Last weekend five of us who write about being single (when we actually do want relationships too) and/or about managing the experience of being childless or childfree gathered for a very honest live Zoom conversation.
If you are feeling lonely and/or sad, disappointed, or frustrated right now because you don’t have someone to share holiday cooking with, to kiss under the mistletoe, or at midnight on New Year’s Eve, I absolutely recommend you watch the replay.
As a veteran in this conversation since 2000 when I first introduced my new word “quirkyalone” in a personal essay, I found it fascinating and wonderful to be part of a group of kick-ass, smart, funny women who have taken a leadership role in helping single women lives their lives fully, with a partner or without. It was lonely to be a quirkyalone advocate on my own for all those years so I loved the group energy!
* Jody Day, the genius and revolutionary founder of Gateway Women, which helps women who are childless by infertility or circumstance, organized the online event and led us through an insightful conversation about how we have learned to source our own worth from ourselves, and how to keep our spirits up when spending a holiday alone.
* Shani Silver, who recently published A Single Revolution, read a passage about how to turn around the soul-sucking energy of comparison. When we are looking at people who have what we want, we tend to wonder, Why does she have the boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife and I don’t? Shani invited us to all consider that we are just as worthy to get what we want too.
* Nicola Slawson who is based in the UK and writes the Single Supplement newsletter talked about how she has embraced celebrating with her own Christmas tree, which we got to see.
* Yael Wolfe, a writer, photographer, and artist, talked about how she moved on from a devastating break-up with a man who went on to choose a younger woman to realize that a relationship is the icing on the cake of her life, and not her life itself.
* I talked about the value of learning how to say no during the holidays to invitations that don’t feel good. The inability to say no absolutely contributes to chronic pain and fatigue–if you are a people-pleaser, learning to say no with grace is one of the best skills you can learn for your health and vitality.
I definitely recommend you to watch this conversation on one of these these cold winter nights — or one of these hot nights if you are living in the southern hemisphere.
If that video doesn’t completely resolve your feelings of loneliness during the holidays by giving you a feeling of solidarity from others who are living outside the box, then watch this SNL Lonely Christmas sketch too!
PS. The New Year brings a time of new energy. My coaching practice is almost full but a couple spaces will open up in January. If you want to be in conversation about getting support to pursue your goals in 2022, whatever they may be, tell me more in this form.
trick or treating as a childless fortysomething woman – yes it can be done!
After Tanya and I hit up a few houses trick-or-treating on my block, collecting Dark Kit Kats and Smarties, I tried to convince my friend that people might be taking us for teenagers.
At the next house, a sixtyish woman dressed as a witch wryly asked us, “Aren’t you too a little old to be trick or treating?” There was a glint of amusement in her eyes, however, and it turned out she loved our costumes. She, like all the other adults, offered us candy.
Tanya was “the wolf in cheap clothing” with a big animal head obscuring her adult face and price tags for $1 pinned all over her outfit–everyone is going to love you with that terrible pun! Tanya was literally spreading joy around the neighborhood. I was wearing a Russian Doll/Matryoshka costume, ironic since a Russian doll is a traditional representation of the mother carrying a child within her–ummmm, we were trick or treating as grown adults without any children!
We joked about going out with a fake child (marionnettes?) as our costume, but in the end we learned that adults — even childless adults — can successfully trick or treat, at least in my relatively progressive neighborhood in Rhode Island.
Were we nervous? VERY! OF COURSE! Trick or treating as a childless, fortysomething adult was an adventure way outside the comfort zone. I hadn’t gone trick or treating since my sophomore year in college, and really had no idea how people would react. I was prepared for people to judge us. But actually, everyone welcomed us.
There are plenty of parents out there in costume handing out candy and walking around with their adorable kids, and hey, if you happen to not have kids, why can’t you trick or treat too?
As Tanya and I discovered, trick or treating is still one of the best ways to meet your neighbors. If it’s scary to meet new people, then it’s all the better. Halloween is the holiday to get your spook on.
When I talk to my women coaching clients who are 50+, I hear a lot of frustrations about dating. What’s the best dating site to use? Are all the good ones taken? And what about internalized ageism? Is it really too late to find love or is that a story you have been telling yourself based on negative experiences? Does anyone really want to get involved with someone who doesn’t want to shack up together? SPOILER ALERT: Yes! There are plenty of quirkytogethers (or aspiring living-alone-togethers) out there, people who want a committed relationship but not to cohabitate.
This topic of finding love at every life stage (and keeping your sexual spark alive too) is near and dear to my heart because I know it’s not easy but it is possible to find a new mate and feel sexy at every age–I see those stories play out around me in my personal life and with my clients. I also have noticed many women who came to Buenos Aires to study tango with me convinced that no one would find them attractive. I’ve seen those same women get checked out by the men in the milongas with my own two eyes.
The story we tell ourselves about what is possible makes all the difference.
All of this is why I am really excited to invite you to this free online event.
Carolyn, an inveterate social scientist, and definitely a quirky, independent woman, devised an unusual, and highly structured, dating plan to go on 50 first dates to find the right partner for her in her late fifties. Not everyone would want to go on 50 dates–personally that marathon of first dates sounds hellish to ambiverted me!
But I admire Carolyn’s pluck–and the example of resilience she is providing by sharing her story. I’ll be asking her about how she stitched her heart back together after disappointments and rejections.
This event will be a chance to hear about Carolyn’s book, get inspired, and learn about how other women 50+ are faring in the dating scene.
If you have been considering working with me as your life coach this free event is a nice low-pressure chance to get to know me a little better and see me in action interviewing Carolyn.
If you are over 40, 50, 60, or 70 and battle voices in your head that tell you it’s too late, you should definitely come. Yes, it’s great to come to peace with being single, we all need to walk that path to find contentment and joy exactly where we are right now in life. But if love is something you really want, then why give up and deny that? You can register here.
P.S. In reality, everything we are going to talk about will be relevant to people of all ages – so if you are any age and dating or contemplating dating again, you should join us.
a self-love poster spotted on Providence’s not-so-mean streets
I spotted this philosophical poster on my way across the street to walk underneath the changing trees of fall.
“A heart that loves itself cannot broken.”
First let me say that I love these mysterious people who are stapling self-love posters to telephone poles. Their intent to spread the message of self-compassion could not be more admirable. Their tactile work is so much more satisfying and human to take in than another inspirational quote on Instagram.
My heart swelled reading their message. But my critical mind could not stop there.
“But is this true?” I stopped to ask myself, before crossing the street to walk through the park. “Is it really true that a heart that loves itself cannot be broken?”
the first blush of fall on that walk
My heart got broken this year in a way that it had not been broken in years. There were nights when I woke up at 4 am and felt like a meteor had landed in my heart, leaving a charred crater in its wake. The despair of that break-up left my heart jagged and in pieces.
Did that mean that I don’t love myself? Or did that mean I was allowing myself to feel?
I thought about that lovely poster on my walk through the trees.
Here’s how I would amend the text if I were to make it feel true to me.
“A heart that loves itself cannot be permanently broken.”
“A heart that loves itself heals more quickly after heartbreak.”
“A heart that loves itself will not lose itself in grief for years.”
“A heart that loves itself will grow more resilient to love again.”
When I was going through the worst of this heartbreak, someone told me it was a good sign that my heart hurt so deeply. Being more heartbroken than ever, he said, meant I had opened up to love, and the hurt would only lead my heart to grow back stronger. I took solace in the idea that heartbreak could only grow my capacity to love.
Here is what I know for sure by now: Heartbreak is unavoidable. Loss is the flaw in love. Many of our attempts at romantic relationships do not work out over the long-term. Even superficial online dating attempts can break your heart, slowly over time, little by little, cut by cut. Horrible people will be elected as our leaders. People will disappoint us. Our friends and lovers and family will pass away.
There is always going to be heartbreak and disappointment.
The best we can hope for is that our hearts break and then grow back stronger. Self-love comes when we stop blaming ourselves. The key to healing your heart is taking out the thorn of self-blame.
Healing is a shift in perspective. A shift of knowing that you are lovable and life can be good even after devastation. Cue the song, “I Will Survive.” Seriously, if you are going through a heartbreak right now, play that song on YouTube and dance to it. We need to feel the feelings and let them move through us, through journaling, talking with a trusted friend, coach or therapist, dancing, walking, or whatever works best for you to alchemize the pain.
It’s not inevitable that a heart grows back stronger. A heart can also break and not stitch back together. A heart can grow bitter, jaded, shriveled, and resigned, which happens all the time.
Many, many people give up on love and their dreams all the time. It’s a miracle to keep going and to be at peace with your life as it is right now.
It takes a strong heart to keep on beating. A heart that loves itself.
P.S. In a little over two weeks, on Thursday November 4, at 8 pm ET (NYC time), I am going to interview my dear friend Carolyn Arnold about her new memoir Fifty First Dates after Fifty. This is a free online event to celebrate the launch of Carolyn’s book. We would love for you to join us.
Carolyn, an inveterate social scientist, and definitely a quirky, independent woman, devised an unusual dating plan to go on fifty first dates to find the right partner for her. I’ll be asking her about how she stitched her heart back together after disappointments and rejections.
Once you have been slammed a number of times in dating, how can you stay positive and keep going? You can read this interview I did with Carolyn way back in 2012 to get a taste for what we will be talking about.
If you have been considering working with me as your life coach this free event is a nice low-pressure chance to get to know me a little better and see me in action interviewing Carolyn. If you are over 40, 50, 60, or 70 and battle voices in your head thinking it’s too late, you should definitely come. You can register here.
I have been working as a life coach for nearly ten years now, and I must say, it’s been interesting to coach during the pandemic because we are living through unprecedented times together. I pick up on similar themes when I talk to my clients.
One thing that has been coming up lately is this: “I feel lonely and very much want to be with people but also need to take it in small doses.” That’s kind of a pickle, isn’t it? We want to be with others but we are also exhausted by socializing after spending so much time alone.
At the same time, we are collectively experiencing fear about what another Covid winter will bring. There can be a feeling of urgency and FOMO (fear of missing out) in the near future–so I need to see all the people, go to all the events, go on all the dates, or whatever, while it’s still warm enough to meet safely outside.
Operating with this level of urgency is frenetic and draining, especially if you are still being conscientious about the pandemic because the situation is constantly changing and there are so many considerations when making plans, riding public transportation, traveling, etc.
If our government supported us by giving free home tests (as they are doing in Austria since March) so that everyone had the resources to check their Covid status easily, the whole situation would be easier. But as individuals, at least in the US, we have been left to navigate this mess on our own.
What I have been telling clients, and I will tell you now, is that it’s important to slow down and remember that we have a choice about how we experience our alone time. We can remember the distinctions of loneliness vs. solitude (a chapter in my book Quirkyalone).
We can experience being alone as loneliness–a feeling of lacking and emptiness, yearning for that which is not there, or we can consciously choose to experience our alone time as solitude. Being intentional about our alone time can make that time feel more nourishing.
From this slower, more resourced position, we can choose how and when we want to socialize with less desperation, and not overdo it.
Many people have realized during the pandemic that they need more solitude than they gave themselves in the past. Maybe you are reaching for the social thing now out of fear of loneliness when actually what you need to do is light a candle and write in your journal, then play relaxing music and take a bath. It’s a time to figure out what you really want and need–and give it to yourself.
We need to be gentle with ourselves through such massive shifts.
I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and go slow.
I was talking with a new client this past week about how she needed to be in the right headspace of feeling hopeful and entitled to support in her life before she reached out to me about coaching. I think this is totally true for many of us. We need to feel a certain kind of optimism before reaching out to a total stranger to get support in our lives. If that’s you, I want to tell you it’s not that scary to reach out and have a conversation about coaching. Everyone needs support. It’s a good thing, and you can start the process right here.
If you are looking for something to watch, I suggest Love on the Spectrum, an Australian docu-series on Netflix about autistic people on their dating journeys.
It’s light, entertaining, and uplifting. Plus, the people they are following have a lot to teach all of us, including neurotypical people, about how to be emotionally brave in dating.
Love on the Spectrum is the best dating show because the people are so incredibly real. They say things like this, “I feel very warm, appreciated, and comfortable with you. How would you like to go out with me on a third date?” I loved it when one of them said he would never want to be on The Bachelor because he wouldn’t get to be himself.
Dating is tough enough for everyone, but it is has got to be tougher for autistic people who face stigma and tend to find social interactions challenging. What I love about the people on the show is their honesty. No pretending, no facade. What you see is what you get.
When it comes to love, their sincerity is so refreshing. They get hurt and disappointed, but they don’t get jaded and they don’t give up. One of the most important qualities to cultivate when you are dating is resilience. They also have parents who really support their self-love.
Lovely Michael is not afraid to say, “I’m on a quest to find true love.” How many of us are willing to say that out loud?
Another great line comes from 22-year-old Teo, who said, “I get so nervous about… what if I die alone?” Who says that on a date?
They bring gifts on first dates. They take it slow. They ask permission to hug or hold hands. Their courtships are so quaint and lovely compared to the hot mess of the dating-app world.
The people on the show get advice from Jodi Rodgers, relationship specialist for autistic people, who teaches them how to ask questions and listen to the answers.
Since the dating apps have come to dominate the ways we meet, almost everyone today needs a rudimentary course on how to date today because phone-based apps like Tinder and Hinge have shaped many people’s behaviors to be downright rude and bizarre.
I suspect the producers are heavily coaching them to say how they really feel on their dates, or they are just the most authentic people ever. I have never seen modern-day people be more open confessing their feelings. “I’m into you–how do you feel about me?”
Someone has to be brave enough to ask that question first. Telling someone else how you feel on a date equals MAJOR LIFE SKILL.
The people on the show are young, in their twenties and early thirties. I would like to see the show follow older people on the spectrum in their dating journeys too and to hear about how their relationships have gone.
The bottom-line message from the show is: Be yourself. Be brave.
A sizzle reel is a video that brings together a person’s work. I made this sizzle reel to introduce you to my body of work. I suspect people often look at me and my ideas and scratch their heads, and ask, “Quirkyalone, self-marriage, pussywalking, tangasms, life coaching for women. What is going on here?” In this video, I hope you can see all the connections!
Feel free to share the video with friends who are also on the journey of self-discovery.
Previously, I believed that wearing corrective lens would weaken my eyesight.
I liked being over 40 and evading glasses, as if I could cheat mortality and aging in general.
Yes, this was all quite silly.
Now I am a convert. I enjoy wearing my new glasses because they make the world sharper and more distinct. It’s a novelty to have a new lens on the world–and a pleasure.
But I wasn’t really wearing my new glasses very often. Weeks might go by and they sat in their little box or on my kitchen shelf.
I realized recently I was so afraid of wearing them because I feared I might damage them — and they were so precious to me. If I gave myself the pleasure of wearing my new glasses they might get ruined and then what would I do? I also have a habit of losing rings and sunglasses so part of me feared if I wore my glasses I would lose them.
There was a moment last week when I asked myself, Why am I not giving myself this pleasure of wearing my new glasses? Why am I tiring myself out? I was straining to see.
Why is it so hard to allow ourselves pleasure? Why choose to suffer?
Over the last ten years, I have taken many workshops and read many books, studying the uses of pleasure in our lives for our health, energy, and confidence. I’ve felt the benefits of pleasure running through my body and how that pleasure helps my mood, my confidence, and creativity. I’ve seen the effect of taking time for pleasure on my clients too. I am talking about simple everyday pleasures like rubbing coconut oil on your body after a shower or doing an “awareness walk” without your phone in tow.
Yet we often resist pleasure–and all kinds of good, delicious things.
What is that all about?
Are we hardwired by capitalism and patriarchy to work without ceasing? Have we forgotten that rest will renew us? Do we not think we deserve wonderful things?
So this is all to say: I’m getting over it. I’m enjoying wearing my new glasses more and making them an everyday part of my life.
Goshdarnit if I need to get my glasses adjusted at the store or heaven forbid buy new ones because they get lost or damaged, I will.
So what will pleasurable experience will you give yourself this week?
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.
Executive and Life Coach on a mission to help women connect with their bodies to live their best lives + do their best work. Author: of Quirkyalone + To-Do List. Forthcoming: WET.
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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.