Sex and the Single Quirkyalone: How to talk openly and honestly about sex . . . before you have sex

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)

Listen to the podcast here!

The Power of the Quirkyalone Vote this Election

The election is now just five weeks away. It’s impossible to avoid the news about the candidates (whose names in this sentence, anyway, shall go unmentioned), but in the end, we are not just voting for individuals, we are actually voting for our future. And more than that, this election is a chance for us to recognize our own power.

What kind of world do we want to live in? Do we continue to promote policies that reflect a vision of the world that used to exist, or do we start to create a world that reflects who we are, a country were now unmarried women are actually in the majority? The question is, do we wake up as a group and start to exert our influence on public policy (which then affects our possibilities–can you take time off from work to care for your sick single aunt, can you get birth control paid by your health insurance)?

Rebecca Traister, author of All The Single Ladies, wrote an important essay in New York magazine on the rise of the single American woman voter as the most potent voting bloc in the country, back when Hillary and Bernie were still slugging it out in the primary. Now, we have the opportunity to make Rebecca right but only if we actually vote. 

So, if you haven’t registered, now is the time.

Here is a list of the voter registration deadlines, state-by-state. We are approaching the 30-day deadline for many states, so the time is now to hop on it if registering to vote has been lagging on your to-do list.

From the New York magazine piece. . . 

“. . .how much of an impact single women will have on this election and on public policy in the years to come depends, in large part, on whether they begin to recognize their growing political power. Part of this is simply a matter of getting out the vote. According to Page Gardner, in 2016, “for the first time in history, a majority of women voters are projected to be unmarried,” but going into the previous presidential-election season, nearly 40 percent of them had not registered to vote. . . 

The independent woman, both high earning and low earning, looks into her future and sees decades, or even a lifetime, lived outside marriage, in which she will be responsible for both earning wages and doing her own domestic labor.

This is the new social compact that she requires: stronger equal-pay protections that guarantee women’s labor will not be discounted because of leftover assumptions that they are likely to be supported by husbands; a higher federally mandated minimum wage, which would help to alleviate the burdens of poverty on America’s hardest and least-well-remunerated workers; a national health-care system that covers reproductive intervention, so that those who want to terminate pregnancies or have babies on their own or wait until they are older to do so are able to avail themselves of the best medical technologies; more affordable housing for single people, perhaps subsidized and with attendant tax breaks for single dwellers who choose to live in smaller, environmentally friendly spaces; criminal-justice reforms that address and correct the injustices of our contemporary carceral state; government-subsidized day-care programs; federally mandated paid family leave for both women and men who have new children or who need to take time off to care for ailing family members; universal paid-sick-day compensation, regardless of gender, circumstance, or profession; increases rather than continual decreases in welfare benefits; reduced college costs and quality early-education programs. Come to think of it, these policies would benefit lots of people who are not single women as well.

None of this is easy, or likely to happen quickly, especially not with a Republican-led Congress. But it is the beginning of a new kind of relationship between American women and their government. Single women are taking up space in a world that was not designed for them. They make up a new republic, a new category of citizen. If the country is to flourish, we must make room for free women, and let go of the economic and social systems built around the presumption that no woman really counts unless she is married.”

So let’s do this. Here’s that list of voter registration deadlines by state, with links to information to help you register to vote in time.

Grace and Frankie is the New Golden Girls

the new odd couple, and the new golden girls

the new odd couple, and the new golden girls

A tip for you. . .

I just finished watching the first season of Grace and Frankie on Netflix. I have to say, I think this is a very quirkyalone show!

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are playing born-again quirkyalones, for sure, who didn’t have a choice about the matter initially–their husbands dump them when they finally announce they are gay and in love! I also think this show is the new Golden Girls–older women cohabitating and supporting each other through love and life. If you read Quirkyalone, you know that I loved the Golden Girls and and asked each quirkyalone I interviewed to name his or her favorite Golden Girl.

I know from talking with many of you that Netflix can be a soul-sucking distraction from getting things done and getting out in the world. Netflix is the new addiction of our time. But, if you want to relax with some quirkyalone entertainment I wholeheartedly recommend Grace and Frankie.

The series gets better and better (as most do). . . so hang on if you don’t love it immediately. They cover all the important topics:
+ how to communicate to a clumsy male lover about how to touch you (this episode is gold)
+ the invisibility (or not) of these hot older ladies, plus, of course, vaginal dryness and wetness
+ how to break up with the really, really, really nice guy who is so hard to break up with but you’re just not into him

The show is a great exploration of the importance of female friendship, especially the friendship of two prickly women. In Quirkyalone, I dedicated a chapter to friendship, and write about the concept of the “Boston Marriage”–an arrangement where women friends live together platonically to support each other. Grace and Frankie are thrown into, and then developing, a Boston Marriage through the show.

What strikes me about the show is that we are always learning. . . these women in their seventies are tackling a lot of the same questions that women and men face in their twenties, just with more life experience under their belt. The learning and adventure never has to stop. Personally I’m much more interested in watching the shenanigans of 72-year-old women rather than 22-year-old women, just because, well, they have lived. And we don’t get to see the shenanigans of 72-year-old women enough.

Enjoy. . . and let me know what you think.

In my world. . . We are getting ready for the fifth TANGASM ADVENTURE in two weeks here in Buenos Aires with some awesome quirkyalone women coming. The dates are August 15-22. Just last night I got this message, “I just sent you a link from your website to see if I can possibly hop on the Argentina bandwagon in a couple of weeks. For many reasons, I have time available and just came across this. I would love to join the group. Is there any chance? I guess life is really short and I want to hop on this.” So if you too are a way last-minute planner, the answer is yes, we have two spots open. If that’s you fill this out TODAY to hop on the bandwagon!

With love,
Sasha

P.S. I’ll be back in the Bay Area in September and October. Stay tuned for stateside stuff.

The Kindness of Strangers at ETI, or, How I Overcame Despair in One of the Worst Solo Travel Experiences of My Life

that's the spirit of ET!!

that’s the spirit of ET!! photos by Juan Williams Tango Photography

Last week I took the leap for another solo travel adventure, this time to a unique and totally Argentine tango festival called ETI (Encuentro de Tangueros del Interior). ETI is special because it brings together hundreds of passionate tango dancers from around Argentina, and they are often friendlier than the tango dancers in Buenos Aires. They have incredible passion for this democratically organized festival and even have an “assembly” during the festival to discuss where the next one will be held. It’s democracy in action in tango and the celebration of life, unlike any tango festival in the world.

While ETI is spectacular, this was in many ways the worst travel experience of my life. At least in the top 3. That says a lot, as I have lived a lot of intense travel experiences in South America that I am chronicling in Wet.

The weekend was also outrageously good, rich in learning, dancing, and new people. Isn’t that the way? With the very worst often comes the very best, equal to our fortitude for both.

Here’s the story. I took the bus last Friday and arrived at Crillon Hotel and checked in at 5 pm. Fabulous.

that's me!

that’s me!

The true adventure starts when the problems begin.
I didn’t bring my passport because I didn’t realize that was necessary. (I live in Buenos Aires, so this was domestic travel; if you’re in California and go to Nevada, for example, you don’t bring your passport.) The receptionist at Crillon Hotel told me he would let me into my room, but this might be a problem, he would have to talk to the manager. I went to dance in the square for the afternoon milonga.

When I got back, he told me there is a law in Argentine requiring foreigners to show their passports at hotels. I called the owner of my apartment and asked her to enter my apartment and take photos of the relevant pages of my passport. She kindly agreed and sent them on Whatsapp within an hour. The manager accepted these, and let me go to my room. I cried tears of relief. Half an hour later, he called my room and told me I would have to leave. He looked at me with eyes that said, It’s not my fault, don’t hate me. It was a cruel act.

At 10 am on a Friday night they threw me out on the street and there were no hotel rooms available in the whole city because of the festival. (I knew the hotels were all booked because the day before I called ten hotels in order to get a single room reservation. This exuberant ETI festival drew 900 people to a relatively small city Rio Cuarto in Cordoba.) I was all alone.

I took a cab to the ETI Festival with my suitcase to talk to the organizers. The woman organizing the festival said I could stay with her but she was obviously harried since she was in charge of an event for 900 people. I sat down, drained, glum, on the verge of tears. I didn’t have the energy to stand in line for a Coke, and I was desperate with thirst and needed sugar.

Uncontrollable tears
Fifteen minutes later a man asked me to dance. I said yes, knowing I needed to shake myself out of this defeated state. During the dance I started crying. I couldn’t help it. Tango music is emotional, and I was emotional; the tears just flowed. He asked what was wrong, and I explained the situation.

After our tanda (four dances) Angel led me to his girlfriend Nora. Nora turned out to be my heroine. She called and networked for the next two hours and miraculously procured me a hotel room at a place that would allow me to stay with images of my passport. I spent the rest of this weekend in a comfortable bed in my own room and with this amazing table of women and men. They were fantastic, fun, warm and caring, and they saved me. I felt loved. They’re my new friends in Buenos Aires now.

As my friend Sue said to me later, “So glad you cried and allowed yourself to be with your true feelings instead of stuffing them down during that dance. And then to see what transpired from it.” In fact, I’ve never been able to hide my feelings and I’ve gotten more comfortable with crying ever these days. Hallelujah for the release of tears.

Nora and gang. Nora is second for the right. Savior and new friend! She helped me find a room

Nora and gang. Nora is second for the right. Savior and new friend! She helped me find a room

Perseverance pays off.

Folkloric dance!

Folkloric dance!


the healing tango embrace

the healing tango embrace

The weekend was incredible. A true celebration of life. Nine hundred people of all ages dancing for hours and hours. I danced until 6 am two nights in a row, and I do not do this in Buenos AIres, even though that’s common. I met so many wonderful new people. Perseverance pays off to experience magical moments. I want to recognize the organizers too. Valentina and Martin, and Valentina who got me a special gluten-free meal for every meal because I am a celiac. This was absolutely spectacular and also made me feel loved.

When my mother heard about what happened, she said, “I’m glad those folks came to your rescue. ‘The kindness of strangers’ is very heartwarming. It isn’t expected so it feels like a gift.” I wonder why we don’t expect it more. If anything, I think that’s the lesson–to venture forth and trust fellow human beings will help us when we really need help.

Now I am back in Buenos Aires, appreciating a quiet moment before August, when the city will be abuzz for the Mundial, the world tango festival.

For those you who are ready for an adventure, albeit one with a hotel room!!!
The AUGUST 15-22 TANGO ADVENTURE in BUENOS AIRES is a month away!
sasha_tango_photo_tangasm4This Tangasm Adventure, a 7-day immersion in learning tango and tango as a metaphor for your life, is going to be special because it’s smack dab in the middle of the Mundial, the biggest tango festival in Buenos Aires with the world championship and energy from around the world. However, you won’t have to worry about the hotel room because we have that set for you. It’s going to be an incredible time to experience tango in Buenos Aires, so if this moves you, click HERE to fill out this form and let’s get you here.

Here’s what Megan Cramer who came in March said, “Every day has been a great mix of dancing and connection. I learned a lot about being a good follower on the dance floor. I learned about relaxing, relaxing my body, relaxing my thoughts, just being able to go with the flow of what’s happening. If you want to have a full-body-mind-and-soul experience that fills your five senses and even your sixth sense because you have to sense things happening around you come on this tango adventure.”

Wanna dance? Click HERE to join us!

Join us for a Nonviolent Communication Workshop to Heal Single Shame

Healing Single Shame Sasha Cagen 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.

The workshop is a collaboration between Sasha Cagen, author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics, who has identified the problem of single shame in her writing and one-on-one coaching, and Marina Smerling, Bay Area Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Collaborative Trainer & shame counselor.

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.

RSVP for the workshop here and share it on Facebook so others can release their single shame!

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!

Are you touch-starved? Hugs and tango can help

a tango hug in Buenos Aires

a tango hug in Buenos Aires

Touch-starvation is an epidemic, especially in the U.S. and the U.K.

Are you touch-starved?

Here are some symptoms.

–You might have trouble sleeping through the night.

–Or feel irritable.

–Or depleted.

–Or anxious.

Does this sound familiar? I have certainly experienced all these symptoms when I don’t get enough healthy, affectionate touch.

Here are some fascinating research tidbits from the UC Berkeley positive psychology research center Greater Good on the science of touch:

–“A recent study has found that when librarians pat the hand of a student checking out a book, that student says he or she likes the library more—and is more likely to come back.”

–“Research at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health has found that getting eye contact and a pat on the back from a doctor may boost survival rates of patients with complex diseases.”

–“The U.S. and the UK are particularly touch-deprived. In the 1960s pioneering psychologist Sidney Jourard studied the conversations of friends in different parts of the world as they sat in a café together. . . In England, the two friends touched each other zero times. In the United States, in bursts of enthusiasm, we touched each other twice. . . In France, the number shot up to 110 times per hour. And in Puerto Rico, those friends touched each other 180 times!”

A dearth of touch in our lives can leave us anxious. Unsettled. And insomniac. I’ve certainly experienced terrible insomnia during long periods of singlehood, and when I get more touch, my sleep improves.

So how do we address a lack of healthy, affectionate touch in our lives? We don’t need to hire a professional cuddler. Yes, professional cuddling services exist in our touch-starved society, a sign of how desperate we have become in our hurtling-toward-Her digital society.

Here are a number of ways to address touch starvation, no matter what your relationship status:

–Hugs with friends or family can do the trick. Hug for twenty seconds. At twenty seconds, we release oxytocin, the hormone of well-being and bliss.

–Simply make yourself more available for giving and receiving a friendly pat on the back with friends or family, or snuggling while watching TV.

–Create a non-sexual cuddle buddy relationship. You might be surprised by how twenty minutes of snuggling affects you.

–You can even go to a cuddle party (I have attended TWO cuddle parties, and I will be writing about that in another post).

–It’s never a bad idea to get a massage.

–Dance tango. Research has found that weekly tango lessons can alleviates stress, anxiety and/or depression even more than a meditation mindfulness practice. I love the idea of meditation, but it’s never struck me as very pleasurable. Tango is pleasurable.

I’ve experienced a dramatic health and mood change after I started tango in 2010. Before I discovered tango, being single would leave me with not enough touch in my life. After I started dancing tango, my terrible insomnia that had started at age 30 improved. I could sleep through the night and wake up pleasurably after a night of dancing. I’ll be honest. In my first weeks of dancing tango, I exclaimed to a friend, “I think this might be better than sex!” Pleasure cells has been woken up all over my body. I floated down to breakfast feeling like a different person.

A dance of hugging and walking
Why did tango make such a profound impact? Tango is a dance based on hugging and walking. Hugging for 20 seconds or longer increases oxytocin (the cuddle hormone of well-being and bliss) and slows the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, especially in women. This banishes stress. When you dance tango for a night, you hug for far longer than 20 seconds. It might be an hour or 90 minutes cumulative over a night of dancing, so you can just imagine what that much oxytocin can do for your well-being. We’re talking tangasm. Yes, it can be that good.

I share all this with you for a few reasons. One, to encourage you to increase affectionate touch in your life. Two, to give you some context for why I love to spread tango with people who are not already part of this dance. I believe that tango is truly life-changing and life-affirming. This dance can give you such a dose of affectionate touch and love outside of a romantic relationship. For those of us in touch-starved countries like the U.S. and the UK, we desperately need hugs and affectionate touch to keep us balanced, happy, and sane.

Join Us for the Next Tangasm Adventure
sasha_tango_photo_tangasm4
Up your hug quotient, and your happiness level, with us in Buenos Aires! Join us for the next 7-day Tangasm Adventure!

Be Grateful for Being Single

Thanksgiving 2008, in my The American holiday Thanksgiving is approaching, and with it, millions of families (and urban tribes like mine, pictured above) will gather to gobble down turkey and sweet potatoes with marshmallows baked on top. Many of them will also go around the table to share what they are grateful for in their lives. This ritual has always been my favorite part of Thanksgiving. In a consumer-driven society where we are so often complaining about what’s not quite right with our lives, it feels great to hear people acknowledge their personal abundance.

This year, I have been thinking that I am grateful for still being single, which, honestly is not what I would have said last year. I took this year off to travel and I did the journey alone. I’ve grown in many ways that would not have been possible had I found a lifelong partner before I bought the ticket and made the final decision to go. I’m sure I would be grateful for that person, had we met. But I am also very grateful that I took full advantage of being single this year instead of hanging around San Francisco with the agenda of finding a mate (which honestly, was getting kind of boring–more on that in another post).

So this leads me to thinking about reasons to be grateful for being single this Thanksgiving. This year, let us count the ways. (Add yours in the comments.)

First and foremost, you are alive. Single. Just as you came out of the womb. Being single is the starting point for life, and we will in a sense be single when we pass on. So be grateful for your singular existence now, that you are alive!

The time to discover what makes you happy A relationship can be very time-consuming. When you are single, you have all your free time outside of work and other obligations to discover what brings you joy. Use it and be grateful for it! Being single gives you the opportunity to create more joy in your life without depending on someone else to provide it for you.

Freedom to travel and explore alone I took this year off to travel alone in South America and I’ve had the ability to grow and learn in a way that might or might not have been possible if I had been coupled. (You can still travel alone when you are quirkytogether, but it would be hard to travel alone for a whole year.)

You haven’t settled! No relationship or person will be perfect. But many people are afraid of being single and stay in relationships that are not working in order to avoid the pain of breaking up or being alone. Every person is a little bit wrong, being single means you are free to go out and find someone who is wrong for you in all the right ways.

Finally, total freedom to indulge your secret single behavior Want to pick your toe nails while watching Seinfeld reruns on a Friday night? Eat peas out of a can? No problem, you are single! Embrace your SSB (covered more extensively in Quirkyalone.)

Count your blessings my (single) quirkyalone friends.

Share your reasons for being grateful that you are single at this stage of your life in the comments.