Saturday, December 22, 2012

"ambient despair that is a permanent component of life in assisted living"

Following on from last week's "rise of being single" post, here's another take on what may be the inevitable result.

Have you ever started thinking about what may be the natural progression of events, if you remain single and reach your 80s or 90s?  As the numbers of unattached, living-alone people increases at midlife and beyond, we'll probably be reading many more accounts like this op-ed piece that recently appeared in The Washington Post.

I found it fascinating.  And chilling.

And, more from Martin Bayne in a fascinating NPR "Fresh Air" interview.

"Most residents show a calm, even peaceful veneer," he wrote. "But beneath the surface, all of us are susceptible to the ambient despair that is a permanent component of life in assisted living. It's the result of years of loneliness and isolation."

Friday, December 14, 2012

the rise and rise of solo living

I've included the following article in my links roll, but the interviews at the end of it are so fascinating that I had to include it in a post as well.  From the Life & Style/Relationships section of The Guardian, it's a feature story called "I want to be alone: the rise and rise of solo living."  Here we get the usual statistics, and some not-so-usual (and therefore interesting) historical background on the rise of single households. But, the really rare and interesting part is the long sidebar at the end with interviews of prominent Brits who extol the joys (and occasionally, the difficulties) of the solitary lifestyle.

Read it, and see expressed some joys of single life that you truly do find precious, but may never yet have admitted to anyone, least of all yourself.

Friday, December 7, 2012

finding new women friends . . . online

I've long been thinking that I'd love to try using Okcupid to start meeting new women friends, and forget about it as a dating site.  If time would ever permit, the idea would be to search women's profiles for girls with similar interests to mine, and shoot them messages along the lines of "Looking for new women friends -- platonic : ) -- to hang out with, go see a film, get some coffee."  And, if I happened to find enough like-minded souls, who didn't think it was totally weird to be approached on a dating site, I might even end up with enough new friends to form a book group.

Guess what?  A few enterprising women have come up with a trio of sites to facilitate women like me finding new friends.

The sites profiled in the Huffington Post (who read about the topic in the NewYork Times) include:, GirlFriendCircles and Girlfriend Social.  Girl Friend Circles is a pricey paid site, but apparently, the other two are free.

After a cursory glance at the two free sites, Social Jane lets you do a sample search by zip code to get an idea of who's in your area.  But a search using my zip code turned up few profiles nearby, and quite a few from as far away as La Grange, Ill. and Hammond, Ind.  Girlfriend Social wouldn't let you peek until you join the site (which I chose not to do, for now).

To read more, here's the Huffington Post story, and if you try any of these sites, please let me know how it goes!  Ditto, if you decide to use your dating site to find women friends instead of guys : ) .  I really think that would be the most promising route, as the selection of women would be much larger, and perhaps more interesting.  And, as a side benefit, kind of fascinating to see what other women's dating profiles look like : ) ~

Monday, November 26, 2012

100 Days of Rejection Therapy . . . and Eleanor Roosevelt

Today, I came across an online story about  Jia Jiang, an Austin, Texas entrepreneur who is trying to desensitize himself from rejection by undertaking 100 Days of Rejection Therapy.  Here's a link to the blog in which he details his exploits.

In his own words, he's "aiming to have one rejection per day by making crazy requests."

What does this have to do with single, over-40 women forging cool new lives for themselves?  Everything!   The best chance for a great second half of life is in having the confidence not to jump into a luke-warm, less-than-great relationship in exchange for companionship.  It takes a little courage to explore life on your own for a bit, and decide what it is you really want.  And, to be unafraid to go for it.

I hadn't thought about undergoing "rejection therapy" myself, but many decades ago Eleanor Roosevelt advocated a slightly different form of this in a quote often attributed to her:  "Do one thing every day that scares you."

Among other Eleanor Roosevelt aphorisms:
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.” 
"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do." 
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 
“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water.”  (a personal favorite)

Find out more about Eleanor Roosevelt here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Widow's take on the single life

I want to share a blog post by my writer and publicist Elaine Soloway on the recent death of her husband after her three years as a caregiver.  Very soon after recovery from her own hip-replacement surgery, she suddenly and unexpectedly lost her husband.  If you can relate, this is a must-read, as is her entire The Rookie Caregiver blog.

And, Elaine has just begun a blog for the next steps on her life journey, The Rookie Widow.

Friday, November 9, 2012

I am enormous -- get used to it : )

all of my life
I've never fit
but I won't complain and I won't quit
I am enormous
get used to it
everyone tells me I'm too much
maybe it's just you're not enough for me
can't you see
I'm the kind of the woman I'm supposed to be
-- Storm Large

Friday, November 2, 2012

If you think you're beautiful, you are beautiful. That's the way it rolls.

Watching a recent Ricki Lake Show episode dedicated to female empowerment, I was struck by how uncomfortable the audience and host were with their own bodies and desires.  And I don't even mean sexual desires.  When asked by guest Mama Gena to brag about themselves, to look into a mirror and say "You are hot!", or even to verbalize the desires they had for themselves and their lives, the discomfort was highly apparent.

Wow, I knew it was bad, but didn't realize it was this bad. 

An interesting moment came when guest Sheila Kelley (who pioneered pole dancing as exercise -- don't get me started -- women are so out of touch with their bodies that we have to emulate strippers to get in touch? strippers are some of the most wounded of all women, and they're more in touch with what gets men off than what they're feeling inside, but I digress . . .) led the audience through an exercise in which they were asked to relax and get in touch with their nerve endings by stroking their own arms and legs.  Wow, uncomfortable to watch the audience squirm! 

But what a wonderful exercise.  Just to give ourselves the benefit of touch in a feminine way.  This should be part of every yoga class -- and it's going to start being part of every dance class I teach. 

Now, can someone come up with a practice to gets women in touch with their bodies that doesn't rely on the sad and lonely world of sex workers as a touchstone?

If you're not familiar with Mama Gena and her simple message of permission to have pleasure in life, want to see the self-stroking exercise, and want to hear a great song from Storm Large (check my next post for her music video), you can watch the entire Ricki Lake episode here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

get out of town!

Dear Readers:  You may have noticed that this blog hasn't been featuring as many posts these days about my solo weekend excursions, and not as many weekends squirreled up with netflix : ) .

It's fall, and that means I'm hosting many more events to support my business, creating lots of new workshops (more on that in subsequent posts), and receiving many more invitations:  birthdays (big 4-0 for some), book signings, theatrical friends appearing in plays around town, traveling to out-of-town trainings . . . ahhh, the make-the-best-of-it loneliness of summer has passed!

Photo at left is from a recent weekend in San Francisco.  While shopping on Haight Street, I thought it was fun to see an Asian-style altar to Jesus.

Hope you, too, are enjoying an overflow of social invitations.  And, from the 40+ Solo Weekender, look forward to more Chicago single excursion notes (when the odd solo weekend occurs), plus guest blog posts from a few out-of-the-ordinary relationship experts -- targeted toward those who are yearning for a partner in crime : )~

Sunday, October 21, 2012

how long until I vote you off the island?

Wesley Bedrosian
Very interesting article this month in The Atlantic -- which is somehow becoming my go-to source for the straight-talking contemporary women's point of view : ) .  (See links bar for more from The Atlantic.)

What happens when you no longer need your spouse for financial support, you're working yourself to death, and he's sitting around the house pursuing his interests and acting like one of the kids?  You're doing the 60-hour work week, most of the housework, and coordinating everyone's schedule.  He's on Cloud 9.  Hmmm.  Could life after divorce be the reward at the end of a disappointing marriage?  Does the husband step up more after divorce than he ever did during the marriage?

Here's an excerpt from "The Weaker Sex:  How Long Until I Vote You Off the Island?":
To answer this question, join me for a dinner party in Los Angeles. Have some white sangria and some pesto hummus—they’re from Whole Foods. To set the scene: we, this evening’s chorus, are divorced professional mothers (DPMs) who have adjusted, several years in, to life after marriage. Our children are fine. Their success no doubt owes a great deal to our largely graduate-level educations and our upper-middle-class income bracket, in which, interestingly, divorce is as rare now as it was in the 1950s. Although none of our exes initially welcomed divorce, in practice we’ve found our joint-custody arrangements to be surprisingly stable. Not to get too Ayn Rand on you, but although utopian thinking, nostalgic sentimentality, and even fear of confrontation may cloud communication during marriage, in post-marriage, both parties are forced to be realistic and rigorously accountable regarding kids’ schools, lessons, and pickups and drop-offs, and of course the finances. This clarity has, in turn, sparked a new appreciation for the benefits our children’s fathers bring. How happily our exes whisk the kids off to wholesome activities like swimming and camping and baseball, as we DPMs enjoy a lazy terrace supper together, easy in the knowledge that afterward we can go home, get into our flannel nightgowns, knit, and watch The Cheese Nun without being, to anyone, a colossal disappointment.
“To our exes,” says our hostess, Kate, lifting a glass.
“Hear, hear,” we reply, lifting ours.
At that moment, the front door blows open. Enter Annette, the only woman still in her original marriage, an hour late. She’s texted ahead her drink order and is thus handed a stiff vodka diet tonic with a wedge of lemon, as she launches into the story of … the lightbulb.
Surprisingly (or perhaps, not surprisingly), husbands can be much more valuable allies as ex-husbands than they ever were while in the marriage.  Intrigued?  Read the whole entertaining and seriously informative story by Sandra Tsing Loh.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mrs Palfrey at The Claremont

An addition to your contemplations-on-the-single-life film library, this is a wonderful, and non-sentimental, look at the last days of Sara Palfrey, a sensible middle-class widow played by wonderful British actress (and DBE) Joan Plowright.  She wasn't the last wife of Laurence Olivier for nothing.

A meditation on the kindness of strangers, this one gets you thinking about what is really important as you go through midlife and through the looking glass into the beyond:  the far vistas of old age.  A direction in which most of us are a little afraid to look.

Plowright plays a senior heroine who is a real, multi-dimensional person with a handle on her own destiny. Not just the garden-variety little old lady at the mercy of her children.  A good one for a crisp fall day.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Evening Star: Shirley MacLaine on a fabulous rampage

This weekend's viewing is the 1996 sequel to Terms of Endearment and for the 40+ single woman, this is a must-see.

The Evening Star is all about the complex and irascible Aurora character (who was, to me, by far the most interesting character in Terms of Endearment) as her grandchildren reach adulthood.  How she copes and thrives; the men in her life and their functions within it.  This was interesting, and true to life, as it seems to me that mid-life women often have to compartmentalize the men in our lives -- you often can't count on one person for very much.   In my opinion, Shirley MacLaine's best role ever.

A favorite line:  "Men come and go, and if you're lucky, the good ones come and go several times."  I can second that; unfortunately, the bad ones often return as well -- much more frequently than one would like!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rid of Me

Today's Saturday late-afternoon netflix viewing was the weirdest female empowerment movie I've ever seen:  Rid of Me.  Definitely not for Republican/suburban viewing.  And, extra points for including in the soundtrack the same 1960s Cambodian pop compilation that I've had for years : )

I guess that a particular interest of mine during the past five years has been the ways various generations of women cope with traumatic life events.  So here's one for the 30-somethings.

I ridiculously loved this.  Sometimes, you just need to see a frustrated woman go berserk and then figure it out. {tweet this}  And that's all I'm going to say. 

Friday, September 21, 2012


Today's hang-out-and-study-Spanish-grammar spot was an old favorite of mine:  Turquoise Restaurant, 2147 West Roscoe Street.

Don't pay any attention to the fact that the website looks a little tacky.  This is continental cafe atmosphere right in the heart of Roscoe Village, down to the efficient, but brusque waitstaff.  Perfect time to go: around 2pm, when the lunch menu prices are still in effect, and the place is almost empty. 

Get a table in the back, spread out your work materials, and order a Turkish raki to start out with.  Your waiter will pour a little water into your shot from an adorable pitcher, spoon in a few pieces of ice, and leave the ice and water at your table for further tweaking.

My personal menu favorite: the mussels appetizer, which makes a decadent meal, along with the generous loaf of warm, home-baked bread that appears at your table the minute you're seated.

Various sorts of Euro-sounds are piped in over the sound system; today it was French cabaret.  An especially wonderful spot to sit back and relax, and a perfect complement to the crisp and cool weather we've been having.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Masa Azul

Another low-key spot to try on a Sunday night that happened to have plenty of room at the small, but lovely bar:  Masa Azul at 2901 W. Diversey

Full disclosure:  I visited at 9pm on a Sunday night with a gentleman friend, but would feel equally at home to visit solo with a favorite book in tow.

Pictured at left is knowledgeable and affable owner Jason Lerner, who took time to chat and to suggest tequilas for us to try.  Tequila menu has dozens of varieties on hand, with fascinating differences in aroma and flavor.  Modern Southwest menu is fabulous, too, in case you're staying for dinner.

My favorite cocktail at the moment is the Horse with no Name, featuring (according to the menu) "Casa Noble Reposado, Jo Snow Lavender syrup, lemon, and bubbles"

And, if you don't know about Jo Snow, please visit the site of syrup alchemist (and cool person) Melissa Yen. 


Friday, September 14, 2012

Women of a Certain Age

For insight into the perspective of women at age 60, I'm enjoying the Women of a Certain Age blog . . . which decided to share, this week, the perspective of women age 29 v. 31!  Deja vu all over again : )

And, in case you're interested in the phrase "women of a certain age," check out this trenchant 1995 analysis of the description from the mordant pen of William Safire in the New York Times.  Replete with a sidetrack into "long in the tooth."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Something's Gotta Give

I can't imagine that there's any over-40 woman who hasn't seen this film, but it's one of my favorites, and grows on me the older I get.

If you're a single woman of a certain age, you'll recognize the Jack Nicholson character as someone you've encountered on innumerable dates, and from innumerable online dating profiles (you know, the ones where old, paunchy guys photograph themselves on speedboats and next to sports cars).

Absolutely a hilarious film, and worth it just to hear Frances McDormand's gentle rant near the beginning of the picture.  Perfect solo weekend viewing -- reminding yourself why enjoying a weekend pursuing your interests at home can be way more rewarding than that potential coffee date (or, worse, dinner) with that silver, not-so-foxy old fox.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

surprisingly social weekend :)

Once in a while, I take things into hand and schedule weekend non-solo events.  This weekend was full of excitement, as I put together a facebook event with some of my students and friends, and enjoyed a friend's wedding the next evening (with lots of happiness and dancing to the DJ).  At the wedding reception, I even caught the bouquet :)~

So, when you're really tired of weekends on end with nothing but solo activities and/or tagging along like a third wheel among couples, hosting your own event is a way to feel a little more in control.  You can invite whom you want -- and, if it's a Friday night, you'll get some friends who work nearby and are on their way home, so it won't be all couples -- they'll meet up with their SOs later : )

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Halo Halo

Today's Sunday solo excursion was a late afternoon bike ride through Horner Park and the adorable Rockwell Gardens neighborhood over to Isla Pilipina, 2501 W. Lawrence Ave., to take away an order of halo halo for a leisurely stroll through Lincoln Square.

Even on Sunday afternoon, most shops and boutiques along the Lincoln Ave. drag are open for business, and it's a pleasant promenade for families among the flower-filled outdoor dining options, and past the bubbling fountain that fronts Cafe Selmarie.

Love Rockwell Gardens!  Friendly neighbors smile and say hello, and it's a hidden jewel amid the grittier surrounding big streets.

But what about the halo halo?  It's a combination of  crushed ice, gelatin, red beans, coconut strips, jackfruit,  evaporated milk, and purple yam ice cream.  Sometimes there's lychee or rambutan in it, and there are probably additional incredients that only a Filipino would know about!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Soul Kitchen

Following on the heels of my post on The Secret, here's Soul Kitchen, a fun 2009 German film directed by Fatih Akin that demonstrates what can happen when you make all the wrong choices, but end up learning something in the process.  Screenwriter Adam Bousdoukos based the story on his own experiences as the owner of a Greek tavern named Taverna, where Akın was a regular customer.

This is the perfect movie to watch if you've been ruminating on the past, thinking about mistakes and how you'd do so many things differently now.  You'll feel so much better about yourself -- no one can make as many bone-headed mistakes as these guys -- and you'll also see that no matter how many bad choices you make, it's still a learning experience!

If you'd like to see more of Fatih Akin's work, I also recommend his 2007 drama of missed connections juxtaposed against nexpected ones  The Edge of Heaven with the luminous talents of Hanna Schygulla and Baki Davrak.

Friday, August 31, 2012

the secret

Are you rolling your eyes already?  Rosetta, isn't this that 2006 woo-woo movie that made the rounds of "change your life" talk tv?  Wasn't it the butt of jokes about wishing expensive necklaces and BMWs into being?

But.  Have you actually watched this movie and applied some of its principles?  This is an easy system of reframing experiences and adjusting your attitudes to focus not on worst-case scenarios or conventional wisdom (that most often makes life challenges seem much more insurmountable than they actually are).

Why should it be less sensible to focus attention on the outcome that you would like to have in any given situation, and take steps to get to that outcome? 

Perhaps I'm especially sensitive to this because of my Catholic background, in which almost every event and action was an occasion to blame oneself and think about how one could have done better.  This is a no-win situation, since, hypothetically, one can always have done better.

A smart alternative is to think about what you've learned from any situation, how that wisdom can be incorporated as you go forward in life, and how it can actually assist you in living the life of your dreams.

It's not over until it's over.  So, if you're in a difficult life transition, take a look at The Secret, or watch it again with new eyes.  It's a very practical toolkit to use in picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and seeing the great value that you have for your world and for yourself.  Give it a sincere try before you scoff.  There's nothing to lose but the dark cloud : ).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Film of the week: Alice

Here's my home-alone pick of the week:  Woody Allen's 1990 film Alice, with the ever-irritatingly milquetoasty Mia Farrow as our heroine.

With the help of traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Dr. Yang, Alice Tate navigates the crumbling of illusions that comprise her pampered New York society lifestyle.

By the end of the film, Dr. Yang, says, "I think Mrs. Tate has better idea of who is is than before she came to Dr. Yang. Who her friends are and are not. Who is husband, lover, sister, mother.  What are her needs, her limits, her gifts.  What are her innermost feelings.  May not know all answers, but.  Has better idea.  Now must decide which road her life will take."

If you're over age 40, you've probably had a moment like this, in which you realize that your previous reality wasn't really real : ) .  Great movie for a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Don't forget family :)

Dad and me in 2010.
This Friday, my dad, aunt, and I celebrated the 100th anniversary of my maternal grandma's birth.  So, I thought I'd do a little post to remind singles to include family on some of those solo weekends :) .

I don't have too many family members left, and they are very different from me in terms of political orientation, world view, and . . . well, just about everything.  And they live an hour or more away (depending on traffic).

But, when we keep our visits focused on the things we have in common -- shared background, memories, and love for each other -- we have a wonderful time.

We went out to a Thai restaurant near my aunt's gated retirement community, and ended up back at her place for tea and cake, and several hours of reminiscing and loving to be in each other's company.  Lots of old stories emerged (my favorite part of these visits).  One of the sweetest:  her memory of my dad and uncle, in overcoats and fedoras, riding through the winter chill on a shared bicycle to spend the evening with their sweethearts in the parlour of the guys' future inlaws.  Below-zero temperatures and coattails flying, according to my aunt.  This was bargain dating as only kids who had survived the Depression could do it.

So . . . facing another ho-hum weekend?  Find out what your family is up to :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

This Sunday, it's sushi :)

Today's solo Sunday brunch was sushi and sake at Hot Woks Cool Sushi, 2032 W.Roscoe St.  Perfect solo brunch spot:  Not crowded at all, soft techno playing in the background, surprisingly upscale service for a neighborhood Asian restaurant, and great decor (which this photo doesn't show -- trust me, it's cool, elegant, and restores your spirits).

While it's an intimate space, you'll still feel a sense of urban retreat:  plenty of space between tables and an unhurried vibe.  And there's cute sidewalk dining, too.

Full menu of typical Chinese dishes in addition to sushi -- plus lunch specials, such as two maki rolls with a bowl of miso soup for $8.95.  I tried The Confusion Roll ($13.95):  asparagus and sweet potato tempura folded in a maki topped with diced super white tuna and salmon drizzled with mandarin orange aioli.  Everything is beautifully plated, and there's quite a good sake list as well as signature cocktails.

After your meal, wander along Roscoe St. and window shop, or visit Black Dog Gelato, 1955 W. Belmont (just blocks away), with its menu of amazing unique flavors -- a current favorite of mine is basil strawberry sorbet -- or, have their Turkish iced coffee infused with cardamom pods.  Plus, adorable decor and friendly staff who will let you taste everything :) .

Saturday, August 18, 2012

italki Saturday night

Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week . . . or so Frank Sinatra sang.  Although I may change my ways at some point, I've never ventured out solo this night -- it just feels too weird.

But, I've found a great use for it . . . honing my Spanish language skills on  Even on Saturday night, you'll find lots of people online, writing and correcting each other's essays and making appointments to chat via Skype.  No reason to feel left out when all of your facebook friends are checking in from the fabulous parties, clubs, and other events they're enjoying with their SOs and families.  On italki, people are getting busy learning something :) .  It's fun!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bombon Cafe

Today I started the solo weekend early, with a Friday lunch at Bombon Cafe, 38 S. Ashland Ave., before heading over to Cardinal Fitness on Madison (only $19.95 per month) to walk my torta off on the treadmill.

I had the Piolin Torta ($8.95), an unbelievably yummy combination of chicken marinated in adobo sauce, mixed greens, tomatoes, grilled red onions, avocado, Chihuahua cheese, and poblano peppers.

Bombon Cafe has a bright, airy atmosphere, a fun variety of Latin music, attentive counter staff, and it's a great place to dine alone and leave with a song in your heart and the mild sting of salsa verde on your lips.

It's a top-notch bakery, too, and has one of the best tres leches cakes in the city :) .   Mmmmmmm, ready for more single-girl solo weekend now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Last weekend's netflix viewing . . .

Check out this beautiful Argentinian film from 2008:  El Nido Vacio/Empty Nest with the luminous Cecilia Roth.

After decades of marriage, things change when the couple's three children leave the nest.  Martha is reborn, while her husband . . .

Quiet, insightful, and delightful cinematography (one camera angle in particular made it impossible for me to imagine how it was achieved).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Solo Sunday Brunch

I love brunch, but when it's Sunday, dining alone can make you feel very, very single.

Today, I spent an hour or so cruising neighborhood brunch spots, packed to the walls with noisy, happy throngs of families and friends, and thought, nah . . . .   I'm looking for a pleasant, low-key atmosphere. Interesting food and drinks. Maybe a spot where I can eat at the bar and read a book. And not feel like an exotic zoo animal.

Here it is:  Yusho at 2853 N. Kedzie Ave. in Logan Square.

It's not exactly a brunch: You get a bowl of noodles (I had grilled shrimp, bonito, kimchi, and bamboo shoots), a draught cocktail (tequila punch with Herencia Blanco, Leopold Three Pines, salers, lemon, roasted kombu), and a cup of soft-serve with basil and coconut croutons for $20.

Atmosphere and music were great, the place wasn't crowded, bar staff was friendly, and it felt fine to be dining solo.

From their website, here's more about Yusho: Street food is the great equalizer—no glamour required. Yakitori, when well-executed, is about the simple flavors of authentic street food. A hot grill provides intense flavors from seasonal proteins and vegetables, grilled to order over a chattering, hissing fire. Beer, wine and sake selections complement the fresh-grilled flavors. Craft cocktails, wines and spirits are chosen for customized meal pairings. Experiment and discover!