Tag Archives: love

Survey On Artificial Intelligence: Approximately 42 percent Of People Would Have Sex With A Robot (And Why That Number Will Increase)

Sex with robots: Zuckerberg will make you do it |

Every now and then, science decides to study something that most people would deem unnecessary because it seems so intuitively obvious. There are multiples studies about how overeating can lead to weight gain. Most people know that. Some are living proof of it. There’s no need for exhaustive studies to confirm it.

However, we study it anyways because the details can be revealing. It can also reveal some subtleties and trends that are worth noting. They’re useful for business, researchers, policy makers, and anyone who’s simply curious about human nature.

I bring this up because recently, a company named Tidio, which specializes in chatbots, conducted a survey about peoples’ attitudes on artificial intelligence. It’s not the most scientifically rigorous survey, but that’s to be expected.

Artificial intelligence is a relatively recent trend and one that’s sure to become more relevant in the coming decades. Most people only have a cursory understanding of it and their perceptions are largely shaped by popular culture, going back to the days of “The Terminator.” Regardless of that limited understanding, people do have certain attitudes towards AI and that’s worth studying.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to the Tidio survey. I encourage everyone to check it out. It coves everything from how artificial intelligence could affect future jobs to whether people are comfortable letting an AI robot conduct surgery on them.

However, the one part of the survey I want to highlight is the one on sex robots. Given how often I’ve talked about them, as well as the sexy short stories I’ve written, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’ll also quote it here because, while it probably won’t surprise anyone either, I think I hints at a larger trend.

About 42% of our survey respondents would have sexual intercourse with a robot. Yet, only 39% believe they could have a romantic relationship with an AI. There is also a large discrepancy between men and women. Men are more open to both the idea of sleeping with a robot (48%) and falling in love with an AI (43% of male respondents).

I highlighted that bold part because I think that’s a critical number to keep in mind. Even if you’re not great with math or statistics, 42 percent is not a trivial figure. If you extrapolate that to the global population, that’s well over 3 billion people. That’s a lot of people.

Now, it’s worth reiterating that this survey was limited to only 1,225 participants and it’s hardly representative of the entire world. Those limits aside, it does at least hint that there’s a sizable part of the population who are open to having sex with a robot. What form it may take likely depends on the person, but the idea is already there.

I think that’s revealing because, even if people only know sex robots and artificial intelligence through popular culture, there’s still an appeal. Even though many sex robots in fiction end up being evil, that doesn’t dissuade some people from wanting to try it.

On top of that, a truly functional sex robot doesn’t really exist right now. There are a few working prototypes in existence, but nobody is going to mistake them for real people anytime soon. We’re still years away from sex robots that are as realistic as the ones we see in shows like “Westworld.”

Even so, the fact that 42 percent of people in this survey are already open to the idea demonstrates that there is a waiting market for sex robots. There’s also a sizable part of the population who is growing increasingly comfortable with artificial intelligence being part of their intimate lives.

Given how younger generations view technology, I suspect that 42 percent figure will only grow in the coming years. If anything, I think that number is low. I suspect that if this survey was done with a larger sample size, more people of varying genders would express a willingness to interact with AI, as well as use a sex robot.

I also suspect that, in the coming years, our overall comfort with the idea of sex robots will increase. There may still be a period in which they’re taboo. There’s also the whole uncanny valley issue that will likely impact how sex robots are designed, refined, and marketed. In the long run, though, I think attitudes towards sex robots will continue to evolve.

The fact they’re already at a point where 42 percent of people are willing to try one shows they’re already in the public consciousness. There is a kinky curiosity, of sorts, about what this technology has to offer. Make no mistake, the effects that will have on the future of sex, society, and technology are sure to be profound.

What do you think of this survey?

Do you agree with it?

Do you think it’s overstating or understating peoples’ willingness to embrace sex robots? Let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll be contemplating how this could affect future sexy stories.

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Filed under sex in society, sex robots

Jack’s World: Why Love Triangles Suck (And How To Make Them Suck Less)

The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s about love triangles and why they suck. Need I say more? Enjoy!

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Filed under Jack's World, movies, romance, YouTube

A Question (And A Challenge) For Those Who Once Opposed Same-Sex Marriage (But No Longer Do)

Fighting for the right to recognize same-sex marriage in Japan | The Japan  Times

People change.

Societies change.

General attitudes towards certain subjects, ideas, or behaviors change.

None of that should be news to anyone. Change is the only true constant in this crazy, complicated world. I’ve certainly seen plenty over the course of my life. It really wasn’t that long ago that the idea of marijuana being legalized in one state, let alone a dozen, seemed unthinkable.

It also wasn’t that long ago that the idea of same-sex marriage being legalized nationwide seemed equally unthinkable. In terms of major social and/or political issues, that issue resonates with me because it became a hot button topic while I was a teenager. In essence, it grew as I grew.

I still remember all the headlines from 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. I also remembered all the heated discussions that came from it. I even participated in a few. I felt like I understood the arguments made by the proponents. I had little issue seeing the logic behind their points.

Two individuals love each other and want to get married.

The state currently prevents them from doing so, thereby denying them the many benefits associated with marriage.

That denial is simply not reasonable in a free society that permits people to marry whomever they choose.

However, it was the arguments made by the opponents that I often struggled to understand. Honestly, their arguments from tradition, morality, or the idea of “defending marriage” just didn’t make sense to me. Even as I got older and saw arguments against it from major pundits and thinkers, often from those who identified as conservative, I still didn’t get it.

How does two gay people getting married affect anyone?

How does it tangibly and measurably undermine marriage between heterosexual couples?

I never got a straight answer. Most of the time, I just got hit with a bunch of bible verses from the Old Testament or some variation of “marriage has always been this way.” I never found any of those arguments convincing.

Fast forward two decades and suddenly, the lack of substance in those arguments really show. More and more, people are started to realize that too, including those who identify as conservative and likely opposed same-sex marriage at one point.

Just recently, Gallup released a poll indicating that support of same-sex marriage was at a record high. On top of that, even those who vote republican and identify as conservative have since come to support it. It’s still not quite on the same level as that of liberal democrats, but it’s still a majority and that’s a big deal.

Gallup: Record-High 70% in U.S. Support Same-Sex Marriage

U.S. support for legal same-sex marriage continues to trend upward, now at 70% — a new high in Gallup’s trend since 1996. This latest figure marks an increase of 10 percentage points since 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all states must recognize same-sex marriages.

Republicans, who have consistently been the party group least in favor of same-sex marriage, show majority support in 2021 for the first time (55%). The latest increase in support among all Americans is driven largely by changes in Republicans’ views.

Now, I welcome this news. I think it’s an objectively good thing that more and more people support same-sex marriage. The opposition to it never came off as anything more than varying degrees of bigotry.

I also think homosexuality and LGBTQ issues have gotten to a point where they’re no longer so unfamiliar or radical. We see them on TV, in movies, and in major positions of power. At the same time, the brand of reactionary religious zealotry that condemns homosexuality has fallen out of favor.

Again, this is good news. Accepting same-sex marriage and affording same-sex couples the same rights and protections isn’t just fair and just. It’s the right thing to do. Even if you despise homosexuality, you can’t justify having your personal preferences imposed and enforced by law. That’s just un-American.

Beyond that news, though, I have a question and a challenge for those who once opposed same-sex marriage, but no longer do. I’ll even extend it to those who still oppose same-sex marriage. Now that same-sex marriage has been legal for over five years, I think this question is worth asking.

How much or how little has your life changed since same-sex marriage was legalized?

It’s an honest, sincere question. I’d really like to know. There was a lot of fearmongering on the part of opponents to same-sex marriage. I won’t get into the specifics, but there were real concerns by opponents that legalizing same-sex marriage would have dire consequences.

Have any of those consequences even played out? If so, what data indicates as such?

Again, that’s an honest inquiry. I’d really like to know.

In addition, I also have a challenge to those who once opposed same-sex marriage. It’s a bit broader in scope, but is just as relevant.

What other issues besides same-sex marriage have you come around on?

Like I said earlier, change is the only true constant. What’s considered normal and acceptable today might be considered atrocious tomorrow. The same goes for what we consider immoral or deviant. A couple decades ago, it was same-sex marriage. A century ago, things like divorce and interracial marriage were just as taboo.

It’s hard to understand the attitudes of generations that have long since passed on. However, the vast shift in attitudes do offer some perspective. I believe they challenge us all to contemplate our current attitudes and how differently they’ll be seen in future generations.

We can’t know for sure which position will change drastically between now and twenty years into the future. We should still make a concerted effort in refining our perspective. Same-sex marriage showed just how much attitudes towards one single issue can change within a couple decades. Which issue will undergo a similar change two decades from now? Only time will tell.

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Filed under Current Events, LGBTQ, Marriage and Relationships, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, psychology, Uncategorized

Finding Love Has Become An Extended Job Interview (And For Good, Yet Unromantic Reasons)

Being a self-professed romantic and an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I often scrutinize the nature of romance more than most. Whereas some might watch a movie or TV show and see the basics of a romantic sub-plot, I’ll dig much deeper. I’ll identify which romances are inherently flawed, why some work beautifully, and why love triangles are inherently awful.

That scrutiny goes beyond media, popular culture, and my own efforts to tell a good love story. I often find myself observing how romance unfolds in real life. Whether it’s how people have pursued romance in the past to my own romantic endeavors, there’s a lot to break down and it doesn’t always make sense. Love isn’t known for being rational, after all.

It’s because of this tendency of mine that I notice things that rarely come up in discussions about romance. Recently, I realized something profound while reading several stories about how modern dating has changed in recent years, of which there are many.

Modern romance has become more a job interview than an emotional journey.

I imagine some will roll their eyes at that notion. Some might even agree with it and not need any convincing. A few probably think I’m giving this too much thought, even for a romance fan. That may be a fair point, but I believe the evolution of modern romance is becoming a lot less romantic.

To be fair, finding has undergone many upheavals throughout history. It wasn’t until the past couple centuries that people actually married for love. Those who claim to champion “traditional” marriage probably aren’t aware that marriage and formal relationships were little more than passionless business contracts for most of human history.

Love and romance were always there. We, as human beings, are hardwired to form loving bonds. It just took different forms and people went about it in very different ways. Most people have a general idea of how people go about it today. It tends to go something like this.

  • Two people meet, either in person or online
  • There’s a spark of attraction
  • They both pursue each other
  • They go on dates to learn about one another and explore their romantic connection
  • If the connection is strong enough, they forge a lasting relationship and build a life together

Granted, this is an exceedingly gross simplification. It still covers most of the basics. That’s the problem, though. It only deals with the basics and people are rarely basic.

It starts shortly after a mutual attraction is established. Once two people start pursuing one another, the dating phase starts. Movies, TV shows, and romance novels tend to be vague about how this unfolds. However, it’s here where the parallels with job interviews start to show.

While a love story may depict candle-lit dinners, coordinated dancing, and intimate gestures, the bulk of that process tends to involve more pragmatic acts. For two people to understand whether they’re romantically compatible, they need to get to know one another. To get to know one another, they need to interact.

That, in and of itself, doesn’t make dating indistinguishable from a job interview. For that, the modern structure of relationships is what fosters that and I’m not just referring to marriage. This affects couples who cohabitate, as well as those who are serial monogamists.

From a logistical standpoint, a modern romance has many moving parts. It’s not enough to just be attracted to one another, enjoy each other’s company, or have great sex. People often have to find a way to fit one another into their lives. There are jobs, career aspirations, and living situations to consider.

These days, people aren’t as likely to stay in the same place they were born in, especially if the opportunities in that town are limited. The same goes for their families. Even if they stay, sometimes their parents or extended family move away. Maybe it’s for retirement, going to college, or pursuing their own romantic interests. Having to accommodate all that into a relationship can be daunting.

In the same way you might be qualified for a job, but not in a position to take it, you might find yourself in a similar relationship with romance. All the emotional, physical, and sexual chemistry is there. However, you’re just not in a position to pursue it. You can’t maintain that relationship when you’re both living in other time zones or pursuing different paths.

That’s not to say long distance relationships can’t work, but it’s like trying to do a job remotely. There’s only so much you can do when you’re not present. If that weren’t the case, everyone would work from home or from a tropical paradise. I that as someone who has been unable to pursue major opportunities and broken up from good relationships due to distance.

Even if you can work around issues of distance and time, there’s also the matter of becoming entwined with family affairs. As the “Meet The Parents” trilogy so hilariously demonstrates, being with someone is rarely just about being with them, individually. At some point, if the romance is to be serious, their family will get involved.

That process can be as complicated as matching qualifications for a specialized job on a resume. You’ve got to make sure both families can get along. They can’t just tolerate each other at the wedding or during the holidays. They have to be capable of co-existing in a way that doesn’t undercut the romance.

It’s very similar from having a job that matches your skill set, but for an organization that is just insufferable. A lot of people have had to endure jobs they hated, even if they paid well or matched their various talents. When the organization within the job is awful, then even a dream job can be awful.

You can love someone with all your heart. You might even have someone your family loves. However, if your lover’s family is an absolute pain, then the romance will suffer. Now that relationships aren’t just business arrangements, we have to navigate around one another’s lives and their families. To do that, it’s necessary to treat dating like a job interview.

You have figure out if this person fits into your life.

You have to figure out if their hopes, dreams, and abilities match what you’re looking for.

You have to prove that your hopes, dreams, and abilities match theirs as well.

You have to determine whether you fit into the organization of their life and their family.

Ultimately, you have to build that shared life together around all of that, knowing that breaking up/being fired/quitting comes with a personal/professional cost.

On the surface, it’s hardly romantic. At the same time, there’s an undeniable pragmatism to it. As society has evolved, complete with more egalitarian gender roles and fewer taboos about being single, we’re in a better position to chart our own romantic path. We don’t just have to settle for limited options and few opportunities. We can dare to seek something greater.

As a byproduct, the basic romantic elements of intimate chemistry can never be enough. It’s necessary, if not unavoidable, to assess a prospective lover’s entire life to determine of that romance is even viable. It’s not easy and it’s exceedingly imperfect, as the rate of divorce and abusive relationships indicates.

However, being the romantic I am, I still say it’s worth pursuing. That process is still very likely to change as society, technology, and attitudes change. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are sure to change it even more. Whether it becomes more or less like a job interview remains to be seen.

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Filed under gender issues, human nature, Love Or Obsession, psychology, romance

A Brief Message On Love And Patriotism

How the American Flag Became a Threat | Time

I’m a proud American and I love my country. In that respect, I do consider myself a patriot.

I’m also a big romance fan who genuinely appreciates the power of love.

As a result, my understanding of love has an impact on my understanding of patriotism. You can look up the definition of patriotism and love to get a basic understanding of the concept. However, a basic understanding will only take you so far. It’s also shallow. It only scratches the surface of a much deeper feeling.

Now, in the spirit of the 4th of July, America’s most patriotic holiday, I thought I’d take a moment to share my understanding of what it means to be patriotic and to love your country. I feel like it’s an important message to send, given the events of the past year.

I won’t bemoan those events or the people, politics, and ideology behind it. Love and patriotism go beyond all that. This is me, a proud American, seeking to share my perspective with my other fellow Americans as we get ready to celebrate the country we so deeply love.

To love your country is like to love your family. You didn’t choose the time, place, or circumstances of your birth. You came into it vulnerable and unaware. You grow up in it with the support, guidance, and values of those around you. They seek to protect you and you seek to learn from them.

It’s not always ideal. Nothing ever is. That doesn’t stop you from loving your family, nor does it stop you from loving your country.

Later on in life, you seek a different kind of love with another. You look for that special someone who you can love with all your heart and who will love you back in return. It’s not an easy search. You’re bound to endure loss, heartache, and disappointment along the way, but you keep searching. You endure because that feeling and that connection is just that powerful.

When you find that love, you sense that power. It fills you with energy, passion, and resolve. You come to cherish it. You’re willing to fight to protect it at all costs. We admire that kind of drive in others. We cling to it, as it becomes part of our identity.

This kind of love is very similar to patriotism. Our love for our country is very much an extension of our love for our family. The same energy that drives us to love, cherish, and protect our loved ones drives us to do the same for our country. Many Americans share that feeling. However, like with the love we have for families and spouses, it can blind us.

There’s a fine line between love and obsession.

By that same token, there’s a fine line between patriotism and blind loyalty.

One is healthy and productive while the other is toxic and damaging. A big part of loving someone is not ignoring their flaws. When they’re wrong, you point it out. When they’re doing something destructive, you try to stop them. When they’re wounded, lost, or angry, you try to help them. That’s what you do for someone you love. That’s also what you do for your country.

The United States of America is a wonderful place, but it’s not perfect. The history of this country has has many dark moments. Both the government and large swaths of its citizens have been wrong, unjust, and misguided on a great many subjects since its founding. Ignoring that isn’t an act of love or patriotism. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

You don’t let someone you love keep doing what you know is wrong.

You don’t let someone you love descend into toxic, self-destructive cycles.

You don’t let someone you love forget their mistakes, thereby never learning from them.

The same applies to your country. To love it is to love its flaws, too. To love it is to want to see it get better. Like with those we love, we want them to become the best version of themselves they can be. Again, it’s challenging and even daunting at times. However, we endure because that’s what we do for someone we love.

As a patriot, you want your country to be the best it can be. That’s exactly what I want for America. That’s what I seek to celebrate every Fourth of July holiday.

I understand that not everyone has the same vision for this country as I do. Some actively pursue a vision for this country that’s utterly antithetical to the ideals it was founded upon all those years ago. Those are not patriots because they aren’t guided by love. They’re guided by selfish agendas.

In both love and patriotism, you can’t be selfish. You can’t be guided by hate or malice. You have to be willing to do what’s right and difficult over what’s selfish and expedient. You and those you love will make mistakes. Everybody does. We’re all flawed, imperfect human beings. Every country, including America, is made up of those same beings.

That’s why we keep striving to be better. Like any good loving relationship, you encourage those you love to be better with you. You work together, but not by always agreeing on everything or avoiding conflict. True love is a willingness to take the bad with the good and confront both.

This is a perspective that has always been crucial for patriotic Americans, but never more so than recently. After over 200 years, we’ve had plenty of time to grow and mature. We’re not a young country anymore. We’re one of the most powerful nations on the planet. With that power comes responsibility and we must never forget that.

Keep that in mind as you celebrate your love for your country, as I will be doing in a few days. Each year brings a new challenge for us all. Let’s be willing to face it, but let us do so while remembering what it truly means to love our country as true patriots.

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Filed under Current Events, political correctness, politics, rants

Signs Someone Truly Loves You (According To Reddit)

How do you know when someone truly, sincerely loves you?

That’s a question that every love song, chick flick, and romance novel attempt to explore. I’ve certainly done my share of exploring with the novels and sexy short stories I’ve written. They don’t always answer the question, but they do give it drama and substance.

What about love in the real world? Stories are fanciful and theatric. The real world is not. However, true love still exists in this world. Being a lifelong lover of romance, and having seen it manifest first-hand in real people, I know just how real and powerful it can be.

Those real-life love stories are often more powerful than anything in fiction. Those stories are still out there, even in this cynical world we live in. You just have to know the signs, but that’s easier said than done.

What are those signs? Well, I certainly have my theories, but I understand the love manifests in many diverse ways. My experiences are limited, as are those of most people. Thankfully, that’s where Reddit comes in.

While it may have its dark corners, there are some genuinely heartfelt threads to explore. These threads will make your day for all the right reasons if you find them. Below is a video from the YouTube channel, Radio TTS, on a thread from r/AskReddit on signs that someone truly loves you.

If you’re a romantic or just want to explore the question, this is something that will definitely help. It may even help you realize for yourself just how much that special someone loves you. Enjoy!

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Filed under Love Or Obsession, psychology, romance, sex in society, YouTube

In Honor Of Bill And Malinda Gates’ Divorce: Sad (And Funny) Divorce Stories From Reddit

I’m sure many have already heard the news, by now. Bill and Malinda Gates, one of the richest couples on the planet, are getting a divorce. Now, regardless of how much you despise the ultra-rich for hoarding so much wealth while avoiding taxes at every turn, divorce is a terrible thing. There’s no amount of money in the world that makes it less damaging to all those involved, especially the kids.

Now, we don’t know the particulars of Bill and Malinda’s relationship and I don’t think it’s fair to speculate. I’m sure there will be plenty of tabloid fodder over the course of the next several months or years, for that matter. I want no part of that.

At the very least, I think this would be a good time to take a step back and acknowledge how difficult divorce can be. I know many people personally who have endured it and its damaging effects. It has also affected my own family in profound ways. I’m sure plenty of others have felt it too.

To that end, I’d like to share some painful, but sometimes hilarious, divorce stories from real people who are nowhere near as rich as the Gates. This comes courtesy of Reddit and the YouTube channel, On Tap Studios. Also, if you have your own divorce story that you’d like to share in the comments, please do so. We all can’t be as well-off as the Gates, but we can still appreciate the pain and struggle that comes with every divorce.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, real stories, Reddit, romance, YouTube

Finding Love During A Pandemic: A Love Story To Lift Your Spirits

I’m a long-time romance fan. I hope I’ve made that abundantly clear by now. I’m also still striving to become a romance writer. Between the books I’ve written and the sexy short stories I’ve told, the ideas are there, as well as the effort. This passion of mine has not changed, despite the deeply demoralizing impact of 2020.

I know things got quite bleak last year. I don’t deny all that bleakness got to me. There really was no guide to how to deal with a once-in-a-century pandemic. Once things started getting locked down and people I knew fell ill, it really hit me hard. This was bad. This was historically bad. Naturally, it seriously undermined my ability to enjoy romance.

Romance is about connection, hope, and intimacy. The events of the pandemic were the complete antithesis of all of that. It was not easy to navigate, to say the least. That’s coming from someone who was lucky enough to not get it.

However, now that vaccines are rolling out and I recently got mine, I find myself emerging from the soul-crushing feelings that plagued me last year. It has also inspired me to recapture my love of romance, both real and fictional.

To that end, I’d like to share a real life love story that captured all the right feels for romantics and non-romantics alike. On top of that, it’s a love story that played out during the worst parts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s quite possibly the least romantic setting imaginable, but love still found a way.

This story comes courtesy of NJ.com and involves an elderly couple who’d known each other for years, but found love during the worst possible times. Check out the story for yourself. If it doesn’t warm your hardened heart, then I question your humanity.

NJ.com: N.J. sweethearts found love in their 90s — right at the start of the pandemic

This is a story on how it is never too late to find love, and how even the worst of times can serve as the catalyst.

Bill Biega is 98. Iris Ivers is 91.

Their longtime friendship was blossoming into romance by March 2020. That’s when the coronavirus pandemic prompted a stay-at-home order at the Applewood continuing care retirement community in Freehold, where they resided in separate apartments.

Bill and Iris quickly realized they couldn’t stay apart, resulting in an awkward encounter more befitting a college dorm.

“A security guard caught me sneaking back into my apartment,” explained Bill Biega, who will turn 99 in July.

The guard told him that everyone on the floor knew what was going on and gave the furtive couple a choice: Move in together, or stay apart indefinitely.

Iris packed up her belongings and joined Bill in his apartment the next day.

Just over a year later, both are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The stay-at-home order has been lifted but Bill and Iris are still living together, a choice prompted by a pandemic that neither could have imagined. A ray of light, amid so much loss.

Iris described Bill’s one-bedroom apartment as “cozy for two.”

“I can’t imagine us not being together, as long as we can be. We’re also realistic, and we know that we’re not getting any younger,” Iris said.

I’ll say it again. Love is a beautiful thing. It’s also powerful. Even the worst pandemic in a century can’t stop it. At a time when we’re all starting to emerge from this year-long nightmare, we need stories like this. We need to be reminded that love is real and people can find it, even during the worst situations.

Let’s take comfort in that as we build a new normal.

To Bill and Iris, thank you for sharing this story. We all needed it.

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Filed under Current Events, real stories, romance, Uplifting Stories

Catholic Priests Defy The Vatican To Sanction Same-Sex Unions (And We Should Cheer Them On)

I tend to be very critical of organized religion and those who take religion to extremes. I make no apologies for that, but I do make an effort to be fair. That’s why I go out of my way to highlight that most religious people, regardless of the religion they follow, are generally good, decent people whose faith genuinely enriches their lives.

That’s worth acknowledging because people can do genuinely good things in the name of their faith. It’s a beautiful thing. Just look at someone like Fred Rogers. That’s religious devotion at its finest.

I know I don’t highlight those stories enough. In my defense, the stories of people who actually practice what they preach and do genuine good for the world rarely makes the news. Then again, the news relies almost entirely on doom and gloom these days, so that shouldn’t be surprising.

That makes the effort to highlight the good a lot harder, but it’s still worth doing. To that end, I want to highlight a good story about religious people that stemmed from a bad story about a religious institution with a history of unholy behavior.

Recently, I bemoaned the Vatican’s decision to essentially cling to their traditions of marginalizing LGBTQ people. They still call homosexuality a sin and refuse to bless same-sex unions. Never mind the fact that Catholics still get divorced and eat shellfish, the Vatican still refuses to embrace change.

At a time when religion, as a whole is in decline and support for LGBTQ rights is growing, this just feels backwards, even by the standards of the Catholic Church. However, not all those who identify as Catholic feel the same way.

Even though the Vatican is set up as the central power of the Catholic world, there are those who go against that power. A few priests are daring to defy the Vatican and I want to take a minute to acknowledge their boldness. This is what Reuters has reported.

Reuters: Rebel priests defy Vatican, vow to bless same-sex couples

A dissident band of Roman Catholic priests leading a disobedience campaign against the Vatican said on Tuesday they would carry on blessing same-sex couples in defiance of Church orders.

The Vatican said on Monday that priests cannot bless same-sex unions and that such blessings are not valid, in a ruling that disappointed gay Catholics who had hoped their Church was becoming more welcoming under Pope Francis.

In some countries, parishes and ministers have begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, and there have been calls for bishops to institutionalise de facto such blessings. Conservatives in the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church have expressed alarm over such practices.

“We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis,” the Austrian-based group said in a statement.

“We will — in solidarity with so many — not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God’s blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service.”

Whether you’re religious or not, let’s take a moment to applaud these priests. They’re doing something that Jesus himself once did. They see a powerful institution doing something wrong and they’re protesting that by doing what’s right.

In the process, they’re providing love, tolerance, and acceptance to a marginalized group that has suffered plenty, often in the name of religion. You can call that ironic, but I prefer to call it heroic. They have to know on some levels that they’re going to get in trouble for this.

They are likely going to get criticized. They’ll likely face protests from hardline conservative Catholics who cannot tolerate any deviation of any kind from certain traditions, no matter how outdated or intolerant they are. The fact these priests still went through with it says a lot about their character, as well as their faith.

It’s also worth emphasizing that what they’re doing is commendable in ways beyond the religious angle. They are just a small group of individual priests. The Vatican is a vast, powerful organization with immense wealth and influence. They have the benefit of being able to say with a straight face that their authority comes directly from a deity.

That’s a power that many governments envy. Some claim they’re inherently divine, but the results are often less-than-divine.

That power matters because it means they can change if they wanted. It would be a lot easier than what these rebellious priests are doing. The Pope could just come out and say that homosexuality isn’t a sin anymore for the same reason eating shellfish isn’t a sin anymore. He did it with purgatory. Why not do it with homosexuality?

That’s the problem with powerful organizations, though. When they’re powerful, they have the luxury of taking the path of least resistance. The easiest thing for powerful organizations to do is not change. It’s much less strenuous on the people and the systems around them to just keep doing what they’ve always been doing.

It keeps them in power.

It means less work for them and those who support them.

It means less thinking, contemplating, and second-guessing that maybe they’re doing something wrong.

At best, it’s lazy. At worst, it’s callous and negligent. Contrast that with the Catholic Priests who dare to go against such power. They know what they’re doing will bring consequences. They know they’re going to upset some powerful people, but they do it anyway.

That’s brave.

That’s bold.

That’s a level of spirit that religious and non-religious people alike can respect.

Regardless of your affiliation or your opinions of Christianity or Catholicism, take a moment to acknowledge that these men of faith are doing something great. They’re offering love and acceptance to their fellow human beings, even though they’re marginalized and demonized. It’s probably the most Christian thing they could possibly do and I, for one, salute them. I suspect Jesus would, as well.

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Remembering (And Learning From) My First Date

man-woman-first-date-smiling

We all remember our first crush.

We all remember our first kiss.

We all remember the first person we ever fell in love with.

These are pivotal moments in our lives. They help form the core of our romantic identity. Who we are and how we go about loving others starts with those moments. Ideally, we get better at them over time, as do our lovers. They aren’t always great. Sometimes, they’re terribly awkward. I admit I’ve had a few. As awkward as they were, I learned from them.

With that in mind, I’d like to get a little personal again. I know it’s been a while since I shared a little anecdote from my life. I’ve told stories about my sub-par flirting skills. I’ve also recounted stories that definitively prove how awesome my mom is. I like to think these are stories people can relate to and learn from. I hope this one is similar.

This personal story is about the first date I ever went on. It’s another one of those pivotal moments, but one that tends to be more mixed. Sometimes, a first date is a prelude to an epic love story that culminates in two people getting married, having kids, and building a life together. It can also be an unmitigated disaster. You don’t have to look far to find stories like that.

For the most part, first dates tend to be a mixed bag. They can either be utterly forgettable or a moment you treasure for the rest of your life. The story of my first date lies somewhere in the middle. I hope my now ex-girlfriend feels the same way because it was her first date too. She and I were both young, romantically inexperienced, and socially awkward. In a sense, our date was destined to be mixed.

That didn’t make it any less meaningful. In fact, it gave us an experience to build from, one that would serve us well throughout our relationship and even after we broke up.

It started out simple. I planned to take her to a restaurant at a nearby mall. She loved seafood and this was one of my favorite places. It was also the first date in which my parents let me borrow the car. It was exciting, but still nerve-racking. I saw it as a critical first step in our relationship. I wanted it to be part of a real love story for us. It didn’t play out like I’d planned, but it was still a story.

Before we even got to our destination, there was a setback. While driving to the mall, I take a wrong turn and end up in some office park across the street. Keep in mind, I knew this area well. I’d been going to this mall since I was a kid. Now, here I was, getting lost in familiar territory with a girl I’m trying to impress. It was not a good start.

Much to my ex-girlfriend’s credit, she didn’t make a big deal out of it. She even thought it was funny. I doubt she knew how much I was panicking. I remember gripping the steering wheel so hard, wanting this to be a dream I woke up from before going on the real date. I still put on a smile and tried to make small talk. I’m pretty sure I started talking about comics.

Despite that setback, we made it to the mall. We then make our way to the restaurant without incident. I’m still recovering. I’m also being extra-vigilant. I’m holding her hand, smiling at her, and staying close like a respectable man should. All the while, I’m trying hide how nervous I am. I know she was nervous too, but she wasn’t the one who got lost less than five miles from his house.

Things finally settle once we’re at the restaurant. It’s not an overly fancy place, but it’s no fast food joint either. It’s a place with waiters, menus, and a cocktail list. At the time, we’re both poor college students so this is a nice change of pace for us both. I tell her it’s okay to splurge a little. My parents even gave me some money. We certainly made the most of it.

It’s here where the most memorable part of the date played out. At first, I struggle to keep a conversation going. I’m still socially awkward. I met this girl on the internet. I’m used to having time to think my responses through before answering. It’s not an easy transition. However, after we ordered, something amazing happened.

We started really connecting.

I know it sounds corny. It may even sound mundane because it was a date. Connecting is kind of the point. However, keep in mind that this is my first date and she is my first girlfriend. I’m in uncharted territory. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do. I’m just talking to this girl, trying to come off as the kind of guy she wants to be with.

Despite that inexperience, I managed to build that connection. We started talking about school. She started talking about her family. I started talking about movies, comics, and books I’ve read. At some point, I stop worrying about keeping the conversation going. I just talk to her like the person I’ve come to know from our interactions online. She really is that same person and that just endeared her to me even more.

The rest of the dinner goes great. I do recall eating a little too quickly and sloppily, but that didn’t matter. She ate the same way. I saw it as a sign. She also cursed a lot more than I did. She wasn’t big on making things too formal. She wasn’t trashy or anything like that, but she wasn’t the kind of person who censored herself. That ended up helping me navigate the night.

After we eat, we just walk around the mall together. I feel more relaxed. She’s more relaxed, as well. At some point, it doesn’t even feel like a date. We’re just hanging out, doing the kinds of things we like to do by ourselves. This time, we have someone to share it with. That, more than anything, is what made that date feel special.

It wasn’t a chore or some elaborate ritual. We were a young couple with a blossoming romance. We wanted to get to know each other and have a little fun. That’s exactly what we did. I learned a lot from that first date, both about the girl I was dating and the dating process, in general. If there are any lessons I hope to impart from that experience, it’s this.

A first date doesn’t have to go perfectly in order to be successful.

It can start off badly. It can even have a few setbacks. You can still make it work. You can even learn more from those setbacks than you would have, if everything had gone according to plan. I had a plan for that first date. That plan collapsed within five minutes of leaving my place. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing. It forced me to get back to basics on why I wanted to date this girl in the first place.

Even though that relationship didn’t work out, that first date set a good tone for us both. We were together for a good nine months after that. In that time, we had a lot of fun. We shared a lot of great moments, some of which I’ve recounted. There’s a lot I learned about myself during that relationship. It marked a major turning point in my social life.

Before that first date, I was still the same socially awkward mess I was in high school. I used to even joke about how pathetic I was because I’d never been on a date. Now, I couldn’t make that joke anymore. I also couldn’t say I was as socially awkward anymore. I’d gone on a successful date. You can’t make that claim without having some social skills.

That should give hope to anyone out there who feels like they don’t have good social skills, either. I’ve been there. I know how hard it can be to develop those skills, especially when it comes to dating. It is possible, though. I’m living proof of that. You just can’t stop yourself from trying. You can’t make excuses, either.

Those moments that I mentioned earlier are powerful and precious. After a year like 2020, you tend to appreciate them even more. Moreover, you can’t just wait for them to happen. You have to pursue them. It took me way too long to do so, but I did it. I encourage everyone else out there to do so as well. Hopefully, your first date goes even better than mine.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Marriage and Relationships, romance