There are few places or events in life where it is deemed socially acceptable to be alone. Got a wedding next weekend? Better have a date rather than look like the single loser. Wanna try that new restaurant in town? Well, call up all your girlfriends and beg them to go along with you or risk having to bring a novel with you and have to suffer through the looks of people who pity you. Need to unwind after a long day at work and can’t think of a better cure than a martini from your favourite bar? Too bad, you’ll look desperate sitting along with a drink in your hand. I know that I’ve heard this voice in my head before and it’s stopped me from going out and having a good time, because in my head, I’d rather miss out on a fun time than look like the awkward penguin at the party.
Recently I’ve realized that you can do pretty much anything by yourself and have it totally not be A Big Deal. However, if you lean a little bit to the introverted side of things (heck, even if you’re super-extroverted), then it can take – well – balls, to really put yourself out there. The trick for me was baby steps.
Step 1: Go to the movies alone.
I’ve been going to the movies alone for the past few years every now and again and it’s the best. You don’t have to share your food, you can take up two seats if you feel like it, and it’s a great way to just lose yourself for a couple hours (especially if you live in a dorm, or with a lot of roommates, or with a baby). Going to the movies alone is also the perfect time to step of the grid for awhile – missed phone calls and texts don’t matter, you’re in the theater.
Step 2: Take a weird class alone.
When I took a Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga class in Montreal this summer I had no idea that there would be no other lone tourists in the class. In retrospect I should have been more mentally prepared for the fact that doing paddleboard yoga isn’t really at the top of most vacationing people’s to-dos. The class had about 9 people in it and I was the only one who a) Spoke English as a first language and b) Didn’t bring a friend. Did I feel awkward? Certainly. Did I still have fun? Absolutely. It was the most fun I’ve had on the water in a long time. It reminded me that if I want to learn something or try something new, it’s sometimes fun to just do it. Cooking classes, ceramics or drawing lessons, or surfing lessons are some other ones that I think would be fun to try.
Step 3: Find something that you love to be alone doing.
For me this is running. I’ve been in a few running groups before and I’ve had a hard time committing to them because running is such a solitary thing for me. I love putting in my headphones and just getting lost for an hour or so (sometimes literally). I feel like I come out with a clearer brain and some fresh ideas. Exercise in general for me is more of a solitary venture. I love going to yoga classes because I don’t have to socialize and when I’m swimming, obviously, I can’t have a conversation on the go.
Step 4: Go out and do something kind of scary all on your own.
A couple of weeks ago a couple of my besties played a show at a bar with their relatively new band. I still hadn’t seen them perform live and this was their fourth or fifth show and I really, really wanted to go. However, all my friends we’re working, had other plans, or simply weren’t feeling up for going out that night, and my boyfriend was hosting a party at his house with his roommates. So what was I to do? I went alone. And it wasn’t the worst thing ever. Sure, I felt a little uncomfortable during their soundcheck and I had no one to chat with, and I definitely felt like people noticed that I was there alone – but I didn’t feel weird about it. I also tried to not be that person who is on their phone the whole time because they’re alone. Smart phones are awesome for helping you look busy when you feel like you need your space. But they can also be a crutch to keep you from enjoying the environment you’re in, even if you’re in it all by your lonesome.
This is when I realized that for real: no one cares if you show up some place alone. You are free to have fun alone. You also don’t have to feel obligated to make conversations with people. You can just go, watch some great music, drink a beer and make small talk with people if you feel like it. And at the end of the night you can hop on your bike and ride off into the night like batgirl.
PS: This film by Andrea Dorfman and Tanya Davis is a couple years old now but still worth watching and still relevant. :)