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‘Quirky Alone’

Feminism has been with us for decades. One of the major legacies of feminism is that single women no longer feel as pressured to get married and raise a family. It was not so long ago that unmarried women who didn’t get to the altar by the time they were pushing 30 were labeled "old maids" or "spinsters." Today, women on average are not only getting married later in life; many are not getting married at all.

Sasha Cagen, the publisher of To-Do List Magazine and an independent single woman herself, has come up with a new personality category. She calls herself and others like her "Quirky Alone." The Quirky Alone, according to Cagen, is "deeply single," yet certainly not a man-hater. She is a puzzle piece "who seldom fits with other puzzle pieces," and is very comfortable with her solitary existence.

She sees the Quirky Alone as someone who is incapable of casual dating and, considering what casual dating has come to mean today in the singles bars of America, that seems reasonable. The Quirky Alone does not date for the sake of dating. She is not afraid to be alone on a Saturday night. She is a romantic who believes in all of the possibilities of romance, yet she is a realist. She might not ever find Mr. Right and she is unwilling to settle for a substitute. And she’s OK with that.

It is easy for cynics to brush off Cagen as someone who might be rationalizing a lousy love life, but don’t be so fast. So many men have failed so miserably in satisfying women for so long that a cottage industry has sprung up around the sale of sex toys. You men might comfort yourselves that there is no substitute for the real thing, but the Quirky Alone already has discovered that the toys don’t have the drawbacks of drinking too much, taking drugs, a belief in their own superiority or, maybe worst of all, being unable to talk with animation about anything other than whom the Eagles will draft in the first round.

The "quirkies" would rather read a good book and take a hot bath than endure these men for an evening, let alone a lifetime.

Television has given us some classic Quirky Alone types, according to Cagen. The appeal of Ally McBeal and Samantha in Sex and the City is based in large part on the appeal of Quirky Alones. Both shows have become deeply ingrained in our female pop culture. Both destroyed the myth that only homely women stay single.

Cagen is getting a lot of mileage out of her "Quirky Alone" theory. She has devised a test that supposedly will tell you if you are a member of the club. Naturally, there is a Web site devoted to Quirky Alones, where Cagen answers questions such as, "Do Quirky Alones marry?" (yes) and "Is being a Quirky Alone a life sentence?" (also yes). Those answers would seem contradictory. But not so, because apparently when a "Quirky Alone" meets the right person, as Carole King might sing, "[She’ll] feel the earth move under [her] feet."

Marrying a "Quirky Alone" would seem to present some difficulties for the mate. "Quirkies" are likely not going to be very interested in your friends and relatives. They barely tolerate their own. You might wind up spending a lot of evenings at home staring into each other’s eyes before a fire. Sounds as if that kind of intensity would not hold up over the long haul. But then, how many long-term relationships do? And hell, the challenge sure sounds worthwhile. Imagine if you’re the chosen one who can keep a "quirky" interested. That might be the emotional equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.

Those of us who have opted for convention sometimes act as if our lifestyle choice is being threatened by the committed single. I believe that attitude also accounts for much of the hostility toward gay unions from straights. President Bush and his supporters openly speak of the "threat" that such relationships pose to the institution of marriage. Likewise, the quirkiness of the Quirky Alone can sometimes be perceived as a threat not just by men for obvious reasons, but by married women, too.

I, for one, strongly empathize with "quirkies." As a man who is almost totally without the manual work skills expected from men, I understand women who are not comfortable with the traditional role of women. What I’ve learned from a Quirky Alone who happens to be a friend of mine is that "quirkies" don’t care very much what others think about them. What is heartening is that young women today have choices.

The Quirky Alone often chooses solitude.

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