A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a comedy show at the theatre. My plus-one dropped out at the last minute and even though I could have asked any number of people to accompany me, I decided to go it alone.
The kids had gone back to school after the summer break and with that, I had returned to work too. Every parent knows it can initially be a struggle getting in to a routine again. I’m always glad of it though, once things settle down, because I like structure in my life.
It had been a hectic week, so I decided to work a later day and go for a bite to eat before the show. It was nice not to be stressed by the arguments that usually ensue when we go as a family!
MEAL FOR ONE
Don’t get me wrong, I love our meals out as a foursome but sometimes, it’s nice not to think about ordering for everyone. I just waltzed straight in and chose whatever I wanted to, before picking a nice spot by the window so I could people-watch!
I headed to the theatre straight after my meal and treated myself to a coffee and a big slice of cake. There were people in their couples, as families and as groups of friends, but I didn’t spot a single person on their own. I caught a couple of glances coming my way, as I waited outside the entrance to the small theatre studio.
I took my seat as people took theirs around me. Again, a couple of glances but nothing I was particularly bothered about. The show was only an hour long and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Not once did I hesitate to laugh out loud or applaud because I felt self-conscious.
MY FIRST SOLO EXPERIENCE
It was a far cry from my younger self twenty years earlier, when I had made a solo trip to the cinema to watch a Bollywood film. There weren’t many Asians at my university and I’d really wanted to see the latest film, but didn’t have anyone to go with.
So I went on my lonesome. And boy, did I feel paranoid! It was opening night so the cinema was packed. I remember taking my seat and people staring at me, probably wondering why the hell I was there on my own.
I was uncomfortable throughout the film. Not just because of the stares but I felt really self-conscious too. I literally felt like a ‘Rosie-No-Mates’.
Back then, for me, a trip to the cinema was an experience that was only meant to be had when sharing it. That night I wished I hadn’t gone. I liked the film but the enjoyment had gone from the whole experience. I actually remember pulling the collars of my coat up so I could hide as much of my face as I could.
LOVING LONE TRIPS
Fast forward 20 or so years. Now my coat is the first thing I throw off. I lay out my snacks, sink in to the recliner, kick off my shoes and lose myself in the film. Solo trips to the cinema haven’t been as regular as I’d like. That’s usually because a lot of the films we want to see are as a family – the big adventure films or epics.
Then there are those that only Sukh and I would appreciate and so we go as a couple. Again, those are rare trips because arranging childcare is so bothersome.
I’m trying to make lone trips much more of a regular occurrence – whether it’s to the theatre or to the cinema. I enjoy the ‘me time’. In fact, I think it’s good for you in so many ways, as a form of self-care.
I’ve learned to enjoy my own company as I’ve gotten older. I love spending time with me. What can be better for my mental health than that? I can also choose to see whichever film or production I want. I can watch a late film showing too. If the kids are in bed and Sukh’s at home, I can just pick up my bag and dash out of the door! Sukh gets his downtime alone at home at the same time. So it’s win-win.
There are films I want to see that neither the kids, Sukh, nor friends and family want to see. So why should I miss out on that experience just because I can’t find anyone to go with?
WHAT A LOSER?
I still get people questioning my decision to go alone. Some look surprised and others shocked when I tell them happily that I made a solo trip. I don’t get what the big deal is really.
Watching a film is such a solitary activity anyway – it’s not like you talk to each other during the film. OK, if you’re having a meal before or after and it’s more of a social occasion, then yes, I get it. I do that too. But if it’s just the film you want to see, then just go it alone.
I’ve had a spa day by myself in recent years too. I enjoyed it so much that I bought Sukh a solo spa day for his birthday last year too. He said he enjoyed the peace and quiet and that some time alone with his thoughts was refreshing.
I think going to public places alone is good for your self-confidence. I stayed on in Mumbai after a work trip for a couple of days last year. You can read all about that here. That holiday forced me to solve any problems I ran in to by myself. It’s really easy to rely on others around you but when you’re on your own you have to figure stuff out for yourself.
I’m very comfortable in my own skin. There was a time when I needed the approval of others to feel good about myself. Some of these changes have come with age but others are because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Doing things by yourself increases your self-awareness.
Companionship doesn’t always equate to happiness. I’ve discovered that you’ve got to love yourself and your own company first before you can give that part of yourself to others.
I was meeting a friend at the cinema earlier this year and managed to get there really early. My friend said she was eating at home before she came out and I hadn’t had my dinner yet. So I headed off to a nearby restaurant and it was packed. I didn’t care though and asked for a table for one and thoroughly enjoyed my two courses!
Several groups entered and when they spotted me sat on my own right at the front of the restaurant, they gave me odd looks. But I didn’t care about the stares. I realised just how brave I’ve become just doing things by myself – and finally learning the difference in being lonely and being alone.
I welcome those afternoons or evenings to myself to pursue my interests, without dragging someone with me or making conversation, when all I want to do is enjoy the activity.
If you do one new thing in the next few weeks, take my advice. Go it alone. Pick something you love doing and just go and do it by yourself. If you’re lucky, like me, you’ll feel liberated and look at it as a way of self-care.
Check out my post on girly trips and why they’re so important.