When her seven-year relationship with Buddhist beach boy Peter comes to an end, Carolyn, an independent, free-spirited, fiftysomething researcher, challenges herself to go on fifty dates to figure out what the best type of man for her really is—and to find a committed partner. Set in the milieu of a New Age, sexually open community, Fifty First Dates After Fifty traces the adventurous path of Carolyn’s very universal quest for love. Enlisting friends and lovers to support her through the highs and lows of dating, the goal of fifty dates pulls her forward—from the magical and ecstatic to the awkward and heartbreaking—while her heart soars, falls, and keeps on going. Her dating research project helps her avoid the trap of settling for the wrong guy, slowly reveals the type of man she wants and needs, and shows her how to reconcile her love of independence and sex with her desire for commitment and emotional connection. Explicit in places, funny in others, this upbeat, sexy memoir offers a positive and successful view of dating for older women, celebrating the search for Mr. Right as an enjoyable journey of self-discovery that can lead women to their own unique type of relationship and partner. Drop In with us to find the erotic, the meaningful, and the merely fun in midlife dating and in finding who is right for you.
Carolyn Lee Arnold is a writer, hiker, personal growth workshop assistant, and former educational researcher. She holds graduate degrees in women’s studies, statistics, and educational research and has studied creative nonfiction with many teachers. Fifty First Dates After Fifty is her first book, and excerpts have been published in Persimmon Tree, Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine, and the Human Awareness Institute’s Enlighten Journal. Her website, www.carolynleearnold.com, is full of articles, blogs, interviews, and ideas from her dating project. An excerpt from her second memoir, about her eighteen years identifying as a lesbian feminist in the 1970s and ’80s, has been published in Noyo River Review. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and just celebrated the tenth anniversary with her partner, date #49.Leave a comment for radio show guests
What’s the story behind the story? We’ll find out on Dropping In. Our guests are today’s original thinkers. Conversations that spark new ways of seeing what’s going on. We bring it all to the table. Diverse perspectives, controversy, loving and singular voices. Magically stories reveal the common threads that link us. Experience the joys, the fist pumps, the detours and the hard-won truths of those who blaze the trail so that we might do the same and now here’s your host Diane Dewey.
Diane: Welcome to Dropping In everyone. It’s the last quarter of the month in the final quarter of the year. If we’ve posted on vision boards or visualize new things coming into our life it’s time to make them happen. Here to talk about how she manifested the perfect relationship for her is Carolyn Lee Arnold author of 50 First Dates Over 50. Carolyn is no stranger to the process taking time. There were two decades as a lesbian, free spirit in California. Then a decade as a hetero feminist when she was in a seven-year relationship with a man. The common thread was fluidity. Learning about herself as she went along Carolyn, a statistician researcher by profession conducted her life as a survey, taking notes on what worked and what didn’t.
It’s a story of finding oneself after her previous relationship ended, the catalyst for the dating project. The result 10 happy years with her now partner Jay who is date number 49 of 50. This memoir 50 dates over 50 published next week by She Writes Press. Welcome Carolyn. Great to have you with us.
Carolyn: Thank you Diane. I am delighted to be here. Thank you for having me on your show. What a great intro. What a great summary of my life. Thank you so much. I love that.
Diane: You’re more than welcome. It is an interesting life. You’ve been all these things and the art makes sense. You gained your financial independence not wanting to depend on a man during the years before dating them. Now you’re in a relationship that has taken the best of all the worlds that you’ve investigated. I wondered how you describe yourself now as a person, as a writer, an author, a retired statistician. How do you describe yourself?
Carolyn: Wow. That’s a good question. You just did. I feel like you just described me. I mean I’m all of those things. I mean I feel like I’m, on my Instagram post I just simply put I’m a writer. I’m a hiker. I’m a partner. I’m a friend. I mean I have kept my free spirit. I’m independent financially. I guess I’m a feminist. I’m a writer. I’m an enjoyer of life. I guess my goal has always been to have a balance in my life of work and play and relationships. I feel like I’ve worked on that a long time and I have that. I’ve had that I feel like all along. I love what I have now which is writing and a great relationship and a great group of friends and a really great writing community which I didn’t even realize was part of being a writer. Now I’m so happy to be in.
Diane: Well I think you mentioned balance and you mentioned working on things. It’s amazing to me there is this trope of a dating saga where the author talks about all the failed dates and how hilarious they were for XYZ reasons. He actually drank his latte through a straw or nonsense but you really worked at these things. You worked at this project the 50 Dates Over 50. You worked on it and it seems to me that you really are a kind of seeker and that you are serious about getting what you want and about not having what you don’t want. I felt this is a different kind of book one that honors each one of your companions. I wondered if making yourself vulnerable part of your equation in writing the book. Absorbing and learning rather than ranting, showing how each person contributed to your learning.
Carolyn: First of all thank you for saying, bringing in the word seeker. I do feel like that’s another good descriptor of me but I definitely part of the goal of what I call the dating project was to appreciate each person I was with. I had learned those kind of skills from the personal growth workshops I’ve been in which is about appreciating people, loving them for who they are and loving myself in the process. I think because I had those skills that’s how I was going to be dating.
Also I the way I set up the dating project was I had this goal of 50 dates. Each person I dated didn’t have to be a potential partner. They just had to be someone I liked who I wanted to experience because my goal was to try to give myself a broad view of a lot of different types of men. I was breaking up with someone who was very specific, someone I called a Buddhist beach boy. I was afraid I would want that type again if I just went out and tried to pick one person. I was really framing. I mean and it has to do with being a researcher that I had a goal and I was collecting, I felt like I was collecting information about each person but it was because of that that I had this framework. I wasn’t focused on each particular date was this my partner, was this my partner, which is a pitfall that a lot of people fall into dating particularly older women when we’re really ready to have a partner.
Each date takes on so much weight like is this the one, is this the one. I was trying to step back from that and give myself a huge swath of experiences because I didn’t know. As a researcher I was doing exploratory research about what types I might like. I was going to be, each person I didn’t expect to be my partner. I just experienced to find out what I liked about them, what I liked about myself with them. Really exploring what type of person I wanted. All that led to being very respectful and honoring of the men because I didn’t have to think wow, is he going to be my person. It’s like no. Isn’t he interesting and this is interesting how it’s working out so that’s where that came from I think.
Diane: Well and you gave yourself 50 opportunities in your mind’s eye. You said in the book that 50 was the minimum number for a sampling so it’s clear that your work as a researcher informs the dating experience but the point Carolyn is what you were saying if you have 50 opportunities and you’re on number five you don’t have to put any pressure on number five not just because you’re investigating but because you’ve given yourself a big wide world of 50 potentialities.
I mean most of us are stumbling through dating life. Okay we’re basically it’s leading us. We’re not leading it. We land upon someone that we think is fantastic. I’m all for late in life partnerships because somehow they stay very fresh but the story comes out of how you met the person as opposed to how you devised this plan. I did wonder since you had this attitude of remaining positive regardless of what challenge you’d take it on. Discouragement when dates didn’t turn out right. Some disappointments, some loneliness and you couldn’t be partnered and it seemed like everybody else was. I wonder how did the whole process change or strengthen you. I mean what did it give you.
Carolyn: Well what I learned was that I first of all that my framework for the dating really worked which I’ll say in a minute but I also learned that I am basically a positive upbeat person. I mean I knew that but I know how much that carried me through but I also feel like the framework carried me through because the framework of having the goal, of seeing dating as a research project and appreciating each person. Also taking good care of myself during the dating process which is a huge piece. I can say a lot more about that but what I wanted to say is what I learned is that the funny thing is as I was going through I was totally enjoying it. I thought this is fun. I’m having a good time. Yes, my heart’s getting broken. I am breaking a few hearts but I’m moving on. I felt this momentum of moving towards 50.
I was never down for very long and I always had these other dates to look forward to. When I got to the end I thought wow, I have a really great story here. I really didn’t think of writing a memoir until I was done. Then what I did I thought I have a great story. I’m going to write it and share it because so many of the women my age I saw were not enjoying dating. I was enjoying dating so I thought well why don’t I write this story just to show that one can enjoy dating. I wrote it all out. I wrote all the 50 dates out and then I read it. Then I thought oh my God, I got rejected a lot. This is a sad story. This is not a happy story. I realized that how much that momentum had helped me and how much my optimism had helped me.
I guess I think that they fed each other because I set it up in a way to be optimistic. I basically learned that I could do that, that I could set this type of a goal. I also learned how well, how well I did at taking care of myself. Just I had a circle of friends to lean on but I also did a lot of affirmations with myself, a lot of affirmative self-talk. I gave myself baths. I held my cat. I cried a lot. I did cry a lot although I cut out some of the crying in this book. It was a little much but okay, I did the basic self-care things which sounds simple and easy to not do but I did that. I realized how much that helped.
Diane: Well you were part of the project and it wasn’t going anywhere without you. I think you mentioned is something that if we all looked at our dating history we would realize we got rejected a lot, all of us would because we’re failing forward. That’s how come you move on to. That’s 50% at least of the chances of why you move on. You’ve been rejected or dumped or the thing hasn’t gone anywhere. I did give you a lot of credit. I feel as though it’s probably given you some sense of self mastery to set out a project like this, accomplish it and come out of it with the relationship that you wanted and continue to enjoy ten years since. Do you think this kind of approach is for everyone? The book is coming out in a week so we don’t know yet the whole response but what’s been the response among your women friends, groups. It’s brilliant in some level. Do you think it’ll catch on it or do we not know what to expect?
Carolyn: Well first of all I really I’m putting out this book as a lot of like I think it is a collection of a lot of great ideas about dating that anyone can take what they like and leave the rest. I don’t expect, I’m not saying everyone should follow this path that I did. There’s a lot of qualities, a lot of things that people can use, ideas that they can use. They don’t have to go on 50 dates but they could see dating as research. They can go on dates and be a little more objective, a little more distant and more evaluative about the dates. There’s lots of little things people can take away.
People who have read my book so far love that I’m positive. Love that I went after what I want. They love that the book is sex positive. That I’m modeling being an older woman with them being sexual. They love that I’m portraying just how dating really is. Also I have a pretty alternative lifestyle and I’m writing about that. People are who whether or not they’re part of that are intrigued and like getting a glimpse. I’m basically giving people a kind of a glimpse of the Bay Area, new agey, personal growth workshop, spiritual ceremony crowd. That’s interesting to people if they’re not in it. If they are they’re liking what I write.
I mean I see my book, my book is kind of three things in one. I see it. In one sense it’s just an entertaining dating book. It’s a story. It’s a great story. Its girl wants boy. Girl goes after a boy and finds one but it also the dating process as we’ve been talking about it’s full of a lot of great ideas I think that people could use. They can take the ones that they would help for them. It’s also a book about an older woman being sexual while dating which a lot of us are but not everyone admits that. I thought it was important to put that there out. People are responding well to that. I mean people who don’t like that do not like that but we’re not comfortable with that but people who do are really appreciative that I’ve written that.
Then the other thing is the glimpse into the alternative culture at least here in the Bay Area, a little glimpse. It’s got a lot for everybody to like. A lot of my married friends they’re not looking to date but they are entertained by the book. They’re entertained and intrigued by the book.
Diane: Well I think there’s also a way you mentioned being evaluative. I mean approaching things objectively. It does help even in a partnership or a marriage to say okay, I’m looking at my partner in this different way. Also Carolyn you had the way of going around and seeing what the other person’s point of view might be why he might be thinking these things. I mean you were very I think evaluative and in your statistician’s researcher brain pretty objective. It’s a very kind of healthy kind of way of looking at things.
We have a couple of minutes before a commercial break. I appreciated your openness very much. There’s a whole lot of sex in this book. I mean if you want to open yourself up to sexual experience. I would say read 50 Dates Over 50. It absolutely does open us up to another world for those of us that are not polyamorous or for those of us that are not experiencing what I would call sex in a public way but I did want to ask you. A lot of people do consider, I mean this is not voyeuristic. I thought there was a lot of material to just understand the point of view but I wondered just in a minute or so that we have. A lot of people consider sex to be kind of private. Your sexual history is now going to be out in print on November 4th. I wondered if the community has shared sexuality that you’ve experienced groups for pleasurable touching or sex party, sex parties if it helped you prepare for the exposure that you’re just about to experience.
Carolyn: It’s two things Diane. One is I feel like yes, I’m being very brave to put this out and I’ve done a lot of writing and reading about being brave lately because it’s based in, I have an early history of being a basically a sex educator at the Berkeley Women’s Health Collective when we were doing self-help, vaginal examinations and teaching other women to appreciate their bodies. I believe in sharing information about women’s bodies and women’s sexuality. I felt like I wanted to. I feel strongly about doing that and telling the truth. I mean I could have cut those sex scenes out and made it a more PG book.
Diane: No, no, no, no.
Carolyn: That’s how I feel. I feel like that’s what happened. I do feel I’m being very vulnerable by putting that out. I am counting on the fact that I’m contributing to the culture of sex positive messages and that’s what I want to do.
Diane: It’s educational and it’s enlightening. For a moment, for a brief moment we’ll leave it at that but we’ll take a commercial break. When we come back we’ll continue talking with Carolyn Lee Arnold author of Fifty First Dates After Fifty: A Memoir. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Carolyn Lee Arnold author of Fifty First Dates After Fifty: A Memoir. If you’re married or single it’s a valuable book. There’s a lot of investigative sort of I would say explorations into criteria. What’s my criteria for a partner? How can I elicit that? What do I want in myself to be able to be a good partner? I think Carolyn you kind of had to find out for yourself who you wanted to be, who you wanted the other person to be and as you said before the break you really view yourself as an educator. That’s why these sex scenes are incredibly valuable. You document your own experience of learning from them.
I know a lot of listeners will have heard us sort of skim over in the introduction that you did experience a couple of decades there while you were with women. Not that it’s a natural progression. It’s very logical the way you described it in the book then you sort of migrated to men. Women represented a kind of security for you, a kind of a home base. Men were kind of going out like on a bit of adventure. You made it seem so easy, the transition. I wondered do we just make too much of these kinds of fluid passages in our culture do you think?
Carolyn: Actually the whole story of why I identified as a lesbian and my years as a lesbian which were 18 and then why I decided to go back to men. They are the subject of my second memoir. It’s a long story. No, it’s not easy. It’s not easy. That was actually very fraught. Of course it had to do with I was identifying as a lesbian in the 70s. In the days where you had to choose whether you were a lesbian or straight. Being bisexual was not very popular. I think I am naturally bisexual. I was able to choose. I didn’t see women as comforting. I saw it more exciting. It was more exciting to be a lesbian in the 70s than to be straight. We were at the cutting edge of cultural change, of feminism. We were creating women’s spaces. What would a woman be without a gender role? It was more the excitement.
Also I have to say maybe it was some sort of comfort. I went to a girl’s high school and a women’s college. I was used to all women’s spaces but I definitely chose the lesbian community as the more exciting choice. I think I said before I like a life of balance. I also like an interesting life. I don’t like to be bored. Men were I have to say in the 70s a little boring to a feminist because they were still a little sexist. They were not quite coming along with us at that moment. The women were taking off. The whole move into being a lesbian was very exciting in fact one of the possibilities for a title of my book is who wouldn’t want to be a lesbian because it’s just so exciting.
The long story short is I felt like I never found the right woman. I looked and looked and I felt like I would have found what would be a great woman partner but I never found the right woman. Maybe I also didn’t have the relationship skills at that point. All my relationships were only two years with women and then later with men. I don’t know what would have happened if I had better relationship skills but really in my 40s when I was realizing it wasn’t working out for me with women I actually started a new job at a community college and noticed all these men my age who were very interesting and not boring and complex people. I realized that the men between our twenties and our forties had grown up and were now great people that you want to get to know. That’s how I think I was pulled back into the heterosexual scene and actually had to develop heterosexual friends because all my friends were lesbians. That was a little hard to do from scratch. I had to create new sets of friends.
Diane: I think that’s incredibly valid the whole point about the evolution of men coming into a point where they finally were exciting. You mentioned this your second memoir. I have just a blurb that says that it had been published in Noyo River Review. Is that true or is there to be a different memoir?
Carolyn: Oh just one coming. Just one thing, a little story from that. I just started writing. I written the first draft and so I had a few scenes. That became there. That was there.
Diane: I didn’t mean to interrupt you but Who Wouldn’t Want to be a Lesbian? I think that’s a fabulous title. I mean just in the sense of you look at your female relationships and your kind of, your squad, your network and your group that supports you. You think oh my God well, I can totally get it. When you did find yourself at the community college and these interesting men had evolved. You were attracted. That was an authentic response from you. You did you have that sense. I wondered if you had felt and not yourself necessarily because you were, you have described this in fits and starts about the transition isn’t easy but I wondered if you got external pressure too. You have to decide or you have to, what happened to your lesbian values? There’s a lot of tagging that goes on.
Carolyn: Yes. Well actually I got that all along because in the middle of my lesbian years I also was attracted to men and actually started a relationship with one in the middle even though I was still calling myself a lesbian. I got a lot of backlash from my lesbian friends from that. I just want to say, I want to step back and say because my body is bisexual I felt like I could choose but that’s not true for everybody. I didn’t want to say everyone can just blightly choose to be a lesbian. For the people who are lesbians and don’t have that choice or straight I just want to honor that. Now we know it the whole thing is much more of a continuum than we thought then but I just want to say in a way I had maybe even a privilege of being able to go back and forth. Being bisexual was not valued that at that time even though I have bisexual friends.
At the time I wasn’t brave enough to declare myself bisexual. That’s what was going on. Also I had this very higher value of being a lesbian feminist. I just really believed in that and wanted to be that. It was kind of an identity that I really wanted to have. It was all wrapped up with who I wanted to be. I really wanted to make that work and it just didn’t. I did keep being attracted to men. My lesbian friends gently, they were the ones who gently suggested that I needed a new set of friends. I couldn’t keep like bringing my new boyfriend to their party like that. It was hard. It was heartbreaking.
Diane: Go ahead.
Carolyn: It was a time of binary solutions.
Diane: Now we’re a lot more non-binary.
Carolyn: A lot more. I mean we didn’t have the word queer then. I think I would now describe myself as queer just because I love that umbrella of being able to be fluid and open and to different people but not quite confined to one thing and not straight basically. Not just straight.
Diane: There’s a time context but there’s a lot of the prescriptives. They’re kind of formulaic like the one if you don’t mind being there’s a sensitive issue in the book which I thought was really thoughtful of you to explore and one that any woman of any identification I think will be able to relate to which is what if your sexual preferences fly in the face of feminism. What if you enjoy submissive sex or even have surrendered or being dominated? Do we have just too much in our head Carolyn about what should and shouldn’t be? How did you reconcile these kinds of contrasts?
Carolyn: Well there’s in any group there’s definitely always been shall we say rule keepers. Feminism needs to look like this and stuff but even early on in feminism, early on in lesbian feminism in the 70s at least that I knew I think we first all thought we were going to be androgynous and how very loving equal sex and relationships. Then a group of very rebellious lesbians started the publication On Our Backs because to not Off Our Backs which was another feminist newspaper but On Our Backs because they wanted to make the sense, the point that all sex was fine, all types of sex as a lesbian was fine.
I’ve kind of been, I’ve recognized that. I see that in myself. Whenever I feel like I’m doing something that maybe I feel ashamed as a feminist I try to expand the definition like I just always remember Gloria Steinem saying when she turned 50 and people said oh you look so good for 50 people said. Well this is what she said, this is what 50 looks like now. I say this is what feminism looks like now. This is what a positive, healthy sexual older woman looks like now. I love trying to expand that view, that definition and that image. I feel like I just try to keep it expanding in my head.
It’s not like that it happened overnight. I had to go through a wild feeling. Some of the things that I have in the book were not things I could talk about for years. It took a lot of years of being with sex positive people. Now I have to say, I’m really, my set of friends and community who many of whom are in the book I love and I’m so glad I found. That’s what I also wanted to show in the book that there are such communities for people who are feeling isolated and feeling maybe ashamed of who they are or who want more in their life that there are these places that that people are doing wonderful, happy, positive spiritual, sexual, sensual, playful things and feeling honored. I wanted to show that.
Diane: Absolutely. What an important message Carolyn in terms of the pandemic too. Just the sadness around not being able to touch and be communicative. I think that’s so important you’re in the Bay Area but I think it’s changed. Don’t you that there’s this this kind of experience could be found. You did just a little bit of digging in and as you say it’s more about being sex positive, accepting who you are sexually, what that may be, whatever that may be. Being sex positive, do you feel as though being sex positive in a way actually is a core feminist value? I mean to say who I am.
Carolyn: Oh definitely. I’m thinking of myself as a young feminist in the Berkeley Women’s Health Collective. We were teaching. I think we had some early movies of sexuality both heterosexual and lesbian, maybe bi. We even had a film about, we were all in our 20s. There was a film of an older couple making love and we were always so amazed by that some kind. They were probably just in their 40s or 50s but we were expanding the definition of what women’s sexuality was. I feel like in a way I’m continuing that. I’m honoring that early impulse. Oh I just realized my music came on and I can’t turn it off from here.
Diane: We’re going to take a commercial break in a few minutes so you can leave it on. It sounds very nice. Not a problem.
Carolyn: Okay, great.
Diane: I just want listeners to know before we do take a break that Fifty First Dates After Fifty, after age 50 that is by Carolyn Lee Arnold is a fantastic, it is a survey right? You’ve got some totally sexualized gentlemen in there. I mean you’ve got in some ways you also I think you practice self-care. Correct me if I’m wrong but you practice self-care by maintaining physical relationships with guys that were satisfying to you, sexual relationships while you were dating other men because look, what if that didn’t pan out. You were craving that satisfaction, that sexual exploration and the sense of touch. I mean I consider some of these ongoing relationships that you had, physical sexual relationships to be part of your self-care as well.
Carolyn: They were. Thank you for pointing that out. Definitely, I was conscious. I was conscious of what I thought of it as having lovers who were going to be ongoing while I was dating. I didn’t have to put pressure on the dates to be sexual. Because I’m used to being sexual. I’m used to being in a relationship of some sort and sleeping with someone. I knew I wanted to keep on being sexual. I didn’t know how long this dating project would last. I’m picking a few men as my lovers who were not going to be my partners for various reasons. They were either younger or they had another partner or they were not quite right but they were great for as lovers. They did support me all along. It was great.
Diane: Very cool. Well as I mentioned we need to cut to a commercial and then we’ll be back to talk more about also loving but also self-love which can be tough. Much is made of loving ourselves first in order to be able to love but I want to talk about it in terms of loving oneself fully. It is completing yourself through dating and I can’t think of a better expert on that than our guest today Carolyn Lee Arnold author of Fifty First Dates After Fifty. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Carolyn Lee Arnold. She is a statistician researcher by profession and applied some of this objective criteria to her dating life in order to manifest the kind of relationship Carolyn that you wanted. I really appreciated an aspect of the book self-love. The work that you also put into that. It’s all too common that those of us of this generation experienced very critical parents or a parent.
It was a generation that wasn’t psychologically aware. We didn’t have the kind of parenting that would have fostered let’s say empowerment. You had a lot to overcome. The self-love, it again seemed synchronized to finding the right relationship. How did you work through to getting to that point where you weren’t looking for a man to complete you? You really did the deep dive into self-love. Talk to us about that if you would.
Carolyn: Okay. There’s a lot of parts of that. I want to say three things. One is I have to say that my years as a lesbian gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to take care of myself separate from men especially financially but when I emerged from that with a career and graduate degrees and a career I loved. The means to buy my own house and I felt that’s when I actually started dating men. That’s when I felt like I didn’t need a man. I didn’t need one. I just wanted one. It was pure want and not, I didn’t need one for financial security. That was important to me and I had kind of consciously made sure that that’s how I want to live my life not dependent financially on a man.
In terms of self-love first of all I just want to say I don’t believe that we can go into a room and say all these affirmations and start loving ourselves. I think we need to learn self-love in reflection from other people. We have to be around loving people who are loving ourselves. As you said if we don’t have parents who loved us or gave us really positive messages we need to re-parent ourselves in some way to get those messages that are usually in our heads that are critical to replace them with positive messages. There are lots of ways to do that but I really recommend finding a community of people who are very positive and loving and who are consciously doing that because otherwise you’re going to be around people who are not consciously doing that.
The solution for me was to go to some personal growth workshops that happen to be in the Bay Area and actually all over the country but there are a lot of workshops like this that you could go to that teach appreciating yourself, loving yourself by learning to appreciate other people. We do a lot of sitting around. I’m listening to each other and then just affirming each other. Then telling each other what we appreciate about each other. I got a lot of people telling me how I went in there feeling actually not very good about myself because I hadn’t been able to find a partner. I just felt critical of myself and I felt like I was doing something wrong. What I got was a lot of loving, supportive people saying well look at all these great things about you.
Over time that kind of sinks in. We just did exercise after exercise of appreciating each other and finding the good in people. That helped me in dating and it helped me. It sunk into me. I just want to say that as an overall context for self-love and self-care. I don’t think we can do it in isolation. Then I did specific things. With that as a context the things I did do help. I feel like first of all I was keeping a journal for myself because since I was single. That was the best place I could write down my feelings about every day and what I was feeling and tried to work out what I was feeling.
I was having a dialogue with myself both the good and the bad of about the dating and trying to support myself. In my journal I would do affirmations affirming. If I was rejected I would write myself a little love note. I realized that I had to do this myself. I mean my friends could help but I had to also, it had to come from me, the loving myself and picking myself up after rejection. Then I would have conversations with my heart. Some of those are in the book about how to my heart got hurt a few times. I talked to my heart and reassured her from my part of myself that’s very loving. I reassured my heart. I do feel like affirmations and conversations do help with in the context of having a supportive community.
There’s lots of other self-care things. There’s the physical things you could do for yourself. Taking baths, your pet, watching upbeat rom-coms, things like that and crying and then there is reaching out for support and being not being afraid to ask for support from friends and in my case lovers and even my ex-boyfriend was actually ended up being one of my support in this process. The thing about dating is it’s a long-term project. It’s a project and you have to build in support but that’s how I feel about self-care and self-love.
Diane: I tell you. I think the thing that you brought out about it being an exchange and surrounding yourself so that you’re actually hearing it from the outside because we’re human. We’re social. We’re social creatures. We’re organic. We’re not self-contained. I think that that’s a brilliant point as are many of your points. I think you’re going to end up Carolyn you’re not going to be able to go to a party anymore without being asked for advice on relationships or sexuality or something. I mean this is going to be a game changer for you. I can tell you that right now Fifty First Dates After Fifty. You might have thought you were a statistician. You’re going to end up being a counselor. Don’t worry.
Carolyn: I purposely not try to become a dating coach. I actually have just so you know I have dating resources on my website of coaches I trust and organizations I trust for people to get support around dating because I didn’t want to be a dating coach but it turns out I have a lot of dating advice to give which I’m freely giving.
Diane: Totally. CarolynLArnold.com is your website.
Carolyn: The whole thing. carolynleearnold.com.
Diane: Because they’re also in the book. I have to say there’s also resources in the book which I think you are a practitioner of using supports and resources. One of them you mentioned is workshops. One of the workshops that I fixated on time and time and again reading the book was okay, wait a minute. I’m back on non-sexual touch because there is a workshop that or they’re not just workshops. They’re actual social encounters where you practice non-sexual touching. You are a self-proclaimed toucher. You need physical contact.
I really wanted to explore this idea. I mean we, a lot of us bumping along just to think of touch leads to sexuality. What about this notion of non-sexual touch? How does that work for you?
Carolyn: Well that’s a great thing. If you open yourself up to different types of touch and kind of normalize that. There’s so many things we can do. I know that the sex a little bit pops out in my book but I also have lots of examples of non-sexual touch. One of I mean the workshops I went to we were very big on hugging and hugging in a safe, respectful way. Hugging of course is a great way to get touch from your friends and your lovers.
The other one is face stroking. It’s amazing if you just sit with someone and stroke their face and know that it’s not going to lead to sex but just stroke their face as a way of honoring someone, of honoring their beauty and their spirit. That can be so nurturing and soothing to just have someone doing that to you or doing that to someone else. Another one is if you’re comfortable, I mean these are examples from my book. Some of the men I was not sexual with I just cuddled with all night because cuddling is so and cuddling doesn’t have to be all night. It can be just for an hour or less but just cuddling and just feeling that warmth of somebody and doing that with either friends or dates or lovers to just say I just want to be cuddled. I just want to be held. The other great non-sexual touch to me are hot tubs. I mean it’s not touching someone necessarily but it’s just getting that sensual feeling.
The other thing I did was I went to these wonderful contact dance things, kind of a dance. There are a lot of dances like this in the Bay Area but one of them that they’re all kind of open. You just go and you dance by yourself but then some of them are contact dancers where you kind of rub up against people in a non-sexual way, a purposely non-sexual way. You just kind of slink around and with too slow music. It’s just very nurturing. I did that for a while when I actually called a little halt to dating in the middle of the project. I was just going to these dances for touch and that was so nurturing.
Sometimes when I would just walk around with a date, some of the dates. I’m just taking somebody’s arm, just holding hands or taking their arm, just a little contact. There’s one and or I like my feet rubbed. There is a date that is entirely one of stroking my feet.
Diane: It wasn’t is what you were going to say before I rudely interrupted. We’ve just got a couple minutes till close. We live in this culture where we are just far too untouching. You go to other countries and you see women arm and arm, you see men arm in arm walking down the street. Look at the look at the Hora, look at the Jewish dance of the Hora, where you dance and you link arms. You link arms in a big circle. I mean this is all stuff that we’ve lost, that we kind of need to retrieve especially as we emerge, hopefully emerge.
I wonder though we’ve just got this few minutes left and that is sad in and of itself but one of the catalysts for your Fifty First Dates After Fifty is that you broke up with someone. The catalyst of coming back, of resilience, of coming through something it was an unwanted breakup but it enabled you to go on the search, to go on this journey. Through it you found your voice. You found your ability to speak up for what you wanted. I mean the big loss didn’t turn out to be the big loss. Did it Carolyn?
Carolyn: Right and actually that’s one of the things I was conscious of showing in the book also. I was terribly sad about breaking up with Peter in the book but knew we couldn’t be together. That sadness remained through a lot of the book. I thought that was pretty realistic that sometimes it’s very hard to let go of someone that we really love deeply. Even though we know it’s not right or they think it’s not right we keep pining. We need to be able to hold that also. There’s a grieving. There’s a sadness but there’s also a moving on. I think I launched myself into this project a month after he left to go to another country in order to keep myself going. I mean if I had just stayed there with the grief I wouldn’t have gotten very far. I would have been pretty sad. It would have been not a very good life.
I needed to move on but yes, it does take a certain amount of persistence and resilience but I found the resilience in moving on. I mean it’s not like I had resilience and then just could do this. It’s just always lessons. We always need to learn but in the doing we move forward. In the doing we learn. In the doing we find the strength.
Diane: It’s action. It’s kind of taking control. we are just delighted first of all that you have found this wonderful man, that you enjoy what I’m sure he feels as though he’s found you Carolyn, just an amazing woman and author.
Carolyn: We both feel the same.
Diane: Yes, it’s lovely and you’re to be commemorated both for the book and for your ten years together in happiness. Thank you very much for being with us. Carolyn Lee Arnold is the website. Thank you very much to our engineers Matt Weidner and Aaron Keller, to our executive producer Robert Giolino and most of all to you our listeners. Remember to stay safe and do your research. Till next week thank you for Dropping In.
Thank you so much for dropping in. Please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at 8 AM Pacific Time and 11 AM Eastern Time on the Voice America Variety Channel. We’ll see you then.