Emily Dickinson: quirky and alone, but not quirkyalone. We are sociable people.
BY SASHA CAGEN
I am, perhaps, what you might call . . . deeply single. Almost never ever in a relationship. Until recently, I wondered if there might be something weird about me. But then, lonely romantics began to grace the covers of TV Guide and Mademoiselle. From Ally Mc Beal to Sex in the City, a spotlight came to shine on the forever single. Perhaps I was not so alone after all.
The morning after New Year's Eve (another kissless one, of course) I standing in the cold Brooklyn air when a certain jumble of syllables came to me. I had, in a mental click that felt so clear and quickening, invented a new word, drawing upon its constituent parts with a self-evident meaning. When I told my friends Tara and Marissa, their faces lit up with an instant recognition: 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 that have been collected over the 20th century. Only now, 25 years into the second wave of feminism when the idea of marrying at age 20 has become thorougly passe, are we emerging in larger numbers.
We are the puzzle pieces who seldom fit with other puzzle pieces. We inhabit singledom as our natural resting state. In a world where marriage and proms define the social order, we are, by force of our personalities and inner strength, rebels.
Yet make no mistake: We are no less concerned with coupling than your average serial monogamist. Secretly, we are romantics, romantics of the highest order. We want a miracle. Out of millions we have to find the one who will understand.
For the quirkyalone, there is no patience for dating just for the sake of not being alone. On a fine but by no means transcendent date we dream of going home to watch television. We would prefer to be alone with our own thoughts than with a less than perfect fit. We are almost constitutionally incapable of casual relationships.
It would be better to be untethered and open to possibility, living for the exhilaration of meeting someone new, of not knowing what the night will bring. We seek momentous meetings.
By the same token, being alone is understood as a wellspring of feeling and experience. Our weekends are full of intricate rituals. There is a bittersweet fondness for silence. All those nights alone, travelling, going to movies alonethey bring insight.
Sometimes, though, we wonder. We wonder if we have painted ourselves into a corner. Standards that started out high only become higher once we realize the contours of this existence. When we find a possible match, we verge on obsessiveor resist.
And so, a community of quirkyalones is essential.
Since people like us are not in abundance (we are probably only 5 percent of the population), we look for kindred spirits everywhere. One author recommended to all is the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Nearly 100 years after its publication, one feels that Letters to a Young Poet was written for us:
"You should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is something in you that wants to break out of it. People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must hold to what is difficult."
Rilke is right. Being quirkyalone can be difficult. Everyone else is part of a couple! Still, there are advantages. No one can take our lives away by breaking up with us. Instead of sacrificing our social constellation for the one all-consuming individual, we seek empathy from friends. Friends are more than people to wile away the time with until we find a significant other. Indeed, we have significant others.
And so, when my friend asks me if quirkyalones marry, I say yes. Do they have children? Yes again. And when she asks, is being a quirkyalone is a life sentence, I say yes, at the core, one is always quirkyalone. But when the quirkyalone collides with another, ooh la la. The earth quakes.Sasha Cagen is the publisher of To-Do List magazine.
The quirkyalone is further explored in a new book, Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. To learn more, go to quirkyalone.net.
Quirkyalones have vibrators.