People have often asked me what I hope to achieve as my 40th act or wonder why I began this journey of fearlessness to begin with and I haven’t always been truthful...until now.
I want to fall in love. There. I said it.
Admittedly, I know by expressing this truth, I am opening myself up to all sorts of judgments and comments surrounding the “search for love.” I know there are apps and sites and couples with advice and stories and loved ones with opinions and well, I just didn’t want to hear it.
I think somewhere along my journey, I picked up the false-belief that I must be doing something wrong if what I desire most hasn’t shown up in my life. And believe me, it’s a pretty sucky feeling to be carrying around.
So, my thinking was simple: What if I went on this quest...this journey of stepping up my life by doing things that scare me, things that force me out of my comfort zone and then share my experiences in a really truthful, honest and vulnerable way?
Perhaps, then...if I were doing something unconsciously to “block” this great love, certainly all would be revealed by the end of this journey. I hate to admit it...but I was expecting a certain fairy-tale ending.
But, I have learned time and time again...living is in the present...in the moments...in the choices we make along the way. Wanting or needing a certain outcome inevitably leads to disappointment. And ultimately, it is who we become along the way to what we desire that defines us.
The reason I didn’t share these next few acts is because they didn’t produce the outcome I desired. But...they all required serious amounts of courage to perform. And that's what needs to be celebrated.
WAIT...before I unveil these little gems...I must let you in on a little secret.
Whenever I’m inspired to do something scary in the name of romantic love, I always ask myself, “What would the girl in the movie do?”
Because no matter what the scenario, the “girl in the movie” always looks adorable even when she’s a klutz or trips and falls or messes up her words or goes into that party alone or makes a dumb joke or walks up to the cute boy. And somehow this gives me all the confidence I need to become...THE GIRL IN THE MOVIE.
Grab your popcorn. Dim the lights and enjoy! (And note: all these stories DID actually happen).
SCENE ONE/ACT ONE: CAN I KISS YOUR CHEEK, HANDSOME MAN?
(This act was inspired by someone’s dare to kiss the cheeks of thirty attractive and interesting men...as an alternative way to meeting my man. I said, “Sure!” Besides, if it did work out, what a great story it would be!)
(ENTER Handsome man. 5’10, dark hair, dimples, white shirt, tan skin, computer bag, and eating tacos.)
ME: (in yoga attire, finished eating tacos and sees HANDSOME MAN.)
“Excuse me, this is going to sound strange but...I accepted a dare to kiss the cheeks of interesting and attractive men...and well, it’s part of a bigger challenge I’m doing...40 fearless acts...because I just turned 40 and, so, (fumbling, while still looking adorable) I choose you to be my first...man...to kiss on the cheek (EEEK!).
HANDSOME MAN: (smiles) Well, I only kiss on the lips. (OMG!!!)
ME: (laughing nervously) Hahahahahhaha….hahahhaha…(Wasn’t expecting that!)
HANDSOME MAN: Why don’t you sit down and tell me more about this challenge you’re doing?
ME: uh, okay…(relieved)
(Both parties chat...asking each other questions and exchange in flirty conversation)
ME: I actually have to go and teach a class right now…
HANDSOME MAN: Oh, well, I’ll be here just working on some stuff if you want come back afterwards.
ME: (Unsure if he’s telling the truth) Okay, see you in a bit!
(After class...HANDSOME MAN is still working and done eating tacos)
ME: Hi, I’m all done with my class.
HANDSOME MAN: Great! I actually live right by here and have a nice roof deck where we can have a drink and talk more...
ME: (feeling adventurous) Okay, sounds great!
(Picturesque Manhattan roof deck, beautiful summer evening. ME is drinking wine, he’s drinking a beer.)
HANDSOME MAN: So…
(About mid-way through the evening, ME realizes while HANDSOME MAN is certainly handsome...he isn’t so interesting. Long pauses of ME asking questions while HANDSOME MAN asks ME...nothing.)
HANDSOME MAN: You know you’re going to have to kiss me…(He gets up from his seat and plants one on ME)
(ME and HANDSOME MAN exchange in a passionate make-out session. ME starts to drift, thinking about what she needs to do tomorrow, laundry and other mindless thoughts that one ponders when they’re not “feeling” it.)
ME: (Breaks away) I think I’m gonna get going.
HANDSOME MAN: Oh, really?!?! Okay...I’ll walk you downstairs. Well...why don’t you take my number...just in case. (ME takes number and laughs...on the inside).
ME: OK...thanks for being my first...uh...you know what I mean. (ME leaves smiling while still looking adorable).
ACT 2: THE CHAT SESSION
(Virgin America Flight LA → NY. Packed plane. ME playing on the fancy computer screen of Virgin America when ME realizes there’s a CHAT option where you can INSTANT MESSAGE anyone on the flight! ME gets curious.)
ME: Hmmm...Let’s see...how can I make this flight more interesting? Maybe there’s a single, attractive man on this flight that wants to “chat” with me.
(ME starts a chat session with: 12F, 3C, 24G, 9B…”Hello, would you like to chat with me?”)
(Nobody accepts the chat).
ME: Maybe this is dumb…(Seat 12F “Accepts the chat”) OMG!! THIS IS SO NOT DUMB!!!
ME: (starts typing away). Hi, How’s your flight going?
12F: Yo...it’s good, how’s yours?
ME: It’s nice...are you from NY or LA?
12F: I’m from NY, live in Long Island...You?
ME: I’m from LA and live in Astoria. I’m Charlene, btw….
12F: That’s a pretty name...My name is Marlon.
ME: As in...Wayans? hahaha, just kidding
12F: (no comment) Yo, I love LA...it was my first visit.
ME: (Still thinking about his name being “Marlon” and if “Charlene” and “Marlon” are good together...) Yeah, it’s cool but I like NY.
(ME and 12F continue the chat session until long pauses cause the chat session to shut off and turn back on again...and then shut off. And the typing mechanism is a very small keyboard that takes about one minute to type three words. ME decides to continue on the flight home...sans the chat session and sans meeting “Marlon” in person.)
FADE TO BLACK
ACT 3: 36 QUESTIONS TO FALLING IN LOVE
(Madison Square Park. Brisk Fall Day. ME is standing at the fountain across from SHAKE SHACK when a man with the words, “LIV” on his baseball cap approaches the same fountain.)
(ME has an idea. Maybe MAN WITH BASEBALL CAP would be willing to engage in the 36 Questions That Lead to Love, according to the New York Times. ME decides to approach him).
ME: Excuse me...are you waiting for someone?
MAN WITH BASEBALL CAP: No...why?
ME: Well, I was just wondering...if you would be willing to answer these 36 questions that lead to love with me? (ME, starts to realize how ludicrous this sounds so ME offers more explanation). You see...I am doing this challenge on performing 40 fearless acts since I just turned 40...and I thought this is really scary...walking up to a stranger and asking him if he’d be willing to answer these personal questions with me…(ME unsure if she’s looking adorable or just...crazy.)
MAN WITH BASEBALL CAP: Uh...well, how long will it take?
ME: I don’t really know...I’ve never done it before...which is why I’m asking…
MAN WITH BASEBALL CAP: Wait, so what is this for? Is it an app?
(ME looks confused. This is not going well. ME wants to abort the mission altogether and starts thinking of ways to escape without...looking even more crazy.)
ME: Well, it’s not an app...it’s from the NY Times Article on Love...It says these 36 questions will lead to love (OMG, did ME really just say that!)
MAN WITH BASEBALL CAP: (searching for words…) Uh..well…
ME: (interrupts) You know what? It’s okay...nevermind! Hahahaha...I understand you don’t have time….no worries!
(ME dashes away from MAN WITH BASEBALL CAP and starts laughing uncontrollably, as if she got away with murder! Perhaps she did!)
You're probably thinking two things: what exactly is a cuddle party and why would I want to go to one? Well...I decided to sign-up because I was curious (and if you’re wondering, I found the group on Meet-up) and because the thought of cuddling with strangers in a non-sexual way felt really scary and let's face it, kinda weird.
When I walked into the party, I immediately felt my guard up. Normally, when I walk into a room full of people, I'm extremely open, friendly and full of smiles. But here, I was the opposite. I felt cold, distant and generally, bothered.
A woman invited me into the kitchen. ”How many letters...” “Excuse me?,” I said, as I was expecting a different welcome response. “How many letters in your name?” “Uh, I dunno, I can spell it for you…” As I spelled my name, I got a peek into the living room. Blankets on the floor, pillows in place of chairs and two couches pushed towards the walls. I started to wonder what I got myself into.
Once she handed me my name tag, I escaped to one of the couches and sat as close to the armrest as possible. Arms and legs crossed; a "Hello...My name is..." sticker on my long-sleeved, zippered-up hoodie with absolutely no cleavage...I was as open as you could possibly imagine. Alright, cuddle-monsters, let’s get this party started!
According to the cuddle party rules - which were announced at the beginning of the 4-hour session - a cuddle party is a playful social event for adults to explore communication, boundaries and affection. How can touching and hugging and spooning be non-sexual? That’s what this “cuddle party” promised. The rules explained...
First, you must ask permission AND wait for an answer before you touch anyone. Second, a "Maybe" is really a "No" meaning, if you're unsure, just say "No." Third, you have every right to change your mind while someone is touching you and tell them to stop. Cuddling is about staying present and honoring what feels right to you. (I was beginning to like these rules and wondered if could steal them for some of the guys I’ve been dating). Fourth, you don’t have to participate in any of it; you can read, sit and talk, meditate, if you want. And, if you wanted to leave after the rules were read, you would receive a full refund.
The next statement piqued my curiosity: Laughter and tears are welcomed. I started to think about this one. Was this silly? Yes. Could I imagine myself laughing? Yes. But, tears? As I eyed everyone in the room, I started wondering about these people. What if you are someone who has never been cuddled before? Or you were socially awkward and never received a hug, or loving touch before? Or what if you weren’t attractive by societal standards or you had intimacy issues or were just plain lonely? I realized in that moment how this group was needed.
We then did a bunch of role playing. I turned to the guy next to me and we practiced asking, "Can I kiss you?" and our reply was, "No." We did this twice as to practice what it felt like to say "No" and to be told "No." It was also explained that while it is normal to feel attracted to someone and as a male, even get "excited" while being touched, we just couldn't act on it. It wasn't one of those parties...if you know what I mean ;-)
After the rules were read, I ran to use the bathroom. When I returned, seven people were off spooning each other; others were giving each other back rubs; one was getting a foot massage; and...where was I? I was in conversation with two other people...who weren’t touching anyone.
I realized this experience was about me exercising my “no.” If someone asked for a massage, or to spoon behind them, I kindly said, “No, thanks.” While I certainly enjoyed the conversations I was having, I just didn’t feel the need to touch or be touched by anyone. I decided in that moment that I just wanted to leave.
When I announced to the group I was ready to go, one cuddler said, “Oh, why don’t you stay a bit longer...C’mon, be fearless.” (I told them about my challenge and why I was there). I replied, “Oh, just being here and witnessing all this...is fearless enough!”
I was a bit annoyed that she used my verbiage to try and coax me into staying. But, then I remembered...this isn’t about her, it’s about me exercising my voice and saying “no” when I mean “no” and leaving when I wanted to leave.
Even though I didn’t actually participate in any of the cuddling, I received the biggest lesson of all: how fearless it is to walk into a situation and mid-way through realize it’s not for you and ACTUALLY leave; how fearless it is to say, “No” consistently and honor that. And how absolutely fearless it is to learn what you feel comfortable doing and what you don’t.
And, I realized I like to keep all my cuddling...private.
Last night a group of eleven friends and I went to the lower east side to voluntarily get trapped inside an old theater. We had sixty minutes to figure out clues and solve puzzles in order to…(dun-dun-dunnnn) Escape-the-room! I wouldn’t consider myself particularly good at solving puzzles or mysteries, for that matter. Most of the time, I’m pretty chill. When I lose something, I just assume it will show up, and eventually, it always does.
But this fearless act was different than all my previous ones because it required other people in order to finish…and not strangers, but people I knew…so, the question remained: How well could I work together with a group? What role, if any, would I play in helping us escape? And, could we collectively work together to not only escape the room but…make it out (dun-dun-duuuun) alive?
We entered the theater and it was old and dusty with puppets and muppets hanging from the walls. It looked a bit like Pee-Wee’s playhouse gone wrong. We greeted each other with hugs, smiles and general niceties…but would that last? Could someone in our group turn on us? Would it be…(dun-dun-duuun) me?
To protect the integrity of the game and it’s future players…I won’t give away any of the details but I will explain how it went down. Mariah was our host; She told us she would be present in the room and we could ask her for three and only three clues. She then said she would step out of the room so we can look it over and then the game would begin. (Door slams). We all look at each other blankly. We were given one prop to go with. And sure enough, the clock started counting down. Oh, it was ON!
Right away I thought to come up with a strategy. I announced to the group, “Hey guys, maybe we should split up and take a few people over there and back there and see what we can find?” Response? Crickets.
A few seconds later, our first clue was found. I don’t even remember looking at it. I just heard excitement and furry and stepped away so the others can figure this puzzle out. It seemed clear from the beginning that I had no idea how to approach this game, so I left it alone.
And then one superstar evolved from the group…Emily. Part spy, part musical theater actress, Emily just seemed to know where everything was. She opened this, figured out that and she was super calm and cool throughout. It was uncanny, actually. I was started to suspect that perhaps she played this game before. I mean, just who was this Emily anyway?!!
Ten minutes passed and we unlocked a special red button, in which I announced, “OMG, WE DID IT!!! WE ESCAPED THE ROOM! WE’RE GENIUSES!” (Really, I did nothing up until this point!) Jeff responds, “No, this isn’t the end…” and sure enough, the button was pressed and a riddle started playing. Boy, was I wrong. This was only the beginning of my confusion.
Twenty-five minutes passed and we finally gave in and asked Mariah for a clue. And it was a good one. We unlocked, I mean, Emily unlocked yet another box, with two clues. At this point, I felt useless. Did I actually graduate college? Just what kind of smarts do I have if I can’t even figure out this game?
As I pondered my existence, I noticed everyone in the group was working on this one clue while this other clue was sitting dormant. I stepped aside, grabbed it and went on my own.
“Hey guys! Over here!” I shouted. “I unlocked this one!” Everyone was shocked - including me. I started to gain confidence. I felt of value. Yes, yes…I remembered who I was…I was…good enough to uncover one clue!
This began a pattern. Everyone working on one thing and me chiming in, “Hey guys, what about this…” and I led us to another THREE major clues! Like, boom-boom-boom. I was on fire! In fact, after the forth one, I shouted to the universe while jumping up and down like a kid, “OMG!!! I AM SMART…I AM SMART!!!” I was thoroughly impressed with my skills.
I can’t take all of the credit because clearly, we all worked together to get it done. I may have gotten us in one door, but everyone else did the uncovering and solving of the puzzles to get us further. And then…
Four minutes left in the room…palms sweating…heads shaking…voices trembling…tumbleweed floating by…we were at the end of our streak. Could we make it out? Alas…one more lock to undue…and there she was….the big, red button. OMG. Could this be it? And sure enough…one press and the clock stopped at 56:59!! WE DID IT! We made it out. Oh yes, we crushed it.
There were hugs and tears and laughter and high-fives, finger-snaps and fist-pumps (in my mind, that is)…we all received metals of honor. (really, just this group picture) and the satisfaction that we, as a group, escaped the room!
I have to say that this experience restored my faith in myself again. I am smart, I am of value and I CAN unlock mysterious clues that make no sense. And even when doubted, even when people don’t hear me the first time or the second, or even the third or the fourth and sometimes, the fifth…I still speak my mind. I still act on my instincts. And I’m not afraid to be wrong. Cause even if I was, my one idea would lead to someone else's better idea and then maybe an even better one on top of that one…and so on.
So, my friends…when faced in seemingly impossible circumstances, always stay in the game, even if you act like a fool…you will never regret the fun you had while playing.
These blog posts are part of my #40daysoffearlessacts Challenge. When I turned Forty on June 6th of this year, I decided to STEP-UP my life and created a "40 Days of Fearless Acts" challenge. Follow along as I step out of my comfort zone, do things that scare me, that I've never done before and/or are just plain silly and make me laugh!