All by myself…

I’m an ‘independent woman’. I’ve lived alone for basically my whole adult life. I take care of myself (I pay folk to do the manual labour, but still). I enjoy my own company. I can usually get by without too much hand holding.

I have, however, recently become aware of an infuriating blip in my self sufficiency. Since becoming single again I have noticed that I can’t go to the cinema alone. It wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the fact that I love seeing films on the big screen. I used to go weekly with my sister, but the advent of her baba has ruled that out. Almost all of my friends also have little ones. The few that don’t, live in different cities. Obviously, I no longer have a boyfriend to view blockbusters with & the cinema isn’t really a good date place. Which leaves me with, go alone (until I line up a cinema buddy) or don’t go at all. Neither of which felt appealing.

With each passing film that I had really wanted to see I have grown more frustrated with myself. Why can’t I go to cinema alone? I can’t think of much else that I wouldn’t do alone. I’ve travelled solo and eating out by myself doesn’t bother me. I have no problem sitting in bar or cafe, whiling a away an hour or two in my own company. I love living alone, to be honest I think it’s my preference. I attend scary medical appointments and pursue a variety of opportunities alone. Sitting in a darkened room staring at a screen unaccompanied shouldn’t be an issue. I can handle big grown up things without a partner. Why can’t I tackle something so trivial?

The only thing I could come up with is some weird insecurity about being judged. Would people think I don’t have any friends? Are strangers going to think I’m a loser? The obvious answer to these questions is who cares! I’ve never given much credence to the opinions of randoms. I’m not sure why I would start now. Yet, the anxiety persisted. There are of course lots of things that I felt worried about doing alone. Loads of occasions when I required back up or missed an event because I couldn’t face a crowd without a buffer. Whilst, not ideal, I can accept that as part of life with mental health difficulties. I couldn’t, though, make myself ok with just giving up a thing I regularly enjoy.

So, to utilise a cliche, I faced my fears. Full disclosure, I made it really easy. I picked a 10.30am screening when the cinema is practically empty. I also booked my ticket online. Thus minimising the amount of actual person to person contact I had to engage in. I did have all those negative thoughts running through my head. I did it anyway.

I can’t say that I was aware of anyone paying attention to my solo status. Note to everyone, hardly anyone cares about what the people around them look like, wear, are doing & so on. For the most part we’re all too busy dealing with the nonsense that’s going on in our own lives/days/heads. In short, if at all possible, do the thing. Don’t give yourself a hard time if you can’t manage every thing, but at least attempt anything close to manageable. It feels really bloody good to meet even little challenges.

My first me, myself & I movie was Long Shot. It’s not a classic rom com, but it is cute. I find Rogen’s charming outcast bit pretty attractive & there were enough feels to keep me interested. Definitely not a bad way to spend a Monday morning. Oh & I won’t have to see a superhero movie next time. Single life is actually pretty good.

Love is real, real is love…

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. I like Cary Grant movies & bittersweet love songs & Jane Austen novels. My heart forever swells for romance. It’s just that as I’ve gotten older my idea of true romance has changed.

I remember watching interviews of John Lennon talking about how he never wanted to be apart from Yoko & thinking I wanted to be in love like that. I thought the idea of wanting to spend every moment with someone was beautiful. Now it strikes me as frankly, unhealthy. The first time I saw Renee Zellweger translate ‘you complete me’ & moon over the signing couple, I melted. These days it’s more like boaking. It’s actually a bit weird that I ever internalised that version of love. I’ve never been someone who wanted to be around others all the time. My own company has always been valuable. My ‘hobbies’ are fairly solitary; reading, writing, swimming. I’m not really a joiner. I have lived alone for most of my adult life. When everyone else was still living with their parents or a bundle of flat mates I had already figured out that I quite liked closing my front door & knowing I am alone. I believe a part of me still thought when the right person come along that would change. Their breath would make my air sweeter, their presence would be essential. For a while there I actually thought that a soulmate might just make me whole. Now I look at the sentence & cringe. The right person is amazing, but a great love adds to one’s life. It’s an extra. My mug is full of me, a relationship is just the delicious cream & mallows on top. I can’t reach the peak potential of me if I spend every second of my life with someone else. By default I’d never put own needs first. I know now that love is not all encompassing; it’s vital to leave a little room for me.

In days gone by used to take note of dates. Anniversaries and so on. I knew the day I met exes, first kisses & I love yous. It mattered to me that we mark those days with flowers or dinner or whatever. I loved rom com’s & the big dreamy gestures. I thought I hankered for that kind of romance. I planned aspects of my theoretical future wedding. Thinking that the perfect music & public declarations would make it more concrete. Turns out none of it really matters. There isn’t a bouquet big enough to make you forget that someone didn’t come home for three nights. No public display of affection makes up for a routine lack of consideration. If a relationship doesn’t have a daily beating heart, the Hollywood bits won’t keep it alive. Which is not to say that some folk can’t have both. I know happy people who’s loving partners do big time classic romance & that’s fantastic. It just doesn’t seem that important to me anymore. The Toyboy & I don’t have an anniversary. Neither of us thought to take note of our first date & when it comes down to it, we don’t really care. We do all the things you might do in anniversary whenever we feel like it. What does it matter? Maybe we’ll get married someday & maybe we won’t. I’m not bothered as long as I’m happy. The gown & first dance & piece of paper won’t actually change what happens between him & I. On reflection the romantic cinematic moments that have really stuck with me aren’t the flashy ones anyway. They’re were quiet, intimate interactions. Like when Bill Murray whispers ‘ I’m not worried about you’ to a sleeping Scarlett Johansen in Lost in Translation. That sets off my butterflies. Likewise in my life, it’s the everyday romance that sets my heart a flutter. Rubbing tiger balm on my sore bits or drinking fizz in the bath with me. Co opting each other’s turn of phrase & bringing me vegan treats. Wrapping a gift creatively to please me. Knowing my sushi order & that I always want Diet Coke. Carrying my bag. Sitting by my hospital bed. Saying what you mean. And a million other real life indications that I matter, that I’m known, are what I need.

So, yes I love romance & I love that St Valentine’s Day reminds us to cherish & treat our one & only. I just don’t think it has to be wrapped up in hearts & shouted. The wee moments count. To get back to Lennon, it turns out love is real & real is love.