One hundred and fifty episodes and nearly three years into the Solo podcast, Peter McGraw invites Kym Terribile and Julie Nirvelli back into the Solo Studio to talk about the podcast’s progress.
They discuss Peter’s successes and weaknesses, as they look backward, forward, and inward regarding the podcast and the solo movement more generally.
Listen to Episode #150 here
Looking Forward, Backward, And Inward
Welcome back, Kym.
Peter, thanks for having me.
Welcome back, Julie.
It’s always a pleasure.
Frequent listeners know you two by now. You’ve been with me from the start, episode one, and both of you have returned for episodes 50 and 100 to talk about the progress we’re making with the Solo Movement. Here we are again in episode 150.
About three years in, give or take. Do you agree it’s amazing, Kym?
It’s incredible. I’m so excited to be here.
That’s so funny. These two have different styles. Kym is ultra-prepared and a little reticent. Julie is flying by the seat. They complement each other. We’re going to do something that we did at the very beginning which was I have you ask me some questions. I also have a couple of questions from the members of the community, which you can sign up for at PeterMcGraw.org/Solo. Speaking of the community, we’re going to tape a little bonus material at the end where we each share one of our favorite or favored sayings from the show. You can get that at the SOLO community. Before we start, I want to ask this. Three years in, you have been participants and observers. Do you have any overall reactions, ideas or feelings before we get to you two grilling me?
I love the evolution of watching you come into yourself as a host, someone participating in this SOLO Movement, living the lifestyle, and moving more in alignment with authenticity and vulnerability. It’s beautiful to see you opening up throughout the 149 previous episodes.
There may be some tears in this episode.
I agree with you, Kym. Obviously, there was a need for it, but to see how people have come together and when we did the Solo Salon in Europe, there were people there.
People flew from other countries and continents to be there.
Maria Shriver called it a Movement. It’s so cool to see and I’m excited to continue to see where it goes. I have a funny story. I was talking to someone and he was like, “My marriage might be ending, and it sucks.” I’m like, “There’s this show, SOLO.” I should have had a little more compassion, but I could have timed it a little bit.
You’re like, “We have a nice landing pad for you.”
It’s such a great resource. Sometimes, I catch myself when I’m talking to people about it. My enthusiasm comes through so much. Internally, they’ve probably heard it as much as they want to hear it right now, so you could stop now. It is exciting and there are a lot of cool materials. Thank you for doing this. I’m part of the community and appreciate all of it so thank you.
I appreciate it. I’m completely obsessed. I had no idea. Anyway, this was a pet project to start. People kept saying, “Peter, this is going to be bigger than the humor stuff.” I was like, “We’ll see. It’s a little early.” Now I think I believe them.
Who else is doing this at this level with diversity and a variety of an approach?
There are other voices out there, thankfully, because as we’ll discuss, I’m not for everyone. There’s A Single Serving Show by Shani Silver. It’s a little more focused on dating relationship stuff for women, which is incredibly valuable. There are a lot of folks who are struggling in a heteronormative world. That’s changing rapidly due to changes in culture, technology, etc. She’s a good resource for them. There are lots of books out there. Some of them are a little pop sciencey academic. There’s a good friend of the show, Bella DePaulo. To be honest, I don’t think I could have done this as easily if I didn’t have a catalog of work, research, ideas, and writings that Bella has done. She’s incredible.
Wasn’t she in episode 2 or 3?
She was in episode 2 and I need to have her back on. I want to do it in person. During that episode, I drove out to her place in Summerland, California to talk to her. I’d love to make a pilgrimage back. It feels that way to see her and re–engage, and how much more rich conversation we can have now.
Yeah, now that you’ve learned so much and explored.
The thing that I love most about this show is it’s not just a show. You’re focused on community and bringing people together. What happens on air is one thing and then there’s a whole other side of it that happens in the community and in person, which is beautiful too.
I made a decision to hold off on that a little bit. I was going to do something that I called Solo Sundays, where I was going to have a live conversation with members of the community. Frankly, it was going to be per pay. I’m losing thousands of dollars every year on this. I don’t know the exact number because I don’t want to know the number. At some point, it would be wonderful to find a way to support this endeavor beyond taking money out of my own savings to do it. I ended up waking up in the middle of the night and decided to cancel it for a variety of reasons. Some of it is that I’ve made a choice.
A newsletter went out to the community asking people if there are ways they can help grow the Movement, and especially grow the show. I don’t want to focus too quickly on the people who are part of it, although I adore them and want to help them. I think there are so many singles out there struggling. I only have a limited amount of time and energy. I want to try to reach as many as possible first and then go deep with them. There’s a sense of opportunity cost. Those Solo Sundays would be fun. I would enjoy doing them and people could get value out of them, but the amount of time prepping that, selling it, and doing it is time that I could spend on others. It’s more leveraged endeavors like doing the show better, working on the book, engaging with media, and those kinds of things.
There will be a better time for that when that’s more suited given the cycle of the show.
That’s what I came up with. It’s to grow it and then create even more richness. That’s not to say I’m not going to do any Solo Salons anymore or anything like that. I have this piece of paper in my folder and it says, “Fewer things better.” I’ve always done a few too many things, and there comes a little bit of a cost. I think that’s getting some momentum and can turn this into a classic. For those of you who are not familiar with marketing, there’s this adoption s-curve. Most products, brands, and ideas never get what’s called this hockey stick action or a big jump in customers, users, viewers, or whatever it is. I don’t know yet if Solo is going to get that either from me or even in general in our lifetime. It’s hard to say. We’re working against powerful cultural forces.
Would you do it anyway even if it doesn’t get that uptick? Does it still feel like something you want to pursue?
If I could see into the future and see that it was going to grow slowly and steadily. I’m envisioning this as a ten-year project so we’re three years in. You’re saying that if in the next seven years, it continues to grow as it has? Yes, I would still do it. I find it so personally enriching. I also think that there are enough people who are benefiting and appreciative.
That’s what I was going to say. You’re helping so many people, so that seems worth it.
Would I prefer it to be 10 million than 10,000? Of course. If it is only 10,000, it’s a big number. I’m making up a number. I don’t think that’s the case. I also think that if I didn’t try, I would regret it. I’ve gone through this. Part of the reason I put the kibosh on Solo Sundays was around this idea of, “Can I do it? Can I bring to bear my expertise, my creativity, my work ethic, and the way that I have with past endeavors and see what I can do?” My theme for the year is barbells. Our audience knows this. It’s literally barbells. That’s one thing I’m moving several days a week in the gym.
I’ve put on 8 pounds in the last eleven and a half months, which for most people are like, “That doesn’t sound good.” For me, I was underweight. I hadn’t been that thin since high school, and that’s not a good weight for me. That’s working and I’m enjoying it. The other idea behind a barbell approach is this walk or sprint, play or work on these two ends. You can take this in a lot of different ways. What I realized was I was jogging not with the show, that’s never been a problem, but with all the other things that I’m doing.
I had an article that I’m targeting for Harvard Business Review. That had been languishing. I had a book proposal that was languishing. I was making progress, but I wasn’t normal, get it done. That was the jogging version of this. I said, “I ought to either walk, which is do my professor job, do the show, and then have the book as a plaything in the background or I should start sprinting again.” If I had decided to walk with this project, I would regret it five years from now.
I’m in my 50s. I still have a lot of energy. I still have enough ambition that if I got to 60 and looked back, I would be like, “I could have done more with that,” so I started sprinting again and immediately, things changed. Not just in terms of productivity but in terms of mindset. Kym is going to love this because she loves the woo-woo. I feel like the universe is already reacting to my decision to sprint again. That’s a tease for something we’re going to get into with this show.
You’ve probably never said that on the show before, anything about the universe providing.
It’s coming up more and more.
Kym and I are believers in that but you, maybe not so much.
I know. The more mushrooms I take, the more I hang out with you two. I don’t know what to call it. Kym wants to know the time of my birth and the location. She needs to figure it out. I can’t describe it exactly, but I’m becoming a little more spiritual. For lack of a word, there are forces, energy or things out there that are difficult to measure and understand. I’m not talking about trying to explain coincidence. I believe that there’s something about putting things out there in the world more so now than I ever had before.
This probably came a lot from your sabbatical and finally having time to sit and slow down because you’ve been on the go since you were in grad school in college. Your sabbatical was the first time you gave yourself some space and started putting it into practice. Weren’t you meditating or trying to meditate?
I’ve done that at various times but I’ve started meditating again. In any case, whatever it is, there’s something happening.
You could give him some crystals for Christmas.
Crystals and you can be like sound bathing department and staging.
Here’s what we’re going to do. You have prepared some questions for me. We’ve categorized them into three buckets, which are looking back, looking forward, which is something that we’ve done in episodes 50 and 100, and then we have a category that I call looking inward. These are some things that are a little bit more personal that’s there. Let’s talk about looking back at 150 episodes in 3 years. Let me have it.
An obvious question is, what episode and/or guest stand out as one of your favorites? Favorite could be categorized in so many ways.
I know. It’s hard.
That’s a hard question.
I like to think of my episodes as children. I love them all. I’m going to put forth one. It’s a coincidence that Kym is here for it, but very early on, it might be episode 3, Why are Superhero Single. I like that episode for a number of reasons. One is we have a dynamic guest, William Kuskin. He’s great and a performer. He’s not a big man, but he’s a big personality. He’s a world expert on comic books. What I like about that episode is that it’s a nice example of what the show can do. It happened early. I’m not super proud of the early episodes. The sound quality is not always very good.
I’m not always very good but I’ve gotten better. I’m still figuring out a lot of things. I didn’t have perspective and so on. That was an episode that not only was entertaining, but it had this very interesting idea that single people bring value to the world in ways that non-single people may not. If the most important people in the world, like superheroes or imaginary world, are best unencumbered by family and we can hold them in such high esteem for doing such good, why can’t we apply that more generally to the world? Just because you decide to forgo a family or your family decides to forgo you in a more sad way doesn’t mean you don’t have contributions to make to the world. If you haven’t read the early versions of the show, that’d be a fun one.
That was a great episode. It was fun too because I guest-co-hosted that. It was fun to record. We were in his office and there were superheroes all over the place.
The other thing is he talked about how the Marvel Universe is a global phenomenon. You can go to most places in the world and they know who Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman are, and so on. There was this metaphorical thing about how these superheroes have permeated the globe. This is also happening with singles. This is something I was completely unaware of when I first started this. Obviously, this is a US-centric or at least Western-centric pod, but you’re seeing the rise of singles in Asia. I even came across an article about spinsters in Nigeria. There’s this little bit of bubbling happening in these places that are very escalator-focused out there.
There’s no denying that there is a global change happening. I would go as far as to say as we may very well get to a place where I don’t think partnering up becomes the minority, but where marriage becomes a minority. Maybe someday, there will be a show, The Married Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life, where they talk about how discriminated against they are for being married and so on. As an aside, there was a time when no one was married. Throughout most of human history, the norm has been to be single.
It’s only in maybe 100 years or so that this marriage thing became so prominent, pronounced, and crowded everything else out. As a quick aside, I had this great conversation about a book, Citizen Bachelor. The historian who I was talking about was like, “Being single back in Colonial America wasn’t that big a deal.” I had a hard time getting my head around that because I’m used to living in this world. It wasn’t as non-normative as you would think it would be. It was starting to happen, but it wasn’t full-on in 1960 when almost everybody got married and did so by age 21.
Is that why there’s a brothel in every Western movie?
I’ll give you that one. Do you guys have one that comes to mind?
I love the conversation between you and Chester See and Darwyn Metzger. That was my favorite episode.
That’s I love you, Man.
It was an informal conversation you guys had, but I love hearing men open up, be vulnerable, and talk about relationships, heartache, growth points, pain points, and what they want. It’s expansive for me to hear that there are men out there who are vulnerable, openly, trying, and looking back on patterns in relationships and growth. All three of you wanted different types of relationships. I love that episode. It was vulnerable and raw.
In that episode, I started saying I love you a lot more. A lot of that came from that episode. I was doing it and then I was like, “Why am I being so cheap holding on frugal with this phrase?” It is so powerful when I have a lot of love in my life.
Do you say it to your male and female friends?
How is it received?
Generally good. I talked about this once when I had a close male friend tell me later. I was wrapping up a call with him and I said I love you. He later said, “I didn’t know how to respond because I don’t use those words with anybody besides my wife, kids, and parents.” I said, “You don’t have to respond. I have love in my heart for you and I wanted you to know that.”
What did he say?
He expressed gratitude. There’s a lot of pressure. This came up in the Sex in the City episode. There’s a scene where Carrie says I love you to Mr. Big, a boyfriend. He doesn’t reciprocate and it causes all these problems. I’m like, “It’s okay for someone to say it.” You should not say I love you as a tool to get it back. The most communal thing is to give as you can.
I also have been doing that more. I’ve been saying that to my girlfriends. We say it all the time like, “I love you.” I started saying it to him and the first three-ish times, he didn’t say it back, which was fine. He then said it for the first time. It was cracking that shell a little bit. My daughter turned fifteen and she had a slumber party. One of her girlfriends was hugging her goodbye. Her girlfriend said to her, “I love you.” She was like, “I love you too.” When everybody left, she said, “I love that my friends say we love each other.” It’s such a nice thing to share and say. It brightens everyone’s day.
As long as it’s real and it’s coming from a place of authenticity and warmth, let it fly, people.
It shows other people that they can say it too. I love you, Peter.
I love you, Kym. I love you, Julie.
I love you both.
What’s your favorite?
My favorite episode is the early ethical Non-Monogamy with Amy.
There was one early on in the first ten with Jillian. I had no idea.
That blew my mind. That was enlightening for me because my past script had been, “I like this person. That means I should be in a relationship with them.” I was onboarding people way too quickly. I’ve been dealing with business onboarding lately. One of Pete’s famous sayings, which I don’t even know if it’s come up that often on the show is, “Slow to hire, quick to fire.”
I use that one with Julie a lot.
I needed it because that would be the thing. I was like, “I like this person. I should be in a relationship with this person,” and then figure things out. Way too often, it was like, “I should figure it out first.” That episode flipped a great switch for me to view dating differently. I started viewing it more as an adventure, meeting new people, no expectations, nowhere could this lead, what is a long-term plan, or eliminating someone out of the gate because there was one thing that I would feel like, “That’s a deal breaker. I could never be in a relationship with someone who does that, says that, or thinks that.” I’ve been able to meet so many more interesting people and cultivate those relationships in many different ways. It’s been uplifting and so much less pressure. That episode for me that was pivotal for my growth.
I should revisit this in some way. The topic of monogamy of course comes up because of the idea that some people are single by choice, some single by chance, and some single by the mismatch. They want a different type of relationship. They don’t ever allow themselves to consider what that is. It’s intimidating to do non-escalator relationships. You have a lot of learning to do, how you find these people, and how you talk about it.
It can be very scary to do because, for some people, it’s a moral issue. They consider it immoral to do anything but the escalator, so you risk that yucky response from someone. That episode was useful. It was licensing and it was great how unapologetic Jillian was about how you do this with integrity, honesty, and so on. I thought it was eye-opening. That was a random episode. I was like, “Do you want to tape this?” She’s like, “Sure,” so I agree.
Peter, what was the most vulnerable conversation you’ve had on the show?
This is something I’ve been working on. It’s hard because I talk about this idea of vulnerability and bravery on occasion, at least in my private life. I sometimes find myself a little reluctant because I don’t want to alienate folks. I want to have a big tent. I don’t want someone to be put off from the show because there’s a lot of valuable information to be had just because they find something unappealing about me in that sense. We live in a world obviously where people have strong opinions and so on. I have to overcome some natural reluctance at times to wade into something that might feel a little bit controversial or whatnot. Yet, every time that I am vulnerable, I’m rewarded for it.
Every time I let myself go, that’s when people reach out to me. One example of this was I did an episode about getting stood up. In that episode, I talked about how I was excited about this person, how shocking it was, how much it hurt, and how I was struggling with it. I decided to do the episode to write about the experience as a way to process this pain and to better understand it. I got so many messages from that one. One is that were filled with empathy because this is not, sadly, an abnormal thing for people to do. One is where people express their appreciation for how thoughtful I was about it and how it helped them gain a new perspective on that thing.
One of the nice things about it was the act of writing the show did help me. I still decided to launch it because I thought it was useful to share. Another one of these is forthcoming. It’s the next episode. I have an episode, Truth Or Truth with Suzette. Suzette is a member of the community. She was an excellent guest on the How To Tidy Up episode. We have a great dynamic. I like Suzette. She’s smart and interesting. She has a compelling story, which you’ll hear about. In that episode, to tease it, she asked me a question which was, “What would you tell your 25-year-old self if you could?”
Overall, my response was that I would tell him that it’s going to be okay, especially it’s going to be okay with regard to dating and girls. Twenty-five-year-old Peter looked like he was doing fine, but he was not. I was hapless and a late bloomer. In that conversation, I’ll be honest, I thought about editing it out, but I’ve decided to leave it. I talk about how when I was in my 30s and I was coming into my own in terms of confidence, which it’s an aphrodisiac, better than oysters. Also, how I hadn’t always acted with integrity in my dating life. In the episode, I talk about how embarrassed I am by that behavior.
The better word upon reflecting on it is how much I regret that behavior. Very simply, the behavior was I would meet a woman who I was attracted to and was interested in, but more sexually than romantically. I did not tell her that. Through omission, not commission. I never lied. I led her to believe that I was more interested in the escalator because I was going about dating the way you would normally do for an escalator. Those relationships obviously didn’t work out. There could be hurt feelings and so on in that way.
First of all, I was never having conversations with anyone about this. I wasn’t thinking deeply about this stuff. I was trying to operate within an escalator framework even though I didn’t want to ride the escalator. I wish I didn’t do that but I did. At some point, I realized how wrong it was and I made a conscious choice to not do that, and to be vulnerable. If there was someone I was attracted to but not interested in the escalator, to be able to say that in a sense or ask for what I wanted.
Have you done that recently in dating?
How did it go?
It’s great. It’s such a win-win. First of all, it’s the only way to do it. What happens is that you want someone to be with you in whatever way, sexually, romantically, friends, or whatever because they have full information about who you are and what you want and they get to decide. Getting a no to me is not bad in those situations. It’s not as good as getting a yes but it’s not bad. I want clarity in the same way that anyone wants clarity when it comes to their dating life.
It’s why ghosting is so horrible to people. Just tell me no or say, “No, thanks.” Do it politely so I know to move on rather than this uncertainty that exists. What I had done immediately was I stopped pursuing people that I didn’t want to have a romantic relationship with because that’s the way you should do it. That’s the high-integrity response. The more recent thing is to say, “Would you like this style of relationship with me?” They get to say, “No, thanks” or “That would be great.”
Even someone who maybe someday wants a romantic relationship might be like, “You’re Mr. Right now. I’m okay with that.” You could make assumptions about what somebody wants, but also give them the choice by having an open conversation so everyone is on the same page.
I’m open to a wide array of possibilities. It’s always one of those things when someone says, “What are you looking for?” I don’t even know how to answer that question. I can tell you what I don’t want, but it depends on that other person because I’m not living in a world where I just want casual or romantic. It depends a little bit on that person where I’m at and what’s happening.
People ask the question, “What do you want?” It seems like if you’re asking that question, you have an answer already in your head of, “I want A, B, C, D, E, F, G,” and the whole alphabet. What you want is a closed-minded question because how do you know? People might think they know what they want, but if they’re not open to different possibilities, then they could get something that would be amazing, but not what they thought was on their checklist.
It’s almost going back to the saying I love you to get it back. When you’re asking someone like, “What do you want,” it’s giving them permission to say what they want when they normally wouldn’t say, “This is what I want.”
It’s fine to turn around and say, “Maybe you could tell me what you’re looking for.” What I typically say is I’m looking for a range of possibilities depending on the person from fun dates to road trips, friends with benefits, or more serious dating, and then I let them respond.
When do you usually have that conversation?
It depends on how I meet someone. In the app, it’s sometimes early. Sometimes even before we talk. Because I’m not doing the escalator even if it’s serious dating, I want to have that conversation very early.
That’s part of being in integrity with it. If you’re already clear like, “This is where my limits are,” you want to let someone know pretty early on.
The beautiful thing about it, and this is something that I did not anticipate back in my early 30s, was how sexy honesty is. First of all, I was saying how sexy confidence is, but honesty and confidence go hand in hand. It’s so chicken shit to not ask for what you want because you’re leading someone astray, even if it’s by omission. “People will surprise you,” that’s what I said to Suzette. I have certainly had situations with women who go, “I can trust this guy. He’s not giving me exactly what I want, but I can trust him and I do enjoy my time with him. Let’s see what might happen.”
I want to push back on that chicken shit comment a little bit. It’s not easy for a lot of people to ask for what they want, and it’s a good goal to be able to do. I come from a background of my childhood baggage like, “I’m not important. Everyone else is more important than I am.” It has taken me a lot of work to get to the point where I can ask for what I want. I guess I was chicken shit because of my upbringing but it’s easier said than done for a lot of people.
Let me clarify because it’s very easy to ask for what you want if you want the escalator.
It’s because that’s what most people want.
That’s where the asymmetry is. It’s to be scared because you’re going against the dominant culture. The problem is that when you’re scared to do that, then the dominant culture stays dominant. It’s fair.
I thought of one little nugget to share from my friend Greg, who was on the STI episode. This is a cool way to look at vulnerability. Instead of asking somebody first what they are looking for or something that’s going to make them vulnerable, share your vulnerability first. It’s like, “This is what I’m looking for. This is what I’m not looking for and what I’m open to. How about you?” That way, you’re being vulnerable first. I did that. I started to ask someone a vulnerable question and I said, “Before I ask you that question, my friend Greg suggests, so before I ask you that question, I’ll tell you my vulnerable thing.” It led to a great conversation.
That’s wonderful because when someone says, “What are you looking for,” you should just say what you’re looking for. If it’s one thing, a range of things, or you’re not sure, it’s fine as long as you answer that question honestly. The way you go about answering the question in some ways matters more because it’s not about convincing someone to go out with you. It’s about finding the right people.
It’s better to do it early on because eventually, you’re going to figure it out.
That’s right. That’s where those hurt feelings, disappointment, and so on come from. I’ll say this one last time. I’m so embarrassed and so regretful. It’s not like what I did was completely outside the norm of how people behave. Only then did I realize that it was not right. Now with the perspective I have, I realize how not right it is. I wish I could change it but I can’t.
It’s great that you’re sharing this because a lot of men operate that way. Certainly, when I was more of the escalator type of person, I encountered men like that, and I have male friends who are like that. It might be hard to say what’s the most common practice, especially for younger men. It’s important for men and women to hear this conversation because I have female friends when I was younger who would be like, “We slept together so that means what?”
I’m like, “That means nothing. It doesn’t mean anything.” It’s important for everybody to understand that people behave that way and its immaturity. As you become more mature, learn more, have more respect for other people, are less selfish, and all these things that come with age and wisdom, then you can make those adjustments. This is a great conversation to have. I’m glad you didn’t edit that out of the next episode’s conversation because it’s a great topic.
I got to hear this again next episode.
I know but we need all the details. The big takeaway is when you know better, do better. Forgive yourself for what you did because you didn’t know at that time. Sharing your experience will show other people how to operate moving forward.
Thank you. Perfect segue. Let’s get into Looking Forward.
Kym and I were both on the same page wondering. My thought was, in a perfect world where there are no obstacles, what does the Solo project look like in five years?
That would be eight years in. I would say I’m spending 100% of my time on it. That would be the perfect world. I would do the unthinkable and retire from academia because all that work gets in the way. That would be certainly the case. My day job would remove the obstacle. That would also mean that I’m able to make a living doing this so I don’t use my day job to fund this work. I would still want to do the podcast.
If it was up to me, I would do the podcast full-time. I enjoy it so much. I’m so obsessed with it. There are so many topics and things that can be done. There would be a book out. I don’t want to say I’d be working on a second book. It would be the fourth book, but the second book on the topic. That would likely be in the works because there are so many things to do with this. I do think that there would have an event component to this where we are bringing people together.
The Solo Salons are so amazing. I’ve been to all of them. It’s such a cool, amazing thing. It will build and grow maybe financially. I know they haven’t been successful from a financial standpoint, but I feel it’s such a great experience that it would grow.
What I want to do is show up and host. That would be an ideal world. It would be fun to have them going on and be like, “I’m going to go to LA this weekend. There’s a Salon. I’m going to go to New York next weekend. There’s a Salon.” You can imagine other conference-style things. I’m not exactly sure how it is but I do believe that single people are thirsting for connections. They’re looking for something that feels different. These are not dating events. They’re not meant to be that, but they do have a very fun energy because it’s not a bunch of couples.
I could see men’s groups and all kinds of things.
The short answer to your question, Julie, is it’s a full-time project. It’s not just media but it’s also events and has a lot more breadth, where people can pick and choose what’s the right connection that they want to have to it.
I love that. Can I ask you what’s to come and what’s on the horizon if there are any plans for Solo?
I’m going to keep doing the show as is. I’ve thought about adding episodes. These episodes come out every Thursday morning in the United States. There’s a different model, which is to release an episode whenever I tape it. That allows having more than one a week. I’ve thought about doing that, but I’m going to sit tight for now and keep this. I have to tell you I have probably 30 episodes in various stages of idea prep.
It would be interesting to know from the audience how everyone feels about the cadence.
Let me know via the Slack channel. It is this whole community.
It’s an interesting question. Some people told us at the Solo Salon, “I listen to it every Thursday morning.”
That’s wonderful. It’s not cumulative so you can skip episodes. It’s not like a math class. If you skip a math class, then suddenly, you’re lost. You can pick and choose as you want. That’s an argument to do more. For example, there’s a decent amount of relationship talk, but there are people on the part of the community who don’t have any interest in a relationship. They may want to sit those out. I don’t blame them for doing that. There are other people who don’t care as much about some of the pop science stuff or whatever. Having more than one a week could work depending on that. I could see if you’re a regular audience, it could get a little bit much.
Do you think you would still find joy if you were putting out multiple a week?
The only problem is that it’s a lot of work. There are these shows out there where people just show up and they shoot the breeze. This is not one of those. For me, I want to come prepared. Something else would have to go for that to happen. The other thing that’s happening is, I had mentioned earlier in this episode about a book proposal that’s languishing. This is a tiny bit premature, but the day before the taping, a lit agent who I got reconnected with sent out the proposal to publishing houses. I’ll know very soon if there’s interest and then soon-ish if it sells.
If it sells, what would be the timeline?
I had a conversation with him about word counts and delivery dates. We agreed one year from now, I would deliver the manuscript, which has pretty major implications for me personally because it’s a deadline that I’m not sure I can hit.
Why do you think you can’t hit it?
Of course, I could deliver a manuscript a year from now, but can I deliver the manuscript that I believe the world needs and that I believe I can do? The reason is I’m a strong ideas person and I’m a strong speaker but I’m not a strong enough writer. Kym disagrees.
I don’t believe that at all.
I’m not a fast enough writer. I can write well but it takes a long time to get to that place. This is a nine-chapter book and there’s a lot to do. I’ve been working on it for a long time but now, you have a date that it’s due. The question is, can I deliver a book that I’m proud of 364 days from the day we’re taping this?
I have complete confidence in you. I’ve seen your writing. You’ve grown not only in so many ways but in your writing, so much since I met you.
Kym has helped. She gives me great notes. I reread the proposal because I had taken a little break away from it and I was like, “This is pretty good.”
I would tell you if it wasn’t. I have no problem.
Here’s why we know it’s good. This lit agent, by the way, was someone I had been in touch with for my second book, Shtick To Business. He sent it to two publishers. They passed and then he told me, “Go away.” This is not someone who’s doing charity. He’s a big-time.
He jumped all over it, right?
It’s huge. Your proposal was great. You’re a great storyteller. I love the memoir bits in it. It’s going to be good. Hang in there. While we’re talking about this, can we share about what happened with other agents? Do you want to talk about that? It’s a great story about you being very true to who you are and very dedicated to your beliefs around the Solo project.
Julie, you know this story.
I do as well.
Kym, why don’t you tell it? You and I were talking through all of this.
Let me see if I can get it right. You had initially sent it over the summer to a husband-and-wife team who were going to look at it. They gave you a timeline. You submitted it to them, but they wanted changes. You changed it and resubmitted it. She came back and was like, ‘I’m married and you’re wrong, essentially.” I don’t remember the details but that was my takeaway. It was almost shaming you in a way for having the beliefs and the manuscript. She wanted you to make major changes about it that weren’t in alignment with you. You said, “No. I can’t work with these people. This is not my book and this is not the book I want to write.” You stepped away from an opportunity where they probably would’ve published or represented you.
They wanted to rep the book. For those people who’ve never published a book, getting a lit agent is not trivial. It’s hard to do. It’s a critical step because the way the industry works, these folks have relationships. They’re constantly selling to people. By virtue of them bringing forth is already part of the gatekeeping that happens in the traditional publishing world. To be honest, I am greatly appreciative of them.
They were enthusiastic and many of the notes that they gave me made the proposal a lot better. When it came down to that last round of changes, I couldn’t do it. This is going to be the hardest piece of writing I ever do in my life. This is probably going to be the third or fourth hardest thing that I ever do in my life. To then do it for someone else and not do something that feels authentic would rob me of the motivation. It would no longer be a joyous process.
I read her response and it’s almost like she was defending the marriage which makes me feel like she was a little bit out of her authenticity because they saw the opportunity and know that there was a need for a book like this. She didn’t believe what you were saying. She believed in a different version. She wanted you to say something else that made her more comfortable because she’s a married person. I think they saw dollar signs like, “This book could go somewhere, but I don’t believe in that version. I like it a little softer warm tea version.”
I open the book with a story of my bachelor party. I’m a new professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and I invite fifteen friends. They fly in from all over the country for a weekend to celebrate my bachelorhood. It’s a family weekend at the university so I end up renting out my neighbor’s apartments, including yours, Julie.
I got to attend. I was one female who attended 1 or 2 of the events.
People wished me hearty congratulations. Stories were shared, glasses clinked, backs were slapped, and all this stuff. I say there’s one hitch. I wasn’t getting hitched. I tell about how I decided why can’t married people get to celebrate in all these ways like weddings, rehearsal dinners, honeymoons, anniversaries, and showers. Why couldn’t I celebrate my bachelorhood? This agent said that she believed it was arrogant to start the book with that story. The counterfactual was this. Imagine if I was writing a book about the Married Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life and I opened the book with a story about my wedding day.
Would anyone in the world say that’s arrogant?
No offense to anybody who’s married or been married. A wedding is a pretty arrogant thing to do if you’re going to use the word like that.
Yeah with what you ask people to do and give.
I don’t think it’s arrogant, but I’m saying it is a celebration about yourself. This is the best way to open this book. There are other ways you could open it, but it’s a nice little hook.
It’s fun and licensing. The most important thing we’re doing here is letting single people feel comfortable about the decisions that they’ve already made. That’s the most important thing that this show does. It does other things, but the most important thing is people feel seen, heard, understood, and more comfortable with what they’re already doing and have already been doing. They felt outside as a result of it. These agents also gave me a great gift because what I did was I rewrote the entire proposal again knowing that I was going to have to find different lit agent who sees the vision. I kept in mind that critique. I wanted to write a proposal that was unapologetic yet impossible to critique from that perspective.
For example, I added a line very early on that said, “My thesis is straightforward. Single living is not as bad as people assume. Married living is not as good. Whether you find that self-evident or annoying, I have the data. We’re going to put these things on an equal playing field. One is not better than the other. One is not worse than the other. That’s what I want the book to do.” This show has been an evolution. I believe that you can, as a solo, move in and out of relationships in a way that your status as a person never changes.
That’s a powerful idea because some people who read the book will get married someday. Some of them will never consider it. Some are open. Who knows? Some will do it differently. I want to be able to create a perspective that if you’re truly a solo, a married person reading the book, you’re going to be like, “I get that. I see that thing.” You’re not going to feel less than in the same way that a single person ought not to.
I’m proud of you. Turning it on a lit agent is a big deal and decision. You believed in what you had to say and you stayed authentic enough to walk away from that if you want to get woo-woo. That’s why the universe rewarded you with a new agent immediately. It was within weeks who’s now out trying to sell your book within days of submitting that. It’s huge. I’m not shocked. No is a very magnetic word.
It is true. Quitting can be good. I quit the humor research because it was going to get in the way of this. Saying no is good because it opens up possibilities for other things. It’s exciting. I have to admit it’s nice to savor and be excited in that but there’s a little part of me that’s like, “This is okay.” Even right now, I’m not exactly comfortable talking about this because there’s not a contract in here.
There will be.
I don’t think the point of the story is you signing a contract. The point of the story is you believe in what you had to offer enough to walk away.
The book is going to get published no matter what. It’s not like these people are going to stop me from getting the word out. What I want them to do is help. What was interesting is the agent who I’m working with now had one question for me. He said, “Peter, what does success look like for you in this book?” I said, “We get this book in the hands of as many struggling single people as possible.” That’s why I want to work with a big-time publisher because I want to reach as many people as possible.
He liked that answer. I have a segue into my next topic. Since you’re going to have this deadline of a year, you may have to cut some activities out of your life to focus more on your project. I’ve heard that you’ve been experimenting with something along those lines already.
That’s true. Kym, have you heard about this?
No, we haven’t talked about this. I saw it on the notes.
I referenced the Getting Stood Up episode earlier. In some ways, that incident has started me paying attention to my dating in a way that I hadn’t been. I had been on autopilot. I spent all this time in LA during the pandemic, came back to Colorado, and leaned into being unconventional about my dating. The nice thing about Denver is it’s a good city for that. There are places that are more traditional and less traditional. Denver is a little more on the less traditional side. Of course, we’re still operating within a dominant culture where the average person out there dating is looking for the escalator, but there are enough people here. I have to admit that I also had been not as aggressive and ambitious as I have always been when living here. A friend said, “Peter, it’s okay to take a victory lap.”
It’s me jogging not sprinting. My dating life has been very full, exciting and fun. I’ve been learning a lot. I’m meeting a lot of different types of people and having different types of experiences. I’m leaning into this notion of relationship design, honesty, authenticity, and so on. That’s been great. It would’ve been very easy for me to do that indefinitely. There’s no reason to change. To be honest, as a man, especially as a man who when he was young, didn’t have much success, there’s enjoying a bit of success in a time of life where I probably wouldn’t have anticipated it. However, nevertheless, there’s still a ton of bad behavior by others.
It’s still a lot of work. It’s energy, attention, and distraction. It’s swiping, texting, and meeting. Even though it’s going well, most meetings don’t go anywhere because it’s hard to find someone you connect with. It’s especially hard to find someone you connect with when you’re not looking for the standard thing. While I was having fun in my dating life and meeting wonderful women, as I said, I’m having these cool experiences with every one of them, there’s the time spent and the headaches and so on.
Around this time when I was getting into how things were languishing, I was noticing these things come in waves. You have good experiences and a series of bad experiences. I start going, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this the way I’m doing it?” Some of it is exciting and fun. Some of it is like, “That’s just what you do.” Of course, I’m an overthinker and I journal. Whenever I encounter a problem, I look to problem-solve it. One of the things that I got thinking about was, “What if I took that energy and that time and I channeled it into this project?” I’m not 100%. I don’t want to be celibate. I don’t want to live in a world where there are no women in my life besides my friends, but I’m not working towards some goal.
It’s not like this is precious time to find my lifelong partner, a soulmate, a ride to die, and all the things that you hear. I started thinking, “What should I be doing? What could I be doing differently?” My personal experience as a man who thankfully still has a sex drive is that there are times when it is distracting. What do you do if you were me in those situations? You either masturbate to relieve the tension or you pursue. You try to find an outlet for this because you’re revved up. Those are fine strategies. What I got thinking was what I could do is stop or regulate the pursuit, but then I got thinking that’s not solving the problem.
The problem is that there are times when I feel like my desires are out of control where my libidos are controlling me rather than me controlling my libido. We were talking about energy before. If you believe woo-woo in this notion of energy, could it be more powerful to channel it? There’s been a long history of men, in particular, having no sex before the big fight like Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. Other types of philosophers recognize there’s this energy and that you can maybe use it.
It’s like tantra.
What’s interesting is there’s not much written about this, but I have a friend, Nick, who practices abstinence. He’s a little bit of monastic life and he’s a very interesting character. We’ve been having these conversations about the power of this. I hope to get him on the show someday. I’ve settled on a fasting metaphor. I call it sexual fasting. Here are the basic ideas. I do an intermittent fast. After a certain time of night, I don’t eat, and then I don’t eat first thing in the morning. I get to 10:00 or 11:00 that I have my first meal. What’s great about that is let’s say I’m hungry at 9:00 AM. I don’t drop everything. I don’t snack. I don’t start planning my meal, or let it overtake my life. I just go, “I’m hungry. At 11:00, you’ll be able to eat.”
I notice it, I sit with it, and it passes. This may sound crazy but I have been thinking a lot about, “Can I control the seemingly uncontrollable?” Rather than just create some tactics that allow me to concentrate more on my work and avoid the headaches around dating, can I sit in this, understand, and meditate on this drive? Unlike hunger, it does go away. If you fast all day and then another day, at some point, your body is like, “You need to eat or you’re going to die.” That’s not the case with sexual drive.
I haven’t settled on all the tactics and I haven’t figured it all out but coincidentally, this is happening at exactly the same time that I’m about to have a very ambitious, challenging, creative task ahead of me. I wonder if I might be able to make healthier decisions or more intentional decisions. I feel like I have more control over life in the same way that I now have more control over my eating than I did before.
This is so interesting.
Do you think you and Nick might do a whole episode on this topic?
I think so. I just got to wrangle him. There’s more to be said about it beyond my own personal story.
You’re still trying to play around with it and figure out how it works, what to do, and what the parameters are.
Earlier, you were saying you overthink, solve problems, and write in your journal. I was thinking Kym and I might pull a tarot card to solve a problem.
I use my pendulum. I have all the things.
That’s reasonable. I would not have come up with this idea if Nick wasn’t my friend. Nick and I have been having conversations about this for two years. Now I go, “I get what he’s talking about. I just had to be in the right place.” I was open to the idea, talking to him, and seeing it. In some ways, he’s a powerful presence because of his ability to be abstinent. That’s for fasting. You can turn it on and off.
You’re saying maybe that converts his energy into a different presence.
It changes so much of it. His persona is different, especially when he does engage with someone who he might find interesting because it allows him to fully explore who that person is.
He must be being so selective.
Yes, I think so.
That’s an episode.
I’m going to listen to it.
Nick, we want you.
Do you want to do some audience questions?
Let’s do that. We have one at least that’s relevant.
Do you want me to ask it? This is a question from the audience, “Do you feel pressure as a figurehead in this movement to not evolve your relationships into ‘serious lens’ even if you like someone you’re dating?
Pete never has a one-word answer. That is impossible.
He said he was going to move really quick.
In the book proposal, I have a line. I get this on occasion, which is like, “Peter, I’m impressed with what you’re doing but what happens if you meet someone?” It’s almost always asked by a married person. What they’re hoping I’ll say is, “I’ll admit I was wrong all along and marriage wins.” They asked that maybe in part because it’s a little bit of a threatening idea to them. It’s a little bit of a backhand to compliment too.
I hope it’s clear by now that I see myself as a solo. First of all, I don’t like the word serious relationship but if I were to have a more long-term romantic relationship, it wouldn’t be an escalator. It might be an escalator adjacent. Who knows? I don’t think it, in any way, diminishes my previous experience as a single person. Moreover, this project is much more about seeing yourself as a whole person than anything having to do with your relationship status.
The point is to design a relationship that works for you and your partner. If you meet someone, then you would design something that is probably not traditional and would work for both of you, which is the point of the relationship side of the show.
Maybe I’ll get into this fasting thing. I’ll decide that I’m going to go the opposite direction, not date for a long time, and have that be a choice. I’ve done that at various times in my life. Much of my grad school life was about being single by choice because the stakes were so high. I don’t think it hurts. I think it undermines anything. If I could do that relationship well while maintaining my wholeness and some autonomy, and be able to navigate any unconventionality, it would be a perfect test case for what I’ve been arguing. I don’t think having a solo identity is impossible. It’s challenging, but not impossible.
Solo isn’t single. Solo is autonomy.
I’d like to say that some singles are solo and some solos are not single. Most singles are not solo. Our goal is to make all of them solos. I’m focusing more on them. The folks on the other side of the fence cutting the other grass, I want to make them more solos too because it will enhance their relationships. Let’s wrap. These are exciting times. I feel like there’s some energy happening. We didn’t even mention the most obvious thing, which was the show hit, which is out there in the background helping a little bit. This has been a big year for solo.
It’s the biggest of the three, but not the biggest of the eventual history.
Thank you for being such good friends, for being so supportive, and for contributing so much time, energy, and thoughtfulness to this.
Thank you for having us. I love you.
It’s so fun to be a part of this. I love it. Thank you and I love you too.
I love you both. Cheers.
- Kym Terribile
- Julie Nirvelli
- Episode 1 – Previous Episode
- Episode 50 – Previous Episode
- Episode 100 – Previous Episode
- Solo Salon
- A Single Serving Show
- Bella DePaulo – Previous Episode
- Why are Superhero Single – Previous Episode
- Citizen Bachelor
- The Bachelor In Colonial America and Beyond – Previous Episode
- I love you, Man – Previous Episode
- Tag: Consensual Non-monogamy – Previous Episode
- What I Learned From Getting Stood Up – Previous Episode
- How To Tidy Up – Previous Episode
- Rewards and risks of Sex: STIs – Previous Episode
- Shtick To Business
About Julie Nirvelli
Julie Nirvelli was born and raised in San Jose, CA and earned her college degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She has lived in Colorado for 18+ years. As a strong, independent and fun-loving person, Julie embraces the solo life. She is also a Solo sponsor, with her company Bachelor Girl productions, which offers you fun flirty t-shirts.
About Kym Terribile
Kym Terribile is an entrepreneur, and the solo founder of Wax Crescent, a candle company focused on the idea of self-care and intentional living (also a sponsor to the podcast). Kym holds a degree in English Literature from the University of Hawaii and now lives in Longmont, Colorado.