But why should your tax status be based on your sex life?

Last week, the United States Supreme Court decided that federal laws that apply to married people apply to same-sex couples who are married in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.  As a liberal person who supports equal rights, I’m supposed to rejoice in this great victory for equality and diversity.

In a way, I am glad.  Making certain federal benefits available only to people whose permanent monogamous sexual partner is of the opposite sex was unfair to people who feel sexual attraction only to their own sex and therefore could never enter into a heterosexual marriage except in a half-hearted or deceptive kind of way.  If marriage is linked to government benefits, those benefits should be available to all people who choose a married relationship.


What bothers me about this court decision and nearly all the discussion of the issue in the past few years is that very few people ever seem to consider that If or to consider what it really means.  This decision does not “make the benefits of marriage available to everybody,” as I’ve heard many people exclaim happily.  Read more…

Cloth Wipes for Bedroom, Bathroom, and More!

I am excited to be a contributing writer in the Green in 365 series at Live Renewed!

Check out my article on how to use cloth wipes instead of paper tissues to save trees, reduce pollution, save money, and just have a better experience in so many ways.  I mean, look, aren’t they pretty?


I’ve found that looking at a cute basket full of clean, soft cloths in assorted colors and prints makes me feel happy and cared for in a way that instant garbage just doesn’t.  It makes the small amount of extra work involved in laundering the cloths feel completely worthwhile.

Here are some links to related articles here at The Earthling’s Handbook:

Critical readers will notice that I have now posted a picture of my toilet paper on the Internet.  Not very classy, I’ll admit–but it’s for educational purposes!!

UPDATE: I received an email questioning why this post is in the Sex category, so I’ll explain a little less discreetly than I did at Live Renewed: Have you ever had an intimate moment interrupted by your lover picking shreds of toilet paper off of you?  It’s embarrassing–but hard to avoid when using a paper product that is designed to fall apart on contact with liquid on a part of your body that you can’t see!  Have you ever wished to remove sticky fluids from yourself and dabbed with a tissue which then bonded with said fluids and stuck to your skin and shredded apart, turning your postcoital languor into stressful confusion?  Those guys who grab something from the laundry pile to mop up with are actually on to something, ladies!  Cloth works better, and it does get clean in the washing machine.

This Crowded World

Today is the entertaining tips edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, but I don’t feel very well equipped to give advice on entertaining since we don’t have guests nearly as often as I’d like; I’m one of the people who needs to read the host’s article “Entertaining Even When You’re Reluctant” and possibly the book she mentioned, since its Commandment 7 really speaks to me!  I expect that many of this week’s WFMW posts will be about how to entertain beautifully in your home and the wonderful virtue of hospitality, and I certainly agree that this is an important thing and look forward to picking up some tips.  (Actually, a quick glance at the links shows me that a lot of people chose to write about other topics despite the theme.  Oh well, those are probably good tips, too!)

But the idea of hospitality has connected with something else I’ve been thinking about recently, so I’m going to write about hospitality as treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way outside our homes, and about how sharing public space has reduced the amount of private space I feel I truly need. Read more…

Books That Blew My Mind

UPDATE February 1, 2012: For the past two years, this has been an article like my links page where I keep adding content as I get around to it.  Now I’m going to call it finished!  Of course, I expect to read additional mind-blowing books during my visit to Earth, but this list now includes all the qualifying books I have discovered so far.  [Um, and I added one more on February 2!] [Further updates, mostly formatting and links, in June 2015.]

This is a list of books that made a big difference to me at the time I first read them, and in some cases forever afterward, by giving me many new things to think about and/or a completely different angle on an old favorite topic.  I highly recommend them all.  They’re in approximately chronological order according to when I first read them, but that doesn’t mean anyone else needs to read them in this particular order, and where I mention ages please take into account that I was a very precocious reader–many kids will not be able to read these books to themselves until they are several years older.  (Check out these great chapter books for kids!) Read more…

Seven Reasons Not to Circumcise Your Son

by Daniel Efran

Well, I figure if my girlfriend and my parents are discussing my penis on the Internet, I’d better chime in!

The subject, specifically, is routine circumcision of infants–whether it should be routine, whether it should have been done to our son (which it wasn’t), and whether it should have been done to me (which it was). Becca’s article and my parents’ reply reflect many of my opinions so eloquently that I have little to add, but I’d like to go on record with my opinion about circumcision. Read more…

Circumcision: The Earlier Generation

My article on why we didn’t circumcise our son mentioned that when my partner Daniel learned more about circumcision, he felt “that he was mutilated without his consent simply because of tradition and ignorance” and was so upset that “he wouldn’t speak to his parents because he feared he would yell at them.” As I tried to make clear in the article, we knew that Daniel’s parents had made that decision using the information they had at the time, working from within a culture in which routine infant circumcision was rarely questioned, so it wouldn’t be fair to blame them.

Daniel’s parents wrote a response. It’s so well-written and such a clear presentation of the difference in perspective between 1971 America and 2004 America that, with their permission, we are publishing it as a guest post. Read more…


Our son is four-and-a-half years old and has his entire foreskin intact.  We have never regretted for a moment our decision not to have him circumcised.

I always was a bit skeptical of the idea of surgically removing healthy tissue from newborns.  My father explained that the foreskin can’t become infected or cancerous if it isn’t there…but we don’t take out babies’ appendixes to prevent them from getting appendicitis later, even though appendicitis is much more common than penile cancer. Read more…

My Opinion of Homosexuality in Twelve Words

God is Love.
God is Good.
Love is Good.
Love is Love.



If that’s too succinct for you, here is another writer who says the same thing, so beautifully, in many more words!


Check the facts behind those negative campaign ads!  This site is like Snopes for politics.

Hey, I never knew this before: Some spiders are indoor spiders who long ago evolved to live inside buildings!

Curvy-hipped women are smarter and have smarter children.

A man whose parents lived with and loved another couple for part of his childhood writes about the experience.  I think the most interesting thing about this is that he says the divorce was harder on him than the cohabiting.

Orson Scott Card wrote this great article about walkable neighborhoods, public transit, and ways to improve retail operations.  He wrote a lot of the things I’ve been meaning to write (and now don’t have to get around to!) as well as some I hadn’t thought of yet.  He also makes me grateful for Pittsburgh, where those “little downtowns” are a reality.

Interesting facts about the countries that legalized homosexual civil unions in the early 1990s: Rates of heterosexual marriage increased, rates of heterosexual divorce decreased, rates of sexually transmitted infection decreased, and rates of unmarried childbearing increased at a slower pace than before civil unions became available.

A great reason not to get married, whatever your sexual orientation: In Massachusetts, you can be required to pay alimony to your spouse’s ex-spouse!

This local mom has an almost paperless home because of the many reusable products she makes and sells.  I really like the looks of her school-gear bags (intended to replace those horrible zippered vinyl ones whose scratchy seams always split at the worst possible moment), and the unicorn-print diapers are sooo cute!

Here’s a place to buy reusable sandwich wrappers that are not made of vinyl.

Walk Score uses an address to calculate the “walkability” of the neighborhood–what’s within walking distance.  Our home scores 88 out of 100.  My childhood home scores 23.

The daughter of feminist author Alice Walker writes about how her mother’s stances affected her life as a child and now as a mother.

Interesting thoughts on cat-to-human translation and Emotional Dynamic Range.

Here’s an old house turned into an eye-popping art project.

Links for the new year!

Have you been wondering if anything is made in USA these days?

Norka Futon makes all its mattresses and frames in the United States.  We bought one of their 8-coil mattresses for our bed four years ago and have been very happy with it.  Last month, we bought another such mattress with a sofa/bed frame to use in our living room.  The guests so far have liked it, and (even with a very nice slipcover) it cost considerably less than the foreign-made sofa/beds we saw in other stores.  The only bad thing I can say about it is that folding it from a bed to a sofa is kind of difficult for two people and impossible for one.

How much do you know about sex?  Take this pop quiz!

Children allowed to play outdoors unsupervised grow up to be healthier and more sociable.  This editorial about recently published British research makes a point that I think is very valid in the United States as well:  “I further think that the biggest difference between ‘these days’ and better days is not an increase in risk but a huge increase in artificially stimulated alarm.”

Costco is better than Sam’s Club.  It’s disproving the common claim that spending money on employees’ wages and benefits (and paying the CEO in thousands rather than millions) is bad for business.

Have you heard that freezing water in a plastic bottle will expose you to cancer-causing dioxin?  Not true.

Drivers talking on cell phones are not only dangerous but also slowing down traffic, increasing annoyance and air pollution for us all.

My three-year-old and the people next to us on the bus were very interested in this infographic explaining why corn-based ethanol isn’t such a great idea.

Here’s a good argument that The Onion is one of America’s best newspapers–not just funniest but most honest, intelligent, and well-written.

Find out where to recycle unusual items not accepted for curbside collection.  This place takes crayons, or you can recycle them yourself.

Here are photos of fifteen families around the world and what they eat.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a great source of understandable, well-researched information about nutrition and food safety.

On road trips, we often eat at Burger King because their veggie burger is very tasty and their coffee is pretty good.  We usually don’t get fries because (thanks to CSPI, above) we know they’re high in trans fat.  Last time we ate at a Burger King, our tray liner had their nutrition information, and we were appalled to see that there is trans fat not just in their fried foods but also in their meat burgers!  There’s none in the veggie burger, however, and it has less saturated fat than any of their other sandwiches.

After that, we started to think more about the restaurants where we do eat fried foods.  We asked Kazansky’s, our neighborhood deli, and learned that they use trans-fat-free oil to make their delicious home fries.

Here’s another scary article on plastics, this one with a handy chart for choosing safer plastic food containers.

While shopping at after-Christmas sales, consider that LED holiday lights use one-tenth as much electricity as the incandescent kind, which saves you money as well as helping the environment.  But if you still have strings of incandescent blinky-lights that are working just fine, don’t rush to throw them into the landfill.  Wear them out and then replace them with LED ones.  We put up a string of LED lights in December 2006 (after discovering that our ten-year-old incandescent blinky-light set had both burned-out bulbs and broken wires) and liked them so much that we kept them up all year!

One of the largest oil spills in the world is underneath Brooklyn.

The United States abortion rate is at its lowest level since 1974.  It’s still pathetically high–about one in five American pregnancies is aborted, which means way too many people are getting pregnant when they don’t want a child–but it has not increased as a result of medication abortion (RU-486) becoming available, as some people predicted it would.

My latest favorite cartoon is The Evolution of a Hip, Ironic Catchphrase.  (This is one episode of a highly recommended comic strip, not an animated cartoon; you won’t need special software to view it.)

But speaking of animated things that require software (Flash), a question that’s been weighing on my mind is, Who Is Double Cat???

Anything works better when you know how to use it!

This columnist argues that teenagers shouldn’t be taught about contraception because studies show that younger, poorer, unmarried people using oral contraceptives or condoms are more likely to get pregnant than older, more affluent, married people using the same devices.  It’s an interesting attempt at logic, but it leaves out a crucial point:

Any contraceptive method that requires action by the user (that is, anything except surgery) works better when used correctly.  How do you learn to use it correctly? Read more…

Planned Porcine Hoods?

Recently I received a flurry of indignant e-mails from Planned Parenthood, decrying the refusal of FOX and CBS to air a condom commercial.  Not condom commercials in general, just one in particular.  Planned Parenthood urged me to contact everyone imaginable, demanding that this commercial must be aired so people can protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Now, I believe in sexual freedom and informed decision-making, and I’m aware of the importance of condom use in situations other than lifelong monogamy…but I get suspicious when someone urges the broadcast of a particular message without giving me any specifics on what that message actually is. Read more…

Sex Myths and Facts

Many people are terribly uninformed about sex. At the extremes are people like the girl I overheard in high school, telling her friend that she didn’t understand how she’d gotten pregnant for the second time at age sixteen, when she’d been using “foam”–the foam from a can of cola! She went on to say that she’d gotten pregnant the first time because she not only had no contraception but also didn’t know that the activity her boyfriend called “screwing” was the same thing as this “sexual intercourse” that she’d heard was the cause of pregnancy.

Most people manage to pick up more information than that. Still, in college I met many highly intelligent people who believed some inaccurate things about sex. Here are a few examples: Read more…

Alternatives to Disposable Pads and Tampons

Editor’s Note: Back in 1997, we set up this page in a graphical chart format as a sort of shopping mall for people interested in buying these products.  As the Web evolved and searching became easier, it no longer made sense for us to keep updating the chart.  In the process of converting our site to WordPress, we decided to keep just the text of this article and the links to businesses that still exist.  (Last update April 17, 2015.) If you would like your business to be listed here, post a comment with the link or e-mail becca[at]earthlingshandbook[dot]org.

Most menstrual pads and tampons on the market are bad for your health and the environment, but those aren’t the only reasons to try alternative products. Reusable menstrual gear is just cool! It turns a period into a different kind of experience, one that I’ve found is more comfortable and less like being sick. Read more…