People often ask me about my name. Sasha is a nickname for Alexandra.
“How do you get that?” people ask.
“It’s a Russian diminutive for Alexander or Alexandra, that’s my official name.”
I grew up during the Cold War, and the boys in elementary school made fun of me as a “commie.” I was seen as Russian because of my name, but in fact, I was named for my Ukrainian great-grandmother Alexandra (Sasha). She came to the U.S. from Zhytomir, a city in the north of the western half of Ukraine.
Zhytomir is a city which Russia recently bombed. The attacks destroyed a maternity hospital, a high school, and a residential neighborhood, and who knows how many people.
I visited Ukraine and Russia in 1989 as part of a delegation of three hundred American teenagers, organized by People to People, an immersive student travel program founded by Eisenhower in 1961.
In three weeks, we visited Moscow and five cities in Ukraine, including Kyiv. We spent a day at a Komsomol camp, the youth division of the Soviet Party, and hung out with families in their apartments. We danced in the disco at our Moscow hotel when we were supposed to be upstairs.
This was summer, just months before the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, when the USSR still existed. Next came the time of perestroika (restructuring of the economy), and glasnost (openness).
A funny thing happened in 2017, nearly 30 years after that trip. I got an email from Sergei. He attached scans of letters and photos I sent to him when I was a high school senior in 1991, just about to graduate, including my senior picture and a prom photo with friends.
I had forgotten entirely, but Sergei and I became pen pals after I came home from that trip to Russia. He found my address on a scrap of paper from someone I met during that trip, and wrote to me. I wrote back. It was an era when a Russian-American correspondence felt revolutionary after all the barriers between us.
We started to email back and forth in 2017. Sergei welcomed me to visit.
I asked what he thought about politics in his country.
He sounded extremely positive about Putin, calling him the incredibly smart, respected leader who had saved Russia from chaos after the fall of the Soviet Union. Everything he said about Putin contrasted with everything I had read about him as a dictator quashing dissent and sponsoring brutal anti-gay initiatives. Sergei was pleased with the election of Trump too and expected he would help Russian-American relations. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to visit, but a Turkish friend of mine and I thought it would make a good documentary to go and visit. I still think it would.
Since then I have spoken with other Russians I met in random ways, even one via an online dating app (we quickly found out our political views were not compatible). Often they expressed incredible admiration of Putin, to the point that I thought, these people are in a cult. I mean, I liked Obama, but I never talked about Obama as a savior the way they praised Putin.
It is hard to believe now that what is happening is happening.
Russia is bombing the hell out of Ukraine to take back this country, now, more than 30 years after that trip. In the intervening years, Ukraine, like the other former republics, of the USSR, became independent. The other nations are Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Those countries must all be watching and waiting, like all of Europe, like all of us.
Sergei and others living within Russia have their own views based on what they are hearing, and don’t get me wrong: Sergei seems like a lovely person. But to me, it seems impossible to not conclude that Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Union, or at least start, within his lifetime (he is now almost seventy) and doesn’t care how many people he kills to grow his glory. I am not surprised by the extremely high level of support for Putin, based on my conversation with Sergei and others.
I feel an ancestral connection to my Ukrainian great-grandmother too as I watch in horror.
Many people have asked whether our focus on Ukraine is racist or white supremacist. Do we share the same level of concern for refugees who are not white and blonde with light eyes? This is an important question.
I care about the “human family,” and I am also deeply concerned for refugees of Afghanistan, Syria, and many other countries.
I do my best to live by a principle that I learned from Katie and Gay Hendricks, which is called “sorting the files.” In essence, “sorting the files” is a process of continually distinguishing what you can control, and what you cannot. I can share my story, but I can’t change anyone else’s mind. I can’t solve all the world’s problems (of course no one can). I feel called to share my personal glimpses of this complex situation because I have connections to Ukraine and Russia. I hope this situation in Ukraine can expand our hearts to consider the plights of all war refugees.
Finally, I want to share these two interviews with journalists who shed light on this crisis. Women, as my friend Sheryl pointed out, seem to be providing the best analysis. I found it helpful to watch these interviews to better understand what is happening right now, and I encourage anyone to spend the time watching them.
My fascination began in March 2020, one of those weeks when the pandemic started to get all too real. Quarantine had just begun.
One evening when I wasn’t freaking out reading an Atlantic article predicting how long this pandemic might last (three to four years, I distinctly remember reading), I watched Goop Lab on Netflix, Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness show. Many people enjoy hating Gwyneth, but I like her program’s mission. I enjoy trying out wellness trends too. Heck, I would love to have my own show Sasha Lab. In the first season, Gwyneth and her staff tested out everything from using psychedelics for healing trauma to exploring female masturbation with the queen of self-pleasure Betty Dodson.
The episode featuring the Dutch extreme athlete and health expert Wim Hof (also known as the “IceMan”) sucked me right in. The bearded, ruddy-faced iconoclast talked about how going way outside of our comfort zones by immersing ourselves in cold water can make us stronger. Hof explained that he had worked with researchers at universities for years to demonstrate that cold-water therapy worked to boost the immune system, improve cardiovascular health, alleviate inflammation, cope with depression and anxiety, and control pain. His message, in essence: If you can stand the cold water, you can take control of your health.
Gwyneth’s staff jumped into an unimaginably freezing, snowy Lake Tahoe under his tutelage. I watched, riveted, on the couch, and thought, I could try a cold shower. That night I turned the dial in the shower to the right, but I couldn’t handle the blast. The cold felt water like bullets. I jumped backward and strained to turn the dial back. Wimp, I thought to myself, resigned.
The lure of the cold stayed with me though, even if I didn’t believe I would ever meet its challenge. When I first watched that show, I was sitting on the couch in Buenos Aires, where I had been living for five years. Weeks later I found myself back in Rhode Island, crashing at my mother’s house. It was the beginning of the pandemic when going to Walgreen’s was exciting. Nature was all we had.
I told Elizabeth, my only friend in Rhode Island, that I wanted to try cold plunges. Elizabeth knew a woman who ran a group. She sent me her contact. I got added to a list.
Soon I was getting emails with the subjects “Plunge tomorrow noon” and “4 pm swim—anyone interested?”
One April 2020 day I took off on a forty-five-minute drive south to find the plungers. The calm beach at Mackerel Cove in Jamestown is a crescent-shaped cove with soft white sand and calm blue-green waters. The beach was starkly beautiful in early spring. I was glad for the beauty and to get out of the house. Six people emerged from their cars: one man, and five women, donning bathrobes and pink felt ponchos over their bathing suits, swim caps in hand.
I waved hello and introduced myself.
They yelled, “It’s tropical! It’s balmy! It’s so warm!” The temperature hovered around forty Fahrenheit. I didn’t agree, but I found the group charming. In their excitement, these forty-, fifty-, and sixty-somethings looked and sounded like boisterous schoolkids who got together to play. One of them did a jig on the way into the water. I dipped my feet in that day as they plunged but that was enough. I still didn’t see myself becoming one of those people. And that was that.
A year later the pandemic was still raging. The emails about cold plunges started to fill my inbox again.
In early February 2021, I answered one, “I’m coming!” By the next winter of isolation, I had grown desperate. I wanted to do something outside of my comfort zone again after so many evenings spent watching Netflix in isolation. I took up running in the morning, but I remembered seeing something else in those middle-aged eyes: true joy. True joy had been lacking in my life that pandemic winter. I didn’t know what, but I still suspected something was on the other side of the cold water. I wanted to experience it, whatever it was.
The wind whipped across the beach that gray day in late February. In New England, the winter sun descends before 5 pm. I came wearing a bikini, but I kept my pants on and rolled them up to my knees. I walked in up to about three inches, and then darted out of the icy water. In and out, in and out, six times. I didn’t get far. Submerging my ankles pushed me to my limit. Meanwhile, the group stayed in fortyish-degree water for fifteen minutes even when the air temperature dipped to the thirties. Some of them even swam. Their heads capped, they walked out radiant, glowing. Mostly women. I had never seen anything more badass.
One of them told me on the beach, “Just keep coming back and go in as much as you can.”
And so it went. I came through February and March and didn’t make it any deeper than my knees. I developed a reputation as a shrieker. I would yell and throw my arms in the air, the 45-degree water an assault on my toes, ankles. and calves, and throw my arms around like a windmill to release the pain. The women taught me how to warm up my feet after plunging (bring bottles of hot water and a basin for a spa bath post-plunge).
My envy grew every trip. This was a higher level of joy these people got out of cold-water plunging than anything I have ever seen from my fellow Americans. The group called themselves “What’s Wrong with These People People?” One day someone shouted to them from a car, “What’s wrong with you people?” The name was born. These were definitely among the more interesting characters I’d met since returning to Rhode Island.
Plungers are not your average people.
One day walking on the beach toward me, the tall, bald Michael the leader of the pack, 68, a retired scientist and high school swim coach, shouted into the air with his arms raised to the sky, “What’s wrong with us? We feel like this! I turn into a love machine. I love everything, the sand, the sky, people! It’s like that! Something about what the cold does to your body unleashes that.”
I made about fifteen attempts between February and April.
One afternoon I drove to the 4 pm meeting spot with the conviction, today will be my breakthrough. I don’t know if I am going to turn into a love machine but I am going to get into the water.
That weekend I happened to read an essay in The New York Times about a woman who turned to cold-water therapy after an unimaginable tragedy. Her husband killed their two children and then himself. She had come to stay with her aunt on Long Island and found her way to a small group of her own. I understood the attraction. There had been one day after a writing class when I felt a heavy load of shame in my body after presenting work; intuitively I knew the thing to do to shake off those feelings in my body would be to join the group. Even when I only got into my knees or hips, the cold zapped me like a kind of shock therapy. The sensation was so strong that it wiped away negative emotions and took me right into the present moment.
The obliterating quality of the cold water renewed me, even when I didn’t get all the way in.
Inside that gorgeous essay about grief, I found a simple tip.
The writer said, get into shoulder level and breathe thirty seconds to get to the other side. OK, I thought, I will try.
That April afternoon in Jamestown seven of us met. It was a windy, sunny day, on the brink of spring. The water registered at forty-five degrees, bath-like compared to the thirty-nine when I started coming in February.
I walked in with the group further than ever before past my knees, past my hips, and let the water shock my belly. My hands presented the biggest challenge. They hurt the most. I didn’t want to put them in. But I did. I submerged my hands and then my shoulders, breathing to a count of thirty. Around twenty-nine, the pain gave way to vibrating numbness on my skin. A minute or two after counting, the strangest thing happened. My inner fire lit. Somewhere deep inside of my guts a heat built, a contrast to the cold water surrounding me, and the dark water turning into a strangely silky viscous thing. I started to float with happiness, this bizarre combination of cold water surrounding me, a furnace within.
One of the other plungers wore a waterproof watch. “How long has it been? How long has it been?” I asked obsessively. I wanted to quantify my breakthrough.
I stayed in for fourteen minutes that first time, so insanely gleeful.
You never forget the first time.
The air felt surprisingly warm that day when we got out. It was 50 or so on the beach. My legs and arms and chest blotted red, dotted with blood vessels. We looked like lobsters coming out of the water. My hands hurt. My hands felt stiff.
“Don’t worry about that,” Mike said, as he saw me regarding my hands. “Cold-water swimmers call it claw-hand. It’s the first sign of hypothermia but it’s not serious, it’s just the beginning.”
The dull ache in my hands faded enough for me to use my hands, pouring my bottles of steaming hot water into my foot basin. I stepped in. My blocky feet thawed as I stood there on the sandy beach in Jamestown by a bridge and behind a hotel, sailboats moored, dormant until warmer days. The high came on gradually. I started to finally feel it, the thing I had been after all along, the bodily joy I had lusted after for months started to take root.
It’s hard to describe the feeling but when the physical reaction came on it was like a flood of warm lights turning on inside, lit up from within. Since then it’s become clear to me that the colder the water is, the more endorphins are produced in the reaction. In this way, swimming in the winter can become even more pleasurable than in the summer. The French call orgasm petit mort, or little death. You die from the intensity of the sensation, then you are reborn. The cold water is a petit mort.
When I was leaving on that breakthrough day, one of the women in the group came over to her car next to mine.
“So you have been coming all this time and this was the first time you felt it?”
“You must really like to torture yourself!”
“Maybe. I guess I had faith that I would eventually get there.”
Of course, she was raising that age-old question: do we dive in quickly into the waves or cautiously enter inch by inch? Everyone finds their own way, if we are persistent enough. Maybe what I loved most of all in that moment was my persistence. When it comes to accomplishing big things, there is nothing more important than persistence.
Have I kept up cold-water therapy? Am I still plunging? Yes. A year later, I am still at it, feeling more like an official group member. I got all the way into the water up to my shoulders on January 1, something I am proud of, but I’ve taken a break recently as the air temperatures dip to the teens. I have my limits. But you know what? I also take cold showers now. Transformation is indeed possible.
I sometimes ask myself, Why? Why do you drive forty-five minutes each way to do something that most people regard as insane? Isn’t there an easier way to feel good? Why not play a joyful playlist and throw your own private dance party at home?
We need many strategies to feel good in our bodies, at least I do. Cold-water plunging is a special pleasure. Sometimes I think it’s the people—the opportunity to share this incredible, outside-the-comfort zone enthusiasm with the other plungers gives me energy for life. The group plunge is a communal kind of orgasm. Sometimes I think it’s the intensity—the pleasure matches the pain. That intensity feels like a confirmation of what it feels like to be a human being, a sensitive one anyway. And of course, there is the possibility of a lovely after-effect. The coldwatergasm can last for hours.
As it turns out, doing this one hard thing has helped me to do other hard things. I often think, if I can do the cold water, I can do this too. Get through this break-up. Publish that book.
I recently re-watched the Goop Lab episode that originally inspired me. I was struck by how much didn’t even register the first time. The idea of getting into the cold water so bowled me over. In the episode, Hof talks about how he turned to cold water immersion to get over the suicide of his wife, the mother of his four children. I didn’t remember that. One doesn’t have to be recovering from tragedy to turn to cold-water therapy—people plunge for many reasons—but that deeply therapeutic, wiped-clean effect does seem to be part of the draw for many. Wim said his children helped him survive, but the cold water healed him.
“You can go into the cold water and adapt, and with that, you become the alchemist of life itself,” he said. I smiled at this thought as I watched on the couch the second time, two years later. I knew exactly what he meant this time. Amen.
Rhode Island PBS recently came to film a segment with a few different groups of Rhode Islanders who dare to swim in frigid waters during the winter, and my group is the first to be profiled. You can meet Mike the swim coach here for yourself. Look for my butt around 4:48 as we enter Third Beach in Middletown, Rhode Island. 😉
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.
Click over here to watch a video we made at the end of the night talking about what we learned about the mildly subversive activity of going trick or treating as childless, fortysomething women, using the Russian doll as a microphone.
I currently have a big candy haul in my kitchen in a bowl, the majority of which I cannot eat because I have celiac disease (no gluten!). Want the candy?
Give a shout out on the comments of the video!
This summer I got new glasses.
It was the first time I got glasses as an adult.
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?
Come away with me to Buenos Aires in this video!
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.
FYI. We are now only offering Tango Adventures to my life coaching clients. I enjoy the deeper relationship and I think clients are better served by the transformation through tango with life coaching too … so if you want to go on a Tango Adventure in the future, you can prepare for the Adventure with life coaching. That’s something you can do from anywhere. If that sparks you then tell me more about you in this handy form.
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!
To make sense of my dizzying move back to Rhode Island from Argentina at the start of the pandemic I wrote this blog post.
Today at 5 pm ET I’ll read a portion of that piece about the split-second decision I had to make about leaving Argentina as the borders were closing in the countries all around me as part of a What Cheer Writers’ Club Zoom series of short readings from Rhode Islanders reflecting on 2020, a year of pandemic and protest.
I was really looking forward to joining What Cheer to connect with other writers in my home state. There haven’t been any in-person events since I moved back in March, but it’s certainly cool to connect with other writers virtually.
The pandemic can have a way of making us feel less than human since we have to wear masks and keep distance from each other to stay safe. Storytelling is a good way to keep our humanity alive. To gather around the virtual campfire and listen to each other. Maybe listening in will inspire you to write.
So if you’re free today and looking for something human and different to do today, join us at 5 pm ET. To get access, sign up here on Eventbrite to get the Zoom link!
(This video was filmed on Day 12 of the Challenge)
It’s the first day of 2020. I decided to start this year with a bang of new year’s energy.
I am beginning a new Challenge: 31 Days of Asking Men to Dance. A new decade merits a new experiment!
In truth, my idea was a recycle of an idea from last year, but reduce, reuse, recycle, right?
In January 2019 I decided to do a research project after another conversation with a fellow tanguera about my frustration with going out to dance, and often spending much of the night or afternoon waiting for a cabeceo (the nod of the head a man uses when he asks a woman to dance).
My plan was to go out dancing tango 31 nights in a row with the express intention of asking men to dance.
My rule for myself was: if you go to a milonga or practica, you must ask at least one man to dance with a mirada (the look of desire used by a woman in her eyes to show she wants to dance), a cabeceo (a head nod usually used by men to invite) or verbally (which would be OK to do in more casual milongas but not so much in formal, elegant milongas).
No matter how I needed to challenge myself to go outside my comfort zone to be the initiator of the dance. (In the end, I challenged myself by asking verbally because that was more direct than using the mirada [the look of desire].)
Now what’s the big deal with asking men to dance? We do live in the 21st century. I’m in my forties, not in seventh grade going to a junior high school dance! Wouldn’t I be over all these insecurities by now? Ummm, not totally.
There is a brewing feminist movement in tango (the Movimiento Feminista de Tango) to empower women to lead and to make tango work for them. I have written an essay “How Can You Be a Feminist and Like Tango?”. I’ve taught my Tango Goddess workshops to help women feel more empowered at the milonga and in their everyday lives as they pussywalk down the street.
Well, we teach what we need to learn. I have often struggled with the confidence to ask a man to dance–thus the Challenge.
Deep down for me, and I suspect for many of us women, we feel more attractive if we are chosen. It’s the same old Cinderella complex, waiting for a man to come, wake us from a passive slumber to validate us as worthy. But that’s the old way, or is it? Some men seem to like the idea of women asking them to dance to take the constant pressure of initiation off them. But I’ve also heard from men say they didn’t want women to ask them to dance because that would be taking away the last clear domain of power that men had.
I would have shared last year’s results with you but I lost the phone, so I lost the data recorded in audio messages each time I left the milonga.
So my dears, if at first you do not succeed then try try again. This year we start fresh. I’m going to attempt to do 31 whole nights.
That’s an intense goal since I am also working to complete my memoir but I’m thinking all this dancing will be good for my writing because I need a balance of mental and physical activity to inspire my creativity.
So I am going to try the experiment this year and live-blog it as I go along on this post, adding a new entry with data and emotional observations each night after I go out.
Here we go…
Day 1: January 1, 2020
Milonga: La Glorieta, an outdoor gazebo in Belgrano where people gather to dance nightly.
Results: 7 asks, 7 yesses
January 1, 2020: Night One of the Experiment at La Glorieta. Photo: fellow tanguera Geneviève Allard
The first night of the campaign was spectacular. Often new campaigns (like a diet) start on a high and the Asking Men to Dance campaign was no different. I asked 7 men to dance, verbally each time. All seven said yes. At least one was someone who I have danced with once before years ago, but I’m sure he thinks he is much higher level than me. Because he was standing alone looking rather glum I asked him anyway.
How did I ask the men to dance? My language of choice for all the men was “Bailas?” (“Do you dance?”), “Quer bailar?” (“Do you want to dance?” or “Bailamos” (“Let’s dance.”) I used “Bailamos” only with someone I know socially. Using a verbal invitation works at La Glorieta and other more casual milongas. I don’t know if inviting verbally would work well at a formal milonga like Canning. I may have to lean more on a heavy mirada or cabeceo. We’ll see over the next 31 days.
My mood was much better because I was asking the men and choosing who I wanted to dance with rather than standing around hoping someone I wanted to dance with would ask me. I felt like a bubblier version of myself than the passive me who stands around waiting to be chosen.
I asked one man to dance whom I have often danced with. He seemed a bit taken aback that I asked him. He was used to inviting me, not the other way around. I had flipped the gender roles, but he got over it. We danced a lovely tanda (in tango we dance four songs [a tanda]).
All of the other guys seemed quite fine with invitation. “Dale,” or “Dale si” was the usual response.
Overall this experiment started off winning.
Day 2: January 2, 2020
I was planning to go to De Querusa but I was too tired. I’ll make up for it tomorrow by asking EXTRA men to dance.
Day 3: January 3, 2020
Milonga: Cheek to Cheek, an afternoon milonga
Results: 2 asks, 2 yesses
View this post on Instagram
Today’s Afternoon milonga Cheek to Cheek and the site of Day 3 of Sasha’s 2020 Challenge 31 Days of Asking Men to Dance. Go to Sasha’s blog to see how it’s going inviting men to dance at sashacagen.com #tango #women #men #gender #genero #codes #breakingcodes #feminism #dancing #fun
The Friday afternoon practica Cheek to Cheek is not a traditional milonga where men and women sit on opposite sides of the dance floor but it’s definitely more of an elite milonga than La Glorieta so I was feeling nervous about taking my “31 Days of Asking Men to Dance” Challenge to Cheek to Cheek.
La Glorieta is a “friendly milonga”–Cheek to Cheek not so much.
The last time I went to Cheek to Cheek a few months ago there was poca gente (very few people) and they were all ridiculously high-level. I danced with the organizer, which I feared was a pity tanda because I had been sitting for over an hour. I was plancharing. Planchar is the Argentine verb meaning “to iron.” In tango language, to planchar means sitting for hours, not dancing.
So how did it go? I saw a familiar face, a sweet dancer Max from La Plata. La Plata is about an hour south of Buenos Aires. I greeted him with a kiss on the cheek which is probably not what I would have done if it were not for the Challenge. Asking men to dance is making me more outgoing and less timido in general. After I changed my shoes he invited me with a cabeceo, but I really believe that my being friendlier with the kiss paved the way for the invitation.
Then my friend Jorge showed up. Jorge is part of my Solo Chica Tango Adventure team. If you come to Buenos Aires as part of our program you might dance with him too. I asked Jorge “Bailas?” just as he said “Bailamos.” It seems like “Bailamos” (“Let’s dance”) is a much more normal thing to say to a friend. “Bailas?” (“Do you dance?”) makes more sense to say to someone new. I’m still working out this verbal invitation language since I have spent most of my tango career following the rules of showing my interest with a mirada (look of desire).
After I am happy to say I invited two men! They both said yes. One was a Polish man living in Italy who seemed to be a beginnerish dancer. Very sweet. He seemed happy I invited him.
The other was a wonderful dancer that I went on a date with once. It can be kind of awkward to see someone that you don’t wind up dating at the milonga. This time because I had my Challenge fueling me I forced myself to creep up behind him and tap him lightly on the shoulder. He turned his head around and said, “Quer bailar?” with a friendly smile. We danced a magical tanda. I missed dancing with him. We dance together so well.
I am getting more and better tandas than I would have been dancing otherwise. Going to the milonga with the intention of asking at least one man to dance is definitely working. I’m feeling more present, less passive. No rejections so far, but I’m sure that will change when I ask more people.
I am quite pleased with the experiment so far.
Day 4: January 4, 2020
Practica: La Maria, an afternoon practica
Results: 7 asks, 4 yesses, 3 nos
La Maria is an afternoon practica on Saturdays.
On day four I received my first nos at La Maria. Three nos to be exact.
I was glad about the first “no” because I didn’t want men to be saying yes to me out of obligation or pity. His no proved that a man could say no. The Challenge is now real. Of course I had gotten “no” many times in the past! I wasn’t surprised because this guy seemed to be one of the high-level dancers who barely danced at all–he only dances with a chosen few.
The second “no” came from a guy who appeared to be a foreigner. I was surprised he said no, because usually foreigners, who don’t have automatic dance partners, are happy to be asked.
At first I felt energized and happy with the “nos,” because I knew this project really hadn’t gotten started until I got a “no.” The “nos” felt good because I survived them, and then went on to ask other men to dance who said yes. This Challenge is for sure about building resilience, just as men have to suffer nos, why shouldn’t I? Doesn’t that make me a stronger, less delicate flower?
I danced a milonga tanda with a Brazilian who ran a tango school in Porto Alegre, and a German man who had been dancing tango in Buenos Aires since the 80s. That’s really something. Tango was coming out of obscurity after the dictatorships in the 80s.
I’m dancing better because I am dancing more. On average I have been dancing 7-10 tandas since I started this Challenge, compared to the 2-3 tandas per milonga I was dancing before. Going out with the intention of asking men to dance has definitely generated far more tandas. It’s also made me feel more in control of my afternoon or night. I identify men I want to dance with and scheme about how I will ask them rather than sitting in a chair, eyeing men, fruitfully or not.
I must admit after two “nos” I felt tired. Three “nos” may be the limit of what my ego can take.
Happily though I had four yesses, plus the three men who invited me without any work on my part.
I call Day Four a continued success.
Here’s a spontaneous little video I recorded sitting on a stoop on the street after leaving La Maria.
View this post on Instagram
Day 5: Another rest day!
Wow, this asking men to dance thing is intense! I’m taking another rest day.
Day 6: Tango in Tigre
I wasn’t able to go to a milonga because I went to to this Tango in Tigre Day Trip to check it out as an option for Solo Chicas who come on our Tango Adventures. The day was marvellous: maravilloso! Beautiful people, home-made food by Hugo Satorre, a world-known bandoneonist, yoga, swimming, kayak, and a bit of tango to live music on the pier before we took the boat back to Tigre. Tigre is a small city with a river community just outside Buenos Aires. It’s the easiest place to get a nature fix on a day trip.
View this post on Instagram
Day 6 of my 31-Day Challenge of Asking Men to Dance was spent in Tigre with these beautiful people. I came to check out this day trip for our Solo Chicas. I give it a yes! Hugo Satorre a world-known bandoneonist played for us and cooked us amazing food (gluten-free with care for celiac me). Check the blog post for more than on the asking men to dance report and for the amazing coincidence of the day: meeting @soleviladrich a young feminist who recently co-created a documentary Esto No Es El Tango: El Abrazo Dissidente on all the ways women, queer people and rule breakers are challenging rigid definitions of tango. Perfect timing on Day 6 of the Challenge. It’s great when the universe brings together like-minded people on a mission. She and her friends had even talked about me as the first woman to marry myself in Argentina-a whole other feminist story. Solidarity! #tango #feminism #friends #tigre #bandoneon #dance #nature #amor
On the way back Sole Viladrich, another woman who had come on the day trip, and I discovered that we had massive amounts in common. Sole just released her documentary “Esto No Es El Tango: El Abrazo Dissidente” all about women, queer people, trans people, and other rule-breakers challenging rigid notions of tango.
We talked about the distinct challenge of asking men to dance in traditional milongas such as Cachirulo, which are run by a kind of ten commandments of tango. You can read more about the ultra-traditional Cachirulo in this New York Times piece “A Caricature of the Patriarchy: Argentine Feminists Remake Tango”. Sole said that she had seen a woman denunciado (denounced) in Cachirulo for asking men to dance. Wow. It will be a dare on a whole other level to break the codes in a traditional milonga.
Day 7: January 7, 2020
Oh my god, what was I thinking? 31 days in a row? Over the last couple of years I usually only go out twice a week! It was a night of rest to prepare for Day 8.
Day 8: January 8, 2020
Milonga: Maldita Milonga with Orchestra Affronte, an afternoon practica 4-8
Results: 1 ask, 1 yes
A night out with Wanda, our magical Tango Fairygodmother for the Solo Chica Tango Adventure, and Sue Aikens, star of the National Geographic show Life Below Zero, who is here with us for a Tango Adventure! That’s a whole other amazing story.
I asked one man to dance, a total stranger, and he said yes. No drama whatsoever.
Day 9: January 9, 2020
Milonga: De Querusa
Results: 2 asks, 2 nos
Officially both of my verbal invitations were refused by foreign dancers. That would be two nos.
However, from the moment I arrived I interacted in friendly, easy ways with men I have been dancing with recently, which resulted in three rather magical rapid-fire tandas that left me feeling like a dancing queen.
I’m starting to feel verbally asking men to dance is not hard. The sting of the no is not bothering me as much. However, it still holds true that I can only tolerate two nos. Any more than two nos starts to feel like a downer.
I’m also reaping the benefits of going out more often. It’s definitely true that it’s easier to get dances when you are going out to dance regularly in the tango scene. Frequency is rewarded.
Day 24: De Querusa and Canning
Results: 4 asks, 4 yesses (3 at De Querusa, 1 at Canning)
Well, we can see there is a large gap here between Days 9 and 24.
I really must laugh at my ambition Day 1 of going out every night. What delusional New Year’s energy!
Actually I have gone out to dance six times in the last two weeks but I didn’t focus on asking men to dance. We had clients with us for Tango Adventures, so when I went out to meet them, my attention was more on supporting those women than on asking men to dance.
That said, at at least one time in one of those milongas I did invite a man to dance verbally. He said yes.
The other nights quite frankly I was tired. Since this is not a normal behavior for me, and I’m breaking gender codes, let’s face it: Asking men to dance requires a lot of energy. First, I have to pick out a man to invite, then I need to screw up my courage to break gender codes and face the risk of rejection–well, it’s a lot. I’ve learned that my energy needs to be good to ask men to dance! I expect and accept there will be plenty of milongas when I simply don’t feel the strength. I’m trying to not beat myself up when my shy nights happen. When I have energy, I invite!
Last night I went back to De Querusa, a moderately friendly milonga where I have some nice regular partners.
I invited two men heavy miradas with a slight dash of an head nod (slightly cabeceo-like toward two men, somewhat regular partners, or at least men I had danced with before). Both resulted in dances.
I made one verbal invitation to a French beginner. I asked him “Bailas?” and he didn’t know what that meant, which resulted in an awkward exchange in English, and then a lovely dance.
Then at Canning, I used a delicate tap on the back and a head nod toward the floor with a man where I know for sure we enjoy dancing with each other–our musical sensitivities and embrace are compatible.
The Challenge helped me to initiate the dance quickly because I knew I wanted to go to bed by 2 am. Tapping him on the back was much better than sitting there passively waiting for him to invite me. We might not have danced because I turn into a pumpkin before many other tangueros.
Day 25: January 25, 2020
Milongas: La Maria and La Carretta
Results: 4 asks, 3 yesses, 1 no
At the afternoon practica La Maria I asked two men to dance. Both said yes.
The second man was someone that I danced with many times in the past but we have not danced in about 9 months.
Well, I was sitting there bored, not dancing, and neither was he, so I decided to ask him to dance because of the Challenge. I had already been acting friendlier to him and kissed him on the cheek when I arrived. I sidled up to him at the bar and asked “Queres bailar?” He either didn’t understand me or possibly he needed to be the one to ask “Queres bailar?” Again, sometimes I get the feeling that the men need to feel they are the inviter, even if I already invited them. Or maybe I mumble?
Did he want to dance with me or was he saying yes out of obligation? A number of women have asked me this question since I started the Challenge. Many women fear dancing with someone who doesn’t really want to dance with them–as if that would be unpleasant or even humiliating. I say most men I invite are happy to dance with me when I ask.
With this particular guy… I’m not so sure. I didn’t feel him inject his full heart and soul in the dance, but I don’t think he’s my ideal dance parter anyway. He’s a little machista, at least in tango classes. I like the more sensitive, open-minded, kind and egalitarian men. But that’s OK. We can do a tanda together when I don’t have anyone else to dance with. Ha! See how I flipped that around? It’s about what I prefer, not him.
I went on to a late-night milonga La Carreta after dinner with a new tango friend.
I asked two men who were sitting next to me on the couch. A man of Asian origin dressed in elegant wide-legged dark pants and a white shirt seemed disoriented that I invited him. He said, “No,” and looked away confused.
The second was an Argentine sitting to my left, also elegantly dressed–a serious tanguero. I asked on the third song of the tanda. He said “dale.” (OK.) We danced a lovely two songs.
I left happy to go to bed at 1:15 am.
TOTALS from the 31-Day of Asking Men to Dance Challenge, Buenos Aires Tango, January 2020
Total Asks: 29. I asked 29 men to dance in a month!!!!
Total Nos: 6 men said NO!
Total Yesses 23 said YES!!!
Pretty good ratio, right? Over 79% said yes!
The data says it pays to ask men to dance.
Postscript: This Challenge was an experiment in new-habit-formation as well as building courage and resilience. During this month, the new habit of inviting men to dance becomes integrated and less dramatic to practice. Did it stick in February? Sort of. I would say inviting men to dance in February met with less resistance in me than December but it wasn’t as easy as in January when I was in full swing. I think this Challenge may become an annual thing.
Want to come away to Buenos Aires and learn how to invite men to dance, or to attract invitations to dance? Come away with Sasha’s Tango Adventure program for a 7-Day community-based, transformative dance immersion vacation in Buenos Aires and you will learn that and way more. Solo Chica means this program is designed to make it easy for you to come as a woman alone. Solo Chico Adventures for men are available.
Last month was one of the more bizarre periods of my life. When I married myself five years ago it was an entirely private ritual that only two friends attended. Marrying myself had nothing to do with being single. Marrying myself was about a deep process of self-love and -acceptance. Really marrying myself was part of a healing process.
After TeleNoche aired an interview with me about self-marriage a month ago the Argentine (and Latin American) press got interested–as far away as Marie Claire Mexico.
I did three TV interviews, two radio, and two for the press, all in Spanish! Whoah!
Suddenly everyone knew me as “the first woman in Argentina who married herself.” People I interact with daily on my block (at the cafe, gym, kiosco, and health food store) congratulated me.
Weeks later my body pump teacher at the gym is still teasing me every time I slow down during the class. “Sasha, is marriage not treating you well?”
The latest surreal conversation on my block was with the Venelezuan at the local dietetica (health food shop) who came out from behind the counter when I was shopping to ask if was me. “Are you the woman who married herself?” I was there to buy almond milk and suddenly I was talking to him about what happens when women make vows to themselves.
If the people in my neighborhood are any indication, self-marriage had captured the attention of Argentina. Or Latin America. I didn’t even know it was possible anymore to achieve such media penetration now with so many different outlets. A woman in my weekly writing group told me she heard people talking about self-marriage everywhere from Twitter to Clarin to La Nación, Argentina’s leading conservative paper where a man wrote this little essay mocking self-marriage. He ended this with this typically Argentine poetic ending, “I point out that there is no love for oneself, above all, because there is no love for oneself without love for the other. and vice versa.”
Right. Exactly. That’s what I have been saying. We are in agreement buddy. My self-marriage was a private act. I never posted about marrying myself when I took that leap back in 2014 but I got a lot of benefit from marrying myself so when media wants to talk to me about it I oblige. My self-marriage was all about building my capacity to love myself–and others too. Then people get angry that women want to love themselves! “You’re such a narcissist.” “How sad you couldn’t find anyone to marry.” “Society is falling apart, etc.”
Maybe these people haven’t noticed that women have a tendency to give away so much of themselves in relationship (or in the pursuit of relationship) there is not enough left for themselves. When you love yourself you have more love to give. You’ll have better relationships! Why is making vows to love and care for yourself narcissistic? On the other hand, the Marie Claire Mexico got it just right in their writeup, pointing out that you can be in a relationship and marry yourself too.
How this “First Woman to Marry Herself in Argentina” madness started
This Latin American wave of self-marriage publicity started three weeks ago when Jason Mayne, a young reporter from TeleNoche was researching self-marriage because he was going to LA to do a story and wanted to do more. He discovered in a news story that I married myself here in 2014 in Buenos Aires’ Japanese Garden. He emailed me and two days later we taped an interview about self-marriage in the Japanese Garden, just where I had married myself with two friends in a very private, tiny ceremony five years before, witnessed by two close friends: one Colombian, one Estonian, both fellow tangueras.
I didn’t tell anyone on social media about my self-marriage when it happened. No one cared for five years. Where were all those self-wedding presents? Hahahahah evil laugh. After TeleNoche, all of a sudden all Argentine media wanted to talk to me.
In the last two weeks I have done three television interviews, two radio interviews, and one print interview (Infobae) for one of the biggest new sources. One Argentine friend emailed to say, “You’re busier than the president!” In fact, I lost myself in all the TV interviews. Neglecting my self-care meant that I needed to come back to the vows of my self-marriage to put my my health ahead of my work! I found the whole experience to be both scary (what do these people in Argentina think of me now? I must admit I do think about what people think of me) and extremely confidence-building. I had no idea I could do television interviews in Spanish. When I listened to this fifteen-minute radio interview with a station in Mendoza, I was in shock. I sounded like a porteña (a Buenos Aires person)!
Self-marriage does not equal “sologamia.” Please stop using that horrible word!
All the while I have been continually clearing up misconceptions. The media loves using “sologamia” in headlines and asking me how I am living the word “sologamia.” I don’t even know what that word means, and I never used the word to describe self-marriage, but let’s make it clear. The word “sologamia” clearly creates an impression in people’s mind that marrying yourself means you are committing to be alone. That might be the case for some women or men who marry themselves, but that has never been the case for me or even one of the women I have talked to who have married themselves. Self-marriage is a ritual that involves making vows to yourself, and it’s usually a ritual of self-love and self-acceptance.
I am currently single and want to be in a relationship. But that doesn’t mean I would divorce myself. This self-marriage is forever.
Would you marry yourself? Pollo, the host of Con Amigos Asi, would!
So with all of that, I present you the transcript from this truly hilarious segment of “Con Amigos Asi” where the first woman who married herself in Argentina explained how and why it’s done.
This interview was truly like nothing you have seen on American (or probably European) TV. It was like hanging out with a group of friends at an asado (BBQ). My friend Sharon said it was like an asado with great vibes.
I surprised the twentysomethings on the show because they assumed marrying myself meant I closed the door on marriage. No. There are no closed doors. These are two distinct things.
I explained that as I got older it becomes clear that the path of self-love is very important but it’s not recognized in society.
They were very open to listening as well as joking around.
We did some really hilarious spontaneous mini-coaching sessions on their contradictory feelings about relationships. “Sometimes I’m happy, Sometimes I cry. I’m confused Sasha.”
Also, one more thing: When I talked about this show with my Colombian friend (who also married herself and cares deeply that people get the deeper meaning of self-marriage) she worried people would get the wrong idea and think that marrying yourself is kind of like that joke on Seinfeld, when Jerry meets a woman played by Janeane Garafolo and says, “I found my soul mate, this woman is incredible, she is just like me!” That was a funny joke but no, that’s not what self-marriage is about! Self-marriage is about self-acceptance, not marrying your doppelganger.
Also facial treatments are great self-care but they are probably not the deepest expression of self-love. (During one of the spontaneous mini-coaching sessions on the show one of the women said she would express love for herself with facial treatments.)
But I will trust that you get that these are jokes.
Self-marriage is profound and funny, like the best things in life.
An asado (bbq) with really good vibes – watch it here with a transation
Note: We have an English translated transcript of this video below. For your best watching experience, you can click through to watch on YouTube and scroll down to read the transcript as you watch.
Sasha Cagen: The Woman who Married Herself, interview on “Con Amigos Asi” on the Argentine cable TV channel KZO
Pollo: I don’t have it clear.
Juan: What? What? Wait, wait.
Pollo: And now, the only woman who married herself… well, I do not know if she is the only one, but she is the only one in the program today. She married herself… she married herself!
Pablo: And she is not unfaithful with herself. I cannot believe it!
Pollo: She married herself and imagine how much less mess you have to go through. She has no problem living together with a partner, they do not fight over going to their parents´ houses.
Jani: For me, she was a visionary.
Pollo: This starts here and never ends!
Pablo: She separates from her husband and keeps everything!
Pollo Exactly, there is no contract to pronounce it…
Juan: If she doesn´t cook, nobody else will.
Yani: Phew! She should have been when the lawyer was here.
Pollo: Wait! What?
Juan: Wait and… Can I ask you a question?
Pollo: Yes, in fact you can ask her but I can help you.
Juan: Would you marry Pollo Alvarez?
Pollo: Yes, I would marry myself.
Pollo: I consider myself a good candidate.
Pablo: Would you marry Pablito Giménez?
Pablo: Yes, bolúdo (Argentine Spanish word to call someone an asshole in a friendly way). Yes. If I don´t love myself, who else will?
Juan: I won´t marry marry Juan. No way.
Pablo: That is true.
Yani: We all know that. Luckily it´s crystal clear.
Juan: You believe in my a lot, eh!
Pollo: I… Yes. The truth is that If I think about it, yes, yes, I would marry myself, yes.
Joshi: For me, the ideal partner.
Pollo: With whom?
Pollo: With yourself?
Joshi: Yes (nodding her head)
Pollo: Well, now I speak with her. Let’s welcome the dearest Sasha Cagen! Welcome, please come forward. Sasha Cagen (pronounced in English)? In English is it Cagen?
Joshi: (pronouncing her surname correctly): Cagen!
Sasha: Hi, how are you?
Pollo: Welcome! Come in, please!
[A lot of back and forth about how to pronounce “Cagen” in English and Spanish.]
Pollo: Really, because obviously, surely, to do what you did, has to do with a process and with something that you believe in, but for outsiders, perhaps the most orthodox ones, you got our attention. So tell us, what is it all about?
Sasha: Well, yes, it’s usually not that someone wakes up one day and decides to marry herself or himself. Self-marriage is usually part of a period of introspection. I think it’s something people who are working on these things to love themselves enter into this process of self-marriage. It is something you can do for recognition in your life, as an adult. Because we do not have many rituals for adults. We have marriage and, I do not know what else, a birthday, but it is not something very…
Yani: Fatherhood. Motherhood, too.
Sasha: Yes, and well you can even marry yourself if you are already married. I am a life coach and I have helped women who are married to marry themselves. Because… especially women have a tendency to get lost in the relationship with others. Whether you are single or you are with someone, self-marriage can be a ritual to make a commitment to yourself. It is very personal and it is very creative because we do not have magazines that tell you what to do when you marry yourself. That’s why it is very free.
Pollo: Now I ask you, I understand what you are saying to me, that to marry yourself is creative and that it is part of the process but what is the difference between marrying oneself and not marrying oneself. Because in general I do not understand.
Joshu: The change?
Yani: The difference?
Pollo: What is the difference? Forgive my ignorance.
Yani: Single or married with yourself–isn’t that the same?
Sasha: It’s a process, a ritual …it´s something that you want….
Yani: Ah! It´s a ritual.
Sasha: I believe people have to be….
Joshu: Something symbolic maybe….
Sasha: People want something to do for that ritual of self-love. It’s symbolic and for me it was something that happened some months before my 40th birthday, because I felt a lot of pressure and unhappy because I had not found a man to marry. I was also doing therapy and thinking about how to love myself after working through many internal things. And it was weird, of course, it was strange.
That’s why for me, to marry myself here in Argentina was so much more free. I was far from my family, my normal friends … [Laughter] I have also my not-so-normal friends … open-minded friends I met in tango and they supported me. My Colombian friend, she got married to herself too. And she was present in my day. [Note: It should be said I have plenty of open-minded friends in California too!]
Pollo: Did she marry herself?
Sasha: Yes, she was present and….
Joshu: And did she know about this because of you?
Yani: No, no she married herself.
Joshu: Yes, yes, but did she get to know about it from you … I think this self-marriage is a beautiful idea, did she hear it for the first time from you?
Sasha: No. It was ten years ago, when I published this book [holding the Quirkyalone book in her hand]. I interviewed two women in California who married themselves. When I was 30, for me it was also like, why do you need to do this? I also was judgmental but I also felt interested in it. But it was also like … hmm … good for you, but it’s not for me. After time as I got older I realized that it is so very important to love yourself. To learn to love yourself really is a very important path in life. And we don’t value this so much because we want to get married, because society gives importance to marriages. So it is a ritual of self-love…
Pollo: It´s okay. It´s right what she is saying.
Joshu: But Sasha, do you feel that marrying yourself shows even more self-love than not marrying oneself … no? Because one can have self-love without marrying oneself, I just say.
Sasha: Yes, totally. Yes, and it’s not necessary need to marry yourself.
Joshu: But you felt even greater self-love when you married yourself?
Sasha: Sorry? Oh, If I feel greater self-love? Yes! Well, because I have the reference of this ring, you see, it is a commitment and it is a symbol. That’s how I can remember it.
Joshu: Yes, you see it and you remember it.
Sasha: Exactly. It´s a symbol that I can remember.
Pollo: I have a question, sorry. Again, I am very very ignorant on the subject …
If one learns how to value yourself and that is why you can marry yourself isn’t it the same learning to say OK, society believes that you have to marry because the canons say that … Anyway, I can be single, alone if I am OK with myself, I do not think it is necessary to marry yourself. And yes, I understand that maybe it is something more from society than something that I really want. Do you understand the point?
Sasha: Yes, it’s not necessary and I’m thinking a lot about this now, at this moment because this idea captured society in Argentina and …
Pollo: Yes, because we have so many problems in our society so this is excellent… It´s like a break within such a big mess… that we say, OK, let´s talk about this!
Sasha: It is something different.
Pollo: Yes. It´s good.
Sasha: I have been thinking about this and I think maybe the people who have experienced abuse in their lives really need a ritual, and understand that can be valuable to do a ritual of self-love, there are people who understand exactly why … and there are people who say why you need to do this? And I think you need to have a calling for self-marriage, it needs to call you, otherwise it’s not right.
Pablo: And the paperwork is the same? You go to the registry office? It´s the same as if you marry someone?
Sasha: I didn’t do that. [I thought he was talking about a wedding registry for presents.] But I could say those are the presents I want, for me it was very quiet. It was more of an internal process, more than an external one.
Yani: And one question… I ask you a question….if you did a whole process of self-worth and self-love because of something in particular, why does it matter to you what society thinks of you because you can easily love yourself. And it´s like a little bit contradictory in the sense that if you love yourself and at some point you don´t care about what the rest thinks, why doing a ritual to show the rest? I don´t know if I’ve made myself clear.
Sasha: I think the point is to talk it out loud, to have witnesses and when I say this to you and you are my friend I promise that I want to follow this path, that I will say no to what is not good for me. I will love myself, I will consider myself beautiful. It’s a memory, the same as a wedding.
Yani: And if you fell in love with someone, for example…. ?
Sasha: It’s all good.
Yani: Can you be unfaithful to yourself?
Sasha: There are no closed doors.
Yani: Ah! Ok, yes.
Boy: In fact, in the end, it ends up being just as marrying with someone else… You are in a relationship right? And the wedding is more symbolic because… you… the love is the same, it wouldn´t change anything theoretically. So….no….
Sasha: It´s something….
Boy: If it changes, it changes, as the lawyer said. Papers change.
Pablo: Well, but…let´s say…. In terms of love… it´s the same.
Pollo: The thing is you shouldn´t marry thinking that you are going to divorce… it´s a great mistake.
Pollo: Because we should do nothing thinking, Oh, I get on the plane and I have…. And no…. You have to do things and then you…. Have to consider the consequences of what will happen… If you don´t move forward you are a coward I believe….
Yani: Sasha… and when you get to know a new person, right? Now do you tell him look, I am married to myself? No, you don´t tell him?
Juan: For me it’s OK to tell him/her anyway eh…
Sasha: No, it’s fine. When we know each other, but in the first date it would be very weird.
Yani: No, it’s not good.
Sasha: it has to be shared with time, yes, I believe.
Juan: Why did you choose to marry in Argentina?
Sasha: Because I felt freer here that I have a love for tango. I moved to Buenos Aires because of tango. I have several friends from tango and I feel like the freedom to follow this path here that for me in California, in California I was afraid of my self-marriage being seen as something from Burning Man, I don´t know if you know it.
Pollo: Yes, yes.
Sasha: But it was like I don´t want to be associated with Burning Man. I want to make it authentic, mine.
Juan: Burning Man is that festival that takes place in the desert.
Someone: And what´s the book about?
Sasha: The book is this, that is a word that I invented and it describes the people who want to be with someone and are patient, who can wait for the right person, so in that path, It’s very easy to feel social pressure because you’ve been single for many years so… that word means maybe, if you’ve been single for a long time it´s because you are selective and you are strong so it´s another perspective.
Yani: Did your parents want to kill you because of the self-wedding?
Sasha: (Laughs) No, no no!
Boy: No, no, if your parents…. Like… I don´t know, when you were thirty years old or when you were of a certain age that they made you feel…..
Yani: Pressure. That is why you decided to investigate about the subject or…?
Sasha: No, my parents were always very relaxed about marriage and they wanted me to be happy.
Yani: Ah! OK.
Sasha: I felt the pressure from society. Yes, because I think a girl feels it when she is 12, I felt like “If I have a boyfriend we are more.”
Someone: Yes, that´s true.
Sasha: Yes. It´s like you are pretty or you´re better because you have a boyfriend, why? Maybe you haven´t found the right person.
Pollo: And also, you should see, in connection with this, behind closed doors for both women and men … maybe on the outside it seems excellent and on the inside there’s a hell.
Joshi: Yes, anyway, beyond that also the society…
Juan: Both things, marriage and alone….
Boy: Now it´s not exactly like that
Pollo: Not anymore.
Yeni: Do you think that today is not exactly like that? At least… For me, to some extent it is.
Sasha: No, yes, yes, it´s still like that. (There is still social pressure to be in a relationship.) I work with those people. I am a coach and that’s one of my specialties.
Pollo: What type of coach are you?
Sasha: A life coach.
Pollo: And what does it mean?
Sasha: It´s kind of a therapist.
Sasha: But there is more action in it.
Pollo: But… is it for couples? Do you go with your partner?
Sasha: I also have couples because I have couples and they want to build a relationship where no one gets lost.
Pollo: Well, well, wait. Let´s imagine we are in the coach´s office. Can we?
Sasha: Yes! We can.
[Here’s where we start the spontaneous mini-coaching sessions….]
Pollo: Who wants to be treated by the coach? Joshi, Joshi…
Yani: The punishment because he was late.
Pollo: No, but he doesn´t want it… if he doesn´t want.
Yani: It doesn´t matter.
Pollo: We need that before…. Yani, good, perfect…. She´s decided it herself…. I didn´t decide it.
Pollo: Can you come here, Juancito? I haven´t decided it, I swear.
Juan: I liked it more the passive Jeni.
Pollo: A big round of applause to Yani.
Boy: Good Yani!
Pollo: Well, are you single, Juan? Well, deal with it yourself.
Pollo: Well, he will do a consultation.
Boy: Good Yani!
Pollo: Well, are you single, Juan? Well, deal with it yourself.
Pollo: Well, he will do a consultation.
Joshu: Will it be a performance or real life?
Pollo: No, no…. not real life.
Pablo: No, real life never.
Pollo: No, no because otherwise it´s confusing.
Sasha: Are you a client?
Sasha: Very good. I love it.
Juan (sad background music): Sasha… you know, something is happening to me lately and…. And I thought that given my age… I am already 35… I feel that many of my friends are having a family, they are finding their way in life and… I cannot manage to achieve that… I am standing to the other side of it.
Pollo: No, but he is 10 years less than what he said.
Juan: Six less years.
Yani: Don´t interrupt! Leave him…leave him!
Juan: And I feel all of them are finding their way in life… and I am staying sideway of it, but the truth is that I don’t want to force a situation to be in that train that today I feel I am not ready to get on.
Sasha: And… How do you feel about all this? What are your emotions?
Juan: Well, they are contradictory. Sometimes I feel good, I feel comfortable, I have my freedom… but other times, on a rainy Tuesday I feel I would like to have a boy by my side to watch TV.
Sasha: A boy? Or… a girl!
Someone: He is a chamuyero.
Pollo: A rainy Tuesday he goes out with an umbrella.
Sasha: Oh! A boy…. Ah….Do you want to be a father?
Pollo: He wants to be a dad to watch TV. But… he wants to be a dad for the rainy Tuesday, if it does not rain on Tuesday we are… No, no, sorry. Continue.
Sasha: And on Wednesday when it rains, you also want a child?
Juan: Yes, until Wednesday.
Sasha: I want to understand how how strong the desire is. If the desire if very strong.
Juan: It´s contradictory. There are days that it is strong, some days it´s not. There are days that are yes, the desire is strong and the days that are no.
Sasha: And when you feel it in your body, when you connect with yourself?
Juan: For me it´s hard. It´s very hard to connect with myself.
Sasha: Oh, well. Have you thought about marrying yourself?
Pollo: Ah… she is going toward that way.
Juan: Very good, very good, very good. Come Joshi, I tell you that with Joshi we have… here it´s the truth, now comes the truth… um
Sasha: Oh! Well!
Pollo: A kiss to Joshi´s mum that she always watches us.
Joshi: Ah… kisses!
Joshi: Hi Sasha
Sasha: Hi, how are you?
Sasha: What do you want to focus on today?
Joshi: Um… the truth is that I don’t have a partner and maybe I feel like something is failing. Am I make myself clear? Like I don´t know very well which way to follow. if keep on like this. Or not.
Sasha: Failing as a woman or failing as what?
Joshi: Life, in life maybe… in general.
Sasha: In life…
Sasha: And is it something you really want, the relationship?
Joshi: It happens to me that sometimes yes, too much. And sometimes no. I am in a dichotomy like… Sometimes I cry, sometimes I smile.
Sasha: And what do you feel most of the time?
Joshi: Most of the time? Um… I am confused, Sasha.
Sasha: And… have you thought about marrying yourself?
Pollo: It´s OK, it´s OK.
Sasha: That is the solution.
Someone: That is the solution.
Joshu: Mmm…. Yes, I have thought about that.
Sasha: Oh, yes? Do you have vows? Have you thought about vows with yourself? (In Spanish, this word sounds like Botox)
Someone: Not Botox, vows.
Sasha: No! Vows.
Someone: The granola won´t be shared if she marries herself.
Joshi: Vows… um… yes, yes. I thought… I feel that I would be a great partner for myself.
Sasha: What would you like to promise to yourself?
Joshi: Eternal loyalty. I mean, that to begin with. Um…. Love, love.
Sasha: Love to yourself.
Joshi: Yes, love to myself. It´s weird how it sounds but…
Someone: It´s OK, it´s OK.
Sasha: And how do you express that love? How would you like to?
Joshi: I take care of myself, I do skin treatments…
Someone(boy): Me too…
Joshi: And that is self-love… and I take care of myself a lot.
Sasha: What would you like to tell yourself so that you love yourself? What your internal dialogue would be? What would you say?
Joshi: Like… a mantra to myself?
Joshi: Uf… Maybe I would repeat it all the time like… “How pretty you are!”
Sasha: That´s good!
Pollo: It´s fine!
Juan: It´s fine.
Pollo: It´s fine!
Sasha: I like it, I like it… it´s very soft.
Pollo: Excellent, excellent!
Pablo: I am beginning to think that Joshi uses all specialists who come so in real life she doesn’t pay the real ones.
Pollo: The last thing I ask you, obviously. Is it in the bookstore this book (Quirkyalone)?
Sasha: Well, today I emailed my agent to say we have to sell the rights to an Argentine publisher because there is a lot of interest now.
Sasha: There is a translated book in Brasil (SoSingular), of this book but in version, but we don´t have it yet in Argentina.
Pollo: Well, but, look… there is it, there is your instagram so that they can ask you questions there.
Pollo: Two more things before we go. I would like that with this vision of a woman with a more open mind that at least, from the people we are here. You tell me who here you believe is closest to marry himself or herself… I mean… Who of all of us, from the little you have seen us… you say… which goes that way to marry him or herself… Who do you think?
Sasha: Oh. Him! (Pointing at Juan.)
Juan: Come on Juan! You have found the love of your life.
Pollo: He does not make good coffee.
Pollo: And the last thing I say… It has nothing to do with this but I would like you to answer this. If you had to … This is an intuition, it´s almost a prejudice… Who do you believe…. From all the people who are here, maybe nobody but…Who likes men and women? Who likes people … who does not care about gender?
Sasha: Ah…you mean bisexual?
Pollo: Bisexual… who? Who? Who do you think? I want to know.
Someone(boy): Come on Sasha! Say it! It´s just a question.
Sasha: Those two. (Pointing at Yani and the other boy, Pablo)
Pollo: Those two!
Pablo: It´s OK, yes, it might be… A big round of applause to Sasha!
Juan: Sasha, thanks!
Pollo: Wait, are you staying in Argentina?
Pollo: Are you staying here in Argentina?
Sasha: Yes, I am finishing my next book here. This is my commitment.
Pollo: Well, dance lot of tango. Go to the new Corrientes Avenue that it is very nice.
Sasha: A place?
Pollo: Corrientes Avenue is the new avenue. It´s called Corrientes. It´s excellent… it´s very nice and they encourage people to marry themselves.
Pablo: People who dance tango are very… chamuyeros, be careful.
Sasha: Super chamuyeros.
Joshi: Do you feel Argentines are chamuyeros?
Sasha: I don´t know about all Argentines, but yes…. It´s a talent. (Note: Being a chamuyero means being a smooth-talking bullshitter.)
Joshi: Here we have three talents.
Juan: She is saying because of the three over there.
Pollo: I have lost timing a little bit, but I can come back. No, I won´t come back but….
Yani: That you don´t lose…
Joshi: It is never lost.
Joshi: It is never lost…It´s like riding a bicycle….
Yani: Exactly. It´s like riding the bicycle.
Pollo: You don´t lose the timing? I haven´t tried it anyway but….
Yani: Pablito, we have confused, he is not chamuyero because he has just tried and he failed…
Pollo: No, Pablo, really, he should be among the most boring guys that exist… really, um… I am not joking.
(To Sasha) Thanks, it´s kind of you.
Sasha: Well, thanks.
Photos by Julia Ribeiro. Translation by Lucila Soros with help from Kat Ananda.
Want to see the news clip that kicked off this media madness on TeleNoche? Watch the TeleNoche interview (and read the English translation) of that possibly even more hilarious interview here.
Want to be guided in the process of marrying yourself whether you are single or already married? After all, you are the only one you are certain to be with for your entire life. You saw me give some coaching here so you might feel called to reach out! Go here to learn more about my coaching and to request a coaching consult.
To get more blog posts in your email inbox, be sure to sign up for my newsletter the Sasha Cagen Weeklyish.
What happens when a national news program in Argentina wants to know about the American woman who married herself in Buenos Aires? That happened this week. The interview was all in Spanish. Oh my god, it was amazing! We shot this very entertaining video in the Japanese Garden in Buenos Aires–exactly where I married myself five years ago!
This interview was a chance to spread the concept of self-marriage as a ritual of self-love and -acceptance in South America in Spanish on the biggest nightly news show in Argentina TeleNoche. Since then I have gotten lots of media requests from radio stations and newspapers in Argentina.
Just as a reminder, self-marriage does not at all imply or require being single. I’ve helped married and single women marry themselves in my coaching practice.
I see comments on social media arguing, “But constructing a beautiful relationship is so important.” I agree! Perhaps some who marry themselves don’t want a relationship but that’s not my approach in my own life or with my clients. In my view, self-marriage is not a rejection of intimate relationship but a foundation for it. Self-marriage is the foundation for everything.
I also want a loving committed, interdependent relationship with a man. That’s the vulnerable part of me that might not get seen in my advocacy for self-marriage or Quirkyalone. If that sounds contradictory, so be it–it’s really not not. Loving ourselves helps us love other people. Being kinder to yourself helps you look at a a loved one, a friend, or strangers, with a softer, more loving gaze. I can’t say that marrying myself made me a perfect person, but the ring is always a reference point to remember the way I want to treat myself and others.
That’s the deep side of self-marriage. There’s also a hilarious side because marrying yourself can be pretty fun. With Jason Mayne of TeleNoche I was able to be more myself than I am in most interviews.
When I talked about Quirkyalone with Anderson Cooper on CNN the interview felt like a battle. When you go to battle you’re tense. When you’re joking you can be more relaxed. Maybe it’s was Jason’s sympathetic genuine millenial vibe, that we were in a park, or that I was speaking in a foreign language. Anyway, he managed to bring out the best in me. We had so much fun!
Watch the video and let me know what you think.
For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, my team and I translated the interview.
Jason: And this ring, what does it mean?
Sasha: Well, it’s a commitment to myself, that I’ve taken that step of marrying myself.
Jason narration: There is a movement that grows in the world that is called sologamy or self-marriage, people who marry themselves. And one of the references is now in the city of Buenos Aires. Let’s go talk to her because I want to know what this is about. How is it that you marry yourself, is it a traditional party? No? Well, here we’ll see.
Sasha, what’s up?
Sasha: Hi, how are you?
Jason: Very good! I want to see this, what you have here. Is it a commitment ring?
Sasha: Oh well, yes, it’s my commitment ring with myself.
Jason: What does this ring mean?
Sasha: Well, it’s a symbol of the fact that I took this step to marry myself. As a symbol of self-love and self-acceptance.
Jason: And how long have you been married?
Sasha: It’s been five years. We’ve been together for 5 years!
Jason: Where did you get married?
Sasha: Here, in the Japanese Garden.
Jason: Where are you from?
Sasha: I’m from the United States, I fell in love with tango, I moved to Buenos Aires, I decided to marry myself and I did the ceremony here in the Japanese Garden.
Jason: And does it have something to do with not expecting the prince and going against all that societal pressure of marriage?
Sasha: Yes. I was going to be 40 years old and I had not married a man yet and I wanted to do something for myself, a ritual. About being an adult, being a woman, taking charge of my own happiness. And also my self-acceptance, that’s a very profound thing.
Jason: Did you tell your friends, your family that you were going to marry yourself? What did they say to you?
Sasha: Well, I told very few people, because I knew that most people would not understand. My mother told me, whatever is good for you is good for me, but I know she thought I was crazy. And that’s OK.
Jason: So it’s about not depending on sharing moments with another person, its about feeling feeling good being yourself?
Sasha: Yes, and I also like to be in a couple. Getting married to yourself doesn’t mean that I want to be single, it’s not like that. It’s that I want to take care of my happiness, when I’m single or when I’m with someone.
Sasha: For me, what is fundamental is to write the vows.
Jason: You wrote the vows?
Sasha: Yes, of course.
Jason: These are the vows of your self-marriage?
Sasha: My self-marriage yes, because I can also marry a man. it’s not exclusive, it’s very polyamorous.
Jason: The polyamory, I like it, you already stole the concept.
Sasha: Yes, we are in everything.
Jason: Okay, for example, what does it say?
Sasha: I promise to follow what I love, my passions. I promise to fall in love with others’ imperfections as well as I fall in love with mine, because I’m not perfect.
Jason: There it is …
Sasha: I promise to see myself beautiful and accept my sexuality.
Jason: These were the vows of your self-marriage …
Jason: After, for example, was there a honeymoon?
Sasha: Well, there was a day to celebrate with friends, the honeymoon is still coming.
Jason: It’s pending.
Sasha: It’s pending.
Jason: And marrying oneself is only for women?
Sasha: No men can also marry themselves.
Sasha: In 2004 I wrote this book (Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics), and this book is the first place where there was published writing about self-marriage in a book. I did interviews with other women who had done it (married themselves) in California.
Jason: At what time did you say I want to marry myself?
Sasha: That was some months before my 40th birthday, I was very anxious.
Jason: How is the wedding ritual?
Sasha: Yes, there were many cases when women who wear the white dress and do the whole party. Everything.
Jason: You got gifts for self-marriage?
Sasha: There were gifts that were very sentimental, but not a lot of money. My self-marriage was very inexpensive, very economical.
Jason: Are there companies that offer self-marrying services?
Sasha: There are a few. There’s a box you can buy from the internet to help you with your process, and I see it as very economical, compared to the United States. Getting married in the US is very expensive, and we see what happens in many weddings and for me here is something very economical option that will help you a lot. And you’ll never divorce yourself.
Jason: So more economical, and you won’t get divorced if you marry yourself!
Sasha: Yes! And you’re free to do what you want.
Jason: Could it be that this is the key to happiness?
Sasha: It could be, yes!
Jason: Since you didn’t do something . . . as part of the production. (Takes out fake bouquet of flowers.)
Sasha: Oh no.
Jason: Here we throw the bouquet of flowers to the back.
Sasha: For the next. Let’s go. (Throws bouquet backwards to Jason)
Jason: Yes! I never thought this moment would arrive and it arrived.
Sasha: It arrived.
Jason: Thank you Sasha.
Sasha: I’m so happy for you.
Jason: Now the only thing that is missing is the ring and I’m all good. And the honeymoon.
Sasha: Let’s do it.
Jason: Thank you.
Pop music plays…
Are you ready to come marry yourself in the Japanese Gardens in Buenos Aires? Or in some other beautiful spot in this city, or in your own city? It’s all possible! I do help women and men, single or already married, marry themselves through my coaching practice so if you want some support to take this step yourself, you know where to go. Check out my coaching page and request a consult.
My team and I have also welcomed women to marry themselves or do their own personal honeymoon with a Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires. If that gift to yourself appeals to you, check out the Solo Chica Tango Adventure. With Solo Chica you will not be solo long, just like when you marry yourself you might attract better offers after you take a stand for your own self-worth!
Wow, I feel blessed to have received these beautiful handdrawn cards and to be able to share them with you.
How are you celebrating Quirkyalone Day this year?
Here’s what I’m doing to celebrate.
Today is a workday that started with a great first session with a coaching client. We talked about expressing needs in relationships and preferences and boundaries in sexual intimacy–quirkyalone topics for sure. I shared the tools of Nonviolent Communication, a set of communication practices I have found to be transformative for myself and many clients.
After our call I did morning self-care practices for body and mind: a total-body deep stretch yoga video and my favorite calf- and foot-stretching video and the Milagrows practice of naming all the shit I am not grateful for–and saying I’m grateful for it. Later I plan to do a self-pleasure exercise too of pussy breathing in preparation for pussywalking! These are all self-care practices that make me feel more loose and limber throughout the day, physically, emotionally, creatively, and mentally. I might do them on any good self-care day. Quirkyalone Day is a chance to come back to all of them.
Later I will talk with more clients and hopefully fit in a bit of writing before I go to an appointment with my kinesiologist Maxi who is helping me to heal a hip injury (gluteal tendinopathy) I’ve had for 2.5 years. Working with Maxi on healing that injury–and doing the daily exercises that are most important according to the evidence–are definitely an act of quirkyalone self-love. I want to feel strong, free and fluid in my hips as I age. Later I will go out to dance tango, probably at De Querusa milonga. Perhaps there will be a tangasm or two on this Quirkyalone/Together Day 2019 if I am lucky.
As you can see celebrating Quirkyalone Day can be any act of self-care or enjoyment in your day, alone or together. It could be a massage, dancing naked to a sexy song in the mirror, or getting together with a friend or snuggling your quirkytogether partner. You can do any self-care practice that you like to do for yourself but have been neglecting doing.
How about you? How are you celebrating Quirkyalone Day in your everyday life this year? Let us know in the comments.