A growing group of singles spent Valentine’s Day celebrating the power of one. Call them quirky, but don’t call them loners. For the self-described “quirkyalone,” Valentine’s Day was all about thinking outside of the heart-shaped box of chocolates.
“For me, being a quirkyalone doesn’t always mean you are single,” said Sasha Cagen, who coined the phrase nearly 10 years ago in an essay that spawned a book called “Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics.”
“It just means you have another perception of life. It means being single is not a life sentence. It means you disapprove of settling.”
Since writing her essay and starting the Web site quirkyalone.net, a movement has sprouted, with thousands embracing the concept. They celebrated Valentine’s Day as International Quirkyalone Day.
The quirkyalones are not anti-love, just against contrived notions of coupledom, according to their creed.
“It definitely has struck a deep chord with people,” said Cagen, who is surprised that her word – the one she coined one “kissless New Year’s Eve” – has blossomed.
“It’s something people relate to in a deep way. It’s a movement in that it challenges the prevailing notion that you have to be in a relationship to be happy.”
In fact, quirkyalones are defined as fierce romantics. But they don’t date for the sake of dating, Cagen said. They believe in the magic of love, but only if the right pieces fall into place.Until that happens, a quirkyalone’s best mate can be his or her own soul, as well as a good group of friends.
Defining the term
Quirkyalone traits include displaying a talent for self-reflection, believing that life can be prosperous and great with or without a mate, creating and maintaining chosen families of friends, and treating life as one big choose-your-own adventure, according to the Web site, which also includes a quiz and a list of famous quirkyalones. Margaret Cho, Morrissey and Walt Whitman seem to fit the bill, Cagen said.
At a time when more households are being headed by the never married, divorced, separated and widowed, some find the quirkyalone concept empowering.
Recent U.S. census figures show that slightly more than 50 million American homes are maintained by unmarried men or women, or 44 percent of all households nationwide. The Census Bureau found that 30.5 million people live alone in the United States, up 17 percent from 1970.
For Shane Meserve, 37, learning about quirkyalones gave her a sense of place in a society that seems eager to see everyone in pairs.
“I’ve had significant relationships, but I have had long gaps when I wasn’t necessarily in relationships,” she said.
“The book made me realize I’m not abnormal. I’m just a very independent person. I’ve traveled on my own. I have my own goals and a need for my own time.”
What she liked about the quirkyalone concept is that it allows those who are single to feel good about it, something she often doesn’t see in the media.
“It’s not something often portrayed on television shows,” Meserve said. “The over 30 and unmarried are portrayed as people you should feel sorry for. That’s not realistic. There are lots of us who are single, who are not married.”
But the concept has had some detractors, Cagen said. Some people don’t like the word “quirky.” And others still can’t imagine why someone would be happy being single.
“Sometimes people will say it’s an excuse, that you are celebrating a dysfunction,” Cagen said. “They’ll say, ‘You’re too picky or scared,’ or something like that. Once I was on a radio program and a man just called me and accused me of being cold to men.”
Though most who define themselves as quirkyalone are women, men also have found the word validating. A survey on the quirkyalone.net Web site conducted in 2005 found that 21 percent of the 750 respondents were men. Almost half of quirkyalones were 35 and older.
Quirkyalones do find love, sometimes even with each other, or what Cagen calls the “quirkytogether.”
Los Angeles resident Elline Lipkin, 40, a self-defined quirkyalone, found her mate and was married recently.
But she still connects with the quirkyalone concept because she found a man who can respect her need to be alone, to pursue creative projects.
“I came upon Sasha’s book years ago, and it was a bold moment,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is me. Here’s a name for a feeling I’ve had that I never had before.’ “
West Hollywood resident Irene Forrest – who would give her age only as “I could have had generations of children by now” – said she has many friends who are like family, a definite quirkyalone trait.
Forrest has attended International Quirkyalone Day parties in Los Angeles and San Francisco and always found common ground.
“The concept speaks to me in many ways,” she said. “I actually enjoy going to the movies by myself, and I love to walk, to roam around the city on my own. It’s sometimes intrusive when I have to talk to someone.”
Forced dating and holidays don’t appeal to Forrest and other quirkyalones.
“It’s really awful sitting at a table with someone to generate some sort of conversation when you are thinking, ‘I’d rather be (going) home to my slippers.’ “
But Forrest believes true love in some form exists. She hopes she finds it on her terms, on the path she has chosen for herself.
“I just feel that I am starting in so many ways to live my life now,” she said. “It’s still an adventure. There are still dreams to be had.”