Previously, I posed the question, "Are you single at heart?" I think there are lots of ways to tell, and I described some of them, including criteria based on scientific research as well as other indicators I surmised based on my own reading, experiences, and the many stories that other singles tell me.
But how, I was soon asked, does "single at heart" differ from quirkyalone? This is a question I especially welcomed, as I've been meaning to address it for a long time.
Sasha Cagen put quirkyalone on the cultural map in 2000 when she published her essay, "The Quirkyalone," on the To-Do List. It was picked up by the Utne Reader, then barreled into more of the mainstream media. I've never met Sasha, but she and I have been on radio shows together, probably around Valentine's Day.
Of quirkyalones, Cagen said, "Romantics, idealists, eccentrics, we inhabit single-dom as our natural resting state...For the quirkyalone, there is no patience for dating just for the sake of not being alone. We want a miracle. Out of millions, we have to find the one who will understand."
Her book by the same Quirkyalone name included a quiz you can take to figure out just how quirkyalone you are. (The online version is different.) There are some quiz questions to which I'd happily answer yes. They are questions that could easily fit within the "single at heart" framework. For example: "Do you treat life as one big choose-your-own adventure; there is no single road map for adulthood?" And, "Do you recognize the ways in which society prescribes happiness primarily through romantic love, and understand the failings of such an approach?"
But now think about the last two items of the quirkyalone quiz:
The keys are quirkyalone words and phrases such as "romantic," "out of millions, we have to find the one," and the criteria that you have an intense desire for a great love relationship and a vulnerability to love songs. Consider, too, the last lines of Sasha's initial essay: "when one quirkyalone finds another, oooh la la. The earth quakes."
Now there's nothing wrong with any of that. But it's not the same as being "single at heart."
Quirkyalone, I think, was a wonderful prelude to my own work such as Singled Out and Single with Attitude. The concept said: We are people who are happily single, with friends and passions and full lives, but we are also romantics. We love those silly love songs, even as we recognize their silliness. Once we find that one perfect person, "oooh la la."
The qualifier - we're happily single but we'd love to be coupled with the perfect person - made all the difference. Quirkyalones are not threatening to people who are coupled at heart. They don't really challenge the cultural ideology that extols coupling above all else. Quirkyalones have especially high standards for coupling, they value friends and not just romantic partners, and they are not at all insecure with their single status, but ultimately, they want what everyone else believes they should want - The One, that perfect match, the love songs, the romantic miracle.
People who are "single at heart" may or may not have the occasional romantic relationship, but they do not aspire to live as a couple (married or otherwise) for the long term. They really are happily and securely single, not just until the perfect person comes along, but for the foreseeable future. Now that's a threat!
For people who are not "single at heart," the concept is baffling. If you describe to them who you really are, they may wonder whether there is something wrong with you and ask you weird questions. You can try to enlighten them, but if that seems like too tall a challenge, just tell them you are quirkyalone. That won't be too hard for them to accept, and maybe it will be the first step to opening their hearts and minds to the "single at heart."