At some point in my life, I got tired of waiting for people to read my mind and ask me out to have fun and do the things I wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong! I love my friends and hanging out with them, but going out on a date with someone special is really amazing. Then again, so is going out on a date with yourself.
I’ve come to realize that most people are genuinely scared to hang out on their own. They would rather not eat (or order takeout) than go to a restaurant by themselves. They would rather miss a movie or play just because they couldn’t find someone to go with them. In my opinion, that is just plain wrong.
I grew accustomed to hanging around a mall by myself while waiting for my mom to get off work ever since I was young, and that involved a great deal of window shopping and coffee drinking on my own. Now, I'm not going to lie. In the beginning, I was as self-conscious as it gets. I hated walking inside of a restaurant and ordering a table for one. The thought made my stomach twist and it took me a long time to actually do it. What must they think of me? The question haunted me as the waiter guided me to my table. Alone on a Friday afternoon. They must think I’m some kind of loser.
Now, a few years later, I have a new perspective on the matter. I don’t think the other people in the restaurant were as interested in me as I'd thought. It took me some time to learn how to stand tall whenever I asked for one ticket at the movie theatre, to find the strength to tell other people that on the weekend, I had been to the new art exhibit on my own. “That was very -- independent of you,” they would say in return.
These are also words that I hear often -- too often. When I first started hearing that phrase, I was proud. I wanted to be an independent woman, so I was happy to see that others were recognizing my newfound bravery. It took me a while to understand that, more often than not, when they called me independent, they were calling me a freak.
Why does society feel the need to judge a person that enjoys their own company?
The way I see it, we are going to be stuck with ourselves for the rest of our lives. And in the end, it isn’t about all of the times we stayed at home, because we couldn’t find anyone to come with us to that amazing pottery class we were dying to go. In the end, it's about all of those places we did go.
So take yourself out on a date! Go check out that restaurant that your friends don’t want to go to because they don’t eat seafood. Take those dancing lessons you’ve been putting off for years! I will be the first to admit that social anxiety is hard to beat, and walking by yourself makes you think everyone is trying to find every single thing wrong with you, but the truth is that some things are simply not worth missing. Dating yourself is one of them.
Here are some ideas on where to go and why to do it.
1. Movies, theater.
I’ve missed many great films while waiting for someone to invite me out to the movies. And no matter how comfortable my couch is, I will never forgive myself for not going to the theatre to actually experience a film the way it should be experienced. Going to the movies (or the theatre!) by yourself is the perfect solution for you to not miss any films or plays and actually enjoy them. (Plus, more money for popcorn.)
This one is tricky, especially for women. As much as I would love to go to every single concert, I know it's not entirely safe for a woman to go out by herself. But if the concert is at a secured place and you've made sure to tell someone where you're going in case something goes wrong, nothing should stop you from going to that concert and having a blast.
3. Coffee shop.
If you have a few dollars and a few hours to kill, coffee shops are the best places to be. I love grabbing my book and picking a comfy spot in a crowded coffee shop. Many people stop by completely alone, passing the time by sending a few emails on their laptops before they can rush outside again, which is perfectly valid to do. Others hang out for hours with their journals. The coffee shop has the least judgmental environment when it comes to flying solo, so it’s the perfect place to start.
Going to a restaurant alone is scary, at least the first few times. But people often forget that eating is a necessity, not a social engagement. Sure, grabbing a bite with friends and family is great, but more often than not, you end up going to the same places over and over again. By daring to go out by yourself, you'll get to discover amazing new places. So go ahead and try out that new sushi place! Next time you're trying to decide where to go with your friends, you'll have some great, new recommendations for them,
This one is probably my favorite. I grew up going to museums and was the kind of girl that got excited whenever the class trip involved an art gallery. For that exact reason, I hated those class trips so much. I did truly enjoy art and history, while most of the kids in my class didn’t. It was annoying to have to rush past masterpieces trying to keep up with the group and was insulting to have a guide try to give me the light version of history.
So, as soon as I grew up and taught myself to enjoy my own company, I discovered that going to museums alone is one of the best experiences. I get to walk at my own pace, skip the rooms I’m not interested in and either take notes or just stand for hours in front of a breathtaking piece of art.
6. Classes, workshops.
Even in school, I know many people are very concerned about not having classes with their friends. I admit that used to be me. When it came the time to choose a workshop or an elective, I was the first one to ask my friends what they were doing. I was not going to make a fool of myself in the ballroom dancing class on my own, thank you.
But the amazing thing about having a diverse group of friends is that you are guaranteed to have some hobbies or interests that no one else shares. It's simply not fair that you neglect those parts of yourself just because you don’t know anyone else who's interested in them the same way you are. So, go ahead! Sign up for that Russian literature class you’ve been thinking about. One thing I know for sure is that if you do go to those classes and workshops, you're bound to meet people that share your interests. Maybe next time you won’t have to do it alone.
7. Treat yo'self! (responsibly)
I love flowers, but I haven’t had a partner in years. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me years to realize it's OK to buy myself a bouquet of daisies on my way home, just for kicks. And I do it only because I love the way they cheer up my desk.
Whether you're single or not (dating yourself is not cheating, I promise), it's important to do things for yourself once in a while. Go get that box of bonbons you’ve been craving, treat yourself to a me day at the spa. Discard the idea that everyone daring to do things at their own pace is going in the wrong direction.
Date yourself, love yourself.