Transparency is a major buzzword in Internet circles these days. It’s about sharing who you are through YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, enough to make you seem more real and a little vulnerable. Transparency is said to bring us closer together. In business and government, transparency theoretically makes institutions more accountable.
It’s strange to be a nonfiction writer who has always specialized in writing about culture through the prism of my own life now that everyone is sharing tidbits of their lives online. I’m suspicious of the belief that we should all be transparent. I know how carefully I and other nonfiction writers and memoirists consider which stories and details to share. We don’t tell them in real-time. It’s impossible to predict how careless sharing will haunt us in the future, whether in the workplace or a relationship.
But now I feel blocked, I decided to give the whole transparency thing a try. What’s the worst thing that can happen? If there’s anything I’m passionate about, it’s honest communication.
I have decided that it might be interesting to be more transparent at this moment about my tangle of ambivalence regarding quirkyalone ten years after originally writing an essay defining the term (and five years after publishing my book).
In December 2008 I came up with the idea of redesigning this site to turn it into a group blog and magazine with daily, fresh content. The quirkyalone outlook can be applied to politics, travel, marriage, relationships, friendship, community, (online) dating, pop culture, and more. When I put out the call, smart bloggers responded that they wanted to contribute. It took five months to execute on the redesign–and now it’s time to start. But I am stymied and unmotivated. Why is that? My way to get unblocked is often to write. Often by writing things become more clear.
So here goes.
I am afraid that by continuing to put my energy into a website about singleness that I am writing myself into a future of eternal singlehood. Let me be clear. One of my worst fears in life is to be misunderstood, especially on gut issues like the ones raised by Quirkyalone about love and relationships. I do not want to be single forever. I want to be in a long-term relationship. Why do I feel the need to say this?
Around New Year’s I ran into an old college friend whom I saw for the first time in seven years. He introduced me to his friends as the lady behind the quirkyalone movement, but he apparently hadn’t really absorbed the full definition. He asked me if I have to tell new boyfriends about quirkyalone as if I am telling them I have herpes, as if it’s something that needs to be disclosed at the beginning of a relationship. He thought being quirkyalone meant I wanted only flings. I was speechless.
For months, I worried that other people might think the same thing. Have I been sabotaging myself all these years by unknowingly putting forward the impression that I only want to be single?
Does putting all this energy into building a website and community of self-respecting and proud single people mean that I will only attract singleness myself? Am I telling the universe I only want to be single in some horribly Secret-ish way? Does Quirkyalone intimidate men? Do they not ask me out assuming I prefer to be single?
There is no shocking revelation here: no polyamory, no deviance. Wow, I want a long-term partner, how crazy is that? But somehow it’s very important for me to be clear.
But now that I’m in my mid-thirties, it’s unacceptable to me for my career and my creative work to even potentially be at cross-purposes with my hopes for my personal life. The differences between quirkyalone at 25 (when I first conceived this idea) and at 35 now are a rich topic that I want to explore in a separate piece, but it’s abundantly clear that this is a decade when I need and want to be entirely clear-eyed and clear with others about what I want out of my life. That includes a husband (or long-term relationship), a child (I think!), continued creative vitality, strong friendships, a feeling of civic community, and closeness with my family. That’s my abstract list.
You notice I put husband first. In some way, I have been afraid to articulate that wish: to myself (because I feared, well, what if it doesn’t happen, you don’t want to be disappointed) and to my quirkyalone readers: because I was afraid of making you feel less empowered or even betrayed. I felt an obligation to put on a publicly content face about being single. It’s messed up, when I think about it with any depth. I was willing to sacrifice honesty and even my potential success at finding love (by not being honest) because I was afraid of betraying to my single readers? WTF?
I can’t wave the flag for something that I don’t believe in. Or in an idea that doesn’t serve me personally. Which means, I need to redefine quirkyalone now, ten years later.
In some subtle and yet fundamental way, I want to redefine quirkyalone with yet another layer. This has never been a simple or easily explainable idea. It’s not like “metrosexual”: it has ambivalence and paradox baked right into it, the comfort in being single combined with the aching yearning to find the right partner.
More and more quirkyalone is about connection for me, the idea that it’s impossible to be connected to others without being comfortable alone. It’s about being connected in a time when our attention is growing more fragmented, as we multitask, twitter, glance at our phones and our video streams. It’s about being comfortable with your aloneness and connected to your deepest self, whether you’re single or partnered. For many of us, I think being quirkyalone is a prerequisite to being in a healthy relationship. It’s about confidence and presence, so you can be fully present for someone else and appreciate them for who they are without judgment or squeezing them into a predefined box or list. Solitude can be experienced alone or with others. With others: it’s just about focusing on the world which you inhabit together.
I am not saying that being in a relationship is better than being single. I’m saying that there are ways you can only grow when you are single, and ways you can only grow when you are partnered. Perpetual, lifelong singlehood is not optimal because it shuts off the possibility of certain kinds of growth. I have spent enough time being single, and it’s time for me to learn and grow in a new way by being partnered with someone. For others, it’s time to grow by being single.
It makes me feel happy to be honest. In a way, writing this post reminds me of the blissful exhalation I felt when I shared my original quirkyalone essay with a roommate 10 years ago before it was published. Writing feels like thought exhalation to me. I slept deeply that night because I exhaled something that was hard to articulate, but true, and it was a great relief to see that she got it. I look forward to more writings about all these messy complexities.
Expect more transparent truths about me and quirkyalone, and more transparent truths from the writers who are going to join this blog soon.
I’ll be introducing them one by one over the coming weeks.
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