I don’t like to invoke pity for the single condition, but let’s get real: being single during the pandemic sucked for many of us. Cats and dogs are not enough. Vibrators are not enough. I’m not even talking about sex. I’m talking about human contact. Single people need hugs, too.
A friend of mine who was single during most of the pandemic talks about being “skin-hungry.”
Here in the U.S., we thought we were on the brink of regaining normalcy. We thought we would be able to leave those masks behind!
We were all mustering up the courage to leave our houses, go out and meet new and old friends.
I danced tango outside at a Providence milonga twice with glee. I was eagerly planning on going to a 100% vax-only milonga in Boston in August. I was filled with emotions: hope, anticipation, fear, overwhelm, but at least I was getting the tango hug back and would get to meet new people after moving back from Argentina.
I got to feel tango bliss again…but was it fleeting?
In the age of the Delta variant dancing cheek to cheek with strangers doesn’t sound like such a solid idea.
Things are changing again! If there is anything we have learned during this pandemic, it’s that we never really know what is around the corner.
Our current situation comes as only fifty percent of the people in the US got vaccinated. When I tell my Argentine and Brazilian friends this fact, they say, WHAT?!
In Buenos Aires people are fighting to get a second dose of Sputnik V, and in the US, millions had their choice of Pfizer or Moderna and said no, or not yet.
Widespread vaccine refusal gave the wildly contagious Delta variant fertile ground to spread in the US as it has in many countries. When a virus spreads it mutates. Delta is a new creature. And it’s a warning sign of future variants to come that could be vaccine-resistant.
Still the vaccinated and unvaccinated are at risk for long-haul Covid, long-term symptoms of fatigue, malaise, pain, brain fog, and difficulty breathing that doctors have not known how to treat.
A lot of people have not read about this new reality. A lot of people don’t enjoy reading the news. Or they are frankly sick of the virus, which I can understand. Or they are living in their own reality bubbles.
There’s no going back to normal. The question is how do we make life–and single life–work in the new normal?
I’ve approached Covid-19 with the idea that I will be safe and find ways to live anyway. Life is short. I take a middle-way approach.
For now, I am avoiding indoor dining, putting on the mask again in stores, and prioritizing one-on-one interactions with vaccinated people (being vaccinated is sexy right now). And yes, why not a modern-day Covid Lysistrata Campaign? Wanna cuddle? Get the shot! The Lysistrata Campaign is an old idea with a new twist. Women (or people) refuse sex with others to end a war. In this case you only have to refuse sex with the unvaccinated so you still have a lot of sexy people to say yes to. If you want to spread that idea, grab the image at the top of this post.
Sadly, there’s going to be fewer tango hugs for a while. But I’m still going on dates, because those are one-on-one interactions. And I’m seeing friends.
I’m getting tested again when I have a doubt. In Rhode Island rapid and PCR testing is free and readily available. Yesterday I had a second date. When I woke up with a sore throat, I scheduled a free test to be sure. Within an hour, the results came back negative, so I could meet this guy without fear. Was the date worth it? Happily, yes.
Home tests available at drugstores are a great option if you want to socialize but don’t want to be a superspreader. Home tests give are also great for those iffy situations when you don’t know if it’s a cold or Covid–or you were just exposed to a lot of unmasked people.
Some people say we will just have to live with Covid as the new flu—but the is a deadly flu leaving 23% of people who get it with chronic fatigue-like symptoms. I have already been there, and done that with chronic fatigue. I spent two years of my life unable to exercise, sometimes unable to pull myself off the couch to cook a meal. I don’t want to repeat that experience. Sometimes people look at me and wonder why I am so passionate about not getting Covid. That’s why.
Still, we have to live, right? We have already spent over a year cooped up inside. That’s not good for anyone’s mental or physical health.
What about you? How are you managing the new, new normal?
A friend told me about YDB. I am not sure of the origin of this wisdom, but it’s too good to not share.
This is for all of you who are struggling with an ex, a break-up, an RO (romantic obsession).
I know how hard it can be to get over people especially when you have opened your heart after it’s been closed for a while–and allowed yourself to believe in love again.
It didn’t work out. And your heart hurts. You can’t believe how long you are thinking about this person and what you once shared.
Here’s what you do. You tap into the power of YDB.
What does YDB mean?
You Dumb Bastard?
Yucky Discolored Box Syndrome? (Yes, this exists on the Internet. It has something to do with Adobe.)
It means YOU DESERVE BETTER!
So go ahead and write the acronym YDB before his or her name in your phone contacts list, if she or he is still in there. Or emblazon YDB before their name in your mind. YDB Mark. YDB Carlos. YDB Francesca. Change their name to YDB-their name for as long as you need to.
Maybe it feels like a leap to believe that there is someone out there for you who will be a better match for you. Well, in the meantime, you also deserve better than torturing yourself with thoughts about someone who doesn’t want to be with you anyway.
Whenever we are trying to change our experience, we are working on changing our thoughts. That process typically doesn’t happen overnight. Choosing new thoughts on purpose is a practice. It’s like going to the gym and lifting weights. The strength to choose new thoughts comes because you are consistently choosing differently.
So whenever that person comes to mind, you repeat YDB.
By brute force we start to believe that new thought.
Put it in your phone or in your journal or on a sticky note on your refrigerator.
I am a highly sensitive person, and I tend to attract highly sensitive people as my readers and clients. I’ve been shamed for being “too sensitive” many times and I have gotten to a place in life where I don’t allow anyone to tell me that I am too sensitive anymore. Telling someone they are “too sensitive” is a way of invalidating that’s person’s emotions. Sensitivity can be a challenge but it’s also a strength.
Being a sensitive person, unabashedly so (!), I have found that in order to live well and move forward in my life, and not get too stuck, I need to consistently practice “emotional hygiene.”
You might have heard about “sleep hygiene” but maybe not “emotional hygiene.” We need to take care of our emotions and release them. Otherwise our anger, fear, and sadness can get lodged in our bodies and even cause us pain, anxiety, insomnia, and the fun list goes on. Or the sadness after a breakup stick with us forever, and we don’t move on. Hello RO – romantic obsession!
The key is to find practices that work for you and repeat them. It’s not a matter of trying something new every week but instead finding what’s new inside of doing a practice.
One of my favorites is called the Milagrows practice. If you have been part of my online classes or a coaching client I might have shared it with you. The Milagrows practice is about practicing gratitude for all the s#$ in your life – naming what you don’t like, and then welcoming it with gratitude. It’s a practice of self-acceptance and acknowledgment.
If you are riding the waves of life and want a simple journalling practice to help you welcome it all, check it out here.
And if you are a sensitive soul, don’t let anyone tell you you are too sensitive!
To write authentically as a life coach feels like a strange balance–because I never know quite how far to go in writing the messy, ugly, juicy details of my own life.
When I became a life coach in 2013, I noticed that some of my creative energy to write real, tell-all, blog posts dried up.
I had always written truthfully about my life through my books, personal essays, and blog posts. Writing truthfully about my life was my thing! Writing is more alive when it’s more real.
But when I took on this new professional direction, I felt afraid to go all the way there in my blog writing. Some revealing pieces languished.
I guess I thought I was “supposed to have it all together” and that it wouldn’t be good for potential clients or the clients I already had to know that much about me. Like, that time I got obsessed with the Tinder Guy in Atlanta and stayed up all night on the phone talking with him. As in, wasn’t that unhinged? Or the ways that dishes used to pile up in my sink. I suppose I judged myself, expecting others would judge me too. The desire to look perfect. Oh!
Being reluctant to disclose personal information is common for people in these helping professions. Therapists and counselors are generally sparing with self-disclosure.
When I’m coaching, I generally veer toward a limited approach to self-disclosure–that is to say, I don’t talk much about myself. I may share something personal if I believe that may help the client. If I share a tidbit, I try to share the reason I am sharing it first. In the end, life coaching is about you and your life, not me.
So then, how does this level of disclosure translate to my blog and writing? I’ve been pondering this question over the last few months because I want to take risks in my blogging again.
I’ve noticed that “vulnerable” blog posts from life coaches are popular but those kinds of posts often present some kind of formulaic tips or answers for life problems, as if we are only supposed to share when we have resolved the problem (or our foibles) to our own satisfaction and tell you the answers in the rear view mirror.
Sometimes I don’t have “answers”–and I don’t want to even pretend to have them.
I was talking about this dilemma with my friend Jenny Bitner, a hypnotherapist. We both have artistic and therapeutic sides of our work. Jenny said, “It feels hard in any field where you are offering help to admit your own problems.”
“People are very drawn to someone who appears together and confident…not that you can’t be both,” she also said. That’s the question. Can we appear together and confident, and admit that we are a work-in-progress with problems of our own? Do we want to read about Oprah’s meltdowns, or do we want her to only guide us with wisdom?
I’m after authenticity because that’s what feels most alive. By its nature, being authentic involves risk. I notice lots of young YouTube stars posting videos like “misconceptions about me” or “mental health chat” where they talk about their own problems. I get inspired by their courage and transparency. I mean, I know people think I am transparent too but only I know what I’m not sharing!
If I am honest I myself am drawn to people who are quite explicit in acknowledging they don’t have their perfect lives all worked out either.
Authenticity is a constant quest because what felt authentic a year ago may not feel authentic now.
These are questions I have been sitting with. I’m wanting to return to the more risky, personal online versions of my writing, and trust that works.
From here on out, I’m going to try to be even a wee bit more authentic and unafraid to be a human, writer and life coach and all. Let’s see how that adventure goes. Eeeek!
What about you? Do you have any places in your life where you would like to show up more authentically, but you are afraid to do so?
I so enjoyed talking with Dr. Peter McGraw, a behavioral economist at the University of Colorado who is investigating solitude and how to create a remarkable single life, now or forever.
It’s kinda crazy. I have done many fantastic podcasts about being quirkyalone with women, and this was the first time I talked with a man who is investigating these topics!
Peter and I chatted about:
the problem of “internalized inferiority,” of seeing our single periods as lesser than our coupled periods and the tragedy of waiting to be coupled up to do the things you most want to do in life (I share about how I’ve struggled with this too)
my personal story behind quirkyalone, and why I chose that combination over, say, “freakyalone”!
quirkyalones in pop culture in the 90s and oughts, from Love Jones to Ally McBeal
how single people have been ignored–at least in the US–in policy discussions during the pandemic
why quirkyalone, even though it seems to be a celebration of singlehood, is also, in its deepest core, an argument for depth in relationship
the many ways people meet needs for connection in 2021, with everything from Tinder to solo poly
why I prefer to talk about self-acceptance and wholeness rather than being a “happy single.” Being happy all the time is just way too much pressure! And going for what we want in life may involve some pain, discomfort and struggle.
Here’s a little teaser before you click to listen in…
“The choice of the word quirky, why? Can you tease us with some of the alternatives that you considered?
In the book Quirkyalone, I have a bunch of alternatives like eccentricalone, bizarrealone, or freakyalone.
Freakyalone is a whole different book and it’s in a different section of the library. It’s not in the library, first of all.
Why quirky? It’s because quirky is softer, for one. It’s eccentric but with a human touch that makes you feel you can get warm and cuddly with a quirky person in a way that maybe you don’t feel you can with freakyalone. It was that sense that I had as a young person and has remained the same as I get older. I only connect with a certain amount of people. I’m not a generic person and quirkyalones are not cookie-cutter type. It’s a practical recognition for a quirky person.
It may take a little longer to find someone who matches you, not that they have to have all the same quirks. Everybody is completely individual and all of my work has this honoring of our quirkiness. When I work with clients, for example, I’m interested in finding out who they are and how they tick because everybody’s different. That’s my orientation to the world. The quirky part is the way of honoring that. I love that about us as people.”
As many of you know, I lived as an expat in Buenos Aires for five years (from 2016 to 2020). I’m currently back in my native Rhode Island.
Before the pandemic changed everything, Tan Kurttekin and I shot this video in 2019 to show you a day in the life of my life in Buenos Aires.
In this video I take you to five of my favorite places collected over the five years that I lived in the city. The shoes. The body-positive tango fashion. The dancing. The cuisine. The mate. The men! LOL.
This video is a love letter to the city that helped me heal and find myself again, and to all the passionate tanguerxs I met along the way.
This video will also give you an idea of the places where you can go if you come on a Tango Adventure, once the pandemia has calmed down in South America.
Now on to the show…
As I watch the video now, I am filled with nostalgia for pre-pandemic Buenos Aires.
In the video we go to…
First: Cafe Nostalgia for the introductory coffee (a beautiful spot, you want to grab a cortado (coffee with foam on top) when you visit
Next: Ateneo, the world’s most beautiful bookstore
Next: Casa del Sol with Eva for Body-Positive Tango Dress Shopping, then mate on the terrazza
Next: Graphic Design Lunch at Mooi with Ansil
Next: Tango Shoe-Shopping with Sylvia at Alanis
Next: Out to Canning (an elegant milonga) with Jamila in the newly purchased dress. Did I buy the right one?! Should I have gotten that blue dress?
This video was shot by the genius (genio) cinemtagropher Tan Kurttekin, who also helped me make the pussywalking videos. The equally genius (genia) Magali Ayala edited. I love my creative team in Buenos Aires. The creative energy is one of my favorite things about Buenos Aires, actually. It’s a place where a woman can move on her own, meet other adventurous expats and crazy-creative Argentines too and creates lots of cool things together. Mwah!
Solo Chica Contest Winner Kelly Macias on her trip to Buenos Aires with my Tango Adventure team, November, 2019
Way back in the pre-pandemic era, I created the brand Solo Chica to encourage women to travel alone.
To launch Solo Chica, we sponsored a contest.
We chose Kelly Macias from Washington, DC as the winner.
Kelly is a writer, storyteller and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant focused on social justice, currently based in Washington, DC. She uses storytelling as a key part of her DEI work to create worlds where everyone gets seen and everyone matters.
Kelly has been in love with tango for years but she was not dancing or studying when we first met. She reached out to me for life coaching, initially with reconnecting to her body and pleasure as the goal with the idea that she might get back into tango too. Through our coaching relationship, she decided to come to Buenos Aires for a Solo Chica Tango Adventure. Kelly came to Buenos Aires just a few months before the pandemia (the pandemic!) sidelined us from the dance floor.
We loved Kelly’s answers. Why should we choose you for the launch contest? “I’ve spent the last few years feeling very disconnected from my sexuality, sensuality and feminine energy, as a whole. I would the opportunity to get support in exploring it.”
What would it mean for you to rediscover the Tango Goddess in you through the photo shoot? “Like many working women in their forties, I’ve been busy focusing on my career for the last several years. The stress of trying to be successful in a hectic society centered around class and patriarchy and white supremacy has taken its toll. I’m no longer as carefree or vulnerable as I used to be.
Add technology and social media to the mix, and it has meant that I spend most of my time in front of a computer screen than tending to my intimate relationships. I want to connect back to my vulnerability and sensuality and joy and think that the Tango Goddess photo shoot is a way to liberate myself from all that has been weighing me down.”
The grand prize: a Free Tango Goddess Photo Shoot with our resident genius photographer Tan Kurttekin, who shoots for Netflix among other clients!
We are super excited to share the results of the photo shoot with you here. Kelly is definitely a TANGO GODDESS! She was already a goddess before she arrived.
In this video that we recorded in Plaza Dorrego, where tango is danced on Sunday nights in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, and the streets are taken over early in the day by pounding drums and a street fair, Kelly talks about what it was like to work with me in a coaching relationship and to combine that work with the trip to Argentina.
Before we started working together, Kelly struggled with her own doubts about whether tango is really a dance for a curvy, Black woman. She hadn’t seen many other women in the US tango scene who looked like her. She worried that to dance tango, one had to have a thin ballet-like body.
I could understand that fear. I used to feel the same way. I thought being a curvy woman would make being a tango dancer impossible. I’m sure many others have felt this way. Far too many women (and some men too) put our desires on hold thinking we need to get to some magical number on the scale, or BMI, before we go out in the world and do the things we want to do.
The most amazing part is how Kelly found me. She googled “curvy woman tango” and found me through an Internet search. I don’t ever remember using those words in a blog post, but I do put my body out there as an example that one doesn’t have to be skinny or flat-chested to be a dancer.
Kelly told us, “I feel much more connected to my body compared to at home, less hip and back pain. Just in general feeling much more alive and embodied and aware of what’s happening in my body. Also the feeling of not being stressed. I can feel space opened up. And the heaviness that I feel normally has been lifted. My muscles are working in ways that they haven’t in years.”
“I learned that the lessons that apply to tango, apply to life. Things about connection and being able to connect with strangers through dance. Dancing with a good dancer sort of feels like falling in love. So there’s been this experience that’s sort of like falling in love. Every time I’m dancing, every time I’m held at a milonga or at a practice, every time I trust someone new it’s just this wonderful sort of high feeling that I haven’t felt in a really long time so this experience it’s been transformative in that way.”
With the wonderful Wanda Abramor, a key teacher in my Tango Your Life/Tango Adventure team
As a poster girl for solo female tango travel to Buenos Aires, Kelly told us she wanted to help us show that tango is for everybody, and every body type, racial/ethnic background, age, and background. We are completely on board for this mission of inclusion!
It’s important to touch on the history of tango here. The African origins of tango in Argentina have often been erased since many Argentines perceive themselves as a white country with European roots. The African influence was present and vital in the roots of tango, and these days more people are talking about that. This recognition of the role of African influence in tango goes in parallel with social change happening in Argentina. It’s common to hear stories from people who realize they had a Black grandmother that nobody talked about. More and more Argentines are identifying themselves as Afro-descendants.
Kelly was the perfect fit for the Solo Chica Program because this project was created to show more women the infinite doors tango can open up beyond the dance itself.
Kelly said so many good things in our interview that we wanted to share more clips with you to share her story so you can see those in the Instagram clips below:
“Less Politics, More Tango”
“Mistakes as Part of the Dance,”
“The African Roots of Tango in Buenos Aires.”
The humorist Fran Leibowitz (star of Netflix’s docu-series “Pretend It’s a City”) talked to NPR’s Terry Gross about living alone in New York City during Covid.
Leibowitz said, “Well, it still seems to me to be by far the best choice. I cannot understand how people who do not live alone have stood this last 10 months, because the only upside of having to stay in my apartment is at least there was no one else there. I would find that unbearable, I mean, truly unbearable.”
Ha! When I heard this line on the radio, I glanced around my own apartment to ask myself whether I was happy that there was no one else there. I mean, sure, I love my solitude and all my weird secret single behaviors, with no TV blaring news programs or sports I don’t care about, but I can’t say that I genuinely agreed with Leibowitz that living alone during Covid is the best option—for me. I am not quite the badass Fran L. is, or rather, I’m a different breed of badass.
We all experience living alone and being single differently. Even if we can be OK with being single–or actively enjoy it–living Covid single has been something else. Since I’ve been in transition from Buenos Aires back to the U.S., I’ve done a little bit of everything over the last year: living alone, living with family, in a relationship, and single. I have to say, the transitions were the hardest. Living alone after spending weekends with a partner or living family most of the time was tough. Solitude is a good thing—and there can be too much of a good thing. I missed having people to talk to without setting up a Zoom or dialing the phone.
I was glad to see this news story from the New York Times: A Pandemic is Hard Enough, For Some Being Single Has Made It Harder. The concerns of people who live alone have often been ignored by governments in coronavirus guidelines that unilaterally discourage household mixing—what about all those households of one? For many of us who are single and living alone, the need for human contact can push us to the limit. Some of my single coaching clients have talked about not feeling human, just because they are working on Zoom or email, missing all the serendipitous, everyday fleeting encounters we’d normally have, at the dry cleaners or the office.
Not everyone has access to the New York Times so I will give you a few key nuggets:
“Some who said they were content with being single before the pandemic have nonetheless struggled with what they’re missing in emotional support and even routine physical touch.”
“…while people missed sex, there was more severe pining for nonsexual forms of touch: the day-to-day contact, couch cuddling and hugs — even high-fives — that have been severed off in an age of social distancing.”
“For some, losing nearly a year of searching for a partner is time people didn’t think they could spare…” “That’s especially an issue for those feeling a biological rush to have children.”
This is an especially good Twitter thread to read. A clinical oncology consultant in the UK started a conversation about the dreadfulness of being single during Covid.
I don’t know who wants to hear this, but being single during this pandemic has been downright dreadful.
I’m not taking away from the seriousness of the pandemic. Please take it seriously, but by God has it been hard when you simply don’t have anyone to share time with.
All this time alone has its silver linings. Look at all that time you have to get in shape/learn a new language/get clear about what you really want in a relationship and your life. That’s all true, and I’m all for using our time intentionally, living consciously and deliberately.
And we need to be real about the challenges we are facing. Otherwise we stuff down the emotion in our bodies, and it manifests as pain, illness, stiffness, and get this—fatigue! Is that why Covid has been so tiring?
What about you? How are you living Covid? If you are single, are you savoring the alone time or dying for the time when you can go out dancing or to the gym or to yoga class, or wherever it is that you see people? If you’re in a relationship, do you sometimes wish you were living alone? If you are single and living alone, do you wish you were cohabiting so you had someone to talk with? If you’re single with kids home, how is it going for you?
Let us know in the comments.
I want to remind you that I am a life coach who specializes in working with women and men who identify or aspire to the quirkyalone concept, so if you have quirkyalone tendencies and you are struggling with any of the above (or something else), there’s a good chance that I will “get” you.
Could you benefit from the structure and support of life coaching?
Me encanto la charla! I loved being on Univision’s ¡Despierta América! (that’s “Wake Up America,” a kind of Good Morning America aimed at the Latino audience in the US) talking about self-marriage and what I do to reconcile with myself after a big internal conflict … give myself a kiss and buy myself chocolate! This interview was funny!
I love it when the interviewers ask interesting questions. Paola Gutierrez asked me what made me fall in love with myself enough to marry myself. I thought for a second and said, “My sensitivity.”
Awwwww. I fell in love with myself all over again.
if you understand Spanish, watch this interview! Or even if you don’t speak Spanish. This chat has buena onda (good vibes).
Since 2003, we’ve been celebrating Quirkyalone/Together Day as an alternative to Valentine’s Day. Quirkyalone/Together Day is a chance to celebrate all forms of love, starting with your relationship with yourself. Quirkyalone Day has been celebrated in 50 cities around the world and featured on CNN, MSNBC, in the New York Times, NPR, and many other media.
Quirkyalone uplifts single people but this holiday is NOT only for single people.
All are welcome including couples who are looking for something free and different. You will get to meet some cool new people and connect with your own quirky spirit at the same time.
Sasha Cagen, creator of the quirkyalone movement, author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics, and life coach extraordinaire will be guiding the ceremonies.
As this is a pre-IQD party on Friday (the official holiday is February 14) Sasha will help you plan what you will do on your Quirkyalone/Together Day and offer wisdom and inspiration from almost 20 years of celebrating solitude and self-connection.
We’ll have DJ Rubberband Girl from Berkeley’s KALX spinning the most inspiring quirkyalone/together music to get us dancing intermittently. Movement!
This is the first time we from Quirkyalone are ever doing such a thing on Zoom. It’s historic. Herstoric! Please come to witness and be part of it!
If you are feeling crafty and creative, please make a Quirkyalone/Together Day Card and bring it to the party to share – we would love to see it!
You can see some examples of cards from past years below.
Love yourself first and foremost by married quirkytogether Danielle Jatlow, of Burlington, Vermont.
Card by writer and artist Jenny Bitner of San Francisco
Let’s hang out from Kerry Lander, Melbourne, Australia
You don’t want to miss this Quirkyalone Day gathering, Pandemic-edition! As they say in Argentina, this online party is imperdible (unmissable) . And seriously what other online event could be better? Sign up here to get the link.
I‘m a women’s empowerment coach, author of the cult hit book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics (Harper SanFrancisco) and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us (Simon & Schuster), and a tango-obsessed world traveler. Stay in touch! Sign up for my newsletter, the Sasha Cagen Weeklyish.
Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands of women and men who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on what they really want and then to achieve their goals while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.