Last week Bob Ritzema posted a great article about going to a concert alone and it has inspired me to offer the following thoughts.
I should start by admitting that have had years of practice going places alone. My first husband, the king of “been there done that”, frequently declined all attempts to be lured out of the house. This left me with two odd choices – go nowhere (not appealing) or go solo (terrifying and awkward but possible).
Eventually sheer boredom prompted me to start going places alone – I used to bargain with myself as I got dressed that I would “just stay an hour” or “leave before the dancing started” in order to find the nerve to leave the house.
I was quite literally prepared for the worst … and then the strangest thing started happening. I started figuring out what I liked to do and I started enjoying myself.
While “he” abored anything spicy … I discovered Thai food. While “he” hated walking … I discovered hiking. While “he” would never ever go to the beach … I started taking photographs at sunrise.
Eventually I got really brave and started going to the opening of art exhibitions. Now I will tell you one of my best kept secrets: most neighbourhood galleries will put any fool with a credit card on their mailing list. I signed up with four different galleries and suddenly I was not a loser or loner – I was an “art lover”; a connoisseur … an invited guest.
Yup in less than two months I went from having nowhere to go and no one to go with, to having something to do every Friday night!
Even better – I quickly discovered that I didn’t even need to know much about art to talk to people. I could hang around the cheese tray and talk to the artists in the crowd (living at the whim of others they are always to be found clustered around free food), or I would walk up to any person looking a painting and ask them what they thought of the show (questions like this have no right or wrong answer so there is little risk in asking).
I still do this from time to time, but now I have graduated to eating in four star restaurants like a big girl, and I have even been on several vacations. I am a passionate observer of people and I am always so busy watching the people around me I have little time to stress about my lack of dinner companion …
Now that I am alone, the one thing I did have to learn to avoid doing was anything that “we” used to only do together. This is not a time for looking back, but a time for looking forward and spreading your wings. It is a time to try things you have always wanted to do, but “could not” because you were in a relationship, or even things you have always assumed you would hate doing simply to verify whether the activity was like you thought it would be.
If you are sure you can’t stomach any of this – start by going to the library or the mall or some sort of place of worship. These are all places that lots of people go to alone and it will feel less weird being there.
Stay away from weddings (too mushy), the movies (too dark) and bars (drinking alone is not good for anyone and you will quickly discover you probably aren’t ready for drunken company either).
Now I know it is hard – but trust me you can do this. Make a list of every single thing that you either wish you could do, or would do, if you didn’t have to go alone. Then pick the least terrifying thing on your list and give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? Oh right – it could be terrible … well so what … at least you will have left the house and that, I am afraid, is the only way to start!