For my birthday, my friend Lizzy got me a baby giraffe. And by a baby giraffe, I mean she got me a book. But it was late in arriving and it’s more fun to wonder if a baby giraffe is sitting in your mailroom, gradually becoming more irate, than to wonder if a book is waiting around for you. Books, you see, are inanimate. They don’t wait so much as…exist.
Finally, yesterday, the book came! And I was very excited. Because I’d been talking to Lizzy about this book for almost a month. She owned a copy and thought I would appreciate it, because it reminded her of me. The title of the book is “Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics,” and it is by Sasha Cagen.
I read the cover, got a few pages in, and said to myself, Self: Someone has taken your life and put it into a book.
Part of me was unsurprised. Part of me thinks my life might well be a “Truman Show”-type sitcom minus the laugh track (that I can hear, at least). But all of me was impressed when I realized that no, this was written by someone who is not me, for people who are like me but are not only me. There are people out there who feel the way I feel about life! And they have a name!
That name is “quirkyalone.”
Basically, a quirkyalone person is a person who refuses to be in a relationship for the sake of dating. It’s someone who’s not afraid to be single, who can take immense pleasure in life as an individual and who derives as much meaning from his or her relationships with friends and family and his/herself as from a romantic relationship. It’s a person who knows that solitude is different from loneliness, although s/he can feel lonely too (and that’s okay). And it’s someone who, when in a relationship, maintains his or her core sense of self and takes the space he or she needs, without neglecting the people who supported him or her before the relationship.
I’ve talked about being a romantic before. That’s part of who I am, sure. And that’s not a problem for someone who also insists on there being meaning in life outside of a romantic paradigm. In fact, part of being a romantic is that I don’t really want to “settle” for a relationship or a “situation” that isn’t wholly satisfying to me. See, here’s the thing. I have of course been in relationships, and have dated people, and have enjoyed myself in each case. But there comes a point at which it is evident to me that it’s much preferable to be on my own than to be seeing someone when it’s not quite right, for whatever reason. I could spend Saturday nights with my friends! Or with a book! Or seeing a movie by myself! It sounds kind of great!
It is great. And it’s okay for it to be great. In fact, it’s great that it’s great.
It’s so refreshing to me to read about a bunch of other people who have felt this way, who enjoy doing things (eating dinner out, seeing a show, going for a walk or shopping) by themselves, who have had periods of years (years!) without even thinking about a relationship, who have also encountered the fears and anxieties that go along with this. Am I just too picky? Do I need to shut up and “settle?” Should I go for a “practice relationship?” And then to hear the answer as a resounding “No,” along with an affirmation of how great it is that you can be completely happy on your own–it’s lovely.
Something that really resonates with me from the book is the discussion of the importance of friendship, and the refusal to let friends be a “side dish” to a relationship. I have some of the best friends I’ve ever heard of. My friends print out giant pictures of my face and put them on cardboard so I can hold them up to heckle basketball games, or whatever. My friends start theatre companies with me and write plays with me and plan elaborate graffiti tags with me and text me every day and GChat the living hell out of me and give me analogues from my favorite TV shows. My friends saved my life when I started having panic attacks, and they listen to me overanalyze everything, and they give me wine and food and hugs and they cuddle with me and they don’t judge me on “off” days when I refuse to get out of sweats and I talk about wanting to punch everything, even Mother Nature, in the face.
They are phenomenal, and I just plain don’t want to let them get any farther than I could throw them.
Then there’s my family. Again, phenomenal. Even the brother who mocked me for not calling him when CLEARLY I am the best sister ever for making a crappy video for him. My parents are my biggest fans (I suspect Stockholm Syndrome) and, while they would love to see me find a special somebody, because they think I’m awesome, they seem to understand that a significant other has some pretty large shoes to fill when measured against my super-creative, funny, gregarious dad, my brilliant, loving, stealthily-silly mom, and the aforementioned pretty sensational friends. They don’t want anything less than stellar for me, and hey–neither do I.
Here’s what the quirkyalone thing means to me, although the book doesn’t put it in exactly these terms: It’s like committing to treating yourself the way you would treat your best friend, or even your significant other. If my best friend wasn’t being treated well by someone s/he was dating, you can bet I would tell him/her to just get out because s/he deserved better. You can bet I would have no doubt in my mind that there’s someone who will love him/her the way s/he is, and that until (even “if”) that person shows, s/he should realize how seriously cool s/he is and enjoy him/herself in life.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that it’s always easy. It’s definitely not. Sometimes you see a sappy movie or read a book or hear a song and all you want is to be that person in love. Sometimes you’re convinced there’s something wrong with you, or that you should just change that one thing about yourself, or that having a significant other would make your life complete. Happy single people get lonely too.
So what do you do at those points? Well, I can’t speak for everyone else, but I go for a walk. Or I listen to ghost stories. Or I take a bath, or I try a new hairstyle, or I write for an hour, or I hug a friend and bitch and then start laughing about what it would be like to have a baby giraffe–
And soon enough, I’m back to the me I’ve been for 25 years, in and out of relationships. A quirkyalone. Or a person. Or whatever. Me.