Lately I’ve been going out a lot by myself, to concerts and movies and other shows. On the surface this might seem a bit lonely and sad, in comparison to how we are supposed to think of these kinds of events, as social occasions to be shared with others. But I’ve decided to look at it in a different way, though it’s sometimes difficult to jettison a lifetime of training in this regard.
If I want to go to a movie, or a concert, or a comedy show, and no one wants to go, or is available to go, does that mean I have to miss out on this thing I want to do? In the past, I probably would’ve answered that question with a disappointed “yes.” But now, not so much. Yes, of course I will feel awkward at first, when I’m sitting there by myself and everyone else is coming in to the theater in two and fours and random groupings of friends. But honestly, do they even notice me, by myself? If they do, will they wonder why I’m alone? Probably not. If my presence is even noticed, they might think, “Oh her friend has gone to the bar, or to the restroom.” But I’m likely giving myself too much credit to think I even make a dent in their consciousness. They’re busy with their own dates or friends, and would only notice me if I was making a drunken spectacle of myself or being obnoxious in some other way. Which I will not be.
I learned to go to the movies by myself in college. That wasn’t so hard. I even noticed that there were other people by themselves, people like me who would sit there and eat their popcorn while reading a book until the previews started. It was a weird thing to do for the first time, because going to the movies was always something I did with friends, or my parents took me when I was little. But in the big city, I could go to a movie by myself and no one batted an eye.
Going to a concert alone? That was a different story. As a female I’m conditioned to think of my safety — going to a show late at night and coming home alone even later on public transportation (or in a taxi) — is this a smart thing to do? I’m not stupid, I don’t take unnecessary risks, and I think I have a good “don’t fuck with me” face, but of course you can never know what might happen.
I think the first time I went to a concert by myself was to see Jonsi at the Vic two years ago. I won free tickets and couldn’t find anyone to go with me, but I decided, “fuck it, I’m not missing this.” Jonsi attracts a lot of elves and gentle forest folk, so it’s not like it would be an ominous crowd. It was an amazing show and I’m glad I went. Again, the hardest part is just being there before it starts. Standing there by yourself and listening to everyone’s conversations going on around you. Of course I can always stick my face in my phone and interact with my social networks in lieu of a person standing next to me, but there’s still a lingering feeling of an arrow pointing down at me from the sky, with all capital letters blinking, “AW, LOOK AT THE SAD GIRL ALL ALONE!”
Of course there have been the obvious, “Oh, yeah I’m alone” moments. Like when I went to see Kelly Carlin’s solo show back in June. It was at a small comedy club that had the seating set up as small tables with two chairs each, and they were all crammed pretty tightly together. When I presented my ticket at the door and the guy asked me, “just you?” and I said yes, he put me at a table on the far right side of the stage, in the front row. Which was fine, it was a very small theater. Not really a bad seat in the house. But as time ticked on, before the show started, another guy (by himself) was seated at the chair across the table from me. And another man (by himself) was seated in the row directly behind us. I felt like it was the singles table at a wedding reception. I wondered how they felt about it, if they cared. But of course I didn’t ask them.
And it doesn’t matter, because the show was great, and I met Kelly Carlin afterwards, which was awesome. Her dad has always been one of my personal heroes, and now she is, too. So whatever 15 minutes of mental awkwardness I had before the show ultimately amounted to nothing in my overall enjoyment of the evening.
That’s what I have to keep reminding myself of. I am at the center of my own universe, but I’m not the center of anyone else’s. I’m Pluto, on the fringes, with disputed planetary status. I don’t want this to sound like I’m whining, wishing things were different. No no no. I’m just reminding myself that all the anxiety I create around these situations is just that: something I have created myself. “There’s a situation in my head,” as Marc Maron would say. And that’s the only place the situation is: IN MY HEAD. No one else is even aware. (Well, except you, if you’ve read this far.)
So despite all of my anxious tendencies about it, I’m doing my best not to let it keep me from doing things I want to do. I feel like I’m in a “fake it til you make it” situation. I just have to survive the perceived awkwardness at the beginning of the evening, and then the show will start and I can ignore the chattering in my own brain for a couple hours. I’m doing my best to own my public solitude when I need to.