It’s the holiday season, a time when long-separated relatives gather together to share in food and libations, catch up on the happenings in each other’s lives, exchange thoughts on current events, and reflect on the year. It’s also a time when familiarity and booze combine to make people behave like asses—often, it seems, at the expense of unmarried members of the family.

If you’re reading this, you probably agree with me already. You were lured in by the title, and you clicked and scrolled at will. You do not need to read this because you already get it. But someone you know does. You know the person. So, the following message is for that person, the person you have perhaps just shared this important lesson with in hopes of Making A Difference, the person I will be addressing from this point forward:

Please. I implore of you. Do not be the ass that asks your unmarried relatives if and when they are planning on getting married.

“But it doesn’t seem to bother them!” you might say to me, now, laughing, because you have seriously not figured out that asking your niece, nephew, cousin or child about their private romantic lives is about as appropriate as them asking you how often you bang your spouse, and in what position. So clueless you are, you’ve neglected to consider that your inquiries into their private, romantic lives are about as much your business as whether you prefer missionary or doggie style is theirs. It is every bit as crass, and equally unwelcome.

Your relative may not say anything to indicate that they are bothered by your question and, in fact, they may be so used to it that they aren’t. You are not the first person to ask them this, you see. They would probably rather let it slide than confront you about it, because they see you once or twice a year and like to keep those rare interactions pleasant and meaningful. But I’m willing to bet money on one thing: the moment those words escape your lips, they are judging you for being an ass. 

“But I just mean to make small talk!” you might reply. Don’t look wounded! Your relative knows that small talk is not what you meant at all! What you meant to say, dear ass, is “when the fuck are you going to get your life together and BE AN ADULT?” because you are one of those asses who believes that adulthood and responsibility are defined by a list of prescribed milestones beginning with marriage. Your relative sees right through you; in fact, you are probably not the first person in his or her life to give them that hint. So stop pretending you ask because you care and admit it: you are being an ass.

Oh, and by the way, if your relative has been in a committed relationship for several years but hasn’t chosen to commemorate their bond with a grotesque blood rock and $25,000 pageant, for the love of not being an ass do not refer to their partner as their “friend.” That person is not their friend; that person is their partner. And you are an ass.