As I get older, I find that my previously unlimited social network has dwindled down to a few good pals. That’s not to say that I’ve fallen out with hundreds of people. But for many reasons – moving away, job changes, new relationships – I’ve lost touch with old friends. Of my remaining friendships, I am one of a dying breed; I am single.
This doesn’t mean that I carry less importance as a friend because I don’t come in a pair. My friends and I put in a good effort to speak often and see each other occasionally. I have confidence in the endurance of these relationships.
Where my singlehood can cause problems is when I want to go out and have fun. I’ve learned that it is difficult for married folk or people with kids to just go out on a moment’s notice. They have responsibilities, they speak to each other before making decisions, and they’re usually too tired to stay out late. (It is my suspicion that the compromise for happiness is exhaustion.)
So where does this leave me? Does having nobody to hang out with mean that I shouldn’t be able to go out and have a little fun? Of course not! It just means that I’ve had to teach myself how to hang out alone. For me, somebody who struggles with social anxiety, this has come with great effort. That being said, learning to be alone is a good way to get to know yourself and see how strong you really are.
One of my favourite solo activities is going out to the movies. The trick to seeing a movie alone is knowing the right time to arrive. I never want to show up too early because I like to sit in the front. I don’t want to be nervously trying not to make any movements while other people pile into the theatre behind me. I also don’t like coming in after the movie has started because it distracts people from the film and draws attention to myself. The perfect time to arrive is about five minutes before the movie starts. Most people are taking or have taken their seats already and are busy chatting or eating their popcorn so you can just meld into the crowd. If you’re thinking that I’ve had too much time to overthink this, I’d say that you are correct.
Seeing a movie alone is not the most challenging activity because you’re in the dark, which does give you a small amount of anonymity. What I am currently working on is the ability to take myself out for a nice meal. Not an early meal – I’m already quite content having a nice lunch out with a good book. I’m talking dinner during the busy hour at a nice restaurant where you wear good clothes and maybe even have a glass of wine. I’ve only gathered enough courage to do this a handful of times. The first few times I sat stiffly trying to control my breathing then I inhaled my meal and got out of there in record time. This latest time, however, I went to a beautiful restaurant in a crowded market and sat on the patio. I relaxed in my chair and watched the world go by then casually ate my meal and sipped my pineapple colada. I am quite proud of the progress that I am making.
My next goals are much more ambitious. I’d like to try going out dancing and going to an amusement park on my own. These used to be two of my favourite activities and, again, I don’t think I should have to miss out on the fun just because I am on my own. Strategically speaking, it is in my best interest to wait until later in the evening before I try going out dancing alone. I don’t drink much (anymore) but a dance floor crowded with drunk people could give me just the freedom I need to let loose and dance my worries away. An amusement park will be much tougher. You hear it all the time when you’re waiting in line. “Single rider!” It’s so embarrassing! I really think I’ll have to work up to this goal.
Even without a significant other and despite being a crazy person, it’s important to get out into the world and have some fun. But it takes a lot of courage. People stare. People even comment. It takes several tries to get it right. But there is nothing more empowering than the ability to hold your head high while you take on the world by yourself. They say there is power in numbers. But when the numbers go away, it’s important not to fear being one. I’m slowly discovering that the world is not always as scary as we’ve been led to believe. 🙂