This guest post is a collaboration between our new social media intern Katie Pugh and QA founder Sasha Cagen. Infographic and interview questions by Katie!
With over 300 responses from respondents from 26 countries with ages ranging between 19 and 74, the most recent Quirkyalone survey gave a really revealing look at the wide spectrum of people who identify with this amazing movement.
Quirkyalones comes from all different tax brackets and careers. They are students, cooks, teachers, insurances salespeople, software engineers, and more.
It’s really eye-opening to see that our lifestyle is not defined by what we do for a living or where we live but rather by a different approach to life, being single, and relationships.
After reviewing the survey results, I asked the queen of Quirky, quirkyalone movement founder Sasha Cagen, what she thought of some of the details shared.
Forty-seven percent of people said they would like to come to a weekend gathering of quirkyalones. There seemed to be an even split of people for and against coming to a Quirkyalone Together Weekend. Why do you think people are hesitant to meet one another? Do you think it’s the nature of being QA or something deeper?
Many quirkyalones are probably introverts who might be overwhelmed by the thought of a whole weekend. In a future survey I want to ask about extroversion and introversion. I decided to do an afternoon retreat this year for Quirkyalone Day rather than a whole weekend event.
Organizing the quirkyalone movement always felt a bit like herding cats. Quirkyalones are discerning and selective, after all. That said, whenever I lead a retreat, a trip, or an online class, I am reminded that people who identify with being quirkyalone and/or quirkytogether get so much support and friendship from meeting each other. A few find their quirkytogether too.
A really high percentage of the respondents said they wanted an online community—75.3%. This is something we are actively exploring creating in 2016. I’ve been talking with Jody Day at the website Gateway Women (for women who wanted to have children but for whatever reason could not) to get advice about how she runs online community.
The course topics people were most interested in taking were “being OK with being single in a couples world” and “getting rid of that there’s something wrong with me feeling in dating.” It seems like people want to focus dealing with an “us vs. them mentality”: “the different people vs. the muggles.” How does that make you feel?
I’m not surprised. I don’t think that coupled people are muggles–and remember quirkyalones can be quirkytogether too–but it’s a pretty big deal to learn how to stop negative self-talk about being single and completely accept where you are at in life, single or coupled, so I think it makes sense that people seek support around being OK with being single in a couples’ world.
In essence, people want help with self-acceptance because even though being single is much more acceptable than it was 15 years ago when I first started writing about quirkyalone, and there are so many more reflections of singleness in popular culture (everything from Grace and Frankie to Aziz Ansari’s Master of None), there’s still a heavy doubt that people feel about being single for a prolonged period of time. (I call it a “Single Inferiority Complex” in one post.) Many women and men over 40 really feel like it’s too late to find a partner and singleness becomes a heavy burden.
I call this “single shame” when the feelings of doubt get so large that people really feel there is something wrong with them and they will never be in a relationship. That’s where this us vs. them feeling comes in, as if there is a glass wall between quirkyalones and others. A lot of my writing, teaching and coaching work in the last few years has been about helping to name and dismantle that feeling of single shame. Speaking it out loud is the first part. Shame is in itself shameful, and has a way of getting in the way of dating or truly opening up.
We do live in a world that is couple-normative. We celebrate people when they marry. Most business leaders and politicians need a spouse to be legitimized. People say often that being a mother is a woman’s most important job.
So the validation that quirkyalone offers is really important of knowing, I’m not alone in this experience. It’s really very common for people to be sorting out these deep questions of being contentedly single and finding a healthy loving meaningful connection with another person over the course of their entire lives. Getting married is a lot easier than having a truly healthy relationship (with yourself or another person).
Personally, I was really surprised to see that there were a few people (8.5%) who said they saw being quirkyalone as a negative thing. Wow! If you could sit down with those people, what might you say or ask them?
I was surprised that 91.5% said being quirkyalone was positive. I think what’s so interesting is that 91.5% said it was positive to embrace being single while most also want some kind of relationship. These are people who can hold paradox, quirkylaones are complex people that way. It’s never so simple as being “happy single.” It’s, “I want to enjoy my life and I want a relationship too.”
Despite all that pressure to be in a relationship to be validated by society, overall people said being quirkyalone was positive by a landslide. That says something about the inner strength of these people because they recognize the value of their freedom and standards to not settle. They want to live their lives with intention rather than just falling into automatic, expected paths (gotta be married by 35 or 40), and that’s a positive thing.
What would I say to people who see being quirkyalone as a negative? First, I would ask them why. Then, I would ask, what do they really want in their lives, and what about being quirkyalone gets in the way?
My ex thought his quirks, for example, made him difficult to be with, whereas I think a person’s quirks makes them lovable. Of course it depends on what kind of quirks we are talking about.
My guess is that people who say being quirkyalone is negative for them don’t feel they have a choice and they feel hampered by their inability to be in a relationship. They might feel lonely (not uncommon in a workaholic, couple-obsessed world) or worry that having been single so long they are too accustomed to being alone or don’t have key relationship skills. We found in the survey that most quirkyalones people (81.4%) actually would prefer a quirkytogether relationship to being single. They are mostly not the “single at heart” group who are fiercely independent and only want to be single. The sociologist Bella de Paulo does great work writing about people who choose singlehood and only singlehood, that’s a different group.
I would also say, that part of us that feels being quirkyalone is a negative thing is a part of us that needs attention and love. A part of us is being called to development in being a quirkyalone who wants more intimacy and connection. Quirkyalones want to know that we can be with someone and still be who we are.
An interesting study from New Zealand crossed my desk last summer. The finding was that people who are happy single are those with “high avoidance goals” to avoid conflict. They wind up losing themselves in relationship, so they are happier single. That rang true to some of my experience and my experience of working with some clients. Not all quirkyalones have this fear of losing themselves in relationships, but some do.
If this is the case for you I would suggest there is some personal development to do so you can realize that you can be in a relationship, negotiate conflict, and not lose yourself. That’s one path toward quirkytogether.
There are a lot of tools and practices I have learned along the way with my own personal journey toward quirkytogether and that I share with clients. Nonviolent communication (NVC) is a philosophy about communication and a set of skills and a community where people can learn how to practice speaking their feelings and needs from the heart. I think it’s an excellent set of skills to learn for all relatiosnships. There are local NVC communities in many cities. Also I sometimes offer Quirkytogether classes online and talk about these topics with coaching clients.
A lot of people (63%) are interested in doing travel adventures with other quirky folks! You’ve done a few trips for tango in Buenos Aires. Argentina at this point, correct? What other areas of the world would you want to open up to? Why do you think quirkyalones want to travel together?
Since 2014, I have led five Quirkyalone Tango Bliss Adventures in Buenos Aires. That trip has come out of my own deep love for tango and Buenos Aires, and from my own personal experience of realizing that learning tango creates enormous self-awareness and offers us a lot of beautiful teachings about confidence and being quirkyalone and quirkytogether through the body. (I wrote about that here in “What Tango Taught Me About Relationships.“) In addition to being totally blissful, and offering me a healthy dose of sensuality when I’m single, tango has been my healing path so it’s something I love to share with others.
That trip is based on personal passion and there can be other options too. I would like to create more Quirkyalone Travel Adventures to give people an opportunity to travel, learn something new, and meet new people without going alone. Most people in our survey said they have traveled alone, but that shouldn’t be the only option if you don’t have a partner or friends to go with. Travel alone is rife with its own challenges, and not all single women or men are comfortable exploring new territories on their own. Hostels are a great way to meet people when you are traveling alone but they shouldn’t be the only option.
For now, I’m focused on the Buenos Aires trip only because it fits with my life as I’m living part-time in Buenos Aires and working on a new book. I’m interested in creating more yoga retreats around quirkyalone–Mexico, Bali, in the US, and the “wet” (embrace your sensuality) topics I’m writing about in Wet. I’m interested in partnering with travel companies, so if you are out there, contact us!
More quirkyalones than not (61.8%) said in the survey they actually felt like they were born QA rather than became QA over time. What were you thinking when you created that question for the survey? What do you think those two answers “say” about quirky folks?
I noticed from the beginning of writing on this topic all the way back in 2003 that some people traced their quirkyaloneness back to their childhood or teenage years and some people said it came later as a shift of perspective after a break-up, divorce, being widowed, or through life experience. I was curious to find out now how many people identified in each group.
In Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics, I write about two types: born-again and womb. The womb quirkyalones feel they have always preferred to be alone rather than settle and the born-agains became quirkyalone later in life. As I started to coach people over the last three years, I got to know my clients and realized that these two groups have a different developmental journey.
People who feel they came out of the womb mostly have been single throughout their lives. For them being single is the natural state so they are not as challenged by things like traveling alone (compared to others). Their journey is about full self-acceptance and if being in a committed romantic relationship is a desire, it’s about is finding their own quirkytogether way toward being in a relationship. It’s about challenging beliefs that a relationship is not possible for an independent person and getting clear about what they really want. Also what I said about learning they don’t have to lose themselves in relationship holds true for many wombs.
The quirkyalones who “became” quirkyalone have a different journey. They might have stayed in relationships longer than they really wanted to because being alone was scary. They are getting used to the idea that no one is coming to save them, and happiness is really built from within as an inside job. For the born-again quirkyalones, waking up to this new way of being is a discovery of the possibilities of being single and also that they can be with someone and it doesn’t have to be “the one” since they are no longer looking for someone to complete them on every level.
There’s overlap too. I’m a womb quirkyalone but sometimes I feel like a born-again because I’ll slip into a trance of desperation, or pressure, then I wake up again to the reality that I am OK as I am right now without a partner. Being quirkyalone is a little like continually waking up.
The two groups want the same thing. I could see that clearly at one of the Tango Adventures in Buenos Aires, we had women who always had been single and women who always had been in relationship, both wanting to learn how to not lose themselves in a relationship. Since there are always these ways we divide women: mothers vs. child-free, single vs. partnered, it’s cool to see the fundamental desires we have in common.
Anything else you want to say about the survey?
So grateful to all the people who took the time to answer! I loved hearing what people want more of from the quirkyalone movement: more visibility, more content, more community. I need help to create that. I’m realizing that I want to be more quirkytogether in the way I am leading these activities with a quirkyteam, so if you are out there and want to help grow this movement then give me a shout via email.
Like this? Be sure to sign up for my mailing list and join me in Buenos Aires to learn about the quirkyalone approach to life and relationships through tango in the Quirky Tango Adventure.