I recently had an entire day to myself, as most Wednesdays go for me. After lunch, I curled my hair, put on lipstick, and wore a nice pink dress I hadn’t found time to go out in yet. I had thought of it before, going to the movies alone, but it’s so easy to shudder at the thought. Everyone will be looking at me. Everyone will think it’s so sad. Everyone will wonder why I don’t have any friends.
I asked for one ticket to a romantic comedy featuring three extremely attractive men, and what would probably be three sappy love stories, and I was embarrassed. What surprised me was the envy in the employee’s eyes. When the man handed me back my change, he looked curious, maybe sad, and at the time I didn’t think anything of it. But there he was working, charging me $11 that I spent easily on a stupid early evening movie, smack dab in the middle of the week. How grateful I should be that I don’t have to work on Wednesday evenings. Perhaps we both envied each other. And the woman inside, the one that took my ticket and showed me which theatre to enter, her eyes lit up when she saw me. “How fun!” she exclaimed. “This is so awesome that you’re doing this.” But I felt remorse almost immediately.
Ironically, the theatre was the furthest from the entrance, allowing an uncomfortable amount of time to think about what exactly I was doing, and I found myself walking slowly. I could be at home, I thought, on my couch in pajamas watching Netflix. I was literally the only one in there, and I wasn’t very early by any means. The movie was starting in about ten minutes, so I sat right in the middle of the place and instead of looking at my phone I turned it off, removing all possibilities of communication with anyone. A very bold move for someone in this generation. What will strangers think if they know you’re not connected in some way?
It seemed so strange to me to be embarrassed and nervous, because I’d thought about that exact moment for a good portion of my post adolescent life. I’ve always had this unusual fascination with being alone, and if anything is more alone than going to the movies by yourself, then I wouldn’t know it. But the thing is, I didn’t feel alone. Feeling alone was never my intention. Once my phone was off, that empty movie theater felt empowering; all of my fear had somehow disappeared and turned itself into pride. After all, how many young adults can say they have been to the movies alone? It’s so simple, really, but so rare. Movies are something we do together. We go to the movies with friends, with parents, with lovers. We share the story and we share popcorn. And here I was, alone.
A couple walked in, and they were so cheery and full of laughter that I was suddenly aware of my body, suddenly aware that I could have invited other people along. Maybe my friends would have been able to come. They’d said they wanted to see that movie, too. But as soon as the movie started, though, my feelings dwindled. In fact, I kind of forgot that I was unintentionally third wheeling what was otherwise a very private date. But I hadn’t come to make comments to a friend during interesting scenes. I came to watch a movie.
And as the movie progressed and I became more and more engrossed in the story, I realized that I might not have this chance again. Life changes gradually, but one day I’ll have a moment to reflect, and I will remember how different it was last year, and it won’t feel like that long ago. And maybe a few years from now, waking up in a bed alone, taking myself to the movies, and drinking my morning cup of coffee in silence, maybe these quiet moments of being alone will be the ones that I discover weren’t so bad after all. Maybe they weren’t bad at all. Maybe I’ll miss them. Life, although it has some reoccurring patterns, doesn’t stay the same.
I looked around the empty theater during the time lapse with the relevant indie, sappy folk song playing in the background and saw the couple holding hands. My heart felt heavy. The movie ended, the couple left, and I sat through the credits. I sat there until the lights turned back on. I didn’t turn my phone back on for a full five minutes. I wanted to just be — by myself, in that theater. You don’t have to be lonely when you’re alone.
So I say take yourself out, even if you cry the whole way home and a little bit in the bathroom, because the potential wave of emotions is exhilarating. And who cares if going out to the movies, or really doing anything out in public anymore, has become a socially constructed group activity that you’re absolutely supposed to share with someone? No one but yourself is actually concerned about you being alone. After all, it’s just a movie.