The Solo’s Promise

Solo 25 | Solo's Promise


What if the hero’s journey isn’t the best story structure to describe the process of becoming unapologetically unattached? This episode examines an alternative to the hero’s journey with the unfortunate name of The Virgin’s Promise. I speak to Kimberly Kessler, who presents this alternative model as a way to escape human domestication and thrive as a single person. She also relates The Virgin’s Promise to well-known stories, such as Cinderella, Frozen, Billy Elliot, and even Rocky. If you stick around for the bonus material, Kim, who is married with children, talks about how non-solos can support their solo friends and family.

Listen to Episode #25 here


The Solo’s Promise

Before we get started, I want you to know that I’m going to be hosting some live Zoom meetups for the Solo community. If you want to find out when they’re happening, please sign up for the community on the Solo podcast page at PeterMcGraw.org. If you haven’t yet, please rate, review and tell your single friends about this. This is a follow-up to a previous episode with Kim Kessler where we talked about the hero’s journey. At the end of that, Kim tells me that there’s a lesser-known story structure that better matches the growth of singles have as they escape human domestication. We discussed the model which has the unfortunate name of The Virgin’s Promise, and we relate it to well-known stories such as Cinderella, Frozen, Billy Elliot and even Rocky. If you stick around to the end, Kim, who’s married with children, talks about how non-solos can support their solo friends and family. I hope you enjoy this. Let’s get started.

Our guest is Kimberly Kessler. Kimberly is a writer, editor and Story Grid-certified editor. She was here previously on Are You the Hero in the Story of Your Life?. Welcome, Kim.

Thanks for having me back.

Kim, I have been excited to do this. First of all, if you were reading this one, it would help to read the previous one. In the same way, it’s not necessary to watch The Matrix to understand the hero’s journey. It’s not necessary to read the previous one. You’re my first return guest. Here’s why you’re back. While I know enough about the hero’s journey to be dangerous, I know nothing about this little nugget you dropped the last time. Talk about a cliffhanger. We are here to talk about The Virgin’s Promise, which is an alternative or complementary structure to the hero’s journey. You made an argument. This is a little bit of fairy dust that you sprinkled that you said is a better fit. It’s a better model for the solo person to think about his or her life.

What I love about the virgin’s promise and why it’s such a great fit, and we’ll get into all the nitty-gritty, but because the virgin’s promise is all about becoming the person that you already are inside. It’s the person that you’re made to be and it’s all the goodness is already in there. Social conventions and the outside world around you is putting constraints on you and telling you to conform to what they want you to be so that they feel more comfortable or that you’re meeting their needs the way that they feel you’re in their idealistic way that they think the world should be. It’s keeping you from being able to manifest your gift, your magic. To me, that alone is the solo person’s problem. Everybody around them wants them to conform to the way that they see that they should live their lives. That’s not what they’re being called to do.

Why don’t we step back with that big idea blooming and let’s recap the hero’s journey? In the meantime, to let you know, I went to a used bookstore out in the desert. It’s not supposed to be open, but Joe, the guy who co-owns it with his wife, is there from 10:00 to 12:00 every day with his little doggy with his face mask on. I called them and said, “I’ll be there Tuesday or Wednesday at 10:00 AM. Is that okay? I’ll wear my mask.” I had the whole place to myself. It is an old school bookstore. It was funny, he was showing me around and he’s like, “This is the mythology section.” He pulls out a book and goes, “That’s not supposed to be there.” I’m like, “What is it?” He goes, “It’s the Quran.”

Someone was being an asshole.

That’s what I said to him. He agreed. In that section, I found this book. Joseph Campbell’s, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, which is a long interview between the two of them, an outstanding book. I’ve been reading up on it in the meantime. If you don’t mind, to recap, in case someone hasn’t read the first one, if you could do the 10,000-foot view of the hero’s journey built out of The Hero of A Thousand Faces?

Joseph Campbell, it’s his seminary work that he did for his lifetime. He looked across all of the myths of all the different cultures and all these different time periods. He looked at similarities. What do they have in common? He found these points that coincided. You have mythical stories from India and mythical stories from Native Americans, Norse mythology, and all of these different things from all kinds of time spans. You come up with the monomyth. That’s what we call now the hero’s journey. These have an archetypical progression. From your ordinary world, you’re being called to adventure and you refuse that call because people don’t change. We’re like, “I don’t want to change.” Until you accept the call, you’re going to meet a guide. You’re going to be tested and you’re going to have to face an ordeal. Good and bad things happen until ultimately you have an epiphany. The reward, the road back and this final battle to where you defeat the change that you’ve been trying not to make, you make, and you’re able to defeat this external antagonist. You return home with this elixir that people need that makes the world better.

What I love about the hero’s journey is that it is unanimous. It’s something that all of these cultures, even though they’re completely separate from one another, maybe they’re not communicating, but because we’re humans and because our brains of the whole of the Homo sapiens processes information in a certain way and nobody wants to change no matter when you were born or where you lived. We’re all like, “I don’t want to.” We create these stories and we’ve all settled on this framework to help us make sense of what I do when something’s forcing me to change and I don’t want to. How do I cope with that? That’s what the hero’s journey does. It shows us how we cope with change.

It’s fun to dissect stories, whether it be Gilgamesh or The Matrix or as you did in the bonus material, A Christmas Carol or Avatar from it. It also is a nice model for real life. I wanted to talk to you about it because I was saying the pandemic is a call to action and I was thinking about the solo’s journey as a hero’s journey perhaps. You said to me there’s a better model. One of the things that even comes up in the book that I was reading is how the hero’s journey leans masculine. The protagonist doesn’t need to be a man or anything, but it leans stereotypically male or masculine.

It’s archetypical. It’s a model for masculinity and it’s a model for the way we interpret that journey. We’re putting meaning on it. We’re interpreting it that way. How the hero’s journey could be for men or women, it’s that kind of journey. The Virgin’s Promise, which is a fairly unfortunate name, but it can be for men or women, it’s that inward journey as opposed to an outward journey.

As I say leans stereotypical, I want to be careful about the language that I use because some of it is the nature of human history put men in the storytelling position generally. You had male storytellers, the stories leaned male and masculine in that sense. Only now in the last 100 years have you started to see female writers. I have a fun episode planned about people who should never have married. You can argue that in the last 100 years, especially a lot of promising female authors were careers cut down by marriage, which is unfortunate. I agree with you that The Virgin’s Promise is poorly named. The title of this is The Solo’s Promise or The Single’s Promise. Which one of those two do you like more?

I like the Solo better.

I do too. What is The Virgin’s Promise? Where did it come about? Why have I never heard of it?

It’s fairly recent in terms of it being codified and brought to the forefront. Joseph Campbell went looking at myths. The Virgin’s Promise you’ll see is represented more in fairytales, which are different. It’s not something Joseph Campbell looked at when he was doing his work.

You could imagine what happened is Campbell overlooked fairytales because it may not have fit his model well. There’s this confirmation bias in the sciences, in art, history, in politics and everything where we look for confirmatory evidence and we have a tendency to either ignore or discount disconfirmatory evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if Campbell noticed a group of stories that didn’t fit well and he looked away.

If we’re going to talk about some stories as we go, I’ll mention some that people will know and have heard of and should watch again and see if it feels different with this lens. You could shoehorn them in. You’re still talking about a human brain processing change. It’s not that different in terms of we still start in one place. We descend into another place. We still have a lot of these same markers, but they’re different enough that it’s important to point out the difference. In the virgin’s promise, you don’t have someone leaving on a journey. They stay at home. They’re in their place. They’ve always been right there in this dependent world.

We have to stop here because we’re missing the stop, the space before that. I don’t even know enough to know what that means when you say they stay in their place.

The ordinary world of the hero, let’s look at the hero’s journey. You start out in your ordinary world, get a call to action and then leave to go to the extraordinary world. You’re leaving a physical location to go somewhere new. The virgin in the virgin’s promise begins instead of ordinary, it’s dependent. She is dependent on them. They are dependent on her. When there’s a call to action or there’s a prompt of like, “I could do something,” rather than leaving, they stay where they are. They’re still in the dependent world, but they go into the secret world and it’s happening in the same physical location that they’re in. They’re still at home. They’re still mopping the floors, making dinner and taking care of babies. They have a secret world that’s happening where they’re getting to explore this inner beauty and inner magic that they have that they’re doing, but they’re keeping it a secret from those around them that would cry foul if they knew. They’re still in the same physical location. They don’t leave to go somewhere else. We’re talking archetypically. They’re taking place in the setting where this character has been and always will be.

For example, Dorothy in Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy leaves home. She’s not in Kansas anymore. What’s funny, at least to me, is that her house goes with her. She literally goes from Kansas, the ordinary world, to an extraordinary world. The thing about Dorothy is she has a lot to learn about what it means to come home. When she comes home at the end, she’s like, “There’s no place like home.” She gets to learn a lesson about how powerful it is to be there and what she’s grateful for and all of these things. It’s not about her changing from the inside out as much as her looking at her outside world differently. Subtle shifts, but to a protagonist, it makes all the difference to have those. The nuance there is empowering.

What would be an example of the virgin’s promise where someone stays home as the starting point and to give people an idea?

Cinderella is the classic fairytale. Her material, survival and protection all rely on these other people. You can see the dependence. She’s dependent on her evil, wicked stepmother to provide for her, feed her, clothe her and not kick her out of the house. They’re also dependent on her to cook, clean, and do all these crappy things that they don’t want to do. They are dependent on one another. Cinderella doesn’t leave home. She goes to a ball, but for the most part, her story is she’s at home. She doesn’t go on a magical journey somewhere else. The fairy godmother shows up in her backyard. Everything’s happening in her domestic setting. That’s the classic example would be to think about Cinderella being stuck, not getting to shine her own her own light.

Joseph Campbell is the one who gets the hero’s journey altogether and it becomes this part of our collective subconscious now. It’s giving names to the things that we’ve already all known because they’re part of us. In 2011, Kim Hudson wrote a book and she’s the one who coined the phrase the virgin’s promise. Her book is titled The Virgin’s Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening. She’s the one that did the work of looking at these stories that Joseph Campbell didn’t include. She looked at fairytales, went through all these different things and found these other archetypical markers, little moments within the story and how they’re the inverse of the hero’s journey. The hero and the virgin are very much polar opposites on the same scale. They’re the yin and yang. They’re connected. They’re two sides of the same whole.

Certainly, in a person’s life, you probably experienced both at different times and maybe multiple times. It depends on what moment of your life you are looking at through this lens of a story. They do center around feminine or female characters or the female archetype of a character. The name virgin itself, it’s an archetype name. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you have a hymen. It has to do with being independent. A virgin is someone who needs no one. She is whole as she is. She’s pure and whole and needs nothing to be completed. When we say the virgin’s promise, it’s the promise of the individual that exists inside of them that’s already there that is being smothered by this dependent world around them.

Promises in potential, not promises in I swear an oath. It’s an unfortunate modern name, especially for 2011. It’s interesting that this is such a recent development. That’s super fascinating. Campbell overlooked this set of stories. Many of them are fairytales and it sounds like many of them have female protagonists. That’s there. This is about someone who’s trapped in a dependent world and has potential and it’s about her or his struggle. I’m assuming struggle is involved because change is going to be involved.

Let’s bring up a couple of story examples. I’m not sure if these are ones you’ve seen. Hopefully, our reader will have seen them. Billy Elliot is a great example of a virgin’s promise story. You’ve got this young kid, he lives in a super blue-collar town. He doesn’t want to do boxing like his dad wants him to do. He wants to dance and he’s freaking talented. This blue-collar world around him says that if you’re a boy and you’re dancing, you must be gay. It’s the stereotype. They’re putting this pressure on him and his older brother and his dad don’t want him to do this.

It’s that thing. He goes into a secret world. He takes ballet lessons instead of boxing. He lies to his dad about it. There’s all this stuff that he goes through. I’ll give you a quick overview of if you think about those moments on the hero’s journey, the virgin’s promise has its own moments. The dependent world and what you’re going to see is the price of conformity. We’re going to see the loss that someone’s going through because they’re not able to express themselves fully rather than a call to action or an inciting incident, there will be an opportunity to shine. Something where they’re able to flex their muscles a little bit and show up the way that they would normally. It’s like, “Are you going to do this temporarily? Are you going to do it because you won’t get caught?” They’ll tease it. They might play with it a little bit, but they’re not embracing it fully there because they’re going to go into the secret world. They’re not going to show up in and everything that they are, they’re going to dabble.

What is that in Cinderella?

Honestly, I’d probably relate it to her singing. I’m going to think of the Disney version in my head. A couple of different things come to mind. On the one hand, she’s kind. She is kind, even though everyone around her is absolutely awful and they treat her terribly. She does a lot of different things. She’s scrubbing the floors, she’s singing, and she’s finding joy in being able to have a vision for the future despite these current circumstances. She makes a beautiful dress for herself. She’s crafty whether she’s got little mice friends, but she makes her own dress out of scraps. She’s a person who has the vision to see beyond what is in front of her. She’s dreaming of the future of the someday when she’s not stuck here and she’s able to take these throwaway items, got a sash here or pearls there and she can take those and make her own dress that the sisters hate so much that they totally pull apart. They keep her down. I would say probably those different aspects of her being able to do that would be her shining.

Previously, we had talked about Rocky. What makes sense now is you could shoehorn Rocky into the hero’s journey, but your argument is that it’s a better virgin’s promise.

For Rocky, he’s been in this world that is telling him that winning is what matters. It’s about winning. In order for him to do that, we see that he fights people who are not worthy opponents for him. He’s way more talented than he’s allowing himself to show. In order to win, he fights people that aren’t as good as him and all of these different things. His opportunity to shine comes later in the story then maybe would typically see. He definitely gets that opportunity to fight Creed. There’s an opportunity there. They would have had to see that he was doing well enough in the first place to show up on their radar like, “Who’s the local guy?”

There are things that come up. The fact that he’s this local underdog and it’s the opportunity to shine can be whether it’s directed by fate, it’s wish fulfillment or actively pursued by them, sometimes it’s a response to someone else in need. There are all these different little nuances depending on the story. In this case, Creed needs someone to fight and he wants a local guy and Rocky is a well-known enough name. They know his potential. Even though he’s been losing out on fights or he’s been fighting bums and he’s being a bum or whatever it is he’s doing, he’s well-known enough. He has enough potential that they think it’s possible for him to do this. It’s almost like being called up to the majors. You have this opportunity to shine and whether it’s something you’re doing for yourself or someone else is doing it, saying like, “Why don’t you come to shine for a minute?” It’s still different than let’s leave and go somewhere. It’s different.

I’m going to digress for a moment. It ended up being a Disney movie, but I remember hearing an NPR interview. It’s the story of this guy. He had played baseball as a younger guy and had hurt his arm. He got surgery. He was getting old. He was in his 30s or something like that. He was coaching a high school baseball team. He made an agreement that if the team won the championship, he was going to go to the tryouts. He would pitch batting practice and none of the kids could hit him off a batting practice. I don’t have all the details.

It’s The Rookie. It’s based on Jim Morris.

I know who exactly what you’re talking about. He’s a little old in the tooth now. By the way, the guy wrote a book. The book’s poorly written. It’s terrible. The NPR story, I remember crying, listening to it. It’s a virgin’s promise because he’s coaching this baseball team. He’s a good guy and the team wins. He goes to this tryout. He’s up on the mound and he’s throwing the ball. He describes the guy with the radar gun behind the plate and the guy looks at the thing and he starts banging on the side of the radar gun like, “This must be broken because the guy’s throwing heat.” He ends up making the team and becoming a professional baseball player. It’s for a terrible team, but whatever. The story about how he was the first one to the ballpark every morning. He was the last one to leave. He sucked the marrow out of that experience for a short period of time that he was a baseball player. I remember crying in my car or something.

Dennis Quaid is the actor. You can’t let the things that stand. They drive me nuts. That’s totally what we’re talking about. There’s this potential in them. You can imagine the people may be in Jim Morris’s family that are like, “Please, you’re going to embarrass yourself. Don’t do it.” It makes them uncomfortable and they can’t handle it. It’s that wherein oftentimes in the hero’s journey, it’s more of people are trying to get them to go and they’re more reluctant. It’s almost in a virgin’s promise, if you had people encouraging them and saying like, “You do you. You go do the thing that you need,” but then again, the story would be over in two seconds. It shows you what do people need. They need people who are saying, “What do you have in there? What do you want to do?” Helping them become that thing.

We have to bring this up now at this stage because you had said the virgin’s promise is a better model for the solo. If someone’s reading there, it’s already clicking, I’m sure. I read a book called Convenience Store Woman. It’s a story about a Japanese woman, so it’s a Japanese writer. It’s written in English. Maybe it’s been translated. It probably has been translated. I’m reading English because that’s the only language I can speak. The story is about this no longer a young woman, but she was a young woman. She took a job at a convenience store. Eighteen years later, she still works there and she’s single. She’s solo. She has problems. She’s not a normal person. This job agrees with her. She’s a happy person and it fits. It’s right for her given her limitations in life and yet she’s surrounded by people who puzzle about her life and do the normal thing. Yet she’s doing the right thing for herself. She’s living her best life in this sense. Why did you say that this fits better for the solo?

It comes down to that virgin. The virgin protagonist has to make a choice to stop listening to these outside voices that are trying to make them conform and they have to choose, to have to give up. One of the moments in the archetypical journey is to give up what has kept her stuck. Doing that maybe puts everyone else around them in chaos. They’re like, “What do you mean? If you’re not this, then who am I?” It breaks their mind. They can’t understand it. By doing that, by giving up what keeps them stuck, and by choosing her own light, her own path, and her own magic that she has, that is what reorders the kingdom around her. It makes the world brighter. The world is better.

When you choose the authentic path that is true to you, regardless of what anyone else is saying within wisdom and reason, that’s what the world needs. That’s self-actualization. That’s you bringing your gift to the world. I was thinking about this because I’m not a solo person. I was thinking about this and maybe this is ridiculous, but I was like, “Me being married is an enabling constraint in a way.” I need things to be decided. To me, I had this idea that if you were going to get married or you were going to stay single, either way, by making the decision and once it’s done and over with and not being in this muddled mess in the middle of going, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Always being on the look for what’s next, constantly being in that liminal of what am I doing with myself? Pick a path and fucking own that path and do that path. I know for myself.

Do you mean to start a show called Solo?

I can own it. I’m sure you were never going to, but you can’t get married now. It’s your brand. I’ve been having this thought going around in my head. A lot of my married friends were like, “Thank God we don’t have to think about it anymore.” That idea of it being undecided, it takes too much brain space. Even reading your blog and knowing that you’re dating or do whatever you’re doing, I’m like, “That sounds terrifying and exhausting. I never want to do that again.”

First of all, I can appreciate that. For me, when I started to declare that I wasn’t going to be married with children and I would announce that with authority unapologetically, compassionately to my dates and to other people, it was truly liberating. I was living my most authentic self. It wasn’t something I was wondering about doubting. It wasn’t something that I was hiding away because I was afraid that I was going to scare someone away. That was kicking that can down the road that I was going to have to have that conversation later. The other thing about it was I feel I started to flourish even in my dating life. That’s the irony.

It wasn’t that I started becoming more comfortable with my identity. A lot of solo people can appreciate that when you go, “This is how I am,” like the Convenience Store Woman who recognizes that the way she’s living her life is a good life given her limitations. The idea is that the world around you is going to resist this declaration. That’s a relief. In the same way that Billy Elliott’s world around him resisted his aspirations to dance, his desire to dance. I’m going to tease our bonus material. Kim and I and our bonus material. She’s going to talk about how non-solos, people who are partnered, married people can remove that, can support solos so that there’s not the natural pressure that builds up as occurs in the virgin’s promise.

Everything you’re saying is great and fantastic. Even as you say it and even as I joke around about like, “I never want to do it again.” Once you make that, like you’re saying, you own it. You’re giving up what’s keeping you stuck, you’re declaring it, you’re putting it out into the world and you know who you are and you’re going forward in that. Honestly, it would make everything much easier. I can feel that. I can feel how it would be like, “I’m here to connect with super cool people.” If you want to connect a super cool person, that’s awesome. All the stress is gone. You don’t have to win anybody over ever again.

I’ll give you an example of this. Even as I’ve talked about this that I launched this with some trepidation, which suggests the pressures in the world that you’re going against the status quo. A good friend of mine, Darwyn Metzger, he’s in the Tips for the Solo Entrepreneur episode. He’s an incredibly creative thinker. He pays attention to everything. He had made an introduction via email and I have this autoresponder on my email because I’m doing a sabbatical from my sabbatical. You’ve seen it.

I have seen it. My favorite is, “If it’s an emergency, I don’t know what to tell you.”

My autoresponder says, “Big day. I’m taking a sabbatical from my sabbatical. I’m checking email sporadically indefinitely,” or something like that.

“I’m off the internet until Friday.” It’s been on that for a while now.

I still check my email. I am doing it less frequently.

You don’t want to rely on it.

He sends me an email and you get that autoresponder. He sends me a text and it says, “Why don’t you have Solo in your signature?” I have Schtick to Business, my book. I was like, “You are absolutely right.” I see why the model works. The solo person is living in this world that is not friendly to solo living, can be hostile, and at the very least, is inquisitive, looks down on it, and finds it puzzling and strange. Why would you want to do that? Yet, some people have this promise inside this potential inside to take advantage of the opportunities, the time, the money, the resources, the energy to do things that are different.

I’m going to point out a couple of helpful differences. Kim Hudson points these out in the book between the hero’s journey and the virgin’s promise. Sometimes comparing and contrasting it can make things sharpen right into focus. Here are a couple of little things. Although both of them must learn to stand alone, the virgin stories about knowing her dream for herself and bringing it to life while surrounded by the influences of her kingdom. The hero is about facing mortal danger by leaving his village and proving that he can exist in the larger world. The virgin shifts her values over the course of the story to be fully herself in the world. The hero is focused on developing his skills to actively do things that need to be done in the world. The virgin is about self-fulfillment and the hero is about self-sacrifice. They represent the two driving forces in humans when faced with challenges. Propelled towards the joy of being in harmony with yourself, which is the virgin’s promise, and driven away from fear to face hardship and conquer it bravely. That’s the hero’s journey. Propelled towards joy or driven away from fear. Both of those, we’re talking different sides of the human equation.

I see why you say it intuitively already fits from the beginning. You don’t have to thrust yourself out in the world. You’re making a change in your own world. You’re surrounded by the people who may be pushing against you or supporting you. I like the idea that you are pursuing joy rather than conquering fear.

One thing that strikes me as interesting is that many of these stories are about stories about women who stay home who are taking care of domestic affairs while heroes are out slaying dragons, being brave, and conquering their fears. The idea of staying home or keeping the kingdom going, the home fires burning, so to speak, and making sure that your own fire is burning as well. The same story for the person who’s solo applies to the stay-at-home parent. Don’t let the light go out in you as you’re doing these things that need to be done. It’s interesting to me that it’s not about any one thing. It’s about are you being authentic to yourself? Are you expressing yourself fully? It’s interesting too, the idea that you have to be brave enough to show yourself and you have to own your own experience and joy.

I agree with you that in both cases you have to be courageous. To me, courage is not about slaying dragons. Courage is about vulnerability. Courage can involve slaying dragons because you put yourself at risk, but it doesn’t have to be a physical risk to be courageous. This is where a lot of men fail. They think of courage in this heroic physical sense of the word of running into burning buildings and so on. They don’t recognize that courage is about vulnerability, which is about being your true self, asking for what you need, expressing that you’re scared, whatever that might be.

That is part of the tragic story about soldiers. You send them out into these horrific experiences, have them be brave, and tell them no fear and go. They come back and they’re not allowed to be vulnerable. They can’t express all the stuff that they carry with them now. They have PTSD and all these things, it’s almost like they fall into a dependent world at home. Now that you’re home, stay brave. Don’t fall apart on me now. I need you to be the man and all that stuff. It’s interesting to think about they go on this heroic journey of going to war and then coming home and then being shoved right into a dependent world and squashed in that way.

It’s painful when men don’t recognize it. It’s also painful when women don’t recognize it and they reinforce it.

That’s the thing. Women are reinforcing the damaging aspects of masculinity as much as men are about patriarchy, all this crap that every person is up against. It’s all stuff that’s stuck in our brains and we keep perpetuating it. It’s mind-boggling.

When a woman tells a man that she needs to man up, it’s not helping the man and it’s not helping the woman either. It’s a tough situation. It’s okay to be vulnerable because it’s an act of courage to be vulnerable. I’ve talked to men and women about this all the time and I say, “Have you asked for what you want?” You can’t leave it up to the other person to assume. You have to ask for what you want.

Every relationship issue on the planet can be boiled down to that statement. Have you asked for what you want? No, because you could be rejected.

You’re never going to get what you want if you don’t ask for it. You’re never going to give your partner or whoever it is a chance to give it to you if you don’t ask for it. You’re vulnerable when you ask for it because you might not get it. Where were we? At what stage are we at?

There’s this the opportunity to shine and then crossing the threshold moment in a virgin’s promise story dresses the part. This one is fun because it can be a couple of different things. Sometimes maybe it goes through a makeover. The makeover montages that you see in movies. Maybe they receive a physical object or they participate in some fashion show and sometimes they undress. They take something off. The one that I wanted to point out for this was if you think about the story Frozen, it’s her taking off her gloves. Elsa’s price of conformity is when she has to put those gloves on. I have a feeling you haven’t seen Frozen, Pete. It’s okay.

Elsa has magical powers. Her sister knows that. They’ve grown up knowing it together until Elsa accidentally hurts her sister, Anna. Anna was playing too wild, Elsa couldn’t control it, accidentally hits her in the head with her ice powers and knocks her out. They’re able to get Anna healed. What they do is they make it where Anna does not remember that Elsa has powers and her father says, “Put on these gloves and conceal it, don’t feel it. Don’t let it show.” That’s the quote that her dad says when he gives her these gloves and they’re little kids. They spend years and years. They used to share a bedroom, now they don’t. Elsa stays in her room all the time behind a closed door. The price of conformity is painstakingly clear in this story of what it looks to be locked up. You’ve got all this stuff inside of you, but you’re afraid it’s going to hurt other people, so you keep it to yourself.

I hope we’re not going to cause some divorces because of this.

I want people to self-actualize. Whatever it takes to self-actualize and your partner friends, sister, mother, father to self-actualize, I’m all, “Push those buttons now.” We’re here to manifest strange. You can feel it. It sits like this weight on your chest about what you have to be.

She takes off her gloves?

The parents die. She’s crowned Queen of Arendelle. There’s a big party and it’s the first party they’ve had in forever because they keep the gates to the kingdom close. They don’t talk with anybody. They invite all these people. There’s this big party. This is totally an aside and this is partly why I want you to nerd out and watch Frozen because Elsa is the quintessential solo person. She’s solo in the first film and she’s solo in the second film. She is this person. She is a perfect example of a solo protagonist. Even more so in the second story, the sequel.

Anna is the sister and she doesn’t have magical powers. Her problem in the first one, she wants to marry the first man that she meets. They want to get married like that. Elsa is like, “You can’t marry a man that you meet,” and she’s like, “It’s true love.” Elsa is telling her, “You cannot get married to this man.” Anna is upset that she pulls off her glove and Elsa accidentally uses her powers again and being frustrated. Everybody in the kingdom knows that she has these powers and she’s mortified. She runs away. I suck at summarizing. I get stuck on the details. I’m watching the movie in my head and I’m telling you all these details. My husband teases me because he’s like, “It’s probably faster if I watch the movie.” It all matters to me and I can’t separate it.

What’s awesome though and what we see is then Elsa leaves and she goes up on the snowy hill. She starts using her powers freely. This is where you sing the Let It Go song, which I’m sure you’ve heard whether you like it or not. She sings a song and she takes off the other glove. She’s like, “Fuck it, I’m taking off the gloves. I’m taking off this cape and I’m using all my powers.” She builds herself this giant ice castle thing and she pulls her hair down rather than being all up in a bun. She shows up. She transforms herself with her own powers and she changes her dress.

I like the fact that Frozen and Rocky have similarities. In Rocky, is it the training montage that might be that?

He gets this Italian stallion. He doesn’t get the robe until right before he goes on stage.

In Rocky 3, Creed gives him the stars and stripes shorts. I may be pushing this a little too far.

What’s interesting is, and not to totally nerd out, there’s something called an anti-virgin story, which is the reluctant virgin. It’s someone who their people might want to like, “Come on, be yourself.” They’re like, “I don’t want to.” The 40-Year-Old Virgin is an example of that. Mamma Mia! is also an example of this anti-virgin story.

I love that The 40-Year-Old Virgin is an anti-virgin story. In Cinderella, I’m assuming the ball is going to be the moment.

It’s going to be when the fairy godmother transforms her. If we step back one step, her opportunity to shine was that she made her own dress that then the stepsisters destroy. The fairy godmother shows up and says, “How about this?” It transforms her, gives her the dress, and she steps into the secret world by going to the ball in disguise. No one knows who she is.

I had a woman text me for the What is Ethical Non-Monogamy? episode. She’s like, “I’m taking notes as I’m reading this.” They’re coming out into the world. The idea of how they look at changes in some dramatic way. They add something, they take something. There’s a makeover.

I was going to point out the moment for Rocky is, in this case, it’s an anti- virgin. He’s reluctant to express his true self and he dresses for the wrong part. It’s when they go to the press conference with Jergens and Creed and he dresses in the wrong way and they make fun of him for it. In this case, it’s him not knowing how to be, what to do. From here, we step into our secret world. This is where they’re able to explore their gift without people watching. This is the training montage for Rocky. He’s doing it in secret. No one sees him. No one knows what he’s doing. He’s doing his running early in the morning where nobody sees him. This is Elsa up making her ice castle. She’s doing all this amazing stuff. They’re able to explore their secret world until there’s a moment that says that they no longer fit in the dependent world. The protagonists, they have to keep this balancing act of going between their secret world and their dependent world until it starts to unravel and they no longer fit.

They attract attention, they get reckless or confused or something happens. In this case with Rocky, he gets in a fight with Paulie. He no longer fits with Paulie or with Gazzo, his boss, into being his loan shark or his muscle for the loan shark business. It’s recognizing your old crowd, you don’t fit in with them anymore. You’ve let yourself explore your gift so much that now it’s starting to create a gap that you can’t compensate for. I went through this myself when I switched careers. You have your old friends that you were friends at work and you did all kinds of stuff together. I left my job, but you still maintain these relationships and friendships and you miss them. As I started to go down the rabbit hole of story and becoming an entrepreneur and whatever, the gap forms. I remember trying to do mommy at the park stuff with other people that I used to be able to do that stuff with and it was no big deal.

Solo 25 | Solo's Promise
The Virgin’s Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening

I’m like, “I can’t have another one of these goddamned conversations.” All of a sudden, all of the things I wanted to talk about, they knew absolutely nothing about and everything they were talking about, I could’ve cared less. I love my kids, but I wanted to talk about something else. I had ideas. I know that sometimes when you’re growing and other people aren’t or they’re growing in a different direction than you, you could start to feel that distance. That’s what this moment feels like. This brings us to the next moment, which is caught shining. It’s the moment when the worlds collide. You start to feel the pressure. You’re in your secret world. You start to realize this is not going to last. You don’t fit. There’s going to be a moment when you’re caught shining. You can’t keep it separate anymore. You have grown too big. You’re recognized by the dependent world. You’ve been betrayed. It depends on the story exactly how it plays out.

I have some vague recollection in Billy Elliot. There was some moment where he’s dancing.

He gets caught. His dad probably even shows up at some point. Do you know what it is? The boxing coach goes, “When’s Billy going to come back?” It’s like, “Whoopsies.” Dad shows up and realizes what’s going on, brings him home, and he says, “You can’t go back.” For Rocky, this is when Paulie surprises Rocky by setting up an interview with a local reporter at the meatpacking plant. Creed’s trainer watches him and realizes that Rocky is serious about the fight. This is where his private world has become public and now all eyes are on him and you can’t hide it anymore.

Do you know what I think is cool? Part of the reason I keep coming back to Rocky is that I know it so well. I was ten or something. Maybe I was probably even younger when it came out. People forget this. He doesn’t win the fight.

It’s the best part of the whole freaking story that he knows he is not going to win.

He wants to survive.

He’s like, “I can’t win, but I can go fifteen rounds. Nobody else can go fifteen rounds, but I can.” That’s his gift. I was reading about it. I was catching myself up on my Rocky knowledge. Sylvester Stallone had to fight to keep that scene about him telling Adrian, “I can’t win this fight.” The scene is the whole freaking story.

It could never get made now.

It’s too slow at the beginning.

He has to win. All the rest of them, he wins. The idea though is he doesn’t need to win to fulfill his promise, his potential.

He gets to show he’s no longer a bum. It’s not about winning. I don’t have to go against guys that are not as good as me. Before it was all about winning and that means you had to go against weaker opponents than him to make sure that it won. First round, second round, third round. What he’s all about, he’s endured a hard life. Rocky can take a punch. He can take a beating and he can get back up again. That’s what he’s been proving to us. His whole life is that story. His gift is about endurance against a stronger opponent. It’s not about winning, it’s about lasting. It’s about showing up again and again, taking a punch and getting up again.

He realizes that he can’t win and he decides, “I’m going in that ring anyway.” I’m going to not nerd out about it in Story Grid terms because it will not be helpful to any other person. It’s about him changing his definition of success, going from an unachievable definition of success that says, “I must win against Apollo Creed,” that says I’m going to go fifteen rounds against the champ. It’s something that no one else has ever done. It doesn’t matter if I lose, I have to keep getting up again. I’m built to do that. That’s his gift and he shows up, he shines and it’s amazing. It doesn’t even matter that he didn’t win because he won. Rocky’s a badass. He shows up with his gifting and that’s all we want anyone to do. Figure out what that thing is. Figure out what’s keeping you smaller than you’re supposed to be. What’s keeping you dim? What’s keeping you dependent, bound, give it up, step back and all that stuff and?

In Frozen, Cinderella, Billy Elliot, tell me what exactly is this moment?

We’re talking about giving up what’s kept them stuck moment, specifically what Rocky’s doing when he decides, “I can’t win, but I can go fifteen rounds.” When he realizes this, he gives up his cost of conforming. It’s no longer about winning. It’s about doing the best that I can and it’s great. That’s what’s kept him stuck.

I may be the worst at this that I keep referring back to the other one. There’s an episode with Lisa Slavid called Lisa’s Second Mountain. Isabella Imani, who was my guest cohost, brought up something that people overlook in the book, The Four Agreements.

We use The Four Agreements in the open adoption world. It’s powerful.

The Four Agreements, a lot of people know them. They’re outstanding guideposts for life. What people often overlook is what he calls human domestication. The idea is this, as a child, the world shapes you. Your parents chastise you for misbehaving, they get upset when you say no. They want you to say yes, agree with them, and do these things. Television tells you this is how you should behave and this is what you should do. You become domesticated the way we have domesticated farm animals and you get put in a cage and so on. He talks about how The Four Agreements can help release you from that domestication, which is neat.

That idea of domestication of taking all the wild out of you. Do what we need you to do.

Get married, have kids, buy the house, the white picket fence.

Get a job, a 401(k), work until you get a pension.

It’s interesting in the book that I’ve been reading, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. In the interview, Campbell and the interviewer, Bill Moyers, lament the change away from heroes being heroes to celebrities being heroes. The argument was 100 years ago, you ask a young person, “What do you want to be?” They’ll tell you a hero, whoever that would be in a particular time period. Now you ask a young person, “What do you want to be?” They say, “Kim Kardashian.”

In my house, it would be whoever their favorite YouTuber is. I’m like, “I don’t care if you watch TV, but it better be a fucking story. If I have to watch someone playing a game, there’s no real content there. Go watch a movie.”

What I love about the hero’s journey or the virgin’s promise is in both cases, there’s this transformation where someone is becoming a better version of themselves, but they’re doing it for themselves. They’re not doing it for the accolades. They’re not doing it for the clicks, the likes or anything like that. That is a powerful idea.

Clicks and likes, that’s the dependent world. That’s you depending on them. They’re dependent on you. Think about any artist, anyone who creates anything. Are you making it from a place of, “I have to make this, and this matters,” or are you trying to meet the market demand? Let me make this a made to order and let me do the next shallow blockbuster versus something that maybe not everybody will love. Fucking create a chasm, from Schtick to Business. More people are trying to play it safe. The virgin is all about creating that chasm.

The thing is if you try to make everyone happy, you’re not going to make yourself happy.

Probably no one else either. The book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom is by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Let’s talk about these moments for Frozen, Cinderella and Billy Elliot.

Let’s think about what gives up, what kept her stuck. In Cinderella, if we back up to the moment when she’s caught singing, this is when the evil stepmother figures out who she is. She hears her singing and she realizes that she’s the person that they saw at the ball. The secret’s out. There’s no hiding it anymore and she gets locked in the tower. It seems at this moment is when Cinderella stops following orders. When she gets her little mice friends, depending on which story you’re watching, they unlock the door and she has to come downstairs and go, “I have the other slipper.” This is her saying, “I have the other slipper,” and that’s going against what her stepmother has said.

She’s going to show that her stepmother is a liar in front of the duke. She’s played nice this whole time. She does everything that they ask. She gets them breakfast, does all their laundry. She had this one special night and she’s like, “Maybe it’ll only be this night.” She realizes that, “I have a chance. That’s my slipper.” She’s going to have to speak up. She’s going to have to own her identity and say, “I’m the woman who was wearing the slipper. That was me. Let me have a turn,” and go against what her stepmother was saying and it gets shown that her stepmother is a liar. Speaking out against what your mother thinks, that’s a whole other show. It’s intense. Maybe it’s for her son too. For a daughter, for sure. It’s a whole thing.

There’s a reason that most of the single-focused books, other shows out there or whatever it is, are typically female-focused. When you’re that person around the Thanksgiving dinner table, it’s harder on the ladies.

Even in the language, and maybe we said this before on show or maybe we’ve said it when we’re having a regular conversation, but even the language. A bachelor is cool. An old maid, you’re a spinster. There’s something wrong with you. A bachelor is cool and you can’t turn them down. It’s different.

Spinster is almost wholly negative and a bachelor’s at least mixed. There’s some positive side seen to it that’s there. It feels a little more choice-like. To your point, you’re sitting at Thanksgiving dinner for the X year in a row, “Is there someone special in your life? When are you going to settle down? When are you going to have kids? When are you going to do this thing?” To say, “I don’t think I’m ever going to do that.”

That leads us to our next moment, which is the kingdom in chaos and everyone around, you can’t handle it. They can’t handle the truth. They’re going, “Why? What do you mean?” They’ll totally belittle what you said. Like, “You just wait. Wait for your time and when you meet someone.” It could be about wanting to be a writer for a living or about being solo. It applies to all of these things, but we’re specifically talking about being a dancer in a blue-collar mining town. Your ability to ride that out, ride out the chaos, that’s where you have to steel yourself against compromise at that moment. If we think about Rocky, in this case, Paulie is the representative here. He could come back down and play at his level. He has to rise above that stuff.

You’re getting too big for your britches moment.

You’ve declared it. You were caught shining and you freaking own it and you go, “I am. I shine a lot. I’m bright.” You own it and then they can’t handle it and they’re going to try to pull you back in. It leads us to the next moment, which is the wanders in the wilderness moment of doubt like, “I don’t know. Should I go back?” There’s all of this stuff that you’re going to wrestle with until you get to the next one, which is where you choose your light. She chooses her light. This is where even after you’ve been caught out, and even after they’ve tried to pull you back in and you’ve wrestled with it and you go, “This is it.” You make your final ultimatum. “Mom, I’m not getting married, but I love you and I still am your daughter. I still have value and I’m going to have all of these amazing things and a remarkable life.

As an aside, I’ve mentioned this before. I chose the word remarkable carefully. It’s the life that people talk about. They remark about your life. This could have been the single person’s guide to a great, good, growing, amazing life. It’s underused. It isn’t wholly positive. Things can be remarkably bad at times. The point about it is that it’s noticeable, but it leans positive.

This is the climax of the story. It’s the choosing of her light. In Billy Elliot, Billy shows up. He does the audition. He answers his questions honestly to the interview board after he tried to sabotage himself by hitting someone in the locker room. It’s his wandering the wilderness moment where he’s thinking, “I’ve screwed it up.” We find out that he makes it and then he has to accept it again. He has to say, “I’m going and leave home and go to the school.” What that leads us to is it reordering. What I love about this is the reordering of the kingdom is amazing because it’s when you set out to self-actualize in the virgin’s promise story, you’re doing it for your own fulfillment. Your job is to focus on making sure you’re fulfilled.

By you living your best, most remarkable life, it makes the people around you better. It makes the kingdom brighter. It makes people, “I wonder. Maybe mom at the hypothetical Thanksgiving table, by you owning your light, maybe she stands up for something that she wants to do more by seeing an example. Maybe she is less hard on a younger sister when she comes up and wants to do something different.” Insert any story that you want, you can see how if you can show up and be strong in your identity and own it with compassion, kindness, and grace. Maybe be a little mouthy too, because that never hurt anybody. When you do that, you become a mentor for others to show like, “They are living a solo life,” or, “They are they’ve left this conventional path.”

Career stuff comes to mind. I have this conversation with students, especially my undergrad students, a lot about, “Mom and dad want you to be an accounting major, but what do you want to be?” You become a better son or daughter as a result of that because you’re going to be happier.

You release them. You release yourself from conforming and you release them too. There’s so much healing happening, which makes me happy. It’s good for people. There’s reordering and then the kingdom is brighter. If we think about Billy Elliot, the last scene is freaking amazing. The father and the brother, it’s been however many years later, Billy is a grown man. They’re going to watch him perform and they show you a blip of what he looks and you feel it in your chest. He is freaking amazing and you can see it on their faces too. When they watched him do this Black Swan, he’s dancing this Black Swan. They’re different. Men can be different. It shifts their own perspective. They have a worldview change and they allow other people to be who they need to be and hopefully they’re a little bit kinder to themselves as well. It’s good for everybody.

Frozen? Since I haven’t seen the movie, spoil it for me.

In the end, what happens is it’s great because Anna sacrifices herself to save Elsa. It’s beautiful. It’s funny because the story is not even all that great. I’m totally saying from a storytelling perspective, there’s a lot that feels like it’s missing in the film. What is working is working well that it ends up compensating for these other things. There’s a saying that happens is that an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart. What ends up happening is Elsa accidentally freezes Anna’s heart during probably the caught shining moment. Let’s say something like that. Anna is slowly freezing to death and turning to ice. Her hair’s going white. There’s a moment when she can choose between running to Kristoff to get a true love’s kiss moment or she can save Elsa from the bad guy who’s going to hit her with a sword. She goes and she gets in front of her, she turns to ice totally solid, as the swords coming down and the sword breaks against her and Elsa’s saved.

Everybody knows this guy’s the bad guy so he can be taken away, but she freezes to death. She has a hero’s journey happening. Anna is more this heroic role that she’s learning about sacrifice and learning to see things a little differently and not marry the first man that you meet kind of thing. Elsa’s is going through a virgin’s promise. What’s great is the fact you have these sisters and their journeys are different. They get to happen on the same stage and you get to see them be themselves. It’s super cool. As a mother of girls. I’ve got two daughters, and even my son too. It’s great to see those two play out the solo and the non-solo person. A hero journey and a virgin’s promise. It’s cool nerdy stuff. That happens. Anna freezes to death, but she herself did an act of true love by saving Elsa rather than herself. Her own heart thaws and she comes back. It’s Disney. It’s beautiful. It’s metaphorical. I love it. At that moment, because they realized love thaws a frozen heart, Elsa realizes this whole time her own fear of her own gifting and what other people are going to do has made the entire kingdom frozen.

It was the middle of summer and now everything’s frozen solid. The fjord is frozen. That’s been a big problem this whole time. She doesn’t know how to unfreeze it because she can’t be afraid. She can’t stop being afraid. She realizes that love can thaw and she has the power to unthaw everything because she has love. She embraces her own power and she thaws everything. She fixes everything and now she’s no longer afraid of her own power. Other people don’t have to be afraid of it and she can control it. She can do whatever she needs to do. Everyone reconciles. The kingdom’s open. The sisters are together and they rule. What I love about Elsa’s journey is that she’s been taught to be afraid of her own powers and that it’s going to hurt other people. She feels she either has to hide it or sequester herself away from others and in the end, she learns to integrate and be part of a community, even if she’s the only one like her in the whole community.

This is almost a perfect segue into our bonus material. Before we officially end and then come back for the bonus material, first of all, thank you, Kim, for doing this. This is wild. Many of the topics that came up are things that I know a lot about. That’s part of the reason why I choose them because they’re going to be useful. This one I knew almost nothing about. I did a little bit of homework since we last talked. You are right. You are correct. This is a better model. Not that the hero’s journey is not a useful model by which to think about making changes in your life or anything like that. I always say for now or forever, to be comfortable for now or forever is to accept the goodness of being single and to fulfill that promise and the potential for this time. Maybe it’s 6 months, 6 years or 60 years. If you can do that, not only do you transform yourself by letting go of this act of courage to lean into this, but then you can transform the world around you.

There’s something about contentment and being present and all of those things, that knowing that being who you are is enough. You can rest in that. Much of the angst about, especially those of us that are future-driven, we constantly want to plan the future. I will live in the future in my head all the time and it’s exhausting. Even in that, resting in for now and in whatever way that makes sense and applies it to your own story. That’s liberating that you can release some of that.

One of the neat things about this is they may shake up the other world, but it doesn’t diminish it. What I always say is I’m not anti-marriage. I think it’s overprescribed. It’s a perfect path for many people. I don’t believe it’s the perfect path for 90% of people. People pursuing their solo promise in no way diminishes the marriages of other people.

It applies, but even going through same-sex marriage, legalizing same-sex marriage, it doesn’t affect anyone else’s marriage. It’s their marriage. Insert all the thoughts that I’m having because I get too worked up about it. That is the revelation that we want people to have. You living your journey not only is going to help other people but if you can let other people live theirs, that is going to help you and that is the segue too.

This was fantastic. We’ll come back for the bonus where Kim is going to tell my married, partnered readers how they can help singles facilitate the virgin’s promise. Thank you, Kim.

We’re back for a little bit of bonus material. Kim is still with me and we had this perfect segue into how can partnered people facilitate the virgin’s promise or the anti-virgin’s promise, depending on how you look at it. How do you break the normal script that happens around Thanksgiving dinners, dinner tables and beyond?

How can you support your solo friends and family? What comes to mind is first to believe them. Believe that they know best for their own freaking lives. This could insert into a lot of different ally conversations. Believe that their experience is true and honor it. Honor their experience and believe them. Part two of that is don’t try to change their mind. Don’t try to change their mind. Listen. Be excited for them. The language, the tone, and the facial expressions that you use are important like, “Great. I’m glad you figured that out.” It’s an easy thing to do is to believe someone, accept what they’re saying. Honor what they’re saying and don’t try to change their mind. Listen, that’s part one.

I love that idea because that decision has nothing to do with you. I like the idea that the immediate answer is, “That’s great. Congratulations. You’ve recognized something.” This is a positive development that someone has realized that this other path is a better one for them to walk.

Right along with that is realizing it doesn’t have anything to do with you. There’s no need to get defensive. You don’t have to defend your position about how you feel about this topic and don’t look at it as a critique of you. It has nothing to do with you. Maybe this is a bizarre analogy, but it’s useful. If we were talking about someone’s sexual orientation, something that they’re born with, it’s the way they are. If someone says, “I like women,” or, “I like men,” you don’t need to change them. It doesn’t change you at all. It literally affects you in no way other than you saying, “I’m proud of you. I’m glad that you figured that out and I don’t have to defend anything.”

I don’t know if I should look this up. I have heard about some research about the most homophobic men.

There’s some tendency they’re there. They’re afraid. That is the anti-virgin’s story happening. There’s something locked in there and they don’t want it to come out.

I’m not sure about that. The behavior is multiply determined. We should be a little bit careful. My thing is this. When someone says, “I don’t like Italian food. I like Indian food.” The person goes, “Italian food is the best food on the planet. You should be eating Italian food as much as possible.” No one ever does that because it’s ludicrous.

It doesn’t make any sense. It’s funny though. In fact, I’ve had that same argument about whether or not you should have pineapple on pizza. It totally went, “You absolutely should not.” Whatever the reasons were. It became this bit where I’m like, “Why do you care if I have pineapple on my pizza?” It doesn’t matter. Whether it’s food or what music you like or what do you think a movie is good or not, have your opinions, but in this case, it’s personal. You’re talking about someone’s being. Keep your fucking mouth shut. Can we say like, “You don’t need to say anything, you don’t need to be defensive?”

The other thing that I wanted to mention because a lot of the times the people that need to be the biggest ally is the solo person’s parents. As a parent, and I would say for anyone reading, you can start early. My kids are 10, 6 and 4, and they know that they don’t ever have to get married if they don’t want to. They don’t ever have to have babies if they don’t want to. They don’t have to do anything that they didn’t want to do. They could have babies and not be married. They can adopt babies. There are all kinds of things that you can do. They get to make these choices. In fact, my daughter was like, “I think I want to have a baby first and then get married later.” She wants to adopt a baby on her own, be a solo parent. She had it all this other way. I’m like, “My mom would absolutely lose her mind if she knew that.” We had talked about them as totally these separate things and everybody makes different decisions. This is what I wanted to do, but you don’t have to do that and whatever.

The idea of starting young whether it’s educating them about the choices they have for themselves or that other people might make. This to me is a good education. I’m saying there’s a lot of different people in this world. Everybody’s going to take their own path, they’re going to find their own way, and our job is to love, accept them, empower them, and help them be their best selves whatever that looks like. I like the idea that you can start empowering your children young to make these choices, to have autonomy in their lives, as you would about their career. You can be whatever you want when you grow up. Do you mean it? Do you only mean as long as your job is safe, secure, you’re married, you have a house and babies and you live within driving distance from me? Those are my prerequisites. Other than that, anything you want. That’s important.

My mom loved me quite a lot and was largely proud of me for the things that I have done in life. Our relationship was fraught with conflict in part because she was a difficult person to get along with. She could be manipulative and controlling. That came from a place of love and it came from a place of her wanting the best life for me. To keep me safe and to do all these things, but it was a struggle. I’ve learned to appreciate a lot of what she did beyond the difficult times with her. One of the things that she never did to me was she never pressured me to be married with children. Part of the reason for that was marriage and children didn’t go well for her, so she didn’t see it as the path, to use your word, to self-actualization. She didn’t see us as the path to happiness per se. She’d ask if I was dating someone or something out of curiosity, but it never was like, “Is there anyone special?”

I think she was in some ways concerned that would knock me off a path that I was thriving in academia. I was living this adventurous life while she was alive. She worried about me, but she was also too super proud of it. She would write letters a lot. She would address the letter, “Dr. Peter McGraw.” Isn’t that wonderful? That’s great. I never appreciated it at the time. I couldn’t have because I hadn’t fully gone through my solo promise, but she gave me a great gift by not leaning on me in that way for whatever reason. I’ve never thought about that until you talked about that. Thank you, Kim.

Whether it’s about someone being solo or whatever their experience is, part of our call as humans on this planet that we share together and the time that we’re alive is to support other people’s journey and realize that they exist outside of you. They have their own experience. You can still love them and support them from afar if needed. Maybe it’s easier. Maybe you won’t be the best person to support them on this journey, but you can still love and support them from afar. Those are good gifts.

I’m not going to add anything because you nailed it. I’m going to let you be a mom and wife. I can tell you are doing a great job, but I will also say thank you for your support.

Thank you for letting me be part of it. It feels good to help support you and support solo people. I want people to show up with their gifts. I need their light. The world needs their light, so whatever it takes.

Kim, you’re great. Thanks so much.

You’re welcome.


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About Kimberly Kessler

Solo 25 | Solo's Promise Kimberly Kessler is a writer, filmmaker, and Story Grid certified editor.






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