One of the thing that has helped me enormously in my recovery from involuntary childlessness has been hearing other women’s stories. Over the last few years I’ve got to know some amazing childless women and it’s been a privilege and a delight that I wanted to share with you. I know that it would have made a huge difference to me when I was still struggling if I’d been able to eavesdrop on conversations between women who’d recovered from their childlessness and were moving on in ways that felt meaningful to them. Firstly, because I didn’t know women like that, and secondly because these conversations weren’t (and still aren’t) part of the mainstream narrative. It seems that the media is still stuck on shaming, untrue and unhelpful stereotypes such as the ‘selfish’ childfree women and ‘foolish’ childless ones. It is my hope that this interview series will go some way towards shifting that.
Sasha Cagen is the author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics as well as To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us, and is at work on a new book, a sensual and sexual memoir, WET. Sasha is most well known for coining the word ‘quirkyalone’, a concept which has received massive media attention. She is personal coach, the leader of the quirkyalone movement, runs quirkyalone workshops and her amazing Tango Bliss travel adventures.
In a wide-ranging, taboo-busting conversation we touch of many things, including:
- Not being a mother
Sasha talks about the fact that she’s well known for being single and has written about it with her book and movement ‘quirkyalone’ and that although she’s had relationships, she’s mostly spent her adult life single. And how she did consider co-parenting a child with a gay male friend, but when it came down to it, putting having a child ahead of having a partner didn’t feel right. Instead, she quit her job and went solo travelling to South America for a year. It was on this trip that she discovered tango.
- Ambivalence about becoming a mother: the taboo within the taboo
We talk in-depth about ambivalence, the taboo within a taboo – the notion that there’s only one kind of woman who knows absolutely that she wants to have children and that everyone else is a bit weird!
We talk about Jody’s idea that ambivalence can be seen as compassion, curiosity and intelligence in action, and that the world needs more people to be more thoughtful about whether becoming a parent was right for them. And how thinking through this issue is a new skill, one that we need to support young women with by offering them the tools and the social ‘permission’ to have these kinds of conversations around ambivalence rather than shutting them down so that each woman feels that she’s on her own with those thoughts.
- Friendships with parents and non-parents
Sasha talks about how her friendships with people in their 60s, some parents, some not, and how they still have the same questions about their life – about meaning and purpose and fun and what they’re doing with their lives and relationships…
Jody talks about the differing experience of friends who are mothers and those of us who are not and how, during the years of early infancy, our lives can be quite polarised, with the single, childless women perhaps having too much time for introspective thought whilst mothers might have absolutely no time to think about themselves at all. And how the media makes out that this makes us fundamentally different as women rather than it being more about a very different lived experience during those years.
- International Quirkyalone Day – February 14th
Sasha talks about her plans for this year’s quirkyalone day on Sunday February 14th with a quirkyalone workshop in Oakland, San Francisco. The workshop (which already has both men and women signed up) is will focus on reducing negative self talk around being single, embracing your existence and getting clear about what you really want in your life.
Sasha talks about the difference between a quirkyalone and a single woman; she defines a quirkyalone as someone who can enjoy being single, or has the aspiration to being able to enjoy being single, and wants to be in a relationship but doesn’t want to settle. And if two quirkyalones are in a relationship together, these are what she calls quirkytogethers.
Jody talks about her own experience of being single for the last several years, and how she needed to develop the tools to be in a good relationship with herself in order to be happy.
- Self Marriage & the power of adding rituals to your life
Sasha talks about the growing system of celebrating self marriage – something which Sasha did to celebrate her 40th Birthday. She first wrote about the concept of self marriage in her 2004 book quirkyalone, and followed up some of the women she interviewed in a recent article for Vice This is What Life is Like After You Get Married to Yourself. We talk of how these women, a decade on, feel the benefits of the ritual. As Sasha says, ‘something about the ritual seals the deal’
We talk about how important rituals are for single and childless women because the rituals that remain in our society are all around partnerships and parenting, and Jody talks about how she uses rituals in her workshops with Gateway Women.
- Tango and the Tangasm!
Sasha’s next Tango Adventure for single women in Buenos Aires is 2-9th April 2016
[OH MY WORD, GO IF YOU CAN!]
We talk about how Sasha discovered tango during my solo travel five years ago how it changed her life because in tango she discovered a way to heal herself from a lot of things in her life. Tango features a lot in her forthcoming memoir ’Wet’ – both as a journey of healing from sexual abuse issues, and also from the wounds that so many women share about ‘not taking up space’.
Sasha explains how, for her, tango is a great metaphor for quirkyalone and quirkytogether: everything works better in the dance when each partner has their own balance. It’s about staying connected to yourself whilst being with someone else.