Mistress Dispelling: The New Way To Save Your Marriage

Do you have kids? Are you concerned about their future? Are you worried about how much college is going to cost? Are you worried you’re going to pay an arm and a leg and your sweet kid is going to be saddled with loans forever, all to get a degree that maybe won’t even mean anything? Are you afraid by the time your precious Johnny or Sally gets a degree, the job market will be so awful that they’ll move back in with you, and will be asking for “hundos” for their “randos” until you die?

Well do not fear! A new lucrative career path has opened up and as long as the Orange Menace doesn’t get us all nuked before the end of 2017, your kids might just have a future in mistress dispelling. Oh yes, that’s a thing. The Times recently reported on the growing fad of “mistress dispellers” in China. Turns out some entrepreneurs have found a new way to capitalize on crumbling marriages. They fix them! While that kind of business will cut into my kind of business, I salute their innovation and would probably opt in if they were on Shark Tank and I was a judge on Shark Tank. What is a mistress dispeller you ask?

Well, see if your spouse is cheating on you and you want to repair your marriage without, you know, confronting the cheating and working it out like adults, you can hire a mistress dispeller who will take a two pronged approach at fixing your marriage. First she will makeover the cheated-on spouse, in mind, body and actions to make her a better mate. Concurrently, she will ingratiate herself into the paramour’s life and convince her to hit the road. How so? The mistress dispeller does recon on the mistress’s life, categorizes her motives, then skillfully disassembles the affair from the inside. Pretty nuts right? Shockingly, this isn’t the plot of a Kate Hudson romantic comedy. It sure sounds like a movie, but I googled and googled and came up short, so if this exists, please let me know. And if it turns out there isn’t a movie like this already, call me Scott Rudin, I’ve got some ideas on casting.

What’s the price point for a person who is half life coach and half evil genius? Priceless! Or actually around $45,000 for about three months of work. It’s certainly not cheap, but the services carry an alleged 90% success rate, so $45k is a pittance if you get everlasting love, right? I wonder what the makeovers are like and what exactly the coaching entails, but I am much more intrigued by the mistress part. So much deception and sneaking around is involved. It sounds like the best job. It’s like being a spy except instead of stealing confidential documents, you’re trying to lure a person into friendship over lattes. Then you play puppet master for awhile. I’ve got some ideas for how to handle certain mistress stereotypes, so let's take a crack at it...

The Work Colleague

Research the past ten years of the company’s holiday party. Have they used the same caterers for the past three years? You bet. Apply and get hired by the catering company. Show up the night of the party ready to work. Nonchalantly find your target and offer Work Mistress one of many hors d’oeuvres options. Keep circling back. Make an offhanded comment on hating the gig but loving the shrimp puffs, opening the door for her to complain about her own job. You can always count on a person to hate their job, and love anything encased in puff pastry, that is the American way. Keep chatting. Explain how you’re just working these gigs to save up for a big trip for a couple of months to find yourself. Talk about how you always dreamed of seeing the world as a kid and you’re just sick of promising yourself a life you never follow through on. Wait to see if this piques her interest. It does.

She explains she, too, always wanted to travel but there was just no opportunity. Butt in and say, oh yeah, I know how it goes, settling down, buying a house, getting married, I get it. She explains she’s not really doing any of those things actually. Wait a beat. Then say, then what’s stopping you? She explains she can’t quit her job, she’s got tons of school loans, and she’s sort of seeing this guy but it’s a mess. You empathize and say oh man if only you could only find a more challenging job somewhere else and start over. Her eyes light up.

Shanghai, she exclaims! Shanghai! Ah yes, they’re opening a new branch of the office in good old Shanghai, but you already knew that because you are a very good mistress dispeller. The two of you talk some more and by the end of the night you are fired from the catering gig (seriously, you’re supposed to circulate with those trays, that’s your main job duty), and Work Mistress is dead set on moving, taking on a more challenging managerial role to open up the Shanghai office, and even already brought it up to her boss so she wouldn’t chicken out in the morning. Tzai jien, Work Mistress! Best of luck on all your future endeavors!

The Babysitter

Deep dive into her online presence. She’s an aspiring writer! Check out her Instagram geotags and look for patterns. Does she seem to get coffee at one place a lot? Start frequenting. Knock over her iced coffee at the pick up bar and offer to buy her another. Compliment her shoes. Bump into her the next morning and wave. After a few days of smiling acknowledgments just introduce yourself. Start chatting about the neighborhood and casually drop that you work in publishing (you obviously don’t, you’re a high powered mistress dispeller, but you do have a BA in English Lit). Because this world is all about connections, Babysitter explains she’s working on a novel but she’s stuck with writer’s block. Say you know it sounds crazy, but you wouldn’t mind giving her work a gander. She agrees!

You spend two months working tirelessly on this quite crappy novel, but it starts to take shape. You explain to Babysitter Mistress that the old adage “write what you know” is totally true, and that ordinary stories become excellent stories if you inject your own history into them. The novel’s big climax is a total bust because there’s no real emotion there. You tell her to tap into any romantic pain she’s been through and she says there’s not much there. You ask her about her current dating situation and she says it’s actually pretty interesting. She’s dating an old married guy. Oh really, you don’t say! You somehow over the course of a few days convince her to dump the married guy, because she needs to feel real pain to make her book better. This book is her baby and it deserves all her attention. The world cannot live without this book! Blah blah, she buys it all, hook, line and sinker. Tell a self-absorbed writer the world needs her story and she’ll basically do anything you say after that. She dumps the married guy, stops babysitting for the family, is wracked with feelings of regret over the decision, and she falls into a deep depression for about six months. She finally crawls out of it, finishes the book and sends it your way to pass along to editors at your publishing house. You don’t work in publishing, so you ghost her and move to a different city. Two years later, you see her book at an airport Hudson News. Guess it all worked out!

PS - I am assuming The Babysitter goes to college or grad school or is a freelance writer with a lot of time to spare, and is not a high school student. Because if she’s a high school student just call the cops, case closed.

The Internet Dating Site Rando

Figure out which book club she belongs to and join that book group. All Internet Dating Site Randos belong to book club, this is just a fact. Read whatever thriller or Oprah-approved book is that month’s pick and craft a very deliberate talking point about fathers, as you know she lost her father and you are a terrible person. Keep laying it on thick and philosophical until she cracks and runs off to the bathroom. Excuse yourself to go check on her. Apologize a lot through the locked door and convince her to come out explaining how sorry you are. Be extremely kind and comforting. Suggest hitting a diner after book club and offer to buy her a tuna melt to make up for making her cry. Bond over tuna melts. Talk about your lives and interests and explain you always wanted to take up running. What a coincidence, guess who runs?

Accept her invitation to join her running group. Over the course of 12 Sunday morning runs, get to know Rando better. Also get to know Isaac, the running group leader. Notice how well Rando and Isaac get along. Talk one up to the other. Buy a $100 Chili’s gift card and tell Isaac and Rando you got it as a gag gift, and mention how funny it would be to head over to Chili’s for some post-run eats. Go to Chili’s as a trio, fake an emergency phone call, apologize profusely, order some Lime SNO-JITOs for the table and leave the gift card. Hang out in the parking lot, spy through the windows, and wait for love to blossom like a Bloomin’ Onion. Pardon me, I mixed up my fast casual dining restaurant chains! Love blossoms alright, and Rando dumps the married guy and lives happily ever after with Isaac the runner.

The Childhood Sweetheart

This all started on Facebook so go straight to the source. Childhood Sweetheart runs a custom pet accessories business which happens to have a Facebook page. Like it. Inquire about several high priced personalized pet items. Order them all. Receive them, leave glowing reviews on the Facebook page. Repeat. Private message the business and explain how much these items have really brightened your days, and frankly, changed your life. Attach pictures of (borrowed) animals wearing the goods at a dog park you know she frequents. She will respond thanking you. She will also say, oh my gosh is that Liberty Dog Park!? She's there all the time and invites you to say hello if you ever see her. You're in. You see her, say hello and strike up a pretty good friendship. You take the dogs on hikes and meet up at the craft supply store to check out new rhinestone styles. You talk about life and the future and it turns out she wants kids pretty badly. She loves the dogs and all, but she always wanted kids and time’s ticking, you know? You ask about her relationships and she says she’s actually reconnected with her first love and things are going pretty good except, can you keep a secret, he’s married. You don’t say.

Ask her all about him and what he was like back in school, and how they first got together. A lot of these stories involve Tom, married guy’s best friend in seventh grade. Ask more about Tom. Tom sounds great, and seems a lot kinder and more interesting than married guy ever was. Mention this to her. A lot. Wait for it to dawn on Childhood Sweetheart that it was Tom she really loved all along. Encourage her to reconnect with Tom. She does. They hit it off. He’s got beautiful blue eyes that would look great on their babies. Tom is also married, but that is now some other mistress dispeller’s problem.

 

Dumping Trump: A Crash Course

We originally posted this one last year, but decided it needed to be reposted. You know, now that Trump has the Republican nomination. Take a moment to read and remind yourself: this is a mutually destructive relationship.

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

_________

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but Donald Trump is currently a viable Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race. You may define “viable” in any way you choose, but my personal definition is “in the debate this week.” My definition ends there.

His polling numbers are confusingly strong. There are people out there, people we know, people we’re related to, people in line behind us at the post office, people standing next to us right now in an elevator that want Trump to be president. Of our country. They want him in charge of the nuclear codes. They want him to have veto rights. They want him to command our armed forces. They want him to broker peace deals with ISIS. No seriously, the guy with the hair and the temper talking to ISIS is what they want.

While we remain inside this fever dream, we can look to those that have already dumped Trump to remind us there are good and rational people still left in America, and thankfully their votes count too. Way before Hispanics, veterans, GOP leaders, NBC, Macy’s and people with a good grasp on reality started distancing themselves from Trump, there were two women hightailing it out of Trump’s life — his ex-wives.

Eternally glamorous, bejewelled and be-accented (not a word) Ivana hit the bricks in 1992, with Marla Maples following suit in 1999. Trump and Ivana’s divorce hit the headlines recently due to alleged rape claims, or due to poor word choice, depending on who you believe. While that’s being hashed out by proper journalists, let us focus instead on the other less potentially criminal details. It was an ugly divorce and an excellent breeding ground for amazing one liners such as “Don’t get mad, get everything.”

Tabloids at the time said the split and ensuing money battle was better than anything Dynastychurned out. Most fascinating to me is, did you know a 1987 Mercedes was a big sticking point in their settlement? Odd they’d be fighting over a five year old car when either party could buy a Mercedes made out of sapphires and caviar. What a weird thing to squabble over. Most agree it was a power move by Ivana and in the end she got the car plus an estimated $25 million. I am assuming she had to sign a strict NDA barring her from ever speaking of any trade secrets. By trade secrets, I mean the architecture behind Trump’s haircut.

His first marriage disintegrated thanks in large part to his relationship with Marla Maples, his soon to be second wife. Maples recounted her life in the tabloids in a great New York Magazine piece. When news of the Trump/Ivana split hit the papers, Maples fled to Guatemala for a month to get away from reporters. She came back and they married, but it didn’t last. The Trump/Maples divorce was much less Dynasty than divorce number one. Maples explained the marriage’s demise had a lot to do with press pressure, lack of privacy and Trump’s dedication to his work. That’s quite polite of Maples seeing as we all know it probably mostly due to his insufferable personality.

Trump married for a third time in 2005 and so far that marriage is sticking. So dumping Trump was left to companies, ethnic groups, television conglomerates and people who understand how diplomacy works and what the job responsibilities of a president are.

I’m not sure how long it will take for Trump supporters to come back around to this place we call reality. It might be when Trump inevitably says something racist, illogical or just plain dumb in tonight’s debate. It might be on November 8, 2016. I truly hope it won’t have to be when he’s in power and decides to sell Alaska to Russia to pay for fence to keep us safe from Canadians and their un-American Canadian bacon. Or when he bolts giant gilded T R U M P letters onto the side of the White House. Or when he bankrupts the country just as he’s done to his businesses time and time again. Or when a large gust of wind comes along revealing underneath that yellow cotton candy there’s a “666” tattooed on his head.

Get your popcorn handy because Thursday’s debate is sure to be entertaining.


Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

 

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Seven Podcasts to Listen To During Your Divorce

Getting divorced means you will inevitably have more time on your hands than you used to. Time you spent fighting with your spouse will now be spent on more productive activities like going to the gym, watching TV shows you actually like, and standing in the kitchen eating yogurt naked just because you can.

This got me thinking—as did the fact that National Radio Day is coming up this Thursday—that podcasts are an awesome way to coach yourself through this transitional period. Let’s be honest, we rarely know what to do with new freedom when it’s granted to us, it typically takes a while to figure out who we are in this new world of self-discovery. So while you’re wading around in the pool of alluvial muck that will become your new life, why not listen to some interesting and motivating podcasts? These are my recommendations.

Stuff to Blow Your Mind – “Animal Sexual Fluidity”
So, this is an amazing podcast, and I recommend listening to ALL the episodes as soon as you can. However, since you’re going through a seriously confusing time in terms of your personal life, possibly your sexuality and maybe even your family structures, I’d say start with this episode. The bizarreness of nature—and its insistence on change—will help put your current transition in perspective, while distracting you with lots of sexually diverse and crazy sex-changing animals. It will blow your mind.

This American Life – “Break-Up”
This is an old episode of this now world famous podcast (ca. 2007), but it has always stuck with me because of how cliché—and how sad—breakups actually are. And also how necessary they are. The best thing about this episode is that Phil Collins shows up to discuss possibly the best breakup song of all time, and to tell the story behind writing it. You’ll laugh, you’ll relate to Phil Collins, you might cry a little—this is just listening gold.

Stuff You Should Know – “Polyamory
Come on, you know you’re curious—and now you can look into things that titillate your curiosity without guilt! This episode of the Stuff You Should Know podcast looks into the myths and realities of what it means to be in a committed relationship with multiple people—and it’s probably not what you were expecting.

Serial
Officially, this podcast has nothing to do with your divorce, except that you are going to get so into it that you’ll forget all about your divorce for a few precious hours, and focus instead on this masterpiece of storytelling. The podcast is twelve episodes describing one reporter’s experience of re-opening the real-life 1999 murder investigation of a high school student. If you find yourself running over and over your divorce in your head, this is the podcast to break the cycle.

Berkeley’s Happiness Matters Podcast – “Is Divorce Always Bad for Kids?”
There’s a common perception—or maybe it’s just conventional wisdom gone awry—that having two parents together, no matter how unhappy they are, is better for children than having two divorced parents. This podcast episode looks at that question in detail, providing a lot of research context, in order to find out whether divorce is really always bad for kids.

Sex Nerd – “The Sex Slang of Urban Dictionary” (in 2 parts)
This podcast is genius from the folks at The Nerdist, and taps into subjects of interest and humor around human sexuality. This two-part episode is both hilarious and extremely useful (because you’re going to need to know this stuff now that you’re single). Enjoy your lesson!

RadioLab – “Who Are You?”
Let’s face it: you have no idea who you are anymore. Don’t worry—it’s totally natural to feel that way after a divorce. Even if you’re not getting divorced, it’s healthy to wonder about this question at least every few years throughout your life. (If you’re not getting divorced that means you’re just reading this post because you think I’m entertaining, and that means you are already awesome, so stop worrying.) But seriously, “Who am I?” is pretty much the most important question we can ask ourselves after “How do I get food?” and “Where’s the bathroom?” so this one really deserves your time. Plus RadioLab is funny.

 

Love and Radio – “Thank You, Princess.”
Did you know people buy used panties off the internet? Or that some people will literally pay good money to be harassed in a manner that possibly reminds you of your divorce? Have a listen to this crazy episode of Love and Radio, which is essentially an interview with a self-described “Humiliatrix”… and be prepared to be completely weirded out, yet completely fascinated. I want to put out a quick disclaimer that this is at times a strange podcast, and that this episode in particular is pretty out there. As such I’m not condoning the subject matter, some of which is likely to be illegal—but it is REALLY entertaining.

Happy listening, and Happy (early) National Radio Day!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Going Public With Your Divorce: 10 Tips From a Seasoned Divorce Attorney

So you’ve decided to get a divorce, and you now have to daunting task of actually telling people…Or maybe you’ve been going through a divorce, and have learned a few hard lessons about what not to say about it to your friends, family, kids…

Either way, from the moment you tell the first person, the world becomes a bit of a minefield, for reasons personal and legal, when it comes to talking about your divorce during your divorce.

Here’s a list of what to say–and what NOT to say–while you’re getting divorced. This is the same advice I give my clients, taking into account how what you say out of court can affect what happens in court.

Have a Plan.
This is my life, and I live each and every day by this maxim, because it’s the key to successful divorces. Know what you’re going to do. Write it down. Put it on a timeline. Check things off as you go. In this case, the plan is about deciding who to talk to and how you’re going to do it. Seriously–don’t be too proud to write this stuff down.

Decide Who You’re Going to Tell & In What Order.
It’s important that your family doesn’t know you’ve filed for divorce before your spouse, or that your kids don’t find out from a neighbor. Starting with the people who will be most affected, plan who to tell and what language you’ll use (it obviously won’t be the same with everyone you tell).

Don’t feel the need to tell everyone, either. Stick to the people who are directly affected, and the people whose support you’re going to be calling on during the divorce.

Choose a Headline.
The obvious one–“We’re getting divorced”–isn’t going to be enough for the people who are close to the fray, like your family and close friends. They’ll want to know more, and having invested in your marriage in various ways themselves, you might feel they deserve that. Decide exactly what you’re ready to say about a) your reasons for splitting, and b) what the future will hold. Use calm rather than emotional language.

Focus On the Positive. Within Reason.
Let’s face it, this isn’t a positive situation. But if you can take a positive–or even a neutral–tone regarding what you try to say about it, you’re likely to avoid ending up in an accidental rant, or bursting into tears in public. Not that this won’t happen anyway, it probably will. But having a positive message, however forced it might seem, will actually help you feel more in control, and be more in control. Eventually you’ll probably find that that positive message is something you sincerely feel.

Stay On Message.
A PR classic, it’s important to have your neutral or positive take on things in mind, and memorized, so that you will be able to remind yourself of what to say when people ask, which they will. This helps you keep from being goaded into talking about things you’re not ready to, to have conversations with your spouse that are counterproductive, or to have a meltdown in the grocery store (see #4). Know your message and stick to it.

Be Ready For Backlash.
Some people love hearing about divorce, because it feeds the rumor mill, and they’ll (subtly) grill you for details that they’ll then go repeating. This is inevitable, and you just have to be prepared to ignore it. Other people hate hearing about divorce because it means their marriage, too, is potentially fallible. They’ll be full of disapproval. Again, just ignore it. Or, have a response on-hand for when people are less than supportive, something that puts up a boundary without causing a confrontation, like “Well, we’re really trying to keep this as a family matter, but thank you for asking” or “I appreciate your input” followed by a quick change of subject.

Don’t Post Anything on Social Media. 
Anything you post on social media is effectively public, and can be used against you in court. Keep your privacy settings at maximum levels during your divorce, and you should refrain from mentioning anything related to your divorce at all–even rants, or rather, especially rants. (That’s what your divorce lawyer and therapist are for.) Here’s a useful infographic about what not to do on social media during your divorce.

Verbal, Not Written. 
On that note, be aware that anything you put in writing–like a private message on social media or an email–could end up out in the public domain. In divorce proceedings, sometimes these things unfortunately come up. If it’s not something you’re okay with the judge reading, don’t put it in writing.

Don’t Talk About Your Divorce at Work.
The exception here is if you have colleagues that you’re very close to, as in best friends. Otherwise, you’ll be wise to try to keep your divorce out of the workplace. On one hand, it can come across as unprofessional or airing your personal business in public; people have surprising attitudes about divorce sometimes.

On the other, talking about it could easily make you become angry or upset at work, which is unprofessional. There’s also the fact that if you let everyone know what’s happening in your personal life, it might affect how they interpret your professional work, regardless of whether it’s affecting your work or not. To be on the safe side, you’re better off keeping it relatively quiet until the divorce is final.

Keep the Kids Out of It.
When you’re talking to friends and family, be careful who might be listening (ie. your kids–I was amazing at listening through air vents as a kid). Be especially careful when speaking about your kids directly, for example what might happen to them regarding custody; this could get back to your kids and cause a lot of anxiety.

In an age-appropriate way, discuss issues that affect your kids with them directly, and make an agreement with your spouse not to say anything negative about each other or go into details about divorce proceedings while they’re around. It’s just unnecessary negativity and pain that they don’t deserve.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Let's All Just Be Nicer.

There are a million reasons relationships don’t work out, but most marriages fall into one of two fundamental categories:

  1. either both people realize the marriage is over and want out, or
  2. one person wants out while the other wants to keep working on the relationship.

No one’s jonesing to be part of either of these groups, but one could argue scenario B is a rougher road. Someone is really going to get their heart stomped on in group B. If you are the leaver, you have most likely realized for the good of your well being and sanity you must get out of your relationship. And look at you! Way to make a decision instead of cheating on your husband for a decade and lying to everyone you know.

If you’re the one left behind, I am so sorry, can I buy you a pizza? I swear you are prettier and more interesting than Sheila in accounting and I don’t know why Dan left you for her, but you are better without him, and again, can I get you a pizza? I feel like if you had some pizza, this would be less awkward because life’s a bummer and people are sometimes the worst, and it’d be great if everyone tried a little harder to be nicer.

If you didn’t know, (why would you know?) March 3rd was “I Want You To Be Happy Day.” I don’t know why there’s an international taco day, or a national taco day, or a hug your pets day, or a hug your pets on international taco day which happens to also be national taco day. I don’t know who comes up with these things, but if it’s a paid job, someone let me know where I can send my resume because I would be all over that nonsense. “I Want You To Be Happy Day” is meant to be a day of giving, helping, and generally being unselfish — all good things to be, for more than just one day out of the year.

It’s hard to be the bigger person, especially when you have an arsenal of sick, sick burns inside of you. Being the bigger person takes humility and self control, both of which don’t seem to be abundant in today’s world. It’s hard to be humble when there’s so much bragging to do on Facebook, am I right? It’s hard to have self control when a biting tweet going viral is just a little brainstorm away. So, I reject “I Want You To Be Happy Day” because one day isn’t enough to address the serious problem of the pandemic levels of jerkiness committed by us and against us in everyday life. I reject the day and call upon you to embrace the year, decade or century of being nicer.

A divorce is a great opportunity to really challenge yourself to be better. The bliss of embarrassing someone with a perfect cutting remark is fleeting. The general good vibe you get from being kind lasts, and can also can build into a long term sense of smugness no one can ever question. Because what can they do? Criticize you for being too civil to Dan and his new wife Sheila? Oh, sorry Brandon, I’m just a pretty ok person who knows everyone is better off now and I can accept and embrace that, not like when you and Erica broke up. You were just so rude to her, I mean I get it, but that’s just not me, man. Dan’s happiness is all our happiness, you know, Brandon? Ah, feel that? Feel the warm rays of smugness upon your body? Embrace it. That’s what happens when you want others to be happy.

How can you implement this in your daily life? Here are some ideas.

Don’t Act Like A Republican Presidential Candidate.
This one’s pretty simple. Don’t regress into a petty, childish seventh grader. Don’t allude to to an ex-spouse’s small penis size, imply they’ve pissed themselves, point out a poor fake tan color choice, draw attention to an excessive sweating problem, call them a phony/fraud/liar, or claim they have low energy. If you do any of the above, you will not only look like a moron, you will also feel like garbage. And you don’t want either of those things, because those things are the job of the next leader of the free world.

Who are you making happy? Your parents. They no longer have to scold you for “raising you better than that.”

Solve An Important Mystery.
First, quit your job and take an unpaid internship in the film industry. Over the course of sixteen months, work your way into PA jobs on several lower budget movies. Do really good work and impress a few people on set. Make friends with them so they call you up to work on bigger projects. Go to film school at night and during your days off. Put together an impressive reel and land an agent through your PA buddies’ contacts. Do a few short films that do well at several international festivals. Have a few mid-level people at big studios take notice. Land a meeting with one of those people. Dazzle them. Get hired for a few smaller features. Work more, work harder. Land a huge summer blockbuster starring Reese Witherspoon. On day one, take Reese aside and ask her what the hell movie she was talking about when she said “Oh, that’s where we’re at? You’re fighting to be the girlfriend in a dumb comedy? For what?’ And by the way, two Oscar winners did it. I was like, I’ve got to do something.” Was it No Strings Attached? It was No Strings Attached, right? Kate Aurthur from Buzzfeed thinks it’s No Strings Attached. Ask Reese, find out the answer, quit the movie and the business and walk off set. Call your ex and tell them, “Yep, No Strings Attached, we were right!” Then tweet it and @ me, and Kate Aurthur and the whole world because seriously Reese, what was it?No Strings Attached right?

Who are you making happy? All of us.

Stop Airing Your Dirty Laundry, Unless It’s Really Interesting.
There’s an expiration date for complaining about a dissolved relationship. It is six months. If you are still complaining about a long gone relationship past the six month mark, all of your friends are going to get annoyed and bored. We all love a little gossip. Some of us love a lot of gossip. When it’s stale gossip that you’ve heard nineteen times since last summer, no one likes it. So either find something juicier you forgot to mention, or get caught up on Vanderpump Rules so we can all enjoy the conversation.

Who are you making happy? All of your friends, your hairdresser, the coffee cart guy, your dry cleaner, the grocery store clerk, and cab drivers who also happen to be strangers.

Actively Try To Let Go Of The Past.
I’m going to give you what you’ve been searching for since your marriage broke up. Ready? Here goes… You are right. You’re right about all of it. Every tiny thing on the miles’ long mental list of the ways you were right and s/he was wrong, I agree with you. I’m giving you the validation you’ve been longing for, and I am proving you weren’t crazy this whole time. There. Now let it gooooooooo…

Who are you making happy? Your boss. Now you can finally concentrate on your work again, instead of clicking through your honeymoon pictures trying to spot where exactly it all went wrong, again and again and again.

Forgive Them. 
I know! It’s so hard! But if you don’t forgive, you cannot move on. What do you gain from holding grudges? An ulcer? Great, so you’ve got the grudges but you have to forgo delicious Mexican food? Who is winning in that scenario? I’m not suggesting this will be easy. It might be the hardest part of your divorce journey, but the benefits cannot be denied. When you forgive, it’s like hitting the reset button. The dark clouds shift and the ice starts to melt and you can make a really, really, embarrassingly cheesy spectacle out of it. Tie a name to a balloon and let it float away. Burn memorabilia in a safe, well ventilated environment. Hack your wedding outfit to shreds. Do that stuff then say insufferable things like, “let go and let god” or “I’m truly at peace now” or “love and light.” You will probably go through a two to four week period in which you want to wear only flowing robes because you are centered and enlightened, so just go with it.

Who are you making happy? Your doctor, your stomach lining, and the flowing robes industry.

*Quick side note: if your former partner was really horrible, like legitimately, legally, penitentiary bad, forgiving them does not excuse them for what they did. You were right, what they did was wrong, and I hope there is just punishment for it. But you can forgive this person. You don’t have to wash away all their sins, that’s between them and the legal system or the god of their choosing, but you can unshackle yourself from the trauma.

Forgive Yourself. 
Ha! You thought forgiving others was hard, well welcome to the nightmare of forgiving yourself! You think you might be having a good day then in an innocuous, quiet moment when you’re waiting for your sandwich at the deli, the really rude part of your brain will list off all of your greatest failures. Every wrong word you spoke, every time you were cruel or petty, every mistake you made. A real comprehensive montage will roll through your brain and you’ll feel nauseated and you won’t even want the $14 sandwich with avocado you just splashed out for. There is no way to silence the jerk in your brain forever, no matter how much bourbon you try to drown him in. So what can you do? You can try to be nicer to yourself. You can cut yourself a break, because while you hold yourself to really high standards, you are still a human being and as such you make mistakes. Do things that make you feel proud of yourself. Help others. Try to learn from mistakes and try to stop repeating them. Try to be kind to others and hope happiness spreads like an infection and lifts you up along the way.

Who are you making happy? First yourself, then others, then… the whole world?

Get a Hobby, People

As is custom each January, Instagram celebrities are selling you their juice cleanses and you’re getting dozens of join-our-gym-TODAY flyers shoved under your door. Then on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got old high school friends masquerading as self-help gurus/life coaches on Facebook telling you to just chill out man, resolutions are garbage and you are a perfectly special snowflake just as you are.

All those people are terrible. Don’t listen to them because both their extremes are wrong. Will you be a totally different person by the end of 2016? No. Does that mean you shouldn’t try to improve on things and challenge yourself? Of course not.

What happened to evenhanded, rational thinking? You don’t need to do twelve triathlons in twelve months, but you should try to push yourself out of your comfort zone. You don’t have to finally break free from fear, FOR GOOD, but you shouldn’t hibernate indefinitely, either. Instead, you should do some stuff, try some new things, and explore your interests. And what better way to do that than with a new hobby? Yoga and book clubs are so 2015. Try something fun, different, and totally 2016. By the way, did you know January is National Hobby Month? It is so get to it!

Solve the Making a Murderer Murder. Quit your job, shirk all responsibilities and dive head first into the Making a Murderer reddit thread and Solve. That. Crime. Exonerate Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey and become our national treasure.

Air Guitar. It’s possible you dabbled in air guitar as a teen Warrant fan, and later cast those skills aside in the name of “adulthood.” Well what did adulthood give you other than a mortgage and a sometimes crippling depressive disorder? Throw caution to the wind and get to practicing because this could be you someday, participating in the Air Guitar World Championships.

Celebrity Death Hoaxing. You know how every so often you see a headline confirming that Morgan Freeman or Matt Damon or Anjelica Huston is indeed still alive? Those celebrity death rumors have to come from somewhere. Why not you?

Butchery. Hipsters and their really dumb mustaches have taken to learning homesteading and trades in the past few years and their new trend du jour isbutchery classes. It sounds quite awful, but if you eat meat, you might as well get to know it before dining.

Ukulele. Do you want to be insufferable at parties or do find yourself chilling out to a traditional Hawaiian music Pandora station quite often? Then the ukulele is for you!  There’s a whole online community dedicated to providing “ukelele friendly” renditions of virtually any music you could think of. Say what you want but I feel you haven’t really heard Slayer’s “Angel of Death” until you hear it played on a ukelele.  

Duct Tape Crafting. Traditional crafting too mainstream for you? Don’t like the vibe in your local Michaels? Take your crafting to the next level by limiting yourself to one supply: the mighty and versatile roll of duct tape. You can makea lot of crazy stuff.

Dog Grooming. Do you find watching someone get their hair cut hypnotic? Do you also like dogs? Well combine those two disparate facts about yourself into one totally normal hobby: creative dog grooming. Your schnauzer is going to look so cute/hate you so much.

Subway Reading. Do you have free afternoons frequently, or find yourself bored on weekends? And you like books? But your home is too stagnant? Pick a subway line, grab a seat (push an old lady out of the way if you have to!) and ride end to end immersed in your book. You can even read about the subway, or even better about mole people.

Home Brewing.  Home brewing has been growing in popularity for a while now. Nearly everyone I know has been bored to tears taking a “tour” of the “really interesting set up” an acquaintance has “got going” in a dark closet somewhere in their apartment. You can join the ranks, have fun with science, and get drunk.

Stone Skipping. Not just for olde timey rascals down by the fishing hole anymore, stone skipping is now a seriously competitive endeavor. Practice hard and try to beat some world records.

Flair BartendingThis could be you! Imagine how impressed you’ll be with yourself, and how embarrassed your friends will be of you!

Get Really into Fringe Religions. Scientology is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to secretive, fishy religious organizations. Immerse yourself in wild world of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, Raëlism, Heaven’s Gate or any other group that tickles your fancy. Imagine all the cocktail party talking points you’ll pick up!

Competitive Bearding (& Mustache-ing). Did you know there are beard competitions? I’m not making that up. If you’re lazy and male this really is about as easy of a hobby as you can get. Just wake up and don’t shave. Unlike most team sports you can be uncoordinated and out of shape and still be an excellent “beard athlete.” I can’t make an outside jump shot but I suspect I would be excellent at not shaving. Need some inspiration and pointers – Alas,Whisker Wars has them so go big (… long? Bushy?) or go home!

Cheese Making. A baked camembert or brie is great this time (or anytime) of year so try it and let it inspire you! Truly, any sort of cooking is a great stress reliever. But if fixing up dinner isn’t interesting enough for you, why not try something a bit more challenging like cheese making? Soon you’ll tap into the underground cheese scene and Alex James will want to hang out with you. 

Pickle the Crap Out of Stuff. If cheese isn’t up your alley, why not experiment with pickling things. Don’t stop at cucumbers. Explore cabbage, lemons, watermelon rind, peppers, onions, pineapple (!), the list goes on forever. Pickle anything you can fit in a jar. Pickle all day long.

Yarn Bombing. If you already know how to knit, why not get involved in a yarn bombing group? This guerilla street art movement has been beautifying cities all over the world. Just think, you could be the new Banksy: Knitsy.

Whatever you pick, I hope you’ll join me in this 2016 mantra: Chill, but also do something.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

10 Reasons Not to Make a New Year's Resolution

As January 1 begins to loom on the horizon, I always find myself amazed and confused about the rampant resolution-ing that goes on at this time of year. Okay, so I’ve made some resolutions myself—many years ago—but it only took me a few January rebound weight-gains and February head-hanging moments to realize:

New Year’s Resolutions don’t work!

Luckily for me, I’m no longer just that Scroogey guy at the New Year’s Eve party rolling his eyes at your fun, because I am now backed up by SCIENCE. (Yes, I am now that Scroogey guy self-importantly rolling his eyes at your fun because I was right.)

Here are the science-backed reasons why you are going to be exactly the same person on January 1st that you were on December 31st (and that’s no bad thing).

 

The number one New Year’s Resolution: “Lose weight.” This was true in 2015 and has probably been true for the last twenty years at least. This is also the thing we’re least likely to be able to achieve based on a quick promise to ourselves, because it’s a hugely psychological thing. It requires lifestyle changes—not promises.

There’s nobody to enforce it. In ancient Babylon, people made New Year’s resolutions with the understanding that the gods would punish them if they didn’t keep their end of the deal. Nowadays, we just go “Eh, well, I’ll just have this one slice of pie” and nobody smites us at all. Problem.

Only 8% of people are successful in keeping their resolutions. Okay, so SOME people do keep their resolutions, but your chances of keeping it are pretty low … so why make one at all? Right???

75% of New Year’s Resolutions are kept for the first week or less. That’s right—there’s a 75% chance you won’t even make it to Week 2.

Of people who achieve their resolution, only 14% of those are over 50. So if you’re over 50, you have an overall 1.12% chance of success. People over 50, DO NOT MAKE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS. You’re just giving yourself a reason to berate yourself, instead of enjoying some more delicious pie.

You’re being unrealistic. Another reason people fail, according to Dr. Avya Sharma, is that people set unrealistic goals. Instead of setting boring, concrete goals like “return that bike I borrowed” or “buy some dish soap,” people ask their future selves for things they can’t possibly deliver based on the person they actually are at this point in time.

24% of people fail … every. Single. Year. And they just keep making resolutions, apparently. This cannot be good for the soul.

It’s a substitute for actual change. Timothy Pychl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, says that resolutions are a way for our whole culture to procrastinate en masse. It’s a sort of Let’s Pretend to Improve Ourselves game: everybody knows everyone else is going to fail, yet we congratulate each other for making a resolution, feel like we’re doing something good, and then and help each other brush it off afterwards, to make sure we all know it’s okay we didn’t actually do it. In other words, New Year’s Resolutions aren’t really resolutions at all.

One day isn’t enough time or reason to change. One thing research has shown repeatedly is that by trying to get yourself not to do something, you automatically place it centrally in your mind, increasing your chances of wanting to do it. Making big changes requires that you literally create new neural pathways that allow you to make different decisions. And unfortunately you can’t just snap your fingers and create new neural pathways: again, it takes time. It requires literally thinking differently—over and over and over again—until that becomes the new normal. (And it’s probably not easily done with a New Year’s hangover, either.)

Resolutions can actually KEEP you from doing something good for yourself. Because the act of making a resolution sort of halfway seems like you’re doing something, depending on how long you last, it can make you feel temporarily better. That keeps your guilt at bay, which keeps you from addressing the bigger issues that you will have to face if you want to make any lasting changes.

Much like “Puppies aren’t just for Christmas,” resolutions aren’t just for New Year’s. In fact, why not just enjoy New Year for all the lovely revelry it entails, let the peer pressure to make a resolution pass … and then once everyone else is falling off their resolution wagon mid-January, think through what’s important to you, and set some small, concrete, realistic steps for reaching your goals in life. It doesn’t have to happen all in one leap.

And be glad: the year will change, but you will be the same fabulous person you are now, come midnight on January 1st, 2016.

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

Sources:
http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201412/why-people-cant-keep-their-new-years-resolutions

 

9 Classic Holidays Movies to Express Your Dysfunctional Family

If the feverish pace of the holiday season has you feeling like you’re stuck in a thunderdome with your family as opposed to soaking up quality time with your family, you might just be nearing the end of your rope by now. Maybe I’m wrong and you’re in one of those Leave It To Beaver families, all cuddled up together on the couch, in front of a fire, taking turns reading aloud from Dickens. Maybe Aunt Shirley’s making her famous peppermint hot chocolate and your younger brother Ricky is upstairs changing into a Santa costume to delight all the children. Even Patrick, your regal golden retriever is in on the fun, wearing a set of reindeer antlers on his head and a big red satiny bow around his neck, prancing around majestically like he’s one of those fancy Instagram dogs. If this sounds like your family, this post is not for you.

 

If alternatively, your Aunt Peg has had too much sherry and is confessing her one true love was her college roommate Denise and that your Uncle Henry never “touches her as a woman should be touched anymore;” or if your mom brought her new boyfriend to dinner and you finally place his familiar face as the little boy you used to babysit in the early 90s; or if your family is nowhere in sight and you’re really bonding with the whiskey bottle you’ve nicknamed dad while you anxiously await your Seamless delivery, then you’ve come to the right place.

To all the damaged products of dysfunctional families, this post is for you. You don’t know what caroling around the neighborhood as a family feels like, but you sure as heck know the solace a dark closet can provide when your older brother and dad are going at it again over dropping out of college. The weirdos, the freaks, the goths, the misunderstood, gather ye round, for it’s time to indulge in some holiday films made for us, the broken ones.

Leave Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer to the normals and instead, enjoy these holiday movies starring your brethren, the dysfunctional family, described below as they should be, by jumping on the #ExplainAFilmPlotBadly train.

Home Alone
A young boy’s negligent parents were pressured by society and the Catholic Church to have more children than they can keep track of, and forget one of those children at home when leaving for a family vacation. The child left at home must protect the family’s honor and worldly possessions from burglars in this examination of the seedy underbelly of Chicago’s suburbs in the early 90s.

A Christmas Story
As the specter of nuclear war with the USSR looms, a young boy schemes to arm himself with a gun by any means necessary, including desperately trying to persuade an aging deity of western consumerism.

Elf
After being lied to his whole life, a middle aged man is exiled from his isolated village and the only family he has ever known. We follow the immigrant’s journey to New York as he faces severe hardships and fails to assimilate into American culture.

 

The Family Stone
Cultures collide as Republicans and Democrats clash over a Christmas holiday in this sobering commentary on the political divide in modern America.

 

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Promises of change and declarations of love prove to be lies when a family loses track of their child again, this time in pre-Giuliani New York City.

 

 

 

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Though it is never discussed, over the course of two decades, a midwestern family’s children don’t age yet their appearances change drastically. One Christmas the patriarch of the family goes to unusual extremes to collect his holiday bonus, as he remains convinced money can buy happiness.

Christmas With The Kranks
Evil befalls a family that dares to turn its back on Christmas, thus proving Santa is more powerful than god himself. The Kranks are bullied, guilted and manipulated back into celebrating, because autonomy is outlawed, and they live in fear forever.

 

The Ref
A cat burglar is the real victim of a Connecticut couple’s crumbling marriage.

Four Christmases
Two spoiled city dwellers reckon with their pasts in this unflinching commentary on the divorce epidemic in America.

Have another favorite “complicated family” film to add? Let’s here it! Leave a Comment below, on Facebook, or catch us on Twitter!

Presents for Your Ex: A Gift Guide

Not everyone totally hates their ex-spouse. Shocking, I know! If you are in that (tiny) minority, you might be brainstorming holiday gifts right about now. You want your gift to be appropriate — not too extravagant or intimate, but also not too impersonal. The best way to strike that balance is of course through humor. I’ve rounded up a couple ideas if you’re stumped.

When you broke up, did your ex-wife’s personal anthem become Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together?” Why not commemorate that special time with this lyric art so she can look at it, chuckle, shake her head and say, “Too true, Taylor. Too true.”

Looking for more than just lyrics? Well here you go. Oh yeah, the Taylor Swift fan art community is expansive and it is emotional.

Not into Taylor? (Are you hearing impaired or something?) Fair enough. How about something to really jazz up the former love of your life’s cubical? Look no further than this world’s greatest ex-husband mug.

Do you guys have the kind of playful relationship where you can look back and laugh about all the never ending arguments and screaming matches you’ve had over the years? Then this tasteful candle flipping the bird might be the gift for you.

Did you read how Kaley Cuoco covered her wedding tattoo with a giant mothafter filing for divorce? Yes, a moth. Don’t give your ex a moth tattoo gift certificate. Instead, go with this nonpermanent happily divorced sticker. You’re not going to have to get a sticker lasered off your neck.

Worried your former ball and chain isn’t really working through his feelings? What better gift to help him get those cathartic tears flowing than Adele’s new album 25?

Speaking of British musicians, The Beatles said “all you need is love.” Boy did those billionaires get it wrong. Love fades. You know what doesn’t? Pizza. Express that wise sentiment with this love fades, pizza Is forever t-shirt.

I don’t know how to properly preface this one but here is a tiny coffin for your wedding rings. You can, I don’t know, bury it? Or display it? I’m not really sure what the endgame is for this gift, but it’s available for purchase if you want it.  There was a company, for many years, that would melt your wedding ring down and turn it into a working bullet (GodDammo was their name).  They went out of business a few years ago. I can’t imagine why.

Odds are, god willing, you’re no longer living together. To celebrate that, a great housewarming gift is some cleansing sage. Your ex can smudge and cleanse to their heart’s content and start with a fresh, clean slate in their new place, all thanks to you (I guess in more ways than one).

Finally, what better gift than a person to replace you? Splash out the big bucks and buy your ex a Match.com or eHarmony subscription. If you’re on good enough terms you can help your ex write his or her profile. Then maybe get one for yourself, because why not.  Just remember, I do prenups too.  

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

8 New Holiday Traditions to Start This Year

One of the tough things about this time of year is that if you’ve been through any kind of personal upheaval involving family, the holidays are a big reminder of how much has changed. You’re in a different place now than you were when you were married … and while that can be depressing, it also can be great.

You may not be psyched to reinvent the past or relive old memories, and that’s totally fine. This is a great time of year to invent NEW traditions. After all, after divorce, values can shift. Maybe “what really matters” is something different to you now.

What I’d like to see are more holiday traditions that are calming, and non-commercial; that you can do on your own, or with a group, with a lot of value either way; that you can start doing regardless of whether you’re married, divorced, single, widowed, or what have you.

Here are my ideas.

Walk in the woods. Was is Thoreau who said, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day”? Appreciating a walk in the beauty of nature is a great thing to do on your own, and also a great gift to share. Better than a pair of socks, in my book.

Help someone in need. Make it a holiday tradition to give your time, support or resources to someone who needs them. In NYC, for example, we have theNeighborhood Coalition for Shelter who are always taking donations (especially) around the holidays.

Do a Winter ClearOut. The small break I take at holiday time is often partly spent going through the house, organizing things, and separating out what I don’t need to give to charity. This is satisfying on many levels.

Cook for strangers. What better time to make baked goods of the sweet OR savory variety—my specialty is cornbread casserole—and deliver to the deserving folks at the fire station, the 911 call center, your mailman?

Board Games. I have a feeling lots of people are doing this already, but go ahead—have a board game night. Invite people.

Talk. I don’t mean family gossip; I mean talk with people you care about, about life. Talk about the best memories of the year, and the worst ones. Be open. Be yourself. Talk.

Seek out an old friend. Even if it’s over the phone, set aside time to catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, who probably doesn’t even know you’re thinking about them.

Give up electronics. Yeah, I know. This is almost impossible these days. But anybody can do it for 24 hours (even me). Shut everything off, unplug, and just hang out. Read, chat, hike, sing—all those things we used to do before the internet.

Have some ideas for holiday traditions you want to add to the list? Please do! Leave your thoughts in comments below, leave a comment on Facebook, or tweet to me!

Holiday Fun or Holiday Torture? 9 Horrible Traditions.

There’s just something about the holiday season that brings out the best, and the worst, in humankind. It’s the season of brotherly love and fights at Walmart, the season of giving and the season of consuming, it’s the season of—well, you get the picture.

Now, it’s entirely possible that you’re one of the wise few who ensconce themselves in Real Family Values and the Things That Matter from November to January (and maybe even the whole year round). But if you live in near any kind of human settlement in this country, chances are you’re surrounded by regular old American holiday revelry, with its strong flavor of commercialism and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses that just might eek its way into your happy marriage.

And how might they do that? By taking over your holiday traditions! There are some things, that if you feel the need to do them, you’re trying too hard. And it’s going to come back to haunt you, when your spouse finally admits defeat and says, “Look. This isn’t working. I can’t handle doing a singing holiday answering machine message with you for one single year more. I’m out.”

To illustrate, I’ve compiled a list of nine holiday traditions to avoid if you know what’s good for your marriage. These nine things are the reindeer turds in the lovely red stocking of your happy home.

The Dreaded Christmas Letter

This one, luckily, has diminished in popularity over time, one thing we can actually thank Facebook for. With the rise of daily updates, there’s now less need to share the family happenings in one long annual digest, because people have already seen the photos from your family vacation and the soccer championships, and they know you got a new puppy because you Instagram it every 2.5 minutes. (I’m not complaining, I love dog photos!) Let’s be honest here, the annual holiday letter made sense when we were living on opposite sides of the country and there were no phones, like in the Little House on the Prairie days, but these days, it has just become a channel for bragging. “My kid won the Science Fair for the 5th grade!” Awesome. “My kid is becoming a child model!” Fine, whatever. “My kid is potty-training! And he’s only 5!” Okay, enough. Please just skip the letter and post Facebook updates like everybody else, so we can all Like your post then Unfollow you. Problem solved.

Matching Holiday Sweaters

I want to be clear about one thing: I have no problem with holiday sweaters on the whole. I actually have a couple. But MATCHING holiday sweaters are something else entirely. The only reason you should ever wear matching clothing to another person is if you’re an identical twin and you’re under 5 and you have no choice in the matter. After that, matching sweaters are just bad form.

Posed Holiday Photos

While we’re on that subject, let’s cover the whole matching-outfits-posed-holiday-photos issue. Do you find yourself arranging an appointment to have an actual photographer come to your home and take photos of you and your family in matching outfits to send out with your holiday letters or post shamelessly on social media? No. This is not necessary. I mean, I get wanting to take a photo of the family once a year, to mark time and for posterity and that sort of thing, and the holidays are an understandable time to want to do that, because everyone’s together. But don’t make everyone dress the same. We’re people, not penguins.

Holiday Shopping in September

Did you start your holiday shopping during the Back to School sales? Some people are organized, I get that. Some people even buy little bits and pieces for people throughout the year, whenever they see something that person might like—and who can argue with that? That’s just thoughtful. But if you actually, seriously, all-systems-go start your Christmas shopping before Halloween, you might be a compulsive shopper and you need to think about having that seen to. Or at least stop telling us about it.

Stockpiling the “It” Toy

This one goes for people who either a) make absolutely sure they have the “coolest toy this season!” well ahead of time whether their kid wants it or not, or b) find out what the cool toy is and buy twenty of them so you can scalp people on eBay. In the first instance, you’re obviously trying to buy your children’s love and/or make them cool, and everyone knows neither of those things is possible to do with mere stuff. And, if you’re in the option b camp, I admire your entrepreneurial initiative, but you really need to put yourself in the shoes of all those parents whose kids have been hounding them for weeks for this ONE STUPID LEGO SET and they can’t find it anywhere for less than four times the RRP, and it’s ultimately going to be a choice between that toy and Christmas dinner. I mean, give other parents a fighting chance. #thanks

Lying to Your Kids about Santa past Age 8

Oooh, controversial topic, this one. How long is it okay to tell your kids Santa is real? Well, I learned the hard way that any kid older than eight—ie. capable of feeling genuinely betrayed by his parents lying to him, person to person—is too old to be lied to about something that doesn’t really matter. Disagree if you must, but once you get to the point where they borderline don’t believe in magic anymore, you really shouldn’t try to force them to. That’s what Scientologists are for.

Making your pets wear holiday-themed outfits

I don’t need to go into detail on this. Putting your dachshund in a Santa outfit is not impressing anyone, it just makes people think about Googling the number for the ASPCA. Don’t do it.

Any kind of “Sexy Santa” outfit

The whole “sexy Santa” costume is one holiday tradition that just never made sense to me. I mean, dressing as a sexed-up version of an old married fat guy/gal? Whose fantasy is that? You may as well dress up as Sexy Donald Trump. (Impossible.) Just avoid this one.

Needing to Have the Biggest Tree

My friend worked at a Christmas tree farm when I was a teenager, and I distinctly recall him telling me that some people would go in demanding the biggest tree we had, without even looking around. Now, there are a few things about this that irked me then, and irk me to this day. First of all, the biggest isn’t necessarily the best. Sometimes the really huge trees were sort of bent, or grew in a weird shape. Secondly, the big trees were really heavy to carry all the way to somebody’s station wagon. And then, about 15% of the time people with the huge trees would literally come back and trade it in for a smaller tree because it was too big for their family room or whatever. Look. Know your limits. Have some appreciation for quality over size. Go buy a fast car. But do not insist on having the biggest tree in the place.

Have something to add, or yell at me about? I heartily welcome both! Leave a comment or Facebook and tweet to me.

 

A Holiday Gift Guide for Your Recently Divorced Friends

As we enter into the hellish period leading up the December holidays in which the task of Shopping becomes an all-consuming force of urban life—can you tell I don’t like shopping?—I find that having knowledgeable people to advise me on gift choices becomes a serious time saver. I LOVE gift guides. I LOVE “Top Ten Gifts for Twelve-Year Olds this Holiday Season” and “Appropriate Gifts to Give Your Mailman/Tailor/Dentist.” These things help me function with some degree of grace in situation where I might otherwise falter.

So I wanted to put my own guide guide out there, related to a topic with which I have a lot of experience, both personally and professionally: what to get, and what NOT to get, your divorced friends. (Most of these can be applied for recently divorced family members and recently divorced coworkers, too.) And I’ll start with the more important category first:
 

What NOT to Get People:

  1. Self-help books. Okay, maybe buying your friend a copy of Keep Your Chin Up!: How to Make it Through Your Divorce and Come Out a Winner seems like it might be a good idea when you see it on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, but trust me, it’s not. These are the adult diapers of the book world: you don’t want anyone to know you own them, and you certainly don’t want to receive them as a gift. Just leave that book behind (they probably already have it on Kindle anyway).
  2. A sex doll. This might come across as a funny joke—no seriously, I have seen this given as a gift in more than one occasion—but for a recent divorcee, it’s probably not going to enrich your friendship or endear you to them. Just a general rule of thumb: a sex doll is never a good idea. For anyone. Ever.
  3. A man-shaped bed pillow. I don’t know if these were originally conceived as gag gifts or as actual things that people might secretly want, but I think it falls into the category of, “If I want one I’ll secretly buy it on Amazon and hide it in my closet when I have people over”—see number 1.
  4. A poster with inspirational quote. If you are the kind of person to buy someone a framed poster, door-hanger or other household item that includes an inspirational quote, I think you should probably just stick to buying your divorced friends alcoholic beverages for a while. No judgment, it’s just all that positivity can be a little much when you’re a freshly split unit.
  5. A plant. A plant probably seems harmless and thoughtful, but to a recent divorcee, it’s likely to be a potted reminder that they’re alone in the world, ie. “You have nobody, here’s a plant to be your friend.” Avoid gifting plants for 1 to 3 years post-divorce.

Better Gifts:

  1. Really nice wine. This never fails. It tastes good, it feels classy, and it gets you drunk. Even better: take them out for an evening of really nice wine-drinking, foot the bill, and pay for the taxi home. Now that’s a friend.
  2. Stuff to encourage their interests. Did your friend used to be really into photography, or yoga, or travel, and has now fallen out of the habit? Without being condescending, you can encourage them to pick up on old interests—and encourage their minds away from the divorce—by giving low-pressure gifts that help them get there (think a magazine subscription or a book, not an expensive piece of equipment or fitness club subscription).
  3. Really good coffee. Coffee is another one of those things where it’s hard to go wrong. Proper gourmet coffee is delicious, warm, comforting, and it’s something that most of us drink anyway, so once again—practical. Try a variety of coffees from interesting places or with interesting flavors, and go fair trade in case they worry about these things (lots of my friends do).
  4. A cool trip for friends. One of the nicest things you can do for a friend is to get them—nay, force them—out of their dark and horrible routine for a weekend of recalibration. It gives them a chance to relax, vent, possibly cry, and it solidifies your relationship to a degree so they feel less alone. Just make sure you plan around their schedule, ie. don’t surprise someone with a last-minute trip, which is thoughtful but stressful for busy people.
  5. A token of recognition for their achievements. Chances are, your friend is feeling like a grade A loser about now, even if they’re actually a very accomplished person. Gifts that nod gently to their achievements, like a set of posh pens, is a nice way to refocus on the good stuff.

Have something genius to add to the list? I’m always listening. Give me a shout via Twitter and Facebook or leave a comment below!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

 

Divorce and Stay Classy, New York

In the category of “things that should have happened a long time ago,” a new Anchorman-themed bar has opened in the Lower East Side. Lucky for me, it’s only forty-five minutes out of the way when I’m coming home from work, therefore I will be stopping in nightly.

To be fair, the bar is actually Will Ferrell-themed, not Anchorman-themed, and it offers, for example, cocktails named after lots of his movies, not justAnchorman. But let’s be really clear here: Anchorman was the best Will Ferrell movie. (I will accept no objections to this.) Ok, maybe Step Brothers was but that can, in large part, be attributed to the genius that IS John C. Riley.Anyway, the bar owners must have mulled this over for days before coming to the name the place Stay Classy New York.

And classy ’tis. 

The cocktail menu is basically the best thing I’ve ever seen, heard or read. As you muddle through your divorce proceedings, methinks you’ll find considerable solace at the end of the day by burying your troubles in a Smelly Pirate Hooker (it’s a cocktail, people—get your minds out of the gutter) and/or a Whale’s Vagina.

Now, while I can confidently assure you that I am not in any way being compensated by Stay Classy New York to promote them or their awesome cocktails, I will tell you this: the first Anchorman movie more or less made me the man I am today. I now routinely use lines like “Don’t act like you’re not impressed” while showing off the many leather-bound books in my office. You only think I’m kidding.

So how should you make the most of this new NYC resource as you begin a new chapter in your life? Some suggestions:

  1. Invite people to Stay Classy as a part of your whole making new friends exercise. 
  2. Come to Stay Classy when you just need a break from people asking uncomfortable questions
  3. Meet a blind date here. Even if it goes horribly, you’ll have lots of Will Ferrell memorabilia to fill the awkward gaps in conversations.
  4. Establish this as your new “local bar,” even if it’s not actually local. Make everyone meet you here. 
  5. Come here to read all of the Open Letters (they will be increasingly good as you work your way through the cocktail menu).

Let me know if you happen to stop into Stay Classy New York, and feel free to offer up a review in comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

The New York City Marathon & Your Divorce: Basically the Same Thing

Several months of dedicated, grueling, and emotional work. Crying before dawn and after sunset. Every muscle in your body aching and nearly giving up. Only getting relief sitting in a bathtub full of ice. The only food that your stomach can handle is liquid calories.

Am I talking about training for and running the New York City Marathon, or getting through a divorce? Both actually. You’d be shocked how much your divorce and the marathon have in common. Both are long in the making. Both take a lot of preparation. And both are mostly total misery, but so absolutely fantastic when finally over.

So, as it is marathon time here in New York City (didn’t you notice your gym was full of people you’ve never seen before, all pulling up a freshly downloaded C25K apps on their phones?), I’d thought it’d be fun to combine two topics I’m extra familiar with in the infographic below.

Letting the Skeletons Out of the Closet for Halloween: 30 Things We Don't Want to Admit We Do During Divorce

Because it’s Halloween week, and because I really like connecting with you guys, I thought it was about time to address the whole “things we never talk about” theme, ie. the dreaded skeletons in the closet.

The truth is, divorce can get pretty ugly. Uglier than we’d like to admit. Uglier than we expected. Contrary to popular belief, I’d like to suggest it’s NOT because of the lawyers (ahem) but more because when we’re fighting for what’s ours—from the toaster to our self-respect—people can be harsh. And when we go home after a day of that, we have our own ways of dealing with our hurt feelings.

Gleaned from years of seeing divorce up close and personal, and of course experiencing it myself, here are some of the skeletons that might be in your closet—and an assurance from me that you do not need to be ashamed. We’ve all been through it.

  1. Watching sad movies on purpose, so you can tear up and pretend it’s because of the movie.
  2. Getting really into “chick flicks”.
  3. Doing M.A.S.H. like you’re twelve, “just to check.”
  4. Listening to sad songs on purpose. Performing them in the mirror. Wallowing.
  5. Making a list(s) of things you hate about your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.
  6. Saying you’re going to gym, and actually going to Dunkin Donuts.
  7. Starting yoga to help manage your anxiety, then quitting.
  8. Breaking your ex’s stuff (accidentally).
  9. Realizing you have their credit card info saved on your computer, and charging something on it, like a Spiralizer or a small beer fridge (accidentally).
  10. Grabbing some self-help books at Barnes & Noble, then being too embarrassed to actually go to the checkout. Waiting until you’re at home and then buying them for Kindle instead.
  11. Hiding all your embarrassing self-help books on Kindle. (Thank you, Amazon Whispernet.)
  12. Facebook messaging your ex from college, just to say hi.
  13. Surreptitiously dropping a banana into a box of your ex’s stuff before it gets moved to the new place.
  14. Burning mail that arrives with your married name on it.
  15. Burning other things.
  16. Eating your weight in candy corn. =)
  17. Enjoying the feeling of having people be interested in you when they find out you’re single.
  18. Starting kickboxing to help get your anger out, then quitting.
  19. Buying a new wardrobe you can’t really afford.
  20. Not being as “okay with it” as you lead most people to believe.
  21. Becoming irate when you realize how unrealistic most movies and shows about marriage and divorce are.
  22. Become irate because it’s Tuesday.
  23. Starting a swimming routine to help get your body back into “single” shape, and then quitting.
  24. Becoming really, really, really invested in the outcome of every series of the Law and Orderfranchise.
  25. Wanting to kill everyone who does the sympathetic head-tilt when they hear about your divorce.
  26. Starting a reddit thread about how horrible your ex was.
  27. Letting your friends think you’re actually more depressed than you are, so you can stay home and watch Law and Order.
  28. Being totally okay with preferring Law and Order over human company.
  29. Joining a book club to help get yourself out among the humans, then only going to the first meeting.
  30. Writing motivational messages to yourself on the bathroom mirror.
  31. Have a good one (or three) skeletons you want to share? We’re all listening! Leave a comment or tweet it.

    Respectfully,
    James J. Sexton

9 Elevator Speeches to Put Your Divorce in a Nutshell

You know that awkward moment when you don’t feel like talking about your divorce but somebody asks and you don’t want to be impolite? I mean when you’re past the “leave me alone” stage, but not quite to the “everything’s actually fine” stage. It’s that murky middle area when the divorce is still fresh—and everyone keeps asking uncomfortable questions?

Well, to handle that, enter the elevator pitch! Elevator speeches or elevator pitches are known as such because the whole point is brevity: can you get through them in the time it takes to ride the elevator (right before you walk away as quickly as humanly possible). While the elevator speech helps the upwardly mobile (haha, see what I did there?) make their point by the time they get their floor, it helps you do exactly the same thing—make the point quickly, minimizing the risk of tears, breakdowns, embarrassing rants, etc.

Here are a few of the best divorce elevator speeches I’ve come across so far. Feel free to use!

If You Still Like Your Ex as a Person

  • “We now know there are things that prevent us from being married to each other. It’s not one or the other’s fault, and we hope the best for each other.”
  • “S/He’s a wonderful person, and we’re glad for the time we had together, but we’ve decided it’s best for both of us if we head different directions now.”

If You Don’t

  • “I finally figured out that I should matter.”
  • “I found out where the missing money was going.”
  • “Ashley Madison.”

If You Don’t Feel Like Sharing

  • “We grew apart.”
  • “It just didn’t work out.”
  • “I’m going through a divorce. I don’t feel much like talking about it, but I truly appreciate your kind words and support.”
  • “It is what it is.”

Have a good one to add, or any other tips for dealing with stuff post-divorce? I’m all ears! Tweet to me or leave a comment below.

For more of my commentary on dealing with life after divorce, check out my recent posts How to Make New Friends after Your Divorce and 

Getting a divorce? Feel free to contact me for advice about that, too.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce Jargon Cheat Sheet

Remember that Friends episode where Joey bought an encyclopedia volume because he couldn’t keep up a conversation with the other friends? He found himself nodding along hoping no one would catch on that he was completely clueless. Then he got volume V of an encyclopedia and was a regular Charlie Rose for a few seconds until the conversation moved onto something not V-related.

Don’t be Joey when it comes to your divorce. Use the handy guide below to demystify all the legalese heading your way. Also, don’t be Joey when it comes to the rest of your life either. Would it kill you to pick up a newspaper once in awhile?

Abandonment: When one spouse peaces out for at least one year without consent or justification. This concept used to have some legal relevance.  Now that New York is a “no fault” state nobody cares. You can tell how old this particular law is by the fact it includes the statement that the spouse must be absent for a period of twelve months “with no tidings.”  

Adultery: You probably know this one. It’s cheating. The cheat-cheat-cheating.

Alimony: The bucks. That sweet dough or financial support one spouse is required to provide the other after separation or divorce. Usually tax deductible by the individual paying it and taxable income to the person receiving it. In New York this term is no longer used and has been replaced by the term “Maintenance.”  It still costs the same.  

Attorney’s Fees: The cold hard cash you give me. Take some small comfort in the fact that I’m passing most of it along to my own ex-wife.  

Child Support: Money paid by one spouse to the other to cover a child’s expenses. Child support generally covers the “shelter expenses” of the child: food, clothing, contribution to housing. There can be additional funds awarded for things like unreimbursed medical expenses and educational expenses but “child support” covers most stuff so if Junior wants a new lacrosse stick or prom dress it’s covered under “child support” unless the person paying is feeling generous.   

Constructive Abandonment: When one spouse refuses to have sex with the other spouse for a period of at least a year, and without justification. That’s right folks: you are legally required, in New York State, to have sex with your spouse at least one time per year. Mark it on the calendar. Perhaps have it coincide with changing the clocks for Daylight Savings Time?  That way you can have sex, change the clocks and the battery in the fire detectors and, for at least one night, get an extra hour of sleep knowing that your marriage and home are both especially “Fireproof” for that night (Yes…that was a deliberate Kirk Cameron reference).

Cruel and Inhuman Treatment: Cruelty (physical or emotional) committed by the Defendant against the Plaintiff that makes living together unsafe or otherwise impossible. Forcing a spouse to watch James Franco’s Palo Alto is not considered cruel and inhuman treatment in any state, though it should be.

Defendant or Respondent: The person who has a divorce or Family Court action filed against them. I can usually see them coming as they walk into my office holding papers in their hand and saying “I meant to come see you sooner….”

Earning Capacity: A person’s ability to earn money. Things to consider: education, training, job experience, million dollar Hollywood smile, sick dance moves.

Emancipation: How teen stars divorce their momagers to get full control of their sitcom money. Also when a child under 21 marries, enlists in the military, or is financially self sufficient thereby making them no longer eligible for child support.

Equitable Distribution – How marital property is divided. Equitable doesn’t have to mean 50/50.

Family Court: Where you’ll be hanging out to get custody, child support and visitation ironed out. Ask around to find out where the good vending machines are. There’s always one good one and it’s never easy to find. Avoid the water fountains. Spring for the bottled water from the machines. Trust me on this one.  

Jurisdiction: The state where your divorce takes place. Usually residing someplace for six months or more gives that state jurisdiction over the divorce. Whether or not that state is the right “venue” is another question entirely.  

Legal Custody: The legal responsibility and right to make decisions for a child under 18. I’m not talking about where the child should have dinner tonight (your ex gets to make those decisions during his or her visitation/parenting time).  I’m talking about “major decisions” such as what religion will the child be, will they attend public or private school, can they have elective cosmetic surgery? Some of these decisions have financial ramifications.  

Marital Property: All cars, TVs, furniture, jazz shoes and any other stuff acquired by the couple from the date of marriage to the beginning of the divorce process. Debt can also be considered property so remember that gets whacked up too. Some things, such as an inheritance or proceeds from a personal injury award may not count as Marital Property and are considered Separate Property. Key point: the fact that something is in your “sole name” may not protect that asset from division.  

Mediation: A rap sesh between a couple and a mediator where the couple tries to hammer out their divorce issues and come to some sort of agreement. Sort of like couples therapy but the couple is not looking to work things out to stay together.

No Fault Divorce: Neither spouse has to prove the other did something wrong. No one has to give a reason for wanting the divorce. The couple just has to stand in front of a darkened mirror and chant “No Fault Divorce” three times and the judge appears in the mirror covered in blood wearing a yellowing bridal veil and okays it. Kidding about that last bit.

Order of Protection: An order from the court that demands a person stop harassing another person, or orders them to stay away from a certain place such as a home, school or office.  This can be obtained in Family Court or Justice Court (or both).  

Palimony: Like Alimony but for pals who weren’t legally married, but were living together in a marriage-like relationship. This no longer exists in New York State.  Please stop asking.

Parenting Time: The new term for visitation.  Also called “custodial access time” or “access time” the idea being that you don’t “visit” with your child. This is intended to make somebody feel better about only seeing their child on alternate Wednesdays.  

Plaintiff or Petitioner: The spouse who files for divorce. The individual who incepts the action.  The only real benefit to being the “first to file” is that you get to go first if the case goes to trial (this isn’t always a good thing) and you have to pay the filing fees (currently $385.00).

Physical Custody – You can reach out and pinch your cute kid’s cheeks because they are with you, in your physical custody. The child most likely lives with you and your home is considered the kid’s “primary residence.”  This is sometimes a very lucrative arrangement as having “primary physical custody” usually results in receiving child support.

Pro Se: Going solo and representing yourself sans lawyer. Also known as having little or no self preservative instincts. People ask me all the time (usually at a consultation) “Can’t I represent myself?” and the answer is “Yes.”  You can also do your own dental work. All you need is a drill, a high pain tolerance and an abundance of tenacity.  Good luck with that.  

Separate Property: Stuff that is out of bounds to split up, meaning it belongs solely to only one spouse. This could be premarital property that was never “commingled” with marital property.  This could be stuff you got after the filing of the divorce action.  

Separation Agreement: The written agreement that spells out all the specifics regarding your divorce and the arrangements the former couple has agreed to. This is how the overwhelming majority of cases end when people finally realize that Judges don’t possess any particular wisdom on any of these issues. If your lawyers divide your assets – they do it with a scalpel.  If a Judge does it – they do it with a chainsaw.  

Subpoena: Tricky to spell but easy to explain. It’s the court’s way of telling you (or a witness in your case) when and where to be to testify, or it’s way of asking to provide certain documents. If you get served with one please call me.  If your business partner gets served with one please call me on my cell phone as soon as possible.

Uncontested Divorce: First a magical alignment of planets, heavens and earth occurs. Then Glinda the Good Witch bubbles down from the sky with a red wagon full of golden retriever puppies. She confirms that both parties are totally cool with every divorce related issue including spousal support, custody and splitting property. The couple then pets the puppies and the divorce is officially granted and sealed with puppy kisses. Just kidding, planets don’t have to align and Glinda can take the day off. The puppies are optional, though strongly recommended.

Uncontested divorces are very common and totally doable, so keep the faith. This stuff isn’t rocket science but it does require a certain level of knowledge and experience.  Call me sooner rather than later. Trust me. I’ll be gentle.  

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

The Best Divorce Movies to Get You Through the Dark Times

Divorce can be an isolating experience. Especially when those around you haven’t been through it themselves. They can try to comfort you and say the right things, but sometimes you need someone who knows what it’s like. Someone who’s been through it. Someone like my old pal Holly…wood.

There’s a movie out there for everyone. One that will resonate with you, no matter how unique you think your situation is. Below are my absolute favorite divorce movies. Find which one suits your needs, clear off the couch and get some snacks together.

First Wives Club
Did your husband leave you for some twenty-something? Was that twenty-something Jessie Spano? Do you like musical numbers that involve a lot of white semi-formal wear? Yes? Then First Wives Club is for you! Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton play three divorcees out for revenge. You can live vicariously through them while still taking the high road even though your ex-husband Steven is scum of the earth and his new girlfriend Tiffani doesn’t look old enough to babysit.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Did you lose your custody battle? Have you considered posing as a female nanny to spend more time with your kids? Yes? Well Mrs. Doubtfire is the film for you, friend. It’s got slapstick and hijinks galore and watching from the comfort of your couch is a heck of a lot cheaper than hiring a professional makeup artist to transform you into an older Scottish lady.  

Crazy, Stupid, Love
Did your wife leave you for some chump she works with? Do you like looking at Ryan Gosling? Are you looking for some tips to help you pick up women in bars post-separation? Look no further, all that and more awaits you in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Nothing pains me more than to tell you that you’re probably not going to meet Ryan Gosling at your local bar. And he’s not going to date you, nor is he going to teach you about pulling women like your own personal pick-up artist Mystery. But! You can watch this and pretend for two hours that those are all feasible things that can indeed happen.

She-Devil
Is your husband having an affair with a world renowned romance novelist? Do you want to ruin his entire life? Do you need a step-by-step guide? Well, you’ve got one in She-Devil. I don’t know why this movie isn’t more popular, it’s amazing. Just don’t get any ideas… So much of what Ruth does would land you in jail for a long time. 

Desperately Seeking Susan
Are you a bored stay-at-home wife? Do you read personal ads to get you through those monotonous days? Do you live vicariously through those ad writers? Have you ever been swept up in an ancient Egyptian jewel heist? Great! You’ll really relate to this one. So much is good here — fantastic soundtrack, very 80s New York, Madonna — you can’t lose.

Hope Floats
Did your husband cheat on you? Did you find out he cheated on you when he told you on a national talk show? Destroyed by the news, did you move back to your hometown? Yes? That is so freaky because that’s what Hope Floats is about! There is nothing like a sappy chick flick to really get you through the hard times and give you some perspective plus I hear women like this one, too. This flick is the perfect combination of preposterous and heartwarming. 

Heartburn
Are you ready to leave that cheating spouse and start fresh somewhere new? Have you changed your mind about that decision a bunch of times? Well, Heartburn’s for you! It’s based on Nora Ephron’s novel (and personal life!), stars Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson and takes you along on a rollercoaster of a marriage. 

Enough Said
Are you divorced and dipping your toe back into the dating pool? Are you relatively normal and understated? Yes? Then, this one’s for you. Enough Said is a sweet little film that feels real and just might make you feel less alone in the world. 

City of God
Sure…you might be getting divorced but at least you aren’t living in a Brazilian favela run by drug lords and corrupt police. Seriously…you haven’t seen City of God? Stop whatever you are doing now and go watch it. It has absolutely nothing to do with divorce but I just didn’t want to make a movie list that had the words “best” and “movies” in it that didn’t have City of God on it.  Why are you still reading this….go watch it….you can thank me later.  

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Our Complicated Relationship With Social Media

While art directing my perfectly curated breakfast of avocado toast and an iced latte, complete with a blogworthy striped paper straw, I thought to myself daaamn this looks good, I’m going to get so many likes. But I also thought about a simpler time, when I ate without photographing it, when I could see the stage of a concert with my own eyes instead of through the 100 phones in front of me, and before I felt the need to micro-document every single thing I did to prove to my high school frenemies on Facebook that my life was way, way better than any of theirs. Just 10 years ago the world was very different.

With the advent of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (the holy trinity), and of course their handheld facilitator — the smart phone — our lives, our relationships and the way we interact has totally transformed. Though, with each technological triumph are we becoming a better society? A wise man named Neil Postman opined, “Technological change is always a Faustian bargain: technology giveth and technology taketh away, and not always in equal measure.  A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys.  Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates.”

So, which camp are we in? Are we better off now than we were 10 years ago? It’s hard to say. Sure we’re all zombies with stooped heads, growing hunchbacks, stuck in the technology loop Portlandia perfectly described:

But the world has also shrunk and we’re able to meet and bond with people all over the place. It’s now easier than ever to find and build our own tribes. Access to information, art and music has never been more democratic. And of course, how we fall in love today is different as well.

I just finished reading comedian Aziz Ansari’s new book Modern Romance, an interesting sociological study on dating in modern times, in all its glory and horror. He too grappled with the question of whether we’re better off now than we were pre-social media. In America Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid and their dozens of copycats bring people together with a few taps and swipes. But in Japan, marriage and birth rates are declining and the contemporary internet age seems to be isolating people from each other more than bringing them together. Ansari didn’t find a definitive answer to whether we’re better off, but in much of the world social media is instrumental in getting people together.

It’s so commonplace now, that more and more the answer to “So how did you two meet?” is simply “the internet.” It is so the norm that chatting someone up, human-to-human, is so weird it merits experiments like this:

Sometimes people find their soulmates online and sometimes aspiring writers turn horrible dates into great short stories. But let’s focus on the soulmate couple. They swiped their way to true love and are now married, but social media’s influence does not end there. Dating apps and sites are of course expediting the cheating process, busting up marriages left and right. Curious partners snoop their way into uncovering cheating spouses who reconnected with their high school sweethearts thanks to Facebook. Concerned fans tweet wives mariage-shattering photo discoveries. Then there are all those politicians sending crotch shots to strangers, mangling their careers and their marriages in one fell swoop.

Even once the marriage is a pile of smoking ashes, the impact of selfie sharing and status updates is not over. Shiny social media accounts can make a person the envy of all their friends but they can also get them into hot water. Custody, alimony, and all sorts of other details of a divorce can be tied to what is posted online.

It does not fare well for a custody argument when a person’s supposed to be with the kids but instead they’re tagged in Facebook pictures slamming shots in Vegas. Boasting about a new car and flashy lifestyle on Twitter does not bode well for the “I swear I’m broke. I need alimony, your Honor” stance. Even the innocuous can be detrimental. Kid not properly bucked in his carseat in that Instagram post? Does it matter that they weren’t moving and two seconds after the picture was taken the parent fixed the buckle? It certainly doesn’t to a spouse’s attorney when she argues that they’re an unfit parent who doesn’t care about a child’s safety.

So what’s a person to do? Well, use your brain. Basically, don’t be dumb. Maybe posting a link to Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money (NSFW!!!) video with a “Lol” isn’t the best status update to post on the morning of your court hearing. Set your privacy settings so that you can review pictures before you’re tagged in them. Think through each thing you want to post, and when you decide it’s fine, don’t post it, take a walk around the block and think it through once more. Honestly, if possible, the best idea is unplug. Take a break from all your accounts. Commune with nature. Meet up with your friends and talk to them in person. Read a newspaper instead of a newsfeed. Let us lawyers do our jobs while you enjoy the peace and quiet of a simpler life. And hope that your soon to be ex-spouse didn’t take any of this advice and all his or her internet mistakes will prove fruitful for you.

So, have we destroyed more than we created? Are we better off in this new frontier where we can Seamless tacos, swipe right to find a date, tweet the entire world our deepest and shallowest thoughts, text our grandmas happy birthday, and share the screenshots on Instagram — all without having to move an inch off our couches? Are we better communicators now? Is all this convenience giving us better, streamlined lives?

Well, the answer is simple. Just kidding! I have no idea. And I don’t have the free time to get a PhD in sociology and anthropology and the nine hundred other fields that all have to converge to get into even the same ballpark as the answer. I know this much to be true: Neil Postman was right. Social media giveth and taketh away. Social media brings us together and tears us apart. Social media can prove helpful and totally detrimental to divorce proceedings. This is the world we live in now, we must accept it. Now who wants tacos? We don’t have to talk to anyone at all to get them delivered to our door. Hang on, I’ll grab my phone.

Respectfully,
James Sexton