Ticket For One please

A few months ago I wrote about doing things by yourself as opposed to doing things in a group.  My position was that it is perfectly fine to want to be alone sometimes and you really didn’t need anyone to accompany you anywhere. Some people really didn’t want to do certain things by themselves, dinner and travel being the most popular “group” activities. As I’ve both traveled and eaten alone, I felt pretty confident in saying that I would be comfortable being by myself at any event if I so chose.

And then I went to a museum exhibit with a friend.

Oddly, I had gotten a ticket for this exhibit solo. Then my friend S texted- “want to hang on Wednesday” and I said “You know- going to The Shed at 11- come with?” And a solo outing became an afternoon for two.

As we stared at this very bizarre exhibit that neither of us really understood what we were looking at or what the artist was thinking, my friend S remarked: “I found your blog about being by yourself very interesting.” S is a great person in a group, but she truly values her alone time. She is independent and really just does what she wants when she wants and is as content by herself as she is with her Husband. She is fearless in just doing what she wants, whether or not she has someone to go with.

So imagine my surprise when she said: “I don’t think I could go to a big concert by myself. There’s just something about that experience that I think you need to be with someone.”

I couldn’t believe there was something she wouldn’t do by herself.

And then I thought about myself.

I’ve been to plays alone: both on and off Broadway. Movies, obviously- I probably go to as many alone as I do with others. I’ve been to classical and jazz and ethnic music concerts by myself: at libraries and parks for free as well as paid venues like Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. But what about something at Madison Square Garden?

Would I see U2 by myself?

Doubtful.

Highly doubtful.

And there it was- the chink in my armor. I am probably never going to see Beyoncé dance live without someone by my side. I will not be screaming BRUUUCE when “Born to Run” is played if I’m by myself.

No lone rock concerts for me.

So what is it about this form of music that makes me want to be with friends?

Obviously I listen to this music by myself. I shower sing to them. I put them on when I’m working out. So what is it about the live rock concert experience that makes me want to share?

What marks an experience that makes it better when shared with a friend?  Why are there certain things that are just “better” when done as a group?

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Is There Something Wrong With Me

A few weeks ago my daughter and I were sitting in the living room. I was writing in my planner, she was watching an episode of “The Office”. She paused the show and began a conversation:

Daughter- Is it odd that I like being by myself as much as I like being with my friends?”

Me (to myself)  Gee- You’re asking ME if it’s odd to want alone time?

Me (out loud this time)  No. Not at all. We’re introverts. We need solo time to recharge our batteries.

Daughter- But why does it seem like everyone else always want people around? I mean, I was studying, but now I’m not, and instead of reaching out to someone, I decided to watch TV.

Me- Everyone is different. Some people feed off the energy of others. Some get zapped by too much external energy. Sometimes your brain needs a rest.

Daughter- But is it normal?

Why do introverts always feel like they are odd?

For some reason, society has decided that being surrounded by people at all times is superior to being by yourself. If you see a someone dining alone, most people feel bad. They think- oh- that poor person has no friends. It’s so sad that they are by themselves. We assume they are upset. But we don’t know this. We automatically thing: they’re alone. They’re losers.

We judge.

My daughter has a lot of friends, including the same best friend since second grade. She doesn’t get into catty dramatic situations. She is a good friend and can be trusted, and has sought out friends who do the same. She is going on Spring Break (woo hoo) with them beginning tomorrow.

She is not a loner.

In elementary school she was the girl who hosted sleepovers with ten girls. Just imagine a room littered with sleeping bags and giggles. And middle school saw her Friday afternoon pizza parties where eight kids would be around the TV playing video games. And high school saw Sunday brunches with friends and mega Instagram events featuring six duck faced girls.

She likes people and is a good friend.

But she also likes to study. And she likes to read. And she likes to binge watch TV shows. All by herself.

So why does she wonder if she’s normal?

What is normal anyway?

And why does society think wanting to stay home alone on a Saturday night and study is weird?

People also have weird responses to her habits. She doesn’t have a boyfriend and has never harbored a desire. There have been no crushes in her teen years. There’s just been a lot of tennis and law team and drama club and newspaper. There’s been a lot of writing and reading. Yet…people have told us that she Definitely has a secret boyfriend. She’s just not telling us. Because it’s more normal to think a teen is lying than just not interested enough in dating. Dating is normal. Not dating is……weird

And then the same for parties. My daughter has never attended a traditional high school party. She doesn’t like the idea of them. And they tend to get raided by the police and there was no way she was screwing up her record and ruin her chances of a good college. Yet people insist she sneaks out to parties- that she just doesn’t tell us she’s going. Why? Because it’s normal for a teen to attend parties. If you don’t, it’s weird…

So why do we judge kids who aren’t the loudest in the room?

Why do we judge those who don’t like a heavy social scene?

Why do we judge those who like to spend time alone?

 

 

Because I’m Not

I have spent three days talking about how much I love being alone, and how much it nourishes my soul. I said to my friend last week, “I think I was meant to be alone.” Of course I was basking in the afterglow of a jetted bath, face masque freshly washed off, tea in hand and the property brothers on the tv in front of me. I was in a unique and blissful and perfect setting. It was an amazing moment to relish.

But it wasn’t reality. It was a fantasy twelve hours in a hotel suite. I got to pretend to be single and childless for a few hours. And that’s the exact word: pretend. Because being alone is not my real life, so a few hours with nothing to do and no one to please was a treat.

Do I really want to be alone?

I think we all long for a respite from the day to day. People with no kids often love an afternoon with nieces and nephews but are more than relieved to let them go after a few active hours. Parents with small children often look forward to sleeping in, no matter how much of a morning person they are. I think everyone needs a vacation from their actual lives.

But do we want to change places?

Do we want that opposite life?

I loved my alone time. I love alone time. But I think I have a spouse and child for a reason. I think I have a small but well cultivated social network for a reason. I love having a family and friends AND I love to spend some time alone. Unfortunately, sometimes the balance gets shifted. When you’re a parent and/or have a needy spouse, you sometimes fall victim to the martyr syndrome: you do what you need to do to make everyone around you happy, but sometimes forget about yourself.

Cue the teeny tiny violins. Woe is me with my family and my friends while all I wish  for is solitude…

We adapt to our environments. We make the best out of whatever situation we find ourselves in. But it does get easy to get into the “grass is greener” mindset. It’s easy for me to talk about alone time because I don’t have to worry about being alone: I’m not. And conversely, someone who is single can crave family time and want it because they know they have the opposite.

So while I wax poetic about my two weekends alone, do I really want to make that 52 weekends?

 

Sometimes a Bike is Just a Bike

I think you know that I am about to be an empty nester. My Daughter will not be living in her bedroom anymore- (yeah- breaks and all, but really- she will no longer be a full time resident at Chez LA)

A somewhat empty bedroom….

Hmmm….

I’ve been looking at her bedroom with an appraising eye- if I get rid of the desk which is mainly broken,and cabinet next to it, which contains school paraphernalia, I will have room for a piece of exercise equipment. A nice stationary bike. Or maybe an elliptical.

I explained this theory to a friend of mine, who happens to be a writer/editor. And his first response was “Are you sure you want to cut out your guaranteed outside connection to the world? You know, when you are inside writing all day…”  He was looking at it as being alone too much. Lots of me time without benefit of other voices. That maybe it wasn’t good to be by myself for that much time. If you’ve read me this week, you know I’ve been reveling in alone time. I had two weekends in a row where I had serious alone time. And I loved it. Unapologetically loved it.

Is my desire to be alone too much?

Is wanting to quit the gym and get a piece of equipment for my house too much alone time?

Here’s the thing. I don’t consider my gym time to be particularly social. I go to the gym, I work out, I come home. Period. True, I say Hi and briefly chat with the regulars who are there at the same time as me always, but honestly, I don’t hold any actual connection to these people: I don’t even know their names: I know them by what equipment they favor- bike guy, stairmaster woman, guy who grunts when he lifts weights, woman who preens to much as she stretches. This isn’t interaction. This is just seeing people who have the same schedule as me, like seeing the people who take mass transit the same time every day. My daughter recognizes her bus driver, but no one is calling that social.

So is getting a piece of home gym equipment a step towards turning into a recluse? Do I want to get a stationary bike so I can avoid social contact?

Well, in a word, No.

I am not thinking about exercising at home because I want to be alone.

I’m considering it because my gym fees are almost usurious. I shouldn’t have to pay a monthly fee because I want the ability to exercise indoors. This is really about cutting cost.

And of course, convenience and efficiency. It will be so nice to wake up, throw on sweats and walk across the apartment and just do a workout. No dodging raindrops, tramping through snow, getting annoyed if the guy opening the gym is late. I can make my own hours, I’m not tied to a schedule. I can throw in laundry, exercise, throw it in the dryer and exercise some more. It’s brilliant.

So sometimes there is no deep seeded reason to an issue. Sometimes it just is what it is.

 

 

All By Myself

A few weeks ago I went to the accepted students day at a college my daughter is considering. There would be two days of parent and student workshops and such, plus my daughter would have the opportunity to stay  overnight on campus. Obviously I needed to get a room somewhere for the night.

Conveniently I was able to get a room at the hotel across the street from the campus at a reasonably good rate via TripAdvisor. Because things happen, I got an email the day before I was supposed to leave from the conduit that took my reservation: they made a mistake- they did not have the room I requested available. Would I like another room, or did I want my money back?

Well, I needed a room. And this was the only hotel not a cab ride away, so I emailed them and said I would take whatever they had- honestly- I had just booked the cheapest room- I didn’t really care where I stayed as long as it was clean, had a bed and indoor plumbing.

It turns out, the room they gave me was a two room suite with a jetted tub and a balcony.

And…

I was going to be all alone. I didn’t have to share it with anyone.

A friend of mine said too bad your family couldn’t join you.

And I said “Are you kidding me? I just wish I had more time there.”

I finished the parent dinner and practically raced back to the hotel. I ran into other Mom’s I had met and I could tell they were itchy being alone. When we entered we all went to the bar. They ordered cocktails. I ordered a glass of milk to go….I had tea bags burning a hole in my pocket and a coffee maker just waiting to boil water. The thought of being able to drink a cup of tea without anyone bothering me was heaven.

I watched HGTV. I talked with some friends. Took a soak. Read my book. Drank hot tea. Slept in the middle of the bed.

King size bed.

Slept right in the center.

What does it say that I didn’t sleep in my “spot”?

Who knows?

Who cares?

I had a night with no responsibility.

And I loved it.

The next day one of my friends asked how my solo hotel experience went. I just smiled. It was nice not being a Mom, or a wife, or a dog walker, cat feeder, housecleaner, organized….

It was nice just being me.