If you are a quirkyalone, and you’re looking for someone to be your life partner, you may find yourself single for an extended period: months or yearssssss. How do you keep touch, sexuality and sensuality present and alive in your life while you are single? How can we be “wet” when we are single?
To answer these questions, I’m taking a little tiptoe into the world of podcasting with this podcast with the great Carolyn Arnold, a social scientist, educational researcher, and friend. At the age of 58, Carolyn started a 50 Dates project to find her life partner. She found him by date 49! I’ve interviewed Carolyn about what she learned about loving herself while she went through the ups and downs of dating here. What’s interesting about Carolyn too is that she had a lot of lovers while she was looking for love because sex and touch are important to her. She didn’t want to be celibate and she knew she wanted healthy touch in her life.
In this podcast, I interview Carolyn about how to have lovers and have sexuality be present in your life when you are single and looking for a life partner, and don’t want to be celibate. How do you avoid the pitfalls of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, fantasy/illusion (I thought this was the start of something but he never called!), crossed boundaries, doing more than you really want to do, and more. In essence, we’re talking about how to have clear communication before you get busy and have clear access to your yes and your no at all times. We give you some scripts you can use even.
Carolyn is working on a memoir about her 50 First Dates Project, and in this podcast, we talk about what she learned about having having sex and lovers while looking for love. Carolyn has gone to many Northern California alternative relationship and sexuality seminars and she has learned a lot about how to set boundaries and communicate what you want with a partner in open, honest, loving communication. I’ve been on a parallel journey, and so Carolyn and I have often talked over her kitchen table about how to have conversations about sex when you are dating.
Here are some things we talk about in this conversation:
• How to have a conversation about sex before (or while) clothes come off to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment. We give you some scripts you can use to open a conversation about sex. In essence, the conversation starts with the question, “Do we want to be sexual?” Carolyn thinks you can have this conversation before anything happens. I think it’s a little more natural after kissing.
• The “monogamous mindset of dating” (if you start dating and quickly become exclusive, you can get awfully attached when you start having sex, but are you sure this is really the person you want to be with?)
• Being truly at choice in sex at every moment and why this is important to have access to your yes and your no at any moment, and never feel you have to finish what you started (you have to be able to say no so that you can truly say yes)
• What is sex (is it just intercourse, or can we have a more expansive definition that might or might not include intercourse and might feel like what you actually want to do?)
• How to have supportive lovers while you are dating and looking for “the one”
• Menopause and why you might want to keep your sexuality alive during your 40s (based on Carolyn’s experience)
You might have landed on my blog thinking you are going to read only about being quirkyalone, and now you’re thinking, What? What is this woman talking about . . . WETNESS?
I’m currently deeply immersed in writing a book where I’m developing a theory of wetness through my own story of sensual awakening to feel my power as a woman. This book is not going to be published and out in the world for at least two years. The Internet has gotten us accustomed to quick, digestible fix of “content.” Writing something of deep meaning and length can take time. I only hope that when the book is ready we are still able to read more than “listicles”!
As I write, I am eager to share as much as I can. The creative process percolates with both deep solitude and input from others.
Being a modest New Englander, and knowing how our unfortunately pornified yet repressed U.S. culture is, I can hardly believe that I am titling this book Wet, or even that I am writing/publishing it at all, and yet, it seems to be my calling right now to share with you what I’ve learned in my own explorations over the last five years. There is a world of difference between being sexualized as an object and owning and enjoying your sensuality from the inside out, and that’s what this book will explore–what that owning and enjoying of our sensuality can do for us for beyond the bedroom.
In this awesome podcast, we talk about:
–Why wet and not juicy: we’re talking about being wet, deal with it!
–We have the idea that it’s important to explore your sexuality and sensuality in relationships, but why is that so important?
–Does pleasure have to be for something? Can’t it just be for its own sake?
–The relationship between pleasure and building our capacity and mindfulness.
With a blush in my face and hopefully yours,
P.S. I have started to coach women on sexuality and sensuality in the last six months and I am absolutely loving the transformation that happens in women’s lives and relationships when I share these practices and ideas. You can learn more about my coaching services here. If the idea of “wet” sparks you there’s a good chance we would be a good fit to work together. I will help you find your “wet.”
This talk by Monica Lewinsky–“The Price of Shame”–is incredibly powerful.
I recommend you watch the whole thing.
I have heard people disparage her (of course) and then others say, well, she is doing a service to shine the light on cyber-bullying (as if telling her own story is not enough).
Monica Lewinsky constructed this eloquent speech to wrap her story into the larger social context of online hatred, and the social cost of all that hatred (suicide).
But if this talk were only about her experience and her only goal was to rescue her narrative and show the obviously brilliant woman she is this speech still would be a huge service to the rest of us.
When one person speaks out and rescues her own narrative from shame we are all lifted up.
Shame is a huge theme in the memoir I am deeply immersed in writing. Shame is also a huge topic for me as I continue to advocate for quirkyalones, and speak about “single shame.”
As part of my research for Wet, I reread The Scarlet Letter to better understand my own New England roots.
Monica Lewinsky is the modern-day Hester Prynne (heroine of The Scarlet Letter).
Just as Hester Prynne was asked to stand on the stage to be shamed for her one “mistake” and then wear the Scarlet Letter for the rest of her life as a “living sermon against sin, until the ignominious letter be engraved on her tombstone,” Lewinsky endured the slut-shaming pillory in 1998 when people and even even journalists thought nothing of calling her a “plump tart,” “tramp,” or yes, “slut.” And then, to wear her online reputation for the rest of her life. What is she a living symbol warning us against? Making a mistake? Being human? Making gossipy comments in phone conversations that she did not realize were being taped?
An interesting intersection with single shame: many people pity Monica, saying she has not had a proper job or relationship since 1998, though I’m not sure if this is true.
In 2015, Monica Lewinsky is doing something the fictional Hester Prynne never did: speak out on her own behalf. If there is a history of American slut-shaming, her speech represents a historic change moment. She comes forward with her own story and reclaims her narrative.
Hester Prynne eventually won the admiration of her townspeople by bearing the Scarlet Letter her whole life without complaint. She became respected for suffering quietly, doing her work as a seamstress, raising her daughter Pearl, and never identifying her accomplice-lover.
Lewinsky is showing that the slut-shamed can also be respected when they speak up. Any of the shamed can speak up. This is marvelous. This is social change.
I am a tango addict. I have been one now for four years.
I did not go out looking for tango. The dance came to me. It was in Cali, Colombia, the world capital of salsa, where everyone dances, that I saw tango for the first time. A Belgian woman named Griet who was also staying at my hostel invited me to come out with her to a club called La Matraca, and there, I saw a tango danced for the first time. I felt something in my body across the room.
Tango was nothing like the image I had mysteriously developed of the dance, the march of a man and a woman their arms outstretched across the room, the woman with a rose clenched between her teeth. (Where did I get that image? Later I looked on the Internet and found no definitive answers.)
There was a palpable, mesmerizing physics between them, every step he took invading her space caused her to walk backwards, every movement so closely coordinated. She invaded his space too. It wasn’t like salsa, all happy-happy. This was like watching the hologram of a connection.
I didn’t dare to think that I could dance tango. I had never done much partner dancing. But my curiosity is big and I tagged along with Griet for lessons the next day for lessons in a garage across town with the performer who had wowed us that night. Thus began the journey, the roller-coaster, the ups and downs, the pleasure, the connection, and soon, my first tangasm.
My first tangasm
I didn’t know there was such a thing as a tangasm or have a word for it when it happened. I felt supremely awkward, in fact, and wobbled through my dances with teachers whom I forced to dance with me at clubs. A few weeks later, I met Oscar, a proud short teacher who danced salsa, tango, folkloric Colombian, cha cha cha, and more.
Oscar saw me wobbling and told me, “Come on, tango can be easy, I’ll show you how.”
In contrast to my first teacher who was all about teaching me to do the steps “right,” Oscar taught me how to play and not care about doing it perfectly as we walked and whirled around the room.
During our third lesson, that’s when it happened. When we danced, our chests velcroed, hugging in a tango embrace, I felt blood coursing through me everywhere. The dance pumped me with extraordinary amounts of oxytocin, endorphins, whatever the hormones were, they were working. Tango is a dance based on a hug, and this was an hour of continual hugging and dancing. It only takes 20 seconds of hugging to release the pleasure hormone of bonding oxytocin; imagine what an hour does!
The essence of tango, especially for the follower, is to focus on feeling rather than thinking. I have always been a thinker, and feeling is what had been deficient in my life. Here was a dance where all I had to do was feel, and feel I did, all over my body. I had no desire to have sex with Oscar. Already what I felt was on par with the best sex of my life. My cheeks and chest showed it. Tango got my brain to turn off.
After the lesson ended, I ran to the café where Griet was drinking her afternoon coffee. I whispered in her ear, “I think tango might be better than sex!”
Griet gave me a once-over, her eyes going through a checklist of signs. Flush cheeks and chest. Nipples showing. Light mist of sweat. Hair matted down with wetness.
Griet said to me, “I think you have had a tangasm.”
That was my first. You never forget your first.
A better cure than sleeping pills
tangasm on a bus
I moved to Buenos Aires to pursue tango at the source two years later in 2012. In Buenos Aires I felt more powerful tangasms because the embrace was more healing, more committed, than in the Bay Area, where the embrace could feel like a faint and technical thing. Dancing in a hug recycles energy between our hearts and creates an all-over-the-body high. I would go to bed after having a tangasm for the night feeling satisfied; the tangasm helped me to wake up happy, still on a cloud of pleasure waking up in the morning, sipping my morning tea.
Tangasms cured my insomnia much better than Ambien.
A tangasm is not a climax in the way we think of an “orgasm.” There is no particular moment of release. The tangasm is not about how it looks, it’s about how it feels. A tangasm is a moment of total connection coupled with full-body pleasure, bodies swirling with each other, breathing together, a union with the moment, your partner, the music, the room. I have asked people about their tangasms and they tell me things like: “Losing all notion of time and space.” “You forget about everything and everyone.” “A peak experience.” “Traveling to another galaxy.” “Thoughts floating away.” “Being in flow.” “Embracing and breathing together.” “Dancing on a pink cloud.” “A spiritual practice.” This doesn’t mean you are sexually attracted to your partner, though you might be. You could feel a tangasm with someone of your same sex if you are heterosexual or even with your parent.
Since there is no climax in the tangasm, in tango, a partner will not ask you expectantly, “Did you come?” There is no particular pressure to get anywhere. The tangasm is based on connection and sensuality rather than climax. This is something I think we can all benefit from in our sex lives too. Climax can be awesome and deep but being focused on a goal can cheapen the ride; when there is pressure about getting somewhere there’s less enjoyment along the way.
During my four years of tango passion, I’ve mostly been single. I have spent many more nights at milongas than I have on online dating sites or going to events where I could find a romantic/sexual partner. There is a saying in coaching circles that we get what we want. We get what we put our attention on. I started to wonder, have I actually gotten what I wanted? Is tango actually better than sex? With tango, not only do I feel pleasure all over my body, I don’t have to worry about condoms, pap smears, safe sex tests. I’m not going to have an unwanted pregnancy.
Looking for hugs in each new partner, I get to “try” many different, new, exciting sexual partners in one night with no negative consequences. In tango, we dance tandas (four songs with one person). Each tanda is like a one-night stand. At the end of the fourth song we say goodbye and thank you, and if I am in Buenos Aires, the man might tell me that I am wonderful, beautiful, divine as he escorts me back to my seat.
I told one woman about the tangasm and she looked at me quizzically, “Better than sex, really?” I could tell she was saying, Let’s not get carried away.
Then she went and googled for a “sexy tango” video and said she understood. She said, “As I was watching, things that stood out to me as especially sensual were the way he runs his fingertips along her arm, the way she slides her hand up his chest, the tension of their mouths being so close without kissing, or the forced control of both of their bodies when he does the slow dip.” I watched the video and saw she might have misunderstood.
This was stage tango, not social tango. In social tango, what I and most non-performers dance, a partner would not caress your midriff in a gratuitously sexual way. Near-kisses would be against the rules. In social tango, we draw the fuzzy line between sensuality and sexuality so that we can dance with so many partners, including strangers. “Social tango” is much more about the internal experience of sensuality generated through the embrace. In other words, if you go out to a Buenos Aires milonga to watch social tango, you will not see the explicit sexual caresses, but you will see the bliss in the little upturned smiles of the women dancing with their eyes closed and in the focus of the men.
Sex is usually without limits. It has no structure, no time limit. In tango, we dance four songs. Done. Goodbye. Tango offers a structure where you can experience a sensual connection with someone, and then another someone, and not cross the line into explicitly sexual. Boundaries create safety. Limitations create thrills. And variety.
For example, this video is an (exquisite) performance, but it’s more on the wavelength of the tangasm I’m talking about. . . sexual but much more subtle.
Would you give up sex or tango?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t love sex. I am very pro-sex. I love sex. There is a potency and beauty in sex, penetration, and intimacy mixed with love, or even without love, that is distinct. And yet, I started to wonder if I I had to give up sex or tango for the rest of my life, which would I give up? I started to ask a few dancer friends which they would choose. After a tanda, Karen, one of my favorite “queer” tango dancers (a woman who dances the lead), told me, “I don’t want to live in a universe like that. Just the fact that you have tango and sex together in this sentence says something.” ”What?” She wouldn’t say it. ”You mean that tango feels very good,” I said. “Yes,” Karen said, smiling. Is tango always better than sex? No.
Four years later after the first tangasm, I have a boyfriend who does not dance tango, and I find myself staying home with him often rather than going out to dance. Tango is not always better than sex. It depends on the partner, the connection. On the other hand, I am still going away to Buenos Aires for three months and leaving him to dance tango at the source because the true tango embrace is that powerful. I need my dose.
In the end, Karen is right. One does not want to live in a universe where you have to give up either tango or sex.
If Armistead Maupin had lived in the era of Airbnb, then this might be a tale of the city . . .
Oh, tales of urban living. Tales of renting out my apartment on Airbnb while I go away on writing retreats this fall. Tales of living in a world that is changing so fast every ten years many facets of how we live are barely recognizable. Especially in the Bay Area, where rents have climbed from my $333 a month days when I first rented a room in 1997 to Q1 of 2014 when the median rent for a San Francisco apartment is now $3,200.
I have been renting out my one-bedroom apartment three or five days at a time while I go up north to write. My guests have been lovely. Sheryl left homemade jam in the fridge, Himoko from Japan was sweet, and the others have been entirely respectful and gracious that I have opened my home to them.
Enter Rick. Rick made a request when he inquired about the apartment. He wanted a pot and pan since he would be here for five days. I said, OK, I will get you a pot and pan. (If I could go back in time, I would say “Sorry buddy, no special treatment for you.”) (The backstory: I have celiac disease, which means I need to be super careful about gluten; this is a medical issue, not a preference. I put away pots and pans when guests come because I can’t expect they will read every ingredient label to be sure they are not using gluten.)
On the day of Rick’s arrival, in addition to arranging for the professional cleaners to come and make the place oh-so-spotless and shoving all my random belongings (bills, dirty laundry, etc.) in the closet, I went out looking for a pot and pan. I found a gleaming new pot and couldn’t find a suitable pan at the local hardware store, and decided, I’ll let him use one of my pans and replace it later.
Rick arrives. He is in his mid-twenties, from New York, here on furniture business. He is no-nonsense, no-pleasantries. When I say, “How are you?” he responds very quickly “fine” and doesn’t ask how are you back. I give him the keys, and I’m off.
An hour and a half later the phone rings. I answer while driving up north.
It’s Ethan from Airbnb. Never before have a I gotten a call from Airbnb. If guests had questions or concerns, they just wrote me directly.
“I want to get your side of the story,” Ethan says.
I am so excited to announce the dates for the next two Quirky Tango Adventures in Buenos Aires.
The next adventures will be in February 21-28 and March 14-21.
We timed these dates so you can get out of the last throes of winter and enjoy the warmth in the South.
If you want to:
–meet like-minded quirkyalones. . .
–discover a beautiful, energetic, artistic city in South America. . .
–connect, be present, and get out of your comfort zone by learning the magical dance of tango and have the kind of authentic experience will not find on any other trip. . .
–“embrace your inner sex kitten”: that’s what one woman told us she was there to do on the first Tango Adventure, and that she did 🙂
Then we invite you to join us on this 7-day trip!
Watch the video and you will see some of our shenanigans and dancing from the first adventure in May. Jacuzzi, tango shoes, tangasms, and all.
The group size is limited for each trip so if you want to come seize the moment.
So I’m standing in CVS after a workout (flushed and sweaty from kickboxing class) taking a look at More magazine, my favorite magazine for mature thinking women, and I flip through and notice a full-page ad for Premarin, a vaginal cream. The ad says something to the effect of, “No one tells you this will happen after menopause.” Premarin promises to ease pain during sex. The last line of the ad copy strikes me. The ad says this cream will help make intercourse more “comfortable.” Not pleasurable. Comfortable.
Comfortable sounds like a contrast to all the ads for Viagra, which are about taking charge. Virility. Masculinity. Theoretically, one takes Viagra for comfort (to feel more at ease knowing you can get an erection) but also because you have a desire to have sex. Comfortable sounds more like an accommodation to someone else’s desire to have sex rather than a desire the woman would have herself. Comfortable doesn’t sound like a very high goal to aim for in sex.
This ad sparked my interest because the title of my new book will be Wet. The literal definition of Wet when it comes to women is juicy down there (not dry or painful). I’m thinking about Wet on a metaphorical level, about what it means to have a quenched, intuitive, and turned-on life rather than a dry, dessicated, totally planned life.
In the many conversations I’m having with women and men, especially with women in their fifties, sixties, and seventies, the literal distinctions of wet vs. dry are popping up in conversation. It’s quite the topic–staying wet.
In Colorado at CU-Boulder, where I gave a talk Sex: Just Do It or Not earlier this year, I met J., a 71-year-old woman who told me she was in a very dry 27-year marriage, but now, with her new boyfriend, she is discovering a new level of sexual connection and turn-on that she never knew in two marriages.
She went from totally dry to wetter than ever.
This sense of wetness shows up in her verve for life too, which is one of the connections I’m drawing out in this book–authentic sensual energy fuels our desire and energy for life in general.
I loved meeting and J. and her story because it provides a counterpoint to the dominant message we hear about sex and getting older–that it’s all downhill, and that dryness is inevitable. And certainly she’s aiming for and discovering something for beyond comfort in sex. She’s discovering herself, a new vitality. Sex that turn her on as a woman, vs. just doing sex to please.
Sex that is “pleasurable” and “life-giving” and not just “comfortable.”
That’s something that women and men of all ages can aspire to.
From the wet point of view, that Premarin ad should be a little more aspirational.
If you are interested in getting to know your body better and learning about the possibilities of orgasm in your life (all kinds, not just climax) then come join us. It’s totally free and will be lots of fun–you’ll learn a lot. Female sensuality is one of these areas that has been underresearched and there’s so much that all of us can learn about our bodies. Michele is an awesome quirky lady and she’s dedicated to helping women bring more pleasure into daily life.
My next book is about sex and sensuality and I am super excited to participate as a guest expert.
You can be single or partnered–no partner required.
The ooo boot camp starts Friday, November 1, so you will need to hop on this opportunity! Like many good things in life, this is a spontaneous kinda thing.
See you there!
P.S. One of the participants in my recent GetQuirky class Paula White defines quirky this way, “To me, quirky means *whatever* brings you pure joy. It seems we live in a day and age where discontent is largely accepted and easily passed around. To find what gives you true pleasure and remain focused in that place of contentment is necessary. So to find joy and express it is actually quite quirky, but in a very good way. It is needed and required for a richly fulfilling life.” I totally agree–there is a major connection between being quirky and taking pleasure.
There must be something about my “energy” that is radiating out in the world, “I want a Tantric lover.”
I have a completely bizarre (or amazing) tendency to attract Argentine men who on our first meeting sit across from the table from me and tell me–at length–about their knowledge of Tantra. This has now happened twice in a row in one month. I hardly know what to say. “Great!” “We just met!” I know they are trying to impress me but it feels fast. They want me to know I know they are not like all the other Argentine men. Typical Argentines, they say, want to score with as many women as possible to prove their masculinity.
A male tango teacher used the word “horny” to describe Buenos Aires. “Sexy” would be nice, but “horny”? “Horny” sounds like a city of teenage boys. Everyone is on the prowl for sex, but I get the sense (especially from talking to these chaps) that the norm for sex is traditional and fast. It’s a macho culture.
These non-macho men tell me about how most heterosexuals orient sex toward men’s needs. Until men realize that women have more sexual energy then men, and orient sex around women (learning how to make sex slower and more sensual, and to delay ejaculation), women will not be satisfied and men will have a cheaper version of sex than what’s possible. Read More
Dating is not for the faint of heart. Inevitably, dating means putting your heart out there on the line for people you are just getting to know. Along the way, we may get rejected. Or we may reject. The whole experience can make you want to retreat and watch Netflix for the rest of your life. What does it take to stay upbeat, treat dating as a way to expand your life, and even fall—and stay—in love with yourself while you look for love?
I’m doing a series of profiles and interviews of Quirky Characters. For Quirky Character Number 2, I want to introduce you to Carolyn. Carolyn, 61, is a social scientist. We met in a memoir-writing class taught by Laura Fraser earlier this year and since then I’ve been giving Carolyn feedback about an exciting writing project–so exciting I want to share it with you here.
Carolyn is writing a memoir about her Fifty First Dates Project. When she was in her late 50s, Carolyn decided to go on 50 dates to find her next partner. I’ve loved getting to know Carolyn giving her feedback on her writing; I’ve gotten to absorb her philosophy and it’s helped me to be wiser and more positive in my own approach to dating. So I want to share her with you.
Here’s our interview on what it takes to stay in love with yourself while you look for love.
What made you decide to go on 50 First Dates to find your next partner?
I was in a relationship with a wonderful man for eight years during my fifties, and I thought he was perfect for me but there were also limitations and were we growing apart. He lived in Hawaii, and I lived in the Bay Area, California; we had a long-distance relationship and he did not want to commit to a long-term relationship. I wanted someone who lived closer and to have a deeper relationship.
I thought, How am I going to get over him and find someone else when he still seems like the perfect partner for me? I decided I would need to go out with a lot of men, and I decided 50, not just as a way to find a partner but also to break open my idea of the perfect man. We all have a type, sometimes we can’t think beyond that type. My goal was to experience lots of different types of men, in terms of personality, lifestyle, life plan, jobs, ways of living.
Where did you get the idea of fifty?
There was a movie 50 First Dates that I saw on an airplane without sound. The number just stuck in my mind. I’m a statistician; fifty is a significant number for results. In real estate you look at 100 houses before buying. I thought 50 would be a good start. Read More
Hey, I'm Sasha Cagen. I'm the author of Quirkyalone + To-Do List, the founder of the quirkyalone movement, and a coach for women who provides a creative, action-oriented alternative to therapy. I live in Buenos Aires where I teach tango as a metaphor in a 7-day Tango Holiday in Buenos Aires.
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Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. In her well-loved newsletter, 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 get clear on what they want and go for it. Sasha also uses tango as a tool in her coaching practice to help women reconnect with their sensuality and confidence.
A memoirist and a tanguera, she's passionate about using writing, storytelling and tango in her transformative work with women.