In 2000, writer/editor Sasha Cagen introduced the word "quirkyalone" into the English language in an essay she wrote for her magazine, To-Do List. The essay later got picked up by the Utne Reader. Suddenly, Ms. Cagen writes in her book, quirklyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics (Harper San Francisco, 2004), people began sending her letters and e-mail messages full of praise, encouragement, and, perhaps most importantly, understanding. They, too, felt her pain, so to speak.

They, the quirkyalones, are part of a small group of the population (possibly less than 5%) who do not feel comfortable in relationships for the sake of being in a relationship. Instead of pairing off, they are perfectly happy experiencing life as a complete individual. That isn't to say they don't do romance at all—there's even a subgroup of quirklyalones called quirkysluts. QA's come in all shapes and sizes, they can be male or female, and they can even own pets. Ms. Cagen says quirkyalone is not a cult, but more of a movement or a personality than anything else. And, even though the word hasn't taken off like bootylicious and bling-bling, it's out there for anyone who feels a little bit quirky and alone to tack onto their identity. Who knows, you might be one. Find out by taking the test at the quirkyalone Web site. That's how I discovered I was one...
I scored a decisive 126.

Now that I know I'm a member of a rare group of humanity, I feel relieved and yet also a little saddened. I'm happy knowing there are others out there like me, folks willing to hold out for the right person rather than settling for the sake of being part of a couple even if they are miserable in the relationship. But I also worry that owning my quirkyaloneness will mean I have to give up a little bit of myself that I've grown quite accustomed to, my whining nobody-loves-me self, and start appreciating myself as I am, a wonderful, non-complaining complete person. What will my therapist do without me?

My skeptical side wonders if, by designating myself a quirkyalone, it is possible I'll just be giving myself yet another excuse not to get my single self out into the world of potential coupledom. Won't accepting a preference for solitude be condoning my laziness (Do I have to shave my legs AGAIN?) or allowing myself to further avoid intimacy (Me show vulnerability? No way!)?

One quality of being a QA I'd be happy to rid myself of is what is popularly called Romantic Obsession. To quote from Ms. Cagen, "R.O. is a distinct emotional experience; the dark side of the quirkyalone's passionate character, and our dirty little secret. R.O. is not unique to quirkyalones, but we are more likely to dip into this troubling state than are people who are more flexible in their search for love and therefore date more frequently. R.O. generally comes in the wake of a short-lived relationship, when you are trying to uphold an illusion about the relationship and the rest of your life is not in order."

Daydreaming my own romance novel over and over again, longing for someone despite their unavailability, hoping beyond hope that he's the one for me even if I haven't said a word to him, these are symptoms of R.O., and I have a classic case of it. So, again, I'm stuck between a reality and a fantasy place. I know I'm not the only one who suffers R.O.; that makes me breathe a little easier. Yet, I worry that accepting this as my behavior might be the first step in having to give up the behavior. Then what will I do to fill up all those wasted hours of fantasizing? I LOVE that part of romance! But, it is about as healthy a habit as letting an abusive partner beat you up emotionally. It must end.

Quirkyalones are true believers of fate, yet also realists. This I understand. However, like job hunting or shopping for the perfect white blouse, for fate to work doesn't it mean I have to do more than fantasize these fateful meetings and chance happenings? That I have to be "proactive" as the romance experts say?

I have one word to say, Ew! The idea of getting out there and applying myself to romance makes me cringe. It's been a struggle my entire dating life. Take flirting, I'm often at a loss when someone's flirting with me. I usually don't realize flirting took place until moments later, when the person exhibiting his charm school skills on me has moved on to someone else, someone able to respond in kind. Situations where there could be potential flirting produce enough amounts of toxic anxiety in me, it makes my stomach want to transplant to another body. Does being a QA mean gone are the days of gastrointestinal discomfort?

All these are important questions for a new quirkyalone. Thank goodness Ms. Cagen addresses these issues and offers guidance and hope for those of us who have newly discovered their quirkyaloneness. Before reading this uplifting book with its attractive bright blue cover, I didn't think there was another way to live my life. Being happy in my completeness and not needing to waste my time with someone I'm uncomfortable around or putting myself in stress-inducing situations is a perfectly legitimate way to exist. Fine word, legitimate. I hope Ms. Cagen achieves her goal of making "quirkyalone" as legitimate a word in the English language as it makes me feel legitimate in adoring my uncompromisingly romantic self.

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** EXTRA: Our Top Ten Favorite Things**

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