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131. Beyond Safe Spaces with Gregory Halpen
Episode 13114th March 2024 • FINE is a 4-Letter Word • Lori Saitz
00:00:00 00:43:31

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Have you considered how much of what you do - even the things that seem to bring you joy - began as coping mechanisms to deal with trauma?

Even your talents and your brilliance might be subconscious, or even conscious, reactions to traumatic experiences from your past.

Gregory Halpen came from a family background of violence, addiction, and abuse. Yet one of the main core values he felt he was raised with was the importance of creativity, which he learned from his mother.

That's just it, though - his mother had developed creativity as a coping mechanism for her own childhood trauma and passed it on to Gregory.

For a while, creativity brought Gregory success and joy as a theater actor and singer, which in turn made him a storyteller - meaning, he embraced the power to rewrite and create new stories.

He was quite successful at it, but then he'd hit a wall. This became a pattern that affected Gregory for two decades.

In 2007, he became a professional coach as a way to earn income so he could fund his performance art career until he made it big. This raised the question of whether someone in need of help themselves could help others.

Still, on the surface, everything seemed fine.

But Fine is a 4-Letter Word.

Gregory's childhood trauma was sabotaging his personal relationships, his path toward success in all his endeavors, and more.

And then he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2016.

In a moment, when you meet Gregory, you'll join him on a journey through which he created his own "safe space" by taking responsibility for his own healing.

One of the key realizations was discovering how a childhood lesson intended to help kids cope with the world, actually exacerbates their traumas into adulthood.

Gregory’s hype song is “Suddenly” by Billy Ocean.


Invitation from Lori:

If, like Gregory, it hits you that some of the very things you think are fine are either symptoms - or causes - of what makes you NOT fine, the 5 Easy Ways to Start Living The Sabbatical Life guide is for you.

Once you read it, you’ll

✅ Discover a counter-intuitive approach to making intentional changes in mindset and lifestyle.

✅ Learn how to own your feelings and your struggles so you can address them.

✅ Find out how to face fears, step out of your comfort zone, and rewire your beliefs.

It’s only 7 pages, so it won’t take you long to get through. The five tactics are simple, but as Gregory will explain during our conversation, they could be the very thing that cracks something open in you and helps you see things differently.

Are you ready to find out what that’s all about?

Well, when you’re ready to say F*ck Being Fine – then this guide is the place to start. It’s time to blaze your own trail and allow your curiosity to take you on a new quest!

Go to right now to download it for free.

Now, let’s go meet Gregory. He’s holding a jar of peanut butter and has a mischievous grin on his face. What is he up to? Let’s meet up with him and find out!


Lori Saitz: Welcome to Fine is a 4-Letter Word. My guest today is Gregory Halpen. Welcome to the show, Gregory.

Gregory Halpen: Hi, Lori. Thank you for having me. Really happy to be here.

Lori Saitz: I am so interested to hear where this conversation is going to go because when—I'll just share with those who are listening. Last week, Gregory and I attempted to record, and the Internet was just not having it. So we decided maybe there was some reason we weren't supposed to talk last week. And so that makes this conversation extra special because it's more destined.

Gregory Halpen: Yes. We're amped up, and we've got the anticipation happening. And it feels so ready.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. All right, well let's just jump right into it, then, and get into that first question of: what were the values and beliefs that you were raised with that contributed to you becoming who you did as a young adult and then into today?

Gregory Halpen: Well, I can go the route of saying that just growing up in a family of trauma and all of that stuff, it's not an unusual circumstance. So many people have experienced stuff like that. But if I'm going to go the other route, I'm going to say the value of creativity is what was really instilled in me and passed on to me, especially from my mom.

She was super creative, just growing up in a very difficult family life not only that she had and my father had. But as a family, our family, we also carried the same stuff. And so my mom used creativity to process a lot of trauma, to process a lot of difficult challenges. So I'm like, "Wow, that's ..." And that clicked in my head maybe two years ago. I finally got it. I'm like, "Wow, this creative part is all about coping skills. It's a coping skill."

Lori Saitz: That's really interesting that you figured that out. I want to jump back to something that you just said at the beginning about the trauma and that it's not unlike a lot of other families, which doesn't mean that it is not nothing.

Gregory Halpen: Exactly.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. Not to minimize what you went through just because, "Well, lots of people have been through that." And I think sometimes people think, "Well, it wasn't a special. That's just how everybody had it." But to acknowledge that you had a situation, and whether everybody else or a lot of people have it or not doesn't matter.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah, so it doesn't matter. And I should have reframed it. I should have framed it differently. I said that because, for a long time, I centered the trauma in an unconscious way and then a conscious way in terms of just making it part of my storytelling and all of that. So sometimes I feel like, "Okay, so I really centered that a lot. So I'm just going to set it to the side a little bit and kind of let go of"—not the super positive side because I'm not into ultra positivity. I'm not into that spiritual kind of thing. Even though I am, and we all are in some sense. So you're right. It does matter. It does matter. Everyone's lived experiences around trauma is important, totally.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. You said it exactly as it was meant to be said. You said, "Maybe I should have framed it differently," but that's exactly as it was supposed to be for whoever's listening to hear that message. All right, so let's go on. So creativity. What did you do with that creativity?

Gregory Halpen: So as a creative person, during high school, like 11th grade, I was new at the school, and I had a lot of fear. I had a lot of anxiety, panic attacks, all of that stuff. And so new school, 11th grade. And they had these auditions for a musical called Anything Goes. And so I auditioned, got the lead.

And so from then on, I started getting leads in all the shows and all the speech competitions. Whatever was going on, I got involved, and I did well. And plus, each summer I got involved in a professional summer theatre training program. So that is how creativity first showed up for me, is that vehicle. And so I am an actor. I'm also a storyteller in that sense.

And it's just interesting because I was very unconscious of all of this anxiety that I had, and didn't understand why my goals as an actor and singer just didn't—like, it would start out pretty good and make momentum. And then all of a sudden, I just hit a wall. And that would be the pattern over and over and over for, like, two decades. I'm like, "Wow, that's crazy."

Lori Saitz: Did you recognize that it was a pattern before you—like, how soon did you recognize it was a pattern? Because you said two decades. So was it like for two decades you weren't really paying attention, and then you realized, "Hey, this is a pattern"? Or was it a pattern that you recognized earlier, and you just couldn't figure out how to break?

Gregory Halpen: It was a pattern that I couldn't recognize. I didn't know I was in it. And it's just interesting how when you're stuck in a trauma response—like, this was such an ongoing trauma reaction to just everything—you don't know you're in it. You don't know you're in that cycle. And then, I don't know, through the journey of meeting people and investing in therapy and other modalities of healing, then it clicks, finally. And you're like, "Okay, shit. That's what's been going on. So, now, how do I fix it, or how do I change it?"

And then I just spent a great number of years just doing everything I could to get to the bottom of that. And at the helm, I'm a coach. Right? I'm a life coach, and I help gay men over 40 navigate midlife. But still, there's always been this part of me, the performer part, that's the strongest part of me. And that's something else I'm realizing even now, is that always has taken precedence over everything else, and I just didn't listen to that. So I'm just very excited to see how this all unfolds because I'm in this new mindset, this new unapologetic, just unstoppable force that just wants to see if I can do it. Like, I want to make it on TV, and I'm doing things to make that happen. And I'm going to still be a coach, too, a gay men's coach. But I'm like, "Wow, I can do both."

Lori Saitz: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. We talked about part of the anxiety being related to you feeling like you have to prove yourself to people.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah. It's most certainly a coping mechanism that I developed as a child during times of just—there was a lot of violence in the family. It was the '70s. There was the latchkey kid kind of mentality, left to your own devices. A lot of addiction. And so that was like my coping skill. I had to please people. You know? We had to please people. We had to do really well. We had to be careful not to do something the wrong way, or we would get punished. And so that just evolved into wanting to do that as an adult. You know?

Lori Saitz: Yes.

Gregory Halpen: Especially if we're dating somebody new, and we feel like this love is starting to grow. Then if we're letting that trauma response happen, we're doing something to please them. We want to please them in a way that's unhealthy where we are not honoring boundaries, when we're getting too enmeshed in the emotions and not allowing space to just let that dating thing unfold and blossom, and we're constantly interrupting it.

Lori Saitz: Hmm. And do you think that part of that is trying to manage your appearance in the relationship so that they'll like you? Because, like you said earlier, when you were growing up, you had to be a certain way. You thought you had to be a certain way for people to like you.

Gregory Halpen: Yes.

Lori Saitz: And so when you're in that relationship, then you're not really showing up as who you are. So now the person is falling in love with somebody you're not.

Gregory Halpen: Exactly. Because I remember as a kid, whenever I needed to cry, which was a lot, I would run to the bathroom and close the door and hide in a towel. And I said to myself, "Nobody's going to see me cry, ever, ever, ever." And that was a pattern that was the start of concealing the intimacy and the vulnerability. And it still shows. I'm dating somebody new, and it's scary as hell. And I find myself wanting to hide, wanting to stay invisible. And I struggle with that a little bit. But what's different is I have better skills. I have better coping skills, and I can navigate this better. And so I'm showing up in a way that's like, "Okay, I'm going to just take a chance, and I'm going to say this. I'm going to do this while honoring their boundaries, while honoring the sacred space of something developing."

Yeah, and it's just interesting how those parts of you from childhood still show up and try to trip you up or try to say, "Oh, I don't think so."

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Gregory Halpen: "No, you're not. You're not going to freak out. You're going to stew in your own head for hours and hours." But, yeah, it's like, okay, you need to just chill for a minute.

Lori Saitz: Yes. Well, I'm reading this book called, It's Not Your Money by Tosha Silver. The subtitle is How to Live Fully from Divine Abundance. And in it, she's got an entire chapter—maybe more than a chapter, I haven't gotten to the rest of the book yet—on taking care of your inner child and nurturing it in a way that it wasn't nurtured when you actually were a child.

Gregory Halpen: Yes. It's funny that you mentioned inner child because I was just at a cafe a little while ago working on a script for my solo show that I'm working on. And the part of it that I was working on was the inner child part. It was the wounded inner child archetype. And it's just interesting how they show up. I'm trying to activate this inner child as a way of the joy seeker. Instead of the little boy who shows up scared all the time, it's the little boy who shows up and actually takes my hand and actually helps me and leads me to a place of feeling more centered.

Lori Saitz: Wow. I'm getting tears. I don't know why, because that just is such a strong—I can feel it so strongly. Yeah. And she talks, too, about allowing ourselves to cry—when you were just talking about that—and how important that is to allowing abundance, allowing prosperity. And not just in monetary ways. You know, abundance as overall. But we have to allow the tears to cleanse ourselves.

Gregory Halpen: Yes.

Lori Saitz: So here I sit, crying about your thing.

Gregory Halpen: Oh, I appreciate that.

Lori Saitz: But, yeah. Wow, that's so cool. And you had also mentioned, when we talked previously, that you were often told you were too sensitive.

Gregory Halpen: Yes, all the time. I was told I was too sensitive, that I need to toughen up and be more of a man. I mean, when you're a little boy. My folks even used that terminology. I'm like, "I'm a little boy. I can't be a man."

Lori Saitz: Right.

Gregory Halpen: But, yeah, "Just toughen up." And like you said, that concept of abundance doesn't always have to be about money. And so toughening up doesn't always have to be used with words. It can also be used with physical force, with hitting and the belts and stuff like that. That's also a way of making someone not sensitive.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. You know, as you were saying that, I'm thinking about a lot of the past guests I've had and conversations I've had with people, with clients. There are so many people who were subjected to physical abuse and trauma. It's not at all surprising that our world looks like what it looks like because this is how the people who are adults now were raised. It's shocking to me because I didn't come from that background.

And then it becomes up to us as individuals. Like, you have done a lot of work on yourself. And I wanted to point out, too, because you mentioned that it took you many years to get to here. Even after you realized the pattern, it wasn't overnight like, "Oh, there's the pattern. Oh, now I can fix it right away."

Gregory Halpen: Yeah. That was just the tip-top. I mean, the tip of the iceberg. And figuring it out was just hard too. But, I don't know, this internal thing happens that just keeps you going, I guess.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. So for a lot of people, this trauma manifests as physical conditions.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah, it does.

Lori Saitz: Talk about what happened for you.

ut then after I got cancer in:

Lori Saitz: Wow.

Gregory Halpen: And then I let go of—just, part of the growth process is a year later ... This past February 1st marks a year of not having sugar and flour. I just let all of that go.

Lori Saitz: Wow.

Gregory Halpen: And I lost 120 pounds—

Lori Saitz: In a year?

Gregory Halpen: In a year, yeah. Well, the sugar and flour part, I haven't had it for a year. But the weight part took several years to finally get it and just leave it off. And it's been good so far.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. So now, you're moving forward in such a more healthful way in every aspect.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Gregory Halpen: And it's interesting because when you're dating, it's like, "Oh, shit. All this shit's coming up again." Like, I thought I had it all under control with the eating, and life is going to be perfect because I'm working on myself so hard and I've made progress. But you meet somebody, and that just fuck—that just throws you off of your game.

Lori Saitz: You can say what you were going to say. That'll just fuck you up.

Gregory Halpen: That just fucks you up. When you feel those emotions, it's like—and it's good. It's all good, and I invite it. I invite the intimacy, but it's still like, "Shit. Wow, this is really hard."

Lori Saitz: Yeah, right. It's still part of the process. There's never a point where we get to like, "Everything's good now. I don't have to do any more work. I don't have to feel bad anymore."

Gregory Halpen: Yes.

Lori Saitz: Because, again, it's just going to always be because we're human. Like, damn it, why do we have to be human?

Gregory Halpen: Yes. I'm like, "Why have I been eating jars of peanut butter lately?" And I think, "Okay, that's why." But there's no sugar in it, so that's a good thing.

Lori Saitz: Yes. Well, peanut butter could be good.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah, it's good.

Lori Saitz: Someone told me it was inflammatory, and I said, "I refuse to believe that. I just love it too much."

Gregory Halpen: It's so good.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. What do you put it on?

Gregory Halpen: Sometimes I just scoop it out of the jar because that's part of my part inner child, even. When I was eight years old, I used to do that all the time. I'd sneak out in the middle of the night. Everybody was asleep. And I would just get a big scoop of peanut butter and run back to my room and then just eat it.

Lori Saitz: Yeah, okay. All right, cool. You mentioned that you went to therapy to help you through this. And there was something that you had said about taking full responsibility for—obviously, there's no responsibility to be had for what happened to you.

Gregory Halpen: Right.

Lori Saitz: The responsibility is now as an adult to—what's the right word—manage it? Or take it from here, to heal yourself.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah, that makes sense. And, yeah, owning my own bullshit meant just the narcissism part of it. Like, when we've experienced that kind of trauma, there is this thing called narcissistic injury where it's just part of that process. It's part of the trauma. Like, we can't help—we've been traumatized so much that we made everything about survival and about ourselves. So when we go into the real world, that still plays a part. So it looks like narcissism. So there's that part of us that's still a little wounded where we center all of our problems all the time or we center all the conversations, and we make that about us.

And so that is what it means for me to own my own BS. Like, "Okay, I've got to not center my shit all the time, and I've got to allow other people into the conversation and make space for them, too, instead of monopolizing everything."

Lori Saitz: Okay. I've heard people talk, obviously, about narcissistic behavior in relation to relationships that they've been in, but I haven't heard that term before. So it's interesting.

Gregory Halpen: Sort of like a fracture in your—it's like a personality thing. And I don't have that kind of injury, but there's still elements of narcissism that plays a part in my story.

Lori Saitz: I could see how that would come to be. Absolutely.

Gregory Halpen: Yes.

Lori Saitz: You had an interesting statement, because I wrote it down, of: what does it take to crack something open in you to see things differently?

Gregory Halpen: That's a good question.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Gregory Halpen: It is. Because it's so, I don't know, when I think about this, I don't—lately, I've been thinking about it in terms of it being many different things happening. Like a series of things happening. And the biggest thing that happened was the cancer. That's just the big nutcracker of them all.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Gregory Halpen: That's when it happened. But there was a series of other life challenges that happened that started to make me question a lot of things that I had been doing.

Lori Saitz: A lot of people who have been diagnosed with cancer say that it was actually a good thing in the end.

Gregory Halpen: I—

Lori Saitz: In the end. Not in the moment, but in the end.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah. They say that, and I just kind of fight against—I struggle with that because I don't ... I get it. We want to see things as there's good in things, and we can see the positive side of things. But sometimes I feel that I minimizes it. I mean, there's no way to put a spin on cancer in terms of it being a gift or something that is a good thing. And I guess maybe we can say that we can grow from it, I guess.

Lori Saitz: Yes. Okay.

Gregory Halpen: We can grow from the experience, I guess. I don't know. I'm on the fence.

Lori Saitz: Okay. Yeah, I was just curious what your take on it was because it seems like a lot of growth did come from it.

Gregory Halpen: Yes.

Lori Saitz: And then when you look at that growth, you could say, "Oh, well, that's a positive thing that happened." That you've become who you've become because of that.

Gregory Halpen: Yes. I guess it's just during the whole event that—

Lori Saitz: Sure.

Gregory Halpen: —you hear people say, "Stay positive. Chin up," this, that. And I didn't realize how impactful that was in terms of—and I get it. People are uncomfortable with cancer, and people are uncomfortable with shit, so they're going to do that. That's their coping skill.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Gregory Halpen: While at the same time, it's just like, okay, if you hear that all the time, then you begin to question like, is this really a bad thing? Is this really painful? Is it really making me nauseous? Am I making a big deal out of this?

Lori Saitz: Right. And especially in your case, going back to, "Okay, am I really being too sensitive about this?"

Gregory Halpen: Yes.

Lori Saitz: It triggers that pain again of being told that you're too sensitive. And, wow, yeah, you're starting to question your own experience.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah, like no one made space. And that sounds selfish, but in that sense, I felt like, "Okay, I need people to open up space for me now because I need this space because this is fucking crazy right now."

Lori Saitz: Yeah. Like, let me be in the pain, in the frustration—in whatever feelings that you're feeling. Not always just, like, "Well, look on the bright side."

Gregory Halpen: Yes. And I think there's a family part of that, too, that just opened my eyes up to family and what I thought my family was and then what it ended up not being. So it was like a bubble pop.

Lori Saitz: Hmm.

Gregory Halpen: There was major awakening around how family was really there. And I think that's when I finally realized that I need to stop blaming other people. Even though other people can contribute to bullshit, there's also a part that I realized like, "Well, I also contribute, too." And I can either blame them, or I can either keep whining about, or I can just create my boundaries. And I can let certain people go, and I can just move on instead of focusing on "Woe is me" all the time in terms of crap family does.

Lori Saitz: Yeah, absolutely. Are you still in touch with them, or did you just, like, remove yourself completely?

Gregory Halpen: The one person… for the most part, but I removed myself completely. I just couldn't—there was just too many behaviors that they kept doing, and I had to say, "Yeah, I can't do that anymore." And I'm better for it. And I think after my mom passed last year and the family thing, that's when I started to really take off. Like, all of that family bullshit just suddenly left my head and now I'm doing all this stuff. And it was amazing.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. It's like a burden was lifted, and now you could fly.

Gregory Halpen: Exactly. Those voices are still there, but their influences are not so much. So, yeah.

Lori Saitz: Interesting that it took her physically leaving for that to open up for you.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah. Because that in itself brought up a whole nother set of reactions and trauma responses and stuff. Yeah. So it was pretty interesting, actually. I miss her. And it wasn't like I'm glad that she was gone, but it made me just realize my place in the family and how it wasn't really what I thought it was.

Lori Saitz: Yes. You know, it's interesting because I think unless you've been through the death of your mother, it's hard to understand what it's like. You just can't relate. I don't have any children. I can't relate to what it's like to have that kind of bond, but I know it as the child. And as the mother, it's just, like, this club that you can't know about until it happens, until you're joining.

Gregory Halpen: Yes.

Lori Saitz: But where was I going with this? Oh, right, because after my mom passed—and it's been almost 10 years—that's when I really started evaluating the whole: do I want to live the next 20 years the same way I live the last 20? And that's where this whole Fine is a 4-Letter Word or "fuck being fine" came from, because everything had been fine. It wasn't terrible, but fine wasn't enough anymore.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah, I totally get that. Sometimes fine isn't enough. Sometimes we're not fine, but we say we are.

Lori Saitz: Right.

Gregory Halpen: We say, "Everything's great. Everything's great."

Lori Saitz: Going back to the way that people interacted with you when you were going through chemo, it's almost like they wanted you to say you were fine so that they could feel okay.

Gregory Halpen: That's exactly it. That's exactly it. Sort of like having to muffle my discomfort to make them more comfortable and take care of them.

Lori Saitz: Yeah, which goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning of the conversation about wanting to make sure everybody else was okay or feeling comfortable at your own expense.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah, exactly. And like I said, that's when I just realized, "Wow, I also contribute to it." Even though, like I said, other people can be maybe the center of it or also give more or whatever. But it doesn't matter. It's like, wow, this really helped me look at how self-centered I could be and how I didn't want to be that way, especially as a performer or as a coach. Like, I can't do that. I can't let self-centeredness be the center.

Lori Saitz: Right, right, right. And there's a difference between self-centeredness and selfishness and taking care of yourself.

Gregory Halpen: Correct. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Having strong boundaries and being able to reinforce them and stuff. Yeah, totally.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. How did you get into coaching? Was it like once you got through—and I want to say you're not through, nobody's through working on themselves.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah.

Lori Saitz: But once you got to a point where you felt comfortable now with who you are, is that when you turned around and said, "All right, now I can help others"?

Gregory Halpen: No. I'm done healing. I've done it all. I have healed, and I have healed as far as I can heal—no.

Lori Saitz: Excellent.

Gregory Halpen: Right?

Lori Saitz: We need to put that out and give you an award.

Gregory Halpen: All of us need a reward.

Lori Saitz: Yes.

Gregory Halpen: You know, you just -

Lori Saitz: Yes. Have some peanut butter.

Gregory Halpen: Yes. Where's my peanut butter? Can you ask that question again since I derailed it?

Lori Saitz: Yeah. So at what point did you decide that you were going to go into coaching others?

Gregory Halpen::

Lori Saitz: Okay.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah. And then it just evolved from there to—yeah.

Lori Saitz: So you started coaching others before you were to a point—I don't want to say where you were healed, but that wasn't, from what you said—and I'm trying to piece together the timeline—you hadn't really even started working on yourself yet.

Gregory Halpen: No. It started, like, in the mid-'90s. I have a friend who we were really close, and she was going to school to get her master's degree in music therapy. And she was into therapy. And she was like my age, and she was doing all this healing work. And I was like, "What's going on here?" And I'm fucked up. So I think that's what it first started because that implanted the idea of therapy in my head.

Lori Saitz: Okay.

hen it first happened. But in:

Lori Saitz: Yeah. They say a lot of—they, whoever they are—a lot of therapists—

Gregory Halpen: "They."

Lori Saitz: —become therapists because they're working through their own stuff.

Gregory Halpen: Yeah, and it's true. I mean, I think we're always working through it.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Gregory Halpen: Even as a performer and this solo show that I'm creating. I'm writing this. It's autobiographical. And I find myself still processing stuff that's coming up. And then I'm like, "Okay, I'm doing this." We give these shallow reasons like, "I'm a performer. I love it. I've been doing it since I was a kid." But, no. We're doing it because we're still processing shit. I want to do it to enlighten other people. But at the same time, it's also for me, too. It's something that I'm still working out.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. You were talking about your show, and it just occurred to me that one of—actually, I had two ... The first time I ever did a show with two guests, it was Alexandra Clayton and Michal Sinnott. That might be a good introduction for you. Y'all are in that world, so I can put you together. See, that's one of things I just do. I'm -

Gregory Halpen: You're a connector.

Lori Saitz: I am a connector. Yeah. I'm going to ask you the question first about the song, the hype song. So when you need an extra boost of energy, what's the song you listen to?

Gregory Halpen: A boost of energy. I mean, there are many. I think we all have many.

Lori Saitz: Yes.

Gregory Halpen: I don't know. One that I keep going back to is a ballad. It's a romantic ballad from the '80s. It happened during a first kiss with a boy in my 8th-grade class. We hung out. I was new at the school, and we hung out. How it happened was just so pure and a coming-of-age kind of thing. "Suddenly" by Billy Ocean, which is a slow, very meaty, hearty song was playing while it was happening.

So when I hear that song, it fills me up with joy. But it also fills me up with this anxiety from that nervousness of what was happening and everything else. But it fills me up in a way that just makes me feel like, "Wow, I'm so happy to be where I am today." To be reminded of that and to take that first kiss with a boy and normalize it.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Gregory Halpen: We all have a first kiss, and it doesn't matter who you are and what gender you are.

Lori Saitz: Right. Oh, that's so cool. I love that explanation. Thank you. If people want to continue a conversation with you, where's the best place for them to find you?

Gregory Halpen: They can find me at They can find me on Instagram most of the time, too, Gregory Halpen.

Lori Saitz: Okay. And I'll have links to all of that in the show notes. And then I would be remiss if I did not ask you about when you think your one-man show will be available for public consumption?

Gregory Halpen: Well, I've been doing readings of it, so it's coming soon-soon. Well, actually, April. April, I'm doing have a produced reading of it online. It'll be a virtual reading, part of a series. And you can go to, and there will be more information there. Or my Facebook page, too, Gregory Halpen.

Lori Saitz: Or maybe by the time this publishes, we can put that in the show notes as well. A link to it?

Gregory Halpen: Yes.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Gregory Halpen: I will give you that.

Lori Saitz: Okay, great. Because I want to see it—

Gregory Halpen: Oh, awesome.

Lori Saitz: —or hear it or whatever.

Gregory Halpen: You'll see it. You'll definitely see it. It will be on Zoom or something like that.

Lori Saitz: Okay. Yes. I want that in my calendar.

Gregory Halpen: Oh, yes. Yay. I'd love your energy there. I would feel your energy there. It would be awesome.

Lori Saitz: Gregory, thank you so much for joining me today on Fine is a 4-Letter Word.

Gregory Halpen: Thank you. This has been such a fantastic conversation.