Despite my need for companionship, I’m generally a fan of doing things alone. Like shopping. (Get in. Get out. Get on with it.) Or flossing my teeth.
So when a friend brought to my attention that I had yet to attend a movie by myself, I was excited to embark upon this single-person-rite-of-passage.
I checked the online movie listings for a post-dinner showing and cruised up to the theater with a healthy amount of time to grab the perfect seat (four rows from the top, dead center) and not miss a moment of the previews.
As I waited in line, I found myself wondering not who would be paying, but rather, which credit card I would use. I could still taste the afterglow of my dinner on my breath and scrambled to find some gum, but I realized it didn’t matter. Not like I was going to be kissing anyone anyway.
I approached the employee behind the window, and the words “One, for” oozed out of my mouth. She looked confused. “Ma’am, did you want the 7:10 showing or the 9:35?”
It was 7:36.
I was late, for a date, with myself.
“You can still go in,” she said. “If the movie is too far along, I can just give you a refund.”
But the previews – oh, the previews! The single most important reason I am ever willing to shell out $10 for something I could otherwise watch while wrapped in the comfort of my own duvet! I was crushed.
I grabbed my ticket, swung by the concession stand for some Sour Patch Kids and power walked past a Johnny-Depp cardboard promo display for “Alice in Wonderland” that obviously belongs in my bedroom. I entered the theater and slinked up to the top of the bleacher section, stumbling over a few happy couples that managed to actually make it here on time, and took a seat. My $4 bag of candy crinkled loudly, and the movie – already knee-deep in plot and dialogue – was, in fact, too far along for me to have the slightest clue what was going on. I gathered my things, swapped my ticket for the 9:35 and headed home.
9:10 p.m.: Take 2.
This time I arrived early enough to see the credits still rolling from the previous showing. (Hey, I said I was going to a movie by myself. I didn’t say I was going to be good at it.) I was the only one in the theater, save for one other lonely soul who snuck in just in time to see me curled up in the fetal position during the preview for “Shutter Island.”
The movie started and I put my feet up on the seat in front of me. Over the next two hours, I had never been more aware of who I am then I was right there. All my idiosyncrasies, all of my mannerisms were on display. My laugh was loud. My face, expressive. I could hear myself chew.
I kept looking around for someone to share in my reactions, but there was no one there. I realized that no matter how much we pride ourselves on being independent, it is our interactions with others that give value and meaning to our lives. Our sense of humor, our emotions, our quirks are all in inextricably bound to the validation, the encouragement and the reciprocity of the exchange. But when you’re alone in an empty room, everything you put out into the world has nowhere to go but right back to you. It’s just you and your projections, staring back at you like a picture on a movie screen.
Don’t get me wrong – I really enjoyed my little solo cinematic adventure, and I’m looking forward to doing it again. Capitalizing on your singledom in this situation does have its perks, like:
-Not having to orchestrate who is meeting who at the theater.
-Not having to settle for a movie you don’t really want to see.
-Not needing to agonize over what to wear or apply inappropriate amounts of makeup.
-Being able to arrive embarassingly early to watch the previews without judgment from your friends. (That is, of course, when you don’t screw up the show time.)
-Your Sour Patch Kids no longer have to wage a war with your Winterfresh for taste bud superiority.
Plus there is no awkward touching, deliberating over armrest position or wondering how long to hold his hand before reclaiming your sweaty palm.
Even though you really do like holding his hand.
Speaking of holding hands, next week I’ll be launching a new blog with "According to Andy" contributor and fellow relationship blogger, Ryan Austin. (You can follow his own dating adventures here.) We’ll be matching wits on everything from dealbreakers to first-date disasters to love – with a few twists along the way. Stay tuned.