What’s Wrong With Going Out Alone?

14 07 2008

Who of you has ever gone to a movie or gone out to dinner and spotted someone who has come by themselves?  Now, who of you has ever felt embarrassed or sorry for that person, even if only secretly?  I certainly have.  One instance comes readily to mind for me; it was a poor young fellow in Red Robin who accompanied his burger with a comic book, which he read silently to himself as he ate.  Following his meal, he chose to spend some quality time in the arcade, again by himself.  And I felt a little sorry for him.  At the time I wondered to myself, why would he choose to come alone?  Looking back now, I see that a judgment like that was based on very foolish assumptions.  That is, that he would have preferred to come to dinner with friends that night, which is tied to the assumption that he probably doesn’t have many friends, since he did, in fact, come alone that night.  But that’s ridiculous!  If he enjoys eating Red Robin burgers and reading comic books and playing arcade games, why does he need to have other people with him to do it?  

But doesn’t it seem to be true that participation in certain activities seems to have developed a necessary social component at times?  Things like the movies, going out to eat, amusement parks and other similar activities are the sort of thing that people are expected do as a group or on a date or something like that.  It makes sense, of course, to want to share the joy of an enjoyable activity with others.  But what I have small-mindedly overlooked at times is that an enjoyable activity usually remains enjoyable even in the absence of other people.  Not only has this affected the way I formulate judgments about the people I encounter, but it has also affected my willingness to participate in certain activities depending on my own circumstances.  And that is not good. 

In the last few years of my life I’ve become a very social person.  And even earlier in my life, when I wasn’t quite so social, I still felt that certain activities were meant to be done with company.  So, in recent years, I have come to prefer the company of others over solitude.  Although I still find it pleasant to have some time alone now and then, I far prefer being around other people and doing activities with other people.  But here in San Diego, with my limited social access at the moment, I’ve decided that I need to start doing enjoyable activities even if it means doing them by myself.  Now to many of you this probably seems like a common sense conclusion and I probably seem silly, but it isn’t the first time I’ve been swayed by the social norms I perceive nor, likely, will it be the last.  And I feel like I’m probably not alone in my thoughts on this.

Lately, I’ve had the fortune of being short on immediately available friends, and my schedule hasn’t been very accommodating to the friends I have made, which has forced me to remember how to enjoy myself by myself.  And I no longer look with pity on those people who choose to enjoy a supposedly social activity on their own.  For all I know they are having the time of their lives and they don’t need anyone else to help them do that.

As my own experience goes the first movie I went to by myself was the Blair Witch Project, ’cause I HAD to see it.  Too bad it sucked.  And I hadn’t been to a movie by myself since, until a couple weeks ago.  I saw Get Smart.  Funny movie.  Was just as funny as it would have been had I been with friends.  I remember thinking that it would have been nice to have people to talk to about the movie afterwards and to go do something else after, but in all, I enjoyed myself.  And this last week I saw the movie Wanted alone.  Also, on a family trip to Branson, MO a few years ago, my family’s interests and mine diverged a little and I ended up going to a couple of shows by myself and to an amusement park by myself.  It wasn’t too bad either.  Again, I would have preferred to have someone else with me, but I still enjoyed myself.  I’ve never been out to a nice restaurant by myself.  That might be too weird for me.

So tell me, oh readers of mine, do you go to the movies by yourself?  Do you go to fancy restaurants by yourself?  Do you go to amusement parks by yourself?  Did it make you feel weird?  Tell me some of your favorite “social” activities to do alone.  Or tell me about when you saw somebody else doing such an activity alone.  I’m genuinely curious.  I have a hunch that older people are more likely to feel comfortable doing those kind of activities alone.  And naturally, introverts would also be more likely to go out alone.  But tell me your thoughts and stories.  Broaden my mind.

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5 responses

14 07 2008
Meagan Wyllie

So I being what I would like to think of as an independent and confident person have been to dinner by myself at a nice restaurant. I was in the mood for fajitas and found the nicest Mexican restaurant in town. The only awkward part is the waiter hit on me because I was alone. I enjoyed the meal, but found that waiting for food all alone with a virgin margarita lacks conversation. The margarita didn’t talk back when I asked questions about current events or pondered life’s meaning. Just make sure that if you are going to venture to dinner on your own, that you have thoughts in your mind you are pondering or need to figure out. It might make waiting for your steamy steak fajitas that much faster.
-Meagan

15 07 2008
Randal

When I was interviewing in Palo Alto, I patronized fancy restaurants alone, and let me tell you, this particular activity requires company more than most. Especially if it is a place with “European Service” – i.e extremely slow. Unless you come prepared, or the restaurant has its own entertainment, there is really nothing to do while you are waiting for you food (I ended up playing solitare on my iPod – who even knows you can play games on your iPod). And by the time your food actually arrives, you are so ready to get out of that boring restaurant that you stuff it into your face as fast as you can without vomiting and call over the waiter with the cheque. Needless to say, the protagonist of your story was more prepared for solitude than I – at least he had a comic book.

15 07 2008
Fred

I was on a business trip and after all the meetings I went back to my hotel room. I often have dinner arrangements with other companies but that night I didn’t have any. I always have a good book when I travel so I was about to go get a take out hamburger and enjoy a good book but I was craving a nice steak. I figured what the heck, I took my book and enjoyed a wonderful steak and a wonderful meal and I didn’t care how long the food took or how long they took to bring the bill.

The waitress did not hit on my though.

16 07 2008
Susan

Last time I was down in Utah I was bumped from my flight on the way home. They put me up in a hotel downtown which was the perfect opportunity for me to go shopping and eat at my favorite restaurant…CPK!! It really didn’t bother me eating by myself as the food was way too good to pass up. I really don’t think that I could do the whole movie thing alone though…way back when I did only because my friends were going to a movie that I really didn’t want to see.

17 07 2008
Kira

I have gone to a movie, a nice restaurant, and rides at an amusement park alone. I enjoyed all, but I do rather enjoy being with people. I have always been social, and be truthful, your early years weren’t not quite social … you were anti-social. Although your annoying female cousins devoted to pulling you out of your funk probably didn’t help. :-)

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