Weird, random use of “quirkyalone” in the New York Times! Or, Self-flagellation doesn’t work

by | Sep 20, 2015 | Quirkyalone | 10 comments

My inbox started to explode Thursday afternoon.

My friend Tracy sent me a link: “Weird, random use of ‘quirkyalone'”

My father sent me a message: “Your word in headline type!”

A lot of acquaintances sent emails, “Hey this reminds me of your book.”

What was this all about? I was on my own writing retreat in Healdsburg, California, working on my memoir Wet when these emails flooded in.

The skinny: An essayist Tim Kreider wrote a New York Times Modern Love essay about his despair at finding love in the brutal New York City dating scene (which I’ve heard many times is very rough), and the despair he observed in his single friends.

The piece was titled “‘Quirkyalone’ Is Still Alone.”

Now this was strange. Every other time that the New York Times has used the word ‘quirkyalone’ in a news article, from 2003 to 2013, the reporter called me and we talked, and he or she got the definition right and cited me as the coiner of the word. Kreider conflated ‘quirkyalone’ with ‘happy single’ and said we quirkyalones are unicorns, we only exist in magazines. The meaning of the word that I created in a 700-word essay in 2000, and then in my book in 2004, is “a person who prefers to be single rather than settle.” We quirkyalones do exist and our numbers are growing!

I plan to take my time to write a full response to his essay, perhaps my own Modern Love essay, but for now, I want to share this piece with you and I welcome you to share your thoughts on the New York Times or with me in a comment or an email.

I will share a few thoughts here.

A longtime friend of mine (who actually was the first to read my original quirkyalone essay in 1999 before anyone else did) didn’t like the piece because she thought, “It’s basically like someone saying hey you single person, you want to think your life is every bit as good as the people in relationships (good relationships, that is) but really I’m here to tell you it’s not–it’s actually really lacking. I mean that may be the truth but it’s not really what I feel like reading right now so it’s just a personal thing I guess.”

I think my friend hits the nail on the head here. Any perspective that actually hurts when you feel it is probably not true at a deep level. How can we really compare one person’s unique life to another person’s unique life and say, this life is better? We are all on our own journey here. Another yogi friend of mine likes to say, “You’re on your mat. He/she’s on his mat.” The meaning is: don’t compare.

I appreciate a lot of the writing in the piece, but I think he draws a pretty erroneous conclusion that happiness and belonging happens through coupling.

In fact, I think we reach an important stage in our maturity when we realize that we are responsible for our own happiness, whether we’re single or in a relationship, quirkyalone or quirkytogether.

The most important thing you can do if you do want a loving, healthy partnership is to start with your relationship with yourself. To love and respect yourself. We are very good at being mean to ourselves, saying it’s our fault. I am writing about my own journey toward self-respect as a single woman in Wet, and in fact, I think these are the lessons that everyone needs to learn, woman or man, single or coupled. You can’t really be happy if you don’t respect yourself.

Cutting ourselves down for being single (messed-up, flawed, wrong, or living lesser lives than people in relationships) is something I have done too and most of my coaching clients have done. It’s the problem of being quirkyalone in this culture, thinking something is wrong with you when you’re single because we live in a couple-normative culture. The only way it could help is by causing so much pain that it gets you into desperate mode to change your habits and your way of thinking to then attract more love and connection into your life, but really, self-flagellation is usually not a successful strategy for change. It doesn’t help. I can’t get down with a perspective that makes single people feel bad for being single.

I am all for healthy relationships. I’m all for healthy singledom too. I’m not an advocate of lifelong singlehood for me or most quirkyalones either (most do want a partnership at some point, although some don’t). I certainly think we can grow in unique and important ways in the container of a healthy loving relationship when we have someone who is willing to be our mirror.

However, the magic starts when we connect with ourselves.

The trick is being our own best friend along the way.

I welcome your thoughts.
With love,

P.S. Welcome to all the new subscribers who found my work because of Tim’s piece! Happy to have you on board with us!


  1. Jill

    First, Sasha, I want to say I’m sorry The New York Times and Krieder referenced your movement incorrectly, out of context, and without permission. That’s the writer’s equivalent of having a beloved pet kidnapped. Second, Tim Krieder’s feelings, like all feelings, are perfectly valid: “But alone and awake in the hours after midnight, I can’t help but feel illegitimate, peripheral, as if I’m missing some crucial piece of human equipment.” As a writer, it’s also his prerogative to only quote women friends in the opening section about relationship “failures” and compare women he perceives as aloof to the cat who starves him of affection. I may not agree, but that doesn’t really matter. The Modern Love column is a place where individual experiences are expressed in vulnerable ways. This is Tim’s truth, not The Truth.
    That’s why it bothers me when he chooses to declare repeatedly that the idea of a single (or indeed unmarried) person having a complex, joyful life is an impossibility, as opposed to something that isn’t part of his own experience. To me, that’s an indirect marginalization of any person whose life is unlike either his life or his idealized norm.
    If he hasn’t met any quirkyalones “in the wild,” it’s because we won’t be driven to the edges of some relationship wilderness. We will be wet, whole, and WILD wherever we are! Kreider should come to a Quirkyalone Day celebration some time. He’ll find out how many of us there are. Better yet, he might find himself happy, right where he is.

    • Sasha

      Hey Jill! Thanks for your comment. I’m OK with how this has turned out because more people are learning about quirkyalone, so, hey, wonderful. I think a lot of the lines in Tim’s piece are beautiful and emotionally resonant, and many people can relate to them, he just draws a very retro 1950s conclusion. There are certainly lots of dark nights of the soul for a single person, just as there are for most people in relationships too–it’s all about our evolution toward greater states of wholeness whether we are single or in a relationship. Here is a quote that I used in my Quirkyalone book from Erica Jong in her midlife memoir, Fear of Fifty. She writes, “At nineteen, at twenty-nine, at thirty-nine, even—goddess help me—at forty-nine, I believed that a new man . . . would somehow change my inner life. Not so now. I know that my inner life is my own achievement whether there is a partner in my life or not. . . I know that my soul is what I have to nurture and develop, and that, alone or with a partner, the problems of climbing your own mountain are not so very different.”

      • Jill

        Your reminder of the importance of evolution is much appreciated, Sasha! Sometimes I get so caught up in analysis I forget how an article makes me feel is also important. I hope this author finds wholeness, whatever that means for him. He deserves it. Everyone does.

    • Marian Smith

      As a 64 year old quirky alone who is finding that singleness is a gift of the highest order, I applaud you and agree with you when you state: “…the magic starts when we connect with ourselves.” Many thanks Shasha for legitimizing my experience of the blessings of singlehood through your words.

      • Sasha

        Glad you found us and quirkyalone Marian!

  2. Valerie

    ‘”a person who prefers to be single rather than settle.” We quirkyalones do exist and our numbers are growing!’

    Yes we do!
    Yes we are!

    I’m a lifelong single, and singleness is not something that defines me; *I* define me. Although not quite as dedicated to being a lifelong single as my hero Bella DePaulo — I have been in relationships and could be again — I choose it any day and every day over matrimania, “settling”, and strangling my real self to adjust to emotionally abusive jerkos.

    (Every day except the time it takes me to figure out that I’ve been hanging out with someone whose verbal abuse or self-centeredness or whatever is a pattern, not just a one-off bad day. That does NOT take years, and it does NOT take a marriage!)

    I have some interest in what he calls “looking for someone”, but it does NOT define me. It most emphatically does *NOT* consume my life energy. No, I revoke that. I’m interested in “being with” someone, but I do not spend my energy “looking”.

    I have contempt for the faux-pseudo-self-styled “singles” columnist who called people in a relationship, who weren’t actively wanting marriage, “fluff”. What an insult to the singles she impersonates an advocate for. I have contempt for Lori Gottlieb, who urged women to “settle”. I posted a rant on Heartless Bitches that pointed out that’s probably how those matrimaniac women got divorced in the first place — now they want to be stupid all over again!

    Some loneliness is part of the human condition. But “alone” and “lonely” are nowhere near the same! It’s the quirkyalones who are doing something with their lives instead of being pathetic.

    As always, I will remember something I wanted to say 3.5 seconds after I hit “post comment”.

  3. Tony G. Rocco

    This might be somewhat tangential to the current conversation, but I read a book recently that challenges the basic assumption behind the definition of a quirkyalone as Sasha defines it.

    I have long considered myself a quirkyalone because I am a diehard romantic who won’t “settle.” But I have come to realize that this sort of attitude can be a setup for failure in the relationship world. After reading, First Comes Marriage, a book on arranged marriages by Reva Seth, I’ve come to see that an essential ingredient of a successful relationship isn’t so much finding the “big love” that Sasha describes, but rather the willingness to make a solid long-term commitment to the relationship. Many arranged marriages are successful not because the partners find romantic bliss in each others’ arms from day one, but because they make a solid commitment to the relationship that enables it to grow and develop over time. It’s almost the opposite approach from ours, in which relationships start off hot and then cool over time; in arranged marriages, relationships start cool and the heat up over time. Counterintuitive, perhaps, but nonetheless a valid and perhaps healthier approach.

    I am not necessarily advocating arranged marriages, and neither does Reva Seth, but I think a shift in perspective to put less emphasis on romantic fireworks and more on making a commitment to the long-term success of the relationship could be the answer to many of people’s relationship woes, like the ones cited in the Modern Love piece in question.

    Best wishes,


    • Sasha

      Hi Tony, Thanks for your comment!

      I’m really glad you made this point here because it gives me a chance to share how my perspective has changed, something I”m meaning to do in an FAQ, and in the perspective that is being integrated into my new book.

      I came up with “quirkyalone” fifteen years ago, and with the benefit of time, experience (my own and coaching others), and lots of study, I agree that the commitment to relationship is key. A big bang will not grow into anything without two people who are committed to doing the work of creating a healthy, loving relationship.

      When I was in my twenties, I scoffed at the idea of a relationship being work, that seemed like no fun, but as I dated more and more, and got to know myself and what constitutes a healthy relationship more, I saw that everyone has triggers, everyone has disagreements, and everyone has, for lack of a better word, their quirks–and the people that I want to partner with, and I advise that clients partner with, are those who have a solid commitment to relationship, as well as the maturity to know that a relationship involves work.

      When people don’t commit to doing the work, this is when relationships that have potential implode and disintegrate. I had that happen to me many times, and it was very painful, and i learned that relationships flourish when people are mature enough to expect problems and have the courage, compassion, and skills to work through them.

      Most of what I teach clients is about learning how to communicate–first with yourself, and the with another (partner, friend, family member) since every relationship is a training ground and important.

      So while I don’t go all the way to advocating arranged marriage, I too have always been intrigued by that, and believe there is a huge power in committing to being a person who is interested in working on relationships.

  4. YL

    You are awesome, as always. Thank you for sharing your message – it is so important!! <3 <3 <3

  5. Paula White

    Hi Sasha,

    It’s Paula White. How are you? It is interesting that you would mention this guy’s article.

    Let me explain.

    As you know, I work as a nurse. currently, I am working with a lot of end of life patients on ventilators because they cannot breathe on their own. They received their feedings through other machines because they cannot eat on their own. Some have been coupled for years. They have children and grandchildren. Family and friends visit all the time and many of these people are not even 60 just yet.

    Oddly enough, unlike people who are in good health and could be concerned about other things, my patients aren’t giving me a heard time about not being married. Instead, I am going through my own Tuesdays With Morrie where I am being urged to get out here and do what it is that I was meaning to do with my life, whether I am in a relationship or not because you know what? This may very well be me at some point.

    A lot of people do not want these types of work assignments because they think of them as “depressing.” Personally, it has opened me up to life more. I have been eating organically, going to the gym, meditating and placing my attention on my own personal self definition and the creative pursuits that mean the most to me. No, I am still not in a relationship. If the right person at the right place at the right time comes along, that’s great, but I am not letting allowing my ability to enjoy my life to be defined by that.

    So back to this guy’s article: Is it really necessary to vilify or demonize someone who is not in a relationship? Whether or not this guy gets it, it doesn’t matter if you are single or coupled because at some point or another, you will wake up by yourself and you will have to do a life review and figure out if you were living fully or if you wasted precious time worried about something that you cannot control? When you see this fact in action day in and day out, you find that life is larger than misquoting a term you didn’t even come up with.

    I am sorry he did not give credit where credit is due for the term “Quirkyalone” and it’s true meaning, which is self-love and self-acceptance, whether someone is standing right beside you or not.

    Thank you for listening.


    Paula White


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Hi! I’m Sasha

Executive and Life Coach on a mission to help women connect with their bodies to pursue their truest desires in the bedroom and the world.

Author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics (HarperCollins) + To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us (Simon & Schuster).

At work on a memoir called Wet, about adventures in healing through sensuality.

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