Entries in relationships (147)


Taking Photos at Funerals

A good friend who takes fantastic photography as a personal hobby sent me a few text messages upon the memorial service of a close friend of his family. He asked why we don’t take pictures of funerals.

My first reaction: Of course we don’t. How morbid. How gauche.

And then: Why not?

For centuries, humans captured the features of forensic cases and deceased celebrities (interesting juxtaposition, but I digress) through taking wax or plaster casts of their face or hands. The practice continued until photography came along.

Photography made it possible for many families to take photographs of the dead, often in their caskets. In many cases, these photographs of the just-deceased served as the only visual memory of them as, for many years, photography stayed costly enough to prevent most people from having photos of the living. (You can see some unnerving examples via this article on Mental Floss.) The practice subsided with the spread of photographic technology, which lowered photography’s cost and increased its accessibility.

With photos of the living, no one needed photos of the dead.

Now that we all have a plethora of pictures of everyone we know in print and on-line and loaded onto electronic devices, I’d definitely argue against resurrecting (bad pun, but I had to keep it) the unnerving practice of photographing the deceased.

Yet we might want to rethink the unspoken prohibition of funeral photography.

As a friend said on Twitter, to which I went with this debate, funerals and weddings convene people who rarely get together. Why not capture the gathering for people who attended and people who could not?

Further, I can see value in recording—via photography or videography or both—the memorial service for someone we love. In seeing the people who came out to pay tribute and support the family and in preserving their beautiful and touching speeches, don’t we further honor the person who has passed away? Doesn’t the funeral provide a glimpse of the value of the deceased’s life? And couldn’t revisiting the memorial via photos and videos help loved ones grieve?

Of course, no one could ever consider selfies taken in pews during the service or at the graveside respectful, and I’d recommend people keep cell phones in pockets and handbags as a best practice. Rather, the family and friends should leave the funeral photography function to a professional event photographer who knows how to take pictures respectfully, with the advance approval and guidance of the family, and without too much intrusion or disruption.

What do you think?

Should we take pictures at funerals?


Things I Love: August 2014

In thinking about services I love for my last monthly “Things I Love” post, I kept musing over little cafés I love here in Houston as well. My favorite spots have local owners and flavor, offer a relaxed and casual feel, and allow for lingering.

Te House of Tea

Te House of Tea stays open from late morning until late night offering a world of teas; healthful bites for a light lunch, dinner, or snack; bright windows looking out onto a peaceful Montrose-neighborhood street corner; and music, dancing, movies, and open-mic hours at night.

If you go before the nightlife gets started—or on one of the evenings without it—Te makes for a great spot to write and work. If you go when the party hops, you’ll see slices of Houston culture you don’t glimpse just anywhere.

Epicure Café

Epicure may tempt you in with luscious counters filled by French desserts and cookies, but don’t let the treats distract you from its huge, healthful menu of hearty breakfast, lunch, and dinner items. Further, it offers fantastic loose-leaf tea options (I get the gunpower green tea, into which they’ll shave fresh ginger) and European coffees. At any time of the day, you can visit for dessert and drinks or get a full meal.

Epicure doesn’t offer wireless Internet, so you won’t want to boot up there to get work done, but you may find it a great spot for a networking coffee or a catch-up session with a friend.

Boomtown Coffee

Houston has an increasing wealth of independent coffee shops, of which Boomtown quickly grew into a favorite. I’d call it more café than pure coffee shop, as it has a small menu of sandwiches and light bites as well as a full range of coffees and loose-leaf teas (always a requirement to make any best-café list of mine). Boomtown provides a great place to linger with a book, get a little work or writing done via Wi-Fi, and catch up with a friend.

The spot used to stay open late, but now it closes at 7 p.m.—the only disappointment. (In fairness, it does open at 7 a.m., so you can go there for the morning and move over to Te for the evening, if you really want to café it up for a day.)

What do you love this month?



Last week, I called a friend for a big birthday—one of those pesky decade markers—and she wondered whether she had to stop all silliness, now that she’s reached an age of gravitas.

I argued to the contrary: Knowing yourself can easily go down as one of the biggest benefits of getting older. And sometimes, knowing yourself means admitting goofiness. (At least, it does for me.)

Besides, we decided, numerical ages—decades or no—don’t count as milestones requiring seismic mental and behavioral shifts. Yes, the years advance, bringing physical and psychological changes. Yet specific numbers have less validity than how we feel, which can vary widely no matter our chronological ages.

And so what, we mused, count as actual milestones? After all, careers, jobs, growing up, growing older, goals, friendships, romantic relationships, and more all have milestones.

Milestones mark progress.

My friend and I met while traveling, but many people would consider the first tandem vacation a milestone in friendship—one some people wouldn’t even attempt to reach—and travel definitely marks progress in a romantic relationship—one that could even call a halt to further progression.

Some of my most vivid memories mark my turn toward adulthood: The moments that taught me parents aren’t infallible, pedestal-vaulted gods but simply people. My first car accident, which happened in a distant city before the era of cell phones and the Internet. The latter experience launched me on a lifetime of confident self-reliance. The former lessons freed me to show my parents more compassion.

In careers and jobs, people mention the first time they managed someone in a task or as a direct report. Some talk about the first time they oversaw a full project with budget responsibility. And many people mark ninety-day, year, and five-year tenures.

And everyone ever in a romantic relationship will hark meeting the family as a big milestone. My friend—the one with the birthday—said you never really know about a man’s long-term potential until you’ve seen how he behaves when sick. Personally, I think you have to see how someone fights to know about a possible future together.

Seems like, in life, milestones abound. And so, curious, I’ll take a poll:

What do you consider your big milestones in life so far?


Male-Female Friendship

Shockingly, research into the age-old question about the possibility for male-female friendship only started in 2000 with a study on the benefits and risks of opposite-sex friendships between college students.

Research has continued from there, but the question remains: Can men and women share intimate, profound friendship?

Of course they can.

With qualifications.

If possible mistaken impressions, discomfort, or optics—on your part or on the parts of significant others—would make you think twice about inviting someone to dinner or calling them to chat on the phone at any hour, can you consider your relationship truly unfettered?

Not that friendship needs no fetters to exist. I have a number of male friends. You can still call someone a friend if you wouldn’t reach out to them to join you for just-the-two-of-us theater attendance, for a long heart-to-heart phone call, or for a relaxed dinner on a Saturday night.

And I have a couple male friends I’d contact without qualification or hesitation—even for two-some vacation time. Yet I’ve called them friends for decades. We made contact and built our relationship in our youth, before careers, serious partnerships, and children. Making new friends without qualifications grows more difficult as we get older. How could I spend the time needed to cultivate a deep friendship with someone without awkwardness between us and raised eyebrows from others?

I’d venture that I almost can’t. The time has passed.

Research and analysis has guided psychologists to argue that men and women can share friendship—and that they should, as opposite-sex friendships provide unique benefits, including insight into how the opposite sex thinks and in-depth conversations. However, each of the psychologists providing guidance to women and women developing friendship give caveats around clear communication about expectations and intentions and explain that men and women should limit the amount and type of time they spend together as friends.

Yet if you have to ensure the purpose of the relationship stays clear with everyone—including and especially each other—and must constrain how and when you spend time together or even connect via phone or text, how close can you consider your friendship?

What do you think?


Chain Letters and Responsibility

People never wise up.

In the Internet era, chain letters have grown more pervasive than ever, even if they’ve stayed equally absurd:

  • The e-mail asking you to forward its message to a set number of people that they then must forward along so that you can see something (“you’ve never seen anything like this before!”), win something (money! vacations! cars!), or gain good or avoid bad luck (who knew so many people believed in voodoo?).
  • The social media posts asking you to like or share something scary (a new crime for suckers like you!), joyous (yet good things do happen), funny (dumb people! goofy animals!), sad (dying people! distressed animals!), silly (“What flavor of ice cream are you?”), or mundane (“I put text in a colored box!”) or to respond to questions that you then must ask five other people to answer (first kiss, first pet, first anything).

Don’t hold your breath, waiting on the chain letter’s extinction.

Guilt, fear, greed, crowd dynamics, groupthink, and ignorance fuel the chain letter—as they do so much in life. When complying takes so little effort, especially in the Internet age, why break a chain, tempt bad luck, fail to share information, miss money and prizes, or buck the trend?

Yet even if we can’t ask our fellow humans to stop the madness, can we ask them to take a little more care? Just as the Internet makes creating and spreading misinformation easier than ever, it makes validating material easier as well. Do we share a greater burden for substantiating information in the digital age? Do we hold greater responsibility when we contribute to misunderstandings and perpetuate misinformation?

Before we like or share something, we can take a moment to consider whether what the action will do for a given cause; whether it has any value to our friends, fans, and followers; and whether it perpetuates hurtful misinformation. We can search key words from chain letters to check truthfulness. We can vet information through Snopes.

Liking a post does not provide funds for a charity. Little Timmy may never have fallen down the well—and if he did, Lassie likely rescued him a while ago. (Further, sharing a post about his plight won’t do much even if he stayed stuck.) Forwarding a scandalous story about a company or the government may create unsubstantiated panic and anger more than it saves grief. Does this product really kill people? Did that restaurant really kick out a girl with a mangled face?

We can ask, but we won’t receive. We can’t count on all people wising up, but we can count on a predominance of laziness. We can only manage ourselves. (Which I recommend.)

What do you think?

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