By Julie Muhlstein
On this day for sweethearts, not everybody has one. Not everybody even wants one.
Taking note of that, two local libraries will host Anti-Valentine’s Day parties for teens today.
“We’re taking the emphasis off romance, and making it more about friendship,” said Danielle Dreger-Babbitt, an adult-teen librarian at the Mill Creek Library. “It’s mostly an opportunity to hang out and not have to worry about whether they have a boyfriend or girlfriend.”
Dawn Rutherford, Sno-Isle’s teen services coordinator, said some libraries’ teen advisory boards have been involved in planning the events, which are becoming popular at libraries around the country.
“They didn’t have these when I was growing up,” said Dreger-Babbitt. “I remember what it was like to be 13, and to have a boyfriend — or not. We want to reach out to teens who don’t necessarily have that in their lives.”
At the Mill Creek party, teens will make duct-tape roses and “unValentines,” and compete in a cupcake-decorating contest. “Last year we had some quizzes — guess the order of Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriends,” Dreger-Babbitt said.
She is also planning a “blind date with a book,” which involves covering books to show only brief descriptions of plots rather than titles. “They’re not love stories,” she said.
Melleny Thomasson, the Mukilteo Library’s teen services librarian, said the parties celebrate “being alone and loving life, friends and books.”
Along with snacks that “give you bad breath,” Thomasson said, “I’ve printed out scenes from romantic movies and romantic book covers. They can add captions or black out the teeth.”
Sasha Cagen won’t be attending an anti- Valentine party in Snohomish County. The author of “Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics,” a book that celebrates self-confidence and independence, lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
Cagen, 40, said Wednesday that if she had the chance she would tell teens: “You have so much time. There’s no reason to feel any pressure. Don’t be afraid, and don’t feel like a weirdo. Have courage to do the things you love to do.”
In the decade since her book was published, Cagen’s “Quirkyalone” notion has blossomed into a website and blog, online courses and its own alternative to Valentine’s Day. Today is the 10th anniversary of what Cagen calls International Quirkyalone Day, which has gained traction with a Facebook page.
A romantic partner isn’t required for a fulfilling life, that’s her message. She encourages others, at noon today all over the world, to post “Happy Quirkyalone Day” on Facebook, Twitter “or wherever you hang out online.”
Cagen has heard from readers who found the book 10 years ago.
“It’s been pretty amazing. It changed some people’s whole experience of being single,” she said. “It’s a message for all ages. I’ve heard from 19-year-olds ashamed they have never been in a relationship. They already feel tremendous pressure. And there are people 65 now enjoying the experience of being alone.”
Cagen, who is single, grew up in Rhode Island. She worked for a Silicon Valley technology company. Her “Quirkyalone” concept began with an essay she wrote for her own magazine, “To-Do List,” which also became a book. She is now writing a memoir about her solo travels in South America, and her discovery of pleasures that include dancing the tango.
She shared one story sure to interest teens.
“I went to my prom alone,” Cagen said. “I asked a camp boyfriend who stood me up. So I went anyway. It takes a lot of courage to do that.”
Cagen hopes no one takes her message as a knock on love.
“It’s not about being alone. It’s always about being yourself,” said Cagen, who has moved toward helping people learn to be in relationships without giving up individuality.
“It’s about what you really want. Knowing yourself, you can connect to someone else,” Cagen said.
And if there is no someone? Muster the grit it took Cagen to go to that prom. It’s daunting, she said, but it’s also just fine to go out to dinner or a movie, or to take a trip alone.
“I’m a big advocate of living your life,” Cagen said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anti-Valentine parties for teens
Two Sno-Isle Libraries branches will host free Anti-Valentine’s Day parties for teens today. The party at the Mukilteo Library, 4675 Harbour Pointe Blvd., is 1-4 p.m. and includes snacks, door prizes and crafts. The party at the Mill Creek Library, 15429 Bothell-Everett Highway, is 7-9 p.m. and includes cupcake decorating, a blind-date book display, pizza and crafts.
For information about “Quirkyalone” author Sasha Cagen and Quirkyalone Day, go to www.quirkyalone.net.