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.
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!