Earlier this month I went to see Little Women by myself and was amused to realise that the guy sitting next to me was also flying solo. When I started full-on weeping, I saw him wipe a tear out of the corner of my eye. We didn’t speak but I felt a connection to my sofa mate. It was nice.
One of the first times I went to the cinema by myself was New Year’s Eve in 2010. I was living in South Korea at the time, teaching English. My boyfriend at the time and all my friends were going out in the nearest big city Busan but I was ill with a chest infection so decided I better stay close to home.
At some point it dawned on me that I was going to be by myself on the biggest night of the year so to fill my evening, I took myself off to the cinema to watch whichever Harry Potter film was out at the time. Going to the cinema alone was a new thing I was trying out. It started when I wanted to go and see something my ex didn’t want to watch and I couldn’t be arsed to arrange to go with a friend. I soon realised that it made me feel quite cool to be sitting there by my god damn self.
On this particular occasion, I was thinking something along those lines and feeling pretty smug about my bravery when my boss and her children walked past me to their seats. She stopped to say hello and happy new year. The conversation was short but I was absolutely mortified. Going to the cinema on my own was one thing but I didn’t want anyone else to see me – and worse – potentially pity me.
That was nine years ago now and I honestly wouldn’t give a shit if anyone saw me at the cinema on my own now. It’s one of my favourite things to do alone because it’s probably the easiest one, after all, going to the cinema involves sitting and not speaking for the entire length of a film. It’s funny how things have changed. It is probably more socially acceptable nowadays but I’ve also had lots of practice.
A few years ago I completed The Artists Way, a 12-week course in creativity, which requires you to take yourself on an “Artists Date” every week. The rules state you have to go alone. At first, I played it safe by taking myself to the park but soon I got braver. By the end of the three-months, I had gone to art galleries, museums, the theatre, a comedy night and – randomly – a Japanese fashion show by myself. I realised how liberating it was and how much my confidence grew by pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
Not long after my straw poll on Instagram, I was sent a press release about solo anxiety. Two out of three (69%) Brits apparently lack the confidence to try things alone and 60% are afraid to go solo because they feared judgement by other people.
I find these stats really sad and agree with this quote by Radha Vyas, co-founder of Flash Pack, who carried out the survey: “In a world that’s overflowing with noise and distractions, going solo is one of the most satisfying things that you can do. It gives you clarity and headspace, not to mention the freedom to do what you want. But too many people let fear get in the way of their decisions.”
The one thing I always remind myself when doing something like this or when I’m looking like an idiot in yoga class is that no-one actually cares what you are doing and probably hasn’t even noticed you because everyone is thinking about and focusing on themselves approximately 95% of the time. I just made that stat up but I do believe it!
So in the spirit of the Artists Way, which gave me no choice, I challenge you to take yourself somewhere on a date this week and let yourself feel nice and smug. Don’t forget to tell me about it and tag me on Instagram or Twitter!
Have a good week,
What caught my attention
This is a really fascinating article. It kind of feels like Japan has taken the ideas discussed above and totally run with it which has had the knock-on effect of a whole industry of solo activities and services popping up. It even has a name: “It’s known as the “ohitorisama” movement: people boldly choosing to do things alone, the opinions of others be damned.”
I enjoyed this exploration of how marriage is dealt with in literature (and in Disney’s Frozen II) by Mia Levitin. It discusses Little Women and the dilemma Louisa May Alcott had when society demanded that her main character Jo March was married off. In the latest film adaptation of the book, Jo is told by her publisher that her own book’s main character needs to be “married or dead” by the end of the novel. You can see countless examples of this narrative throughout fiction but Mia argues that things are changing. Hurrah!
I appreciate that I am very late to the party as this episode of Elizabeth Day’s brilliant podcast came out at the start of the month but I’ve only just got around to listening to it. Firstly it made me laugh on several occasions and secondly Andrew Scott is so wise. This was about him not being heteronormative but if you read the words he could be speaking about anyone doing things differently (including us!) He said: “There are so many ways to live a life in the world but it feels like there is only one prototype. There is a system that everyone has to live by and if you don’t live by it, you do feel, for a while, like you’re failing at it, like there is something wrong with [you].” He also had some great stuff to say about casual sex!
Heroine of the week
I had a health scare over the Christmas period, which I wrote about on Twitter. I am lucky to have been given the all-clear but my heroine this week is Kris Hallenga who founded the breast cancer charity Coppa Feel after her terminal diagnosis. I’ve written about her before (yes I am a total fan-girl) because not only does she make sure that boob-checking is normalised, but she is also the queen of squeezing the absolute most out of life. Have a listen to Fearne Cotton’s podcast episode where Kris is interviewed if you don’t believe me.
I know I mentioned it last week but on Monday I was interviewed for Shani Silver’s A Single Serving podcast. I absolutely loved it but I was pretty nervous because I had just seen that she had reached 100,000 subscribers! It will be out on 10 February!
I want to do a big thank you to everyone who bought me a coffee on Ko-Fi last week. It was a record week and now I’m totally buzzing! Sometimes it is hard to find time to work on this newsletter (and the accompanying social media channels) when I don’t make any money from it and am freelance so have to prioritise paying clients, so your support means the world to me.
For those who don’t know, I’m Nicola Slawson, a freelance journalist who lives in London, UK. I don’t get paid to do this newsletter (maybe one day I will), but if you enjoyed it and would like to buy me a coffee, you can.
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