the cobbler who saved my shoes in Kolasin, Montenegro
A cap on my right tango shoe came off I discovered this afternoon, leaving the right heel wobbly and unstable. I danced about ten songs on it in the afternoon practica but I didn’t feel confident that I wouldn’t injure my ankle–and a sprained ankle is a big setback. I learned how much a sprained ankle can set you back from four months of physical therapy last year.
I asked one of the assistants in the Summer Tango Camp if there was a cobbler in town who fixed heels. The guy told me yes but only on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s Thursday so that would be of no use. (What kind of work ethic is that? says this American.) This guy offered no more help and went back to staring at his phone.
I went walking in the streets of Kolasin, this mountain town in Montenegro (in the Balkans, just south of Croatia) where I have been staying for two weeks. I asked the nail salon woman if anyone in town fixed shoes. She did my eyebrows and pedicure so she seemed like a good local to start with. She pointed me two kilometers down the road. It’s very hot, and very sunny, and I did not feel like walking two kilometers in the midday sun. I went into a shoe shop thinking I would look for sneakers with smooth soles to pivot on but for some reason I felt inspired to ask them if they fixed heels.
“No, we only sell shoes,” the saleslady said, but she pointed me to a cobbler 100 meters away! A hundred meters–now that’s my kind of distance to walk in the afternoon heat! I found a lovely guy with a nondescript storefront who fixes shoes. They should be ready at 7:15 and if he does a good job I can keep dancing.
So reminded that it is all about persistence. Everything.
Epiphanies come and go. But the main thing, usually, is keep going. So keep going.
(Written during the Kolasin, Montenegro Summer Tango Camp. We didn’t actually camp, we stayed in hotels or houses. We–700 people–all came together for days and days of dancing, hiking, archery, tango learning, and meeting people from all over the world. An incredible event. You should come to the Summer Tango Camp + the Tango Adventure of course!)
Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing each other again? “Deathly” Aimee Mann
I left a first date feeling entirely uncertain, excited and unsettled. Then, he didn’t call. I had to deal with my feelings for two days afterward. Two days of hell and then I moved on! I used all the tools at my disposal to deal with those feelings, and I thought I would share them with you who are dating. But first—something poetic.
I’ve always thought the above lyric from Aimee Mann perfectly expresses the complicated anxiety of meeting—and actually really liking—someone on a first date. I’m so glad we met, and would you object to never seeing each other again?
Aimee Mann suggests in the song that “I can’t afford to / Climb aboard you / No one’s got that much ego to spend.” She doesn’t want someone to “work their stuff” on her because she has “troubles enough.” Even if the other person is not working their stuff on you, how do you live through the process of dating and getting to know someone–and actually liking them–without going through a roller coaster of emotion? Does he like me? Do I like him? Will he call? Text? Should I?
In other words, how is it possible to be more chill and meditative about this if you get invested in someone you like? Is that even possible?
When I was younger I got the impression from romantic comedies that beginning a relationship with someone was fun. But what those movies left out was the awkward process of discerning how you felt and how the other person felt about you, whether you are in the same place with the same desires and emotional availability for a relationship.
Dating requires some courage: Opening up is always a risk. Why would you want to be hurt when you’re sailing along in your cool-with-being-single-life? The price of entry to go for deeper connection is walking through this valley of making yourself vulnerable. I don’t mean just in romantic relationships either, but also with friendships and family too.
Some people say, “Dating is fun!” Dating can definitely be fun. But we are also human beings with hearts that have a history. Dating can also trigger deep issues from childhood and various aspects of your history, formative first love relationships, breakups and so on.
It’s never more fearsome than when you actually like someone. My friend Jenny sent me a text recently giving me some encouragement after a date, “It’s OK to enjoy those crush feelings. Crushes can bring a feeling of lightness and joy.” That’s true. It’s great if you can let go of the anxiety enough to enjoy the crush.
Some people take dating lightly, and that’s great. But for those of us who find dating challenging, who have gone on zillions of dates and been through what Jody Day over at Gateway Women called the “endless hope/despair cycle of Internet dating” I want to share with you what I have learned about managing the anxiety of dating.
The anxiety may not go away entirely but it can be more contained so we can enjoy more of the lightness and joy that go along with crushes and exciting dates.
Accept your emotions. Dating will bring up emotions. Accept them: excitement, hope, disappointment, fear of rejection and despair. Just because you are aware of your feelings it doesn’t mean you won’t have them. If you have a phobia of birds for example it doesn’t mean your phobia will go away when you see a cluster of pigeons by your door. (That was my big fear for a while.) Maybe you can distract yourself but don’t beat yourself up for having the feelings. Why are you doing this? You’re being brave and going for a deeper connection.
Express your emotions—to yourself or a friend. I find this Milagrows list-making practice can be helpful to externalize the feelings and let them be witnessed. The milagrows practice, as I call it, is a way of writing a list where you note your feelings, especially the ones you are not grateful for, and bless them with gratitude. Writing a milagrows list helps me move through a tough patch more quickly. You could even say writing this list helps you metabolize negative emotions. Talking to a sympathetic friend who gets that dating is not always easy is helpful too. Dating can bring up just as many emotional challenges as a marriage.
Separate these emotions from the person you have just met. Dating can bring up a great longing. They tell you, don’t project when you date, but come on. If you meet someone you like the imagination may go wild with the future you envision, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s a great fall from grace. Disappointment is natural but don’t let the disappointment or other negative feelings become global. In other words, this is disappointment about one man and not all men, one women and not all women. Separate those emotions and longings from the person, because you don’t really know the person yet and whether they would be a good person for you to be in a relationship with anyway.
Which brings us to: Don’t let all your emotions go into the gutter. It’s very easy to let a feeling of rejection from one person spin into, Love never works for me or It’s never going to work out. Believe me, I’ve done that too! Most “never” statements will not hold up to scrutiny when you question them.
It’s crucial to separate disappointment about a particular person (whom you did not know all that well anyway) from disappointment about love in general. Become more specific with your thoughts and feelings. Maybe it doesn’t work out with this particular person because he or she doesn’t want a relationship right now. One dating disappointment doesn’t predict the future.
You didn’t do anything wrong. You can’t make someone like you. Tons of dating gurus out there tell you how to make yourself irresistible to men (Chistian Carter, Rori Rayes, etc. etc.) or how to pick up women, and if you read these people, you think, Oh fuck, I did x, y, z wrong. I won’t say there is nothing of value to be gained from dating gurus, but in the end, if you are manipulating someone to like you in the beginning, they don’t know you. That’s no foundation for a relationship. The reasons that someone likes you or doesn’t like you are ones that you really can’t know. They may like you for things you have never seen in yourself and are not aware of. Give yourself a break. You did nothing wrong.
Time is the ultimate test. You can’t know that much about anyone from one encounter anyway. A date full of chemistry may lead somewhere or nowhere. I am suspicious of the Hell Yes or No thing that people spread as a meme on the Internet–according to this meme, you should only do things that are a Hell Yes. In my experience, hell yesses sometimes fizzle and ambiguous connections may grow. People reveal themselves to you as you get to know them and chemistry alone does not make a relationship. People surprise us, and it takes time to know them. Character and important qualities like kindness and judgment will show up with time. Two-date rule? Five date rules? I don’t have any rules and I won’t suggest any but I am increasingly convinced that first dates are not that revealing and nothing happens that fast. People can be more fully themselves when they feel comfortable with you over time.
Just keep going. Almost every day I am more convinced that success in all aspects of life is about persistence. Take care of your heart and keep on trucking. And if you want help along the path, check out what I offer here.
Unclassified Woman is a wonderful podcast about combatting “limiting female narratives”:
“With almost 25% of women over 40 child-free by choice or childless through circumstance, it seems absurd that women still have to justify their decisions or endure pity about why they’re not mothers. Motherhood is not a mandate and yet so many women are made to feel ‘less than’ or viewed suspiciously or disparagingly, if they are creating a life of meaning beyond biological mothering.
All of these outdated stereotypes lead to one dangerous assumption: what’s your value beyond being a mother? As mainstream society still tends to over-celebrate mothers juggling ‘it all’, and under-celebrate women who, whilst not mothers, have created lives of purpose and service – Unclassified Woman is the perfect antidote to limiting female narratives.”
Michelle Marie McGrath, the creator of Unclassified Woman, and I recorded an intimate conversation last year.
I remember the conversation being so personal that I was afraid to listen to it when she sent it to me. I summoned the courage, pressed play and found the conversation very nourishing.
I hope you will find the realness nourishing too.
In our Unclassified Woman conversation, we go into:
– the messy truth about why I haven’t had children, and many women today do not
– social infertility and circumstantial infertility (our choices are not always entirely choices)
– a near-death experience I had that helped me see I can’t put myself through so much pain around comparing myself and the value of my life to friends who are mothers
– the process of grieving not having a child even though I was never sure I wanted to be a biological mother
– the delicious moment when you figure out who you are and stand for your own value
International Quirkyalone Day is an alternative to Valentine’s Day that I started way back in 2003. It falls, of course, on February 14. It’s just a coincidence. Well, that’s our story and we’re sticking with it.
Since then Quirkyalone Day been celebrated in more than 40 cities around the world as an inclusive holiday to celebrate all forms of love, including, of course, self-love! Self-love is the foundation for all your relationships, ultimately–with friends, family, and a romantic partner.
If you are new to the concept and the holiday, here’s a video to get you up to speed.
Let me highlight also that in 2017 it’s more important than ever to recognize that Quirkyalone Day is a celebration of independence.
This year I encourage to celebrate your independent voice and encourage you to use it to speak out!
Political leaders such as Elizabeth Warren are exhibiting this independent streak–and they deserve our support.
I look at the CNN video where Elizabeth Warren talks about being silenced when she tried to read Corretta Scott KIng’s letter on Jeff Sessions and I see people making nasty comments about her that are so similar to the 25-year campaign against Hillary. “Not an Elizabeth Warren fan. I find her loud, abrasive and a liar.” My sense is that any woman who is outspoken is going to get this kind of blowback from men and women. When are people going to wake up to their gender bias?
Just keep on trucking. Just keep on showing up with your quirkyalone spirit.
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!
Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as a writer, coach and movement-builder has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and men) get clear on their goals and achieve them while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.
Through her Tango Adventures, she helps people go deep in the authentic tango scene of Buenos Aires while using tango as a mirror and a metaphor to help each person discover what tango has to teach them.