Here is a brave, wonderful essay that just appeared in the Washington Post Solo-ish column about the challenges of being quirkyalone . . . looking for quirkytogether.
Melissa Banigan writes about the challenges of being an independent woman looking for a relationship with a man who welcomes this independence and would also state his own needs so they can craft quirkytogether together. Love seeing this dialogue in the press as it’s so often happening in our modern hearts.
“Again, I got accused of being scared of commitment despite having been very committed to trying to make things work. We both put a lot of time and energy into our relationship. The problem was that he had a more traditional idea of how to be in a partnership, while I’m an independent quirkyalone.
Interestingly enough, 85 percent of people who come out of failed marriages cite “lack of commitment” as the reason for their divorce. Perhaps those who’ve been through a divorce could take a lesson or two from quirkyalones and learn how to better balance the independent self with the togetherness of being in a couple. In my view, real commitment is about stating and respecting each other’s needs.
Next time I get into a relationship, I’ll need a partner who embraces my strength. “Some men might feel threatened by quirkyalone women because they are not as interested in orienting their lives entirely around a man,” Cagen says, “and other men are turned on by it because they want to be with a strong woman who brings her full self to the relationship.”
While I haven’t yet found “The One,” at least I’m not trapped with Mr. Wrong. I’d prefer to meet another independent soul, so that we can explore what it means to be quirkytogether.”
If this resonates, I want you to know this is one of the things I focus on with one-on-one coaching clients. I love working with my women clients–and a few cool men–to create your vision of what you really want, dismantle limiting beliefs and build skills for speaking your truth and negotiation so you can create the intimacy and closeness you want while also honoring needs for independence and autonomy. This is the quirkyalone/quirkytogether path and it is possible. I just got an amazing email from a former client who just married a man two years after we completed our work together, and they are maintaining their own homes. Anything is possible.
It is surprising that anything surprises me when it comes to dating and relationships. I have twenty years of dating, relationship, and being single experience, I have written a book about being single and dating, I coach women and men about dating, communication, boundaries, sex, boundaries, self-worth, and love, and I’ve talked my friends through everything (polyamory, sexual exploration, sex while parenting young children, etc.). I find it surprising that I can still be surprised. Yet with technology making our world so incredibly new I can.
My latest discovery is the Whatsapp relationship, aka the “exclusive texting” relationship. Beware it.
Whatsapp is a “cross-platform mobile messaging app”: Think texting if you never used it. My ex and I broke up a few months ago, and since then I have been dipping back in the dating pool, mostly in Buenos Aires. In my last few months of reaching out sporadically through OkCupid or Tinder (which people do use in Argentina, Tinder more than OKCupid), I have found a pattern. We start messaging, and then, the other person asks for my Whatsapp to communicate.
This story starts with a man I met a man on Tinder. (Although Tinder has a reputation as a “hookup” application, I find it’s also possible to meet interesting people for dating and friendship. The interface is so simple, it’s a lot like real life if you quickly move to have an in-person meeting. If you are an intuitive person, you can tell a lot from a face. )
We started messaging and it was delightful. He asked beautiful questions. The kinds of questions that I dream of men asking, because really, I think all we want in a relationship is to be known. To be seen. To be cared about, yes, loved. He would send questions late into the night, and each question brought an exciting ding. So this was fun, it almost felt like we were falling in love like that famous promise that you can accelerate intimacy by asking and answering the right questions, and then, you will fall in love. But that idea presupposes eye contact. After a couple weeks, I realized I was the only one trying to make the virtual actual. Dates, we would call them. In-person meetings. Isn’t that what we are aiming for? Getting to know each other in the flesh?
Although we did meet three times and had a great time on each occasion, I was the only one initiating the dates. And it became increasingly impossible to meet in person. It was very strange. He didn’t seem to have a girlfriend or wife, which would be the obvious explanation. Gay? Just not that into me? Only into online/texting relationships at this moment of his life? I never could tell. Honestly the whole thing is a mystery to me still.
I met a new friend from Singapore for dinner and shared my bewilderment. She confessed something similar had happened to her. She met a man, an American who often traveled for work, and she saw him three times in the course of a year. For a whole year, they sent messages every day. He would text “Good morning!” every day and send photos of what he was eating. She felt they were in a relationship. A friend intervened after a year and she woke up to realize, This is not a relationship. She told him she didn’t want to carry on like this anymore and he disappeared.
My now ex-boyfriend (a real person who likes real meeetings! I need to find another man like him!) gave me a thoughtful birthday present: Modern Romance, a book by the standup comedian Aziz Ansari. Ansari, like me, likes to observe and analyze how technology is changing our dating and romance patterns. Ansari teamed with my friend Eric Klinenberg, the NYU sociologist who wrote Going Solo (and interviewed me about Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics for that book) to write a well-researched book on the agonies and ecstasies of dating in the age of technology.
My eyes were glued to the page when I read their chapter on dating in Buenos Aires. As part of their study of dating in Buenos Aires they found that men were often carrying on several text conversations with women, and women were doing the same. Everyone was hedging their bets, including people in relationships, flirting via Whatsapp to keep their options open. They also found they found that men chase, and women are trained to say no first to show that they are not “easy” to get. They call this “hysterico” behavior in Argentina, playing hot and cold. I’ve heard the word “hysterico” so many times while I have lived in Argentina.
The portrait the book paints is one of low-commitment game-playing enabled by texting. For the most part it seemed chillingly and accurately described. (I will say, in Buenos Aires’ defense, there are also sweet, sensitive Buenos Aires men who are devoted and highly therapized.)
The situation is extreme, but the situation is extreme in many places. Really, isn’t this a global problem, a symptom of our love affair with our phones?
Recently I was swiping on Tinder back in San Francisco and I noticed a man wrote in his profile, “Only if you want to meet. No text buddies please.” I suspect the texting-with-few-meetings relationship is a new kind of ephemeral relationship in the globalized world. Maybe these relationships persist over time because it’s all the attention that some individuals want to give relationships. It’s a fast-food way to flirt without risking vulnerability.
We are all spinning tops now, spinning with email, social media, phone notifications, and the world is spinning so fast, where does it all lead? When the world keeps spinning faster, what happens to our basic human needs for authentic connection, help, and love?
Will a percentage of the population just go for these false-intimacy, buzzing-dinging relationships that provide a dopamine hit of excitement but never a hug? Are these just the virtual frogs we have to kiss on the diligent search for something real, substantial, live and in the flesh, built on time and love?
It’s all far too reminiscent of the movie Her, where Joaquin Phoenix gets sucked into love with an Operating System (Scarlett Johanssen). I shared this story with a friend who is also dating, and she asked, “In the future are we all going to be trading texts with computer algorithms that know just what we need to hear? That give perfect textual satisfaction…and nothing else?”
In my recent story, I found it so bizarre that this man was texting me all the time with questions, and yet, he lived about a mile away. This was not a long-distance relationship that required texting. For about a month I found his messages thrilling, but also unhealthy to have my body get so revved up by the addictive dings, with no bodily contact to soothe, ground, connect us.
I learned something very valuable years ago: You want the people who want you. I need more from a man than Whatsapp. A lot more.
A female Argentine friend and I reached the conclusion that we need to carefully screen. We don’t waste time with people who are only interested in virtual relationships. Like the guy in his Tinder profile said, no text buddies please. While I am part of a few online communities that are important to me, and those relationships are meaningful, when it comes to my closest friendships, family relationships, and my partner, I know those relationships all take time and energy to cultivate in person, on the phone, or via Skype (somehow seeing the face does make a big difference).
We who want authentic connection should be careful to not waste the time and energy on an illusion built through addictive dings on our phones.
It can be scary for me to share my own story, but it’s also tremendously liberating to try to live a life without shame. Sharing my single shame story helps me to stand up straight and I know my story can be of service to others. So with that I am happy to share with you this awesome podcast with my friends Lindsay and Lani of Fuck Dating (“actually helpful banter about dating, relationships and all the bullshit and bliss that goes with them”) and you will hear me tell the story of how I got over my single shame and speak with honesty and vulnerability about my relationship history to a man that I was dating.
Shame is all about the secret. Accepting yourself is always the key. There is no way someone else can accept and love you if you don’t share with them who you really are. Just by talking about it with others, you break the secrecy. You can do that with a friend, a therapist, or with me first through one-on-one coaching. Breaking down the single shame so you can open up for the relationships you really want has become a huge focus of my coaching practice.
Single shame held me back from loving myself and truly connecting for many years. I don’t want that to be true for you.
Listen in to this podcast (click play above) and let us know what you think in a comment!
PS We also talk about how tango is is the perfect manifestation of quirkytogether in a dance. (You’ll hear how the awareness I gained through tango helped me to heal my shame and speak it out loud to a boyfriend.) Our next Quirky Heart Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires is May 23-30, so if you want to get your quirkyalone and quirkytogether on through dance, and become more confident on and off the dance floor, then come on down and join us.
A reader sent me this question, “Curious…what is your take on books like He’s Just Not That into You?” I thought that was a perfect question to answer to start out 2015.
I will start by saying if someone is not into you, then you’re not into them. Case closed. You want the person who is into you. But you don’t know who’s into you until you get to know them.
There is a pernicious message underneath the seemingly logical advice of He’s Just Not That Into You.
Even before we are old enough to cross paths with books like The Rules or dating gurus like Christian Carter that tell women NOT to make the first move or ask a man out on a date, we watch fairy tales where the Prince Charming kisses us and we — sleeping beauty — awake to life beginning. Women get the idea that their attractiveness is dependent on men approaching us, and that men don’t want to be approached. That women should be pretty and passively wait. Those fairy tale messages cast a spell on women and girls. They keep us asleep.
In real life, in 2015, most adult women do not initiate contact on online dating sites or out in the real world.
Women complain about how hard it is to find a boyfriend. But often they are not willing to go outside their comfort zones to make the first move.
Someone should have explained this to all of us as little girls. For the empowered quirkyalone, quirkytogether, quirkyslut woman (or man). . .my 2015 dating mantra for you is: Your dream should not be to be chosen. Your dream should be to develop the confidence to be the one to do the choosing. And not care if you are rejected.
The big shift happens when you realize it does not matter what the reaction is. You hold the key to your own value.
What does this mean in real life? Say hello. Smile. Invite a conversation. Pick a guy in a bar or on a dating site and say that’s one I want. Try on the power of wanting. Ask yourself, Who catches my eye? Who do I want to talk to? Question your fears. Initiate. Repeat.
I shared this idea on Facebook and Michelle wrote in response, “With men, if they were not interested in you before, they are not interested if you choose them. I speak from painful experiences. At this point only Jesus Christ himself could live up to my standards and last time I read anything his return was supposed to be preceded by the four horseman and accompanied with four trumpets at the four corners of the earth with a rapture somewhere in between.”
I wrote back, “Not even Jesus Christ Michelle? It’s about resilience. And having fun along the way. And knowing it doesn’t matter what people who don’t know you think. Not immediately easy to do, but worth building as a skill. Maybe you would like Jesus Christ if you got to know him gradually. . . a no-pressure kind of thing . . .”
If you give this experiment enough time (I’m talking months if not years) and develop tolerance for being rejected (just as men are taught to do) you will be surprised by what happens when you go from waiting to be chosen to doing the choosing. You never know what’s going to happen.
Go get ’em and let us know how it goes!
P.S. Quirky men also can benefit from initiating more. Especially in this screen-obsessed age where we are all buried in our smartphones. . . stop being shy, make some eye contact!
P.P.S. There are still a few spots open in the Quirky Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires February 21-28 an March 14-21 where we teach you tango and tango as a metaphor for dating, life, and relationships. Act now because the adventures are coming up. If you come, you will learn how to be more bold personally from me. You will need to learn how to use your eyes to invite people to dance, and those lessons will serve you extremely well in 2015 when you learn how to use your eyes to create more connection wherever you go. Get all the details HERE–come dance with us in Buenos Aires!
Celebrating a newfound collaboration between Shameless Heart and Quirkyalone Coaching …at tonight’s Healing Single Shame workshop. May all beings be free to love and adore themselves as they are, partnered or not— Sasha Cagen and Marina Smerling.
Today, half of U.S. residents are single, and a third of all households have one occupant. Despite this fact, many people still struggle with “single shame”—the sense that there is something wrong with them because they are single. People who have spent years single especially struggle with this shame.
We all have our “thing” when we are dating and in relationship. The “thing” we think others may find unacceptable.
Yet single shame in particular tells you that something is wrong with you because you are still single or have been single for a long time. This single shame can get in the way of connection. Say you are out on a date, and someone asks you how long it has been since your last relationship. Maybe you don’t know what to say, or you lie. When you hold back your story, you may find it hard to forge true connection. In fact, single shame tricks you into thinking you are not worthy of connection at all.
Come to this two-hour NVC (Nonviolent Communication) workshop aimed at supporting single people who want to rise above single shame to forge true connections in love, dating, relationship, and friendships. Through this workshop, we will help you to release this shame and find more confidence to share the truth of your dating history and authentically connect with others.
Sasha will share healing stories and insights about how single shame gets in the way of dating and intimacy, and creative ways she and other quirkyalones have gotten over it to connect with dates and partners.
Marina will guide us in using tools from NVC to help heal and transform single shame into awareness of our underlying needs, from which we are free to choose new strategies for showing up authentically in all of our relationships, first dates included. These skills help us build authentic, strong relationships, in which we are free to be ourselves, single or not.
This is the beta edition of our workshop, so it’s priced low as you cocreate this with us, take advantage and join us now!
Where: Bay Area Nonviolent Communication
55 Santa Clara, #203, Oakland, California 94610
When: Monday, December 15, 7-9 pm
Price: $20. No one turned away.
Note: I’ll be using strategies and insights to coach you through releasing single shame and sharing your dating history with more confidence in my upcoming online course and club Quirkyalone Society. If you do not live in the Bay Area, and want to benefit from this healing, be sure to sign up for the early notification list for Quirkyalone Society!
If you missed us LIVE, we have the replay of our boldness hangout on video! YAY!
This Hangout is great to put on at night when you are chilling out . . .it gives you ideas for how to increase your confidence in dance, life, AND dating. It’s also a great preview of the people you will meet in Buenos Aires if you join us and what to expect for this week of “intense enjoyment”!
On the Hangout is Nele, tango dancer and psicotanguera, my Estonian friend who is the co-guide for the Quirky Heart Tango Adventure (and also a great lead dancer who will invite you to dance if you come! that offer is made in this hangout!) and Carissa, world-traveler and new tango dancer who joined us in Buenos Aires in May as a total beginner.
Here are some of our favorite moments from the Hangout.
3:19 I show you how to show desire through your eyes to invite someone to dance–use this dating and meeting new people!
5:52 Nele talks about sometimes going out and feeling frustrated when no one asked her to dance, then learning how to invite men to dance–use this to learn how to ask someone out
13:24 Carissa shares how our psicotango workshop helped her break out of her shell and put herself out there–this has applications for learning to put yourself out there more
18:37 Nele tells us about her first tangasm in Italy—she was a total beginner. Your first tangasm is one you will never forget. And it’s accessible to you even if you have never taken a dance class before.
Spaces are filling up for the next adventures. Choose your week February 21-28 or March 14-21.
If you sign up by December 1, you only need to put down your deposit of $800 to secure your space.
After the class, she decided to quit a job of 18 years that she didn’t want anymore and left to travel the world as a woman alone–Africa, Asia, Europe, and more. As part of her round-the-world adventure, she came to the May Quirky Heart Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires. Now back in Florida, she is starting her own business.
Carissa had zero tango experience when she came to Buenos Aires. I caught up with Carissa to find out how traveling the world and learning tango in Buenos Aires has changed her life and I loved the honesty of what she had to share.
What did you learn through tango that you have applied to your life?
Tango is my reminder that I’m not the same person with all those fears and limitations. I make different decisions; view problems with less stress; and have been practicing my connections to others. I caught a man’s eye as we were both leaving the grocery store and the thrill was just so sweet. How many of those moments have I missed in my life? So really, how many more are to come, right?
You wrote on Facebook: “I’m LOVING my new tango community. I danced with so many different people, it was crazy good. I can tell the ‘hug time’ is good for my soul.” Why is “hug time” good for your soul?
I dislike the extreme difference my life had when I was in a relationship and when I was not. All the attention, physical closeness, eye contact fueled my sense of well-being. That’s why I would take it so hard when things didn’t work out, even if I was the one initiating the break.
After what I refer to as an “immersion therapy experience” in the piscotango workshop in the Quirky Buenos Aires trip, my body felt totally alive. So I knew you were on to something, which motivated me to find the tango community at home.
Since I’m a beginner, I can’t always turn my brain off for the whole dance; but when it does; I’m really feeling the connection to another person. It’s just a feeling of pleasure and belonging and magic. And it’s a lasting feeling that isn’t based on “does he still like me? Will this relationship work out? Will he leave?” I can give the closeness feeling to myself as long as there is a dance partner. Read More
Amanda practices with Nele, our guide extraordinaire, at La Catedral in Buenos Aires
This week I want to share two stories with you from Carissa and Amanda, two awesome women who joined me in Buenos Aires this May for the Quirky Heart Tango Adventure (note new name).
Carissa and Amanda shared with me how tango continues to reverberate in their lives in unpredictable ways.
While some people who joined our Adventure already danced tango, Carissa and Amanda were both total beginners when they arrived. Now Carissa is dancing in Tampa, Florida, and loving her “tango hug time.” Amanda hasn’t taken up tango in Portland *yet* but she is thinking about tango when she thinks about relationships.
Six months after the trip, I caught up with Amanda to see how tango is resonating in her life. Amanda is super insightful about how learning tango has changed the way she looks at relationships. This is why I teach “quirky tango”–learning deep lessons through your body, through dance in particular, can change your life in a different way than “thinking” your way through a problem can. When you learn something through the cells of your body the lesson sticks.
Later this week I’ll share Carissa’s stories of tango hug time in Florida. Stay tuned.
What did you learn through tango about creating a healthy relationship?
I learned what constituted a healthy relationship; the ability to give generously to one another without losing sight of one’s own needs. I also learned how to recognize an unhealthy relationship and walk away.
I learned that learning relationships is like learning to tango; it will take a lot of practice to become moderately good at it but that practice can (and should) be very enjoyable and you can practice with the same person as long as you are both making an effort to improve. You don’t have to enter into a relationship (or the dance) as an expert and when you do start dancing with someone new it will take some adjustment before you moved seamlessly.
What you have applied to your life now that you have been back almost six months?
Tango provided me with a concrete example of how relationships require self-awareness and the ability to recognize and respond to another person’s emotional state. I also realized that my inclination to make excuses for a communication gap in a relationship was counterproductive for all; I just had to imagine how we might tango and how uncomfortable it feels when you are being led by someone who doesn’t seem to notice or care where your weight in centered or how awkward it would be to lead someone unable or unwilling to follow.
Tango is an intimate conversation, much like relationships, and it’s critical that we understand ourselves and each other on a very basic level so that we can communicate effectively.”Read More
“Do what you love, and the partner will follow.” I wish someone had drilled that into my brain six years ago when I was stuck in a swamp of self-doubt, and I thought I needed to stay put in a life I did not enjoy, do the online dating treadmill, and meet a man before my expiration date made me unattractive (read: “unfertile.”)
That is why I want everyone who is single (or coupled) and questioning the best way to live their lives to listen to this podcast. My friend Amy Scott, the creator of Nomadtopia, interviewed me. Whether you have dreams of a location-independent lifestyle or not, listen in. We are talking about living the life you really want to lead and trusting that vitality and confidence will attract the people you are meant to meet. As opposed to sitting around and waiting to meet the “right partner” and then going off to live the life you want to lead.
Amy Scott is a writer and coach who helps people to create lives of freedom and adventure they really want. Amy has been on the location-independent path for over ten years. Amy and I first met when I was about to move to Buenos Aires. We have supported each other along the location-independent and quirkyalone paths. (Amy is married and I’m not, but we are both quirkyalones.)
Amy interviewed me for her Nomadtopia podcast, which is all about “real people living global lives,” sharing stories of inspiration so you can live and work wherever your heart desires. We talked about my the life churn I’m chronicling in my new book (in progress) Wet that led me to these realizations about doing what I love first, my Quirky Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires, the importance of leading the life you really want to lead and questioning societal packages–for example, getting married or buying a house doesn’t necessarily mean “settling down” and being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean being joined at the hip.
Reclaiming quirkyalone: it’s about being happy on your own firstSasha: “The limited idea of quirkyalone I was running away from was that it’s just about being happy single. There can be this overreaction about reclaiming singlehood where people then flatten out the concept and think it’s just about being happy single. There are people who are totally committed to being single and that’s wonderful and appropriate because that’s how they feel, maybe they change their minds or not, that’s great, but that’s never what quirkyalone was about.”
“The word alone has 2,000 meanings. For me ‘alone’ means an independence of spirit and you approve of yourself. Classically when I came up with ‘quirkyalone’ it was about being willing to going to a wedding alone as opposed to with a date because going with a date is social convention. You’re willing to live your life and it goes to the level of Nomadtopia. You’re willing to leave your life and go off on this adventure alone because that is what you really want to do.”Read More
Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. In her coaching practice, Sasha helps women get clear on what they want and go for it. A memoirist and a tanguera, she's passionate about using writing, storytelling and tango in her transformative work with women.
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