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The Man Fast

A single New York girl takes a break from dating and drama to focus on herself


It’s occurred to me recently that I may be afraid of relationships. All my significant relationships in the past five (!!!) years have been long distance. Maybe it’s because NYC guys aren’t my type, but the likely reason is that while the emotions and commitment may be real, it allows my day-to-day lifestyle to be that of a single woman.

Maybe I’m afraid of getting bored, bickering over small things, being annoyed because he doesn’t clean the sink after he shaves,feeling smothered.When I’m single or in a long-distance relationship, none of these issues are a factor. We’re so excited to be together that it’s like vacation every time. Compromise is hard. People can hurt me. I’m a fast mover and love new things. And all of these can be problematic in a real, in-person relationship.

I want this man fast to be about me, even as it evolves past a “fast” in the strict sense. (In the past month or so, I’ve been on dates, flirted with guys, had crushes. This is OK with me.) But I also want to address my fear of a real, lasting commitment. Maybe I really do want to be single, and that’s great. But if it’s because I’m scared of the alternative, then it becomes a problem.

It’s all about balance, and I need to make sure I find mine.


I was talking to N yesterday about the man fast, and she brought up the most interesting point I’ve heard yet.

"That sounds great," she said. "But don’t let it become a crutch you use because you’re afraid of intimacy."

I’ve been burned a lot, and I’ve been burned recently. And maybe she’s right; maybe I am man fasting partly because I’m afraid and too burned out to deal with it all. Especially recently, my focus seems to have come back around from taking care of myself to avoiding dating.

Avoiding dating isn’t the point. I need to figure out who I am and what I want before I can have a healthy relationship, and that’s really the point of this exercise (or whatever it is). Running away from intimacy should never be a focus of my life.

So I’m thinking of renaming this blog and the fast in general. Any thoughts about a more appropriate name?

I’ve been trying to read more in my spare time, especially since the beginning of the man fast. Here are a few books I’ve finished recently.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion: I loved this book and thought her essays were sharp, touching, interesting and well executed. I had read other Didion work in the past and didn’t like it; this resonated with me and was enjoyable to read. I went on a Didion binge and followed this with Play It as It Lays, which wasn’t quite as terrific as this.

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, George Saunders: I was a huge Saunders fan in college, and while I liked this book, I felt like it was just a bit too much for me. The zany satire is enjoyable at first, but even though it was just a novella, the length of the story made it feel a bit tiring by the end.

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood: This was another classic dystopian Atwood novel. It was well written and interesting. It’s one of those books where you spend half the book trying to figure out what, exactly, it’s about — in a good way. At points, it dragged and felt incredibly dated, but overall, I enjoyed reading it. Ends on a cliffhanger, just FYI.

Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick: Part graphic novel and part young-adult novel, this is a beautiful, gentle story of two kids in NYC separated by generations. It was recommended by my friend S, and it’s a quick, engrossing book with great illustrations.

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell: Everyone I know is reading this right now in anticipation of the Big Unfilmable Movie that’s coming out. It was fun and touching in parts, and Mitchell did a great job jumping between stories and genres in a way that is engaging and fluid. It’s a bit heavy-handed and preachy at times, but I’ll forgive it because the writing and characters are great.

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Emma Straub: I wanted to love this book. I think Straub has a beautiful way with words and a lovely touch with her storytelling. But the plot and characters fell flat for me. It felt dutiful and predictable, and that was disappointing, considering how much I loved her short-story collection, Other People We Married. If you’re going to read something by Straub, stick to her shorter works.

City of Thieves, David Benioff: This was a quick read and a fully enjoyable story of an unlikely friendship and adventure during World War II.

What have you been reading?

Athletic Friend Dates

While some parts of the man fast are difficult for me — no body hating, no flirting, no crushes, no talking about exes — the one thing I’ve excelled at is going on fantastic friend dates.

This weekend, my good friend S and I went to Breakneck Ridge, about an hour’s train ride outside NYC, to do a 5-mile hike and rock scramble. The trees were beginning to change color, the hike was perfectly challenging without being too hard, and Sue and I had a great time. After the hike, we went to a local diner and ate hamburgers the size of my head.

Today I had another friend date with R, my workout and running buddy. We did a 9-mile run (the longest either of us has ever run), chatting and laughing the whole time. Afterward, we felt such a sense of accomplishment. (I almost cried. It was weird.)

And the best thing about these athletic friend dates? If I get disgusting and sweaty, it doesn’t matter. They don’t want to make out with me anyway.

On Sitting Still or Moving Forward

I’ve always pushed myself to achieve, to improve, to attain. It’s defined my whole life, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t striving. I wanted to read before everyone, write cursive before it was required, excel in this sport or that, get the best grades, good scholarships, a great internship.

I’m an adult now, and I’m still striving. My goals may have changed slightly: many are now career-related or athletic or accomplishment-based. I want to run a half-marathon. I want to write a book of short essays. I want to get new freelance clients and take on more work for the ones I currently have. I want to get fitter and more toned. I want I want I want I want.

Rules 5 and 6 (my friend K calls them challenges, and maybe that’s a more appropriate word) forbid body-hating and negative self-talk. And I’ve been thinking a lot about this. When does ambition and the drive to change and achieve become negative? When does my desire to get fitter and lose weight veer into the territory of negativity about my body as it is now? Can I want to change and still accept and love myself as I am?

I know I’m not capable of sitting still and accepting the way things are. I always want to move forward and set new goals for myself. But I need to learn to do it in a way that recognizes how great I am now instead of tearing myself down. My body is amazing and can do so many fantastic things. It can run 8 miles and climb mountains and do yoga and take long walks. Improving my body should be because I love it and want to take care of it, not because I hate it. It’s the same with my career/accomplishments. I’ve achieved a lot, and I should be proud of that. But pride in my accomplishments doesn’t need to lead to complacency. I can use my previous successes to give myself the confidence to take on more and grow further, not because I’m not good enough, but because I’m that good.

I just need to remember this framework and not get lost in the negativity. Growth is good. But it’s also important to remember how far I’ve come and thank myself for the effort I’ve made.

My Cup of Tea: Rule Number 11: Take Yourself on 3 Dates.


Rule number 11 is my stumbling block. I keep planning to have a solitary dinner out, or a movie with popcorn for one, but something always comes up and takes precedence.

When I am alone I like to be very alone, like I am now. In my apartment, coffee in hand, and the world happening…

Man Fast, Day 50

Today is my 50th day of the man fast.

In general, it’s been going great. I haven’t really thought much about the fast itself recently, which I suppose is a good thing. I don’t talk about guys as much and I haven’t dated, although I have slipped up and flirted on occasion.

Last weekend, I found myself slipping into old habits at a party. I saw an attractive guy and began doing my usual thing — focusing on him, flirting, joking around — almost without realizing it. We hung out the entire time, and at the end of the party, he asked if I wanted to hang out more and, you know (wink wink). I freaked out. I turned him down and bolted. My friends teased me about my “man-fast fail,” and it made me think about whether the fast was, in fact, at its end.

My original goal was 30 days, and I’m well past that. But my reaction, to run away, makes me feel like I still need more time. I’m enjoying being single without feeling guilty, as if I should be looking for someone. I ran a 10K and have started to train for a half-marathon. I’m meeting up with friends more frequently and reading a ton. I still have to write the list of 50 things I like about myself, and I need to buy flowers for a friend, but other than that, the rules are pretty much checked off.

So I guess I’ll keep going, for now, until it feels right to stop.

I painted quotes on a girls’ bathroom at a school in the Bronx this weekend. Here’s one of them, above the sinks.

I painted quotes on a girls’ bathroom at a school in the Bronx this weekend. Here’s one of them, above the sinks.

I love Amy Poehler so much.

Today, this feels especially relevant. (From here.)

Today, this feels especially relevant. (From here.)

My friend Des and I ran the Color Run in NYC in August, and he made a pretty fantastic video showing it. This was a few days before I started the man fast. :)

If the race ever comes to your town, DO IT. It was a ton of fun and totally worth the money.

Time to Read


Christmas has always been my favorite day of the year. When I was a kid, it meant not having to go to school, seeing all my cousins at my grandparents’ house, playing in the snow and, most important, getting a huge box of books from my parents.

Sure, they gave me other presents too, and they were probably more exciting. But the thing I remember most was the thrill when I opened the heaviest box, which would be stuffed with a dozen books they’d ordered for me. On Christmas afternoon, I’d curl up on the couch and begin reading. By New Year’s, all the books would be consumed.

I still love to read, and my apartment is stuffed with bookshelves. But adult life gets in the way, and I often find myself spending months trying to get through just one novel. When I’m in a relationship, I read even less. Spending time with a significant other means doing things around the city, going out to eat or, if we’re feeling chill, watching a movie together. Rarely do we end up sitting in the same room just reading.

This month, I’ve made an effort to read more, to try to carve out at least a bit more time to dedicate to the books I’ve been meaning to get to. So far, I’ve read Oryx and Crake, City of Thieves and Cloud Atlas. It feels a bit like Christmas vacation.

Just thought this was a cute image for a chilly day. (Happy fall and stuff.)

Just thought this was a cute image for a chilly day. (Happy fall and stuff.)