I wrote this several years ago for OpenSalon.com. I was single then; now I’m not. I still see the benefits of both ways of being….

Happiness is being single

The Single Person’s Life; now that’s a totally new concept to me. I heard it the other morning while talking to a friend who was commiserating about my burial in suburbia. “I know exactly what you mean,” she said. “I had to leave the suburbs because I wanted a Single Person’s Life, and the chances of my finding it outside of a city were nil to none.”

I ignored the fact that her statistics were somewhere south of the Georgian steppes (I am math-illiterate myself, not to mention geographically-challenged). I was totally taken with this idea of the Single Person’s Life, which emerged as a full-blown vision. And since as a writer, I write, I set about making a verbal doodle of exactly what that life would be.

A Single Person’s Life is one of contentment, pleasure even, in the solitary nature of day-to-day events. That is, no one else is about to crap on your fantasies or complain about the way you made the bed. If you snore, you only wake yourself. If you get up at 3 a.m. and must have a bowl of cereal, no one is there to say, “What the hell are you doing?” You don’t have to wait for the bathroom to be free and the only smelly old sneakers in the closet are yours.

A Single Person’s Life is one in which you star. What do you want to eat? What do you want to watch? When do you want to go to bed–and really, what do you want to do once you’re there? Here, give me that remote; it’s mine to program at will. Sated with the Olympics? Move on over to Flip That House or, better yet, Final Cut/Shear Genius where you can enjoy the sheer/shear bitchiness of the hairdressers without anyone sneering at your choices.

A Single Person’s Life is one where you don’t have to worry about whether your partner likes your sister, best friend, or the couple down the street. Nor will you ever be concerned about his or her antisocial tendencies relative to alcohol imbibed and conversations had. When you go to a party as a Single Person, you are free to skulk in the corner or flirt with the host, leave early or stay till dawn, as you wish. If you get into an intense philosophical conversation about the relative worth of free range eggs, there is no one over in the corner giving you the high sign, I want to go now. Conversely, you will never be at a company event of your partner’s where you must endlessly endure the boss’s sexist jokes and the rancid clam dip. If you wander by chance into such an event on your own, you can, without qualm, hightail it out at the first sign of a stale chip.

I have an image of myself in this Single Person’s Life. I am, of course, somewhat slimmer than now, mainly because I actually do yoga and actually use my Pilates reformer. I am happy and carefree and entertain a lot in my Single Person’s home (using, it must be said, my formerly married person’s china and silver). My friends are my family. We actually like each other, which is more than I can say about my family–and therefore holidays spent together are pleasant events, which again is more than I can say about my family.

Yes, this is a fantasy, and I realize that reality does in fact bite. But still, this Single Person’s Life is a worthwhile goal, is it not? It’s a life in which self-actualization is completely in your control. You are who you are, without any addendum modifying you. And your life, your Single Person’s Life, is now an object of desire rather than shame or scorn.

Liked this? Have a look at The Newly Single Woman Tries to Move, which is in the archives at JaneGassner.com.

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River Rock Massage

This is a tale of two spas

Or it’s a tale of one woman growing up. Or it’s a tale of one woman growing up and how that manifested itself when she visited two spas several decades apart. Or it’s all of these. You decide.

In the early ‘80s on a Valentine’s Day weekend, Playgirl magazine sent me to La Costa Spa in San Diego, the first of the full-service resort spas in America, to get the whole experience for an article that was to be titled, “The Ultimate Pleasure.” They sent a photographer with me so I would be starring in my own version of Cheryl Tiegs goes to La Costa.

Jane bikes the trails, Jane dines on spa food, Jane has a full body massage and then a lemon salt scrub, followed a multi-headed shower spraying warm sheets of water.

I took notes on what I was seeing and experiencing, good journalist that I was. I knew that when I got back to my apartment in Burbank, I would have to write 1500 words that would make Playgirl’s readers rush to book their own spa adventure.

It did not go well.

Although I’ve never laughed at a funeral, I do tend to view the world through a lens that is somewhat skewed. Particularly at that age when I was so intent on the need to appear cool and in control, I often could see only the ridiculous in the sublime. So it was with my spa experience at La Costa. The masseuse for that full-body massage seemed like an extra from Hogan’s Heros; the salt scrub made me feel like I was lying in a bed of melting lemon popsicles. And the multi-headed shower? All I could register was that each of those 25 heads proudly bore the words Magic Orificer.

This was a problem when I got to writing the article. The Ultimate Pleasure? My thesaurus cracked at P for Pleasure.The magazine had changed editors by the time I turned the piece in, and the new editor was a 20-something guy who was less than pleased with my expressions of  ecstasy.  He did a rewrite, but his version of the ultimate pleasure had a decidedly masculine flavor: “The massage felt so good it made the fuzz on my thighs stand up and salute.” Under my byline? I think not.

The editor was adament that they would publish the article as he had rewritten it and urged me just to suck it up. Fortunately for me I had a close friend who was a bigshot criminal defense attorney and he amused himself by messing about with The Man in his various forms. In this case, he threatened to enjoin Playgirl from publication of that issue unless they removed my name. There was some lawyering back and forth, but in the end, the byline on the article was not mine, and of course, my Cheryl Tiegs shots on location at LaCosta were never published either. From that day to this, I have foresworn spas; I was obviously missing some gene that enabled me to see the Ultimate Pleasure as anything but a hoot.

Fast forward almost forty years…

The irony that it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, 2015 and I’m off for a spa weekend is not lost on me. I agreed to tread in spa waters again at the Oaks at Ojai  for two reasons: I wanted to see this place built by one of the most dynamic women I’ve ever met, Sheila Cluff,Sheila Cluffand I wanted to check the Oaks at Ojai out as a possible venue for the writers retreat I’m planning. On the hour and a half drive from LA to Ojai, I’m alternatively enthusiastic and nervous. The young woman from LaCosta, the one who was driven by a need to appear cool and in control no matter what she was actually feeling, had been succeeded by a confident and mature version who no longer needs the scrim of irony to be her carapace of invulnerability. Or at least I hope she has.

The Reality

There is something about the Oaks at Ojai that defies my ability to name–and that is just killing the writer in me. So allow me to babble for a while, to repeat myself and wave my hands a bit, to jump from one topic to the next, to–I don’t know, just say it as it hits me. Maybe at the end of this, you’ll name it for me.

From the moment I entered my room, I thought, “I could move in here…forever.” Oaks villaSouthern California is rife with the Southwestern design trope, but this was, somehow, different. It didn’t smack of being stamped by a corporate identity. I didn’t see the other rooms and maybe they were all the same, but mine had high ceilings, a wall-to-wall closet, separate dressing room with magnifying mirror, huge bathroom with a walk-in shower and a jetted spa bathtub the likes of which I’ve never seen before. There’s a built in desk with the requisite plugs for my electronics, a comfy easy chair and just out the sliding screen door, a private little patio, with two chaises and a table.

Oh! I just realized: my room at the Oaks at Ojai had everything that’s missing from my own house. Of course I would want to live there forever!

 

It’s definitely a writers’ paradise, I think; my fantasy of a West Coast McDowell Colony. That fantasy continues to the food at the Oaks at Ojai. Three meals a day, plus midmorning broth breaks and midafternoon smoothies. It’s a 1300 calorie a day plan, with no salt or butter. I feared I would be hungry; I wasn’t. In fact, I realized in the Morning Stretch that maybe I would be a bit more flexible if I wasn’t so damn full of food.Grilled chicken breast

About Morning Stretch: the mantra of the Oaks at Ojai seems to be, do whatever makes you feel good. Yes, they offer as part of the whole experience a full and varying daily schedule of activities, your choice according to your particular mood and needs at the moment. Yes, there are all those spa extras to book–the massages, the facials, the mani-pedis and private salon services. Do them all, or do none. I met people who were spending an entire month at the Oaks; I met people who had come in just for the day.

It really is that kind of place, a protected space where who you are and what you need is honored. Consequently there are no pecking orders or power trips among the hundred or so women (and yes, a few men) who are there. You want to share a table at dinner–share a table. You want to eat alone at lunch–eat alone. It’s your choice and there are no judgments. I’ve heard about spas where if you don’t show up for class, they send someone to make you. I’ve seen spas (hello La Costa) where classes could have been a fashion show featuring the latest in exercise wear. Not at the Oaks at Ojai.

I went to sleep the first night intending to get up early for the 45 minute Slow Ojai History Stroll. My bed was too comfortable so I only managed to go straight to breakfast, where I sat with ecstatic hikers who had just finished the 90 minute Pratt Trail Hike. That’s so not me, but it was obviously so them. I signed up for the Meditation Weekend and I took, for the first time ever, a water aerobics class, which I loved and intend to do  more of in LA. 10965686753_ea02994082_kI had a Skin Authority Fit & Firm Vitamin D Fortified (™) Lifting Facial (which deserves and will get its own encomium). I made friends and hung out. I did not use the fully equipped exercise area or get a massage, although I thought about booking the Reiki and a friend I met there had the Oaks River Rock Massage.

At breakfast my last day, I spent some time talking with Sheila Cluff. Now in her 70s, she has handed over the CEO responsibilities to her daughter, Cathy, but it is clear that Sheila is still the driving force behind the Oaks at Ojai. It is her can do, do what feels right attitude that permeates all that goes on there. Before I even left, I was planning my next trip up there.

And yes, the Oaks at Ojai will be the perfect place for my first Writers’ Retreat. More on that in the future…

For the purposes of this review and researching the venue for my Writers’ Retreat, I was comped for my two night stay at the Oaks of Ojai as well as the Skin Authority Facial.  The enthusiasm, I assure you, is wholly my own. The place is fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough. 

 

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sneakersINT. DAY. SKECHERS SHOE STORE, SHERMAN OAKS GALLERIA.

The shop is empty except for an OLDER WOMAN, the customer,  and TWO 20-SOMETHING MEN, the sales staff.

The woman is carefully examining the shoes on display. The young men are hanging out at the front of the store talking and rearranging shoes in the display window. They pay no attention to her and finally she holds up a shoe and interrupts:

WOMAN

What material are these shoes made of?

FIRST SALESMAN

Ummm. I don’t know.

WOMAN

 (unbelieving) You don’t know?

FIRST SALESMAN

(Uncertain) Um, no

WOMAN

You work here and you don’t know what material the shoes are made of?

FIRST SALESMAN(to SECOND SALESMAN)

No, do you?

SECOND SALESMAN

No. They’re shoes.

WOMAN

I know they’re shoes. But are they leather? Are fabric? Are they–

SECOND SALESMAN

Yes, maybe, whatever.

WOMAN

I came in here specifically to buy a pair of Skechers, but you’ve just lost the sale.

FIRST SALESMAN

(a bit pathetically) But why?

WOMAN

Why should I spend my money in a store that doesn’t even care enough to train its sales staff–

SECOND SALESMAN

(interrupting) Yeah, well, whatever. (waves arms motioning for the woman to leave)

WOMAN

( walking away) Was this the millenial idea of retail service? Or was it ageism?

 

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Post image for You’re a Writer Looking to Move into Major Publications? Get Started at My Writers’ Workshop

That’s what we’ll be doing…

And here’s how we’ll be doing it…

  • Every Saturday I post a lesson pertaining to that week’s topic. It will include
    • text written by me
    • an assignment (prompt, research task) for you
  • You have the week to complete the assignment.
  • We will communicate on-line during the week as much or as little as we need to.
  • Some weeks, we will meet in a video chat at a time that works for both of us.

Logistics:

  • I set up a virtual Workshop room in Google Drive.
  • Drive enables not only private sharing of documents, but commenting as well.
  • This will be the central part of the workshop, which you can access any time that works for you from any platform (Drive works on smart phones as well as tablets).
  • The video chats take place in real time via Google Hangouts.

Want to Know How I Know About All This:

  • I’ve been a working writer all my adult life and that means I understand what it feels like to be a writer as well as what how the business works.
  • Since 1975, I have earned my living as
    • a magazine feature writer (too many to list, including Redbook, Los Angeles, New Times, Ladies Home Journal
    • non-fiction book writer (Doubleday),
    • documentary producer (PBS),
    • radio reporter (KPFK),
    • scholarly writer (academic conferences)
    • business writer (British American Chamber of Commerce)
    • print editor (LA Free Press),
    • blogger (Patch, More.com, Third Age, Vibrant Nation, She Posts).
    • I founded MidLifeBloggers.com in 2008 and the first Writers Workshop began that year.

To Reserve Your Place: Email me at byjane73@gmail.com 

  • Your name, email address & phone number, plus
  • A brief note with your goals and blog address
  • Your preferred method for paying the $300 fee
    • Paypal
    • Google Wallet
      • I will send you the relevant info for making the payment when I acknowledge your request to reserve a place

Any Questions……byjane73@gmail.com or in the Comments below

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Writing booksThe early morning hours can be the most troublesome for me. I swim to the surface of a nice-enough dream and land straight in my day-to-day reality. It is, I can assure you, not dreamlike. In fact, those early morning hours when I’m lying awake often feature a parade of my worst case scenarios come to life.

I should get up. I should get up and brush my teeth and start my day. I know this, because when I eventually haul myself out of bed and do it, the worst case scenarios melt down to the bearable reality. But I want to get back to the nice-enough dream and so I burrow in and try for another go at sleep.

Sometimes it works and occasionally I’ll wake up feeling spiffy and ready to meet my day. More often, I wake up an hour later, feeling drugged because I’ve slept too long. When it doesn’t work, I’m left to deal with all the stuff that I don’t want to deal with in daylight–and then some.

As anyone who knows me through ByJane and MidLifeBloggers is aware, I often write myself out of my sad places. Or at least I have in the past. Now–now I’m a little more loathe to do so. Or maybe a lot more than a little.

I’m feeling very self-protective lately. I’m feeling very unsure of where and what and why I am and I’m fearful of put something out there that will be read in any other way than as I intended it. Yes, I would like to control the way people read my words. I work hard to make them specific and true to me, but despite that, my readers have their own agendas, and they will not obey mine.

So I’m not writing the specifics of my sad places, which means that I’m sort of stuck like sludge in them. I came up with an idea this morning for how I could get around that. I would start a new blog, an anonymous blog that would be a repository for all my writing that feels too vulnerable for public dissemination. When I was a kid, I had a red leather diary, with a key no less, that I kept on and off for not very long. I would address my diary directly, but I was young enough that spelling was still an issue for me. I would write, “Dear Dairy.”

I thought, what a great name for this new blog that would contain my most private posts. It would be plain, perhaps a template that looked like notebook paper. The font would be something handwriting-ish. The header would–and here I pulled up short. Header? Template? Font? For whom? Who would be reading this new blog of mine? And wouldn’t the fact that there were readers drastically interfere with my need for total privacy?

Well, yes, it would. But if no one read what I wrote, then what was the point?

That’s when I realized that for me, writing is a performative act; it requires an audience. In some ways, that seems a bit creepy to me. I have this image of my 9 year old self on the school bus flipping her skirts up to get attention. I know people who do that with their blogs. There’s a fine line between showing one’s vulnerable side and TMI. Some bloggers do it well; they’ve built careers on it, and I admire them. Some bloggers I just want to say, “Pull your skirt down and find another way to fulfill yourself.” I think that fine line is mostly in the eye of the beholder–and of the writer. Which is, I suppose, my way of saying, It’s fine for you, but not, I think, for me. At least right now.

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