Saturday, April 6, 2019

If You're Alone . . .

     Even though I'm married, there are times when I go places by myself. The store, the coffee shop, the library. Last night B was doing volunteer work at her church, so I decided to go to the movies. I do this occasionally when there's a movie I want to see that usually involves gore or violence or other disgusting things that she doesn't want to see on the screen any more than she wants to see in real life. (In this case a slasher film called Us which I do not recommend despite its 94% score on rotten tomatoes.)

     I've had a running dispute with my daughter for years. She thinks going to the movies by yourself is for losers. I say going to the movies by yourself is the perfect thing to do, because all you do is sit there and watch the screen. What's the big deal about going with someone else if you're not even allowed to talk to them?

     This is all preamble to a blog post I saw on Going Gently. What impresses me is that John, the author, and I are different on the surface. He is a single, gay British man. I am a married, heterosexual American man. Yet his advice seems relevant to my life and resonates on my emotional wavelength -- proving once again, doesn't it, that underneath we are all the same?

      I asked him if I could pass on his wisdom to my American colleagues, and he said yes. The advice is important for people who are by themselves. But it's also relevant for those of us who have recently moved to a new location, who are looking for some new friends, who are finding that we're spending too much time at home.

     So here it is, and as he says, "I hope this helps."

     Yesterday Sue in Suffolk talked of her reticence about going to the cinema on her own. I wanted to share a few thoughts to singles ... add to the list please.

     This past year I have done so many things alone. Things I used to do as part of a couple. Sometimes it's hard. And sometimes it's not.

     I've always enjoyed going to the cinema on my own. I'm lucky in that respect, but everything else can be a trial, especially as you can be judged somewhat as being a singleton. Only last night I witnessed such a prejudice. 

     I had gone to see the stage production of Rain Man, which was okay, but not sparkling okay, and directly in front of me was another singleton like me, a man in his 60s. As he waited for the production to start he occupied his time reading a book, and the woman next to me noticed this and nudged her husband as if it was the oddest thing she ever saw.

     I glared at her. She noticed my disapproval.

     And so . . . just get out there and do it. And cinema is a great start as many singles go to the cinema, and cinema will lead to other activities, believe me. Here are a few helpful rules.

     1. If you go to a cafe or restaurant always take a book, an iPad, laptop or your phone with you. You can look busy and industrious and generally it stops pitying glances.

     2. Don't go to places you used to frequent with your hubby unless you are ready to do so. I still can't go to our fav Thai restaurant as it would be just too painful a journey even though I've been invited by friends. New places will provide you with a new strength.

     3. Have a leap of faith! My first night at choir started off as an incredibly stressful moment, but after one of my fellow basses, a friendly tenor, and the mustached choirmaster broke the ice, I felt a whole lot better.

     4.  Do the single thing in bursts onl
y. Buffer your "alone" nights out with friends and family. Things won't feel so hard to complete.

     5. Pick talks and lectures and art activities as one-offs. If they don't suit, you can walk away easily, but if you enjoy them, you can always go back for more.

     6. Plan things every week. Don't stay at home too much.

     7. Do something worthy. Volunteer your time to something.

     8. If someone asks you to do something, do it if you are up to it. Dave asked me to play badminton with him and initially I said no as I thought he was just being kind. He wasn't. And after I said yes, it was fun!

     9. Don't underestimate the company of a dog in public.

     10. Cry when you're upset and you need to. But try not to indulge . . .

     11. Things go toes up all the time and so many married people just don't understand. So try not to get pissed off by them (even though it's hard).

     12. Find a favorite place. I have Sheffield, Chester's Storyhouse, and Colwyn Bay Beach. Go there often.

     13. See your friends, even if it costs too much to do so. I am seeing my friend Nu next weekend . . . my touchstone, my rock.

     14. Even if you are like me, a slob . . . wash your face, wear your best Walking Dead t-shirt, and go out with your teeth brushed and hair combed. 

     I hope this helps.

     -- John  xxx



Tabor said...

Yes, good advice. I live in the country, so it would be hard to find venues to go to and I do not like night driving. I still have my important other half, but as you pointed out, life can change so fast.

Barb said...

I love this. My husband and I had some varied and different interests. Most of those interests, when done apart were done in groups of others (him with his ski club for example) but not always and that prepared me. Tell your daughter I go to the movies alone 90 percent of the time. I also travel on road trips alone by choice and since many of those road trips are to places with new and unique cuisine, I do eat out. Why eat in my room when there's a French bistro on the corner. I also have an on my own day a half day most weeks where I explore something in my little suburb like the art museum that's in a train car,walk and then take myself to lunch. I belong to a church and four different social groups and could ask someone if I wanted to. I haven't seen US yet, but I absolutely loved GET OUT, his previous movie and he's also hosting a new Twilight Zone on CBS.

Celia said...

John is so right. I am relearning going to the movies, coffee, to eat alone. At 77 I have hit another of those times where several people have died and others have move far away. My one remaining close friend is much younger and still works. I'm fortunate in that I have a large family here and see often. I have joined the local historical museum and will volunteer and am taking a class on film that begins soon. The worst that can happen is I'll meet people with similar interests and the best is I might make some new friends.

gigi-hawaii said...

My husband goes to the movies every Tuesday all by himself and doesn't mind it. I traveled the world alone and didn't mind it, either.

Olga said...

I have no problem doing the things I want to do as a single person. Even when I was married, my husband and I had different interests and did not do every little thing thing together. I have found out many of the tips on John's list for myself over the years. Not frequenting the places I did go with my husband was learned the hard way when I had to leave a special little market in tears the first time.

Bonnie said...

Good advice for all of us. I have followed John's blog for many years and I am regularly touched by his words. As you say, even as part of a couple, we still need to be able to go out alone and can benefit from doing so. Not only do we benefit and grow individually but that growth enhances our relationship with our partner.

DJan said...

I have often said that my husband is really just a married monk. He much prefers his own company, and I have a large group of friends whom I enjoy in many different ways. I also attend movies alone but have a go-to friend whose husband also doesn't go out much. I think I would be just fine as a single person, but I much prefer having my partner to come home to. :-)

Tom said...

I said I sometimes go out on my own, but I never said I don't have a problem doing it. It's easy to go to the movies, or a diner or fast-food restaurant. But I don't know if I would go to a nice restaurants by myself. I think I'd feel pretty awkward (altho' I've seen other people do it). Now I'm scheduled to go to a concert by myself. I feel a little nervous ... but, really (I keep telling myself) no one else is really watching, much less judging. Anyway, I'm a newcomer to John's blog, and I'm counting on him offering plenty more good sensible advice.

Mona McGinnis said...

I often attend movies, concerts, lectures and plays alone. I have gone to restaurants (yes, even the nicer sit down restaurants) alone and ask for a table for one. I refuse to deny myself these pleasures because I am single. The truth be told, I enjoy not having to "herd the ducks" as I call it, trying to find a suitable day/time for 2 or more friends; who's going to drive? what time do we leave? dinner/coffee before or after? I also do menu planning and cooking for myself. I've lived alone too long to live on popcorn or eat from a can.

Janis said...

Great advice! When I was single and not dating regularly, I often attended functions alone. Since I am an introvert, I didn't - and still don't - like to mingle among a big crowd of people I don't know. But, movies, plays, lectures, anywhere I don't have to make small talk and I am perfectly comfortable. The best part of going to a movie along is that you can buy a big tub of that perfectly awful for you - but good tasting - popcorn and not have to share.

Jono said...

John often has good ideas and he is a good story teller whether he knows it or not.

retirementreflections said...

Great words of wisdom! Thank you for sharing this, Tom.

Kathy @ SMART Living said...

Hi Tom! My husband and I pretty "attached at the hip" but there are times when I want to go out and he isn't interested. My interests include going to lectures or writing events by myself...or book clubs. I have no problem whatsoever doing that. But other things, like going out to dinner just don't appeal to me to do by myself. I guess I'm just happier hanging at home and amusing myself (with or without Thom) than doing certain things without him. Fortunately at this point I have a choice and I don't take that for granted. ~Kathy

Wisewebwoman said...

I've been a singleton for a long time by choice. I do enjoy my own company. But having said that, I have bucketloads of friends and do engage with others in cafes, if they are willing. I bring my knitting to theatre and movies for waiting times. With consideration - only silent wooden needles. I miss my dog as she was a great socializer and strangers adored her and would generate many interesting conversations with me.

I find my book club, activist involvement, playing the piano in our community room, writing workshops and long dinners out with friends (tete a tete) completely satisfies my social needs. I think my voracious reading habit also makes me more grateful I am alone and not subject to the call of duo-meals and activities.

I call myself a gregarious loner and that fits me to a T and I'm also highly selective with whom I hang out. Stimulation is important and small talk drives me bonkers.


Diane Dahli said...

I like being alone, and also like spending time with my husband. This could be a dilemma, but isn't, since we decided a long time ago to give each other permission to find a balance in how we spend out time. We used to walk around our town a lot, but now Bob uses a cane, and can't handle long walks, so I go alone—it's an enriching activity, which I don't want to miss. He has many friends, and does several things on his own. It all works out!

Carol Cassara said...

Yes, absolutely...I agree with him and you!

Janette said...

I, too, am married to a hermit. Our relationship works well for us. Doing things by myself is second nature. John gives some wise advice. My least favorite part of doing things without him is the constant need of acquaintances attempt to imply I “like” someone else. My goodness. I left high school 45 years ago. Does John have a suggested response to those kind of comments?

David @iretiredyoung said...

Some nice advice there. When I first early retired, my wife was still working and so I did find myself doing some things alone. It took a little getting used to, but not to much once I'd done it a few times. My book and my laptop were often my faithful companions. Trying to always say yes to invitations and joining activities is good advice too.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

I've always enjoyed going to places alone because I'm on my own time and no one else's. Recently I've been going on walking tours in my city. Then, I usually go off on my own and take photos of whatever I like. It gives you time to reflect and enjoy without a time table.

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