The Hook-up: Charlie Nox

Introducing Charlie Nox

Charlie Nox is a dating coach helping people achieve their dating desires, a cancer survivor who is working on a book to help people who want to pursue dating while also having cancer, and a noted writer whose work helps people learn about relationships and sex—despite sometimes being controversial. She can admire any one of those attributes. Or you can admire them all. After reading her words, I think you’ll vote all.

How did you get into sexblogging?
I’ve always liked talking about sex, dating, and relationships. When I was 13 I concocted a “kissing contest” and appointed myself the judge. Basically it was a giant ruse so I could make out with all the cute boys in my class. I don’t remember if I appointed a winner, but I think I came out on top in the end.

Before I became a dating coach, I blogged about all kinds of things and worked as a writing consultant. One day I wrote a blog entry about how to write an OkCupid profile and noticed people were searching for that information. People started writing and asking to hire me and I realized there was a market for what I had to say about dating. Actually, to be perfectly honest I think it went something like this “you mean I can get PAID to talk about SEX?!?!” I never looked back.

Your summer has drawn to an exciting close with this piece published in Huffington Post! How did that post come to their attention?
In April I attended the OMG Summit, which is a conference put on by Stupid Cancer, an organization dedicated to providing awareness about and support for young adults with cancer. I met so many amazing people at that conference, including Suleika Jaouad, who writes a stellar blog for the New York Times called Life Interrupted about her experiences as a young adult with cancer. She also blogs regularly for The Huffington Post. I didn’t know she had shared my website with an editor at Huff Po until I got an email from my editor Seamus asking if he could repost some of my blogs. Suleika and I haven’t known each other long, but there is something magic that happens between two people who have cancer. The friendship pretty much can never be superficial. Those kinds of connections are one of the tiny fraction of awesomeness that has managed to come out of my having cancer. 

What do you think about the reaction to it? 
I didn’t read the comments on the article because I think the comments section of an internet article isn’t best place to go for meaningful discussion. Several people reached out to me to share their thoughts and feelings in a one on one format. Some of the people agreed with me and wanted to share stories of their experiences in complicated relationships. They thanked me for giving voice to something they thought no one else would understand. Some people disagreed with me and wanted to share stories of pain and hurt in the face of affairs. I had beautiful and difficult conversations privately with a number of people in response to that article. The difference between those conversations and a lot of internet comments is that the people who reached out to me privately wanted to be seen, heard, and understood AND they were willing to see, hear, and understand me in return.

With internet comments you have all sorts of different intentions. Some people want to be seen, heard, and understood and have relevant, nuanced things to say but many people don’t. Some people want to hurt me, or scare me, or just be really righteous at me while they prove their superiority. Some people are threatened, perhaps they see themselves in something I’ve said and they don’t like it. Regardless, I am interested in dialogue, not in being someone’s punching bag, or dumping ground. That’s not the kind of relationship I consent to – whether it’s a romantic relationship, a platonic relationship, or just an internet relationship. I always welcome genuine dialogue and partnership – in fact real conversations about the beautiful messiness of relationships is what I hoped to inspire with that article.

At what point, for you or others, does one become qualified to be a sex and dating coach?
I get asked this question a lot and it’s so funny to me how different people’s expectations can be about what makes me “qualified.” Some people think if I’m not married I can’t give advice. Some people think I should be dating exclusively run way models and millionaires (I’ve dated both but only because they were also wonderful people). I’ve heard more than once that girls can’t give dating advice (wait what?).

I personally don’t think there’s a bright line for qualification. I have an amalgamation of experiences and accolades that I could offer up (I’ve dated A LOT, I’ve slept with numerous celebrities, I’ve been married, I’ve spoken at fancy pants conferences, I’ve coached millionaires and forty year old virgins, I’ve won awards), but ultimately it’s about whether or not my clients get value from working with me. I have a really high customer satisfaction rate. My clients go on lots of dates, have lots of sex, many start relationships, and some even get married as the result of my coaching.

Much of it comes down to compatibility, just like in any relationship. That’s why I call myself a boutique dating coach. I won’t work with just anyone who can afford me, there has to be chemistry. If that spark is missing, it doesn’t matter how many qualifications I have, working together is going to be like pulling teeth for both of us.

What are some of the common issues the people who see you are dealing with?
People come to me to work on things like flirting skills, picking better quality partners, feeling confident around attractive people, refining their online dating profiles, re-entering the dating scene after a divorce, or to take on dating with a particular challenge. I’ve coached clients with kids, clients who had zero experience with dating, transgender clients, clients with chronic illnesses. I specialize in helping people overcome these significant barriers.

What we uncover is usually surprising to my clients. In no particular order I find the most common issues are:

People don’t know what they want and they don’t know what other people want. People think they are too picky when most of the time they aren’t picky enough. People think men or women or relationships “are” a certain way, and then go about doing a lot of unnecessary work to overcome obstacles that don’t exist. For example, people think women don’t like sex, or men don’t like commitment, but that’s not true across the board, or even for a large percentage of the population. Fundamentally, most people think there is something wrong with them, that they are broken, undesirable, or unlovable. A lot of what I do is help people see how amazing they truly are.

When did you come to realize what “transparency, vulnerability and the power of awkwardness” meant to you personally? 
Those are concepts that will likely (hopefully) continue to evolve over the course of my lifetime. I’ve had a number of experiences that have encouraged me to lean in to the uncomfortableness of being vulnerable because of what is possible on the other side. Many many years ago I was lucky enough to take a poetry workshop from the brilliant poet Shailja Patel. She walked us through exercises to uncover the things that weren’t being talked about in different parts of our lives and in the world. And she explained her belief that if you have the ability to speak – which means both the freedom to speak unpopular ideas without persecution, and a talent with words – it is your duty to uncover these taboo subjects and bring them to light.

Now I am constantly asking myself “What do I not want anyone to know about me? What are the things we never talk about?” And then I make a point of sharing those things. What I find is that people are desperate for someone to be vulnerable, to show them that being fucked up is normal and ok. Every time I share a difficult experience, people thank me and tell me how amazing I am! Do you know how backwards it feels to say something horrible and have people think you’re awesome?

There is a beautiful quote by Marianne Williamson that ends with “as you are liberated from your own fear, you unconsciously liberate others.” The more I am willing to be dorky, awkward, vulnerable, raw, and transparent, the more I give permission for other people to be the same. That’s the whole point of everything for me. I am nuts about making it ok for other people to be who they really are.

Voting has just wrapped up for the panel you and Reid Mihalko have proposed for SXSW. How did you two connect and conceive this unique initiative?
I have loved Reid’s work for a while so I’m a giddy fan girl about getting to work with him. We have both spent years working with people about sex and dating, but we are definitely not the only people who do that. What sets us apart is the degree to which we share the less than perfectly sexy parts of ourselves publicly. For example, Reid has shared publicly that he has herpes. Lots of people will tell you that you shouldn’t be ashamed if you have it (a large percentage of the population does) but few people will demonstrate that lack of shame by actually sharing their experiences. People go crazy for that kind of vulnerability.

Reid and I have been Facebook friends for a while but I think we finally met face to face at Bawdy Storytelling in San Francisco. Dixie De La Tour, the producer, is sort of like a matchmaker for sexy, awesome, powerful people. I’ve made lots of amazing business connections and friendships from going to her shows.

I have spoken at SXSW the last couple years and this year I wanted to share something related to vulnerability as a business practice. Reid has never been to SXSW and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to collaborate together.

What other things can we expect to see from you in the future? 
I have several books in the works. I’m writing an updated version of my guide to OkCupid. In addition to lots of updates, longer explanations, and more examples, I’m adding a new section outlining my three-step process for rapidly analyzing a profile to tell if the person is compatible with you. That book should be coming out soon. I’m also in talks with publishers about my book on dating with cancer and I’m always looking for people to interview for that book, so email me if you have a story to share.

If you’re going to be in LA on September 26th, you can see me, Reid Mihalko, Allison Moon, Nina Hartley, Jiz Lee and some other amazing performers at the 42nd anniversary party of the Pleasure Chest (RSVP required). That weekend I’ll also be presenting at Catalyst Con. I am about to announce a new workshop, so stay tuned for that. And I have a few business and community projects that I’m really excited about, though it’s too soon to tell if they will take off.

Longer term, I am in talks with a friend of mine who’s the director of health education for a city in New York about sex and dating education for middle and high school students. I’ve worked with teens before and I just adore it. I would love to eventually set it up so no one ever needs to hire me again. That might be far fetched, but working myself out of a job is a goal that gets me excited.

I’m always up for hearing about amazing opportunities and I love connecting with people. Find me on Twitter, Facebook, and on my blog and let’s be friends!