What did we not talk about? An honest conversation (podcast) with One Single Woman

I am back in the US (more on that in a future newsletter). On this (American) Mother’s Day morning, I want to share with you a podcast that I recorded back in late December. 

When Pippa Brown, the creator of One Single Woman podcast, reached out to me, I said yes because she was friendly and enthusiastic, two qualities I always love in a person. I could tell that she had found a soul mission in this project.

She released this episode on February 14 (Quirkyalone Day!) but that was the day I was leaving for Istanbul. Then I was out of the country until last Saturday.

The whole time I was away, I remembered I had this podcast to share with you. I was waiting for the right moment. It’s now! Mother’s Day! Because we talk quite a bit about the decision to be a mother, or not. This decision weighed heavily on me for years as I was out in the wilds dating and looking for a life partner, and I know the weight of this decision does for many people, even if the yes or no is clear.

Sometimes the good stuff takes a while to get out there just because I want to let these deep conversations soak into me. Then I figure out how to share with you, because honestly, as I have gone deeper into the layers of writing a memoir (the ultimate training ground for honesty), this process has spilled over to the degree of disclosure that happens in these interviews.

Sometimes to the point where I listened to the recording, and thought, damn did I say that? 

This podcast goes into a lot of soul questions that may be valuable for people who are asking questions about:

  • Becoming a mother, or not
  • Keeping our sexual energy alive: How do we not just let ourselves die on the vine if we are single for years, or in a sexless marriage?
  • How do we deal with feelings about aging?

So I took the time to get the whole thing transcribed and then fix up the transcription, because I really like all we covered. I will cherry-pick and highlight aspects of this conversation in future newsletters, because truly, we just got so honest it is worth sharing.

We will both love to hear your reactions.

So give yourself a nice hour to do the dishes and listen, or lie on your couch and listen

If you have never listened to a podcast in your life, give yourself a new experience.

The conversation continues in the comments. Let us know your responses!

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Here is the transcript from this fabulous conversation…with links to some of the resources mentioned.

Hello, and a massive warm welcome back to One Single Woman. 

Now, today may well be Valentine’s Day, but it’s also National Quiirkyalone Day. Quirkyalone is a movement which was founded at the beginning of this century, and it spreads the important message of self-acceptance and living life on your own terms regardless of your relationship status.

My guest today is the awesome Sasha Cagen. Sasha is an American author and the founder of this movement she wrote Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics back in 2004. She’s also written To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soulmate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us and she’s currently working on her new memoir Wet.

Alongside writing Sasha works as a life and executive coach specializing in empowering women who are 40-plus to create turned-on lives, careers and businesses.

We discuss so many topics during this interview, we talk about being quirkyalone and whether a romantic relationship is a want or a need. We discuss Sasha self-marriage, her thoughts on not being a mother, and how she has listened to her bodily intuition to help her make important decisions in life.

We also discussed the empowerment of pussywalking, which Sasha invented and she now teaches to both women and men, and we dive into the topic of sex when you were a single person.

I do just want to mention that Sasha does touch on childhood sexual trauma. We don’t go into any detail but it is mentioned a few times during the course of this interview. 

And there are parts of this conversation which would not be suitable for children to listen to. Right. I really hope that you enjoy this conversation. Let’s go.

Hello, Sasha and a very warm welcome to One Single Woman. Thank you so much for being here with me today.

ABOUT QUIRKYALONE

Now you are the author of the book Quirkyalone, which is a concept which absolutely fascinates me. Could you please give some background about Quirkyalone, or where the concept initially came from?

Quirkyalone has been around for a while now because we’re almost at the end of 2023. I came up with “quirkyalone” back in 1999. So we’re talking about 24-25 years ago, which is like pretty insane to think that’s like half of my life.

So basically, it’s a concept that I came up with when I was in my mid-20s. I had spent most of my life single by then. I was still a very young person. 

I always felt like something was weird with me. You know, even going back to being 13 because I didn’t always have a boyfriend. Quirkyalone was a creation of mine to create a word to describe people who don’t settle in relationship, who want to be in a relationship, but may spend a longer period of time single versus others who more quickly find someone to couple up with. 

So I wrote an essay and published it in my own magazine To-Do List at the time and Utne Reader which was a magazine that published selections from other magazines. Utne reprinted the quirkyalone essay back in 2000. 

Then it was going viral before things went viral. This was very dawn of the Internet. Yeah, it just got this tremendous reaction from human beings all over who were inundating me with mixtapes and letters and letters from prisoners, and it was really quite a phenomenon.

This was way before it was so common for things to go viral. So it was like coming-to-my-post-office-box-viral. That led to interest from an agent which led to me writing a book that came out in 2004. And then when the book was published, Quirkyalone got a lot of media attention as a different spin on being single. And it really kicks off a lot of conversation that continues to this day. About different ways of looking at being single and being in a relationship because Quirkyalone has these other sort of fun identities inherent in the book like quirkyslut, and quirkytogether. And so it’s not really about being single. 

Ultimately, it’s about being true to yourself, and a kind of recognition that for some of us being true to ourselves, may mean a whole bunch of time of being single, but it doesn’t mean that that is always the first choice or uncomplicated. But it really gives people a feeling of validation to know that they’re not the only ones who are having that experience. Because at so many points in our lives, we can wind up feeling like something’s wrong with us if we don’t have a partner.

I took your quiz, Sasha, in the book, and yeah, it totally resonated with me. I came up like that. I’m very quirkyalone. 

Can you just tell me, what about the ratio of men to women reaching out to you?

I have always heard from men and women. I’ve done polls of the community over the years, and it’s been pretty consistent. 85% women, 15% men. I haven’t done one in the last few years, but I did want another one five years ago, and it was still like that. So I take that as a pretty consistent number.

You have, well, more women are always interested in self-development, and trying to understand themselves. Perhaps the percentage of quirkyalone men has grown or you know, maybe they just weren’t finding me. 

Of course, women face more stigma about being single, but men have their own struggles. 

I definitely have men who reach out and feel very identified with being quirkyalone. 

It’s not actually a concept of wanting to be alone full stop. It is that thing of being open to a relationship. In chapter four in your book, you said when “settling is not an option,” so it’s very much geared towards being open to a romantic relationship and even marriage, but it’s the concept of not settling for something that isn’t right for you. 

Yeah, I think that that’s what is inherent to quirkyalone is that kind of allergy. Settling is just not really an option. Of course, as one gets older one thinks a lot about, What does it mean to settle? Because you know, if you’re going to try out different relationships, it’s not like ordering a product on Amazon. You can’t necessarily get the one with the specifications that you want.

But I think that we learn that we can settle on the most important things and I would say that’s going to be different for each person. I mean, for me, what’s most important is not settling on how I’m treated. 

For other people like it could be about living situations. They want to have a committed deep relationship with someone but they want to keep living on their own. Alone can be quite troublesome for people. One really lovely man that I coached to was, I don’t know, maybe upper 50s. He really believed that all women would need to get married or live with him if he was going to have a relationship with them. 

Our work was sort of about opening up to the possibility that there could be another quirkyalone woman out there who had the same desires for a strong relationship without cohabitation, necessarily. Many things are possible when you are quirkytogether. 

ABOUT BEING BORN OR MADE AS A QUIRKYALONE

I’m just gonna go to your chapter in the book called “Born or Made?” This is something that I really resonated with. So I’m just going to read out just read out a paragraph here. 

“I call myself a “womb quirkyalone,” because even though intellectually I know that my quirkyalone status must be a complex combination of innateness and experience, it feels innate.

I cannot imagine being any other way.”  Can you just speak more to that for me?

I love that you’re reading from the book. It’s so wonderful for me because I’m like, Who wrote that?

When I wrote the book, it was clear to me that there were people who felt like they had come out of the womb quirkyalone. This is always the way they were. 

And then there were people who came to this realization through life, you know, through a divorce or relationships that sucked the life out of them, or whatever. 

Circumstances prompted them to have a quirkyalone awakening, realizing that it was possible to have a full existence on their own, they would prefer to not settle and you know, be selective and cultivate enjoyment on their own.

For me, it’s one of those funny things because it feels so inherent to who I am. I guess that the circumstances that led me to feel like I’m a “womb quirkyalone” are that I grew up in a town where there were just there was just no one for me to date. You know, I mean, I remember feeling that way. In junior high school. In high school I was really excited to go to debate team meets at another high school, or math team meets at another high school, or the fantasy that my parents would be able to send me to boarding school and I would meet my boyfriend there. 

I had friends. I had a group of female friends who were very tight, but there was nobody for me to date. And so I think it was true then.

I don’t think I was wrong. I think it was accurate as a teenager, because now when I’m living where I grew up, I mean, it’s rare to find someone that I connect with. And, of course, when I went to college, it was true that there were more people that I could see as potentially compatible. And, you know, then I went on and lived in cities that had a lot more dating potential.

But I think that the part of that wombness was also my strong friendships. I always had best friends. I structured my life with groups of friends. 

And I think that there is a difference for a lot of people when they look back at their early lives. Were their early lives shaped by friendships, or by having a boyfriend or girlfriend, or whatever?

For me, I really learned that I could get along with friends and that actually, having a partner is something I deeply want and value. I love being in a relationship. I love sex. I love the challenges that come up in relationship. I’m a relationship geek. I like reading relationship books and taking relationship seminars and I love all of that. I love having those problems to solve. 

But the bigger crisis for me is not having any friends. That’s when actually life is at a crisis point. When I moved to  Buenos Aires  when I was 38, I was living in a city with no friends. That was actually far more uncomfortable for me than not having a boyfriend.

As a quirkyalone, I know very well, how to get along with two or three friends. To do things locally with and not have a boyfriend. I mean, that’s kind of the status quo. It’s okay. It’s not a crisis. It’s not an emergency in the way that not having friends is an emergency. 

ABOUT TURNING FIFTY – AND THE QUESTION, AM I STILL A QUIRKYALONE?

And going back, Sasha, so obviously, this was, this was 25 years ago, as you said, do you still feel it sort of inside? Do you still feel like the same person with regards to the whole quirkyalone thing has or has it has it evolved for you personally, in any way?

Yeah, I actually have an essay that I started to write during the pandemic.  I just went back to it to think like, can I shape something from this? The title of the essay is, “Am I still a quirkyalone?” (NOTE: this essay is still coming. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter to get it when it’s ready.)

This is a live question for me. Am I still a quirkyalone? And it’s something that I have answered differently even in the last two years.

I keep changing my answer. I think in some way I will always be a quirkyalone because for me being quirkyalone really has nothing to do with being single. I could be married and living together with someone and being a stepmother. I’m just sort of creating a scenario, because I’m not going to be a mother at this point. That train left.

I could have all of those choices set up that would look on the outside traditional and still be “quirkyalone,” because being quirkyalone is this sort of inner flame inside that recognizes that I can have a satisfying existence in a number of different ways. 

Being with the right person who feels internally like a match to me is non-negotiable. That’s just not going to change, that not-settling thing. But I think what I have struggled with as a question many times over the last 10 years, let’s say, is the question of is a romantic relationship for me as a want or a need.

As I have gone through my personal process with that, I have had someone suggest to me well, “Maybe this is a need for you. And you should treat it more seriously as a need.” And not just as sort of icing on top which is the way that I had talked about it like, yeah, I can be perfectly happy and if I have a great relationship, that’s the icing on top of the cake. Is it actually a need for my life, to be in a good relationship? 

In a way, I liked declaring it as a need because it was like yeah, I’m a human being. This is actually a part of me that really wants to be expressed. I really wouldn’t be satisfied with my life without sexual intimacy, without emotional intimacy. I guess at the end of the day, trying to have what I want. I can’t say that I’ve been successful in finding a really long-term (romantic) relationship in the last 10 years. I’ve been in relationships. Now where I am, I don’t have that.

And then I started to think years later, this need thing. It’s kind of a downer. It’s actually not making me feel good to think that way. 

I myself have been going through a sort of awakening and revival. Yeah, appreciating all of the amazingness that is in my life. Turning 50 was really a big part of this. Because actually being single at 50 was a huge fear of mine. Like it had been in my psyche of like, I don’t know, somehow 50 was worse than 40 for being single. And 40 is when I married myself.

But, of course 50 is harder than 40. I think every every decade as you get older, it’s a little bit more serious because it’s like, I’ve lived longer, and there’s more to contemplate. There’s less time and I want to be really intentional about how I am living my life to suck the most juice out of life. 

I have been going through a really interesting period, the last few months of really appreciating how amazing my life is actually. Somebody was asking me if I was happy when I turned 50. And I was like, “I think I’m happy.” And he thought that that was kind of funny. “I think I’m happy” was almost like a comedy line. And I realized that I was holding a back on saying I was happy because I wasn’t I didn’t have the relationship piece that I wanted.

I had this deep thing inside me that said, You can’t say you’re happy because if you do, then you’re never going to get what you want. If you say you’re happy, this is really weird, but I’m admitting this because I wrote Quirkyalone, but I realized that that was still hanging out there.

And so then I really started talking about that with all of my a lot of my friends who are in relationship and how I compare my life to them to them.

I was really doing myself a disservice. Actually I am happy. There’s something about getting to 50, which is like, Wow, this is a lot of hard work turning 50. But I can see the view better. 

A friend of mine was like yeah, it takes 50 years to figure out how to live. I feel like I’m getting there. 

FIfty sparked a lot in me because I wasn’t even sure if I was going to talk about it publicly. That’s a whole other topic about age discrimination and all of those things, but through this reckoning and reflection process, the things that have become clear to me are I am going to talk about being 50 because I have wisdom to share from growing older and especially as it relates to being single. Because this was my biggest boogeyman, being single at 50. 

Now I’m living with it and I’m like oh my life is actually awesome. I was just in Bali. I’m going back to Bali. I’m going to Turkey soon. I’m dancing tango all over the place. My business is a lot of work but it’s growing. I’m creatively expressed. I love this new home that I managed to purchase. I didn’t know that I would ever purchase a home as an artist-healer person. So I’m like wow, you know, actually, it’s okay to say that I’m happy.

It really seems odd that I’m saying this but like is it’s been a really profound thing. 

It sounds like it has but I’m so pleased to hear that you that that’s how you feel that 50. That’s, that’s wonderful. It’s really inspiring. 

Yeah, it really is. And I don’t say that lightly because I was terrified of it. 

There’s a lot of weight that goes along with age. There’s a lot of discrimination. There’s a lot of negative feelings about what it looks like to be in your 50s. 

A lot of my work with tango and the Tango Adventure I used to host in Buenos Aires. It was a lot about showing women a different culture where women in their 60s and 70s are still wearing sequined dresses and going out to dance until 2 am or 4 am. Yeah, any night of the week or you know, that it’s possible to keep living an engaged, sexy life. 

MOTHERHOOD – AND NOT-MOTHERHOOD

Sasha you mentioned children I want to eat would you be happy to talk about about the fact that you don’t have any children and how that sort of looked for you throughout your life?

So the question about children was a big one for me, because I was one of those people who was open-minded about it. And I always thought that if I met the right partner and we got into a serious relationship, that child would be a product of that love.

I did have a gay friend who talked to me at 27 about having a child together if it didn’t work out, you know, in a regular kind of way.

So that question between 35 and 40 was a really big one. For me of you know, will I meet someone? And what choices am I making in life to support or not support, finding a partner and having a child? So it was tough and you know, I’ve coached a number of women through, I call it a dark passageway of being a woman. I think that those ages between 35 and 40 are really tough in a way that isn’t generally recognized because there are biological limits for women and for men too, which people don’t like to acknowledge.

So for me personally, I never felt it like a kick in the stomach of something that I just absolutely had to pursue. I think a lot about decisions because when you are a single woman your life doesn’t follow a regular template. You have the potential to make a lot of decisions about how your life can be and how you use the time and freedom that you have. 

So let’s say I had a kick in the stomach that told me I had to go back to Buenos Aires and dance tango. That was a choice point that I mean, when I was 38. Do I want to stay in the Bay Area, San Francisco, where I was very unhappy, and continue to date, online dating, and maybe I would meet someone? Or do I want to listen to my bodily intuition, that kick in the stomach that is saying you have chronic fatigue syndrome, and the thing that is going to help you is going back to Argentina and living there for a while?

I really struggled with that decision. Ultimately, I listened to what my pussy had to tell me and that’s a story that I’m telling in Wet.

We’re going to get onto that. [Laughter]

When I coach women, I help them figure out how to listen to their pussies for their decisions.

But yeah, my pussy pulsed. My pussy had a pulsing sensation that said yes, go. So I clicked buy on a ticket that I had been struggling to buy. And lo and behold, I moved to Buenos Aires. 

That was back in 2012. And I wound up being there for eight months that time. I came back and I think that after that I kind of had let go of the child dream.

Of course, I think it is around 42 or 43 that one really has to let go because it (having a child) might seem possible until then. So it was this kind of gradual letting go of that as a possibility. I do have to say there was something really good about that of the freedom on the other side. Okay, fuck it. That didn’t happen.

I feel really lucky that I don’t have a terrible grief about that. I think you know Jody Day who created Gateway Women. She helps women who feel that grief. Tthat’s that’s a huge emotional process to let go of, when you when you had more desire than ambivalence. I would say I had more ambivalence than desire.

Because now, to be quite frank, I’m pretty relieved that I don’t have children. I mean, when I look at the news headlines I’m really glad I don’t have to worry about my kids. I also feel that I am a maternal person who’s very loving and caring. When I was 35 to 40, I really had this fear that if I wasn’t a mother, I wouldn’t be a complete woman. Even though intellectually, I wouldn’t have told you that, that fear was running me.

I don’t have that anymore. I feel totally like a woman. I don’t have to be a mother. And I’m very conscious of all the ways that one can be motherly in the world. And like when I run my coaching programs, and I do things for others, I feel like I’m expressing that part of myself that is nurturing. Of course I have parents to care for and other people to care for. So I really feel like I’ve gotten a lot of freedom, as I’ve gotten older, to get out of those structures that are implanted in us that like, you know, to be a woman you have to be XYZ. I have a much broader idea of what being a woman is about now, or let’s say being a loving adult.. A loving, nurturing adult.

And I feel that yeah, I’m doing a good job with that. I can be an emissary of getting older as a good thing. 

Yeah, that’s such a lovely way to put it. You know, you’re you’re nurturing in other ways. It doesn’t have to be towards the child does it? 

Yeah, I heard things like that many times as I was going through those decisions, but it wasn’t until I fully felt that myself and stepped into a much more objective view of myself with more self-respect and stepped out of those narratives that it’s actually been really great. I’ve talked to other women about this, too. There is something good about getting beyond that biological clock window and feeling the freedom of not having that pressure anymore. 

IS THERE A STIGMA AROUND NOT HAVING CHILDREN?

And with regards to pressure did you feel have you felt throughout your life stigma surrounding the fact that you didn’t have children?

You know, I feel that stigma when I’m in settings where everyone else has children. I don’t know if it’s stigma, it’s just feeling weird.

For example, I facilitate groups of executive women for a company called Chief. Sometimes I’ll have a group and they’ll be some single women or some non-mothers, and sometimes they’ll be all mothers. 

Unavoidably one is going to feel a little alien and foreign, because let’s say we do we do an exercise in the first meeting where people write a timeline of their lives, the important events in their lives. So for them, the wedding, the birth of the child, other things that happen like they’re shaping events and their lives. When you don’t have that, and you’re presenting a timeline, it’s different. It does take strength just to say like, yes, my life is different than the norm. There are other meaningful moments. It’s a little bit vulnerable to step out and say, like, oh, yeah, this time when I ran away to Brazil, that was really meaningful for me, because, you know, maybe they’re gonna think that’s very superficial or not as important as having a child or something like that. So I don’t know if that’s stigma, but insecurity.

I’ve been really lucky in my life to surround myself with open-minded people. Being an expat is excellent for a person who doesn’t fit the norms because expats by their nature don’t. When I lived in Buenos Aires for six years, one of the best things about it is that my friends were people who also left their countries of origin. They were entrepreneurial, they were creative. They’re doing something different with their lives. That really helps. 

If you are around everyone else doing the expected stuff, I think it’s a challenge. But also the people who do the expected stuff, they have their own questions. It’s so interesting being a coach because I hear from people who are clients, who did all of the expected things, and then they’re wondering, did I really even want any of this? Like, you know, maybe I was just following along with what society wanted from me. 

I would say that being a life coach and having so much access to what’s really going on for people has been very helpful for me in my own personal journey because it helps me see that I have been quite intentional. And it’s not like I just did some like paint by numbers. A strength of my life is that it has been chosen.

WHAT IS SELF-MARRIAGE, AND WHAT IS SOUL COMMITMENT?

Thank you for sharing that. Thank you. Now, you did just briefly touch on this idea that you married yourself. Could you just tell us why that was and what that looks like for you?

I married myself when I was 40. I did it in Buenos Aires because I felt more comfortable there, but I had tango friends who joined in the ceremony.

I learned about self-marriage when I wrote Quirkyalone. In that book, there are some interviews with women who married themselves. Self-marriage always seems to be this concrete, artistic manifestation of the ideals of Quirkyalone. You’re committing to love yourself and honor yourself as you would hope a partner would.

It didn’t really make sense to me personally until I was around 40. I had been doing a lot of healing work. There was sort of deep stuff that I had to reckon with from my past that actually was childhood trauma, sexual trauma that happened that I had never addressed and that’s really the story that’s underneath Wet. The stuff that had not been looked at and dealing with it.

So I had been going through that process, which was very difficult. I guess I was thinking a lot about my shadow because I was thinking about shame and aspects of myself that were difficult for me that I didn’t want to talk about or that I didn’t want to have known by a partner or family. Ways that I kept myself hidden. 

I’d been doing all this therapeutic work. Suddenly the self-marriage idea felt like a way to take all this work I had been doing in therapy and do something with it in a kind of celebratory way, to commit to loving all parts of me. Jung has been important in my work. I talked about Jung in the first quirkyalone essay. My work has a lot to do with overcoming shame, healing shame. And for me, this self-marriage was a ritual of healing shame, and stepping into acceptance of all of me.

I did it with two tango friends, one from Colombia and one from Estonia. The one from Colombia had already married herself very casually like a year before. She just went out and bought a ring. And that was that. 

And then the friend from Estonia was younger and it didn’t make sense to her at the time. But she actually married herself after having two children and divorcing. She went back and married herself in Estonia years later and became an advocate in Estonia on TV for self-marriage. 

So it was a very quirky group of women and the three of us we did it in the Japanese Gardens in Buenos Aires. It was very peaceful. I wanted something very peaceful. You see a lot of media pictures of self-marriages where they’re big. The woman is wearing a white dress and you know, there’s 100 people there. This was not my style. I don’t think I want that if I get married to a man. I like small things. I’m a highly sensitive person.

It was a very small ceremony. We had sushi afterwards. We spent the day together. 

I think what’s really beautiful about self-marriage is that when you’re in the presence of someone who’s doing a self-marriage ceremony it’s very uplifting to everyone because you’re on this channel of self-commitment.

I’ve been calling it soul-commitment. I have this new experience with self-marriage this last few months because I have this group coaching program Turned-On Living. We’re together for a whole year. 

Every month has a theme. November was the soul commitment month. We chose to call it soul commitment because most of the women in the group were not that comfortable with the term “self-marriage” or it didn’t resonate for them. In the media, this idea of soul commitment was circulating and that resonated for them more. Basically it was the same thing. 

We constructed ceremony and rituals. They had music that they chose to pussywalk down the aisle. It was part of this three-day retreat that we did, as the final event culminating the weekend and the year. And my God, it was really beautiful to be at a group soul-commitment ceremony. 

Wow, that takes it to a whole other level because when you have a group of people committing, a group of women, but I think it could equally men could do this.

Committing to themselves and reading their vows out loud to each other and then dancing to songs they had chosen to step into those vows. It was one of the top ten experiences of my life really. It wasn’t my soul commitment. It was theirs. And I guess that’s what I mean about being a mother. I’m like the mother of this soul commitment ceremony for five women.That’s awesome.

PUSSYWALKING AND SENSUALITY COACHING FOR WOMEN

Now Sasha, you’ve just mentioned pussywalking. So if we can go on to so you’re you are a sensuality coach, aren’t you for women? Who are both single and partnered or married? Can you just tell me a little bit more about that sort of the the type of women that you work with what sort of work you’re doing with them?

I do love calling myself a sensuality coach in addition to a life coach or executive coach, because I have such an interest in the body. I feel that connecting with our bodies is such an important part of knowing who we are and feeling good. Feeling good is really a big part of my philosophy.

Life is not easy. There will be challenges but it’s really important to fuel ourselves with pleasure, and believe that we’re worthy of pleasure. And there can be sensuality coaching for women who are totally single. 

I think this is something that’s quite unique about me is that I have been associated with single women for so much of my career, and I’m very interested in sex and sensuality, how to amp up that part of our lives, whether we’re dating or whether we’re alone.

I like to talk about sexual energy and body connection to really empower us to know that we can be in connection with our sexual energy no matter what is going on in our lives, and that can be used for the good of our own expression being just how we feel everyday life walking down the street. 

PUSSYWALKING AND THE CENTERING OF WOMEN (WHILE INCLUDING MEN)

So pussywalking is a methodology that I created. That is, you know, it’s for any kind of person and in fact, I just taught one pussywalking workshop that included a man. So let’s say, single women, married women, partnered women. dating women, married men, single men, everybody could learn to pussywalk.

The focus is on female anatomy. Like all of my work, I center women, because we are decentered in general and so many aspects of life. 

So pussywalking came from my study of tango and my travels in South America and my immersion in the study of female sexuality and sensuality for empowerment. So it brings forward this knowledge that the clitoris is not just this little button on the outside like we were taught.

isn’t it the size of a medium, I know that you guys call them, eggplants? We call them aubergines over here.

Right, so inside our bodies, that clitoris is this whole structure that encircles the vaginal canal. Which could be seen as a vegetable. [Laughter.] And people use that analogy. 

All of it is nerve endings that can be activated. So pussywalking is a process of awakening the energy that is inside our bodies through those nerve endings. So it’s becoming more commonly known that women have in the clitoral glans, which is that little button, more nerve endings for pleasure than any other organ male or female, and that doesn’t include all the nerve endings that are inside. So this is just a tremendously sensitive organ. 

Basically pussywalking is an invitation to wake up that pussyenergy, which I teach through breathing and visualization of what actually is inside your body. And then using that awareness and energy as a focal point when a woman walks. 

I’ve been teaching pussywalking now for 10 years, which is pretty amazing. And I’ve been doing it on the down low a lot of that time because I was like, Oh my God. How was I going to talk about pussywlking? 

I had discovered this secret superpower of being a woman because I did a lot of sexual exploration. When I lived in San Francisco I was a part of a lot of workshops doing very outside-the-box stuff that activated put the energy or even taught me to say the word “pussy” because I definitely didn’t grow up saying word “pussy” at all. I had a lot of resistance to that.

I found through the cultivation out of that energy that I got this real boost that put me in the present moment, gave me a lot of radiant energy and gave me a lot of confidence. I used it for interviews that I went on. And there was one particular day when I was just shining with my pussy energy at this insurance company where they wanted me for corporate coaching. I was totally inexperienced at the time, but I nailed it. Like really well. It worked really, really well.

On the way out. I was in the elevator, and this guy said to me, “You look like you’re enjoying your life. And whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” 

And because now that I’ve been teaching pussywalking to women, over the years, I have evidence of other women hearing similar.

The same thing to them, “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.”

We actually have this “Dancing in the Woods” part of the Turned-On Living retreat last month. 

A guy walked by with his dog, and when he saw us dancing in the woods, he said, “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.”  So there’s something about connecting with this pussy energy which puts people in a good place.

The other thing I might add is that as along with the empowerment side of things, it can also help with your posture, can’t it? So how did you how did you actually discover that? Was that something that you you were walking along and it just came to you that that was what you were doing? I mean, because pussywalking is like a form of meditation. Almost, isn’t it? Because it because you’re you’re concentrating your energy within a part of your body as you walk. 

Well, the truth is that I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, in Oakland. I was practicing orgasmic meditation. And so I was doing a sexual spiritual practice, which is all about stroking very lightly the clitoris for 15 minutes and in a very structured container, a partner practice, as someone else was doing it. So this is like a whole other story and it is a complicated story because I learned it at a place that now I think would very clearly be called a sex cult. 

So pussywalking is a sort of extraction of the gems and wisdom that I got from going into these very edgy places that I wouldn’t send people to. That’s the tough thing about a lot of this sexual empowerment stuff. Many of the places… I’m a student of Tantra, I’m a student of Taoist sexuality, and I am very deep in all of this stuff. 

As a coach, I’m kind of a conduit of that information, delivering it in a safe, ethical way. A problem in this world is that a lot of those places are run by people who manipulate and take advantage of power because sexual energy is so powerful and people are very ripe for exploitation. It just happens that way. And it’s almost universal, how many stories there are of abuse that happen within places that teach sexuality. Very unfortunate.

So, yeah, this is a tricky part of the story, and I’m still figuring out how to tell it because the truth is that my pussy was very awakened because of the wonderful work that I got to do practicing orgasmic meditation at a place that had significant dark side. 

So the story… it was in my own life when I was going to this job interview and you know, I was like, wow, my pussy is on autopilot. Like I had gotten so much good attention down there. The labia were like, friends with each other. I was like, I’m walking and I feel like I’m having slow spiritual sex. That was the feeling really being in tune with my pussy. 

I’m a very sensitive type and energetic and like, I like sex when you’re hardly even moving. Let’s say like, your partner’s inside. You barely even moving and that can create this kind of delicious ultra-aliveness, and that was the feeling I had that was sort of the birth of pussywalking. So it’s not like oh my God, I’m having an orgasm. It’s not like that. You know, it’s sort of deliciousness that feels very alive and awake and pleasurable.

MEN AND PUSSYWALKING, OR MALE PUSSYWALKING AND MALE PUSSYENERGY

Sasha, you mentioned that men can do this as well.

Yeah, I know. It’s very mind-boggling to think about.

I love it. 

So, when I was in Bali in September and October, I taught a pussywalking workshop, and I hired a videographer. I’m editing those videos now. And as part of that small group of people in the workshop we had a man and so it’s going to be really fascinating when the video is ready to share because we have this male pioneer pussywalking. 

I’ve had very many men be interested in pussywalking, so I always thought that it would be cockwalking, but after a lot of thinking and study of this, I think what it is, is that it’s male pussywalking. As we’ve learned from books, a lot of people learn from Come As You Are, that the female genitalia and the way that our (female) sexual organs are expressed are an internal manifestation. Men have their pussy energy on the outside.

There’s a similar feeling of aliveness and subtle energetic awakening that can happen for men. And it’s the same place in their bodies. It’s also in the pelvis and the central organizing wheel of the body. 

And so, you know, for men, I think it’s this fascinating doorway about feeling connected with their sexual energy, but not going toward hard-on. Like this is something totally different, which, you know, many doors are opened in Tantra and Tao is sexuality about cultivating orgasm without ejaculation. Male pussywalking would be yet another cultivation of this aliveness and breathing down there and circulating that energy throughout the body. But without a goal. That’s very important for women. There’s also no goal other than just the experience itself.

It was absolutely unbelievable to have this man in the workshop because he said what you said he said. He’d read many books about posture, and that pussywalking was the simplest and most efficient way to improve his posture. He also felt all of these other benefits from pussywalking of slowing down and he was there with his wife. He felt it was something he could use to get out of work mode, being an engineer, and transition into more presence, being with other people or being with his wife, and also just being like a sensitive, strong male with a sexual energy but not in an aggressive way. 

I think that’s why the male pussywalking is a better thing to talk about than cockwalking. Because pussyenergy is not weak. Definitely not. But it’s also not going to overpower anyone. It’s more about autonomous power. 

Yes, yes. Because what I’ve sort of gleaned from from your work and from everything that you do, and that’s just going back to that sort of thing of dominance and also women feeling ashamed of their sexuality. I mean, that’s an inherent thing that we have historically felt. 

What I have felt from your work is that you’ve taken that very thing that we have been taught to be ashamed of, and turned it into the thing that gives you empowerment and freedom.

Thank you for seeing that.

ABOUT MY MEMOIR-IN-PROGRESS WET

So on that note, moving on from pussies to Wet. Can you tell us about your memoir, and I know that this is a story of healing through sensuality, isn’t it? 

I have been working on this book for at least 11 years now. And it took me four years to really understand what it was about. 

So on the surface level, this is a memoir about my decision to leave Silicon Valley and follow a bodily impulse to go to Brazil, which then led to a whole big long wander in South America with a ton of sexual and sensual experiences. I felt called to go to South America because I very much wanted to get away from screens and Silicon Valley. 

I wanted to be in my body and there was something about I just wanted to be in a sexy place. In the beginning, it was just like, you know, Dating isn’t working and I just need to feel alive and that was the first call. So basically, the story is about all of the different things that happens when first I was looking for happiness, let’s say through men, and a lot of different sexual experiences that weren’t turning into what I ultimately wanted. With boundaries being crossed and repeating patterns and you know, ultimately feeling stuck like unlovable and and kind of patterns that I had already been dealing with. 

And then the book or my story goes to Colombia where I discovered tango. Tango becomes this kind of training ground of learning how to find alignment and balance and true self-respect through being in my center and using the metaphor of dance as a way of how to have a healthy relationship with myself and with another person. 

So what’s going on in the background of all of this is healing the impacts of childhood sexual abuse and that was the thing that I didn’t want to look at and I was four years into the book where I started I was working with someone on a coaching about story using the hero’s journey structure from Joseph Campbell. That’s when I finally realized it. In the Hero’s Journey, you have to hit certain points like, Here’s where the character dies. Here’s where the character dies again, like there’s the ultimate lowest moment in the story. Every movie somehow follows this formula. 

I realized that like all the low moments were emotionally related to the impact of that early trauma that I never wanted to look at. So tango became a way of healing all those sensual experiences were a way of healing. I have such a big respect in a way for sex and for sensuality, learning through things through our bodies. Because we live in bodies.

A lot of people find healing and yoga. A lot of people have stories about healing from abuse through yoga. My way was through all this sex and tango. So the book is all about that.

And about all the things we’ve been talking about, about being a woman whose life did not conform to the norms, and making peace with that and walking tall instead of shrunken.

So there’s a lot with pussywalking that is about expansion. Not being ashamed, not hiding breasts, all of that stuff. Wet is really the story of that for me, because even though I was the Quirkyalone author, and people saw me as an empowering role model, I had a lot of shame that I was working through.

Shame is in the body. It’s Body Keeps the Score-stuff, you know that we internalize trauma and it makes us smaller and it has to be worked on through the body. You can’t just talk about it. You actually have to get in there and feel it and for some of us, like change how we are inside our bodies.

FINDING ANSWERS THROUGH OUR BODIES

And you have you work with people who say that, don’t you?

Yeah, I mean, I, as a coach, I always have to find a line between what is therapy and what is coaching.

But I come in as the piece of working with your body and connecting with your body. And finding, feeling and answers through what your body is telling you. 

People are different. People learn in different ways. For me and the people who are attracted to me as clients, we’re very kinesthetic people. 

For me, a lesson gets anchored in the body. I feel something differently. I feel it in tango. It’s all about like finding a posture that will allow for the energy to flow from one person to the other. And if one person is stooping, or falling over, or not respecting themselves, the energy gets cut. 

For example, finding that posture of alignment and pride that allows the energy to flow. For me that was an anchoring in my body of like, oh, this is what it’s like to be in a relationship and not lose myself. This is what it’s like to be in a relationship and hold my ground. This isn’t I was like to be in a relationship and not people-please in a very big way and lose myself so. That feeling of it physically, in a different way of holding my body is very effective and the people who are attracted to me want to do that. They also feel that way.

CULTIVATING SEXUAL ENERGY WHEN YOU ARE SINGLE 

Wonderful. So such as something that something else that I did want to ask you is as single women, how do we cultivate our sexuality? If we don’t have a partner? Like what would what would your advice be to single women? 

Okay, so I think that the first advice is just to ask this question of yourself, How do I as a single woman cultivate my sexuality? 

Because already this is opening the door and saying that this is possible. 

Because I think for a lot of people, the longer that goes by when you don’t have sex, it’s not flowing in that way. It’s very easy to think, Ooh, that’s just not for me, or I have to be in a relationship in order to explore my sexuality. This is a very strong idea that most people have: they think exploring your sexuality happens within a relationship.

I would say this is pretty different for me. I have always had a very strong feeling that I’m exploring my sexuality, no matter what. So I think already taking that stand for yourself is pretty big and opens a lot of doors to workshops. You could read books, things you can watch on Netflix, so already having it as important is a big step. Then I think it depends on where you are in your journey in terms of what’s next for you.

We have solo sex so you know already there it’s sort of opening the idea that like you can have sex with yourself. And that can also be a journey. This is something I’m personally very interested. First of all, a lot of women have problems with self-pleasure or masturbation because of a number of things. 

They might have come up in religious families where there could be a feeling that it’s wrong to do. 

Or it’s just not inspiring. It’s boring. It’s rote. It’s not unusual that someone could find it boring after a while, if you’re just by yourself.

But the cultivation of our sensuality is not just about getting to orgasm. And it is really something to give yourself to explore for example, a night in that is very sensual.

I have an exercise called the Visiting Dignitary which is basically playing this game with yourself and saying that a queen is coming to visit. You’re going to pick out something to satisfy everything of her senses. So something visual, something sound, something taste, something, I don’t know all the senses, plus something conceptual. Basically, it gets you to create a beautiful atmosphere. 

And then the trick is, Oh, the Queen canceled her visit. So the visiting dignitary is you. So you’ve created this lovely, sensual atmosphere for yourself. 

And then step two of this could be seducing yourself in the mirror. It could be, being in a self pleasure session that is more sensual with music. For example, Sensual Tantra Beats is a new good one that I discovered on Spotify.

I have a list of Sensual Resources. So if I’m thinking about putting it out there if people want it then then maybe this would help with this question. 

Yeah. 

(You can request the list here.)

What I’m giving you is a night in to dedicate to yourself and your sensuality and your sexuality. 

And you know, beyond that there can be the exploration of different sex toys. Different kinds of orgasms. Different kinds of sexual experiences you can have with yourself. I fully understand from my life experience that probably most people don’t only want to have solo sex and you probably do want to have sex with others. 

And yet, you will have better sex if you have solo sex with yourself, you will get to know yourself and you may have amazing experiences. So I wouldn’t say this is the only way but it’s like, I think really firmly putting the flag in the ground was like yeah, I’m single and I don’t have a partner and I’m still sexual. I can have solo sex. And there’s a bunch of other things I can do. I can go to workshops, I can go on a sexy vacation. 

I think it’s really important to do that because the sexual instinct dries up and it goes away and it just becomes distant. And so I mean, on the one hand is a drag to have to kind of consciously cultivate this on your own. I guess the the saving grace is a lot of couples struggle with this as well and there are a lot of people are in sexless marriages. So it’s kind of the same challenge that people in long-term relationships face about how to keep it fresh and how to keep it alive. 

It’s just not talked about as much though, is it?

No, we talk about couples drying up but gee, what happens when you’re on your own?

 Exactly. It’s funny you saying about the the I read an article the other day, and it was so interesting. The author was interviewing women between 20 and 70. So they were all in their own decades. I think it was the lady in in her 40s. She described how she taken herself away for a night in a hotel. She taken all of her sex toys with her. She got dressed up and went downstairs for a meal. She said that in the dining room there very much an opportunity arose. There was a guy in the room that she said, you know, she could have ended up having sex with him, but she chose her original plan which was to go back up, have a bath, and have her evening to herself. I was so inspired by that because you don’t read these things. You don’t see these things enough. And it’s and I think that’s really important to put across to single women. 

And another point that I would make is about learning about yourself and about what you like.

Surely that can then be taken into a relationship as maybe a form of confidence. You know, we are very people0pleasing. I know that a lot of women, most of them have probably experienced a sexual situation where it’s li okay, that’s it’s not really for me, so to be able to say to a partner, I like this. I don’t like that.  I think that that could really help somebody to explore themselves. 

Yeah. 100%

I mean, I think that the quality of connection that we can have with another person is very related to the quality of knowledge that we have of our own bodies and what knowing more about what we enjoy. I think that’s the most important thing. I can fall into this trap myself too. There can be a lot of tons of shame around sex, obviously, like especially the English culture, the American culture. These are cultures with so much repression and shaming around sex. And so even the idea of like when I say sex is important for you, whether you’re single or a couple or whatever, and that it’s a good thing to want to learn about sex. It doesn’t mean that there’s a deficiency. It means that you have a learning and growth mindset.

We have a sexuality and sensuality month in Turned-On Living. 

I was quite conscious about wanting us to adopt that as our mindset because otherwise, there can just be this feeling of defensiveness, or “No I’m okay,” or “Nothing wrong with my sexuality,” or you know, and really feeling inadequate. Either I’ve had too many partners. I haven’t had enough partners. There’s just so many ways to feel bad and broken. 

And the reality is that in some way, this is an exciting time because I would say in the arena of sexuality, there are more and more books, more sex toys, more resources than there ever had been before. 

If anyone wants that list of sexuality and sensuality resources, email me and I’ll point you to it because I created this list for the Turned-On Living group, and wow, there’s a ton of things you can do for a whole yearlong program. 

You can look at OMGYes which is videos of women who show how they touch themselves to climax and they talk about it so it’s very interesting, evidence-based stuff about how women achieve climax.

This is, you know, very explicit, and very much to learn from other women about what helps them and the individuality of each person.

And then you have something like the Erotic Blueprints which was created by this woman Jaiya, which is all these sort of different types that a person can be sexually like you could be an energetic, could be a sensual. You could be a sexual, which is what we normally think of as sex. Or kinky. 

Sex, Love & Goop is a great series. That leads people through all these different problems and coaching that they get around their body and sexuality. I don’t that sort has been a time when there’s been more about sexuality and sensuality that’s available to us.

It’s still it’s quite a rare interest. I’m realizing now I’m a sex geek, like I’ve always been into this.

This is kind of my thing.

But more and more people are getting are exploring that way. And I mean, I would say that’s a good thing about today. 

Just actually you just mentioned though I’m aware of the time.

WHAT IS TURNED-ON LIVING? AND WHAT I DO WITH MY CLIENTS

Because we were chatting beforehand as well, wasn’t it? Um, Sasha, you just mentioned about turned-on living. And so you’re a life and executive coach for women. 40-plus, aren’t you, helping with turned-on lives, careers and businesses? Can you just give me that in a nutshell what you’re what you’re doing.

So I talked about Turned-On Living as a way of talking about people living authentically and in ways that feel true to them and exciting. Turned-On Living is also this group program that I started last year and I’ll run the second year of soon. And it’s really a philosophy I would say a body connection and tuning into your body as a way of knowing your true feelings, emotions, desires.

I created this curriculum that goes for 12 months with different topics from self compassion, to boldness to prioritizing pleasure, sexuality and sensuality, anti-people-pleasing is a big one. 

So I find that a lot of my clients have this tendency of being more nice than they want to be. And that has a way of draining turn on or lifeforce energy when you’re doing things you don’t really want to do.

My work is about empowerment, and there’s this body connection. Some of my clients are executives and very high level and then I have clients who are not that and are regular people.

WORKING WITH SENSUALITY AND SEXUALITY, AT EVERY AGE

But and I really I love working with people who have this openness to their body connection and if they want to talk about sensuality, sexuality, yes. I mean, it’s, it’s funny. It’s just one of my greatest joys in life is helping someone to have better sex lives.

I love it. I love turning women on and especially single women to the possibility of connecting with their own sexuality and sexual energy because otherwise is this feeling that we’re left to die on the vine. Especially as we get older, and it’s like, Do you get to still feel alive? 

Yes, you do. Like, of course, and there are women who specifically focused on sex for older people, and they’re doing this work too. (See Joan Price.) Like you said before, somewhere in our conversation, we can just get better we can know ourselves more we can have different sex, better sex. We can feel more.

I see sex as an infinite journey, that there’s always more to uncover and experience. 

There is absolutely and especially with different partners as well. Everybody is different. So Sasha, thank you so much. I have enjoyed this conversation. So, so much, I really have.

HOW TO STAY IN TOUCH

Could you just just let us know, where can people find you and also, if they wanted you to email the list as well?

Go to my website, sashacagen.com, go to the newsletter page and sign up there because that’s the best way to be in touch also can follow me on Instagram but the newsletter is where I really share with people.

If you want that list, then just send me an email. Once you’re on the newsletter list, we’ll be in contact. 

.

“Body-shamed” in Singapore

No make-up, fresh off the overnight plane. Marc happened to take this picture so you can see the dress.

A good foot massage is one of my favorite things.

The day after I landed in Singapore, my friend Marc and I went hunting for a foot massage place as part of our walking tour. I needed some TLC after a rough overnight trip from Istanbul, a small excursion that wouldn’t take too much out of me since I had barely slept. When someone massages my feet, especially when they push certain pressure points, my entire body relaxes, often putting me to sleep.

We both agreed it was a good plan.

We walked through a small mall filled with tailors, maid service agencies matching Singaporean clients with domestic workers from Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Phillippines, and lots of foot massage places, not unlike the kind you find in California where the client sits in a chair with his or her feet up.

We finally settled on one that could accommodate both of us. Marc likes to pick places that are highly rated online. My method is to choose randomly. Risk-taking: roll the dice. Usually, my approach works. Well, this day it didn’t.

My male therapist gestured for me to sit down in the chair, and asked, “Are you pregnant? I need to know for massage.”

What? Flummoxed, I didn’t respond. The shock on my face must have been his answer. Did this guy not get the memo? Don’t ask a woman if she is pregnant ever! This is not a good question. The last person who asked me if I was pregnant was a seven-year-old girl who lived in my apartment building in Buenos Aires. I never forgot that moment in the elevator. Marc joked later that you should only ask a woman if she is pregnant if the baby is already crowning (coming out).

It got worse, if you can believe it. A red, blue, and yellow foot sign flashed near the door. I asked him to turn it off midway because the lights agitated me. I wasn’t resting during the massage, as I hoped I would. When the hour was over, he asked my age.

“You are doing good.” He told me I looked five years younger than I am. “Eat well, sleep well, little back pain, you can tell everything from the feet.”

Two-thirds of those things are true. I eat well and occasionally suffer from lower back pain, and I sleep okay. I feel ambivalent when people tell me I look younger than I am. Like most people, I enjoy compliments but what’s wrong with looking one’s age? Little did I know that it was remarkable for this man to pay me a compliment at all.

“You have a spare tire,” he said.

“What?” I asked. My jaw must have actually dropped.

“Fat.”

“What!” He called me fat! Or told me I “have fat.” I was speechless, but I couldn’t stop asking, “What?”

Marc said later that he wished I would stop asking questions so the conversation would end, but I couldn’t. This foot massage had turned into a car crash.

He continued, “Exercise. You have to take care of it,” pointing to my waist and then his own, “Exercise is the only way.”

Yeah, dude, I know about exercise.

Marc paid for both of us, thank goddess; I didn’t want to pay a Singaporean cent for his mediocre massage, which put far more tension into my body than it relaxed!

When we got outside, we obviously had to dissect the horror of what had just happened.

“Do you think I should go back and tell him off?” I asked. “If I speak up, maybe I will feel better.”

“You could, but I don’t think it would matter. He hears and says that kind of thing a hundred times a day. It’s the culture in Singapore. It’s the water they swim in. This is how people talk to each other.” In essence, Marc was saying that in Singapore, people think they are doing each other a favor by pointing out each other’s flaws.

“Do I look fat?”

“Your body is fine. Come on.”

My mind was still reeling. Did he actually call me fat? Did that just happen?

Marc has lived and worked in Singapore for seven years. “I have a friend who works with a personal trainer,” he told me. “She had to sit down with him over a drink and tell him that she wasn’t coming to him for comments about her body. That’s not what she wanted out of personal training. He stopped but only after she had to have a separate meeting with him to get him to understand.”

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s probably not worth it to confront him because I don’t have an ongoing relationship with him.”

Singapore is a multi-ethnic society, and people of Chinese ancestry make up about three-quarters of the population. I started connecting the dots between what had just happened to me and stories I have heard from Chinese-American friends and clients who have shared with me about their parents relentlessly criticizing them, as if pointing out flaws is how you express love. Now I had felt the sting of it myself. What I experienced was miniscule compared to what they have gone through, but it was a taste. Ouch.

“They actually seem to think they are helping by criticizing,” I said. Of course, people in the U.S. also criticize each other’s bodies, but we are more likely to do it silently inside our own minds. It’s a very common thought error in the U.S. to believe that we are going to improve when we call out our own “flaws.” As a life coach, some of the most important work I do with my clients is to help people replace (or partially replace) their inner critic voice with a more compassionate, gentle, supportive one. Change takes root when we are kind to ourselves because we get stronger rather than weaker.

Marc pointed out that it could be valuable for me to have had this experience because it would help me to empathize with Chinese-American friends and clients. That’s true.

He urged me to not give his comments any power. Anyone can say anything to us, but only we can decide whether to remember their words or give those comments weight (pun intended).

Of course, Marc was right but I couldn’t let go of the doubts immediately. I’m human. I’m dealing with my own aging body over here, just like everyone else. For the rest of the afternoon, I kept looking in mirrors as we passed glassy buildings and mirrors in shops to check out how the dress, a piece of clothing that I actually adore, looks on my middle. It’s the perfect travel dress because it’s lightweight, easy to pack, and never wrinkles. I also consider it a sexy dress. Did it accentuate my belly? Should I still wear it at all? Had I gained weight? I hadn’t stepped on a scale in two weeks because I was traveling.

I’m proud to say that I let all these questions go by the next day, and I’m no longer giving that man any real estate in my mind.

The truth is I have spent the last fifteen years engaged in a journey of learning how to see myself as beautiful after a mild case of body dysmorphia (a mental health label for fixating on perceived flaws in your own appearance). No one gave me that diagnosis, but I would say body dysmorphia is cultural in the U.S. too because we are taught to see our bodies as projects to fix.

After a few days, I came back to my own hard-won baseline, feeling good about myself as a luscious, unskinny woman who has a sweet little belly. My philosophy as a life coach is that our relationship with our bodies is one of the most valuable things that we have. We live inside our bodies; they are our homes. When we get in touch with our body’s sensations, we can be more in touch with what we want and make better decisions for our lives. What happens when we shame or criticize our own bodies? We become self-conscious. We lose that innate connection. We lose our power. And we might not even want to leave our own homes to allow ourselves to be seen.

The next day I called my Chinese-American friend and told her the story. She shrieked, “How is that any of his business? He body-shamed you. I won’t get a foot massage in Singapore.”

My friend’s comment was funny, and that’s why I am including it.

Is the moral of the story, “Don’t get a foot massage in Singapore?” Maybe. Ha. I’m not sure that the language “body-shaming” applies in Singapore since it’s a U.S. construct.

If you are in Singapore en route to Bali, I would say, Wait, and get your feet  massaged in Bali. Since I arrived three weeks ago, I have gotten a handful. Foot massages in Bali cost a fifth of the Singaporean price, and they are far, far, far more blissful.  No massage therapist in Bali ever made a comment about my body, negative or positive.  All they care about is helping me relax. And that’s the point of a good foot massage, is it not?

Developing a more self-compassionate relationship with yourself, and a more affirming relationship with your body and your sensuality are two things we focus on in Turned-On Living my yearlong group coaching program for a small group of intrepid women who are drawn to my work.

A new cohort starts in June. A self-marriage (or soul commitment) ceremony is part of the experience. Does that scare you? Perfect. Transformative things by their very nature push us outside of our comfort zones.

Curious about Turned-On Living? The next group will begin together in September–back to school energy, out of the slog and into turned-on living. Read more on this page, and fill out the form telling me about you. I talk to each person to create a magical group of sensitive, caring women.

I am going to do a live community Zoom from Bali this April to tell you about what I’m learning in this culture from Balinese people, and how those lessons intersect with the yearlong adventure we go on together in Turned-On Living. Make sure you are signed up on the newsletter to get the invite!

And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send a message.

I Was Named for my Ukrainian Great-Grandmother

moscow snapshot 1989

A snapshot I took in 1989, Moscow

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.

The Pleasure and Pain of Plunging into Cold Water, Inch by Inch

 

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?”

cold water plunge rhode island

Mackerel Cove, Jamestown, Rhode Island, March 2021

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).

post-plunging spa

post-plunging spa

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.

cold water plunging wim hof rhode island

My breakthrough day in Jamestown, April 2021.

 

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?”

“Yup.”

“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.

Michael, the swim coach, and I celebrate my breakthrough plunge a week later 🙂

our group plunging new year's day jamestown ri

New Year’s Plunge, 2022

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. 😉

Trick or treating as a childless, fortysomething woman. I mean, WHY NOT?

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.

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?

glutenous candy stash to be distributed


Give a shout out on the comments of the video!

Allowing ourselves pleasure

new glasses!

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!

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!

Reflecting on a year of pandemic and protest. Come be human with us around the storytelling circle.

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!

For 2020: 31 Days of Asking Men to Dance


(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

la glorieta milonga buenos aires tango

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.

Me and one of my targets! He said yes. 😉

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

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.

My first dance. I didn’t ask him but I may have made it happen by being friendly.

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).

Jorge one of our taxi dancers for the Solo Chica Tango Adventure–and moi! It’s always nice to run into a friend at the milonga.

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.

 

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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.

 

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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

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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.

Onward.

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 Sue Aikens and Wanda Abramor, Tango Fairygodmother in the Tango Adventure buenos airs

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. 

Self-marriage catches on in Latin America. Misconceptions cleared up here.

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.

Juan: No….

Pablo: Incredible!

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.

Juan: Yes?

Pablo: Wow!

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!

[Laughs]

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?

Joshi: Me.

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?

Juan: Sasha…

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.

Pablo: Yes…

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.

(Laughs)

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…..

Sasha: Pressure.

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.

Pollo: Yes.

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.

Pablo: Great.

Pollo: Can you come here, Juancito? I haven´t decided it, I swear.

Juan: I liked it more the passive Jeni.

(Laughs)

Pollo: A big round of applause to Yani.

Boy:  Good Yani!

Pollo: Well, are you single, Juan? Well, deal with it yourself.

Pablo: Beautiful!

Pollo: Well, he will do a consultation.

Boy:  Good Yani!

Pollo: Well, are you single, Juan? Well, deal with it yourself.

Pablo: Beautiful!

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?

Juan: Yes.

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!

(Laughs)

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.

(Laughs)

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.

[Laughs]

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?

Joshi: Good.

Sasha: Good?

Joshi: Yes.

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…

Joshi: Yes.

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.

(Laughs)

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?

Sasha: Yes.

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.

Pollo: OK.

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.

Sasha: Perfect.

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!

(Laughs)

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?

Sasha: Sorry?

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.

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