I am an introvert. Simply put, I need time by myself to recharge and get my bearings straight. I realize that not everyone needs this. I mean, lots of people say “everyone needs time alone”, but honestly, not really everyone does. And you know what? It’s completely cool. You, do you.
On a recent trip I took way up North, I sat in one of my favorite restaurants sipping a really good glass of wine and ordered my favorite soup and salad. Before this, I had just come off of a hiking trail and felt particularly deserving of the glass of wine and tried really hard to hold back yummy noises as to not offend nor alarm other diners.
Side note: When Clarence and I first started to date, I warned him, full-on, that my household comes with sound effects. We sing, spurred only by a common phrase, or mention of an association Christian (my son) and I make at the same time. We mimic sounds from outside, inside, TV, you name it. And, when we eat, we are prone to something we call “yummy noises”. Some of you may be familiar with what these noises are. These are the sounds that naturally want to erupt from deep within you when you taste something particularly delicious. Yummy noises are the sounds you almost can’t hold back but most people would never let them escape due to being “polite” or “well mannered”. Holding back these noses is something many people struggle with a bit when it comes to really amazing food. I swear the sounds are out of me before I even realize I’m doing it. Ok, this really isn’t about yummy noises, so I’ll move on. My point: we make noise at my house!
At any rate, the wine tasted great, and my favorite soup with a side salad included an amazing homemade maple mustard dressing. Folks, it just doesn’t get any better! As I sat there, a smug smile came across my face because I was so delighted with being in such a gorgeous place with the incredible scenery in such a cute little restaurant I love and I felt the love oozing from every pore. Contentment does not even begin to describe how I felt at that moment. I looked over and saw a lovely woman (I’m assuming she was lovely, but also have no reason to think she wasn’t lovely) who looked more than a little forlorn. She was sitting at her table for two, by herself, staring out the window with her opposite hand propping her chip up. It was like she was trying to crawl into or through the window but knew she’d miss her meal if she ran away. As her food arrived, I noticed how she ate with haste, devouring her soup and then her meal. The entire time looking so lonely, and well, really uncomfortable with being alone. There was almost a listlessness about her. We caught each other’s eye for a second, I smiled big, she smiled kind of sheepishly and looked away, back out of the window while she continued to move food into her mouth as quickly as possible. I honestly thought if I was given a chance I’d start talking to her, but she was several feet away. When the moment of eyes meeting passed, and she returned quickly to her food, I thought it would be best to leave her be. She must’ve been somewhat of a local as an older couple stopped at her table and chatted a minute, which caused her to immediately perk up. They left, she finished her food and was out of there. Her discomfort reminded me of a time that seems so long ago, but I guess really wasn’t.
When my first husband was mobilized for the Navy, I was thrown into a world I had not entered into before. Growing up, I played alone during the day as my siblings were all gone to school. Once I started school, I seemed to almost always be surrounded by people. I dated all throughout high school and beyond, I’ve always had at least one job, often more, never really having much time by myself. I nannied, so I had two adorable little girls to keep me company, and married a few years later. When my husband left, I still had Christian, so I wasn’t alone. But, from time to time, I needed a break, even from my child, whom I love so much. I would call a babysitter so I could go out like an adult. I started spending time by myself. It was weird. I still remember the first time I went to a movie alone, sitting in the theatre convinced everyone was staring at me because I walked in by myself. After a while, I realized no one cared because they were fixed on the movie. When the lights came up, I couldn’t help but notice a few people noticing me, alone, because no one else was. After several months, I got tired of my alone time in movie theatres and fast-food restaurants and decided to take myself out for dinner. I went downtown because I wanted something nice. I’m not going to lie, walking into a decent restaurant all by yourself, naturally caused people to look at me. They’d look, look past or behind me to see if anyone else was coming. No one came. It took a few times, but eventually, not only did I get used to it, I actually started to like it! I could go anywhere I wanted! I could eat slow, touch my food (it’s a thing and it used to drive my ex-husband nuts) lollygag, and nobody cared. NOBODY. It was great! I could go where I wanted, do what I wanted, dress how I wanted, eat what I wanted, and nobody said a word about it. Folks, it became a luxury!
After I got divorced, it expanded into more alone time. My son had five days at a time with his Dad, so I could travel on my own (which I had done for years for work conferences and classes). So, I started to stretch my independent legs. It started tentatively with new places, towns, and experiences, all by myself. Were there times when I wished I had company? Certainly. Some things are fun to do with someone else. It’s nice to not require a stranger take your picture somewhere cool because you’re alone. Oh – and I still refuse to use a selfie stick, it’s just not going to happen. It’s great to have someone you love, or even a friend along, to share new or unique experiences with. Even just the everyday stuff is great with someone special. But what I learned was this; I don’t need someone else to have a really good time. I can enjoy the space I’m in, the food I eat, the scenery, the everything, all by myself. What I learned is that I am good company for myself. What I learned is I am ok alone. I’m safe, I’m secure, I’m comfortable, which is not what I was taught growing up, especially as a woman. What I learned is that no one actually cares if I’m out alone. Seriously, over time this has become a great lesson for me to realize. People honestly don’t give a crap about me, or what I’m doing anywhere, at any time, and I thank them for it. Yes, some people look at me when I’m alone, many of them a little pathetically, and you know who those some people are? Women.
Yes, women. I’ve never noticed a man looking at me oddly when I walk into a restaurant, movie theatre, live theatre, tourist attraction/sight, benefit event, etc. It’s always women. Thank you, gentlemen, for not caring, or thinking it’s weird that women going out by themselves is socially odd, I appreciate it more than you know. However, women seem to think this is something to be pitied, or look at me like I am strange. If I knew those women, I’d totally get the looks, but I don’t, so they’re just assuming. It seems to make women uncomfortable to see another woman dining alone. For me, I notice women attending events alone, dining alone, just like in the restaurant, but my first thought is always, “good for her, I get it, I love my alone time”. So, it’s sad when I see a woman who seems really uncomfortable being somewhere by herself.
After the first woman dining alone left the restaurant, the next person seated at the same table was another woman dining – you guessed it – alone. She was young, beautiful, and facing the wall. Every second she wasn’t talking to the waitress, she was on her phone. Constantly. Like she ate with one hand and scrolled through her phone with the other. While I was amazed at her mad phone skills, it made me wonder if this was another way of defeating the discomfort in being there by herself.
The night before I was out at another restaurant having dinner and a woman I had seen earlier on a hiking trail walked in. She sat at the table directly next to me and I acknowledged her when she looked at me. “Didn’t I see you earlier lugging a bunch of camera equipment down a trail? “ “Why, yes!” and we were off to the races. We didn’t stop talking for two hours. Sometimes even when you’re alone with nice to connect.
I finished my wine, soup, and salad. They were all super delicious, and I headed out the door, noticing what I had taken in and got me pondering.
What is it all about? Why do women find it odd, or sad, when we see other women out alone? Why do women themselves feel sad, or broken, or something I don’t even know what it is, when they’re out by themselves? Ladies, are we so conditioned to always belong to someone else, to always be doing for others, that makes us uncomfortable to be and do for just ourselves?
I don’t have the answers, just really a lot more questions. I love my time alone, and I also love my time with my friends and family. My time alone is special, almost coveted. I know people in this town, and I don’t call or see any of them. Why? Because it’s my alone time! If I am at home and want to go out for a drink, dinner, a walk, bike ride, or shopping, I’m cool going by myself, and I don’t feel weird about it.
There is no magic to bring it all together ending on this one. I’m just super curious.
Why ladies? Why does being alone make us so uncomfortable? I can’t wait to read your responses.
Blessings Galore, Anne