Paul Farahvar, the host of the Singles Only podcast, and Julie Nirvelli, a frequent co-host of Solo, join Peter McGraw in the Solo Studio to talk about what they have learned hosting podcasts for proud singles.
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Singles Only Meets Solo
Welcome back, Julie.
Welcome back, Peter.
Thank you for humoring, the two of you. That intro will make more sense in a moment as the goal of this show is to discuss things we have learned hosting a show for proud singles. Julie co-hosts with me a lot, and has done at least a dozen episode. I thought that would be fun to bring her in. Paul, you’re the veteran host in the room.
In the room, I suppose.
Maybe in the world.
There are a couple of dating podcasts that started before me but it has been years. We have been around for a while.
It’s impressive. I thought I was early.
Impressive or sad? When is it time to leave? It’s time to retire but it has been a wild ride, especially since when I started a podcast, I had never listened to a podcast. Now, everyone has a podcast. It was cool that I got in on the ground level.
I appeared on your podcast. You’re reciprocating. You’re here in Denver in the Solo studio. You didn’t come to Denver for this show though.
Sure, I did.
You’re performing. You’re a comedian.
I’m in town for shows. You did the Singles Only Episode 296. I’m going to use this in my episode.
Might as well. You’re at episode what around now?
We’re at 345 or something like that.
Any plans to stop?
I thought I was going to quit at 100, 200 and then 300. Every 100 episodes, I do a check-in episode by myself or with my co-host interviewing me. I don’t think I’ll make it to 400.
You’re losing steam.
It’s not so much losing steam. I feel like the services that I provided if any and the goals have been accomplished soon. We’re in the last season.
It’s the asymptote. It’s the flat part of the curve.
Those are big words.
My audience will understand that.
You are more sophisticated. I’m just a dumb comedian.
Can I ask a question? Have you been single the whole time you’ve been doing the show?
I dated around. I had relationships with nobody that I called my girlfriend until after we were done if that makes sense.
I had one of those.
You would say your ex-girlfriend but she was never your girlfriend.
If I dated someone for six months and we were pretty much dating as boyfriend and girlfriend, I never called her that during that time. Afterward, if I’m talking about her in a third-party situation, I would say, “My ex-girlfriend.”
What’s the deadpan comic? I’ll tell you this joke and you probably would tell me his name. He says, “I don’t have a girlfriend but there’s a woman who would be upset to hear that.”
I know whom you’re talking about. Mitch Hedberg is the one from Minnesota, I believe.
For people who haven’t yet listened to Singles Only, they have a big back catalog. They get on it.
Start with your episode.
They know everything I’m going to say. What should they expect?
It’s authentic. It’s genuine in the sense that it’s mostly comedians but it’s not always funny. Sometimes they are and they get silly. They have been because I have a co-host that makes it lighter but there are sincere moments too. I’ve had people on that have cried. A lot of comedians treat it like therapy. They’re like, “It feels like a therapy session.” I’m like, “I feel like a therapist in this situation.” It’s a little of everything but it’s authentic. It’s real. I tell comedians, “Don’t try to be funny when you come on the show. Tell true stories.” It makes single people feel less alone. That’s the comment I get the most. They’re like, “I feel much better after listening to some of these comedians’ stories.”
They’re telling their stories as singles.
I’ve had musicians and people reveal that they’re virgins. In every episode, there’s something that happens that’s shocking.
That sounds great. I need to check it out.
I’m prepared to lose audiences.
You can listen to both. My episodes are quick. My episodes are usually 30 to 35 minutes. It’s a quick listen.
Mine is about double that.
You have smarter audiences.
They have more patience and focus.
If you listen to Peter’s show and you feel like he is saying too-smart things, come on over to the dummies.
We had a nice chat. I was eager to have you on here. I’m glad you’re here in Denver. Let’s get into this. Here’s what I ask my guest and guest co-host to do. Think of three things that you’ve learned hosting a podcast for proud solos. We don’t know what each other has come up with. It’s fine if there’s an overlap. We’re going to start with you, Paul since you’re the honored guest here. What I would say is if we have something that’s closely related, we should tag it.
I have broad things that I learned and narrow things. Starting with the broadest thing, when I started the podcast, I had a show called Singles Only that I was promoting. The owner of Laugh Factory, Jamie Masada, is like, “You need to start a podcast.” I started the podcast to promote my weekly show at the Laugh Factory.
The Laugh Factory is on Sunset Boulevard.
This is the one in Chicago. Jamie owns it. He was my mentor. He told me, “This is a way to promote your show. It could be a singles-only show or a singles-only thing and a podcast.” I’m fine, “I’ll bite.” I knew about Joe Rogan and Marc Maron but I didn’t listen to podcasts. Long story boring, the show no longer exists. It was changed to Drink Date Laugh because we didn’t want to have just single people come into the show. We wanted to open up for anyone that wanted to talk about dating.
The podcast survived and became more popular. I then changed the goal of the podcast, in essence, to promote a show to learn about being single because I was single. I was like, “How does this end? Maybe I need to explore this.” What I’ve learned is it has bolstered my opinion that marriage is an outdated institution. It’s okay to be single. A lot of it was with your episode too. Nobody has come on to convince me that I’m wrong. That’s what I learned. I was right the whole time.
It was a comedy show about single living.
Originally, the show was called Singles Only where we would have single comedians. The crowd would be single. We had forms filled out where they would talk about their dating lives. We would interview the people in the audience about their dating lives. That was the original show. It transformed into Drink Date Laugh to open it up for married people and people that are in relationships so it could expand the crowd.
I like the singles idea. It sounds so fun.
It was a great show but it was hard to be like, “You can only come to this show if you’re single.” In comedy, it’s date night.
It is very much a date-focused thing.
We’re limiting our audience right off the bat. It became a popular show.
As two asides, I’ve met Jamie. We interviewed him when we were working on our first book, The Humor Code. Have you sat on Groucho Marx’s couch?
In his office, he has a couch that was owned by Groucho Marx upstairs of the Laugh Factory, the one I was referring to on Sunset in West Hollywood.
He doesn’t make you take a shower before sitting on it.
Jamie used to have a therapist for comedians. They would meet and sit on that couch.
The VIP area of the original Laugh Factory is beautiful. It’s a cool spot. To perform there is insane. I’ve been performing there for the last few years. It’s crazy that I’m on shows with people that I looked up to, “This is insane. I’m on a show with Bill Burr.”
For people who have not been to the Laugh Factory, you probably have seen the backdrop. It’s a very colorful backdrop. It’s an incredibly noticeable backdrop in videos.
It’s most known for when Michael Richards’ Kramer lost his marbles and used the N-word.
The other digression is I did an episode on doing things alone and collected a bunch of data on who does things alone, married versus single people. As you might imagine, single people do a lot more things alone in public than married people but there was a big range from things like grocery shopping, which was the top of the list. One of the lowest things on the list was going to a comedy show. People very rarely go to a comedy show alone even though they may go to the movies or a concert alone.
It’s bizarre. It’s the one place where you can’t even talk. If you go to a show and you’re talking, you’re going to be called. If it’s a good club, they’re going to tell you to shut the F up but that’s the one place where you’re not supposed to interact. It’s so funny that if I have a show, they’re like, “I don’t have anyone to go with me.” I’m like, “What are you talking about? You can go by yourself.”
You can’t talk anyway.
People are afraid they’re going to get made fun of but what they don’t realize is the comics only talk to the people in the first or second row.
Generally speaking, unless you ask someone in the audience something and they raise their hand. I don’t pick on people for being by themselves. I don’t think anyone does.
You better not.
I’ve been in more shows than not where we see that and say, “This guy is cool. They came by themselves. They get it.” They’re usually comedy fans.
Comics are lone wolfs. They do everything alone.
I could see the difference between going to a concert by yourself versus going to a comedy by yourself. That’s a different feeling.
At concerts, I like to go with somebody but at a comedy show, I like to go by myself because I don’t want to have to deal with someone else. At concerts, it’s somewhere you want to be with somebody to do it. I would think higher on that list too would probably be eating out. A lot of people don’t like to eat by themselves, myself included. I always like to eat with somebody. Seventy-five percent of my meals are by myself. Maybe it’s 90% now.
Let’s get back to this idea. You said marriage is an outdated institution. No one has yet convinced you otherwise. Let’s admit the sample that you’re interacting with is a little biased.
Not necessarily. That’s the thesis of this show. If you go with that as the thesis, the people that are coming on the show are currently single.
Many are interested in becoming non-single.
I ask most people that I interview, especially younger people, “What are your goals? Do you want to get married and have kids?” Easily greater than 50% say they plan on getting married or they think they will be married.
Do you ask them how many times they plan to be married?
That’s what I should say.
That’s a little inside joke here from the room.
That’s the answer right there. The fact that 50% of relationships or marriages fail and then the second time around, the number gets even exponentially worse. That’s the thesis. I don’t think it’s biased at all. Some people want to get married. If anything, when I hear the reasons why people say they want to get married, it’s always like, “I don’t know. That’s what I’ve been told or taught.” The reasoning behind people that want to get married is always not enough for me. I come from a legal background so I’m always like, “I need reasoning.” I need something besides, “Puritan ethic ethics tell us that we should.” There has to be a reason why you want to get married.
Regular sex is why a lot of people do it.
How long does that last? What’s the thing with monogamy? It’s the agreement to not have sex with other people. That doesn’t mean you’re agreeing to continue to have sex with each other.
Anyone that I talk to who is married that’s a real friend of mine will tell me, “The only reason to get married is to have kids. Don’t do it.” These are real people.
You can have kids without it. I get it. You want the family unit and all that.
That’s the reason to get married.
Back to a specific episode, I’ve always been a not very judgmental person and accepting of people and going with the flow.
That’s true. That’s why we’re friends.
I can tolerate Peter. Peter is not for everyone. In nineteen years, we have had one argument and it was his fault. It solidified the idea of not having a judgment on someone else’s experience or what they’re after. My friend Greg likes to say, “Don’t yuck someone else’s yum when someone has something they’re into or that’s beneficial to them.” Do you know what episode I’m referring to? That was the most controversial.
I did an episode on Seeking Arrangements where Julie and I, sitting in the spot that you were, had a sugar baby come into the studio.
I’ve had those on my podcast.
We talked about it.
We can’t judge it.
I was fascinated. I thought, “Who am I to judge this situation?” It works for her. She’s very understanding of what she’s providing, what she’s receiving and what her goals are. There was no judgment. I’m fascinated. Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.
I had one on my show. She came back. She was a comedian who also was a sugar baby. A lot of people were crapping on her for it. The two episodes we did were very popular but a lot of people were judging her. I was like, “Why are you judging her? What about the guys who are doing this too? Equally, they’re in a relationship that seems to work for both of them.” She would hook up with a guy and get a Mac computer. That’s a good deal for both parties.
It’s a business transaction.
I appreciate you saying that one, Julie. It has been very interesting. I’m in the process of trying to sell a book based on this concept.
It’s a solo book. Thank you for clarifying that though. That has been the most controversial episode because some people were very upset by it. They see this as sex work and they see sex work as wrong. Some people don’t see it as sex work. Some people do. Some people see it as wrong. Some people don’t. That’s the 2×2 of this situation.
I have shared the proposal with the editors. They overwhelmingly have passed on it. I’ve shared it with some other people. One of the things that makes sense in hindsight but I didn’t anticipate is they say, “This is radical. The message in the proposal is transgressive in a lot of ways.” In the following, I say, “My thesis is clear. Single living is not as bad as people think and married living is not as good.” That alone is very threatening to people.
Especially the second half.
The other thing is in it, I talk about these different types of solos. The no-way solos are transgressive because they’re going against the norm but people don’t see that as immoral.
What’s a no-way solo?
A no-way is like, “No way. I’m not interested in dating. I don’t want a relationship.” The new-way types, which are small groups, are all over the place. This sugar baby fits in the new-way group, for example. My feeling about this is super clear. Is there consent? Are these two consenting adults? Billy, who was the guest as Julie witnessed sounds like a girl but she’s a 26-year-old college-educated woman who is sophisticated.
Her voice was a bit misleading in terms of who she was.
She does a baby girl act with her daddies. If there’s no harm and you check those boxes, I’m like, “Have sex with whomever you want to have sex with. Have sex the way you want to have sex. Live the life that you want to live. I don’t want to judge.”
We’re evolving as a society away from slut-shaming people or people who have multiple partners or whatever the situation may be. In my episode, there was a lot of slut-shaming. “She’s hooking up with people for things.”
How are they doing this? Is it via social media?
Social media, my comments and stuff like that. I will talk to them about it or my guest will message me and stuff like that. We have evolved a little bit in that way because of soloism and polyamory being so prevalent in these dating apps where most people meet people. I hate to do this but I’ve been watching this show. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. It’s called The West Wing. It’s a show from the ‘90s I started watching. Long story boring, I talk about it on a lot of my other podcasts as a joke. I don’t know if you watched the show back then.
Many years ago, I’ve seen 1 or 2 episodes.
I only saw 1 or 2 episodes but I’m obsessed with it. I’m watching it all over again.
Evidently, it’s the most accurate political show ever made.
You’re watching and you’re like, “This is today.” They pick up a phone and it’s one of those huge phones, “You took me out of the moment,” or the pleated suit pants. There’s an episode where Rob Lowe has a relationship with a prostitute. It’s an ongoing thread with a few episodes. Politically speaking, they’re like, “This can’t go out. He’s friends with her. He’s not sleeping with her for money. There’s no transaction.”
He’s a politician.
He works in the White House. He’s a staffer. They’re like, “We don’t want this to get out because opposition research would find it and it will be bad.” Some moments are like, “What’s the big deal? What she does is transactional. We are prostitutes.” They’re trying to make it about politicians being prostitutes but there are times when they’re judging her.
The lobbyists are the sex workers. The politicians are the johns.
She’s going through law school, which is the stereotype for strippers. Although I went to law school, there was only one woman that was a stripper.
Every class has one.
That’s what I heard. They were judging her. Even in the 2000s, there were voices of reason that were saying, “What’s the big deal?” She’s an adult. She’s going on these dates with these high-profile people. Everyone is judging her but we have changed it. More people would be like, “What’s the big deal?”
More but not the majority. In our circles, there’s a lot of shrugging.
We’re trying to shift that. In this vein of judgment, we have talked about this before on the show. As a society, cheating is a socially acceptable behavior but people judge polyamory, “That’s so weird. What are you talking about?” Cheating is like, “He cheated. She cheated.” People write it off.
When they say they’re ethically non-monogamous, that’s already providing judgment. It’s like, “They’re doing it back to the people that are cheating.” You say, “Mine is non-ethical.”
“Everybody thinks I’m monogamous but I’m not.”
I’m hoping that we’re spreading the idea of non-judgment.
Slowly but surely.
When I was a young man, we had this speaker come into my work. I was working in student affairs. She’s this very wise woman. She was brought in to deal with this conflict among two marginalized groups who were arguing over who had it worse. She had this umbrella perspective, “If you accept one form of oppression, you should accept all forms of oppression because it all comes from the same place. It comes from hegemony.”
The idea is if you say, “I’m fighting against the discrimination, the stereotypes and the mythology that I receive as a single person,” it’s wrong to do that. I’m not less than a person because I have agency. I’m consenting to this. I’m not harming the world with my singleness. I would argue and I do believe this, that you should apply that same standard to what other people do even if you have no interest in doing it. Let’s not be selective in how we judge. Don’t judge me for being single. I would say, “Don’t judge people for being polyamorous,” in that same sense.
We shouldn’t judge people for being married.
We can make fun of them on occasion.
Here’s a perfect example. I was talking to some polyamorous people and telling them about this show. The sugar baby episode came up and they started shaming her. I’m like, “This is exactly what you’re talking about.” My mind was blown. You want people to accept what you’re doing and you’re yucking her yum.
I’m teaching again this semester and prepping a class. One of the things I’m going to talk about is consumer goals and how important it is to understand someone’s goals to understand how they’re going to behave in the marketplace. One of the overriding goals that people have is a status goal. In general, we want to be seen and see ourselves as high-status. That can be attractive, wealthy, good at sports or whatever the domain is that someone values. They want to be seen as high-status.
We reward high-status people in the world. They get dates, raises and opportunities. This is so baked into us from an evolutionary standpoint but then also from a cultural standpoint. We’re always seeking status, likes on our Instagram page or Facebook page and retweets on Twitter. Social media are a status game through and through for a lot of people.
This notion of this polyamorous couple looking down on this other transgressive person is a way to feel better about themselves rather than trying to live in a non-hierarchical world, which is trying to remove status from relationships, which is something that I highly value. I’m going to do a quick one. I recognized this before the show. I recognized it at age 38 but I didn’t recognize it until I started doing some writing and working on this show.
I used to think that people were single for 1 of 2 reasons. They were single by choice. They’re our no-way folks. That’s a big ass group of people. Fifty percent of adult singles in the United States are not interested in dating or a relationship at the moment. That’s a shocking number to many people. I didn’t believe it when I first found out and dug deeper. It’s very common. Every time you test it, it shows up.
You have the single-by-the-chance group. That’s also a big group. That’s a much more varied group. Some of these people are single by chance. If you’re a heterosexual man and you live in Alaska, there’s a chance you’re going to be single because it’s such a terrible dating pool for you. Some people are single by chance. I’m going to work on this episode. I had an audience email me and say, “You have overlooked an important topic and that is those of us who are single because we’re ugly.”
Is that by chance? Is that a separate category?
That’s a chance. There’s some element somewhat outside but you’re in control. That makes it difficult for you.
That will be a third category. I don’t know how many categories you have. Those are people that are single but they don’t want to be single because in single by chance, you happen to be single at this time. You’re in between relationships but if you’re talking about people who are single because they’re ugly or undateable for lack of a better word, those are people that wish they weren’t single.
When I say single by chance, these are people who are open to a relationship or dating and they are having trouble achieving it. I appreciated how bold this audience was in pointing this out. I have enlisted the audience to help me design an episode because it’s a sensitive topic but I want to explore people who are disabled, for example. If you’re homeless, you’re probably single. Maybe if you have a mental illness, you might be. There are a whole bunch of things that make relationships hard for you.
Finding someone is hard for you.
Finding and keeping someone is a very challenging place to be because you have a goal and you’re unable to achieve it. Some of that is outside of your control. Some of it may be if you’re bad with people and if you’re mean.
You could have an ugly personality.
It makes it hard to be attractive or maintain something. It would be very easy to say, “People are single by choice. People are single by chance.” There are varied reasons within each of those groups. What I recognize is there’s what I call people who are single by the mismatch. I would welcome a stronger term, especially one that starts with C. I was that person at age 38. It was this. Julie knew me back then. I wasn’t the most dateable guy but I did okay. I could meet nice women and we could get things going.
You had a couple of relationships.
I had some relationships that were happy and healthy with wonderful people. Inevitably, those relationships would end. They would usually end with the woman asking to move the relationship forward, “Where is this going? I would like to move in and maybe have a conversation about children and things like that.” I would say, “I can’t do that.”
You also told them upfront.
That’s true but it wasn’t a surprise to them.
A lot of women think they can change you. You were upfront about that.
It didn’t make the end of that relationship any less heartbreaking. I felt not just sad and heartbroken. I felt guilty. I felt that I had done something wrong because that is what you’re supposed to want. If you can’t do it, there must be something wrong with you. Let’s suppose the two of us went to a counselor. The counselor, unless they were highly elevated and a listener of the Singles Only podcast, perhaps would say, “Peter, it’s time to grow up. Stop being so selfish.”
“Why do you have commitment issues?”
What I have realized is that some people have commitment issues. Some people are broken. Some people don’t want a traditional relationship. That changes the conversation in the room with that therapist or that counselor. There’s a different interpretation, which is, “Peter’s soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, you’re okay. Peter, you’re okay. What’s not okay is this escalator relationship. One of you wants it and one of you doesn’t want it. That’s okay for each of you to want something different but you can’t be together pursuing two different things.”
The last scenario is no one would ever go, “Peter’s soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, why do you want to get married? There’s something wrong with you for wanting to live with this man. It would be a mistake to want to live with a man who doesn’t want to live with anyone.” The big insight for me is that some people are single because they’re trying to date the wrong people. They have different goals, not because there’s something wrong with the people.
That’s a common thread in all my relationships where it’s like, “Where is this going?” When I first went to therapy years ago, it was after a year-long relationship where everything was great and I didn’t want it to go anywhere. I had a pattern of that happening where it was happening over and over again. I went to therapy. I was like, “How is this a good thing?”
What I learned from that is some people aren’t designed to have a traditional relationship. My therapist told me that. He also said I’m emotionally immature but that was years ago. I’m way more mature now. There’s no judgment. Going back to what Julie said, you can’t judge people because they have a different outlook. There’s no evolution in a relationship. Sometimes they stay. For lack of a better word, it’s stagnant. They’re not going anywhere but it’s still a positive relationship for both parties if they know they’re on the same page.
They’re both opt-in. Julie, you’ve done this. You’ve adjusted the way you approach your relationships.
I’ve been married twice. That was the inside joke. I’m divorced twice.
It would be funny if you said, “I divorced three times the same guy twice.”
I have a different approach. I feel that shifting from, “I’m dating to look for a lasting relationship,” to, “I’m dating as an adventure. It’s fun to get to know new people, try new things and have new experiences and things like that,” has changed the way I date. It’s way more fun. Why do all my married friends say, “I’m living vicariously through you.”
As a witness to Julie’s dating, it’s much more joyous than her relationships were. They’re mature and highly communicative. She has these varied types of people coming into her life versus this one type of person that she would tend to couple up with. It’s great.
It’s the unhealthy type. It’s true. Now that I have a different mindset, I attract and am attracted to a different type of person. It’s much healthier.
There’s one last thing. My therapist retired. The poet retired. I had been with him for a dozen years. I had to train him because when we first started, he was very traditional about the value of relationships and perseverance. He has a book about it and all this stuff. I held steady. He’s a smart person. He figured out, “The advice that I give to those people is not going to work with Peter.” He learned to support my soloness. It’s why I stuck with him for twelve years because if he hadn’t been through these breakups and so on, I would have found someone else who could. Paul, you’re up.
I’ll go with the specific. It relates to what you’re saying. The one thing I learned about myself on the podcast was I had a guest who said something that I’ve taken to heart. He said that he only dated women who had children because it helped him keep the relationship intact. I do the same now where I typically only date women who have children because my priority is stand-up comedy. They say in comedy that there was always a mistress and it was comedy. That’s why relationships fail if comedians are in those situations.
If a woman has a child and a career, I like being third on that list because then it works. There’s no pressure on the relationship to go somewhere. We’re always in what I call a honeymoon phase. We have fun. We have a valuable and meaningful relationship time. She has a priority, which is her child or her children and I have mine, which is my career. I can go to travel for three weeks. If it happens during the week that she has her kids and I’m around her and her kid, then it’s great. We have a great dinner. We do something cool. It was an awesome night. I do that now. I tend to avoid dating women in their 30s who have no children.
They want you to be the priority high up there.
They’re looking to get married and have kids typically even if they say they don’t. I don’t trust them.
There are plenty of options in the pool you’re talking about.
There was a time when I dated someone. I don’t want to waste their time either. I don’t know where I fit in the soloist category. I just know that I don’t want to get married.
You’re a new way.
I feel like I’m in my category, please, Peter. I’m going to start my thing.
He wants to be special.
There are the some-days, just-mays, no-ways, new-ways and the Paul-ways.
When I go on dates, they’re like, “What are your goals?” I’m like, “I know what I don’t want and I always start from there.” That’s where it goes. I don’t want to get married. I might get married one day. It’s not something I want. It’s not a goal. I compare it to a side salad on stage. You want to get the fries but if a side salad is a healthy option, you’re going to do it. That’s how I view marriage. I avoid dating women when I feel like I’m wasting their time. They’re on a path to something that leads to this escalator that you were talking about before.
If I may, in each of the three relationships in my 30s and early 40s that had this challenge, the women went on to get married and have 1 or 2 kids.
I have that. I have seventeen women that I dated who within a year were engaged or married.
If you want to get married and have kids, call Paul. Go out with him for a couple of weeks.
It’s common, not anymore so much but in my early 30s, that was the trend.
That’s the norm. That’s what most people do.
I always say it’s because on paper, I sound so good, “This is what I want.” They end up being like, “That’s the opposite of what I want.”
You help them clarify.
It’s the most fun ride at the carnival. You’re like, “I want to have a normal life.” That’s me.
Paul is a carnival ride.
I was a carnival ride. Back then, I was fun. I was a musician. I was a lawyer. I had money. I partied hard. I was a fun dude. Now, I’m old and boring. I eat food late at night. I don’t even drink anymore.
Good for you. Congrats on not drinking.
That’s the one thing I learned, which is specific to dating women who have children or a child. What if she said the same thing? “Me too.”
“I like to date women who have kids and a career.” One thing that has helped me is to be more curious about things. When I meet people, ask more questions, be more curious and learn in more adventure. It made me want to know more different perspectives. It’s that whole opening up curiosity.
It’s interesting because curiosity is an attribute and it can be developed. We tend to think of a lot of things as being natural, “You’re a naturally curious person and so on,” but you can develop curiosity.
I’ve even said this before. The two most pivotal episodes were the Ethical Non-Monogamy and Getting Off the Relationship Escalator. Those were not super new concepts but being able to put a framework around those concepts and how those impacted me to be more curious about other episodes and other ways people date and live is fascinating to me. I’m so curious about the polyamorous people I was talking about. I’m not that but I’m fascinated by all the different ways people are doing relationships. I’m a lot more curious.
As an aside, it’s so nice to get messages from audiences. One message that I got was the person had pointed out how much I’ve grown as a result of this show. I have learned something and that is the power of vulnerability and communication. I am a different person than I was years ago when I started this. I have different perspectives, as you were talking about, Julie. I’m much more open-minded. I prided myself on that before but this has stretched me a lot.
What I’ve learned is that anytime I take a risk and share something that I feel scared about, embarrassed about, regretful about and unsure about, I get rewarded for it in two ways. One is that’s where people respond. I had someone send me a text message. I did an episode on Getting Stood Up. A woman was like, “I’m crying to this episode.”
It touched people who have felt that pain and never heard anyone else talk about that pain and the problem. Getting stood up and doing that episode helped me formulate a response that was compassionate rather than angry, which is the tendency to do, which is to be angry, blame and so on rather than be appreciative of a situation in which you get stood up, which sounds counterintuitive in a sense.
The other thing that’s so connected to vulnerability is that I’ve learned about the importance of communication. It’s such a trite thing to say. You were saying it about the escalator. This idea of the relationship escalator is mind-blowing because you never get taught it, yet it’s there. It has these elements to it and so on. If you don’t want to ride the escalator but you want to have a relationship, you need to understand it because you need to understand how you’re going to be different from it. You need to be able to articulate how you’re going to be different.
I have been practicing, speaking of vulnerability, what I call relationship design. I want to co-create a relationship with a romantic interest or anybody in my life but it’s especially the case with romantic interests. Typically, what happens is people default to a script but if you’re not going to follow the script, you need to then talk about how you’re not going to follow the script. I am having regular conversations at the beginning of a date where I’m saying, “How are you feeling about this? Is there anything that you want to talk about? Are there any changes to the expectations you have in the agreement that we have made about this relationship?” It is like an aphrodisiac.
All the ladies’ jaws are dropping. That’s a highly evolved male behavior.
It took 50-plus years to get there and this show to be able to have those kinds of conversations. The only reason why I’m able to have them is that they’re so rewarding. I’m going to have a conversation with a woman about texting soon and say, “I can’t do this much texting.” I’m going to do it nicer than that but I’m going to say, “This is not how I want to be communicating with you but you have to know it doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to see you but it’s becoming distracting in a sense.” It’s very complimentary that it’s coming in. That’s going to be a hard conversation to have but it’s an important one.
I wonder if your goals are different. I’m assuming but that behavior seems like the type of behavior that’s trying to take up more of your time or engage you more. She wants to be the priority. I have a situation that you know about that’s like, “How’s your day? What are you up to?” That’s not bridge-building. That’s not valuable communication.
That’s interesting you’re saying that. For me, you are taking a responsible way. You’re nipping it in the bud, whereas I typically let it sit until I don’t notice that I’m not responding if it’s texting or whatever until they say something. I’m like, “I don’t text this much.” It eventually fizzles to the amount of texting that I’m used to. Your way is probably better.
If I do a good job.
You have to build a bridge. This comes from the poet. If you’re going to set a boundary, you build a bridge, “I like you. I think about you. It’s nice to hear from you. I like to know that you’re thinking about me.”
“You’re spelling your and you’re wrong.” Mine is similar to yours. It came from one of your episodes or your episode on mine being honest with what you want. What I’ve learned from podcasting, especially guests who are polyamorous, is being honest about what you want.
Ask for what you want.
It’s hard with 90% of people. Here’s why I feel like my category is different. When people listen to the podcast and hear me talk, they think that I’m this polyamorous person that is looking to hook up. I don’t want that either. I’ve had dates where women think I’m trying to get laid. I’m like, “That’s not why I take you to get food. Let’s make a connection first.” Putting out there what you want and not having the fear of retaliation is a hard line to follow and so on.
For me, I always start with what I don’t want. It’s on both sides of the traditional marriage and polyamory spectrum. I don’t want multiple meaningless sex partners and I also don’t want a traditional monogamous relationship. Finding that bridge is hard but being honest and vulnerable about it has been a blessing and sometimes a curse.
It goes back to your idea of relationship design. In texting, you could offend somebody but it’s a simpler place to start a conversation than something much more elevated, “How many partners are you going to have?” and all these complicated questions. It’s a good practice topic.
The guests that I’ve had explained polyamory and the ethical non-monogamous. It seems like a lot of work because, to me, you have to have so much communication. I like the old don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy where I don’t need to hear about what your date was like. I know when we’re together, we’re having a good time and a sincere relationship. For people who are in that camp of polyamory, it’s like, “You’re not being communicative.” I feel like that’s too much work.
To me, relationship design is an umbrella. Let’s suppose you are communicating, asking for what you want and using relationship design. You could opt into the relationship escalator and every single element of it. The two of you are right on board. I’m 100% for it but if you default into it without talking about it, I’m concerned if you default into polyamorous relationship and follow the normal rules of polyamory.
Is that like a pedway then? How does that work? If you’re in an escalator, you’re going up. There’s a destination. What’s the opposite of that?
I don’t have a good metaphor.
It’s like a pedway maybe.
I would say it’s a park. You’re playing around in a park.
It’s an amusement park.
You could default to the normal polyamory or practice relationship design and create your polyamorous relationship. For example, it could be complete disclosure and obtaining consent and so on. At least within an ethical non-monogamous situation, it could be a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy with some underlying rules about sexual health, “Don’t have sex with my friends or my boss,” or something like that. My whole point about it is you want to be regularly talking and updating this situation where you’re constantly opting in.
That goes back to what you were saying, which I in my mind was wanting to circle back to you doing check-ins with people. Only once have I had someone I’ve been dating say, “I want to check in. How are you feeling about this? How are things going?” We had a great conversation. It’s such a simple thing to do. As the person asking the question, you are asking an open-ended question.
It shouldn’t be that scary. You should be prepared to answer it probably but also as a woman, I feel like that question or that topic is better led by the man because when a woman asks a guy, “How are you feeling about what’s happening,” you can almost see a guy, “Here we go.” It’s like, “I do not want to be in a serious relationship with you. Trust me. I’m just trying to check in.”
Can I give a quick case study about this that may blow people’s minds? I don’t know if I’ve talked about it before on the show. I extend this to sexual relationships. Not always but generally, before I have sex with someone, whether it be the first time or the umpteenth time, I will often say, “What are you feeling like?”
You’re like a waiter in a restaurant.
“Is there anything in particular you want or don’t want? How have you been feeling about this?” It’s obtaining consent before anything gets going. That may sound shocking to do but I find my partners to be very receptive to it. What I often say is, “I as a man in particular don’t want to be guessing whether it’s okay to do this or not okay to do this and so on.” We can update in the act and so on. It also allows me at times to say what I also am looking for or what I’m in the mood for too. It licenses a back-and-forth. For example, I would say, “I have to be honest. I’m a little bit low-energy. It would be fun to have old-school vanilla sex. That would be nice for me.”
It lowers expectations.
“If you want the full event, I can rally.”
“I just got to get some coffee and pills.”
I can do it. These are partners who like me and so on. They say, “That’s great. That will be fun,” or they will say, “Last time, we did this. I like that. Can we explore that a little bit more?” I’m like, “Absolutely.” The thing about it is everybody talks about how important communication is. No one ever does it. They do it because it’s incredibly threatening but once you get in the habit of doing it, it creates this flywheel effect where it improves your connections with people. This is not just with regard to romance. This is with regard to friendships also. Why not check in with friends, “How are things going? I haven’t heard from you in a while. Is that okay?”
I agree with the second part of what you said. I like checking in with people all the time. I’m a big fan of being like, “How are you feeling?” I always like to check in on people by text or sometimes I call someone too. The first time you’re with someone intimately, you don’t know people’s signs or what’s good and bad. I just do it, “I’m going to be low-energy.” They know. It sounds like a good theory.
I’m not saying that I’m a natural at it.
What do you think, Julie?
My good friend, Greg, who was on the STI episode, is gay. He’s like, “Why are straight people so afraid to talk about what they want? With gay people, we define who’s top and who’s bottom. We have conversations. What are you looking for? What do you want? What do you like? What do you don’t like?” He said in a way, it builds up this anticipation, “This is going to be great because we talked about all these things I want or don’t want.” He is like, “I don’t get why you don’t talk about this stuff.”
I can see Paul’s wheels turning.
I don’t have discomfort. Honestly, I feel like that’s over communication if someone is like, “This is what I’m going to do to you in 7 to 10 minutes from now.” It takes away a little of the anticipation.
You’re taking this too far from the gap between what people normally do, “Here’s the script with the time marks.” There are miles between those two places.
That makes sense but saying something like, “Here’s what’s on the menu. I’ve been on the road for ten days. I’m worked up. It’s going to be an explosive night.” That seems like you’re setting expectations. What if they’re like, “I’m tired?”
That’s perfect then. That’s a good thing.
There’s some point where it’s like, “Let’s see what happens and then go with the flow.”
That’s fair but that’s what most people are trying to do.
The first time, I’m a big fan of communication and asking questions.
Try it once and report back.
I asked you. How would you handle that if someone is like, “This is what’s on the menu tonight. Here are the noes?” Is that something you’ve experienced, Julie?
I have had someone say, “What are you in the mood for tonight?” I called Peter and asked, “Have you been talking to this person about this because I just got the question?”
I don’t know if I’ve talked about this topic before.
Not on the show.
You and I have talked about it.
You know him. I wondered if you had told him that you’ve been doing this.
That could be the case.
That was something you were okay with.
I was doing some free coaching.
He asked me in a text. I replied to a couple of things in the text. It was like, “I can’t wait to see you later.”
It doesn’t have to be happening right on the couch. It could be happening in advance. I’ll give you an example of this. I asked a woman, “Is there anything you’re in the mood for when I’m going to see you?” She listed three things but the first thing that she listed was, “I want you to greet me at the door with a big kiss.” I was super appreciative of that because what I realized was the last time I had seen her, I was preoccupied when she arrived. She didn’t like that. Rather than her going, “When you aren’t present when I arrive, that doesn’t make me feel good,” I gave her a chance to say what she wanted. She said, “I want a big kiss.” I was like, “Done. Easy.” Not only that. I learned something about what her expectations are by way of doing that. I’ll leave out the other naughty bits.
I dated a guy many years ago. I was trying to have a conversation like this with him, “What’s important to you?” He’s like, “I feel like people should be able to figure it out. I shouldn’t have to tell you something important to me. You should know.” I was like, “How am I supposed to know? Give me an example of something that might be important to you that I wouldn’t know.” It was the greeting.
He said, “When I come over if someone is doing something else and they don’t stop what they’re doing.” I’m like, “That is such an easy thing to share. I’m happy to make sure that I connect with you upon arrival.” Now, I do that with anybody who comes over. I make sure that I stop whatever I’m doing and give them a connective greeting. I had to drag it out of him a little bit. That’s important to her but it’s probably important to most people.
It was a useful thing. I appreciate your perspective, Paul, because it’s forcing me to think through how I would better articulate this in the future. I’m working on a relationship design episode and this should be a module within it about designing sexual experiences.
When you develop intimacy and comfort with someone, that translates automatically. If there are things that someone doesn’t like about you and your relationship, “I hate that when I come in you’re still on the phone,” those are things that can be easily adjusted. The best part about an intimate relationship is when someone does something that you know you like without you having told them. You’re like, “This is why I like hanging out with you because you want to order dessert or whatever the thing is I was trying to avoid.”
If you know your partner well and you have a good routine and an understanding of each other, then this is a practice that’s probably not relevant. I can only speak from my experience. My sex feels healthier, more fun, exciting and more exploratory ever since I started doing this. I feel like a better lover as a result of doing that.
Your Yelp reviews have gone up on dating apps.
It’s the word of mouth.
“Great communication. Four stars.”
Julie, what is the third thing that you’ve learned from hosting a podcast for proud singles?
This one isn’t necessarily tied to the singles part of it but with anything in life, it’s better if you’re having fun. We always start every podcast with, “Remember to have fun.” Every time you’ve asked me to be on an episode with you, I always say yes except for that one time you wanted me to read a book. At that time, there was no way. I didn’t have time. These are so fun. That’s a lot of my personality. I want to have fun, do fun things and interact with fun people. You and I talk about this a lot but I don’t have many other friends that dive deep into this subject. It has been fun. As I said at the beginning, like everything in life, it’s better if you’re having fun.
It’s so sad that you have to remind yourself of that all the time, “Are you having fun in whatever you’re doing, relationships or anything?” Have fun. Here’s the one thing I always do because someone did it to me. I was freaking out before a show at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood on one of the first times I was there. This well-established huge comedian saw me and went, “Have fun,” right before I went on stage. I was like, “That’s why I’m doing this.” It changed everything. I make sure to say it to everybody who’s opening up for me. They will see me walking up to them, “I forgot. He wants me to say something when I bring them up.” I’m like, “Have fun.” It’s the one thing I tell people very often.
Being an adult can be hard. Life can be serious. We know that it doesn’t have to be because when we were children, we had lots of fun. Playing was a central part of our life. I don’t subscribe to the idea that work and play are opposites. This very much feels like work to me. It’s a professional endeavor. I want to do it well but I want to enjoy myself along the way.
I’m starting to teach. I have to remind myself, “If I’m having fun, the students are going to have fun.” I’m giving a talk. To your point, Paul, it’s very easy to get into the weeds, “I want to do a good job. It feels very serious. The stakes are high. There are going to be 270 people in the room. These are various serious people who have big businesses but they want to be entertained too. They want to enjoy the session. I need to be enjoying it if they’re going to enjoy it.”
On that note, I ran a business meeting but I’m like, “We’re going to have fun. We’re having a meeting but it’s going to be fun.” The feedback I got afterward about the meeting was incredible. Someone even said, “People won’t remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel during the meeting.”
It’s something that we have to remind ourselves a lot as comedians that we’re supposed to be having fun but the day-to-day is not fun. A lot of the stuff that we have to do isn’t fun but the part that I get to do every night is to make people laugh and that’s fun. It’s supposed to be fun. Even on the podcast, I try to do that although my podcast feels like work sometimes.
It ought to work in the sense that you want to create a good product and do a good job. There are other things you could be doing instead. Julie, I want to follow up. I’ve known you for a long time. This is part of your persona or identity. You’re open to new experiences. You’re quick to say yes. You have enthusiasm. It translates to your participation here. There’s a reason I keep calling you. I know I’m going to get a yes.
He calls me when he is desperate.
Not at all. You’re typically my first call. This is a good reminder for people to hear. Is there something in particular that someone who’s nodding their head, “Life has been a little bit serious for me,” how to make something a little more joyous and playful to have that element of fun in it?
Here’s one of the very first lessons I learned from you when we first met. Peter and I were next-door neighbors. He came over and asked me if I wanted to go watch a basketball game or something. I said, “I’m going to Vegas for my unbachelorette party.” I was getting ready to throw a party.
“I’m a behavioral scientist. I can help you throw a better party.”
One of the things you said is, “If you tell people it’s going to be an awesome and fun party, they come with the expectation that it’s going to be an awesome and fun party. It’s an awesome and fun party because you told everybody.”
Unless you set expectations too high. I like to set expectations low in everything. You exceed them.
In these new business groups I’m starting, my tagline has become, “I want to do cool shit with cool people.” Guess what’s happening? I’m getting introduced to cool people. I’m meeting the most amazing cool people. In the group I ran, everyone was like, “All the people who were here were freaking amazing.” It’s partly setting that expectation. Life is hard. I’m dealing with some health issues with my mom that is difficult but I don’t have to dwell on them all the time. Having fun is a release.
One quick thing I’ll share is when I owned my food business for ten years, it was such a grind and so stressful. When I sold it about six months later, my daughter said to me, “Mom, you act goofy all the time. What’s wrong with you?” That was such an eye-opener for me. You’ve known me for ten years being so stressed out that her pointing that out to me was like, “Life is way too short to be so stressed that your kid thinks you’re a new person now that you don’t have all that stress.” That’s who I am. I’m silly and goofy. Some people take things seriously. It’s nice to be light sometimes.
This is the case with Singles Only. It’s something I strive for with the show. We’re here to celebrate single living. We’re here to make it equal status to married living. I don’t want to argue it’s better. I want to say it’s a different path. It would be very easy to complain, vetch and be angry about the challenges and the unfair things. I like to say that being single is great if you’re doing it well.
I want to enjoy my time here because I want this to be celebratory, enjoyable and fun. I don’t want it to be like every time you get through an episode, you feel worse than when you started it. I want people to feel energized, play, make bold choices to live their unconventional lives and be accepting of other people.
It goes along with that too. A lot of your audiences will remember some of the things you said but the feedback you get is, “I felt so relieved. I felt heard and understood. I felt like I have a community. I felt like I’m not the only one.” The feedback you get is how people feel about what they heard.
Shoulders drop a little bit. Here’s my last one. There are a lot of relationship talks on the show and not everybody is pursuing relationships. We’ve got loners and people who are single at heart and so on. I’m going to end with a more general one. It’s related to the escalator. The tendency to judge someone’s adulthood and this has been the case for a lot of recent history, is what makes someone an adult.
I don’t know why that makes me giggle.
You’re looking at me and thinking that I’m an adult. I still feel like a child at times. You could take a legal definition, which is eighteen. On a particular day in your eighteenth year, you become an adult.
It’s thirteen if you’re a Jew.
Age differs depending on the country, culture, time, history and so on. Another standard is when you get married, especially during a time when most people got married. That was like, “It’s time to put aside childish ways and be an adult.”
“Be responsible. Make sacrifices.”
“Build a family and do all these kinds of things.” That’s certainly not a fair definition because not everybody wants to get married, not everyone does and not everyone can. What becomes a better criterion to decide whether someone is an adult? One of my other guest co-host is Irish Schneider. I adore Iris. She’s so no-nonsense about her single life and very cheeky about it all. This came up in the Waiting episode.
We were talking about how you have these hopeful-hopeless romantics. Their life is on pause until they can find the one, which is a sad thing. The idea that your life is less than until this thing happens and it may not happen and it may not last is not healthy. Irish simply said, “What makes someone an adult is their ability to parent themselves.” It’s a very simple standard but as soon as you hear it, it makes sense.
That means you don’t need someone else to get along in life. You may want to partner with someone. You may want to have that connection but you don’t need that person to survive. Some of these things are very basic. Can you cook a meal? Can you clean your house? Can you hold down a job? Can you stay out of debt? Can you not drink too much?
Can you exercise? Can you do all the things that you’re supposed to do to build a healthy body, mind soul, bank account and so on? Moreover, can you soothe yourself when you are feeling anxious or sad? Can you communicate your needs to other people? Can you do adult things? Can you do the things that a parent would do for a child but for yourself?
That’s an incredibly powerful idea because it changes the goal, which means that you could be sixteen years old and an adult. It means you could be 46 years old and not an adult. It means you can be an adult as a single person. It means you can be a child as a married person. Fundamentally, it’s about risk as I see it. If you can parent yourself, you’re going to be in a much better place to live a remarkable life to be able to have good and healthy relationships as well as have a good and healthy body, mind soul and bank account.
It also means that if you do connect with someone else, that person can add value to your life but if they due to divorce, death or disability disappear, you can go on. You’re not devastated because it’s not like if Julie went away and left her child on her own, that’s a bad thing but when your husband or your wife goes away, that may not be a good thing but it’s not a devastating thing.
You have an unbachelorette party in Vegas.
The idea of being able to parent yourself is essential as a foundation for living a remarkable life. I’m appreciative of Iris putting it that matter-of-factly because it has changed my perspective. Paul, thank you for your service to the singles community.
Thank you for having me. Thanks for your service and teaching all my listeners about soloism. You were the first guest that explained that to people.
I hope lots of books and resources get launched. There’s a new podcast called Spinsterhood Reimagined. I appeared on it with Lucy, the host. Julie is going to be very excited about this. She and I are working on an episode on flirting.
We have talked about that before.
I know. It’s a gap that we will go on to cover. A rising tide lifts all boats. This show is not for everyone in the same way that I’m not for everyone.
There are multiple Venn diagrams where there are overlaps in all these different societies of singleism.
Julie, thank you. I’ll try to give you a break.
Thanks for having me. It’s always enjoyable.
- Paul Farahvar
- Singles Only Episode 296
- Singles Only
- Laugh Factory
- Drink Date Laugh
- The Humor Code
- Seeking Arrangements – Previous episode
- Ethical Non-Monogamy – Previous episode
- Getting Off the Relationship Escalator – Previous episode
- Getting Stood Up – Previous episode
- STI – Previous episode
- Irish Schneider
- Waiting – Previous episode
- Spinsterhood Reimagined
Chicago based Comedian Paul Farahvar delights audiences with dry intellectual humor, centered on being the unmarried son of disappointed middle eastern parents. After becoming a paid regular at Chicago stand up clubs like Zanies, Comedy Bar and Laugh Factory, Farahvar left his legal career. Almost immediately, his clear ability to connect with audiences led to him being given the rare opportunity to host and produce his own monthly show called “Drink Date Laugh” about dating and another comedic game show called “Everyone’s a Lawyer” both at the World Famous Laugh Factory. He also regularly tours the country as a headliner and opening for national headliners like Demetri Martin, Jen Kirkman and Gary Gulman. He was runner up in the Chicago Reader for Best Stand up Comedian in 2021. His Dry Bar special is releasing in 2022.
In the last year, Paul has performed or headlined at Laugh Factory (Chicago, Las Vegas, Hollywood), Zanies (Chicago, Rosemont), ACME Comedy Club, House of Comedy (Phoenix, Minnesota), Brad Garretts Comedy Club (Las Vegas), Comedy Club on State (Madison), Looney Bin (Little Rock, OKC, Tulsa, Wichita), Sidesplitters (Tampa), Off The Hook (Naples), Snappers (Tampa, Ft Myers) and McCurdys (Sarasota).
He is also the host of the Podcasts SINGLES ONLY! (SWSW 2020, Best Podcast 2021 Chicago Reader) and MAKE US A MIX TAPE (iTunes, Laugh Factory Channel, Stitcher) with Marty DeRosa, the comedy writer for Marquee Network’s “Off The Mound with Ryan Dempster” and a regular guest host on WGN Radio. He played “Karam Haddad” on NBC’s “Chicago Med” in 2017.Guest 2: Julie Nirvelli
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 19+ 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.