Being Alone Among Others

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Do you ever take yourself out on dates?

It seems like an odd notion, maybe: you’re with yourself 24 hours a day.  It’s not like you have catching up to do.

But self dates are more than your run-of-the-mill alone time.  They’re a declaration: you’re telling yourself that you deserve more than space; you deserve a treat.  They’re about indulging in things your everyday self seldom allows, perhaps because of cost, time, or amount of organization required.  Most vitally, self dates are about being in public: you’re boldly entering a “third place” where “one goes by choice to be alone among others.”

My self dates usually involve a movie or show.  Plus dinner my favorite way: nothing fancy — I don’t want to be bothered by frequent water pours and check-ins — and with a good book propped open in front of me.

I especially love to see movies in theaters by myself.  It’s fun to go with friends to the blockbusters, but often, I prefer to completely immerse myself in the story, unconcerned with who’s next to me, or who’s holding the popcorn, or who I feel the need to whisper witticisms to periodically. I like the feeling of sharing the movie watching experience with strangers as we react together, but simultaneously maintaining my own island.  I like walking out of the theater by myself when the movie is over.  If it was good, I’ll mentally try to stay in that world for as long as possible.  If it was bad, I can criticize it to myself without being disagreed with (because sometimes it’s nice to win every argument).

On my last self date I went to see Spotlight with half of a Jimmy John’s sandwich in my purse.  I hadn’t been able to finish it before showtime, and wasn’t about to let it fester in my purse for two hours, so to the shock of the elderly couple next to me, once the lights went down I took out the mound of meat and cheese.  I tried to be subtle, but it’s hard to be subtle when you smell like a deli and the wax paper wrapping crackles. The sandwich was sublime, but the truly transcendent moment was when I found I didn’t care who saw me eating contraband in a movie theater.  What’s more, I didn’t care even without a buffer of friends around me.

Last night, I took myself out to Chop’t for a salad, eaten with the Eragon in front of me.  I brought Eragon because I like it, pilfered Lord of the Rings content aside.  I didn’t feel the need to bring a more literary tome.

After dinner, I went to see the musical 110 in the Shade at Ford’s Theatre.  The play was disappointing.  Its message was that a woman is worth what a man says she is, and even then only prettiness and marriageability count.  Still, I sat rapt and comfortable, as there was no one next to me to worry over: do they think I have no taste for choosing this play? Do they actually like it? Should I pretend to? Do I have Chop’t breath?

I spent intermission listening in on the conversations near me.  I peered into the Presidential Box, and was distracted for several minutes imagining what Lincoln would think could he see this modern audience.  I perused the gift shop, taking my time over heavy biographies and dish towels with “Mr. Lincoln’s Favorite Pecan Pie Recipe” emblazoned upon them.

When the show was done, I walked slowly into the quiet air, past closed stores and over steaming grates.  I didn’t know where the Metro stop was, exactly, so I followed other folks leaving the theatre, and in this way, found what I was looking for. I hadn’t been concerned; it was a night of strolling, of neglecting Google Maps and texts and the other ways we keep track of one another.

And in this “third place,” this off track, I felt most in synch with myself.

4 responses

  1. I love this, Holly! I’ve definitely taken myself on dates before. (Actually, my month long voyage across Europe was pretty much an endless me-date.) It’s a marvelous thing! It sounds like you had a wonderful time!

  2. I also love this. I’m great at taking myself out on dates, but I’ve never gone to a movie by myself! Oh, and I’ve taken crazier things into theaters. Thai food might be the winner. Luckily there were only about two other people at that film.

    • Thanks, Traci! If you get a chance, I highly recommend solo moviegoing. And wow, Thai food is bold! I have a group of friends who once snuck in a full cheese plate. I think they got away with it by offering brie to strangers sitting near them.

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