More empowering than being “just single” and far beyond the notion of serial dating, “quirkyalone” is a new status available for people not in romantic relationships. After a kiss-less New Year’s Eve in 2000, Sasha Cagen began to wonder about her “deeply single” status. Rather than trying to become un-single, she embraced it.
Buoyed by portraits of the “forever single” on TV shows featuring unattached, smart leading ladies, such as Ally McBeal and Sex in the City, Cagen decided to name this phenomenon: the quirkyalone.
“If Jung was right that people are different in fundamental ways that drive them from within, then the quirkyalone is simply to be added to the pantheon of personality types assembled over the 20th century,” said Cagen. “Only now, when the idea of marrying at age twenty has become thoroughly passé, are we quirkyalones emerging in greater numbers.”
Cagen was writing about the population of people not dating for the sake of dating, people who were more content to love themselves than to go chasing down love. Her essay, published first in To-Do List and the Utne Reader, and later expanded upon in her book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics (Harper One), immediately struck a chord with people. In her book, unattached people who weren’t keen on the waiting-or-dating model that modern culture tends to dictate, saw themselves.
“This book articulated what I have felt and believed my whole life,” says Ingrid Baumgardner, reviewing the book on amazon.com. “Love is important, but it is not always romantically focused.”
Others still identified with the book’s unique and important revelation. “Cagen is up to something that could be as important for women (and men) as The Feminine Mystique was years ago,” says Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed. “We aren’t just halves of couples; we are distinct individuals—as complete and potentially happy alone as we are with our families and lovers.”
Contrary to the quirkyalone focus of being with oneself, quirkyalones (as they’re called) aren’t people who are celibate, spinsters, or the like. “Quirkyalone is not anti-love,” the movement’s website, quirkyalone.net, makes clear. “It’s pro-love. It’s not anti-dating. It’s anti-compulsory dating. We tend to be romantics.”
While the second half of this compound word may be associated with isolating, or brooding melancholy, the quirkyalone lifestyle is anything but. Quirkyalones cherish friendship, meaningful experiences, self-care, and self-celebration. The “alone” part of the word only speaks to the unattached nature of being quirkyalone. (As the paperback edition of Quirkyalone proclaims: “Because you’re never alone when you’re quirkyalone.”)
So what happens when a quirkyalone does find love? For that, the word “quirkytogether” was coined. A poll of quirkyalones in 2005 found that 88% of quirkyalones would like to date another quirkyalone. Thus, a “quirkytogether” couple isn’t a couple that’s become so enmeshed that no one can tell where one begins and the other ends—it’s two quirkyalones who value their own lives and dreams, while being interested and invested in their relationship, too.
And for the quirkyalone who’s got a promiscuous side? They would be known as a “quirkyslut:” “One who maintains high standards for a romantic relationship, but becomes more flexible for the Saturday (or even Tuesday) night encounter.”
While Cagen’s idea has grown to accommodate many who identify as quirkyalone, culture still tries to influence people to think that seeking and being in a romantic relationship is the key to a happy and complete life.
When Cagen debuted her idea in 2000, romance writers Nora Roberts and Nicholas Sparks topped the best seller lists. Bridget Jones’ Diary and an onslaught of dating-centric “chick lit” were just around the corner. The idea of women (and men) being quirkyalone was a breath of fresh air to the hype of coupledom.
Today, one can still find examples of culture undermining the single life as undesirable, which is known in quirkyalone world as the “anti-quirkyalone movement”—think this month’s release He’s Just Not That Into You, or MTV’s breed of dating reality shows, from I Love New York to Double Shot at Love. While it’s been nine years since Cagen’s essay was written, the idea is still in the minority.
The quirkyalone movement is most well known in the San Francisco area, where Sasha Cagen lives and writes. Other communities are still getting hip to this alternative and adding it to their cultural lexicon. For this, quirkyalone.net features an active message board, where quirkyalones all over the world can talk and organize meetups or outings.
The most popular meetups happen in celebration of what every good movement needs: their own holiday. February 14th—known to much of the world as Valentine’s Day—has been claimed as International Quirkyalone Day.
“It’s an invitation to create a great day for yourself, whatever that means to you,” the website explains. International Quirkyalone Day (or IQD) parties have since been organized in cities across the U.S., Australia, Europe and other parts of the world as well.
Cagen says you can celebrate IQD in a multitude of ways—by “throwing a dinner party, buying yourself new underwear, rearranging your furniture, taking a long walk without your cell phone, exploring a new part of town, organizing a card-making party, trying a new recipe, or coming to or hosting a quirkyalone party.”
For more on quirkyalone parties this year, quirkyalone.net’s message boards are already busy with announcements for gatherings and meet ups in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Philly, London, Madison, Austin, and elsewhere. And of course, if there’s not an IQD party near you, you could always grab a copy of Cagen’s book, buy yourself a bouquet of daisies (the flower of quirkyalones), and fall in love with one of the best people in your life: yourself.