by Jason Stotts
I got an e-mail from a reader the other day about an interesting idea called “quirkyalone.” First, though, I’d like to point out that “Jason Stotts” is not a nom de plume, but is actually my real name. So, anyone writing me can feel free to address me simply as Jason, no other appellation is necessary or desired.
February 14 is “International Quirkyalone Day”. Of course the date was picked to contrast it with Valentine’s Day, but it’s not about feeling sorry for singles. The “quirkyalone” is an interesting concept that I feel describes me very well, and apparently many others feel the same way about themselves.
Being quirkyalone means enjoying the freedom and solitude of being single, while being open to the possibility of finding love. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this idea at some point.
More information is here and here:
I had never heard of quirkyalone before and so I followed the links to find out more about it. Wikipedia, which is, of course, omniscient, had this to say:
Quirkyalone is a neologism referring to someone who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than dating for the sake of being in a couple.[...] It started in 2003 as a “celebration of romance, freedom and individuality”.
From what little information I can gather, it sounds like people who are “quirkyalone” want to wait for the right person to date and don’t want to date people who they don’t think will be a good long term fit or even “the one.”
I think this is a terrible idea.
There is so much that we learn about ourselves, what we want in a partner, love, our preferences, our sexuality, etc., from being in relationships, even with the “wrong” people, that cannot be discovered by standing aloof from relationships and waiting for one’s Platonic ideal. There is simply no way to rationalistically learn about our needs for relationships, love, and sex except for by going out into the world and experiencing these things and reflecting on how they work for us. While I can know beforehand that someone who is abusive is ruled out prima facie, that really doesn’t tell me much. What kinds of traits do I want in a lover? What things annoy me? What are my boundaries? What are deal-breakers for me? There is simply no way to answer these questions except through experience and experience is precisely what one will not gain without going out into the world and having relationships.
On the other hand, I also think it’s a terrible idea to date simply in order to be in a relationship, solely in order to not be alone. This, I think, is much worse than standing aloof from relationships. There is much we learn about ourselves from being alone and if we are always in relationships, we may know who we are with John or Kim, but we won’t know who we are by ourselves. Furthermore, many people who are always in relationships are motivated by a fear of being alone. They are afraid that they won’t get the external validation they need in order to bolster their sense of self-esteem or perhaps they are afraid of what they might find if they were alone too much and forced to introspect too carefully.
The ability to enjoy spending time alone with only your thoughts to keep you company is a good one and leads one to a level of introspection that few people achieve. Through this introspection, we come to know ourselves much better and to understand our own needs and desires.
The ideal, as should be obvious, is to neither stand aloof nor to be in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship, but to date purposefully and with an eye to both the present and the future. To be alone when it makes sense and to have a partner when it makes sense. To do each in the right time and each with purpose. Furthermore, we should not count it a failure if a relationship doesn’t end in death. We are neither Christians nor mystics. We, as Objectivists, believe that sex should be tied to values, but that doesn’t mean we need to seek our platonic soul mates. If you have even a short relationship with another person and you both enjoy yourselves and learn more about yourselves, then this should be considered a successful relationship. Furthermore, just because a relationship ends in death, doesn’t make it successful. Many people stay in unhappy relationships only in order to say that they are still in relationships, so they can say that their relationship didn’t fail. But, truly, isn’t an unhappy and unhealthy relationship the only kind of failed relationship? There is nothing intrinsically valuable about a relationship that ends in death and we should not shoot for this as our ideal. Instead, let us shoot for healthy and happy relationships, as long as they may last.
Of course, this is not to denigrate long term relationships and I think there are values that you gain through long term relationships that you don’t have in short term ones, like a shared life and past. The sense of shared identity and intimacy that comes from a long term relationship cannot be equaled by a short term relationship and I might even go so far as to argue that this kind of intimacy is constitutive of happiness, but perhaps that’s an argument for another essay.
So, to return to quirkyalone, from what little I understand of it, it seems like a bad idea and a way to make oneself feel better about being alone. Instead, I think we should shoot for a balance in relationships and to learn from our experiences and count all of our happy and healthy relationships as successes, no matter their length. Of course, as I said in the beginning, I didn’t have much information about Quirkyalone to go on, so I may be off base on that particular. The rest, however, stands.