated?  How do I know what elements are completely subjective?

My husband and I also have a healthy marriage; we love each other and are ridiculously happy.  We decide things together and are very affectionate with each other and with our children.  I don’t follow their example at all.  If I had tried to, I would be with someone who was completely wrong for me, and I would likely be miserable.

So here I am.  Just me speaking out about the lies I was told and how what I was “supposed” to do would have been destructive to me.  Doing what I can to share the truth so that hopefully no one else has to go through what I went through. 

Sidebar –

At one point I was accused of being “sanctimonious.”  I assume that’s because I momentarily prattled on about “truth” like it’s a thing and made a reference to an omniscient God that I believe in.  I further assume that it’s because I invoked “truth” and “God” with regard to things that this individual didn’t agree with.  So let’s take a step back – if someone sounds “sanctimonious” when they don’t agree with you, why do you expect to communicate effectively when you are being sanctimonious yourself?  Food for thought.  Maybe think carefully about what you want to say and how you say it to maximize how receptive people are to what you want to say.

But damn – every once in a while it sure is fun to get a little “sanctimonious” and watch people get mad!  Not nice, I know – but fun!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sex, Lies, and You - part II of III

This series of posts is in direct response to this blog post and the related discussion below.  As much fun as comment whack-a-mole is, it does get time-consuming and exhausting.  So I decided to organize my thoughts and put them all in one place. 

“If you have sex before marriage, your marriage will be forever cheapened and your bond will be forever lessened.”

See also: “If you have sex before marriage, you will forever be comparing your spouse to previous lovers.”

Really?  Based on what?  How do you know?

Part of the problem with discussing this type of issue is that people have generally walked one path or another, and they have no genuine concept of what it’s like to walk the other path.  Plus, for some reason, people feel the need to degrade anyone who has chosen differently than they have.  I think that must be where we’ve gotten all these myths and lies about sex; I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t a deliberate attempt to slut-shame.

I don’t know anyone who compares their spouse / significant other to previous partners.  I don’t do it, my husband doesn’t do it, none of my friends do it.  What the pro-abstinence group fails to understand is that each relationship is unique such that there’s really no such thing as a comparison; it’s a non sequitur.  Now, that doesn’t stop SOME people from trying; except they’re not really comparing – they’re purposely trying to make their current partner feel bad about themselves.  Again, the issue is not the sex; the issue is the abusive person trying to emotionally bludgeon their partner.

“If you have sex before marriage, you will forever struggle with infidelity.”

It boggles my mind that people seriously think that there’s no difference between having sex with someone while single (i.e. not committed to anyone), and cheating on your spouse (whom you have committed to).

I chalk this up to (again) people with no understanding of interpersonal relationships spouting baseless universals.  Here’s a clue: if you waited for sex until your wedding night, you have no basis from which to tell the rest of us what we are or will be experiencing.

“After the sexual revolution, marriage as a whole went down the toilet.  Therefore sexual permissiveness leads to bad marriages.”

What kind of permissiveness?  The kind of permissiveness where you think it’s okay to break a vow of fidelity you made to your spouse?  Yep, that’ll do it.  But that’s not usually the kind of permissiveness people are talking about.

So, a few other things were happening simultaneously around that time.  Recall that from about 1945 on, we would send large groups of PTSD-afflicted men home to their families and act like nothing had happened.  Mental health support for returning soldiers was even more nonexistent than it is now.  So what happened?  Abuse.  Lots and lots of abuse.(*)  These were very sick men and we released them on our most vulnerable people – women (pre-feminism) and children.  PatrickStewart discusses his particular experience with great wisdom.  Suddenly there’s a lot fewer people teaching their children about love and healthy relationships.  Suddenly a lot more children grow up without an example of what a healthy relationship is.  And we blame the decline in marriage on sexual permissiveness?  One has nothing to do with the other.

(*) This is the closest thing I could find on my assertion, and here is the post it came from.  Notice the spikes that kinda sorta coincide with when PTSD men would be coming back from combat.  I am actually having  a really hard time finding support either way for my assertion – I dunno, maybe I fail at Google?  I would genuinely appreciate anything that you could direct me toward, because I want to know if I am right or wrong.  I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that if the rate of homicide peaked, the rate of domestic violence peaked, because both result from mentally ill people.

“Married sex is the best sex.”

This is mostly true.  Except when it’s not.

See also: “Sex outside of marriage is inherently abusive.”

Marriage is not a magic wand, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to the Cult of Virginity folks.  Again, see my earlier point about symmetry in relationships.  Sex within marriage can be plenty demeaning and abusive, as I experienced in my first marriage.  All of the sex I had outside marriage (even the casual sex) was far more healthy, both emotionally and spiritually than ANY of the sex I had in my first marriage.  After I finally got divorced (and I thank God every day for the existence of no-fault divorce), all the sex I had afterward brought me joy and healing and made me ready to be a good wife to my second husband.  Sex with my husband now is by far and away the best sex ever, because of the love we share and because of the marriage we have built.  Everything I did before my husband just pales in comparison and fades into the background.  Not sure how my experience before is "cheapening" my relationship with my husband if it occupies exactly zero space in my mind.

“If you have sex before marriage the relationship will become all about the sex.”

Tell me, what’s to stop a relationship from becoming all about the sex after marriage, hmm? 

If I may submit for your consideration, couple A and couple B.

Couple A – Has sex on the first date (or third, or twelfth – doesn’t matter).  Lives together for about a year, goes through some really formative experiences together, and decide to get married because they are right for each other.

Couple B – Decides to wait for sex until marriage.  Spends their days counting down to the wedding date, unable to think or talk about anything except how they can’t wait to have sex with each other.  Sure they talk about their compatibility, but it’s all theoretical since their various assertions of “oh we’re so perfect together!” are never really put to the test.  Plus they have a bad case of “saying what they think the other person wants to hear” since they can’t stand the thought of starting all over in the dating pool and waiting even LONGER to have sex.

Which one of these relationships is “all about sex” again?  That’s what I thought.

Far too frequently, people that are waiting until marriage rush down the aisle far too quickly so that they can have sex, only to find out, after the sexual tension is gone, that they are horribly wrong for each other.

“But Athena,” I hear, “your example couples don’t really exist.  The male in couple A wouldn’t even ask for a second date because he doesn’t respect the female.  That’s just how guys work.  And couple B would never happen because people who are waiting until marriage are very careful about who they marry and wouldn’t make that mistake.”

Oh really?  Would it blow your mind to know that couple A is my husband and me?  Lived together for 9 months, married for 5 years (so far).  He loves my daughters like his own and we just had a baby boy in May.

Couple A is also a couple in our group of friends.  Lived together for 5 years, married for 2 years (so far).

As for couple B, how else do you explain the significantly higher divorce rate in populations where people are religious and get marriedyoung?  Hmmmm?  (Not perfect congruence, obviously, because there are other factors at work.  But you can’t ignore this factor.)

“Just because everybody’s doing it doesn’t make it okay.”

Maybe not.  But you can’t go around claiming that sex outside of marriage will lead to the utmost of disasters and the end of the world when almost everybody is doing it and civilization has yet to collapse.  In fact, most people seem to do just fine, with no ill effects.

Well, you can claim that the sky is falling, simply because no one is stopping you, but no one will take you seriously.  And you have no one to blame but yourself and your hyperbole.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sex, Lies, and You - Part I of III

Sex, lies, and you, Part I of III

This series of posts is in direct response to this blog post and the related discussion below.  (What?  It takes me a while to get my thoughts in order sometimes.)  As much fun as comment whack-a-mole is, it does get time-consuming and exhausting.  So I decided to organize my thoughts and put them all in one place.  This will read like a series of lies and my responses, based on observation and experience.  You know, like, facts.  Not baseless assertions, not insults, not condescension.    

Anyway, here we go -

“Sex is just an animalistic act.”
See also: “Sex is the deepest giving of yourself.”
See also: “Women are hard-wired to bond deeply during sex.”
See also: “Men are hard-wired to not commit and use women for sex.”

No.  Well, yes.  Sometimes. 

Sex seems to mean whatever your relationship with the other person means.  It’s that type of “sex has inherent value” thinking that leads to rape and sexual assault victims feeling ashamed and “ruined” (see Elizabeth Smart).

So, yeah – people are absolutely correct when they say that “everyone should decide for themselves.”  Because everyone’s situation is different.  Two spouses who love each other will experience the deepest giving of self during sex.  Two virtual strangers who have a one-night stand merely perform an animalistic act.

Here’s a clue: recognizing that context matters doesn’t mean moral relativity.

Regarding the disparity in wiring between men and women – how can you say this and then turn around and say, “Oh, sex within marriage is the deepest giving of self.”  Do you not see how this undermines the concept of sex being a bonding experience within marriage?  How can anyone possibly bond with such a gross disparity supposedly “hardwired” in?  Further, this nonsense all but excuses the way some men treat women like objects: “It’s in their nature.”

 “God’s law says that only sex within marriage is okay.”

Awesome.  Let’s have that discussion.  Totally separate from slut-shaming, putting virginity on a pedestal, broad pronouncements about “universals” of experience that don’t exist, and all that other crap.  Principles of interpersonal relationships appear to exist independently of what laws God and the Church have in place.  That’s why it doesn’t follow that, for example, “People who have sex before marriage and don’t regret it have inherently dysfunctional relationships.”  It doesn’t work that way.  And when you lie to people, it will only work until they figure out they are being lied to.  Then see if they ever trust you again.

“If you have sex before marriage, you will regret it.”

Maybe.  I’ve noticed among reading many testimonials and meeting many individuals that if you have sex because of other people you will probably regret it.  “Because of other people” means a variety of things, including being pressured into it, seeking love or acceptance, or feeling like you “should” for whatever reason.

On the other hand, simply holding sex up on a pedestal sets you up for disappointment, either in yourself because you didn’t wait as long as you wanted (and now you’re “ruined”), or in sex itself when you finally get married and realize that it’s not anything like the movies.  It’s better than the movies in a lot of ways, but you have to be open to appreciating sex for what it IS, not what you WANT IT TO BE based on books, movies, or porn.

However, if you have sex because you want to, with symmetrical feelings and expectations, those are the people with no regrets, because they had sex for the right reasons.  This is why sex within marriage usually goes so well – if two people love each other enough to get married, it’s pretty clear at that point that their relationship is symmetrical with regard to emotion and commitment.  On the other extreme end of the spectrum we have the one-night stand, another event with two people with symmetrical feelings and expectations (i.e. virtually none).  This is why one-night stands also tend to go well.

Where you run into trouble is either a friends-with-benefits arrangement or a dating relationship.  There is an EXTREMELY high risk of asymmetry, meaning one person has more feelings than the other one.  It’s when there’s a disparity in feelings and expectations that the trouble begins.  Issues are compounded by the fact that these two individuals tend to be immature enough to not SAY anything to each other, or ACT prudently on what they know to be true, so they suffer / assume in silence, while the problem grows.  “Well it wouldn’t be an issue if they weren’t having sex!”  Baloney.  Asymmetry in relationships is ALWAYS a risk in relationships.  Stories abound of unrequited love between friends, or of couples who are dating or even engaged where one person is more in love than the other, as well as the classic left-at-the-altar story where someone’s heart gets broken and there is NO sex involved.  Sex is not the issue; the disparity in expectations is.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Influence in the battle of the sexes

Do me a favor, would you please?  Read this piece, and flip through a handful of comments.

Notice anything?  It appears from the comments that the disparity in research between "how women influence men" and "how men influence women" is ironclad proof of a Feminist Triumph!


First of all, I am assuming that we are excluding for our purposes any research regarding "how marriage influences women" because heterosexual women tend to marry men, if they do marry.  Or it could be that studies regarding how marriage affects women tend to have corresponding studies on how marriage affects men.

That being said, I have an alternative to the "Feminist Triumph!" theory.  Feminism definitely has a footprint, but we are still very much living in a patriarchal, masculo-normative (is that even a word?) society.  Thus, the focus is on how the introduction of women (or "independent variables" as Ms. Waldman states) affects the "norm" of a male-dominated environment.  As such, this disparity in research actually evidences how far feminism has yet to go in creating a society where "maleness" and "femaleness" is seen as equally valuable and equally good.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Five things ACA supporters are just learning (Part III of III)

… that ACA opponents knew from the beginning.  That’s why we were ACA opponents in the first place (duh).

See the full article here

Continued from Part II –

“4. Obamacare is immensely complicated.”

Tell me, what part of “2,000-page bill that no one has read” said to you, “The ACA is simple, intuitive, and straightforward”?  Here’s a clue: the correct answer is “Nothing.”

“5. The exchanges offer limited choice of doctors.”

Not just the big, bad insurance companies here.  Doctors themselves are opting out.  Yes, those paragons of selfishness, who racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, actually want to make enough money to pay off their debt, provide for their families, AND live the decent lifestyle that they have worked for years to achieve.  The horror!

In all seriousness, this is one of the biggest ways that companies cut costs – by limiting the range of benefits and in-network providers.  That’s how HMO’s work.  They are crazy effective at cutting costs, but the price of cutting costs is limited choice.  The ACA’s effect on insurance policies is no different – if you mandate lower costs, the first thing to go is a range of choices.

My designer insurance reform:

1) Get rid of state-specific insurance plans.  Let coverage be nation-wide.  This would increase competition (lower premiums), give each company a wider policyholder base (lower premiums), reduce state-specific administrative difficulties (lower premiums), but would also mean more claims payouts (higher premiums).  On balance, I think this will result in lower premiums.

2) Ditch the insurance-through-employer model (See part II).  This will hopefully eliminate the moral hazard problem as people pay for exactly the coverage that it’s worth it to them to pay for.  I think this will result in lower premiums.

3) Subsidized risk pools (See part I).  This will result in higher premiums, but I think all three points together will result in lower premiums and more satisfaction with coverage, on balance.

If you have any other ideas, or if I am wrong about anything, or I forgot to address something really important, please let me know.  I am genuinely interested in how to help fix our healthcare system without the train wreck of the ACA.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five things ACA supporters are just learning (Part II of III)

… that ACA opponents knew from the beginning.  That’s why we were ACA opponents in the first place (duh).

See the full article here.  

Continued from Part I – 

“2. Many people will lose their current insurance.”

You don’t say.

Supporters of the ACA accurately state that technically there’s nothing in the ACA that forces insurance companies to take your plan away from you.  It’s the big, bad insurance company’s fault that you can’t keep your plan.

Yes, the big, bad insurance companies are doing exactly what anyone who paid attention in Econ 101 said they would do – change in response to the new regulatory environment.  With the new “minimum essential coverage” guidelines, all these plans are being legislated out of existence.

If I could just digress a moment to discuss these theoretical “junk” plans.  It’s the new talking point that everyone is getting a better plan.  This is just straight-up not true.  Story after story abound *cough* about people having to pay an exorbitantly higher amount for the same or fewer benefits.

Now, that being said, here is an area where I am actually with the ACA supporters – ACA opponents are complaining everywhere that because of the way different types of people are now lumped together, men are having to pay for maternity care, breast cancer, and a host of other female-specific conditions.  They’re not complaining so much that women have to pay for male-specific conditions, so I guess that’s not as big of an issue to them.  /eyeroll.

Listen here kids – if men’s and women’s premiums are all lumped together to pay for BOTH male-specific and female-specific conditions (setting aside maternity care for a second), on balance it’s a wash, unless there’s some huge difference in how common certain conditions are.  Which I don’t think there is; if you can find something to prove me wrong, please do.

Now – returning to maternity care – how do women get pregnant?  What’s that you say?  Because a man voluntarily had sex with her?  Awesome.  Guess why I don’t care that men are griping about having to pay for maternity care?  Show me a man who’s a virgin – he’s the ONLY one with a legitimate complaint in this department. 

“3. You don’t have to buy through the exchanges.”

Now this one right here isn’t technically about the ACA.  This item has more to do with the lack of general knowledge about open market insurance options.  And that makes sense - if most people are getting subsidized premiums through their employer, they have no need to go anywhere else.  It wasn’t until I switched jobs and decided not to pay $2000 a month to insure my family that I investigated my open market options.

The purpose the exchanges serve is a guaranteed place where anyone could buy insurance.  But since no one is likely to get on the exchanges for quite some time, and also since many of the big carriers are opting out of the exchange, I don’t think it’s going to be very effective.

But while we’re on the subject, it’s bullshit that the only way to get an insurance subsidy is to buy through the exchange.  Why can’t I buy a policy on the open market and then claim a deduction on my 1040?  Would that have been so bad?

Also, why are premiums paid through my employer deducted straight from my W-2 wages (thus lowering my AGI), while premiums paid myself are deducted elsewhere on the form and do not lower my AGI?  My AGI is used as a base to calculate the allowability and amount of several different deductions, so buying insurance myself (as opposed to through my employer) is essentially a penalty.

If it were up to me, I would scrap the insurance-through-employer model.  I would also scrap the insurance-pays-for-everything model.  I would make health insurance more like auto insurance.  You buy it on the open market, decide who you want on your policy (self, kids, grandma, down-on-her-luck friend, neighbors, parents, ANYONE), decide what your catastrophic illness deductible is (with the understanding that regular doctor visits are out-of-pocket*), and your price is adjusted accordingly. 

*One thing to remember with health insurance – if you have a high deductible plan and go to the doctor before you hit your deductible, look at your bill.  Your bill will show gross charges, “plan discounts” or some such, and the amount you owe.  Even though you’re paying out-of-pocket, you’re still not paying 100% of charges.  Whenever I’ve gone to the doctor with my high deductible plan, my actually out-of-pocket cost has actually been pretty darn good.

To be continued …

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cartoon roundup!

All right, everyone, it's time for a cartoon roundup!  In which I comment on cartoons that have struck my fancy, in no particular order -

Now here is one where I actually would appreciate reader commentary, since I'm too busy lazy to do my own research.  Also, I want to hear people present the best of the other side.  I am as pro-life as you can get, but in the meantime, it makes sense to hold physicians who do that sort of procedure up to a high standard.  Especially given the fact that abortions DO go wrong, and when they do, they leave the mother AND the baby dead (as opposed to just the baby).  My (unsupported) understanding is that there are some politics regarding who has hospital admission privileges such that a rule regarding hospital admission privileges wouldn't solve anything.  Also, that supposedly Gov. Brown's bill doesn't result in any reduction in safety to the woman.  Anyway - I'm open to thoughts here.

Yeah.  This one pretty much goes without saying.  More costs to insurance companies, healthcare providers,  businesses, and policyholders.  It just sucks all around.  Tell you what, let's pass a law that sucks up all sorts of costs from various sources and wonder why the economy doesn't recover!

The only thing I would add is that this seems to be a first resort (rather than a last resort) when it comes to criticizing the President.

To be honest, I'm pretty tired of hearing the "you can keep your health plan" drumbeat.  We get it - the President lied.  But I've heard it so much I don't care anymore.  So why did I include this cartoon?  Three words: Smoky the Bear.  Such a well-recognized symbol of good forest stewardship whom I was introduced to in kindergarten; he makes me smile.

This.  Is there anything on the news that's NOT alarmist and sensationalist anymore?

Yeah.  Exactly.  Never mind that the House Republicans were using their Constitutionally designated powers.  Never mind that the Senate Democrats could have agreed at any time to Republican bills that authorized funding the government if only Congress's ACA exemption was lifted.  Nope.  It's all 100% the Republicans' fault.

I think that's enough for now.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five things ACA supporters are just learning (Part I of III)

… that ACA opponents knew from the beginning.  That’s why we were ACA opponents in the first place (duh).

See the full article here.  

“1. Premiums will go up for many people.”

Tell me, those of you who paid attention in Econ 101, what happens when you simultaneously:

1) Increase costs of suppliers (forcing insurance companies to cover more services and more people)
2) Increase risks to suppliers (forcing insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions)

Guess what?  Suppliers will grab additional revenue from wherever they can.  In this case: you, the esteemed policy-holder.

Now, I know I’m oversimplifying a bit for the sake of brevity and clarity, but nothing I omitted changes the underlying principles of how market participants respond to market changes.

Having said that, I know that in our current healthcare marketplace, insurance companies essentially function as the gate-keepers to at least half-way decent care.  I also know that these same insurance companies have regularly abused the pre-existing condition disqualifier.  If you have a cold when you attempt to sign up for insurance, oh look!  You have a pre-existing condition and are not covered for anything.  I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

Normally I’m in favor of free market solutions, but when abuse of the little guy is so rampant and widespread, I think we need to do something via government channels.  To address the pre-existing condition issue, assuming no other health reform was taking place, I would have supported simultaneous:

1) Limits on what is considered a pre-existing condition such that any given insurance company could deny someone coverage.

2) When a person applies for insurance, a decision will be made whether to cover them or not within 72 hours.  If that person is denied based on one of the allowable pre-existing conditions, the insurance company issuing the denial has 72 hours to both notify that individual’s state Department of Health and Human Services (or whatever it’s called in their state) AND send a denial letter to that individual either electronically or by mail so they have evidence of being denied coverage.

3) Such individuals are covered through a federal or state-run subsidized risk pool which would hopefully provide better reimbursement than Medicaid.  Such a risk pool would be funded by ….

4) A tax levied on all health insurance companies operating in that state (or at a national level – either way).  The amount would be determined annually by actuaries and would use a company’s premium revenue less claim payouts as a tax base.  Additional reductions to the tax base are allowable for claims paid for any individuals who could have been denied coverage based on the list determined in step #1.

This approach would ideally accomplish:

1) Limitations on pre-existing condition denial abuse by insurance companies (step #1).

2) Incentives for the insurance companies to nevertheless absorb the cost of people with pre-existing conditions (step #4).

3) For those companies who would rather someone else pick up the tab – fine.  But they are going to give the applicant a quick decision (step #2), help pay for it (step #4), and timely provide the necessary documentation to allow that applicant to get coverage (step #2).

4) Coverage for anyone who applies for it (step #2 or #3).

5) Incentives to keep premiums from rising too much (step #4 and the lack of “minimum essential coverage” guidelines) and incentives to keep collections from insurance companies reasonable (step #4).  Any funding shortfalls would have to be made up the next year.

Let me know if I missed anything.

To be continued ….

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This just in - kale is gross

Yep – I said it.  When I want a salad, I often half-joke that I am craving leaves, but kale is just a bit too dark and leafy-flavored for me.  Although it’s not too unfortunate with some bleu cheese and parmesan peppercorn dressing.

So do I really have to eat it? 

Oooo, shiny.  I have a feeling I should really dig into all those tables and colorful charts and really take control of my diet.

WebMD sings the praises of kale.

But the Herald-Tribune?  "The fiber in kale can aid digestion in general … [but it] can be hard on the digestive system [and] cause bloating, gas, and other abdominal issues.”  First – huh?  Second - uh oh.  My husband is probably not going to like me very much tonight.  Also, kale seems to have compounds that have been associated with kidney stones and gallstones, and others that can suppress thyroid function.  Hmmmm.

So how much should I eat?  Well, since I currently eat, I dunno, NONE, I suppose I can at least eat a little bit more.  With some bleu cheese and parmesan peppercorn dressing, of course.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Great quotes (part 3)

C.S. Lewis:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen.  Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

I tried to explain to my agnostic husband at one point that faith results from a perception of God's existence more than anything.  I think Lewis said it better than I.

Mike Adams:

I would not even trust a Marxist to give me directions to the grocery store.

This guy likes to be offensive and exaggerate, but this one sentence made me crack up.

John Lewis:

Mitt Romney comes across like a sort of bizarre-world combination between John Kerry, Richie Rich, Charlie Crist, and Data from Star Trek.

I think that about covers it.  Goes a long way towards explaining last November, no?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Managing Finances Like a Man

My husband doesn’t like dealing with money. For years, I’ve handled everything from paying the bills to making the decisions, and he just does whatever I tell him. This makes things really hard on me, but he says financial issues cause him stress. Do you have any suggestions?
Carol Lee
Dear Carol Lee,
The plain truth is you need your husband to step up and be a man. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but it’s unfair for you alone to carry the weight of all financial and household decisions. It would be unfair, too, if he were the one carrying it all. This isn’t a gender issue.
Normally I enjoy reading Dave Ramsey’s columns.  Usually he is full of good sense and compassion.  In this case, this paragraph left me taken aback.  Wait a minute!  I manage all the money in my family – does that mean my husband isn’t a man?
Then I reread the first paragraph.  I see what the problem is.  She feels overwhelmed with doing all the finances herself.  I guess that’s the difference.  I have a system, and managing the finances is pretty easy for me.  I guess that comes with having a CPA.
But it did start me thinking – is this dynamic sustainable?  Just because I feel fine now about managing all the money doesn’t mean I’ll feel fine about it forever.  And what about my husband?  Is he going to resent me at some point?  I hope not.  In the time we’ve been together, he’s gotten better about telling me when something’s bothering him, which is handy since I can’t read his mind. 
I guess I’ll just chalk this up to one more way that my husband and I are not like any other couple we know.  And just trust that my husband will let me know if and when it becomes a problem.  That’s all you can do in marriage, right?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Convalidation Conundrum (part II of II)

Is a convalidation a wedding?  And does it merit a wedding celebration?
I did some poking around on the rest of the internet, and I did find that I’m not the first person to have this question.  I also found the “vow renewal” thing refuted:  
“It is important to realize that a convalidation is not merely a renewal of vows made previously but is a new act of consent by each spouse.”
And accordingly, Canon #1157 states that, “The renewal of consent must be a new act of the will concerning a marriage which the renewing party knows or thinks was null from the beginning.”
So does that mean we can have a wedding?  From the same site as above: 
“Customarily, since the couple’s married life is a known and public fact and may have been so for many years, a simple celebration with an invitation to close family and friends may seem more appropriate than a large celebration.”
I see.
Frankly, it’s bullshit that I even have to ask this question in the first place.  Plenty of couples (including Catholic couples) live together for so long that they are common-law married before they actually get married.  In some cases they even have a couple kids together.  Those couples do the all-out wedding celebration and no one bats an eye (except the previous couple generations).  My husband and I were at least honest enough to make it legal as soon as we knew that was the direction we wanted to go, and my girls have benefit from having a father figure for all this time.  Yet we are the ones getting penalized.  Apparently, it’s not tacky to live together indefinitely and have children before having a big white wedding, but it IS tacky if you have a big white wedding for your sacramental marriage after previously demonstrating your intent publicly with a civil wedding. 
Yes, I realize I sound like a stodgy old conservative (even though I am still of childbearing age), but if everyone gets to live like a married couple before marriage and STILL have a “real” wedding celebration, then it really shouldn’t matter whether you have a wedding celebration for your legal marriage, sacramental marriage, or the second Tuesday of every month.
I don’t know what we’re going to do yet.  I am warming up to the idea of a wedding celebration, tailored for the things we care about and excluding the things we don’t.  Not because I want to “recreate our wedding day” or to “relive my one glorious day of being the center of attention.”  (Although, admittedly, if you need other people’s help to make something happen, being the center of attention comes in handy.)  It’s because our story is awesome, and it’s worthy of being celebrated.  When we don’t celebrate our milestones, we say to each other and to everyone that we don’t matter. 
And we do matter.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Religion is a great cop-out

No, really.  It is sometimes.  I was teaching my 4-year-old Sunday school class yesterday, and I had the following exchange with one of the kids:

4-year-old girl: Do you have a baby in your belly?

Me: Why, yes I do!

4-year-old girl: Why?

Me: Because God sent me and my husband a baby.

That is as much about the process as I am willing to explain to a 4-year-old child who is not mine.  Being able to blame it on God gave me the perfect out.  So yes, I freely admit that in this situation religion was a great cop-out to avoid having to actually explain anything.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Convalidation Conundrum (part I of II)

Is a convalidation a wedding?  And does it merit a wedding celebration?
Those are the questions I have as my husband and I go through the convalidation process.  Out of curiosity, I sent my situation and my question here to see what type of opinions and answers I would get. 
To my surprise, I didn’t get nearly as much snark as I expected.  The admin and many of the commenters had some constructive, articulate thoughts and offered some well-wishes.  That made me smile and gave me some material to work with.
However, the admin suggested that having a wedding celebration was tantamount to having a vow renewal “in which the couple recreates their wedding day” or “for the wife to relive her one glorious day of being the center of attention.”  Seriously?  The reason I began with the ho-hum details of my civil wedding was to avoid that type of assumption.  A wedding celebration would be in no way recreating my wedding day or reliving anything about our wedding.  If I wanted to recreate / relive my wedding day, my husband would be the center of attention and we would both wear jeans and sneakers …. just like we did 3-1/2 years ago.
She went on to say, “If you and your husband truly believe that the convalidation ceremony carries far more spiritual and theological significance than your civil wedding, then the fluffy trappings of a big wedding day should be irrelevant.”  By that logic, no one should ever go to any trouble to dress up or celebrate any event at any time.  The reality, however, is that big celebrations and events are how we mark milestones of deep significance, and that will continue to be the case for as long as human beings have a physical nature (as well as a spiritual nature).
And the snark did come out, as I knew it would.  Frankly, it’s part of the entertainment of the site. 
“I’m glad to see the Admin’s response.  I get so annoyed with couples who have a civil ceremony and later decide to have a big fancy party because ‘ we wanted a church wedding.’ If you want a big fancy party, admit that you want a big fancy part, instead of pretending it has anything to do with your religion.”
Spoken like someone who: 1) didn’t even read what I wrote; and 2) has no clue what a “church wedding” is or what the significance is. 
It’s not that the civil marriage is not also “real” in its own right.  We are “really” married in the eyes of the state such that we are a social unit for various purposes, and I changed my name.  The convalidation is a different type of “real.”  After this ceremony, we will be married in the eyes of the Church.  Also, the Church marriage is indissoluble in a way that the civil marriage is not.  So from where I’m sitting I’ll admit I have some nerves about that, owing to the seriousness of the commitment (not because I’m afraid I’m committing to the wrong guy).
“As a non-catholic, I find the original post and some of the comments a bit confusing. Some write that the church ceremony is the important one, and only after that you are married in the eyes if God. But still some, including the OP, have been only legally married when they moved in with their respective partner. If the church ceremony is the one that matters, then these people have been living together without being married in the eyes of their god. Isn’t this a sin, if you are actually religious?
To me, it feels like people are trying to have it both ways: marry legally early, and have all the benefits of marriage because it was convenient to do so, and then have the big wedding at a later stage, and get the party. But, if you really are truly religious, then you couldn’t live together before you were married also in the eyes of God? And if you actually feel that it is ok to live together (with everything that entails, scrabble, etc) before being married in the eyes of God, then do you really respect God?”
Yes, because everyone who “respects God” does so with equal levels of enthusiasm and proficiency their entire life.  Everyone who “respects God” does everything by the book the first time around, and thus are free from sin, all because they “respect God.”  In fact, there was no need for Christ to die on the cross in the first place because everyone who “respects God” is already sinless.
In any case, it would be the height of legalistic stupidity to “break up” while we’re waiting for the convalidation.  You cannot possibly think it’s a good idea to deprive my daughters of their father figure for an indefinite period of time.
But thanks for your opinions on things irrelevant to the question I actually asked.
(To be continued)