The other day while scrolling through Facebook’s news feed, I came upon one of my favorite articles from the real deal in fake news, “The Onion.”
The headline called someone a “f—— loser” for going to the movies alone. The photo that went along with it: just some dude sitting in a dark theater with his concessions with empty seats all around him.
The article really hit close to the bone for me, since I’ve been to plenty of movies by myself.
The article does hit upon the idea of the negative perceptions associated with doing something solitary that’s normally considered a communal thing. People refrain from dining out solo or going to a movie by themselves for fear of being seen alone and all the connotations that come with it – that they’re lonely, have no friends, etc.
That negative perception of appearing lonely in a social situation or activity is enough for them to say, “Nah, I’ll pass.”
There’s some deeply ingrained notion in our minds that prevents us from discarding the self-consciousness associated with being alone.
I guess it’s evolutionary; we’re social animals.
Seeing someone appearing to be un-social is like a glitch in the matrix, an anomaly.
Something must be wrong.
On the one hand, what does it matter if you see a movie by yourself?
Sure, it can look “bad,” like you’re “sad and lonely” and don’t have “a lot of friends.”
But you’re not supposed to talk during a movie, right?
Sometimes one’s appreciation for a movie can be enhanced with less people in the theater – less distractions, less talking, etc.
One of the best film-going experiences I can recall was seeing “Drive” in a theater that had a grand total of five people in it, including myself.
However, there are times I prefer the communal experience of seeing a movie with other people (both going with others and being in a full theater).
For instance, going to see something like the upcoming “Star Wars” movie, or a comedy, with others around can enhance the overall experience and enjoyment.
There are some activities that lend themselves better to solitary outings than others and some that seem better suited to a communal endeavor.
For instance, I’d much rather see a sporting event or go to a concert with other people.
But a lecture, or, say, a book reading, I’d have no problem attending solo, even if the title of one of those books was “So, You’re Probably Going to Die Alone, Huh?”
There doesn’t have to be an either-or dynamic between communal versus solitary events.
Dining out at a restaurant alone – a place where people usually go with their friends, family or loved ones – can feel awkward for some people. Dining out somewhere by yourself probably isn’t a big deal in larger cities, but in smaller towns, it can be more pronounced.
Most people, when they dine alone, can just engage with their phones, of course.
It doesn’t matter if they’re watching YouTube videos of people farting or looking at an app called “The Abyss” where they’re literally staring into the void.
As long as you look preoccupied, you can minimize any self-conscious discomfort. But sometimes, it’s just good to take in the ambiance.
I like to savor the food I’m eating, or I jot some things down in my notebook (like the idea for this riveting column), or even just stare vacantly at the TVs.
I like to stop by Harvey’s and get the boneless chicken wings and some broccoli (an unbeatable combo).
I sit at the bar and sometimes, during the week, it’s slow and there are only a few other people around.
Sometimes it’s just me. I’ll admit, in those moments, especially when I’m the only sitting at the bar, the sting of self-consciousness hits. But it’s only momentary.
There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely, a difference between aloneness and loneliness.
Sometimes I don’t think the distinction is always made by people.
For better or worse, I stopped caring a long time ago what people think.
Peoples’ perceptions of you are beyond one’s control, so we should spend less time worrying about them.