Doing things alone.
On Saturday, I went to a Halloween party ALL ALONE. Okay, not exactly alone, because Chris was playing at the party, but when your guy is on stage, it’s not like he can really party with you. It was a pretty exclusive party, a masquerade ball, I had a plus-one, but since my family is in town right now, I totally forgot to invite a friend to come with me. I got excited for three seconds thinking my sister might come, but knowing her, I wasn’t surprised when she finally said, “I think I’m just going to go home tonight”.
But I didn’t let that discourage me—I bought a mask, hopped in a taxi and went to the party.
Being alone is a very curious thing, especially for a social animal like me who LOOOOVES being with people.
Even so, I’ve always considered solitude (when you choose it for yourself) to be one of the most elegant things ever. Taking yourself out to see an art exhibition, a movie, or eating at a restaurant all alone.
Watching people, having a moment of inner calm, doing exactly what you want without checking in with anyone else, not having to talk, talk, talk all the time…
Savoring the moment, all that.
Like Carrie Bradshaw would say with a mysterious look in her eye when people asked her where she’d spent the afternoon: “I had a date with New York City!”
Be like a heroine in a movie. The real heroines are often alone in movies.
However, I must say my first few times out alone were all super awkward.
My first times going to see a movie alone, when none of my friends shared my taste for obscure theaters. I started going by myself begrudgingly, and feeling so weird when I’d sit down alone in the dark, absolutely sure people around me were saying: “Poor thing! She has no friends!!! Poor, poor girl!” – but after a few times going alone, not only did I stop being embarrassed, I totally stopped thinking about what other people might think – I even had my own little rituals, and I loved nothing more than going for a nice long walk after the movie to reflect and gather my thoughts.
The first times I went out to eat alone were the same, I didn’t feel super confident. I remember being absolutely incapable of going without a book to hide behind. And that was lunch. I never would have dared go to dinner alone. When traveling, it was better to die in room service mode than go down to eat dinner at the restaurant like a civilized person.
Slowly but surely, after lots of depressing room service, I eventually built up my confidence. Today, I’m perfectly capable of taking myself out to dinner: I walk into the restaurant, ask for a table, order a good glass of wine, and appreciate each moment without even feeling weird or hiding behind a book, or my phone. I love it.
My first art exhibitions alone were more recent. It’s strange for me to look at art without having anyone to discuss it with. I spend less time there, that’s for sure. But I still do it. I’m learning.
When, like me, you’ve been conditioned to think that life can only happen when you’re with others, solitude can seem a little bit like a black hole at first.
I remember my first time being truly alone, my first week in my first apartment all alone in a new city where I didn’t know anyone. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do with myself, especially in the evenings. I started out watching TV a lot, or spending my life online. Way too much. Then, once I was sick of little screens, I started to really lose it, lose it and cry. Then, out of boredom, I picked up my paintbrushes and…started to paint. I made the first piece of art I’d ever been really proud of, and that was kind of the start to…my life.
The black hole slowly transformed into a delicious place. I was finally able to start discovering myself, or as one of my new age gurus would say: I found the path to myself.
But let’s get back to the party Saturday, because being alone at a party, that was really a first for me.
I left my coat at the coat check, and went looking for the bar, basically so I’d have some kind of goal. I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew I needed to find the spot where Chris was playing, but I also kind of wanted to check out the party and experience the “alone at a party” thing first. It was an enormous party, very beautiful, with lots of little hideaways, different music corners and places to explore.
Here are a few flashbacks I remember:
– At the bar, men didn’t hesitate to stare me down, but the girls ignored me like they never would have if I were with someone.
– Suddenly a song came on that pulled me to the dance floor, so I went for it, but there was no one to goof around with me. I realize that suddenly everyone turned their back to me. I dance alone for a few songs, but it’s not fun enough, so I go back to the bar to get a drink.
– I run into people I know, and I explain IN GREAT DETAIL why and how I ended up alone, as if we’re always obligated to have some justification for being alone. They take me under wing, and I wonder if it’s because, to echo the thoughts I used to have when I first started going to see movies alone, they were thinking: “The poor thing! She has no friends!!! What a shame to be so alone! Let’s take her under our wing!” So I stay with them for a while, and it’s cool. Then we lose track of each other and I figure it’s time to go dance to Chris’s music.
– I join the crowd dancing in front of Chris (who says to me: “you came by yourself?” with an alarmed look on his face) and I get really into the beat (I’m on my third Moscow Mule of the night, and if you know me, you know I was probably already drunk halfway through the first one) and that’s when super cute guys start dancing around me, which:
– 1) Makes me feel good (well, yeah—just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean…blah blah blah, you know what I mean)
– 2) Never happens to me when I’m with my friends (only the weird obnoxious guys dare approach a group of girls, I think)(important to emphasize for my single friends)
– I go out on the patio to get some air, where there are couples kissing. A man (one of the guys who was dancing around me before) comes to sit with me. “You look fantastic,” he says. “What are you doing here all alone, and who are you?” I hurry to explain that my fiancé is the one on stage and I’m alone, well kind of, because…until he gets the point. We chat for a moment, he’s really funny and nice. “You want to come explore the party with me?” he says. I say no, and go back to the dance floor, where one of my previous dance partners is alone and getting really into one of the songs, I can’t remember which one, and he’s super happy I’m back to play air guitar with him, which I do with gusto, totally abandoning myself to the music, obviously. And then it’s the end of Chris’s set, so my dance partner and I hug and thank each other for the wild dance.
Summary: It’s easy to go to a party alone…Especially when, after a few drinks, people are more relaxed and ready to dance with strangers. Women who are alone seem to kind of scare the other women (well, that’s the impression I got since no women spoke a word to me all night) but on the other hand, if you’re single just know, being alone at a party is kind of a man trap. Don’t hesitate to walk around, don’t hesitate to have a drink, don’t hesitate to have two drinks (but hey, be careful, you don’t want to be the girl who’s totally alone AND wasted, that starts to enter into desperate territory) – and don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with strangers. Even though there are awkward moments, the really nice thing about it is suddenly you’re totally open to the unknown, and you end up meeting people you never would have met if you stayed in your friend group.
I really liked it.
And I think what I liked most of all, more than the delicious solitude this time, was the feeling of being bold and feeling free. Chris told me that when he was single, he used to go out alone at night a lot…and now I can really understand the amazing feeling of being out on an adventure.
The wonderful thing about solitude is that you learn to tame that black hole. Instead of being scary, it turns into an amazing place—soft, fertile with possibility, and most of all, a place where you can really explore and discover your own creativity. It even ends up becoming addictive. Everyone who likes being alone will tell you: it all started by just taking myself out for coffee!
I’m not quite ready to go on vacation alone again (I don’t know if you remember my ridiculous experience in Bali) but now, whenever I can, I try to plan entire days alone. All it takes is for Chris to be traveling for work, and it’s easy to do. I “date New York” or whatever city I happen to be in that day, I go out, I check out art exhibitions, I eat at a restaurant I like, I walk around listening to my favorite podcasts, I go for a drink…
The next day, I’m often eager to reconnect with my friends, my family, my team. And I probably have a lot more to give…!
What about you? What’s your approach to solitude?
Translated by Andrea Perdue