But really, what is SO wrong with being alone? The other week I had a really strange experience at the Cheesecake Factory and couldn’t help but ponder this question. So, let me lay out the scene for you…
I decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory by my house as a sort of “last supper” before starting my five day juice cleanse. Normally, being a single party, I would just sit at the bar, but it was a beautiful day and I wasn’t about to waste it sitting inside! I went to the hostess stand and asked for my table for one–thinking nothing of it. The host started a great conversation about my tattoos, walked me to my table, and told me to enjoy my meal. My meal was amazing! The surrounding company? Not so much.
As my last supper before a juice cleanse, you can imagine I went to town! I got myself a few drinks, ordered a few apps, and had more than enough to take home. Since I had nothing but time to kill as I finished my last drink, I pulled out my planner and started planning my week ahead. I was totally diggin’ my date with myself. Throughout my whole time there, though, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being watched. Now, this wasn’t my paranoia kicking in for once. There was a party of 4 at the table diagonal from mine that just kept looking over at me, making comments, and giggling. Well, when slightly noticeable whispers turned to plain awkward and obvious, I decided to just lean towards the table and ask if they needed anything. The exact conversation went something like this:
Me: I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but notice you looking my way. Can I help you with something?
Them: Oh no! We just couldn’t help but… uh… notice that you are alone? Are you meeting someone? Did they not show up? That’s just horrible of them!
Me: Oh! No! I’m not waiting for anyone. I’m here alone. I enjoy my own company and wanted a nice meal outside. But thank you so much for your concern!
Them: Well, a pretty girl like you shouldn’t have to do things on your own.
This ended with them slightly scoffing and continuing their quiet remarks while I returned to my planner, book, and most importantly, drink! As an eternally single, independent lady and once again avid adventurer, I’ve gotten used to doing things alone. I used to hate it, but I’ve learned to love my time with myself. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends, I just don’t like to be reliant on other people’s schedules. If I want to do something, I’m going to do it–whether there is someone with me or not.
After hearing their comments, though, I couldn’t help but think, why is there such a social stigma around doing things alone? Especially for ladies. Why is it automatically assumed that I’m being stood up when I’m dining alone? Why shouldn’t a “pretty girl like me” have to do things alone? And why on earth am I being singled out for showing myself some TLC?
What’s so wrong with being alone?
Now, this brief encounter might seem like no big deal and super nonchalant… to the untrained eye, it is. But being the social and reflection junkie I am, I couldn’t help but notice how socially problematic their judgement and comments were in some ways. First, there was the assumption I was being stood up and the blatant discomfort they exhibited when I clarified that I was, in fact, intentionally alone. I can’t help but wonder where their discomfort stems from… Is it a general lack of exposure to people doing things alone? Is it their own insecurities in not feeling comfortable enough in their own space to be able to do things alone? Is it a safety concern that I was a female out alone? Since I’ll probably never see these people again, I’ll never really know what it was for certain. But I can’t help but wonder what made them so squeamish and judgmental about a girl taking herself on a date, enjoying her own company, and just straight up enjoying her life.
More problematic than assuming a person out alone was being stood up and then judging them for intentionally being out alone, was the one female’s comment, “Well, a pretty girl like you shouldn’t have to do things on your own.” Yeah, maybe this is just something people say…. but I just need to make sure I got this right, you’re uncomfortable that I’m out alone, purposefully… but it would be acceptable if I was uglier? So, you’re saying our outer appearances deem what is acceptable in social settings? I call bullshit.
If I rob a bank, I don’t care how hot I am, it’s wrong. That is an accepted norm. Sure, movies might glorify the hot robbers slightly, but we still as a human population understand that stealing is wrong and against the law. I don’t care how hot you are, if you get caught, you’re going to jail. So if physical appearance isn’t a true deciding factor in that social situation, why is it in this one? Where is the line? Why are we still using attractiveness to support social claims? In addition to that, as a supposed “pretty girl” am I expected to never be alone? Am I supposed to go around with my posse all day err day? Am I supposed to perpetually be dating someone to fulfill this social norm that pretty girls can’t be alone? Did I miss the memo about only being complete when there is another person in my life? When did that shit start? I’m clearly way behind the times… or are the times behind me? I know I have some peculiar outlooks on life and society and “social norms,” but shit man, is it truly that fucking progressive to go out to eat alone and enjoy my own company?
It has taken me for-fucking-ever to get to a point where I am comfortable being alone.
Fun fact: (Not many people know this actually…) Growing up, I had severe (and I mean SEVERE) isolaphobia or monophobia–it goes by both names: an extreme or abnormal fear of being alone. I mean, BAD. It baffled my mom. I used to have to sleep with her every night, and I wrapped myself around her like a fucking anaconda to make sure she wouldn’t leave me for work. I would throw SEVERE tantrums when she left for work. It broke her heart every day and she told me later in life that she would drive to work crying because she felt so shitty for leaving me and watching me cry from the window.
It still hits me sometimes–twenty years later. When I was in college, I wasn’t able to sleep in my dorm room if my roommate wasn’t there… I would always “accidentally” fall asleep on the couch those nights… or, I just wouldn’t sleep (can you say all nighters on my laptop or in the library?). This phobia made certain social situations unbearable. I first realized I really had to get over this fear when I moved to Las Vegas. I was going to be living alone, in a new city, where I currently had close to no friends and absolutely no family. I was (as I so eloquently phrase it) fucked. My brother got me a dog, which helped. But I didn’t sleep for weeks. I spent all my time at work or hosting parties to keep the fear at bay. I finally gave in and went to see an isolaphobia specialist (yes, those exist) and we started working through this phobia of mine. Having anxiety is a major detriment to making serious progress, but this is my third year in Vegas and I’m finally seeing the growth. My time used to be split 90/10 with people and without, now I would say I’m more at a 40/60 balance. That may not seem like much improvement in two and a half years, but please realize I used to have panic attacks at the idea of having to do grocery shopping alone. Yes, it was that fucking bad. (And yes, I now realize how fucking absurd it is to have a panic attack about going grocery shopping alone.)
I think this is why this brief and minor interaction is bothering me so much. I’ve worked so hard to overcome this shit, and then four random strangers are gonna judge my damn accomplishments. There are social implications and personal ones in this brief contact with strangers. I wish I had all of this in my head while it was happening so I could just ask them straight up and get some answers. Because I would… I wouldn’t care if it made them uncomfortable.
What bothers me most is that for a brief moment, I went back to my deep isolaphobia days. I went home and actually asked myself, “Well, what was wrong with what I did? Should I have not gone? Am I not enough?” That last one is a question I plagued myself with for years as the result of some fucked up relationships, on and off daddy issues, and just straight up skewed outlooks on life. I thought I had deleted that last one from my vocabulary. I guess it just shows how easily our old demons and disasters can come creeping up. We have to consciously choose that positivity and that light within us–every second of every day.
Am I not enough? Fuck yeah, I AM enough. It has taken me years to learn that. I am so fucking enough, that I’ll go to the Cheesecake Factory alone, order my obscene amount of appetizers, maybe a have a few too many drinks, and enjoy every. fucking. second.