Dear Quirkyalone: Advice for Quirkyliving

“Dear Quirkyalone: Advice for QuirkyLiving” is a weekly guest column by the authors of the brilliant blog Onely. It debuts today and will appear every Monday. When you’re making up your own road map for (quirky)living, you need thoughtful advice. We’re here for you. We welcome your questions; send them on to onely AT onely.org.

Dear Quirkyalone,

Besides Oprah, who is a good model of single living in our culture?   –Special K

Dear Special K,

Good question. I think it’s much easier to come up with examples of poor single role models than admirable ones. Momentarily blocked for ideas of my own, I googled “single role models.”  Here’s a sampling from the first page of results:

Using Role Models to Succeed With Single Women

Lack of Male Role Models For Young Children From Single-Parent Families

They Were Single Too: 8 Biblical Role Models, by David M. Hoffeditz

“Oh dear,” I thought, “Surely there must have been a few notable singles since John the Baptist?” With Google apparently hijacked by heteronormatives, I was forced to actually search of my own brain for ideas. Here’s a sampling from those results:

Notable Singles Nowadays

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor:

She is not only a “wise Latina”, but she has supported gay rights, which is crucial for being nominated as Supreme Quirkyalone. Singles, as a (somewhat) oppressed demographic themselves, should be accepting of all kinds of relationships, not just couplings and definitely not just heterosexual couplings.

And speaking of Supremes:

According to this Ebony article, singer Mary Wilson “says that being single has allowed her to develop in ways that being married did not. ‘Now, I can play without asking permission from my husband or parents,’ she says. ‘I like the idea of being able to make my own choices about what to do.’ ”

Radio news show host Kojo Nnamdi:

Topics on his NPR show have ranged from synthetic biology to Edgar Allan Poe.  He’s smart, articulate, world-wise, curious–and single, according to his MySpace page, or a page that claims to be his. (I’m not a stalker, I swear. I haven’t even had a MySpace page since the restraining order.)

S. Ann Dunham Soetoro:

President Obama’s mother Soetoro seems like a classic Quirkyalone–independent, passionate, determined, with a romantic streak. Janny Scott summarizes Soetoro’s life succinctly in this San Francisco Chronicle article. According to Scott, Soetoro spent her childhood

. . . wheeling westward in the slipstream of her furniture-salesman father. In Hawaii, she married an African student at age 18. Then she married an Indonesian, moved to Jakarta, became an anthropologist, wrote a dissertation on peasant blacksmithing in Java, worked for the Ford Foundation, championed women’s work and helped bring microcredit to the world’s poor.

Soetoro fell hard for her husbands but didn’t follow them blindly if their dreams conflicted with hers. Her marriages “faded,” as Amanda Ripley puts it in this Time article, but she had another man in her life: someone she remained close to even when life circumstances required that they live apart, someone she influenced with her compassion and curiosity, someone who became the first Black president of the United States.

And lest we forget that role models come into our lives in ways other than on the magic rays of mass media, I want to nominate a couple “real” people from my own life:

Dr. Kate:

My doctor is an MD who incorporates holistic and “alternative” (definition: not lucrative for big pharma) healthcare techniques into her practice. She is booked up months in advance because she’s not only a great physician, but a great empathizer who always takes her time with each patient. She adopted a baby girl and lights up with joy whenever she talks about her. As a single woman, she has managed to combine career and childcare, largely on her own but also with the help of loved ones other than a husband.

Uncle Bill:

My uncle lives in a little cabin on a lake in Michigan. For years he worked the night shift at his machine plant so that he could enjoy daylight on the lake. He gets more pleasure from walks in the woods, 1960s eight-tracks, puzzles, kayaking, and watching TV specials about the Bermuda Triangle than most people would get from eating hashish brownies in a champagne-filled massage jacuzzi under a starry tropical sky while having sex with Brad Pitt. (Or Angelina. Or both.)

And About Oprah:

Actually, I’m not all that sure that Oprah is a top model of healthy and happy single living. I know, blasphemy! But Quirkyliving is about embracing your idiosyncrasies, even if society tells you they’re inappropriate. (With exceptions for pyromania and public toenail-trimming.) [Editor's note: Some of us are not willing to give up our predilection for public toenail-picking!] Oprah’s yo-yo dieting and spread-eagled triumph poses when she squeezes into a waist-cinching dress to show off her body so tiny that her head looks like a lollipop–that doesn’t scream Quirkyliving to me. It seems more like a cry for acceptance into the world of mass media, a male-dominated world that still tells women they must be thin to be listened to, respected, and have sex lives.

Oprah is a brilliant, beautiful woman and a media queen–she could completely rewrite the rules, but instead she follows the slim-down status quo.

Readers, who are your models for healthy and happy single living?

–Christina of Onely

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About

Onely is a blog that deconstructs stereotypes of singlehood. It's for singles who enjoy being single but remain open to a variety of romantic relationships, either for themselves or for others. Onely comprises two people: Lisa and Christina. Christina has an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing, but she still struggles with her participles and a tendency toward semicolon abuse. She has bravely persevered against these obstacles in her work as one-half of the Onely writing team. For most of her thirty-odd years she has been Quirkyalone, but she also has experience as a Quirkytogether, a Lonelyalone, and--most terrifying--a Lonelytogether. Currently she is contentedly single, balancing a left-brained day job that feeds her cat with right-brained writing projects that feed her soul. In Dear Quirkyalone, she hopes to share her lessons learned with other readers who want to understand and embrace Quirkyliving. The secret? Always listen to Lisa. Lisa has an MFA in creative writing and is about halfway through a doctoral program in Rhetoric and Composition. She loves writing about singles issues on Onely because it gives her a break from what she writes in “real life,” and she loves giving advice on QA because – as most academics do – she thinks she’s always right. Lisa owns a dog named Kitty, loves Judith Butler and Michel Foucault, and undertakes long road/camping trips as often as possible. She apologizes in advance for her language taking “academic” (not to be confused with “epic”) proportions, and advises readers first and foremost to always heed Christina’s advice.

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Posted in Books + Movies, Personal Growth, Politics, Single Life
5 comments on “Dear Quirkyalone: Advice for Quirkyliving
  1. Cocoahantas says:

    Janet Napolitano is a great example. Former US Attorney, former governor of Arizona, now head of Homeland Security. Loves hiking, basketball, tennis, whitewater rafting, and mountain climbing (she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!).

  2. I go back and forth on Oprah’s quirkyalone-itude. At the end of the day, I think she’s a category-maker — although she can fall into many different categories, she really fits comfortably into none. Whether she inspires you or horrifies you, she’s a force of nature who makes her own rules.

    Other models of healthy and happy singledom? I’m thinking Drew Barrymore (and a mogul, to boot), Diane Keaton, Anne Hathaway. For inspiring quirkytogethers I think of Rachel Maddow and Chelsea Handler.

    Nice post! ;)

  3. ITA about Oprah, not just because of her fad dieting but because she seems to support a lot of very mainstream values, especially with regard to coupling. I know she’s in a long-term unmarried relationship, but it’s not a marriage certificate that makes someone Quirkyalone or not, and I get a singlist vibe from the way she conducts her interviews. I don’t have any direct quotes to offer, but I just get the impression that she sees couples as the norm and couplehood as superior to singleness.

    Actually, I think there are a lot of great single role models out there, many of them athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and scientists. Here are a few of my personal faves:

    Michelle Kwan, Olympic athlete
    Brian Boitano, Olympic athlete
    Michael Phelps, Olympic athlete
    Natalie Portman, actress
    Anne Hathaway, actress
    George Clooney, actor
    Leonardo DiCaprio, actor
    Sheryl Crow, musician
    Mark Zuckerberg, Internet entrepreneur
    Ralph Nader, activist and politician

    All of the above have achieved the height of career success in their fields, and most are also involved in activism and charitable activities. I’m sure someone could list lots more!

  4. Delilah says:

    Let’s not forget Tim Gunn.

  5. Stephanie says:

    How about Madonna, Jodie Foster, Georgia O’Keeffe (for much of her life), Helen Hunt (for part of her life)?

    Madonna stands out for me as while she was married twice, and dated some high-profile men, she is also never afraid to go it alone. She is a huge romantic but seems to be holding out for a great love.

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