I suffered dual blows recently: a minor physical injury, and major blow to my self esteem. And for a while, I wasn’t sure which was worse.

I pulled a tendon in my foot. Sure, it hurt like a railroad spike to the sole for a few days. I hobbled and mooned about, feeling sorry for myself. But the fact is, the body is magically self healing; self esteem is not. I don’t question the value of my foot because of this minor slip-up. The other, however, throws everything into question.

What Happened

rejected red square  stamp

Take more risks, and you’ll have more failures, it’s good for you!

On Monday, I got a letter from the theater where I’ve been taking class for over a year. I’d applied for consideration to a higher-level class, which requires approval, as opposed to just a credit card. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure I’d get in, but I felt pretty good about it, since the group of friends I met in Level 1 had been taking class, moving up through the levels together, having a great time. I had improved significantly, and had performed well in my last few shows. My two friends and I submitted our names and hoped for the best.

Instead, I got a letter of decline. I was told there were too many applicants, not enough spots. Which I believe, by the way. But what hurt was that my two friends had been accepted. Do I believe I’m so unspeakably bad and untalented I couldn’t get in? No. But still, someone had looked at the list of names and when they got to me, thought, “She can wait.”

No matter how you slice it, it hurts. What also didn’t help matters was that my blood sugar was dropping rapidly, and I was 15 minutes from being straight-up hangry. And in that moment, I turned to glass. I felt myself go rigid and sharp, dangerously fragile, as if, at any moment, I could shatter. Tears started in the corners of my eyes, like tiny shards.

So I was feeling particularly vulnerable as I walked into Home Depot moments later, but held it together long enough to weigh the pros and cons of 12v vs. 18v power drill. I went with the Milwaukee 12-Volt with two lithium batteries and a built-in light, in case I ever have to assemble IKEA furniture in the middle of a blackout.

Then I cried the whole way home. This wasn’t the first time I’d lost it on the streets and subways of Manhattan. But if you’re going to have a breakdown, this is the city to do it in: People don’t freak out or whisper or stare. They look at you, nod and give you your privacy. They’ve been there.

I knew this, too, was a minor letdown in the grand scheme, not a failure with a capital F. I had risked nothing (it’s not like I had publicly embarrassed myself), and lost nothing; I could and would try again. But this was fucking with my belief system.

Imposter Syndrome: Worst Fear Made Real

Like many women, I suffer from Imposter Syndrome, a lifelong condition in which you attribute any modicum of success to the fact that you’ve done a great job of fooling people.

And any failure, even the most small and insignificant can cause an IS flare-up, wherein this inner fiction becomes real: It’s true; I’m not good enough. I’ve been found out. The toxic power of even a smallish failure can call into question every compliment or encouraging word, questioning its authenticity and intent. I haven’t been lying to everyone else; they’ve been lying to me. 

This is the danger of seeing yourself as an on/off switch: You’re either good or bad, a success or a failure; you either have potential, or you’re a joke. It’s a lose/lose.

Will I get over it? Of course. I only have to look back to my freshman year, when I auditioned for the Boston College Dance Ensemble with a friend who was literally a prima ballerina (tip: Don’t stand next to a prima ballerina at a dance audition). She got in (duh); I didn’t. I cried for days, questioned whether I should dance at all.

Then, I got my ass into dance classes, re-auditioned, got accepted, and by senior year, I was the fucking director.

Years later, in my first year as an editor, I attended this big health expo, where you go and schmooze with the ad sales team and their clients. But word got back to me that the ad reps weren’t all too psyched to bring me around, and many didn’t. They weren’t sure how great of an asset I would be. I was mortified—and angry. I remember roaming the expo floor, nibbling samples of organic chocolate as I cried to my boyfriend on the phone. “One day they’ll beg me to go with them!” I swore.

And within a few short years, they were. I became an ad sales favorite. I was that good. Sometimes I turned them down.

Yeah, so, now what?

So here I am again: A newbie in another environment, where I have zero cred or experience. I chided myself at my response to this: Who did I think I was, waltzing in the door, assuming everything should come easy? 

I have a choice: Walk away, miffed and indignant, or I can keep learning, and taking the risk of doing a thing I don’t know if I’m any good at. Part of me thinks, maybe it’s a sign that this isn’t for me, that I should be doing something else. But that’s a loser mentality if you ask me, because it ascribes all responsibility for what I pursue to external forces. Not a fan of that.

The irony of all of this is that not a few hours before the letter came, I had been talking to a client of mine, women-in-business expert Bethany Williams, author of CEO of You, about failure, of all things. She was saying that it’s not whether you fail, but when. Failure is that path you take to get to where you want to be. No one who succeeds at anything ever got there by sidestepping failure. Those losses are a badge of honor.

“I don’t think I’ve had enough failures,” I said. Shit. I couldn’t win at losing, it seemed—I didn’t have enough badges yet.

“I’m going to guess that it’s because you haven’t taken enough risks,” said Bethany.

Maybe she’s right. If so, I have no other option in the face of failure, but to risk again. And again. And neither do you. Playing small doesn’t hurt less—and it gets us nowhere. So I might as well risk bigger. That’s what I’m going to do. And so should you.

(Read why you should get rejected more.)

When Mika Brzezinski told the audience at Arianna Huffington’s Thrive event last spring about the day she was fired from CBS, she described it as devastating. As she packed up her things and walked out, she said to herself, “Damn! I’m so glad I didn’t forget to get married and have kids.”

Mother's loveThe message is clear: No matter how much you love your job, or how ambitious you are, being a wife and mother is the most important and only “real” job for women. It’s the only one that counts.

I was appalled by this (and other decidedly unfunny things the Morning Joe cohost-slash-foil said that day). But remember: This was a crowd of 99% women in the middle of Manhattan, many of whom I’m willing to bet, are not wives or mothers. But that’s not the point.

The point is that this runs counter to what Arianna’s Thrive movement purports to be about: to redefine success beyond the two-legged stool of money and power by introducing a third metric, one that encompasses wellness, wisdom, and giving.

The message is: Don’t let work define you. If you’re a slave to your job, you put yourself at risk of stress-induced illness and burnout. That, I get. But when it comes to aligning with “what matters,” the only thing anyone could think of was being a wife and a mother.

Will All the Real Women Please Stand Up

There will never be a shortage of women who yearn for a traditional life (declining marriage statistics aside). But I saw precious few other examples on that stage of any woman whose success was defined outside of those traditional roles, regardless of their own obvious achievements (rock star, A-list actress, best-selling author).

Because the message is that none of that stuff really matters. (Despite her admirable big screen success, Julianne Moore talked more about how proud she was of teaching herself to make lasagna, as excruciating as she says it was). And while there was some time dedicated to the importance of having female supports in place (Girls Night!), it still felt auxiliary, as something “else” you might want, you know, when you’re not tending to your homestead.

What’s the Point of a Single Woman?

Yet, scores of women in this country choose not to marry or have children. They’re passionate contributors to their communities with lives bursting with activity and connection. As Tara Parker-Pope pointed out in 2011 (“In a Married World, Singles Struggle for Attention”), nearly half the U.S. population is single (around 100 million Americans, according to the Census Bureau).

And they’re hardly just getting their nails done: While 68 percent of married women offer support to aging parents, that role more often falls to the unmarried children (about 84 percent, according to the Council on Contemporary Families).

Bella DePaulo, PhD, arguably one of the fiercest advocates of single living, cites some statistics from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics in a recent post which showed that single people in fact spend more time than married people on educational activities, socializing, and staying in touch with family and friends (and less time shopping).

But even Katie Couric, who was there to promote Fed Up, a film that sheds light on the troubling trends promoted by the food industry, told us we need to be concerned as “wives, mothers, professionals.” That’s right: If you don’t have a husband or a brood, you’re just a worker.

Melanie Notkin, the author of the new book Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, said to me once over a glass of malbec (and many times before and since): “Ever notice there are no career men? Just career women.” Because men are just men—who might also happen to be husbands and fathers, or, if they’re single, “eligible” (as opposed to “damaged goods”).

So…This Is It, Then?

Is this the next wave of feminism? Canonizing the people who attempt to have it all (which it’s pretty clear no one has)? And cooing over driven women who “push themselves too hard?” I sincerely hope not.

Not too long ago, women fought tooth and nail to get into the work world. There’s still far too few women in leadership roles in this country. We have not closed that gap. So while we don’t have to work ourselves to death, we shouldn’t have to be afraid to define ourselves by the very work we’ve fought so hard to do.

A friend of mine in her 40s (who’s often mistaken for 29) has big dreams—none of which involve raising children. She struck up a conversation with another woman at the Thrive event. “Do you have children?” the woman asked expectantly. “No,” my friend said. “Don’t worry,” the woman reassured her. “You still have time.”

I commend Arianna’s efforts to champion the third metric and start the movement toward more sane, meaningful lives and work. But while everyone can sleep 30 minutes longer or log off once in a while, until we can define ourselves as women first, not just as the roles we play, we’re going to be stuck right where we are.

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If you’re dating and dating and you hate it and wish you could just get married already, well, maybe you should do that. Exactly that: Get married NOW, and date that person later.

I got this nutty idea from Hellen Chen, who has given herself the moniker “matchmarker of the century,” thinks dating for years on end is a big mistake. It’s a recipe for heartbreak. And she may be right on the money.

There’s no security in dating. And she’s right about that. Though I’ll also add that there’s no security in anything, really—not marriage, not employment. But dating is the very definition of “I’m not sure about you but am finding out.” What you need to be truly happy and free, says Chen, is a spouse (I’m not 100% on board with this, by the by, but you’re the one who wants to get married). When you have someone and something to come home to, she says, you can experience freedom like you’ve never had. In her world, the barrier that separates two single people poses the problem; if you just get rid of that and get married, well, problem solved.

The Case For Settling

This is bound to strike singles as odd advice, if not out-and-out preposterous. After all, how do you find the person you want to marry if you don’t date first? This is Chen’s wheelhouse, of course. And while I haven’t experienced her matchmaking style directly, I’m guessing she’s going to match you with someone right quick and not entertain your concerns that he doesn’t share your passion for the Hunger Games or House of Cards.

Her message is clear: Stop nitpicking every date to death and finding reasons not to commit to someone. Stop wasting years and years in relationship limbo, cohabiting with someone you’re not sure about, knowing the writing’s on the wall. Stop all this nonsense and get married already. That’s what’s she believes.

It’s not too far off from what Lori Gottlieb told us years ago in Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough—when she warned us that we’d regret the day we let that nice guy with the receding hairline or questionable spelling get snapped up by the woman willing to overlook male pattern baldness. The risk being, of course, that if you find something wrong with everyone, you’ll end up past your prime with fewer prospects and fewer men to choose from.

I’m not a fan of this argument, due to its scarcity-minded approach, but there is some truth to it, especially as the biological window closes. Regardless, she made her point, and perhaps humbled more than a few women into solid marriages they might have missed. (Did Gottlieb herself ever settle? Word on the street, says Melanie Notkin in her book Otherhood, is that she has not.)

Marriage requires compromise

Fact is, anyone who wants a specific thing must make some compromises to get it—be it a Manhattan apartment or a spouse. And this isn’t even just about marriage: If you want sex without relationship, you can have it, but you risk not having a supportive bond. If you want kids but not marriage, you can pursue ways to make that happen. And if you want marriage, and to be married, more than anything else, then you can do that, too, provided you’re willing to do away with the impossible standards and pages-long dealbreaker list for Mr. Perfect.

In other words, if what you want above all is marriage, you must have to be willing to commit first and love second. After all, it’s only (fairly) recently that we demanded the whole package: true love, intellectual match, best friend forever. As Stephanie Coontz taught us in Marriage: A History, for most of recorded history, love was considered a pretty fickle reason to get married, and not enough reason to stay—which maybe why today, with so many marrying for love alone, so many leave in droves.

DIY Arranged Marriage

99204-284x425-Arranged_marriageYou know where this is going right? It’s estimated that 55 percent of the world’s marriages are arranged—90 percent of which happen in India. The divorce rate, as you know, is roughly 50 percent in this country.

Guess how many divorces result from arranged marriages? Four percent.

That’s not because people are happier elsewhere as a rule, or don’t suffer the same emotions or experiences that all couples go through. They do go in, however, with different expectations. They go in knowing they will make the best of it, and in many cases over the course of history, the bond forms overtime, and love happens—not in all cases, certainly, but a lot more than you realize. Full lives, children, a summer home perhaps—that can be yours, too.

Do the countries where arranged marriages happen have a history of being oppressive towards women? Yes. Do I like the idea of women not being able to choose? Of course not. But you can choose. You just…aren’t.

You’re not willing to work for it.

You, like all of us, fell under this spell, from a fairly young age, that you should just be able to have something magical–true, everlasting love. That it’s your God-given right, and it “should” happen.

But let me ask you: Where else in your life would you expect something like that? You don’t assume you just “deserve” a CEO position if you’ve never held another office job, and wait around for someone to hand it to you, right? You don’t walk into a company who’s looking to hire a project manager and say, “Nope. I’ll take THAT job, up there in the corner office.” If they said, “Sorry, that job’s not available,” would you stomp out in a huff and complain there are no jobs out there? Of course not. But that’s what women (and lots of men) do when it comes to relationships. Fact is, if you want to be employed, you find a job that’s available and you make it work so that you can have the lifestyle you want.

Now I realize corporate hierarchy is a limping analogy. But, in essence, you do want the job, so to speak. And if you want to be married and have a married life, then you have to start with what’s available and commit to making your life what you want it to be.

And even though I’ve never felt the compulsion to get married in the traditional sense, I’ll admit, the idea of dating the person you marry is appealing. It’s enough to make me wonder if we waste all the good stuff while we’re dating and then bore ourselves to tears after vows are exchanged.

Chen may be onto something: Imagine if the good stuff wasn’t the appetizer, but the main meal. Think of how differently your romantic life would be if you could enjoy all the sexy fun of dating without wondering “where this is going”—because you’re already there.

 

A previous version of this story originally appeared on yourtango.com

A while back Time magazine announced its Facebook app that tells you when you should be married. It pissed a lot of people off. My question is, if you’re mad, why?

What the app purports to do is mine your and your friend’s Facebook data (what they report, anyway), and plug it into graph that tells you when you should be (or should have been) married.  (Read more about the algorithm. If you really want.)

But what the app is REALLY doing is banking on your defensiveness and anxiety. (It could also probably double as a blood pressure monitor.) Because the degree to which you are upset or hurt by this app is less reflective of the app, and more telling of how you feel about your life. And there’s no app for that.

I mean, I expected Jezebel to have some fun with it, and of course, I want and expect Bella DePaulo’s pants to be on fire because she’s an advocate for single living and I LOVE her for fighting that fight. Sure, it’s a fun thing for people to bitch about on Twitter. Which of course keeps Time in the conversation (which, as you know, is why they did it, and why any print pub is making crazy decisions lately—to keep from the inevitable topple into the print abyss.)

The Truth Hurts

You already know the facts about how babies are made. And that if you want a husband and three kids that you birth yourself before you’re 45, then yes, you have a window and that window will close at some point. That’s biological fact. And while that window, by the way, is getting bigger thanks to medical intervention, we were designed to have kids at a certain age. We know this.

What you’re particularly undone by, most likely, is having the data spelled out for you. THAT hurts. Because that, too, is a fact. And if you’re unhappy about your marital state, that’s going to push some buttons.

Realize that the more we can quantify our lives (how many steps we’ve taken, how many calories we’ve burned, and yes, how many of our friends are married) the more data we have to play with and wonder at. We don’t know what to do with it all yet, and so that’s what apps like this are about. Expect more. Expect: When you should have last voided your bowels. Oh, it’s coming.

But data makes no judgment. It is what it is. If you don’t like it, then you don’t like where you are, and that’s ok! But don’t be mad at data.

I tried the app and it told me that the median age of my married friends is 39.8 years old, and that my target date is 6 months ago. And then it tells me to buck up, because half of my friends were married later. I don’t know if that means that was the age when they got married, or that’s their age NOW and they happen to be married. Still working out the kinks in that, I guess. Ok, well, good to know.

Don’t Judge!

What you really hate is the implied judgment—as any of us would get defensive about someone pointing at the road you traveled and suggesting you should have hung a right ten years ago.

But since when is falling lockstep with your peers your only goal? But putting the biology argument aside (since not all people marry for babies), it’s always a bad idea to do something just because others are doing it. This isn’t about graduating on time. It’s about your life. And your life may be very different, very rewarding, or very disappointing compared to others—in a myriad of ways that are not measurable (yet).

What I don’t get is how the women I know who claim to be happily single are so pissed about this. Why would they care? It might as well tell me when I should have gotten my plumber’s license. (Though tell me when I should have published my first book, and sure, I’ll get a little uncomfortable, too.)

There’s a huge bell curve in science, and what’s statistically normal covers a broad range of territory. It’s dangerous to start questioning whether you ‘could ever’ do a thing you want to, just because others already did.

(Worth noting is that the app does NOT account for how happy/miserable/bored any of your married friends are, btw).

So, rather than be mad at the app, you should thank it.

Because if you choose to look into its pixelated reflection, it will at the very least give you a moment’s pause: Are you happy with what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with? Is this the direction you want to be going? If not, what can you do about it? The facts are that we have limited time on the planet, and limited energy to do it in. So, any good wake-up call will make sure you’re spending that time wisely.

Data is notoriously useless as an advice-giver or meaning-maker, as my colleague, neuroscience expert Kayt Sukel, author of This Is Your Brain on Sex, has told me; it’s purpose is only to tell, to show correlations. It can’t spell out cause and effect, nor predict what will happen. You wouldn’t blame the FitBit app for implying you’re fat, so don’t blame the marriage app for telling you what choices you should make. But also, don’t waste time being mad about it. Thank this and all the other apps for giving you a bird’s-eye view of where you are on the map. Then, decide where you’ll go next.

I’m the world’s very worst sports fan. Meaning, I’m not a sports fan. I don’t follow it, and am so utterly ignorant about the whos and whats of sport it’s embarrassing. In fact, it’s been a concern of mine since, well, as long as I can remember, standing there swaying in the bleachers at Boston College, or at someone’s Superbowl party, feeling truly alien, or that I was missing some kind of vital gene that makes you American, or human. I remember being at a Superbowl party and one of my friends was asking me who he should bet on as he was using the Colorado Sports Betting App. I had no idea what to say to him so I picked a random player and he actually won a bet because of me! Nowadays I know exactly who to bet on!

My own personal sports history is just as pathetic: Years of staring into space out in left field during girls softball in grammar school; a few basketball flashbacks from junior high that make even the shellac-smell of a high school gym panic-inducing.

So don’t ask why on God’s earth at this age I would take up touch football. But I have.

Why I Took Up Touch Football

I did so because of a few reasons: One, because I was invited-more than once. My improv friends from the Magnet theater all signed up to play a year ago and I said, “Have fun you guys!” And more than once they dropped that I was the only one of our friends who didn’t play. Why?

touch-footballI couldn’t say because I am personally terrible at sports, which would be a good enough reason if it were true. But it’s not. In fact, I’m quite athletic and competitive. I have danced, done yoga, run, worked out for years and years. I’m fit, flexible, strong.

The real reason I declined initially is that I’m embarrassed, and afraid. I suffer from persistent and ruthless imposter syndrome, and if you could be arrested for being a sports imposter, the Feds would be on me the minute I stepped onto the football field.

But why I ultimately decided to just do it was because my last excuse I held onto? The team plays on Sundays. And that’s when I get work done.

Work? Is that my excuse? Because when I heard myself say it, even I couldn’t let myself get away with that. I recognized all the hang-ups in my head had nothing to do with football at all. They were about beliefs I had about people who played:

–They all have been playing with their brothers since high school

–They have to love/watch/follow said sport to do it.

–That they all know something I don’t, and thus must be better than me.

So, the reason I can’t play touch football is because: I don’t have a certain kind of history; I don’t have brothers; and everyone’s better than me? Those are similar excuses to the ones I don’t do LOTS of things. It’s made. up. shit.

I’ll add that as a self-employed professional, I don’t need more to stay home. I need more reasons to leave! And to get out and do something physical. And be around people whom I like and who like me and are begging me to play.

So, I’m in.

Game Day

The first thing I realized is that I didn’t get the football glove memo. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as football gloves, and instantly I knew I would fail without them. I looked around; everyone, every girl, every guy seemed to have them. Oh god, I’m such a fraud. I reassured myself that in fact if I HAD had them, I would have felt like even more of an asshole because WHO THE FUCK AM I TO HAVE FOOTBALL GLOVES WHEN I’VE NEVER EVEN CAUGHT A FUCKING FOOTBALL.

My team is the most lovely, fun, friendly group of people you could ask to baptize you into the world of football. And so that relieved the intimidation factor.

Since I know nothing about the terms of the game, save for what to do, where to run, and the difference between offense and defense, I can’t even give you a play by play of my first game. Except that it involved a lot of running in one direction and quickly changing directions, and several near-misses with Andre, a runaway train who certainly would have flattened me if I’d been an inch to the left.

Worth Getting Out There

Here’s what I learned my first day on the field: To get out of people’s way and into others’. No one threw me the ball and so my no-gloves was a non issue. I ran like hell and chased women who were so fast it was like I was trying to catch a deer on foot. I panted and sweated. I may have peed myself a little.

But what I was relieved to discover is that regardless of how I felt out there being a fraud, no one’s looking at me or caring who I did or didn’t play touch football with growing up or whether I have brothers or skipped this year’s Superbowl entirely. Everyone’s focused on one thing: the ball. That’s it.

I completed my first game, which my team won, with no help or harm from me. I suffered no injuries, though I will add that I’m sore in places that puzzle me. My groin and leg muscles, ok. But why my shoulders are sore, I’ll never know.

So, Get Out There

I tell you this is because there’s a reason people use terms like “play the field” and talk about “putting yourself out there.” This harmless game (though I worry that I’ll lose teeth) is nothing more than a metaphor for going out and doing a thing. There’s no reason I can’t learn and play and get better and enjoy myself out on a Sunday, and feel, if for a fleeting moment, that I’m in a real-live beer commercial.

And there’s no reason you can’t, either.

It’s fun to see yourself doing something you never thought you would. Whether that’s asking someone on a date or showing up to one, gunning for a job above your pay grade, or trying some completely alien activity for the first time. But you can’t have the experience if you don’t shut out the negative, critical voice in your head. The one that tells you you’re a joke before you ever even try.

You can feel like an ass, an imposter, a fool. But show up. Do it. You may not win every time, but every time you let fear get in the way, it’s a guaranteed forfeit.

 

 

If you’re not online dating, you’re not dating. Period.

I meet and work with people all the time who want to “get back into dating,” but don’t know how. I ask, “Have you put your profile up online?”

“Um, no.” Why? I’d guess that 80 percent of the time, they blame their age. No matter what age they are. Online dating can be really fun, especially if you check out these 55 Really Good Dares to play with your date!

You’re Not Too Old

o-OLD-PEOPLE-SMILING-facebook

Even this guy could get a date if he wanted to.

If you think online dating is just “what the kids are doing nowadays,” you’re 100 percent wrong. The New York Times reported in 2011 that people 55 years and older are flocking to online dating sites in droves, more than any other age group, up 39 percent from the three previous years. Scores of niche dating sites have cropped up— SilverSingles, SeniorPeopleMeet, OurTime. I promise you, you don’t have to brush up against frat boys in your search for a decent date.

(Though I will say it’s odd that 2 of the 3 I just mentioned feature women riding men piggy back. I don’t know what the means, but I will be giving it some thought.)

Stop shrinking your life

I know a woman in her late 60s who has just decided she doesn’t want to travel abroad anymore. Period! That’s it! What next? She shouldn’t leave the state? Her town? Her house? Her comfort zone is rapidly shrinking around her for no good reason except that she’s starting to give up and close in on herself. Now, you don’t have to fly to Dubai to feel young, certainly, but why would you self impose limits that don’t need to be there?

You have years ahead of you. A passion and curiosity about the world. And, hello, an active and thriving libido that shouldn’t be put in cold storage. Just because you didn’t grow up with a thing doesn’t mean you’re just not supposed to use it. Otherwise there’d be a lot of people without refrigerators, central heating, or televisions.

My guess is that you wouldn’t use the age excuse for ANYthing else that has to do with getting something you want online. You wouldn’t say, “Oh no, I can’t possibly buy those shoes on Zappos. Women my age? We go to the mall.”

You wouldn’t be afraid to read on a Kindle for fear someone would call you out on it (“Margaret. Really? Don’t you think you’re a little old for e-ink?”).

The real fact is, if you’re being honest, you don’t really think you ‘can’t’ use online dating. It’s that not using it is a great excuse to stay single and wonder where all the cowboys have gone. It’s a hell of a lot easier to complain than it is to do something to create change, to put yourself at risk of rejection or disappointment, which I think you should more of. And what you risk is bigger than being hurt (again, which yes, could happen), but of not living the way you want, or meeting someone you might like a whole lot.

You’ve lived long enough to know that you can survive most things, and have. You’re going to let an imaginary idea about your age dictate what you will and won’t do?

Young people fear online dating, too

Plenty of women in their 20s—mere babes!—resist online dating as well, for reasons that are just as imaginary, and yes, also have to do with their age.

Take Ivy, an incredibly funny and sharp 22-year-old I know who told me she isn’t seeing anyone at all and would love to. But she believes she shouldn’t “have” to use online dating.

Shouldn’t have to? You’d think I was telling her to start wearing Depends to save a trip to the bathroom or install one of those chairs that zips you up the stairs.

That’s like saying I shouldn’t have to have a bank account because I’ve got a perfectly good mattress for keeping my money in.

Ivy DID grow up in the internet age, and is quite comfortable using it for any and everything. I asked her, “Do you not post your resume on LinkedIn or job sites because you should just be able to meet potential employers on the street?” Of course not. You do both. Online dating, as with everything else we do to connect outside of being in front of someone, is a tool, a resource, and another powerful way to do what you want to do: Meet someone.

Ivy believes since she’s young and lives in a big city, she should just, I don’t know, stumble into attractive, available guys at every turn. But live in New York for a few weeks and you’ll see that isn’t as easy as it seems.

I told her that she doesn’t have to think of it as “giving in” to online dating, but as a supplement to what she’s doing to meet people already. Think of it as a way to gain momentum around dating and meet LOTS of people, instead of just hoping to meet The One everywhere she goes (talk about pressure).

>Your self-consciousness is what’s dated

People regarded online dating with considerable suspicion…in 1995. With good reason. No one knew what it meant. Now we do. And if you want to date yourself, hanging onto that suspicion is a good way to do it.

Beware, too, the “principles” you stand on around online dating, which are as much a joke as “age” as a reason. Consider Louise, a woman in her 50s who told me she refused to date online because “of all the lying.”

The lying? Wha? Have you MET a real-life human? I credit the internet with a lot of things, but being the secret lair of liars isn’t one of them. Someone is either a liar or he isn’t, and I guarantee they’re as likely to be at a bar as they are online.

You’re not too young to date online. You’re not too old to use it. (And you’re not too fat, either.) Stop blaming the technology—or this fear that only creepy stalkers and predators await you.

The sooner you stop using your age as an excuse, the sooner you can stop using excuses altogether. Because if you haven’t noticed, they’re doing you no favors. They don’t help you live a better life; they keep you stuck in the one you’re in.

Is your love life the romantic equivalent of a suburb? All plotted and predictable bits of grass and Sometimes-I’m-in-the-woods…shrubbery; quiet, controlled, and so boring you want to blow your brains out? Time to leave the suburbs—and head into the woods.

This lesson comes to you by way of an unlikely source: Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods.” The main story line is this: a childless baker and his wife, in a land far far away, are sent into the woods by a witch who promises to lift the childless curse she put on them if they bring back a few ingredients. Sort of like a very dramatic, life-or-death errand run. And it will require bravery, brains, and a little trickery to get it done.

The baker is a nice enough guy, but he’s a victim—of a spell, of circumstance (none of this is his ‘fault,’ etc). Not the manliness of men. But all of that changes when he heads into the woods, which, here and in every other fairy tale, represent all that is dangerous and risky and unpredictable about the world and ourselves.

The baker’s wife follows her husband into the woods and is struck by what she sees. She sings in “It Takes Two”:

You’ve changed.
You’re daring.
You’re different in the woods.
More sure.
More sharing.
You’re getting us through the woods.

You’ve changed.
You’re thriving.
There’s something about the woods.
Not just
Surviving.
You’re blossoming in the woods.

She’s getting hot for him again, plain and simple. Not only because he’s being decisive and exhibiting a stronger, more manly appeal, but because, well, they’re not where they were. They’re not stuck in their little hovel with their same old worries and habits and flaws. They have risen to a new occasion.

At home I’d fear
We’d stay the same forever.
And then out here-
You’re passionate
Charming,
Considerate,
Clever…

The woods has tested their relationship, and revived it. Then, together they go and rip off poor Jack by trading him five magic beans for his aging cow. But that’s another story.

My point is this: We spend so much time seeking comfort, order, predictable assurance in our lives and our relationships that we mistakenly beat back what remains of the woods with a lawnmower, and call it adulthood.

In her fantastic book Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel tells us that “the challenge for modern couples lies in reconciling the need for what’s safe and predictable with the wish to pursue what’s exciting, mysterious, and awe-inspiring.”

We expose the deliciously dark shadows of mystery and domesticate every last bit of wild within us. Responsibility. Maturity. And with it goes our wilder, untamed, but undeniably exciting nature, our lustiness, our sensuality, and our passion.

Here’s how to get back into the woods:

  • Embrace uncertainty. One of my colleagues, Matthew Walker, coach and author of Adventure in Everything, teaches this concept in his workshops. He says that what we endeavor to do in our lives, careers, and relationships is made that much more rewarding if it has an uncertain outcome. Meaning: When you only go after what has a certain, predictable result, you don’t get a fraction of the fulfillment from it. If you’re single like me, it means throwing yourself in the dating wilderness and seeing it not as a chore or a dreaded, horrible thing, but as an adventure.
  • Explore fantasy. This is what Fifty Shades of Grey did for hundreds of thousands of wives (and husbands, too). It didn’t have to be a literary masterpiece to do what it did: Lured people into the woods of their erotic imaginations. Sure it felt a little wrong–that’s why it worked. Those who enjoy the erotic content of things like 50 Shades and sites like https://www.fulltube.xxx/ may want to delve deeper into the world of erotic fiction. Erotica is one way to do it, but even more fun is talking about your own darker urges, and possibly trying them out for real.
  • Go somewhere a little risky. Skip the tame pool-side excursion and opt for an adrenaline-inspired adventure (whether it’s literally hiking thru the woods, or rock climbing, etc). You need to be somewhere vastly different than you’ve been. You may bring the partner you have known, but he (or she) may look a little different on the journey. A friend of mine goes away with her husband to far-flung places like Egypt and Peru every year. Seeing him in unfamiliar settings and sharing adventures keeps their relationship alive.If you’re single, take a solo trip. The sheer adventure of travel opens you up to all kinds of romantic interludes.
  • Create some distance. Perel writes, “There’s a powerful tendency in long-term relationships to favor the predictable over the unpredictable. Yet eroticism thrives on the unpredictable.”Do something out of character. Get dressed up, wear a new perfume, change your hair—whatever. Tell your partner you have plans, but be vague. Or, have him meet you at a restaurant where you haven’t been. Allow some silence, distance, mystery, and you reintroduce a little of the initial chase you had when you were first courting. Let him guess what you’re up to. Be coy. Sly. Inviting. As opposed to, say, peeing with the door open.Start acting like the person you were before you had a partner—the very person he or she was attracted to. Put yourself somewhere where he has to come find you. It’s hard to long for someone when they’re sitting right there. Make him follow you into the woods.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Proust

3 things to doIt’s easy to pile on poor Valentine’s Day. And if it makes you feel any better, a rather small slice of the population is really psyched about it.

If you’re single, chances are you roll your eyes, flip couples the bird, and want to go “eff yourself,” as this video advises, via Jezebel.

If you’re in a long-term relationship, maybe very long, this holiday makes you nostalgic for the days when romance was new, before either of you peed with the door open, and when you had time or interest in having sex more than once a month.

Then again, if you’ve just started dating someone, Valentine’s Day is too much pressure. What if he thinks it means more than it does? What if it doesn’t mean enough?

And if you’re one half of an unhappy couple, this Hallmark holiday hits a nerve: Another year of not being in the relationship you always thought you’d be in. You may suffer a bout of brief, intense existentialist grief.

Basically, the only ones doing what you think the holiday is about (roses, chocolate, sex) are, if we want to get technical, people in the first 12 to 18 months of their relationship, who are still trying to impress each other, and guaranteed to get laid. Or, those blessed to be in one of those wonderful relationships where the magic burns for years. They’re rare, but they do exist.

Anyway, look, that’s not a LOT of people having sexy time today.

Valentine’s Day is not an exclusive club; it’s a holiday to celebrate love in all its forms, from the short, sexy bursts to the long, mellow partnerships, to the kinds of love we share with people we’re not dating. (Check out this study on how just being kind and loving to people at work is linked with improved productivity.)

But of course my heart is with the single people who see red at Valentine’s Day, and not in a good way. Here are the things I recommend you do and NOT do today:

1. Don’t hate. It’s not only pointless to hate on a holiday; it’s disingenous; like saying you hate money just because you don’t happen to have any. Don’t pretend that of all days, today you “hate” love because Valentine’s Day ruined it for you. C’mon.

>>DO: Take a risk. You want something exciting? Try doing something exciting. One Feb 14th, I wrote a note on a cocktail napkin on slid it across a cafe table to a handsome thing. I never heard from him. Don’t matter. It was thrilling and empowering and kind (because though he never called, don’t tell me I didn’t make his day). I felt…romantic, without anything else having to happen. (Also: Read why you should be getting rejected more.)

2. Don’t go out with your girlfriends and dance in a circle. Sure, it’s fun. But the dopiest thing ever is when a bunch of single ladies who would like to meet potential mates do the one thing that will ensure they don’t: Turn in the lady wagons. Who-hoo! Girl power! No. This is dumb. Don’t form a big resentful clot in the middle of the room, telling dudes to talk to the hand. Why act like men suck, when, if we’re being honest, you’d like a nice one?

>>DO: Go out to meet people. If you’re smart, you’ll go out with just a few friends or, if you travel in a gaggle, split off and mingle. Or, forget the girlfriend outing altogether, and do something really bold: Go sit at the bar by yourself just long enough to enjoy a glass of wine. Remind yourself that you’re open to what may or may not happen.

3. Don’t text your recent ex. I shouldn’t have to explain this. But, no matter how it ended, if you broke up within the past six months, steer clear. Of course, unless he has come back with a dozen roses and wants you back, and you’re happy about it. But if you both ended it for all the right reasons, going back now for a moment of comfort could cost you more later.

>>DO: Go on a date with a stranger. Yup. I promise you, there’s someone online who’s free tonight. And don’t give me this crap about how it seems desperate. You can drop a line in the water and see if you get a bite. You don’t have to meet The One. But you can go out on one date with one new person, and say that on Valentine’s Day, you made a fucking effort, and you had a reason to put lipstick on.

The moment when you’re headed out the door and the night is nothing but potential—that’s fun. And romantic. And brave.  And way better than a margarita-sodden rendition of “I Will Survive.” Again.