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. 

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Self-Compassion for Quirkyalones, or, Learning to develop your “oh honey” self-compassionate voice

Do you worry that there might be something wrong with you because you are still single?

Then, watch the above class, Self-Compassion for Quirkyalones! Let me know how it goes for you when you do the journaling exercise we do together to develop your self-compassionate voice, and what you learn from the others who attended live, and who shared so bravely and freely.

Here’s a full disclosure. I asked ChatGPT to list the top ten self-critical thoughts of single people. I wrote, “What are the actual self-critical thoughts that single people say to themselves? In quotation marks, inside someone’s head.” The AI machine spit out results, and I edited them to make them more real based on what I have heard from the people I have coached and talked with over the last 20 years, since publishing my first book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics.

Note: I have mixed feelings about ChatGPT, and negative feelings about AI, so I am being transparent with you in service of keeping the human vibe going in my newsletter and blog. The robots are coming!

Here’s the edited list:

  • “I’m still single. What’s wrong with me?”
  • “Everyone else seems to be in a relationship. So, again, what’s wrong with me? Am I unlovable?”
  • “Maybe I’m too picky. Maybe I should settle for someone to avoid being alone.”
  • “I must be undesirable if I can’t seem to find a partner.”
  • “If I were more attractive/confident/successful/not messy/some non-specific thing that no one could ever really say, maybe I’d have better luck finding a partner.”
  • “I always mess things up in relationships. Maybe I’m just not cut out for love in this lifetime.”
  • “I’m falling behind in life because I’m not in a relationship like everyone else.”
  • “What if I end up alone forever? Will I regret my choices?”
  • “Maybe I need to change myself to fit what others want in a partner.”
  • “Will I ever find someone who truly wants to commit to me? Why would they want to commit to me? I have so many problems.”

Do any of these sound familiar?

The key to turning the self-critical voice around is first learning to recognize the thoughts as critical, rather than the “truth.” The second step is learning that another voice can take the mic.

Developing an “oh honey” self-compassionate voice can literally change your life. It has mine.

If you struggle with any of the above thoughts in your head, I implore you to watch the video above, an hourlong community free online class I taught to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of my first book Quirkyalone! This was an extraordinary gathering with wonderful people, and the information shared can make an impact on anyone’s life. Let me know what you discover in the comments.

P.S. We spend a whole month on self-compassion in Turned-On Living, my yearlong group coaching adventure that goes for real transformation in a curated group of women. I’ve noticed that developing the “oh-honey” self-compassionate voice is the game-changing first step, and the foundation, for any meaningful change. If we don’t work on self-compassion first, we lose all our energy beating up on ourselves as soon as we start to go outside our comfort zones.

If you want to build the life-changing skill of being kind to yourself, you have to practice. It’s not so different from going to the gym, or learning tango or any other dance. You have to practice to see results. The best way to learn anything new is to do it in community with others who share the journey. That’s why I created Turned-On Living as a curated small group program.

We get started in June. The group is forming now. Check out the page and see if it’s calling you.

The True Story of My (Ill-Advised?) Appearance on the Dr. Phil Show…

outside the dressing room

Over the last year, many people have asked me, “How did that happen?” In other words, “How did you wind up as a guest expert on the Dr. Phil Show?”

Yeah, how did that happen? It’s a good question, and a story that apparently must be told. There is nothing quite like having a televised discussion about self-love turn into a political debate about “animal marriage” with a Trumper on Dr. Phil, who is not officially a licensed psychologist. And you heard that from Dr. Sasha…

Here’s where the story begins. Picture this: a dreary, dark January late afternoon. I was resting at home in Providence, Rhode Island, with slight flurries of snow outside and a cup of tea on the bedside table. My laptop perched on my thighs, and I was lying on my bed, staring at the screen. I try to avoid working in bed, but the end of the day brings low willpower. I had just opened up my email for the 37th time; a more exciting-than-usual message sat at the top of my inbox.

The subject line read, “Dr. Phi Inquiry.” What? My heartbeat sped up.

Kalley, an assistant producer, had written. “1 hope you are well! I am currently working on an upcoming episode that will discuss the empowerment of sologamy.”

Sologamy? I hate the word “sologamy.” Sologamy sounds like a sausage. But I know the word, because many other people have reached out to me over the years to get my “subject matter expertise” on it. “Sologamy” is a media-created word that has become associated with the practice of self-marriage, the ritual of creating a ceremony of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-compassion in adulthood. Some people call it a “soul commitment.” The producers wanted me as a guest expert. “You were referred to me by Amen Jafri. After looking at your website, I feel like you would be an incredible asset to the conversation.”

Everything Kalley wrote made sense. I helped Amen on her documentary about self-marriage. Over the last five years, I have become a go-to expert on the growing worldwide trend in Vice, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, ABC News/Nightline, 20/20,  and more. I wrote about self-marriage in my 2004 book Quirkyalone, and have guided single and partnered women on the process of marrying themselves or making a soul commitment. In Argentina, I became something of a minor celebrity as the first woman to marry herself in the country when a TV interview about my 2014 ceremony in Buenos Aires’ Japanese Gardens went viral.

Kalley shared the film date in Los Angeles, February 7, and asked for a call. I thought about it, then texted news of the inquiry to my best friend and the man I was dating at the time. “One step closer to Oprah?”

A giddy feeling came over me, a flush on my cheeks. Getting interviewed by Oprah has always been my dream. When Quirkyalone was released way back in 2004, I got a ton of attention: CNN, NPR, New York Times, etc., but not the ultimate quirkyalone (Oprah). (Quirkyalones are people who don’t settle for less than what they really want in a romantic relationship.) Dr. Phil was discovered and promoted by Oprah. Maybe Dr. Phil would lead me to my inevitable interview with the woman herself!

In retrospect, this line of thinking doesn’t make sense. But hey, that is how my thoughts went at that moment.

Over the next day, I tried to forget about the inquiry. I was about to leave for my first trip to Argentina since the pandemic, where I lived for six years until March 2020. The dates would conflict. I had already purchased plane tickets and rented an apartment in Buenos Aires. But I am a curious person. I couldn’t control my curiosity.

++

Kalley and I talked two days later. Kalley told me that when Miley Cyrus’ song “Flowers,” about celebrating self-love after her divorce, became Spotify’s most streamed song in a single week, the Dr. Phil staff decided to devote the Valentine’s Day show to an unconventional topic. She told me they were doing more issue-oriented shows now. OK, I had no idea what Dr. Phil did previously. I had never watched the show. But it all sounded good.

Kalley asked me to make a video telling Dr. Phil why he should have me on the show. Speaking to Dr. Phil in a video seemed like a hokey thing to do, but I agreed and made the video in one take the next morning. I spoke about how women lose themselves in relationships or the search for love, and how the ceremony of self-marriage becomes a way of taking responsibility for one’s own happiness. I hit send.

Really, I didn’t know why I was even trying to get the producers to want me. Kalley told me the show had a rule against paying for international travel; I wasn’t going to pay to reroute my trip. I sent a proposal that would have them paying for a ticket from LAX to EZE (Buenos Aires) but I didn’t expect them to accept it.

++

Fast forward 36 hours. I was out for drinks with my new friend Sheri in frigid Providence. My phone rang! Kalley told me the producers wanted me on the show, and they approved the travel to Argentina! I pumped my arm in the air, nearly knocking over my Prosecco. I would lose a week of rent in Buenos Aires, but I wouldn’t lose money on the travel (and even gain some miles). I continued to pump my arm up and down like a trucker honking a horn. Oh yeah, I was a badass, asking for what I wanted, and actually getting it!

Feelings of triumph gave way to more complex feelings minutes later.

My phone lit up with messages from Sheryl, a friend in Buenos Aires who spent many years as an investigative journalist. First came a February 2022 link from the New York Post: “Dr. Phil show staffers decry workplace as ‘traumatizing’ and a ‘war zone’”; next a story came from a Buzzfeed News (RIP) investigation: “Current and Former ‘Dr. Phil’ Employees Say The Set Is A Toxic Workplace. The Show Says Everything’s Fine.”

Sheryl is the kind of friend who tells me things I don’t want to hear.

Oh no. I had only looked at the website’s home page and saw they had just done a show about older women feeling invisible, called “Aging Out Loud. I had given the producers the benefit of the doubt and assumed the producers were genuinely interested in women’s empowerment. Was I going to spread a message of self-love or get used and abused?

Right there in the restaurant booth, I called my friend Clyde Ford, who has been a publishing mentor over the last few years. Clyde has published twelve books, on topics as varied as race and healing through touch. Clyde enjoys appearing on right-wing radio shows and arguing it out with the other side. More than ten years ago, he appeared on Oprah to talk about his book on racial equality; the producers also booked white supremacists. He’s been in the trenches.

“So do you think I should do Dr. Phil?” I asked.

“Definitely,” he said. “That’s what you do as an author. You take opportunities, you take risks.”

I nodded. I tended to agree with Clyde.

But I still wasn’t sure. To go on Dr. Phil or not? The question turned over in my stomach over the next day. I liked the idea of bringing a radical idea like self-marriage to people who might not have heard of it, and maybe it would help me in my coaching business and to sell my next book to a publisher.

I wrote my literary agent Jill Grinberg asking her thoughts.

Jill wrote back, “Hi Sasha! Dr Phil is the #2 Talk Show in the US which is pretty major exposure. It could be good to be able to say in the book proposal you were recently on national TV. Did you talk to the producer today? Do you know what the bent of the show will be? I know the topic is self-marriage, but what is his agenda?”

In the end, I said yes. Was it the right decision?

++

My plane arrived in LA on the night of the Grammies. Traffic was terrible on the freeways, the driver who met me at the airport told me. He sent me a text when I was still on the tarmac. “Your chauffeur is waiting.” That text alone might have been worth the price of admission.

Something about this surprise trip to LA signified things going in a good direction in my life, but was that true? If I had stayed in my job in Silicon Valley fifteen years ago instead of becoming a life and executive coach, perks like a paid driver at the airport might be part of my life, but when you choose to be self-employed, no one else pays for a driver at the airport. The driver also told me, “Welcome home.” He thought I was a Los Angeleno. I spent nearly twenty years in the San Francisco Bay Area, and still feel like a Californian at heart. So that felt sweet too.

I spent the first night with my friend Ali in Echo Park at her home because I wanted to be on the West Coast earlier to lead a group coaching call, and Dr. Phil only paid for one night of hotel. In reality, the treatment was not so luxe.

My friend Jenny flew down from San Francisco. Ali and Jenny, two of my oldest California friends, would both attend the studio audience the next morning. There was something incredible about that. We met for dinner at my hotel the night before; by 9 p.m. I told them I needed to go to bed. I woke up at 3 a.m. to go over the questions the producers sent: You have been studying self-marriage for over 20 years. Has this become more popular in recent times? Why is self-marriage important? What is the main message about? What are some misconceptions of self-marriage? Can you be married to yourself and someone else? Are women’s standards rising? How is self-love being preached today to the younger generation?

A driver picked me up from the hotel lobby at 7:30, and brought me to the CBS studio lot. After a Covid test, the production assistant took me to a small dressing room, where I would spend the next few hours alone.

Many people have asked about hair, makeup, and wardrobe for the Dr. Phil Show, so I am going to tell you the truth: the hair and makeup was pretty fucking awesome, and were among the best parts of the whole experience. When I appeared on CNN, I got zero help with hair or makeup. They plopped me down in front of a camera to talk with Anderson Cooper. I don’t think I understood the power of makeup before the Dr. Phil Make-Up Artist sculpted my cheekbones. I took about 5,000 selfies in the dressing room.

before hair and makeup

The hairdresser did an excellent job. Of course we had a good chat too.

Never had a make-over like this before!

one of five million selfies I snapped in the dressing room

Next, the wardrobe came. Those two women steamed my dress, and gave me a narrow belt, nude stilletos, and pantyhose. They took photos to send to the Executive Producer for her approval. Clearly, guests’ appearances were very important to the producers.

What they sent to the producers for approval!

Finally, the most important knock came. It was time to go down to the stage.

In the hallway, I met two other women who had married themselves and would be guests on the show. One of the women wore a bright blue pantsuit and a necklace that said, “amapoundcake,” which turned out to be Danni’s social media handle for her work as a body image coach. Sonya wore a peach pantsuit with a brighter orange blouse below it. Sonya was a business owner in Colorado. They were both Black. I asked one of them if they knew each other; she said no. We were all new to each other. I learned later that the producers put us in different hotels.

The handlers then led us down to the stage. At that moment I felt on top of the world, buoyed by a camaraderie with these two women. Even if some people judged us as insane, narcissistic, pathetic, unmarriageable, or whatever insults people wanted to throw at us, we were strong and knew self-marriage as a beautiful path to take. At that time, the show felt like a culmination of the last 20 years of my work on women’s empowerment.

National attention for self-marriage! Whoo-hoo, I was feeling good!

The production assistant sat me and Sonya in the front. While we were waiting for the show to start, Sonya and I chit-chatted about dating as self-married women (there are some things you can only talk about with another woman who has married herself).

I looked across the way and noticed a white, tan, blue-eyed preppy thirtysomething guy with a sweep of neat hair to his left seated also in the front row. He had a kind of pastel look to him, like he lived in Miami, or appeared on the 1980s show Miami Vice? The producers were looking for a man who married himself to be on the show. Was he the man they found? I tried to make friendly eye contact, but Mr. Miami Vice looked away.

When the show began, Danni sat up on stage first with Dr. Phil. Danni invited dozens of friends and family to her recent outdoor self-wedding, so different from my ceremony, which I did in a much more private way. The producers played a clip of her vows, “Will you commit to never giving up until your dying day? Do you promise to value yourself?” Danni also left small bags with rings in them on each person’s seat, inviting people to marry themselves.

Danni explained, “I overcame a lot of trauma, and it inspired me to marry myself. I realized I wasn’t living for myself and this wedding was my chance to start over.”

I loved Danni’s story, specifically, how she invited others to pledge love to themselves and that she brought healing past trauma in the conversation. Trauma rarely gets talked about in media stories on self-marriage, but finding wholeness is often a part of the journey. Many of us would not be drawn to self-marriage if we had not felt damaged or broken.

By this point, I was thinking, FANTASTIC. But when Dr. Phil introduced the man sitting on my left on stage, the mood rapidly shifted. Mr. Miami Vice actually founded The Right Stuff, a dating app for conservatives. Huh? Dr. Phil next dropped this bomb, “John also served as the Director of the White House Presidential Personnel office during the Trump administration.”

Wait? What? Are we on Sunday morning Fox News or Dr. Phil?

My mask has always served me. People always tell me that I look calm when I don’t feel that way. At that moment my ability to look confident when I was anything but inside was being utilized to the nth degree. I started to disassociate, to have an out-of-body experience mixed with confusion.

“You’ve got a problem with this,” Dr. Phil asked Mr. Miami Vice. “What’s your problem with it?”

“My problem is that it’s making a mockery of a very sacred thing. I think if you want to celebrate yourself, that’s great, I just think there are other ways to do it.”

Mr. Miami Vice started to rant about conservatives being called crazy when they worried about people marrying multiple people, marrying themselves, marrying animals, marrying objects.

What? What are we talking about? Are you really worried about animal marriage? Don’t you think it would be a better use of your time to worry about … I don’t know…climate change?

The producers emailed me questions to prepare for the show, but they never mentioned this was going to turn into a political debate.

I didn’t know where to start, but I had to get myself out of a freeze. Over the past year, I had been training with Katie and Gay Hendricks, two therapists-turned-coaches who teach courses in Body Intelligence. The Hendricks speak about the importance of telling the microscopic truth when in conflict. “Telling the miscoscopic truth” means revealing the sensations you are feeling in your body. It’s a way of inviting someone else into your reality.

What came out of my mouth came naturally as a result of those trainings.

I said, “When I listen to you, I just feel really tense and kind of afraid.”

The audience laughed. Mr Miami Vice said nothing. Later people told me I demolished him but I wasn’t looking to destroy anyone. I was just looking to say something after these men who knew nothing about self-marriage hijacked the conversation. The editors wound up using that high-sensation line as part of their promo for the show. (See below clip!)

Dr Phil next brought up Brad Wilcox, sociology professor and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, who also knew nothing about self-marriage and talked about the importance of people tying the knot in their twenties.

The conversation turned into Dr. Phil fretting about self-marriage spreading, people getting married less, and having fewer children, which could spell a declining birth rate and economic disaster for the country. The show had become ridiculous. Apparently now getting married is our patriotic duty.

By this point, I forced myself to intervene again, telling Dr. Phil during the commercial break that I had something to say in response to Brad Wilcox. Here’s what I said.

I did as well as I could, considering the madness coming out of their mouths, but I wish I could go back and be even more clear. I would say, “Brad, we are here today to talk about self-marriage, which is a ceremony that allows a woman or a man to celebrate their lives and honor their priorities and values. It sounds like you are advocating something else: forced marriage to another person. What do you propose? Should we marry anyone that we can find on Tinder during our twenties?”

Also: “Dr. Phil, why are you drumming up controversy by talking about immigration and the declining birth rate? Do you prefer that women don’t love themselves, and stay in whatever relationship they can get? Would you prefer that women don’t have power?”

“And wait, did anyone ever say that people here on stage who have married themselves are against marriage? I am willing to bet that all three of us on stage would marry another person if we found someone we wanted to marry.”

The “other side” kept going on and on about the “sacrament” of marriage. Marriage is a “sacrament” because God’s love then becomes expressed through a couple’s union. OK, but didn’t Jesus actually say the most important thing to do is to love your neighbor like you love yourself? To love your neighbor, you need to learn how to love yourself. The people who are causing the most havoc in the world surely do not love themselves.

There were sweet moments in the show, like when Dr. Phil asked if anyone in the audience would marry themselves; hands shot up. A young guy said said he would. He clarified that he wouldn’t be cheating if he married someone else. He would forgive himself. That guy was great. Generation Z is primed for the concept of self-marriage like no generation that has come before them.

I got to officiate a ceremony that ran during the credits. Kalley and her sister Camryn wanted to marry themselves on television and they wanted me to guide them. The producers set up a beautiful backstage green room with flowers. Camryn said moving things: she wanted to give herself full credit for her trauma healing. Again, trauma was present. Perhaps that was the high point of the show for me.

++

After Ali and I got in the car and started looking for a place for lunch, I started putting the pieces together. I banged my feet against the dashboard of her car in rage. I could not believe the producers mainstreamed Mr. Miami Vice, who helped to orchestrate a violent coup against the government of the US on January 6 that resulted in five deaths, as the “other side” on a daytime TV show. Mr. Miami Vice (and I am not using his name here for a reason) should not have been on stage next to us. The producers had no business giving someone like that a platform, and certainly not about a topic he knew nothing about.

The producers took good care of me with the make-up, travel, and hotel, but I didn’t like their “surprises.” I called Kalley from lunch and asked her if she knew they had also booked Mr. Miami Vice. She said that she didn’t and that she thought his craziness made us look better. That’s probably true (we did sound sane in comparison), but still, it was unfair to throw me into a political debate with a Trumper and a conservative sociologist without giving me notice so I could prepare.

A week later I shared what happened on a coaches’ community page with Katie Hendricks. Katie wrote back, “Oooh, you survived an encounter with crazy, congrats! Media, especially Dr. Phil, has veered off into conflict porn. I experience TV as an opportunity to get skilled at encountering the unexpected. Enjoy the ripple!”

Katie nailed it. Conflict Porn. That’s what Dr. Phil and most American TV talk shows want for ratings. The show didn’t want real dialogue; they wanted shock, gotcha moments, and stupidity. A client told me in a session a few weeks later that she was proud to see me up on stage speaking up for self-marriage, but she didn’t understand why Dr. Phil flew me out to LA if he wasn’t going to give me more airtime. Yeah, you and me both sister.

Another client from the 2023 Turned-On Living group wondered if the producers didn’t tell the women about the political people coming on the show so we would look dumb. I wouldn’t go that far. I believe the producers genuinely wanted to have a conversation about self-marriage, but they were operating within such a sick workplace that the “other side” became a Trumper. They certainly didn’t operate with integrity.

Drama was the star of the show with Dr. Phil in the judge position. He is not a judge I would trust. When the cameras went off, his jaw went slack. He seemed to be quite the phony.

Was it worth it to disrupt my life to be on the Dr. Phil show? I can’t say I regret the decision, but then again, I have a hard time regretting any choice because I learn from whatever happens. Would I go on the Dr. Phil Show again if the producers invited me back (which is not going to happen because the show is now off the air)? No! Certainly not! As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

When I think back to Clyde’s advice, “Authors take risks,” I think yes, that’s true. Authors do take risks. Simply by writing our books we take risks. To experience the fullness of life, and get one’s ideas out into the world, we have to take chances. If I get the opportunity to talk about something I sincerely believe in or want to promote, like my next book Wet, my coaching program Turned-On Living, or pussywalking, the sexual-energy mindfulness practice I created, on a large platform, I check out the opportunity. But I would also follow Jill’s advice and ask hard-hitting questions. Hindsight is 20/20, but now knowing what I know, I would have quizzed the producers about the “opposing” side.

Did going on Dr. Phil change my life or help me in my business? Not really. Let’s face it. My clients are not watching much daytime TV. I got a few weird emails, the most memorable from a man who somehow seemed to think I was going to meet him in a motel in Texas (???), a fantastic makeover, and a free trip to California where I got to spend time with two of my oldest friends. I met two trailblazing women who also married themselves. I built my confidence in my ability to speak up in any situation. If I can talk to Dr. Phil about self-marriage, well, shoot, I can do anything. At the very least, I got a story.


Liked what you read? Want to get future essays, blog posts, and other updates about what is happening in my quirky world and what I am offering? Sign up for my weeklyish newsletter.

Want to explore making your own soul commitment (or marrying yourself) within a group context of a yearlong exploration of pleasure, joy, and self-worth? Check out my small group coaching program Turned-On Living and enter your email to start a conversation with me about being part of the 2024 cohort.

Coming soon: Pussywalking Down the Aisle to a Soul Commitment Ceremony

Inside the Rosemary’s Fig “tunnel” at Gather Farm, where the self-marriage/soul commitment ceremonies will take place

In a week, the intrepid women who make up my Turned-On Living 2023 group are coming to our weekend retreat in Providence, Rhode Island, where I now call home. This is a momentous moment! We will be together in the flesh! We have been together in a yearlong adventure of Turned-On Living through months like Anti-People-Pleasing, Embodied Self-Compassion, Visioning (Getting Clear About What You Really Want) .Rest/Digital Detox, and Prioritizing Pleasure. Now is the time when we get to know each other as living bodies, outside of the little Hollywood Squares boxes we have all come to know on Zoom.

We dance at the start of all our weekly meetings as a ritual to get present. Now we will be able to rock out with each other in person! On the agenda: dancing in the woods in the riotous New England fall foliage.

On the last day of our retreat, we will be doing self-marriage, or soul commitment, ceremonies at Gather Farm, a beautiful spot near Providence where magical yoga, dance, and meditation classes happen in nature. I am so excited that we are going to be doing the ceremonies in such a gorgeous natural spot!

the land at Gather Farm, where the soul commitment ceremonies will take place during the Turned-On Living retreat!

The self-marriage, or soul commitment, ceremonies are a chance to pledge inner love in simple vows witnessed by the other women and me, kindred spirits on the path of Turned-On Living. We have talked about how they will pussywalk down the aisle. Pussywalking is a big theme in Turned-On Living, a practice we return to again and again as a mindful embodiment of self-appreciation and confidence in the way we walk through the world as women.

Now here is something interesting. I am not sure how many of these women would be doing a soul commitment, or self-marriage, ceremony this year if they were not part of the Turned-On Living group.

Most of them came into the program with other desires at the forefront, like wanting to learn how to have fun again, or to get clear about what they really want for their lives. They wanted to have meaningful conversations in a consistent community of personal growth among kindred spirits. Self-marriage was not at the top of the agenda. In fact, most of them are calling it “soul commitment” rather than self-marriage because that language resonates more. Maybe soul commitment is the eating broccoli of personal growth – something you know could be good for you but it’s a bit scary and maybe even too healthy to consider!

Here’s why I bring this up. There is a power of being in a group to take you to places that you might not get to on your own.

There is a particular power in being part of a small group in particular, that meets consistently and really gets to know each other, not in a performative way to sound smart or special, but in a real way where you can let your guard down and show up as yourself, in all your real glory.

When we are in a group, we can learn from each other, witness each other, and get lifted up by the support of knowing that we are not the only ones trying something new. This  was definitely true during the Anti-People Pleasing month of Turned-On Living, perhaps the most confrontational month that had us looking at people-pleasing patterns of being “too nice.” There is nothing like ignoring your own truth that will drain your turn-on for life.

I am excited about meeting these special women!

In the meantime, I am starting to talk with women to form the cohort of special women who will make up Turned–On Living 2024. If reading about these adventures tugs at your soul, reach out and set up a time to talk. I talk with each person in the cohort to form the group, because it’s a small group and we are together for a whole year. We will get to know each other and discover if Turned-On Living is right for you. I take a lot of care with the group because it’s all about creating a feeling of safety and belonging, where everyone feels comfortable being real. That’s where the good stuff happens, in realness. Take a look at this page, and book a call or enter your email to start the conversation.

Helping two young women marry themselves on the Dr. Phil show – a life highlight!

Going on the Dr. Phil show on self-marriage as a guest expert earlier this year in February was what I would call a VERY mixed experience–you’ll get to read all the juicy details in an essay to be published soon in this space. If you are not on my newsletter list already, be sure to sign up to get that post!

But there were some wonderful moments that need to be remembered for the history (herstory?) books.

One of the best parts, for sure, was getting the chance to officiate a self-marriage ceremony on national TV, on a show that reaches two million people per episode. After all the other shenanigans happened on stage (again, stay tuned for the essay), the producers led me backstage where they had actually created quite a sweet space with flowers for a self-wedding.

Who was getting married?  After I got to LA, the producer called me and told me that Kalley Sullivan, the assistant producer, wanted to marry herself on the show, and her sister Camryn, a mental health influencer (and survivor) who runs this YouTube account focused on suicide prevention, also wanted to commit to love herself in a ceremony. They had been so inspired by the conversations with me and the other two women featured on the show, Danni Adams (@amapoundcake) and Sonya Police, that they too wanted to take this bold step, in their early twenties. Way to go Generation Z!

They asked me to officiate the ceremony since I have been helping women to marry themselves for years.

Take a look at the video above to sneak a peak. I love what Camryn says about giving no one else credit for her own growth. The journey of self-care and learning to love oneself is a social one. People help us along the way–friends, therapists, coaches, authors, parents, and so on. We can’t do this life thing on our own. But ultimately we choose to care for ourselves, and we need to give ourselves credit. Especially if life has thrown tough obstacles in our way, such as trauma or severe depression.

I’m sharing this video clip now because I’m especially inspired by the vibes of self-marriage by the Zoom call we just had yesterday afternoon in this year’s Turned-On Living program, the yearlong small group coaching program that I am running that brings together women who have the shared goal of living a turned-on life.

In November, the women who are part of this year’s 2023 Turned-On Living cohort will come to Providence and we will do their own unique self-marriage ceremonies in the woods as part of our weekend retreat to bond in person. Each woman is designing her own ceremony, and we will all witness each other’s vows. I absolutely love it. It’s so fun because everyone gets to be creative together.

If you are curious about marrying (or committing to) yourself but you don’t know who would get you or support you in this journey, check out being part of the 2024 cohort for Turned-On Living. 

Self-marriage is an individual journey but it flourishes with group support, being seen, being known, and being witnessed by others who get it.

Are you “too nice”?

Are you “too nice”?

This month in my yearlong small group coaching program Turned-On Living we are looking at patterns of being “nice” and perhaps “too nice.” We are looking at whether ”nice” is honest.

May is the Anti-People Pleasing month in Turned-On Living. Every month has a theme in service of creating a turned-on life.

For sure learning how to say no is necessary to say yes to life and what you really want. And speaking up is required to live a healthy life.

And yet it is not easy to change these patterns. I have struggled with elements of people-pleasing my whole life. I’m getting better every year at being real and am so enjoying being with a group of women on this yearlong journey.

How about you? Are you sometimes “too nice”? And does becoming less nice mean “toughening up” or just loving yourself more?

If you want to look at your own people-pleasing patterns, and what it takes to change them, I highly recommend these resources:

  • The book Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty… and Start Speaking Up, Staying No, Asking Boldly, and Unapologetically Being Yourself by Aziz Gazipura. You can find Not Nice and all the other great books we are using during our yearlong journey on the Turned-On Living 2023 Bookshop.org list. (Shout out to Bookshop.org, a socially conscious way to buy books online and support indie bookstores!)
  • This piece on Chief.com, which has hit home for a few of my coaching clients: Respect Me, Maybe? How ‘Soft’ Language Could Be Hurting Your Career. I work as a Guide for Chief, so I get a lot of their great content in my email inbox, and like to pass along the best wisdom.
  • From Kara Loewentheil of Unfuck Your Brain, this podcast episode on people-pleasing.

All of these resources will provoke you. Books and podcasts are great, and…

If you want one-on-one support to work through your people-pleasing patterns in service of your turned-on life, you can reach out to see if I have space for a new client in my coaching practice.

If you would like to do this work with a group of awesome women dedicated to their own personal growth, you can put yourself on the waiting list for the next cohort of Turned-On Living. I will start talking with folks in September to form another special group to kick off in 2024.

Thoughts? Leave them in the comments!

Dear Dr. Phil: Why you should have me on your show about self-marriage

As I’m preparing to write my behind-the-scenes blog post about being on Dr. Phil (not using Chat GPT, which I am still resisting!), I uploaded this video to YouTube.

After our initial phone call, the producers asked me to make a video telling Dr. Phil why they should have me on the show as a guest expert. This four-minute chat into the camera is what I sent.

I got to say many more substantial things in my “audition” video than on the actual show! 

The story of how the producers found me and what it was like to be flown out to LA to be on Dr. Phil will be coming soon.

I’ve been busy with my move into a new home, but now there are only three more boxes to unpack.

I am excited to get back into my writerly creative flow and share the backstory with you. Stay tuned. It’s my intention for my own Turned-On Life to do a lot more authentic, personal essayish writing this year.

P.S. This month in Turned-On Living, my group coaching program based on everything I have learned for coaching women for the last twelve years, we are moving into the topic of ANTI-PEOPLE-PLEASING.

It’s time to learn how to live from desire rather than obligation.

If you too are one of those “too nice” women who is ready to learn how to be kind to others while also being true to yourself, and you are curious to be considered for the next cohort of Turned-On Living, leave your email here to begin the conversation.

 

Bringing embodiment and self-love to the masses on the Dr. Phil show on self-marriage (!)

Being on the Dr. Phil show on self-marriage was a wild ride, to say the least

I said, “When I listen to you, I feel tense in my body,” to the conservative man they brought on to be my foil, I fell back on all my somatic coaching training because I was truly at a loss for what to say with all the nonsense coming out of his mouth about people marrying animals!

Sonya and Danni, the two other women who appeared on the show to share their stories are truly spectacular.

Together we helped to show that what at first seems like a weird idea really is not.

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter for the juicy stories that are yet to come about how this came to be.

If you are interested in marrying yourself with guidance and support, you can  join the next cohort of my group coaching program Turned-On Living, where you get to enter into the process with the support of other women on the self-love journey.

And… let me know what you thought about the show!

Would love to hear any and all reactions! With a caveat: no hate tolerated. Any nasty comments on this blog post will be deleted.

PS  August 16, 2023: The YouTube account that hosted the full episode got deleted. I’ll look for another recording. To get the full story, read this account published in November 7, 2023, “The True Story of My (Ill-Advised?) Decision to Appear on the Dr. Phil Show.”

 

With Sonya and Danni, the other two (fabulous) women guests who married themselves, on the Dr. Phil show. Thanks to assistant producer Kalley for the photo. I helped Kalley and her sister Camryn get engaged to themselves after the show!

Dating Advice From My Spirit Animal Jonathan Van Ness

Life is feeling a bit overwhelming lately, and so in today’s newsletter, I decided to go light with this dollop of joy and enlightenment from my spirit animal Jonathan Van Ness, author of Love That Story, and star of Queer Eye and host of Getting Curious.

There are a lot of reasons to love Jonathan, but I think one thing I admire most is his unabashed enthusiasm. He often sounds like a nine-year-old girl getting super excited about something he truly believes in, and that is such an attractive quality in an adult.

Drew Barrymore asked JVN (as he is known), “What is your advice for people who are actively dating?”

And by the way, this is excellent advice for life, and work, as well as dating.

JVN: “Even if you are looking to be in relationship with someone, we always are going to come back to our relationships with ourselves.

In yoga this one time we learned, we all learned that we all have this invisible magnet inside of us that is positively or negatively charged, you know. I think when you are working on yourself, it’s going to charge that magnet in such a way that the person you are meant to be with is going to vibe towards you anyway, so you really can’t lose by investing in yourself and your relationship with yourself anyway.”

Drew: “This is why I asked you this question!”

A Heart That Loves Itself Cannot Be Broken. Is This True?

a self-love poster spotted on Providence’s not-so-mean streets

I spotted this philosophical poster on my way across the street to walk underneath the changing trees of fall.

“A heart that loves itself cannot broken.”

First let me say that I love these mysterious people who are stapling self-love posters to telephone poles. Their intent to spread the message of self-compassion could not be more admirable. Their tactile work is so much more satisfying and human to take in than another inspirational quote on Instagram.

My heart swelled reading their message. But my critical mind could not stop there.

“But is this true?” I stopped to ask myself, before crossing the street to walk through the park. “Is it really true that a heart that loves itself cannot be broken?”

the first blush of fall on that walk

My heart got broken this year in a way that it had not been broken in years. There were nights when I woke up at 4 am and felt like a meteor had landed in my heart, leaving a charred crater in its wake. The despair of that break-up left my heart jagged and in pieces.

Did that mean that I don’t love myself? Or did that mean I was allowing myself to feel?

I thought about that lovely poster on my walk through the trees.

Here’s how I would amend the text if I were to make it feel true to me.

“A heart that loves itself cannot be permanently broken.”

“A heart that loves itself heals more quickly after heartbreak.”

“A heart that loves itself will not lose itself in grief for years.”

“A heart that loves itself will grow more resilient to love again.”

When I was going through the worst of this heartbreak, someone told me it was a good sign that my heart hurt so deeply. Being more heartbroken than ever, he said, meant I had opened up to love, and the hurt would only lead my heart to grow back stronger. I took solace in the idea that heartbreak could only grow my capacity to love.

Here is what I know for sure by now: Heartbreak is unavoidable. Loss is the flaw in love. Many of our attempts at romantic relationships do not work out over the long-term. Even superficial online dating attempts can break your heart, slowly over time, little by little, cut by cut. Horrible people will be elected as our leaders. People will disappoint us. Our friends and lovers and family will pass away.

There is always going to be heartbreak and disappointment.

The best we can hope for is that our hearts break and then grow back stronger. Self-love comes when we stop blaming ourselves. The key to healing your heart is taking out the thorn of self-blame.

Healing is a shift in perspective. A shift of knowing that you are lovable and life can be good even after devastation. Cue the song, “I Will Survive.” Seriously, if you are going through a heartbreak right now, play that song on YouTube and dance to it. We need to feel the feelings and let them move through us, through journaling, talking with a trusted friend, coach or therapist, dancing, walking, or whatever works best for you to alchemize the pain.

It’s not inevitable that a heart grows back stronger. A heart can also break and not stitch back together. A heart can grow bitter, jaded, shriveled, and resigned, which happens all the time.

Many, many people give up on love and their dreams all the time. It’s a miracle to keep going and to be at peace with your life as it is right now.

It takes a strong heart to keep on beating. A heart that loves itself.

P.S. In a little over two weeks, on Thursday November 4, at 8 pm ET (NYC time), I am going to interview my dear friend Carolyn Arnold about her new memoir Fifty First Dates after Fifty. This is a free online event to celebrate the launch of Carolyn’s book. We would love for you to join us.

Carolyn, an inveterate social scientist, and definitely a quirky, independent woman, devised an unusual dating plan to go on fifty first dates to find the right partner for her. I’ll be asking her about how she stitched her heart back together after disappointments and rejections.

Once you have been slammed a number of times in dating, how can you stay positive and keep going? You can read this interview I did with Carolyn way back in 2012 to get a taste for what we will be talking about.

If you have been considering working with me as your life coach this free event is a nice low-pressure chance to get to know me a little better and see me in action interviewing Carolyn. If you are over 40, 50, 60, or 70 and battle voices in your head thinking it’s too late, you should definitely come. You can register here.