Alone and kicking: on becoming okay with going to events by myself
It’s easy being alone when you’re at home. If an episode of The Affair is watched at 3pm in one’s pants and there’s no one there to see it, did it really happen? But being alone in the outside world is a different story…
I like my own company. No really, genuinely one of my favourite people to hang out with is myself. I’m aware that might read as egotistical but hear me out: alone, I can eat what I want, watch what I want, work when I want. The times I’ve snaffled toast for breakfast, brunch and lunch standing in the kitchen in my dressing gown before consuming seven lumps of cheese and a single baby tomato for dinner are too numerous to count. And what’s not to love about that? It’s easy being alone when you’re at home, protected from judgemental eyes by thick walls. If an episode of The Affair is watched at 3 pm in one’s pants and there’s no one there to see it, did it really happen?
But being alone in the outside world is a different story. The real world is full of the perceived judgement of solitary figures, and therefore full of resultant awkwardness, embarrassment, even shame. Obviously, there are levels to it: walking down the street on my own is fine, as is sitting in a coffee shop to work. In fact, over the last eighteen months, I’ve perfected the art of brazenly remaining in a cafe for at least three hours past what might be considered socially appropriate. But still, that’s entry level stuff.
Over the course of the life of The Tung, I’ve had to become very okay with attending events alone. Panel discussions, plays, gigs even — you name it, I’ve drunk a glass of wine alone at the bar at it. And although I’ve undoubtedly become more and more at peace with going solo, there remains a niggling hangup. Sometimes, still, I’m gripped by the urge to scream ‘I HAVE MATES OKAY??!’ in strangers’ faces. It’s literally all I can not to whip my phone out to the provide pictorial evidence that simply no one has asked for.
Never was my ability to keep this urge locked firmly in its box tested more than when, earlier this summer, I had to go to a festival on my own. My plus one got stuck at work and it was just too late to do anything about it. Obviously, I considered staying home — in fact, that seemed like my only option. I can style out fake-sipping on a cup of coffee for 5 hours with the best of them but was I really going to spend a full day dancing on my own? It seemed untenable.
Ultimately though, I had to suck it up. It was the greatest frontier of solitude I’d ever faced, and it meant something to be able to conquer it. I hit the bar for pints, I watched Erykah Badu sprinkle her magic over the crowd and I ate an enormous burrito. And you know what? No one even gave me a second look. I had an excellent time with myself, free from the fear of judgement.
See, it turns out that no one cares about you as much as you care about yourself. If you think that sounds kind of bleak, I don’t mean it to. Instead I mean: it’s very unlikely that anyone is judging you as harshly as you are judging yourself. No one goes home and thinks about the girl that stood next to them to watch Erykah Badu. No one turns to their mates to point out the girl enjoying a delicious burrito. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be with friends, that goes without saying, but it’s cool, now that I’m in my late twenties, to feel a little less shackled by shame, less keenly observed.
If going it alone doesn’t seem like your style, start out small. Next time there’s no one around to see a film on the one evening you have off, pack yourself a bag of Minstrels and head off into the darkness. If you’re desperate to see a show but you can only go to a matinee when your friends are at work, just go! You might regret missing it. And it doesn’t have to be a last resort either; getting food delivered to eat in your pants is a 10/10 plan but so is having dinner at a restaurant on your own listening to a podcast or reading a magazine, feeling the world buzz warmly around you.
Obviously though, having said all that, if you see me wandering about on my own eating Mexican food and drinking glasses of wine on my own do say hi I am probably freaking out.