by myself at a musical

I’d heard a nearby theatre was putting on The Rocky Horror Picture Show and I couldn’t resist. I love musicals but have surprisingly never seen this one. Brief clips, yes (Tim Curry’s mouth is captivating) but I’d never seen it in its entirety. Now I had the opportunity to catch a live rendition. Sold! I called and reserved a last-minute ticket and began preparing for my seventh date by myself.

I’m no amateur. I’ve been around a while, seen and done some things. I’d certainly heard about Rocky Horror. People come from all around, dressed in elaborate costumes consisting of risqué negligée, prepared to get rowdy, yelling and throwing things at the performers. It sounded hysterical; I was excited and terrified.

I did a bit of quick character research (Google) then made the obvious choice to dress in a white bra and slip à la Janet. It seemed the easiest and safest costume for a first-timer. Then I took several deep breaths before walking out of my house to my car, avoiding eye contact with my neighbours (who all seemed to be outside at just the right time).

IMG_20150918_185151The drive was uneventful and singing along to the radio helped to calm my nerves. I was feeling pretty good. That is, of course, until I turned onto the main street of the theatre and saw that nobody else had dressed for the show. Jesus fuck! I shrank in my car and sped around the corner, mortified.

Even after I put on the emergency pink dress and white sweater I brought (in case I chickened out) it still took a few minutes to convince myself to get out of the car and go inside. But I did. I still kind of can’t believe I did. I am seriously bad-ass. Once inside I relaxed a bit, smiled and pretended nothing weird or embarrassing had just happened.

I took my seat, looked through the playbook and the “participation bag” of things we were permitted to throw, and interacted with some strategically scattered costumed extras. Finally the show began.

I’m not going to give any specifics about the theatre or anybody involved because, quite frankly, it was terrible. I don’t know if they were having an off day – they were using most of their understudies for this performance – or if it is always the worst thing ever. Or (most likely) whether it was a great show and I was simply unable to appreciate any of it because I was wearing a fucking emergency dress. All I know is that about 20 minutes in my face hurt from trying very hard to smile and enjoy myself. By minute 25, I gave up and opted to let my face rest in its neutral bitch position.

When Betty, the peppy little extra in the leather getup, appeared by my side at intermission to ask me if I like dancing as much as she likes dancing (because she really likes dancing) I gave her the most patient please go away smile I could muster. She obliged.

Two more acts later, I was full-on scowling. When the show was (finally!) finished, everybody stood up to do the time warp. I took this opportunity to bolt; I’d had enough. In an attempt to rescue the evening, I got myself a gyro and parked somewhere quiet. But I just ended up falling asleep in the car and then waking up sore, so I declared date number seven a complete failure and went home.

All of this happened on Friday, September 18. I am only writing about it now because I needed to sit on it for a while – the doubt and embarrassment. I needed to marinate in my shitty date before deciding that, yes, it is worth the risk of humiliation to get to know myself. I am worth the time and effort even when it is awful.

When I told this story to my therapist, he laughed his ass off. “Some dates are just bad. I guess being by yourself is no exception.”

Indeed, some dates are just doomed whether you experience bad food or rude service at a restaurant, whether a bird shits on your romantic stroll, whether you run into an ex and things get awkward, or, in my case, whether you show up in your fucking underwear. Next!

EC

by myself at a football game (NFL)

The first football game I ever watched was Super Bowl 27: Buffalo Bills vs. Dallas Cowboys, on January 31, 1993. Buffalo got slaughtered. I was eight years old and didn’t know anything about football; but when it offered me the opportunity to skip a church service, I became an instant fan. Twenty-two years later and I am still obsessed. Oddly enough, Buffalo is my team of choice.

Of the many games I have been to (usually two per season) Sunday’s was the only one I’ve attended alone. The Bills’ home opener against Indianapolis was the setting for my sixth date by myself.

A pregame stop at the duty-free (a tradition for all Canadian Bills fans) revealed an unexpected concern: alcohol.

Tailgating is an essential part of football. People camp out for days in anticipation of the big game and I have seen some impressive set ups. There is no denying it’s a religion. In past years, I have been an exceptionally enthusiastic participant of all things tailgating. I threw a mean spiral, I could chug like no other, and I drank many a large man under the table. A shoulder injury has since retired my throwing arm; but what’s more crippling, I no longer drink.

This was not my first sober football game; it was my fourth. The difference, of course, is that I was accompanied to the other games. This time, as I admired the beautiful crowd of jersey-clad fans pushing shopping carts full of bottles up to the register, I felt the full weight and seclusion of my sobriety. This is going to be weird.

I proceeded to the border – where I seemed to scramble the brain of the officer who asked who I’d be watching the game with – then chuckled to myself the rest of the way to Orchard Park. After parking my car on a kind resident’s front lawn for $10 (this is normal) I began my poor attempt at tailgating.

All around me music was pumping, meat was grilling, drinks were flowing, and people were cheering. I felt very much an outsider standing alone by my trunk, eating my sandwich. But as I watched the hilarious drunken spectacle, I felt no desire to join in, only an odd sadness. I am no longer a part of this. I mourned briefly, chugged a bottle of water, then headed in to the Ralph Wilson Stadium. Well, at least my chugging skills are still on point.

Here are some photos I took before the game. Note: I quite liked getting to my seat early and watching the players warm up.

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The seats filled quickly and I became giddy with adrenaline. I could never adequately articulate the intensity of a sold-out Ralph at full volume on the first game of the regular season. After kickoff, I lost all sense of my surroundings (I may have even stopped blinking) and gave in to the hypnosis of the game, erratically shouting broken sentences littered with expletives. It wasn’t until half way through the second quarter that I sat down for the first time to take a breather. Only then did I notice: oh, shit. I can’t feel my toes.

It was fucking freezing and, for some unfathomable reason, I hadn’t worn socks. Mittens? Yes. Earmuffs? Of course! Socks? Nope. I am a genius. I held out until halftime before fleeing to the bathroom to figure out a solution. Behold… my solution:

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Oh, I am a genius! I returned to my seat, confidence renewed, right on time for the second half.

It was a hell of a game. Despite several terrible calls by the consistently lopsided referees (c’mon, stripes!) we won 14-27. What’s more, once the guys sitting next to me consumed enough liquid courage, they became super chatty. Evidently they are season-ticket holders and the horribly overpriced last-minute ticket I purchased online belongs to their buddy, who couldn’t make it because he’s a marine. We exchanged numbers before parting ways so I may purchase his ticket for a more reasonable price the next time he has to miss a game. The chances of them remembering the outcome of the game, much less conversing with a lone Canadian, are pretty slim. Nevertheless, I regret nothing. Go Bills!

EC

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by myself at a bowling alley

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Truth be told: I didn’t feel much like going out this weekend. I’d have been happy to spend it parked in my hammock with a good book. Realizing this was perhaps the best opportunity to experience being out by myself – when I wasn’t feeling into it – I decided to go out anyway. Saturday night at 9pm, I arrived at Parkway Lanes, in St. Catharines, for my fifth date by myself.

It wasn’t busy; fewer than half of the lanes were occupied. I purchased two games from a young man, his voice cracking with fresh puberty, and headed to lane 14. As I laced up my rented shoes, the group of people three lanes down whispered to each other and laughed in my direction. As I got myself set up, the young man and his manager (who’d come out of his back office) stood silently staring at me. To be fair, I showed up for bowling packing a giant tripod.

I giggled to myself as I took some pre-game photos. Please excuse the poor quality. It was all dark and glowy in there and I am shyte with the settings on my super professional camera – it is utterly wasted in my unskilled hands. Hopefully you are still able to appreciate the amazing pants I chose to bowl in.

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My first ten frames took all of 20 minutes. Bowling does not take long when you are alone. Also, I am terrible at it. I took a little breather, bought a 5-dollar bottle of “Great Value” water from the bar and started my second game. I expected I’d be a lot better after loosening up and shaking off the cobwebs. Nope. Still terrible. In an unexpected turn of events, I learned something quite unfortunate that evening: bowling is not fun.

I’ve done a lot of bowling in my day. Whether on dates or with large groups of friends, bowling has always been a go-to guaranteed fun time. Now, by myself and stripped of conversation, competition, or (especially) alcohol, I saw bowling with new eyes. The darkness, the loud music, the dancing strobe lights, the disco ball, the novelty of my glowing clothing – all of it speaking to me subliminally. You are having a wonderful time. Sure you are just trying to knock down some pins by hurling a ball down a long lane, but this is the best night ever. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

What a bummer. I did manage to get one strike, which I celebrated halfheartedly. I stretched out the time by playing in the air that blows out of the bowling ball retrieving machine thingy. But eventually I admitted I was bored and gave up. I packed my things and went to the bar to hang out and finish drinking my over-priced water. At the bar, a small crowd of what appeared to be regulars watched me as if I were about to grow another head.

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The entirety of my bowling experience was met with stares, whispers, or laughter. And yet, I was unperturbed. I didn’t feel the typical animosity, defensive anger, or urge to explain myself. I felt comfortable allowing everybody to think and conclude whatever they wanted about me. For this I am pleased.

Still, I did feel a hint of something I couldn’t identify over all the strategic distractions. More than just disappointment for having discovered that bowling sucks, this was something else, something I needed to attend to.

I headed to a spot where I’d long ago been taken by a date who’d tried to salvage a terrible evening by feeling me up: a small bench atop a grassy hill. In the daytime, you can see that this bench overlooks a private beach on Lake Ontario. You can see clear across to Toronto on a sunny day. I couldn’t see a thing that night. It was so dark I could not even distinguish the sky from the water. With no visible horizon, I could have easily been convinced that the world dropped off at the bottom of the hill. I sat and stared into the darkness.

There had been a couple just arriving as I ended my last game at the alley. They took the lane beside me and flirted playfully. The girl worried aloud about the balls being too heavy for her so the guy set out to find her a lighter one. I could have told them the purple ball I’d been using was pretty light, but I didn’t. Instead I watched as he tested eight balls before returning with one that suited her. I turned away when they kissed.

As the sound of the gentle waves breaking slowed my breathing and eased my searching mind, one thought came to me simple and clear: I want that. There it was, the exact feeling I have been seeking to make peace with: loneliness.

When it came there was no fear or anger. There was no lump in my throat because there was no resistance. I let it wash over me and I began to cry. I sat in the loneliness for a long time, crying and breathing and feeling it. Then just as easily as it came, it passed. When it was all done, I wiped my face and smiled to myself. That wasn’t so bad.

I’m really glad I decided to go out anyway.

-EC

by myself at an amusement park

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I have been resting well for the past two days as a result of my second date by myself – a 10-hour day at Canada’s Wonderland, in Toronto. My 31-year-old body cannot handle roller coasters quite like it used to.

I arrived at noon. An overcast afternoon with intermittent showers did not deter hoards of guests from packing the park. It would appear I am not the only person who has figured out that rain makes the coasters go faster. Here I am at the entrance, armed with only a smile and a fist full of 20s shoved in my bra. Let’s get this started.

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I headed straight for the largest and fastest ride in the park: Leviathan. It also had the longest line, extending well outside of the normal boundaries and into the general pedestrian area. Ahead of me in line was a very short Indian family, excitedly conversing in their native language. Behind me was a group of very short Asian ladies, also speaking a tongue I could not understand. There was no mistaking that the tall white weirdo between these groups was by herself.

Together, we slowly shuffled through the 2-hr maze that ultimately lead us to the 2 minutes of extreme fun we all sought. (This is a strange ritual when you think of it in terms of time invested.) I’d have thought this would’ve been horribly awkward. It wasn’t. I actually enjoyed myself. Oh, and the ride was good too. Shout out to the random 14-year old boy sitting beside me; well done.

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The sun soon came out; and as the day progressed, my calm enjoyment evolved into full blown bliss. I dare declare I had a better time by myself than I may have with other people.

Had I been with a group, I would have had to consider their needs and wants in deciding where we would go next and what we would do. I may have pushed myself to do more than I wanted, making me irritable and unpleasant. Instead, the small decisions that make up my normal behavior became purely subconscious and instinctual. I was relaxed from the gate; but as the hours rolled on, I felt myself really leaning in to the experience.

My usually fast pace slowed to a leisurely stroll. I took my time getting from one place to the next, stopping even, to take in my surroundings and enjoy the time in between. Finally, I was getting to see who I am and what I am like out in the world, without the affect of outside factors. Here is what I’ve learned:

  • I am patient. I will say it again, I enjoyed the time spent waiting in line. Without another person’s irritation rubbing off on me, I was free to people-watch and let my mind wander. This brings me to my second point.
  • I am a daydreamer. I look forward to and relish in the time when my brain is permitted to leave my body and do as it pleases. My imagination is a wonderful place to exist.
  • I probably got some strange looks and/or comments for being alone; but if I did, I didn’t notice them this time. When I am truly comfortable in my skin, I am oblivious to judgment. Furthermore, I am impervious to embarrassment. When a ride attendant shouted down the line for a single rider, I raised both arms and gleefully shouted, “ooh, me!” then blew past the remainder of the line laughing. Suckers!
  • I am kind to strangers and will happily interact with them when I feel like it. A lady cut in front of the majority of one line to join her friends. She looked behind herself then told them, “Guys, I think I should leave. I just pissed off a lot of people.” “Yeah, but fuck those people,” I chimed in, “you’re fine.” She smiled at me gratefully. (I already knew myself to be vulgar and somewhat inappropriate.)
  • While I do consider myself an active person, and I loved being on my feet moving around all day, I also love a good rest. I will shamelessly report that I napped in my car at one point. A good hour of rest kept my eyes bright and my tail bushy.
  • Even without companions, I find a lot of humour in ordinary things. And I still laugh loudly when I encounter them. On my last ride of the day, Behemoth, an older lady – who also seemed to be by herself and had been straight-faced and silent throughout the line – sat beside me. From the moment the ride started to move until well after it stopped, she shouted, “No! No! No! No! No!” I couldn’t contain myself. I laughed so hard tears were pouring out of my eyes, across my face and into my ears. That may have been my favourite moment of the day.

Aside from riding rides, I participated in a lot of fun things I may not have if I weren’t alone. I watched a show with acrobats, I got a caricature…

IMG_20150808_202049…nailed it by the way, and I went in the waterpark. That’s right; bonus points achieved! My kingdom for a good lazy river.

So why was my date at an amusement park so much easier than when I went mini-golfing by myself? Is it because I was rendered completely anonymous and practically invisible in such a vast crowd? Is it because I had a lot more time to get comfortable? Is it because amusement parks infect you with a general sense of well-being? Perhaps but who cares! It was a great day and I couldn’t be bothered to question it.

EC

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really by myself

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While backpacking in Australia, I briefly worked as a housekeeper at one of the hostels I stayed in. Living on the beach for free was well worth that time I cleaned red wine puke off the bathroom walls.

I remember a well-dressed woman in her 30s coming in and telling the front desk she was there to review us. They immediately upgraded her to a private suite and instructed us to kiss her ass for a week. She, of course, was lying. They eventually called her on her bullshit and she was asked to leave. We were pissed. She’d had us running around fetching things for her and smiling about it.

In retrospect, her scheme was pretty brilliant and hilarious. (She got a lot of free stuff out of us.) I also completely understand the need behind it.

When I explained to my dad that I am now dating myself for the purpose of learning to enjoy solitude (among other meaningful reasons) he had some tips for me.

He suggested I bring my own ball when I go bowling, wear gloves when I go mini golfing, and bring a notepad when I go to a fancy restaurant. Then I could tell people I was a professional bowler/golfer out for a practice session, or the other diners would think I was reviewing the restaurant. Excellent tips to avoid feeling rejected, alienated, lonely, or weird.

I appreciate his need to protect me; he’s a good dad. But I don’t want to protect myself from these feelings; I’d like to make friends with them.

We would have treated that lone traveler with the same respect as all the other guests. What a tempting thought though: to be treated differently because you tell people you are important instead of risking being treated differently because there is “something wrong with you.”

Here’s the catch: she didn’t make any friends or join in on any of the fun activities while she was there. Trying to be better than everyone can be just as lonely as believing yourself less than them.

Yes, lady traveling alone, it is scary being by yourself, especially in a new country. And yes, dad, it is scary being out by myself in couples-and-families-only scenarios. Both of your fears are justified; this is all true. I just don’t want it to be true for me anymore.

I am alone and I don’t want to be afraid of it. The fear of being alone is what kept me in unhealthy, abusive, and destructive relationships for so long. I don’t want to end up married to some asshole just because it’d be “better than being alone.” Fuck that shit.

I’m supposed to be heading out for glow-in-the-dark bowling by myself tonight. That was the plan. But I just don’t feel like bowling today. That’s the magical thing about dating yourself. The answer to “what should we do tonight” is always “whatever I feel like!”

I’m on my way to an amusement park by myself for the day. Bring on the roller coasters and long lineups filled with uncomfortable eye-contact evasion!

Bonus points if I get my sexy ass into the water park. Wish me luck!

-EC