Archive for February, 2008

Quirky, Alone and Perfectly Satisfied

Posted: February 29, 2008 by Doc in Happiness


Susan Abram
L.A. Daily News

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, 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 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.”


Positively Singular

Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics

Take the Quirkyalone Quiz


INTERN: A Doctor’s Initiation

Posted: February 8, 2008 by Doc in Medical career
Tags: ,


First Chapter

Published: January 11, 2008
New York Times

I had been an intern less than an hour, and already I was running late. The sloping footpath leading up to the hospital was paved with gray cobblestones. My feet ached as my oversize leather sandals slipped on the rounded irregular rocks. The hospital was an old building browned by the passage of two centuries, with spidery cracks in its façade. Founded in 1771, New York Hospital is the second-oldest hospital in the United States, a mecca for doctors and patients from all over the world. I had been in the building once before, six months ago, for a residency interview. I spun through a revolving brass door, nearly running into the burly security guard reading the New York Post. He looked up from the tabloid just long enough to point me in the direction of the elevator.
The tiled corridors were dark and dull, mixing shadow and light.

I darted past the chapel, past the café, around the information desk, which sat in the middle of the huge atrium like a fort, and entered a bank of elevators. Hanging on a wall was a portrait of a gray-haired lady in a blue dress sitting in dignified repose before an open book. She was a graduate of the medical school, class of 1899, ninety-nine years ago, who built a medical college for women in Northern India, on the banks of the Ganges, near where my father had his early college education. Nearby was a metal tablet in bas-relief: “She cared for all in need. For each, she made time to guide, to teach, and to heal.”

When I arrived on the fourth floor, other interns were still filing into the auditorium. A woman handed me a manila folder, and I went inside and sat down. The orientation packet contained several essential documents: a house-staff phone card, directions for obtaining autopsies, instructions on how to use the hospital dictation system, and the residency contract. I leafed through it quickly. My salary was going to be $37,000 a year, about eight dollars an hour, I calculated, given the number of hours I was going to be working, but I didn’t mind. Though I was a year shy of thirty, it was more than double what I had ever made.

My classmates, though younger than I, appeared older than I expected, casually dressed, all thirty-five of them, in khakis and polo shirts, faded jeans and sequined tops. Some of them evidently knew each other, because they were already chatting in small, insulated groups. They were from some of the best medical schools in the country: Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia. Though I too had gone to a top school-Washington University in St. Louis-I had been feeling insecure about the prospect of working with them. For months I had feverishly been reading Harrison’s tome on internal medicine and review articles in The New England Journal of Medicine to prepare for this day.

Someone in the front row stood up and turned to face us. It was Shelby Wood, the hospital’s residency director. He was a serious-looking man of medium build, with straight brown hair and a long, aquiline nose. He was wearing a white coat and a fat blue tie that might have been in fashion twenty years earlier. My elder brother, Rajiv, a cardiology fellow at the hospital, six years ahead of me in his medical training (though only two and a half years older), had warned me that Dr. Wood was a bit of a grouch, but had added that he was also fair and decent and a strong advocate for his house staff. Wood, I was to learn, hailed from the old school, where you were expected to live and breathe medicine, stay late in the hospital, neglect your family for the sake of your patients, and emerge on the other side a seasoned physician.

He cleared his throat and began to speak. His voice was deep but incongruously soft, and because I was sitting in the back of the sixty-seat auditorium, I only managed to catch snippets of his remarks. It was going to be a busy year, he said, as thirty-five heads stared motionlessly back at him. We were expected to devote ourselves fully to medicine. “You don’t learn French by taking classes at Hunter College. You learn it by going to Paris, sitting in the cafés, talking to people.” Likewise medicine: we would learn it by living it. “You are now ambassadors for the profession,” he said gravely. “So don’t let the students hear you complain. It sets a bad example.” If everything went as planned, he added, by next June we’d be ready to supervise the next batch of interns.

I glanced over at the pretty brunette sitting next to me. She looked back at me, rolled her eyes, and opened her mouth in mock panic.

Continued at New York

‘Intern’ by Sandeep Jauhar