The election is now just five weeks away. It’s impossible to avoid the news about the candidates (whose names in this sentence, anyway, shall go unmentioned), but in the end, we are not just voting for individuals, we are actually voting for our future. And more than that, this election is a chance for us to recognize our own power.
What kind of world do we want to live in? Do we continue to promote policies that reflect a vision of the world that used to exist, or do we start to create a world that reflects who we are, a country were now unmarried women are actually in the majority? The question is, do we wake up as a group and start to exert our influence on public policy (which then affects our possibilities–can you take time off from work to care for your sick single aunt, can you get birth control paid by your health insurance)?
Rebecca Traister, author of All The Single Ladies, wrote an important essay in New York magazine on the rise of the single American woman voter as the most potent voting bloc in the country, back when Hillary and Bernie were still slugging it out in the primary. Now, we have the opportunity to make Rebecca right but only if we actually vote.
“. . .how much of an impact single women will have on this election and on public policy in the years to come depends, in large part, on whether they begin to recognize their growing political power. Part of this is simply a matter of getting out the vote. According to Page Gardner, in 2016, “for the first time in history, a majority of women voters are projected to be unmarried,” but going into the previous presidential-election season, nearly 40 percent of them had not registered to vote. . .
The independent woman, both high earning and low earning, looks into her future and sees decades, or even a lifetime, lived outside marriage, in which she will be responsible for both earning wages and doing her own domestic labor.
This is the new social compact that she requires: stronger equal-pay protections that guarantee women’s labor will not be discounted because of leftover assumptions that they are likely to be supported by husbands; a higher federally mandated minimum wage, which would help to alleviate the burdens of poverty on America’s hardest and least-well-remunerated workers; a national health-care system that covers reproductive intervention, so that those who want to terminate pregnancies or have babies on their own or wait until they are older to do so are able to avail themselves of the best medical technologies; more affordable housing for single people, perhaps subsidized and with attendant tax breaks for single dwellers who choose to live in smaller, environmentally friendly spaces; criminal-justice reforms that address and correct the injustices of our contemporary carceral state; government-subsidized day-care programs; federally mandated paid family leave for both women and men who have new children or who need to take time off to care for ailing family members; universal paid-sick-day compensation, regardless of gender, circumstance, or profession; increases rather than continual decreases in welfare benefits; reduced college costs and quality early-education programs. Come to think of it, these policies would benefit lots of people who are not single women as well.
None of this is easy, or likely to happen quickly, especially not with a Republican-led Congress. But it is the beginning of a new kind of relationship between American women and their government. Single women are taking up space in a world that was not designed for them. They make up a new republic, a new category of citizen. If the country is to flourish, we must make room for free women, and let go of the economic and social systems built around the presumption that no woman really counts unless she is married.”
Chris Tyre over at the lovely blog Nomad + Camera interviewed me about why and how I chose to leave Silicon Valley tech stress for a more artistic life in South America. And how I got here. Plus you can read up on the tangasm. Why wouldn’t you want to read about that? Here’s the lovely Nomad + Camera interview that’s published today!
Chris Tyre interviews digital nomad types all over the world about how they have created new lives for themselves. The interviews are well worth reading.
I resisted that slogan at first, because I thought, isn’t she with us?
But at the deepest levels of my bones, after watching the amazingly inspirational DNC last night, I’m feeling #imwither.
Many of you might not be. Some of you don’t live in the U.S. Some of you still want Bernie. Some of you might be voting for Trump or Gary Johnson. Or not vote at all.
But I want to lay out for you the import of electing Hillary from a #quirkyalone perspective. And why I hope you will vote in this important election in November. And even get involved in local, one-on-one campaigning. That’s how campaigns are still one. One-on-one talking to get out the vote.
Quirkyalone is inherently a feminist philosophy that presupposes that women are full human beings who don’t need a man to complete us or to live a full life, even if we do want to be in close or committed relationships with men for some or all of our lives. Quirkyalone as a mass phenomenon is only possible historically since women en masse have gotten access to education and the opportunity to have economic equality.
The truth is it’s still often hard for a single woman or mother to make it on her own, or for a woman emerging from divorce to make it, in a world where women are still paid less than men (let’s change that) but we have vastly more freedom than we did before because we don’t need to be married just to survive.
Where does Hillary’s campaign for president fall in this narrative of the arc toward full choice in relationship and full female participation in life? It can’t be overstated the importance of seeing a woman take the reins as a leader in the U.S. There is nothing more delicious than this Quartz headline: “Hillary Clinton’s husband wore a fetching pantsuit to honor her nomination for president.” Last week we saw a trophy wife speak for her two-decades-older husband (sorry, but that’s absolutely what I see in Trump and Melania, with their 24-year age difference), this week we see a former president celebrating his woman’s career and looking pretty sharp to boot. We see dozens of others saluting her on the stage, saying there’s no one who has more experience or is better prepared for the presidency. Sorry Bill. Even you.
When Hillary was 15, she wanted to be an astronaut and she was told no on account of her gender. It cannot be overstated the subtle profound value of us finally seeing a woman in the driver’s seat of our country. Many other countries have or have had female presidents (Germany, Chile, Iceland, Brazil, Argentina). The US has been a powerful force for women’s equality but we also have vast amounts of sexism left in our country. The sexism gets exposed all the time with Hillary showing us how people react to a female candidacy (there are even plenty of “liberal” people calling her a “dog” and other dehumanizing terms on social media). Some of the media heralding the historic nomination of a woman president didn’t even feature a photo of Hillary, they featured Bill. That’s how uncomfortable people still are with a woman being in power.
Hillary’s presidency is a powerful show that women are equal. I don’t think we will even fully feel that until well after she is elected. How profound and sweet that is to really say and believe in a world that sort of believes it but indicates otherwise all the time.
#imwithher. Hope you’ll join us.
PPPS My younger brother Dan Cagen wrote this on Facebook today, and I thought it was spot-on, so I will add this here:
“Obama ended his speech with a ‘Yes, We Can,’ his slogan from 2008. It was a message of hope and change and that better days are ahead of us if we all work together towards our goals. I’ve been deeply troubled over the last week since watching Trump’s RNC speech—part of me wishes I hadn’t subjected myself to that—and the vision of America he sees. Trump sees an America where you will be killed and your murderer will be a non-white person. It’s hard for me to reconcile that so many people in this country are supporting someone who feels that way. Hearing Obama bring back ‘Yes, We Can,’ and seeing the response in Philadelphia, was a reminder that there are still plenty who have hope and want a better future.”
Here is a brave, wonderful essay that just appeared in the Washington Post Solo-ish column about the challenges of being quirkyalone . . . looking for quirkytogether.
Melissa Banigan writes about the challenges of being an independent woman looking for a relationship with a man who welcomes this independence and would also state his own needs so they can craft quirkytogether together. Love seeing this dialogue in the press as it’s so often happening in our modern hearts.
“Again, I got accused of being scared of commitment despite having been very committed to trying to make things work. We both put a lot of time and energy into our relationship. The problem was that he had a more traditional idea of how to be in a partnership, while I’m an independent quirkyalone.
Interestingly enough, 85 percent of people who come out of failed marriages cite “lack of commitment” as the reason for their divorce. Perhaps those who’ve been through a divorce could take a lesson or two from quirkyalones and learn how to better balance the independent self with the togetherness of being in a couple. In my view, real commitment is about stating and respecting each other’s needs.
Next time I get into a relationship, I’ll need a partner who embraces my strength. “Some men might feel threatened by quirkyalone women because they are not as interested in orienting their lives entirely around a man,” Cagen says, “and other men are turned on by it because they want to be with a strong woman who brings her full self to the relationship.”
While I haven’t yet found “The One,” at least I’m not trapped with Mr. Wrong. I’d prefer to meet another independent soul, so that we can explore what it means to be quirkytogether.”
If this resonates, I want you to know this is one of the things I focus on with one-on-one coaching clients. I love working with my women clients–and a few cool men–to create your vision of what you really want, dismantle limiting beliefs and build skills for speaking your truth and negotiation so you can create the intimacy and closeness you want while also honoring needs for independence and autonomy. This is the quirkyalone/quirkytogether path and it is possible. I just got an amazing email from a former client who just married a man two years after we completed our work together, and they are maintaining their own homes. Anything is possible.
Is there only one happy ending for women characters? Lady Mary shakes things up in season 6 of Downton
Ali sent me a text, “You should watch this week’s Downton Abbey. Mary Crawley has a big quirkyalone speech where she says she’d rather be alone than with a man she doesn’t love.”
I texted back, “OK, will do,” put down the phone and put Downton Abbey on the to-watch list for the night. Ali and I have been friends almost twenty years, we are both spotters of quirkyalone utterances in pop culture for fifteen years now. We look for moments when characters say being alone is preferable to settling, especially when they come from women. Those female articulations are more revolutionary in a world that defines women’s value in terms of their relationships.
Indeed the scene was awesome. Mary not only declared her preference for being alone over a loveless marriage, but also fended off a blackmailer who wanted to humiliate her for spending a week with a man (out-of-wedlock tryst! Scandal!). So not only did she declare her independence as a human being (she doesn’t need to be with a man to exist) but she stands up to slut-shaming.
The next question for me and Ali was, would Downton’s creators let Mary end up alone?
After Ali and I talked on the phone. Ali said, “They’re giving her all these boring men love interests this season. They’re not very inspiring. I hope they give her someone good before the series ends.”
I said, “I like the way they are playing it, that they have two single women sisters now Mary and Edith. That’s life too. Sometimes that is the way it goes.” I don’t mean either that Mary would always be single. But that there could be other valid endings.
I’ve been having conversations like these for quite a while now. Sex in the City was about to conclude a decade ago around the same time as my book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics came out. Because they saw me as a real-life icon for the single girl, reporters often asked me for opinions about how ultimate single-women-in-the-city series (until then) should conclude. Would Carrie end up with Big? Carried ended up with Big.
When you look at other blockbuster memoirs-turned-to-movies such as Wild and Eat Pray Love, you realize they both begin with women who have husbands and end with women who have husbands. Is a woman finding a man a requirement for the ending of a big blockbuster book, movie or TV show? Do we need to be calmed by the formula of the fairy-tale storybook ending we’ve been sold since birth that a woman’s happiness begins when she finds her prince?
Even an edgy book like Gone Girl that is very critical of fake couplehood ends with the couple back together again. (In some ways Gone Girl is a sly argument that we get what we deserve.) HBO serial Girls which should herald a new era of higher standards (one might think) brings Hannah together over and over again with pretty lame boyfriend Adam.
Are are there a variety of happy endings for women characters? This question about women’s happy endings is something I have thought a lot about as I write the first and now second draft of my memoir Wet. How should I end my book, I ask myself often. For example, my memoir might end with me alone, but that doesn’t mean I will be alone forever.
My intuition tells me that in 2016 we are reading for new endings. It’s a thought experiment to imagine the multiple happy endings for a woman: she finally falls in love with herself; she finds her home, the right community of friends, her true calling, or the meaning of life; she heals from childhood abuse, or she learns how to have sex and not feel guilty about it afterwards.
Would we give these endings a chance, or do we really believe there is only one truly satisfying conclusion?
Let’s see what happens with Mary Crawley.
Join us to be Quirkyalone Together Feb. 14 in Oakland!
Through this intimate afternoon workshop, we are going to come together and I am going to teach you the key skills I have learned in years of writing and coaching other quirkyalones that you can use to live a happy, satisfying life where your heart is also open to being quirkytogether. To live as a happy quirkyalone takes specific mindset shifts, practices and behaviors. It takes self-compassion and a community of support.
For some it can be a lifelong journey to get to this point of embracing life single or in a relationship—through this workshop, we will help you get there sooner. Spaces are limited. The super early bird deadline for the best price is January 21. Sign up today!
Last week I got this email from a reader and I wanted to share it with you. . .
I doubt you’ll remember me, but I had e-mailed you a couple of years ago in response to a question you’d posed on Facebook, and I’d also mentioned to you that I’m a sociology professor at Wingate University in North Carolina, and that I assign your book Quirkyalone in my Deviant Behavior class, as one example of how to be a non-conformist in society.
I was grading exams tonight which included an essay question about the concept of being Quirkytogether from the book, and one of the students put it as well as I think I’ve ever heard it described, and I felt I ought to share this with you. She wrote:
“Quirkytogether: two whole people that don’t need each other but want to be together.”
Thanks to Aaron for passing this along. And yes I remembered you!
I often coach and write about this topic of two independent people coming together to create a relationship based on their own values, desires, and rules. (And I dedicate a chapter to “quirkytogether” in Quirkyalone.)
What do you think of the definition? What does “quirkytogether” mean to you? How does this student’s definition resonate for you? Please feel free to share in the comments, and who knows, it may become part of a list to be shared in a future Quirkytogether book!
My friend Tracy sent me a link: “Weird, random use of ‘quirkyalone'”
My father sent me a message: “Your word in headline type!”
A lot of acquaintances sent emails, “Hey this reminds me of your book.”
What was this all about? I was on my own writing retreat in Healdsburg, California, working on my memoir Wet when these emails flooded in.
The skinny: An essayist Tim Kreider wrote a New York Times Modern Love essay about his despair at finding love in the brutal New York City dating scene (which I’ve heard many times is very rough), and the despair he observed in his single friends.
The piece was titled “‘Quirkyalone’ Is Still Alone.”
Now this was strange. Every other time that the New York Times has used the word ‘quirkyalone’ in a news article, from 2003 to 2013, the reporter called me and we talked, and he or she got the definition right and cited me as the coiner of the word. Kreider conflated ‘quirkyalone’ with ‘happy single’ and said we quirkyalones are unicorns, we only exist in magazines. The meaning of the word that I created in a 700-word essay in 2000, and then in my book in 2004, is “a person who prefers to be single rather than settle.” We quirkyalones do exist and our numbers are growing!
I plan to take my time to write a full response to his essay, perhaps my own Modern Love essay, but for now, I want to share this piece with you and I welcome you to share your thoughts on the New York Times or with me in a comment or an email.
I will share a few thoughts here.
A longtime friend of mine (who actually was the first to read my original quirkyalone essay in 1999 before anyone else did) didn’t like the piece because she thought, “It’s basically like someone saying hey you single person, you want to think your life is every bit as good as the people in relationships (good relationships, that is) but really I’m here to tell you it’s not–it’s actually really lacking. I mean that may be the truth but it’s not really what I feel like reading right now so it’s just a personal thing I guess.”
I think my friend hits the nail on the head here. Any perspective that actually hurts when you feel it is probably not true at a deep level. How can we really compare one person’s unique life to another person’s unique life and say, this life is better? We are all on our own journey here. Another yogi friend of mine likes to say, “You’re on your mat. He/she’s on his mat.” The meaning is: don’t compare.
I appreciate a lot of the writing in the piece, but I think he draws a pretty erroneous conclusion that happiness and belonging happens through coupling.
In fact, I think we reach an important stage in our maturity when we realize that we are responsible for our own happiness, whether we’re single or in a relationship, quirkyalone or quirkytogether.
The most important thing you can do if you do want a loving, healthy partnership is to start with your relationship with yourself. To love and respect yourself. We are very good at being mean to ourselves, saying it’s our fault. I am writing about my own journey toward self-respect as a single woman in Wet, and in fact, I think these are the lessons that everyone needs to learn, woman or man, single or coupled. You can’t really be happy if you don’t respect yourself.
Cutting ourselves down for being single (messed-up, flawed, wrong, or living lesser lives than people in relationships) is something I have done too and most of my coaching clients have done. It’s the problem of being quirkyalone in this culture, thinking something is wrong with you when you’re single because we live in a couple-normative culture. The only way it could help is by causing so much pain that it gets you into desperate mode to change your habits and your way of thinking to then attract more love and connection into your life, but really, self-flagellation is usually not a successful strategy for change. It doesn’t help. I can’t get down with a perspective that makes single people feel bad for being single.
I am all for healthy relationships. I’m all for healthy singledom too. I’m not an advocate of lifelong singlehood for me or most quirkyalones either (most do want a partnership at some point, although some don’t). I certainly think we can grow in unique and important ways in the container of a healthy loving relationship when we have someone who is willing to be our mirror.
However, the magic starts when we connect with ourselves.
The trick is being our own best friend along the way.
I welcome your thoughts.
P.S. Welcome to all the new subscribers who found my work because of Tim’s piece! Happy to have you on board with us!
I just finished watching the first season of Grace and Frankie on Netflix. I have to say, I think this is a very quirkyalone show!
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are playing born-again quirkyalones, for sure, who didn’t have a choice about the matter initially–their husbands dump them when they finally announce they are gay and in love! I also think this show is the new Golden Girls–older women cohabitating and supporting each other through love and life. If you read Quirkyalone, you know that I loved the Golden Girls and and asked each quirkyalone I interviewed to name his or her favorite Golden Girl.
I know from talking with many of you that Netflix can be a soul-sucking distraction from getting things done and getting out in the world. Netflix is the new addiction of our time. But, if you want to relax with some quirkyalone entertainment I wholeheartedly recommend Grace and Frankie.
The series gets better and better (as most do). . . so hang on if you don’t love it immediately. They cover all the important topics:
+ how to communicate to a clumsy male lover about how to touch you (this episode is gold)
+ the invisibility (or not) of these hot older ladies, plus, of course, vaginal dryness and wetness
+ how to break up with the really, really, really nice guy who is so hard to break up with but you’re just not into him
The show is a great exploration of the importance of female friendship, especially the friendship of two prickly women. In Quirkyalone, I dedicated a chapter to friendship, and write about the concept of the “Boston Marriage”–an arrangement where women friends live together platonically to support each other. Grace and Frankie are thrown into, and then developing, a Boston Marriage through the show.
What strikes me about the show is that we are always learning. . . these women in their seventies are tackling a lot of the same questions that women and men face in their twenties, just with more life experience under their belt. The learning and adventure never has to stop. Personally I’m much more interested in watching the shenanigans of 72-year-old women rather than 22-year-old women, just because, well, they have lived. And we don’t get to see the shenanigans of 72-year-old women enough.
Enjoy. . . and let me know what you think.
In my world. . . We are getting ready for the fifth TANGASM ADVENTURE in two weeks here in Buenos Aires with some awesome quirkyalone women coming. The dates are August 15-22. Just last night I got this message, “I just sent you a link from your website to see if I can possibly hop on the Argentina bandwagon in a couple of weeks. For many reasons, I have time available and just came across this. I would love to join the group. Is there any chance? I guess life is really short and I want to hop on this.” So if you too are a way last-minute planner, the answer is yes, we have two spots open. If that’s you fill this out TODAY to hop on the bandwagon!
P.S. I’ll be back in the Bay Area in September and October. Stay tuned for stateside stuff.
It can be scary for me to share my own story, but it’s also tremendously liberating to try to live a life without shame. Sharing my single shame story helps me to stand up straight and I know my story can be of service to others. So with that I am happy to share with you this awesome podcast with my friends Lindsay and Lani of Fuck Dating (“actually helpful banter about dating, relationships and all the bullshit and bliss that goes with them”) and you will hear me tell the story of how I got over my single shame and speak with honesty and vulnerability about my relationship history to a man that I was dating.
Shame is all about the secret. Accepting yourself is always the key. There is no way someone else can accept and love you if you don’t share with them who you really are. Just by talking about it with others, you break the secrecy. You can do that with a friend, a therapist, or with me first through one-on-one coaching. Breaking down the single shame so you can open up for the relationships you really want has become a huge focus of my coaching practice.
Single shame held me back from loving myself and truly connecting for many years. I don’t want that to be true for you.
Listen in to this podcast (click play above) and let us know what you think in a comment!
PS We also talk about how tango is is the perfect manifestation of quirkytogether in a dance. (You’ll hear how the awareness I gained through tango helped me to heal my shame and speak it out loud to a boyfriend.) Our next Quirky Heart Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires is May 23-30, so if you want to get your quirkyalone and quirkytogether on through dance, and become more confident on and off the dance floor, then come on down and join us.
I got a tweet the other day from a woman B. who said, @sashacagen Feb. 14 is worst day of the year for me. I’m just going to stay home, cry, and hide.
I responded, Why?
She said, It’s hard to celebrate being single when I’ve always been alone—I haven’t dated in years.
I told her I understood. This is one of the specialties of my coaching practice. . . working with people whose single shame or other “stuff” blocking them from dating and opening up to love. I won’t be a Pollyanna and tell you that it’s easy to move from that feeling of despair to celebration, especially if you do really want more love and connection and feel stuck. (If that’s you and you want dedicated coaching support to create what you really really want, then contact me.)
But I am going to urge B. and you to stop worrying about Valentine’s Day and celebrate Quirkyalone Day instead. Don’t sit at home and cry. Let your energy expand outward. Even if that means dancing in your underwear today in your living room for one song.
Come on, let’s take another perspective for a moment. This is awesome. . . we have the freedom in 2015 to create the lives we really want, single or coupled, rather than stay in so-so marriages because of economic need.
We can delight in our solitude.
We can celebrate our friendships.
We can connect with others authentically and tell them what they mean to us.
We can do whatever we want, and while freedom can be dizzying, it is a true privilege that many before us did not have.
Watch the above video greetings wishing you a very happy Quirkyalone Day. . .
Anja and I talk about:
– Quirkyalone Day vs. Valentine’s Day
– Cultural conditioning which still suggests we’re not complete until we have found the right partner
– How I help my clients work through their “single shame” to open up for dating and new relationships
– One important vow I made to myself in my self-marriage. Yes, I married myself (it’s an open marriage) and now I am helping others to do the same.
– Why the Germans are particularly suited to embrace the quirkyalone: They hate being normal.
– Why it’s important for us to resist the idea that the only happy ending for a book or movie is when girl meets boy (a la Eat Pray Love, Sex and the City, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and most women’s tales that tell us that this is the most important thing)
Ajna Shuetz and I recorded these Quirkyalone Day greetings for you yesterday. Anja is a fellow coach in Berlin, and she reached out in an awesomely spontaneous way to do this interview with me.
As the quirkyalone movement is building in Europe, quirkyalone is having a media moment in Germany. A German psychologist says in this story, “Society and misunderstood romance suggests that we can only be happy and complete with a partner. The American “Quirkyalone” trend–being single with passion–advocates a letting go of the couple-mania, though.”
I'm the author of the cult hit book Quirkyalone and To-Do List and a life coach who helps quirky, creative women and self-aware men. I'm also the founder of the Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires.
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Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands of women and men who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on what they really want and then to achieve their goals while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.
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