The ‘Ham Sandwich’ Effect

Modern Love

Feb 16 2022 • 19 mins


Before Andrew Limbong went off to college, his mother cautioned him about the dire consequences he would face if he hugged a girl. Andrew grew up in a strict Christian household, and his parents are Indonesian immigrants, so they never spoke about sex at home. When Andrew was 20, he met his first girlfriend, Sam. He felt his cultural and parental influences putting “pressure on my blood vessels, not allowing the blood to go where I oh so desperately wanted it to,” he wrote in his Modern Love essay in 2011.

According to Andrew’s Muslim American friend, his fears were the result of the “ham sandwich” effect: the feeling of shame when you’re breaking family tradition. Today, we unpack this metaphor — and then we hear from Andrew. He gives us an update about him and Sam (it’s exciting), and he shares advice for others who are struggling to take a bite of their own ham sandwiches.

Modern Love has a virtual event coming up: On March 9, we’ll share love stories written by readers and read by the Oscar nominee Ariana DeBose. RSVP at nytimes.com/morningatnight.